Nervous Victory--Cubs 6 Nationals 5

It felt like a missed opportunity right out of the gate for the Cubs. Jeremy Hellickson walked the bases loaded to start the game, but the Cubs could only manage a single tally on a Javier Báez fielder's choice. That felt like it might not be enough with the Professor on the mound, but the Cubs certainly could have gotten more as the bases were reloaded when Hellickson plunked Willson Contreras. Daniel Descalso bounced into a double play to keep Hellickson and the Nationals in the game.

Kyle Hendricks did not allow a base runner until the fourth inning. It was a two out walk to Anthony Rendon. In the meantime, the Cubs bats chased Jeremy Hellickson from the game after just three innings. The Cubs added a run in the second inning. Jason Heyward singled to start the frame. Albert Almora Jr. doubled to give the Cubs another two runners in scoring position with no outs. Kyle Hendricks hit a pop fly for the first out. Kyle Schwarber hit a sacrifice fly to extend the Cubs lead. Anthony Rizzo hit a leadoff homer run in the third inning.

Albert Almora Jr. bounced a double against Nationals reliever Kyle McGowin. Hendricks struck out for the first out, but a passed ball allowed Almora to reach third. Schwaber delivered another sac fly to make it 4-0. It felt like the Cubs would cruise to an easy win with Hendricks in command as always. The only cloud was Javier Báez appearing to twist his ankle on a nice defensive play in the third inning. He stayed in the game and the Cubs were on their way.

WPA CHART

Source: FanGraphs

Kurt Suzuki and Gerrado Parra hit back to back singles to start the fifth inning. That should have meant runners at the corners with no outs, but Parra was cut down at second by Heyward as he tried to stretch it into a double. Brian Dozier bounced out to second to drive in Suzuki. McGowin flew out and the Cubs still led comfortably.

Jason Heyward singled to start the sixth inning. He advanced to second and third on wild pitches. Almora was walked with Hendricks coming up to the plate. The professor laid down a suicide squeeze and McGowin threw the ball away. Kris Bryant singled to give the Cubs a 6-1 lead. The Nationals bullpens were able to hold the potent Cubs offense in check for the rest of the game. Joe Maddon decided to pull Báez at this point with the Cubs comfortably leading.

Hendricks walked Trea Turner with one out in the sixth. Adam Eaton bounced a ball to new shortstop Addison Russell who threw the ball away allowing the pair to reach scoring position. Anthony Rendon then launched a three run shot to give 6-4. Juan Soto followed it up with a double and the Nationals were in business. Kurt Suzuki grounded out. Parra singled and Almora made a bad throw allowing Parra to reach second. Brandon Kintzler got an easy fly out to keep the Cubs ahead.

That lead became even more tenuous when Howie Kendrick hit a solo shot on the first pitch of the seventh. Kintzler retired the next two batters before Xavier Cedeno was called on to face Adam Eaton. A soft single served into right ended Cedeno's outing. That also meant that Anthony Rendon was the go ahead run at the plate. Steve Cishek was given the task of retiring the hottest Nats hitter and managed to get a hard hit out to end the seventh inning.

Joe rightfully took the rest of the night off managing at this point. Steve Cishek pitched the eighth and ninth inning for a standard seven out save. The Cubs completed a .500 roadtrip the difficult way, and return home to face a familiar face tomorrow night.

Random Reference
All indications are that Javier Báez is fine and will play Monday. Because when it first happened my reactions was this:

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  • fb_avatar

    A great win. It felt like a comeback win.
    Steve Cisek, your table is ready.

  • Mine too, Mike, mine too...

    I wanted this win as much as they did. If there is such a thing as a postseason vibe in mid-May, this was it for me. A bit hyperbolic, surely, but that's how I felt tonight.

    I especially liked that last little out countdown in the 9th. That brought back memories of Game 7 in Cleveland. Different, of course, but similar enough to get me on the same wavelength.

    I'm starting to have confidence in this team. Not "good" confidence, but "great" confidence. Kinda like 2016. Call me crazy.

    I remember riding Bob Dylan throughout that 2016 postseason run. It worked, so I'll throw this out here now. A young Dylan, in groundbreaking efforts that had never been done before, in video especially, and foreshadowing the greatness that would lie ahead:

    https://youtu.be/MGxjIBEZvx0

    That 2-minute song has enough quotable lines to keep me occupied for half a season. But a few stick out at this point, in 2019 and remembering 2016. How I'm starting to get that vibe back. That mojo. Or as Yogi said, "It's deja vu all over again."

    "Look out kid.
    It's something you did.
    God knows when
    But you're doing it again."

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    As the man said- "You Don't Need A Weatherman to Know Which Way The Wind Blows"

  • fb_avatar

    I don't like to follow you with lyrics, but you cite Dylan (one of my favorites) and I was looking at Bob Seger, another one of my favorites and came upon this refrain.

    You've got me understanding (standing)
    You've really helped me see
    I'm finally understanding (standing)
    It's meant so much to me
    You've got me understanding (standing)

    I feel like this is our first lack of belief this year--not all of us, but some who felt like the sky was falling, but Theo said we've got the answers, and this just felt right.
    I hope you're dry and somewhere inside BP, and maybe with a cold one feeling good and satisfied after tonight's hard earned win.

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    In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I meant that at the start of the year so many doubted, but. here we are. We are understanding.
    PS, Javy, you're resilient and I hope to see you fine tomorrow, but if you need a few days, take them now and heal yourself.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    "Heel" yourself. Injury update is a bruised heel, nothing to do with an ankle or calf. He wants to play tonight, and Maddon said he could, but we'll see. If this was a must-win I have no doubt he would go, but those bruises can linger, and he could use a break anyway.

    I'm wondering if Caratini catches Darvish tonight, will that have any impact on the decision. You know we want to beat Jake, and support Yu, so a lineup without Javy and Willson might be a bit too much, or more precisely, too little.

    I can't imagine this would affect the Cubs' preparation in winning a ballgame, but tonight is Women's Empowerment Night at Wrigley. It would be a bit ironic, to put it mildly, for tonight to be Russell's first start at SS.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    we are 6 games into 33 games in 34 days. I'd rather Javy sit for 1-2 games now and have him heal, if it's warranted, than have him at 65% for the rest of the year because we felt we needed to play him against Arrieta.

    I don't want Contreras catching Darvish. The lack of command will wear out Willson and make him ineffective.

    I'd be perfectly fine tonight with a lineup of Caratini, Rizzo, Descalso, Russell, Bote, Schwarber, Heyward and Bryant.

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    I totally agree with a night off for Javy. He needs it in this stretch anyway, so why not rest a bum heel? If he's making out the lineup, though, his name's in there. I mentioned last night that he plays through much more pain than is reported publicly.

    I danced around the Jake/Yu point. I'll be more direct, and this is what makes me upset. Darvish seems to need to be coddled. After every bad outing, there is a team narrative to spin it into a "moral victory". Jon Lester doesn't need moral victories. When he's bad, he owns it.

    My fear is that in order to prop up Yu's fragile psyche, decisions about what is best for other players could be compromised. I'm not saying they will be, just that the possibility of the consideration sucks.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Baez with the night off. Russell at short, Caratini paired with Yu.

    I'm not making a statement, just pointing out some situational irony. Who would have guessed that Addison Russell's return debut as a starting SS would have been on Women's Empowerment Night at Wrigley Field? Seriously. Pick any date, if he returns at all. Yeah, I'll pick that one.

    Baseball...

  • fb_avatar

    "You Don't Need A Weatherman To Know Which Way The Wind Blows".

  • There's a lot of pretty good teams in the national league right now. The 2018 Cubs had 40 games where their offense scored less than 2 runs and still managed 95 wins. The 2019 Cubs have only had 4 such games in the first 44 games, but are still going to have to work for that same 95 wins. This Nats team is one of those teams that is probably better than their record right now - just too much talent on both sides to keep this up. 2 out of 3 ain't bad!

  • I wish Ian Happ would get his stuff together so we could trade him for some relief help. Also, any progress report on Strop?

  • In reply to Hagsag:

    Don’t hold your breath on Happ , he’s batting around .215 and yesterday k’d 5 of 6.

  • In reply to stix:

    A tweet from Tommy Birch during yesterday's Iowa game:

    Ian Happ, who looked like he was turning things around earlier this month, is really struggling at the plate right now. Entered today's game hitting .189 with 11 strikeouts in his last 10 games. Had 3 strikeouts on Friday and already 2 today.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    On that note,, Happ just homered in the first inning of today's game, his fifth of the season and first in a couple weeks.

    But that's not the most unusual thing about that game. Hanneman and Underwood Jr. just switched posistions, Hanneman pitching, Underwood Jr. to LF, with 2 outs in the bottom of the 1st (!). Not sure what's happening there.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    And Hanneman strikes out the Baby Cakes' Isaac Galloway for out number 3. Underwood Jr. back on the mound to start the 2nd.

    ????

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    Why not? It is an unorthodox shift to be sure, but it is just a shift.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    That is a pretty extreme shift, but highly effective.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    A couple notes here. Apparently Underwood Jr. was getting hammered in the first inning, and was up against an "inning" pitch limit. High stress, but they didn't want to pull him and end his day. So Hanneman relieved the inning with no lineup changes. I've never seen that.

    Duane Underwood Jr before being replaced by Jacob Hannemann on the mound: 0.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 1 ER

    Duane Underwood Jr. after being replaced by Jacob Hannemann on the mound: 5.0 IP, 1 H. 0 R, 6 K

    Happ was struck by a ball on the hand in the 7th and had to leave the game. No word yet on the extent of the injury, but a shot to the hand is never good for a player struggling with his swing. Hopefully nothing too bad.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    The I-Cubs committed an error and there was a passed ball, which ran up Underwood's pitch count. He was in danger of hitting the organization's 35-pitch limit in a single inning, which would have forced manager Marty Pevey to remove him from the game, so instead he moved him to the outfield, let Hannemann finish the inning, then Underwood recovered to throw five shutout innings after that.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    To think Happ hit the first pitch in MLB in 2018. Now he can’t hit @ AAA. What has happened to him? Is he moping or just not very good?

  • In reply to stix:

    For a HR in 2018.

  • In reply to stix:

    I remember that. I jumped for joy and started "World Series Dreaming".

    To answer on Happ, see the exchange between kk and I.

  • In reply to stix:

    Hearing his quotes at Iowa there’s clearly a disconnect between what the team wants him to do with his swing and what he wants. All I know is he’s suddenly hitting way more balls on her ground. He’s clearly disgruntled you can hear it in his quotes. I think he’s better then he is now but I personally don’t fully approve how he’s approached this demotion. Comes off a bit whiny and pouty

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Yeah he looks awful I’d honestly argue he’s regressed as bad as ever. He tends to lose his swing sometimes I’ve read. Before at least when he made contact he got his money’s worth and hit it hard. Now everything is on the ground with happ. He really is a mess and looks like a shell of even the high strikeout decent power guy he was before. I agree with you barley that I think there’s disconnect between him and the organization on his swing. Seems they want him to make a major adjustment to his swing that he isn’t buying into. I don’t expect him to be of much help to this team for a while he’s in a mental and mechanical funk at the plate

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    Yeah, we've all been discussing player development quite a bit lately. I've pointed out things that I look at beyond the physical tools like baserunning and the mental fortitude to fully realize those physical tools. I was amazed when I first started watching KB and Javy. But I haven't seen much of that in Happ. He has the tools, but I've never seen that "it" factor. Baseball history is littered with unrealized potential. I hope I'm wrong in this case.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Ian Stewart part deux

  • In reply to Hagsag:

    I saw something yesterday but don't remember and now I can't find it. I don't expect him back for at least a couple more weeks, and we probably don't make a move that would affect the closer's role anytime soon, so we're just going to have to roll with what we've got for now.

  • The Nats Rendon is really good. He put his team on his back last night and almost pulled it off. He is like a vacuum in the hot corner.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    The most overlooked top 10-15 player in baseball.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Many of us have been saying one of the most underrated in baseball. He can probably play SS even he came up as a SS but he’s just a tremendous 3B

  • I kinda knew this was happening, but it's still fun to see in print.

    2019 Cubs HR leaders:

    11 Baez
    11 Bryant
    11 Contreras
    11 Rizzo

    I saw somewhere this is the first time ever, or since (a really long time ago), the Cubs have had four players with double-digit HR totals before the end of May.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Who is the first one to 35?

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    I'll go KB. Javy will get there, too, and Rizzo probably falls just shy. I don't know that I want Willson to simply because it may take more PA's than I'm comfortable with for him to rack up that many.

  • As a team I’m hoping for 200+ and 3 pitchers over 15 wins.....that, in the so-called perfect world gives you the division and at least a week to rest the regulars to get ready for show time.
    Tonight may show a preview of a NLDS.

  • Bottom of 8 2 outs Contreras at the plate, Cartini in the on deck circle. Contreras walks and Maddon decides he wants Cishek to stay in the game to pitch the 9th.

    My question to Joe, did you tell this to Contreras before he went up to bat? If you did then why did Contreras work for a walk? He had a couple of close pitches he could have tried to hit. It looked to me like he was working the count as he even squared to bunt on the 2-0 pitch. I don't get it.

  • In reply to MilwaukeeRoad:

    That's a good point, and I see what you're thinking as far as Willson's approach. I don't know how much communication was going on between Joe and Contreras. I get the feeling he was just trying to work a good AB.

    I think Caratini in the on-deck circle was all for show. Joe wanted to make Martinez think and pitch more aggressively to Willson. I think the decision to bat Cishek had already been made, and that him pitching the bottom of the 9th was more important than any loss of offense in that situation.

    To answer your questions more precisely, I think Caratini was a front to get Willson better pitches to hit, and he just worked a good AB. Should he have been more agressive there? I don't know.

  • In reply to MilwaukeeRoad:

    Great question pertaining to that at bat. I hate when Willson squares to bunt just to fake like he’s gonna bunt when apparently he’s probably already made a decision to take that pitch. Better communication between Maddon and Contreras may have helped that situation. What I don’t like about the fake bunt is he took away his own ability to crush that pitch. It was a fastball right in his wheelhouse. If he’s not squaring to bunt, that’s the type of pitch he can take deep.

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    Similarly, I hate when pitchers "waste" pitches. An 3-0 count, when the whole world knows the batter is taking anyway, why throw an 83 MPH curve in the dirt? Or a fastball 18 inches off the plate? Maddux says he never wasted a pitch. Even when he missed, on purpose, he made them think and question themselves.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I screwed that up. Got my 0-2 and 3-0 mixed up.

  • with the lineup that was coming up for the Nat's, Joe had already made up his mind to leave Cishek in the game. And it was the right move. Did he tell Willy before his at bat? Probably not. I too would have liked to see him swing the bat there, but perhaps Joe likes the zone Willy has been in and just wants him to take the at bat normally? Not trying for just one thing. Even though that looked like what he did when he homered in the bottom of the 14th the other day.

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    that's certainly good news that Javy is sitting tonight. As good as he is, even with a sore heel, he needs to stay off his feet. With today off and tomorrow being a. night game it's almost 2 days off.
    What are the odds that he pinch hits tonight. We're down by 1, eighth inning and runners at 1st and 3rd, one out, maybe he comes up and just jogs to first, although watching Javy all these years if he's in he runs hard all the time.
    Thanks Jake for all you did, but now it's Yu time to shine.
    Go Cubs.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    If his team needs it, 100%.

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