Not So Lucky Three--Atlanta 3 Cubs 2

It has been a while since the Cubs had an exciting starting pitching prospect. It might have been longer since the last time they were those alternate blues at home. However, it was hard to shake feelings of the starts made by Kerry Wood in 1998. The stuff might not quite as electric as Kid K, but it is eerie watching the whole atmosphere of these outings. Adbert Alzolay creates a palpable excitement that seems to physically come through Willson Contreras. Willy pounced on a ball that was going to roll foul but instead was fired, and it was fired the way only Willy does ,to get a one pitch out to give Alzolay a few more bullets.

Willson also came through to put the Cubs on the board, and this is where those 1998 feelings really come in. It seemed like Sammy Sosa always came through in games started by Kerry Wood. I know that probably doesn't stand up to any scrutiny, but it feels like Willy is doing the same trying to carry the young flame thrower on his back to another victory.

Unfortunately the speedy righty ran out of juice in the fifth inning. Alzolay walked the bases loaded and had to leave before the requisite five completed innings for a win. Then Ozzie Albies continued his Cub killer ways against the bullpen and like that the win streak was snapped.

WPA CHART

Source: FanGraphs

Ronald Acuña Jr. did not get the memo. The powerful, leadoff hitter pounced on the first pitch from Adbert Alzolay launching a laser beam into left center. The homer was the only base hit allowed by Alzolay who again worked fast and flashed a better than advertised changeup. Alzolay retired the next six batters after Acuña Jr.'s blast.

Max Fried decided to pitch every-other inning or at least his performance on the mound made it seem that way. Fried pitched 1-2-3 innings in the first, third, fifth, and sixth inning to screw up the symmetry. Fried looked as strong as he did in his first outing against the Cubs in 2019. Fried struck out three in those innings and when the Cubs weren't flailing over the top of his curve they were pounding into the ground.

However, in the even frames Fried's command mysteriously left him. In the second inning, Fried walked the bases loaded with one one out. Adbert Alzolay attempted to lay down a safety squeeze bunt, but missed the high fastball. Javier Báez was caught in no man's land down the third base line and was tagged out in the rundown. Willson Contreras was also thrown out trying to advance to third to end the inning with Alzolay still standing at the --plate.

In the fourth inning, Fried walked Kris Bryant to start the inning, but Kris had to change places with Anthony Rizzo on the fielder's choice. Báez hit a groundball through the right side for the Cubs first hit. Willson then pulled a curveball down into the left field corner to flip the score. Fried struck out David Bote and Alzolay to keep Atlanta in the game down 2-1.

Alzolay lost his command in the fifth inning. He walked Austin Riley to start the inning and advanced him to second base on an errant check throw back to first. Brian McCann and Ozzie Albies flew out, but Alzolay walked his counterpart to keep the inning going. Joe Maddon gave him a chance to earn a win, but he walked Acuña Jr. to load the bases. Mike Montgomery was inserted to face Dansby Swanson and he promptly fell behind 3-0 to the young shortstop. Monty came back and induced a weak groundball to third to end the inning.

Monty retired the next five batters in a row counting Swanson. McCann's one out single against Monty was the first hit since the first pitch of the game, but Albies belted a high changeup to flip the score back in favor of Atlanta. Sean Newcomb and Brad Brach each pitched a clean inning to keep the status quo. Each represented a comeback of sorts. Newcomb was freshly activated off the IL after clearing concussion protocols and Brach against being DFA'd. Brach looked very sharp in giving the Cubs a chance to comeback in the bottom half of the eighth.

Albert Almora Jr. started the tease rally with a solid single in the Cubs half. Kyle Schwarber then ripped a single into shallow right center to move runners station to station. That ended Newcomb's outing and brought Anthony Swarzak in to put out the fire. Kris Bryant topped the first pitch right to Josh Donaldson and was doubled up to kill the rally. Swarzak froze Rizzo on a fastball to officially end it a few pitches later.

Brad Brach pitched a scoreless ninth inning as well to provide a small silver lining on the evening. Brach walked Brian McCann after losing a ten plus pitch battle with two outs. It didn't result in any damage as Albies provided some relief when he hit a can of corn on the infield. Luke Jackson came in and mowed down the Cubs batters in the ninth inning. And we had title of the recap as Jackson ended the game at the 3-2 score by blowing a 3-2 fastball right by David Bote.

Random Reference

The Cubs are playing better than the lowest points of the season, but the three game win streak alludes them for another few days. That means it is time for the Lou Brown speech.

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  • Two fly balls and 13k’s with the wind blowing out not very conducive to winning.

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    In reply to stix:

    I agree, stix. 2 flyballs and 13 K's is "not very conducive to winning." Occasionally you'll get luckly and win one of those games. But I'm going to give the other team pretty good odds.

  • I’m sure there will be lots of talk about not hitting with RISP. But I look at the base running gaffes with the bases loaded. The Baez one was kind of understandable (but still not good). Contreras getting thrown out at third with two outs is not good.

  • In reply to Cubs09:

    Also some kind of misunderstanding there with Alzolay not knowing/being told that he has to foul it off if he can't play it down.......

  • Garcia homered again for Iowa, why isn't he up here playing instead of Delasco or Russell?!?

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    In reply to Treebeard:

    Also Roederer was 5-5 and Donnie Dewees is hitting pretty well. I liked the CarGo signing but he’s in a slump too.
    I want Garcia up here.

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    In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    The cargo signing was a good one. It gave the Cubs a lift for a couple days. I believe they are just paying him league minimum and his contract was/is a minor league one. Can they send him back down and maintain control over him? I'm not sure what the rules on that are.

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    In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Just to twist BP's tail a little bit. SS. LOL

  • In reply to Treebeard:

    I'm all for giving the kids a chance, but I think we're hunting bigger game. With the surplus of arms soon to be available in the pen, I'm growing more and more confident that we will add a significant position player in addition to a swing-and-miss lefty in the pen.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    What position would you look to find?

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    In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    2B? If Zobrist doesn't come back they aren't getting much offense out of Russell and DeScalso. Or do you put Bote there?

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Typically you don’t get a high profile production from 2nd base. Even if Zo comes back how good will he be????

    I agree need a cf who can hit. With the surplus of of who gets the boot? Cargo?

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    In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    Cargo is the most obvious guy to remove. But he has value too. He hits LH (which can be an advantage), plays decent defense, and he has power.

    You're right, teams don't usually look to 2B as a spot to get offensive production unleses you are fortunate enough to have good players there. But the Cubs have had putrid production there other than Bote. You lose some on defense with Bote compared to Russell there.

    When Zobrist comes back he has 1 skill this year: OBP. Put him at lead-off. He gives you another LH bat. Suddenly the line-up goes something like this: Zobrist (decent OBP in the lead off spot), Bryant, Rizzo, Baez, Schwarber, Contreras, Heyward, Almora. L/R alternating to prevent teams from loading bringing in platoon split pitchers for multiple hitters. Though if you don't like that then I would put Contreras right after Baez and bump Schwarer down a spot. Far from a perfect situation but it is something.

    At this point, though, I would put Bote out there until he starts to struggle. His wRC+ is above 100, though not enormously. The offensive black hole that is Addison Russell and Daniel DeScalso is crossing the line into unacceptable.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    DeScalso crossed that line a long time ago. At least Russell can play defense. Cargo is done. stick a fork in him.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I am ok with that. You have more faith in Zo then I have. I’ll b shocked if he comes back. And even if he does, I am not sure how productive he’ll be when back.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I think you met to say Cargo bats left handed. He can no longer hit. The Cubs can't have 2 guys hitting .200 on their 25 man roster and compete (DeScalso and Cargo).

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    I zeroed in on that statement, too. More correctly, "CarGo makes outs left handed." He was definitely worth taking a flyer on, but we just don't need a .200 hitting outfielder.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    I agree Cargo was worth taking a chance on. But, now it's time to move on.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Bote is already struggling. He’s gone from the .280s to the .250’s in less than 15 days. He’s not a starter .

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Dee Gordon - SEA would eat the $. Cubs will need a basestealer down the stretch anyway and they could use a new element now. I realize he hasn't been great lately but "ANUSTART".

  • In reply to DarBar15:

    Malex Smith is another guy Seattle may move. CF and lead off hitter. But he's not having a good year either.

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    In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    CF. They aren't getting much from Almora on offense. Preferably a guy who can hit LH and lead off. But that might be getting greedy.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I don't understand the desire to move Schwarber out of the lead off spot. He sees pitches to hit and has the ability to walk not to mention that he seems to be more comfortable there than any other place he's hit. I don't mess with it. The issue isn't leadoff it's someone to hit in the 7 or 8 hole. Even if you got a guy like Merrifield I'm putting him there instead of at the top. 1-5 is not the issue in terms of hitting (don't get me started on base running) and Heyward's hot stretches keep getting longer and longer and he's slashed .325/.366/.506 .872 OPS 126 wRC+ for the entire month of June. So 1-6 the numbers are usually good even if you have to figure on one guy at a time slumping. What you can't continue to have is choosing your 7 and 8 between guys with wRC_+ numbers between the upper 50s and mid 70s or overexposing your best utility guy in Bote.

  • In reply to Treebeard:

    Give it a rest.

  • This team does not play very sound baseball. Reflection on the manager.

  • In reply to Metal Militia:

    Maybe. But you can lead a horse to water...

  • Interesting take on how Contreras seems to have an extra bounce in his step (is that even possible?) in support of his fellow countryman, Dabs. I imagine they are tight with all the external distractions going on. Good call.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    BP.......who are some names that could be the significant position player you referenced? Who are 2 LH swing-n-miss pitchers that may be on the radar?

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    Sorry, I'm busy and can't respond as much as I'd like to. Will Smith and Tony Watson from SF come to mind, and Brad Hand, Sean Doolittle and a few others. The good news is there should be several relievers available so it could be a buyer's market. We could also bring in a lesser name that surprises with good scouting like Jesse Chavez last year.

    I think we have some chips who are primed to be dealt. Monty needs a change of scenery for him and the Cubs. I can't figure out Happ's situation, but I get the feeling there is more to that story than we know. We can upgrade at 2B, obviously, and possibly even 3B or any OF spot with some creativity. The FO will not punt on this season, I promise that.

  • To figure out what players may be available, I first look at teams that are out of playoff contention (for all intents and purposes).

    In the AL, Seattle, Toronto, Detroit, KC, Baltimore.

    In the NL, SF and Miami. NYM and Pitt all but out.

    For OF, SD has a surplus and may be a trade partner. Who are the players on these teams that may be available in a trade for our needs?

  • One way to get a major boost at 2B would be to trade for a SS.

    I know you don't usually move a team captain off from his position, but if the right player were available, and Javy were consulted beforehand and was amicable to the idea, it could be a big move. It's too bad that Cleveland got off to such a good start because I think Javy would move over to share the middle with Lindor. But the Cubs don't have enough to get him anyway.

    RF is the most obvious place to upgrade. Move Heyward to CF.

  • Here's one for you that a friend suggested; Happ, Amaya and Edwards for Merrifield and Diekman from KC. Bat Merrifield down in the order and he plays CF vs RHP and 2B vs LHP. Diekman is the lefty reliever you need. I do that in a heartbeat.

  • In reply to TC154:

    No question. The biggest lose in that scenario is Amaya and he's years away. With Kimbrel, Strop, Cishek, and maybe Morrow, Edwards' inconsistencies have made him expendable as opposed to a priority to "get right."

    And I'm with you all the way on not moving Schwarber. I've been really disappointed in his development until this past month. He's as good as he's ever been in season and I wouldn't mess with that at all. Drop Merrifield in the bottom of the order (like Albies yesterday) and let him turn the order over to Kyle. I don't think it's just a hot streak either, I hope we are seeing the Schwarber that most expected he would be.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I assume it would cost more based on merrifield steam friendly deal (they don’t have to trade him). I’d be willing to add more to that list maybe ademan plus Marquez or Gallardo. Amaya just isn’t having the type of offensive season to headline this deal, although teams still like him because he’s a catcher

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    Team friendly deal

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    I'd be hesitant to give up Marquez or Gallardo.......

  • In reply to Treebeard:

    Yup no question maybe the next alzolay. But merrifield is the royals best trade chip and he comes with 3.5 years of team friendly control. He’s one of the best everyday players available too. To me happ and Edwards Have limited trade value to a rebuilding team at least in a blockbuster trade, although I think happ would be ideal as a 3rd piece. To get someone like merrifield it’ll typically cost a top 50-75 prospect. Cubs aren’t trading those types right now and as much as I like Amaya, he’s not having the type of offensive season to headline a deal for an impact talent without much else going to KC. In my opinion if the cubs insist on hanging onto their current day top prospects in alzolay and hoerner, then they have to trade a deeper package of prospects unless they don’t want a deal. They don’t have to make the deal if they deem the cost too high, but I think that there’s no way Amaya is a good enough return to headline a deal unless other strong prospects are included. And I like Marquez but think he maybe better suited as a reliever with that power fastball.

    I cringe trading the pitching prospects though of all the names that I included. If they can give someone else up and avoid including Gallardo or Marquez it would still be ideal. But I believe if they acquire merrifield there’s no avoiding all of us cringing at the price. He’s one of the top talents available and KC has said they view him as one of the elite every day guys in the game. They reported they’d need to be overwhelmed to move him, but I think they will he’s 30 and not really a part of their future.

  • In reply to Treebeard:

    I’ll be honest when I say too I don’t think the deal gets done without hoerner or alzolay. Even my suggestion may bot be enough

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    You can’t judge developing catchers on top line offensive results. Often times they’re given almost no time to work on hitting depending on stage of development and for a guy with a 55 grade hit tool it could be the case. You wouldn’t know the answer to that unless you were a scout working that league. Contreras followed a path like that with a similar hit tool grade. I read today that both Hoerner and Amaya could be top 50 in updates rankings. So does that proposal get it done? No clue, but Happ probably works on his game in MLB for them as does Edwards and both have strong potential to be flipped later. Plus they save the (admittedly reasonable) money on Merrifield. For a team said to be very disappointed in its current rebuild it gives them a new top prospect and two guys who could net more at some point. I wouldn’t dismiss it on its face.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I hear you TC and respect your baseball opinions, but when do you see blockbuster trades for exclusively struggling talents. I don’t think that package even comes remotely close respectively. I actually really like Amaya and think teams will have a lot of interest in him despite the batting avg. I think teams will see his defense, approach and power potential and think they can clean up his hitting a bit. I think he makes a ton of sense as trade bait, but I think no way he headlines this type of deal unless he’s paired with other strong prospects the cubs don’t want to deal. A .200 hitting catcher isn’t gonna get it done for merrifield unless they get more quantity from their end. I also find it unlikely that he’ll be ranked as a top 50 guy on all upcoming rankings at this point, even though I think he’s still highly regarded. I’ll do back flips though if they take a package like that, but I don’t see how happ and Edwards’s with his dwindling cost control and lack of durability are acceptable secondary pieces for one of the deadlines most sought after players. Cubs fans are gonna cringe at the price for merrifield if they’re serious about him. The question is Moreso will they insist on hoerner or alzolay.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I agree and understand that Amaya is a lot higher regarded as a catcher then his batting avg would indicate. He still made back half of the top 10 catching prospects on the athletic a month ago. I already factored that into my equation and think he could be one of the centerpieces, but I strongly think they’d have to give up other prospects they don’t want to deal besides happ

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    MLB pipeline has Amaya as the #4 catching prospect and he could move up in that group in the midyear rankings. Micheal would have better insight on that than I but I think he's better than people think. As far as Merrifield, it could very well be he's beyond what the Cubs could offer. That's sort of foolish on KC's part given his age but it could well be the case. KC has really bungled their rebuild so far. I'm not really a guy pining for him either, I think he's going to reach a plateau earlier than what people think, but I also think this Cubs team can win this year with the right pieces and he fits better than anyone else I can see out there. Unless you want to see what La Stella would cost but man that would be embarrassing.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    Also just to kind of illustrate my methodology in looking for possible answers I look at the leaderboards daily for CF and 2B which are places we could slot in a good player. You can also look at RF if you're willing to use Heyward there everyday. The other requirements are going to be OBP and wRC+ where you have to get a significant improvement over the trio of bad that's Russell, CarGo and Descalso. At 2B the guys on non contenders that fit that bill are La Stella and Merrifield. In CF it's only Merrifield. In RF Trey Mancini would sure work but he'd be a lot more costly than Merrifield. If you're willing to go WAY out of the box you could look at Eduardo Escobar for 3B and move Bryant to RF permanently but that's not a pretty OF defensively. My point, of course, is that there are not a ton of options. They've painted themselves in a pretty tight box here, especially if they do see this team as a WS contender which I think they do.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Great points TC and I also like Amaya I want it noted that he’s way higher regarded in the industry then a common fan may think given his batting avg as a catcher. But I still think they’d have to give up someone like Gallardo, ademan or Marquez to deepen that package as I’m hearing the merrifield market will be really competitive. If they give up alzolay or hoerner, then I think the secondary pieces won’t be too much because those guys are close to or are big league ready. No way I’m giving up alzolay though with what I’ve seen he’s the top prospect in this organization IMO despite where Mlb has him ranked.

    Interesting tidbits on the market boy that’s scary bad TC I think they may need to consider moving someone like KB or someone else defensively. That’s a really poor OF market. Like you merrifield kinda scares me he’s been playing well, but we’ve seen in baseball guys success don’t always translate on new teams. He’s also in large part who he is bc of his speed and athleticism although he does have some pop. At 30 is he gonna be the same player the whole 3.5 years that we have him? That’s why honestly I wouldn’t be mad if they walked away from this deal if his market gets too pricey. But on the flip side I’m conflicted because the KC version of merrifield would be a perfect fit. Gives them a guy that can play 2B and OF/CF to replace zobrist. Also gives them a contact oriented right handed hitter with speed that can help them against LHP with respectable pop. He makes a lot of sense but these win now trades come at future cost. In addition like you said KC has the bargaining power in a thin OF market. I do think it’s stupid if they wait any longer though his values at an all time high, and it’s a thin market

  • In reply to TC154:

    These are 2 other outside the box options TC but I also don’t hate maybe going for will Myers or nick castellanos as outside the box options. Definitely not ideal candidates but at least they can hit and help this team against lefties. Merrifield is the way better fit bc of defensive versatility but I think Myers or castellamos gives this offense a nice right handed boost. Not a very strong market though when I’m clamoring for these types

  • In reply to TC154:

    I'm not a trade expert, but I always assume it will take a lot more than fans suggest. And for two players, forget it. The deal you outlined looks like one decent prospect (Amaya; high 100s) and then two guys who are not very good and would hold no interest. I look at the Q trade which required the Cubs best prospect (an elite, top 20 prospect) and their best pitching prospect. So Nico and Amaya for Merrifield and the Royals probably still do not bite because neither is a really highly rated prospect and the odds of either being a truly impact MLB is low.

  • In reply to Cubs09:

    Fangraphs ranks Amaya as the 73rd best prospect. The Atlantic as the 89th. By comparison, Addison Russell (who is barely above replacement) was as high as 3rd is some rankings. Soler and Schwarber, in the teens.

  • In reply to Cubs09:

    Anyway, the Cubs probably don't have the bullets to get an elite "bat," and certain not one who leads the NL in hits. Whew. Just one guy's opinion.

  • In reply to Cubs09:

    The rant continues! So maybe they like Nico. My guess is you’d have to also add a pitching prospect who they feel has a chance to succeed. I don’t know who that is, but I do know a trade would sting a bit.

  • In reply to Cubs09:

    I've never been big on offering specific trade proposals. All is does is hurt my head and tire my fingers. There is so much behind the scenes with scouting and internal evaluations that we just aren't privy to. I think we do have some pieces of value on the ML roster or close to it, and if we got a position-player rental like Daniel Murphy last year it wouldn't cost the farm. This FO is creative and agressive. I trust them more on this front than the big-ticket free agents. They'll get it done.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I don’t disagree. I do think if there’s anyway to get Merrifield they need to explore it. He pretty much solves the back end if this lineup. I don’t give up Alzolay or Hoerner, but any body else is fair game. I already suspect Diekman is the LHP target.

  • In reply to Cubs09:

    My guess is that you’re underestimating Amaya. You have to consider the position. How many 2 way catchers play in MLB at one time, 6-10 tops? Amaya has the hit and power tools to go along with defense beyond his age. Catchers have value beyond their prospect rank.

  • In reply to TC154:

    You might right. I could a rental like BP outlined as more likely.

  • In reply to Cubs09:

    Yeah, I mean probably. The pickin's are slim on bats though. I heard one of the hosts on MLB Radio suggested Neil Walker but if you do a deep dive on his numbers his contact rates are nearly identical to last year when he was a 74 wRC+ player, plus his BABIP is 50 points higher than his career average. He's far exceeding what his numbers indicate. I seriously doubt the Cubs are looking at him.

  • In reply to TC154:

    It might also be in part why the Cubs loaded up on catchers in the draft

  • In reply to stv711:

    Makes sense. Amaya could have real value and with 3.5 years of control for Contreras and 4.5 for Caratini they're locked in at the position for awhile.

  • A couple pieces of breaking news out of Iowa:

    Kimbrel is no longer with the team. I have no further info but it seems obvious.

    Robel Garcia has been on a tear, and word around the team is he may start getting reps in the OF to make him a bit more valuable as a potential call-up.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    The Cubs just announced that Kimbrel is coming up. Roster move to be announced tomorrow.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    And BP is announcing that he just used announced too many times in his previous comment. I was excited. I try to do better than that. :)

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    The Garcia news is interesting. Cubs might be trying to give themselves another option if they can't work a trade.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Perhaps trying to turn Garcia into a Zobrist/Happ type? Minus the switch hitting of course............

  • In reply to Treebeard:

    That's the idea I get. The Cubs have been aggressive in that realm, trying to get their best ballplayers into multiple roles to increase their usefulness.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    I just updated my profile picture, and I can confirm that I am in fact prettier than you are. Or at least my background scenery is. :)

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