This is the Big One--Cubs 7 White Sox 3

In the 22 year history of the Cubs/White Sox crosstown classic, there have been only two traditions worth repeating...

  1. Silence from Hawk Harrelson
  2. Willson Contreras pounding the everlovin’ bezeejus out of the baseball like it just insulted his abuelito.

And I know that only one of those is technically still valid. But now that Jason Benetti’s doing their play-by-play, I prefer to think that Hawk is still in the booth and the Sox are always losing.

After being stymied by Ivan Nova last night, the Cubs had to deal with AL ERA leader Lucas Giolito in this evening’s contest. Three days after trying to hit against NL ERA leader Hyun-Jin Ryu in Los Angeles. After dropping 10 of their previous 15 games, they were in dire need of the kind of offensive performance that makes grizzled old sportswriters type words like “That’s baseball.”

That’s baseball.

Things didn’t start off well at all with Jon Lester giving up a leadoff home run to Leury Garcia on the very first pitch of the game. It started out as a belt high fastball and ended two-thirds of the way up the left field bleachers, giving the South Siders a quick 1-0 lead.

It was also a mirror image of last night’s game where Kyle Schwarber hit the first pitch he saw for a leadoff homer. If this were MLB Tonight, now would be where Harold Reynolds interrupts to claim that a first pitch home run is bad strategy because now the pitcher doesn’t have to worry about the baserunner as he crosses home plate or something similarly insane.

Thankfully, in the bottom of the first, the Cubs put together a better inning than anything that happened last night. Not to be outdone by Garcia, Schwarber again pounced on the first pitch he saw, lining a laser show of a double to right field. It was hit so hard, Sox outfielder Ryan Cordell could only turn and stare at the ivy as if he felt that by concentrating hard enough, he too could find Andre Dawson.

Kris Bryant followed with a strikeout and for a moment, Giolito appeared to be settling in. Anthony Rizzo then spit on a 3-2 changeup for a walk. That happens. But then Javy Báez drew his first walk since June 2, declining to swing at a 3-1 change. Dogs and cats started looking reserving rooms together in the Hotel Zachary and the bases were loaded.

Three years to the day after he consecrated his first major league at bat with a home run, Contreras then unloaded on a 1-2 change and sent it on a line shot that just missed hitting his own name on the ribbon board in front of the left field bleachers. It was a grand slam to give the Cubs a 4-1 that they would not relinquish.

What followed was one of the most joyous home run trots that Wrigley Field has seen all year. After sending the ball to its final destination, Contreras strutted out of the batters box and flipped his bat as if singing the Ethel Merman part in “Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)” in Tim Anderson’s direction.

He then proceeded to point to approximately every single one of the 39,776 fans in attendance as he rounded the bases, taking brief breaks to pound his chest with force that made you expect him to shout “I’m comin’ to see you, Elizabeth!” (And yes, I realize that as a 27 year old Venezuelan, there’s a 0% chance that Willson would get that reference.)

Giolito ended up laboring through 34 pitches in the first. And while he kinda settled in after that, the Cubs weren’t completely done with him. Contreras took him yard again in the third, lacing an 0-1 pitch into the left field bleachers. If his celebration was a bit more subdued this time, it was only because Willson could only find a few late arriving fans who hadn’t already been pointed at.

With the Cubs up 5-1, things appeared to be comfortable. But tonight was one of those Jon Lester tightrope evenings that have become all too familiar over the past month. At this point, we all know how Lester approaches making in game adjustments when his command isn’t there.

LESTER: I’m trying to hit the outside corner!
CONTRERAS: It’s not working.
LESTER: OK...what if I get angry?

James McCann led off the top of the fourth with a home run that took off to right center to make it 5-2. As he rounded the bases, you could see him about to curse himself out for enjoying the moment until realizing “Oh yeah, I’m the other McCann...” Eloy Jimenez followed with a walk and Yoan Moncada pulled an RBI double down the third base line to start to make things uncomfortable at 5-3.

Lester was glaring in home plate umpire Cory Blaser’s direction when he didn’t get a call off the outside corner. Which means he’s about to get a hashtagging like he’s never seen before. But it helped out later when he got that pitched called to strike Cordell out looking for the first out of the inning. After an infield single by Yolmer Sanchez brought the go ahead run to the plate, Lester struck out Giolito.

What followed was the biggest break of the game and it went the Cubs’ way. Garcia chopped a 1-2 pitch in front of the plate and made contact with the ball. Blaser ruled he was out of the box and called him out, retiring the side with the Cubs still up by two. Replays showed that Blaser was very wrong but that play was not reviewable because REDACTED.

Things mostly settled in from there. David Bote hit a home run to lead off the fourth, making this the third homer Giolito had given up tonight after surrendering five in his previous 13 starts. Lester gutted his way through five and two-thirds innings, allowing seven hits and three runs while striking out six. The bullpen made the lead stand and the Cubs split the series.

That’s baseball. Glorious baseball.

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  • Well so much for my theory of building up innings lol. Alzolay called up. Sounds like he may start his cubs tenure in relief for possibly. Thank god I was worried they thought he wasn’t ready, but this is a statement to call him up now. Can’t wait

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    He does not need to build up innings. He needs to keep the mileage down for the entire year. The Cubs should make the post-season so he will likely throw in games for an additional month potentially. I like him to come up and work from the bullpen with an occasional spot start. He’s at 36 innings today so he is very likely to stay well below 100 for the season. That would be a smart move for the Cubs.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Very happy to see Alzolay and I think your analysis is spot on. The kid has earned the call up but in an ideal world if they go to a 6 man that guy probably should be Chatwood, even if I don't like it much, for the exact reasons you mentioned. If he's going to help late you'll want to keep his innings down.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I wonder if it indicates that they see him as a reliever and not a starter though. He’s not gonna be able to contribute much as a starter in future seasons with under 100 innings. Last year is already a lost year of development

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    In reply to kkhiavi:

    It is possible. However using him as a reliever can allow them to really easily control his innings. And also get his feet wet in a really controlled way. Then he can be a starter in upcoming years. It isn't an uncommon route for young starters.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    I don’t think so. It’s a standard development scale. Guys usually get promoted when they’re throwing about 70 innings in MiLB. Take a look at the Brave’s Max Fried. He got his promotion after pitching abou 66 innings in AAA and pitched 32 in MLB after that. He’s at 82 this season and they probably have him on about a 140 inning cap this year. Very few top pitching prospect are allowed to go over 100 innings right away. Domingo German is another example. The Yankees had planned on moving him to the pen after about 110 innings since 85 was his high water mark. His injury has probably allowed him to still be starting games in August. I’m not sayin Alzolay May not be a pen arm eventually but I think the Cubs see him as a starter and it takes a few seasons to build up innings.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Good points TC thanks for the examples. I was a bit nervous about building up his arm strength, but good to here there's similar precedents that Atlanta and NYY have followed. I definitely respect that organizations ability to develop pitchers. One thing I do like about Adbert in the pen is he does have some durability questions, even if it's too early to call that a concern. Mixing him in the pen definitely should help and I think his upper 90s fastball/curve combo should work well out of the pen. I'm excited though I just don't have faith in this bullpen at all right now. I think Strop isn't 100% back and I think they should ease up on him as he hopefully regains his form. Kimbrel will help but with Hendricks out and a mostly reliable reliever in Chatwood going to the rotation, they need the arms. I even think Barnette may help the team he's coming up too and has been throwing the ball well. Hopefully he regains his texas form

  • In reply to TC154:

    Hello Pedro Martinez

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    If he’s a reliever, he needs to start an inning. He allows .356 ave when he pitches from the stretch. Slugging is over .550 from the stretch.

  • In reply to stix:

    Interesting tidbit stix I'm aware of that issue and I'm hoping it's not as big of an issue as it's been at times this season. Carl Edwards has that same issue so it does happen. Michael linked a bleacher report article that touches on this. It says "One split that’s probably insignificant, but has stayed consistent, is a decrease in success when pitching from the stretch. For each of the last four seasons, Alzolay has been worse with runners on base than when the bases are empty. This year the split has been extreme, as hitters are batting .356/.375/.578 with runners on base (this includes his rehab start). There’s a chance that Alzolay’s stuff plays better out of the wind-up – this is something we see in young pitchers sometimes – but it’s not something I overtly notice on video. Something to keep an eye on nonetheless."

    I don't think it's something to dismiss it's been somewhat of an issue for years, but moreso this year. Something to watch certainly.

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    I hadn’t I hadn’t heard that. I hope he gets enough time to figure the big leagues out, not to be sent down if he doesn’t do well the first few outings.
    So, Willson, your table is ready.

  • Adbert the Advert? Cool. Who went down? Great game Wednesday night. WILLSONNNNNNNN!!! Gets extra mashed taters!

  • In reply to LRCCubsFan:

    Happy to see Willson deliver. Hard work pays off.
    Makes me wonder though, who will be the first person to criticize his 'framing', once he has a cool spell. That talk always bugged me, when it came to Contreras. With catchers there are so many pieces to the puzzle. You have to look at the sum of the entire package. And with Willson there was no doubt, by the time he was called up.

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    In reply to cubbustible:

    Has his "framing" improved? You're right that we have to look at the entire package. We can LOVE his cannon throwing arm, his ability to hit the ball AND dislike his turning strikes into balls with his framing. They aren't mutually exclusive. We can think he is a net positive and still bemoan something that is clearly not a strength.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Yes, I do feel Willson has improved his framing. Certainly to the point where there is nothing to criticize him for, going forward. I always felt that point was overplayed by some folks, at times when our pitching was not up to standard.
    That said, I did feel that Contreras needed to get 'quieter' behind the plate - less movement as the pitcher was about to deliver the ball. But to me, still, framing conversations are more of an argument for an automated K zone.
    JMO.

  • Adbert up and Tim Collins was DFA.

  • In reply to Hagsag:

    Collins had the right to refuse an option to Iowa and is pitching well enough to expect someone will claim him. Xavier Cedeno is back rehabbing in Iowa and not far from returning to replace him as LH depth. Danny Hultzen also has returned to Iowa after looking great during rehab in Mesa, so the Cubs and Collins probably figured they have enough lefties. The Cubs also need the 40-man spot to add Tony Barnette, who has been pitching lights out in Iowa, from the 60-day IL.

  • Kyle Schwarber in June:
    .288/.324/.636/ .960 OPS 3.89 wOBA 141 wRC+
    2.0% soft 55.1% medium 42.9% hard
    The only real negative is that the walks are down to 5.6% but obviously the BA is making up for it.

  • In reply to TC154:

    You and I both have been big supporters of Schwarber the last couple of seasons. I would love to this this run sustained over the next 3 to 4 months! I thought he was due for a breakout about 6 weeks ago only to be disappointed. Maybe I was a little early to back off my call. He looks pretty good right now. I am happy for him. He is intense and everyone knows how well he wants to do. I see no reason why he can't settle into a .360 OBP and .550 SLG with 35 HR annually. This recent run is more along the lines of his past performance translating to MLB.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I'd like to see the BB rate go back up but it's still at about 12% for the season even if it's down from a high of around 16%. The biggest change is that he's swinging at first pitch strikes and hitting them. Eventually pitchers are going to try to stop doing that but then he'll walk when the opportunity arises. This is why I think the leadoff spot has been so good for him. If he's not hitting well he's still valuable by taking his walks and setting up Bryant and Rizzo, and that ability to walk is causing pitchers to give him pitches to hit. This is what they saw a couple of years ago when they put him in that spot but he wasn't near ready for it.

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    In reply to TC154:

    I'd love to see his BB% increase too. But to me he has established that it is something he can do well so I am not worried he has "lost" the skill. Somewhat like I don't worry when Javy has a low BABIP. He has established that he can hit close to .340 BABIP over a large enough sample size (a couple thousand PAs) that I'm not going to worry about it dropping dramatically.

    Back to your original post, I LOVE his Hard/Med/Soft numbers. With those kind of numbers his BABIP of .302 is VERY sustainable. It isn't a fluke (Surprisingly he doesn't leg out many infield hits except for the occasional bunt-against-the-shift).

    Honestly, I like him hitting leadoff. The only parts about it I don't like is that he does K a lot and he can clog the bases in front of Bryant. But he sees a lot of pitches, as the game on Tuesday shows, he presents a threat to score from the first pitch on, and he is willing to take a BB and be on base for Bryant-Rizzo-Baez-Contreras. There are few "perfect" lead off hitters and most of them are in the HOF. If he can get on base at a .350 clip in the lead-off spot I will take that. If he can do .360-.375 I say leave him there until you have a better option.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Hoping it's the Kyle Swarber we've been waiting for and not just a "hot streak."

  • Boy, Willson stays pumped. Somethimes I could do with a little less celebrating, but I guess that just who he is. Intensity works for him. Keep him rested Joe. What a talent!!

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    Nice recap,, Great friggin game!

    So,,, how are we going to fit Barnette, Maples AND Hultzen on the team?

  • In reply to John Nesbit:

    Cubs insider is reporting the DFA of Collins us for Barnette not alzolay. Don’t panic alzolay folks is coming up, but his callup didn’t require a 40 man roster move. Calling up Barnette would off the 60 day DL. I’m not expecting huge things from Barnette but I think he’ll help this pen. He’s really found his form in AAA. Watching an improving Kyle Ryan and brach used as our setup man made theo realize they need reinforcements. ESP with chatwood in the rotation now

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    In reply to kkhiavi:

    Grazi, KKH ,, feel like Barnette is a MAJOR upgrade over Ryan and especially Brach if he is healthy

  • In reply to John Nesbit:

    I know it's hard to forget Kyle Ryan's 2 HR debacle against the Cardinals on June 1st, but ...

    Since June 1, Kyle Ryan has pitched 6.1 innings over 8 appearances, giving up 0 runs, 5 hits, and 1 BB.

    Just saying ...

  • In reply to John Nesbit:

    Barnette will replace Wick, Kimbrel probably replaces Alzolay once ready. Cedeno will replace Ryan (who has an option while Cedeno does not). When Edwards returns is when the roster crunch happens. That is when Brach or any other struggling reliever is in jeopardy.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Honestly John and Michael I've bashed Ryan after some of his bad outings, but he's semi impressing me lately. His peripherals have been good all year and he may have value as a situational reliever like Duensing when he pitched better in 2917, but with more swing and miss. They may not have a choice but you can see Joe likes to go to him in general. Obviously we're all excited about Alzolay but I'm kinda semi excited to see Barnette too heading into the deadline. He's been on a really nice run in AAA so hopefully he regains his good Texas form. They need arms in general Strop maybe back but he doesn't feel like the same Strop that we've relied upon in the past. I'd be careful with him I'm not sure if he's 100% or he maybe just trying to regain his form off his injury.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    I've argued all offseason and all throughout this year that Ryan is definitely a MLB arm, and deserved a chance. He is proving he is that, but he also may be proving that he may not be ideal for a contender. Or at best he is a #2 LHRP, but with Monty around the Cubs already have that slot filled. Neither are ideal LIR types that miss a ton of bats. I have no issue keeping Ryan if they decide to trade Montgomery at the deadline or in the offseason. Ryan will be out of options next year.

  • Good on Javy to not expand the strike zone at all last night. He only swung at pitches in the zone. The result, a walk to help load the bases for the Contreras slam, and nice base hit. He even hit another ball pretty hard. I'll take him getting on 2 times in 4 chances any day, even if it's just a single and a walk. The HRs will be there too.

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    In reply to Cubber Lang:

    Having a 0% swinging outside the zone in MLB is impressive. Usually a guy is fooled at least 1x. Or swings at a borderline pitch to foul it off. Or simply tries to put the bat on the ball.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    No way do I expect him to keep that up and be that perfect.l every game. But he needs to try to stay as locked into that approach as he can. Rizzo, Bryant, and Schwarber have been getting on base in front of him a whole bunch. Javy’s had plenty of opportunities. He doesn’t have to be the hero, he just has to be one of the 8 putting the ball in play when strikes are thrown and giving the next man up a chance to succeed. Contreras is just as much at fault for the Cubs latest poor play. He really came out in a big way last night. Hopefully they both keep it up.

  • I'm starting to like this Cubs-Sox rivalry. The Sox are on the cusp of actually being a good team, and may stay that way for quite some time. These games will be fun to watch over the next few years.

    I was watching the MLB channel last night, and Reynolds was very insulting of Contreras' emotional home run trots. You'd think Willson was the only player who has ever done that this year. He has a bit of a 'tude toward the Cubs this year. That's good, because a guy who shoots his mouth off incessantly is a hard guy to like.

    That reminds me of my favorite Fred Sanford line. Esther told him one day that 'Beauty is only skin deep.' Fred replied, 'Yeah, but ugly goes right to the bone.'

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    In reply to HefCA:

    Beauty is only skin deep.' Fred replied, 'Yeah, but ugly goes right to the bone.'
    pure gold,,,,my pop saw Redd Foxx live and said he was FILTHY: hilarious, but so dirty ,,,
    RIP Mr. Foxx

  • While looking up Kyle Hendrick's injury history (this is only the second time he has ever been on the IL (formerly DL), I came across this :

    In 23 big league seasons, Greg Maddux spent only 15 days on the disabled list – a two-week stint in 2002 with an inflamed nerve in his lower back.

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