Flatliners--Pirates 3 Cubs 2

Siri what is the worst possible way to lose four in a row?

WPA CHART

Source: FanGraphs

The first sixteen hitters in this one were set down in order in three and half innings that made Rob Manfred smile. The Pirates were the first to reach base with a one out Jacob Stallings single in the bottom of the third. Kris Bryant provided the Cubs first base knock with a two out single in the fourth inning, but neither offense looked poised to do much against the starters Joe Musgrove and Kyle Hendricks.

The bottom of the fourth saw the only multi-hit inning of the game. Starling Marte reached on a one out single against the Professor. He stole second in the next plate appearance. Josh Bell flew out to center for the second out, but Colin Moran got on top of a high sinker to hit one through the infield and score Marte. That one run would be enough as the Cubs and Pirates continued to play a game more reminiscent of 1919 than 2019.

The Cubs threatened in the fifth inning with a Javier Báez doubled to lead off the fifth inning. It was a hustle double that blooped in front of Melky Cabrera more than a ball crushed. Kyle Schwarber struck out for the first out swinging, and then Lucroy popped an early pitch up on the infield for the second out. Kyle Hendricks struck out swinging with Musgrove working out of the zone the entire at bat.

Hendricks and Musgrove then kept hitters off balance the whole night. Hendricks allowed two baserunners but faced the minimum from the fifth inning through the seventh inning thanks to a pair of twin killings. The Cubs could not reach against Musgrove as Major League Baseball apparently removed the super happy fun ball with a deadball.

Jonathan Lucroy hit a floater into shallow left center which broke Musgrove's streak of retired batters at ten in the top of the eighth inning. Hendricks was lifted for a pinch hitter in Ian Happ. The count was worked full before Happ rolled a single back up the middle to move Lucroy to third. Felipe Vázquez was summoned to slam the door. Tony Kemp looked at a 100 mph fastball outside and then turned on a 98 mph into the right center gap. The big outfield at PNC allowed Happ to race around from first to score easily. Kemp reached third on the play. Vázquez walked Jason Heyward, but Castellanos bounced into an inning ending double play.

The nerves then began in earnest with the bullpen trusted with the slimmest of margins 2-1. David Phelps retired Kevin Newman on one pitch to start the bottom of the eighth. He then blew a high 95 mph fast past Jacob Stallings on a 3-2 count for the second out. Pablo Reyes worked a full count but also couldn't hold up on a 3-2 pitch outside of the zone for yet another clean inning thrown on the night.

Keone Kela worked around a one out walk to Anthony Rizzo to post yet another zero on the board. That meant the Cubs were again three outs away from a win. Kyle Ryan was called upon to face the lefties at the top of the Pirates lineup. Adam Frazier hit a ball hard, but Ian Happ was right there in right field for the first out. Then it was deja vu all over again when David Bote wasn't able to handle a bouncer down the third base line off the bat of Bryan Reynolds. In fairness to Bote McBoteface it was a much tougher play than last night, but here we go again was certainly the vibe following Reynolds' base hit.

Brandon Kintzler entered the fire right away off the IL facing Starling Marte. The former closer had to work for it but induced a ground ball from the anxious Marte. Unfortunately Kintzler only had a play at first to advance Reynolds into scoring position. The Cubs elected to put Josh Bell on and take their chances against Colin Moran. The move was the right call even with Moran providing the earlier Pirates tally, but Kintzler lost the zone to load the bases with two outs. Recently recalled Cole Tucker was the Pirates final hope. Tucker fouled two pitches off to bring the Pirates down to their final strike, but Kintzler wasn't able to get a chase on the next two offerings. Tucker fouled a pitch off before Kintzler misfired badly to tie the game. Kintzler again worked ahead quickly against Newman but once again struggled to finish off the batter. Newman rolled a base hit through the infield to crush the Cubs back to back nights.

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  • This bullpen can't put anybody away. We are not a good team, but nice timely hit by Kemp.

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    In reply to 44slug:

    We can be a good team when the other bullpen pieces get back.

  • Maddon has been indefensible for years, but only now are people realizing it. Seriously, if Maddon blows the World Series for good and Zobrist doesn't hit that double (along with Montero's single), he's gone already. One play shouldn't determine whether a manager stays. He is an indefensibly awful bullpen manager and he has no clue how to handle his starters.

    When he pulled Darvish last night, I was onboard. It was the right call. Tonight, unless there's an injury we aren't aware of, was utterly disgusting. Uninspired hitting, pulling a starter early, leaving in a reliever way too long, and intentionally walking a hitter that would lose us the game.

    Maddon should be toast and honestly, it's years too late. People talked about this team being a dynasty. Epstein and Co. have done their part to blow it, but Maddon is contributing nothing at this point. 2017 was a year of sleepwalking before a proper NLCS pounding, 2018 was lazy yet again, featuring an epic choke job, and 2019 has been lazy and inconsistent. Cite wins and losses all you want, but the team's process is flawed. We spent years tanking, yet the Nationals, Braves, Cardinals, Dodgers, Astros, Athletics, Twins, Indians, Yankees, and Rays are all better than us, and you can argue the Brewers, Phillies, and Red Sox are better, too. So we're not even a top 10 team in the league, and we're quite possibly not even top 13. Just unacceptable.

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    In reply to CP22:

    They were losing, their hand was forced. Without Happ’s hit they don’t score 2 runs.

  • In reply to John Winter:

    And I understand the need for offense, but at that point, I'm not willing to trade out my starter for two innings of bullpen work. That's how bad the situation is. I take my chances with a sac bunt because I do not trust my bullpen to do anything.

  • In reply to John Winter:

    Agreed. The big mistake is continuing to refuse to put Bryant at third and leave him there. Granted the ground ball to Bote wasn't routine but he's a butcher everywhere you put him. If Bryant makes that play it's a totally different inning.

    Maddon's "smartest guy in the room" act has worn out it's welcome. Nothing will happen this year but he's gone when this debacle is over.

  • In reply to CP22:

    You can't be serious with this post can you? Every manager in the history of the game will pinch hit for their pitcher down one in top of 8th with a guy on and two outs. Every single one. Beans and Rice!

  • In reply to KJRyno:

    First of all, there was 1 out, which means there would've been a sac bunt and Kemp still would've hit that triple. But here's my point: even if I grant that argument, his 9th inning antics blew the game. That's the issue: he's making multiple questionable decisions on a nightly basis

  • In reply to CP22:

    Valid comments but what injury were you referring to? If you wanted .hendricks to pitch the 8th, then Happ doesn’t PH for him and the cubs are shutout.

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    Since you can’t fire the team I am going with firing poor old Joe. What happened all those relief pitchers signed over the last few years. I think we added about 10 a year It has been like reliever of the month

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    You can’t criticize Maddon with putting Theo there too. Joe manages with who he’s got and Theo got him these players. Theo’s been drafting and signing FA’s. There’s plenty of blame to go around.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    You’re right that all facets deserve the blame. But if Joe was fired, then that is a direct call out to the players that they didn’t perform well enough and the manager they love to play for got fired as a result. We can’t change the players, but we could change the manager. The message (same or different than Joe’s) will be delivered in a professional manner and the players will know it’s all on them now. Do they want to be winners or losers? I’d hope they want to be winners. As it stands now, it’s hard to call them winners though. They haven’t shown many characteristics of a team that deserves to be described as winners.

    Like a stated over a month ago, I’ve seen enough from this team to feel with high confidence that they are not in it to win it. Changes should’ve already been made. It’s unfortunate that now we are just waiting... Something’s got to give.

  • I already had this thought in mind when I saw the headline, then I started reading the comments:

    Today is a good day to die.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I will always think of the Klingon battle cry when hearing a good day to die and that sounds like way more fight than this club has right now.

  • In reply to Mike Banghart:

    They came back from a 1-0 deficit against the closer who had blown 1 save all year. You don’t think that’s “fight”? . BP is terrible or misused or both. I guess even 5 run leads with 2 innings isn’t safe. . Seems that’s a BP issue or mgmt of the BP issue.

    Other than the lack of use of Chatwood all the other pieces have failed.

  • In reply to stix:

    Frankly I don't buy that the Cubs issues are lack of hunger. The roster has been flawed all season. Theo Epstein might have pieced together enough to keep this team afloat but injuries have ravaged that this past month.

  • In reply to Mike Banghart:

    Didn’t you just say “...way more fight than this club has...”. You initiated the discussion and now you’re refuting that the club has a lack of hunger. Sounds like doublespeak to me.

  • In reply to stix:

    I don't think it is a fair expectation for any one to be rational at this moment.

    And I did hedge the initial statement by saying looks like and not that do lack fight.

  • In reply to Mike Banghart:

    Ok, been extremely frustrating to all.

  • In reply to stix:

    I've been racking my brain for a more painful pair of back to back losses (postseason doesn't count given the added meaning each game takes). Thinking maybe the end of 2004 but I'm not sure and don't really want to look it up now.

  • In reply to Mike Banghart:

    Reading it back now and I guess I didn't include looks. I said sound which is far more definitive than I meant but I stand by my initial assertion that now is hardly a time for rationality.

  • In reply to Mike Banghart:

    I was there for the LaTroy Hawkins weekend.....these last 2 days are real close.....

  • In reply to stix:

    I'm iffy on the whole "fight" concept. Honestly, tonight kind of showed by sides of these Cubs. When they want, they can turn it on and be a force to be reckoned with. But too often they spend 7 innings swatting at the ball weakly and striking out while failing to work counts deeper than 3-4 pitches. There's no excuse for Musgrove to be sitting at 74 pitches through 6+ innings.

  • In reply to CP22:

    I agree on Musgroves pitch count but he wasn’t wild. Can’t take pitches when they’re mostly strikes. Hendricks threw less pitches than Musgrove. That was the nature of today’s game. Throw strikes get early contact.

  • In reply to Mike Banghart:

    It's too much. I'm literally packing up things to go visit my dog's grave in the woods for the weekend. Me and my boy, it doesn't take much to make me happy. I can't count on the Cubs to give me any pleasure.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Not a joking matter.

  • There is definitely a certain comic element to what is happening.

  • I'm not sure it makes much difference what Joe and Theo do. These guys just don't seem to have it anymore. There is such a thing as too much versatility, but I have no answers. No one is to blame, everyone's to blame, what does it matter? It's not the game of a team that is going anywhere. The Cubs are right back where they started. At least we have 2016 now.

  • It's got to be a results oriented job and Joe is just not getting it done. Seems as if he makes the wrong decision almost every night. Call it whatever you want but his job is to get the right players in the right place at the right time and right now he's not succeeding. Sorry but Joe must go.

  • In reply to veteran:

    Idk, Vet. The org has quality guys on the field, in the front office and Maddon is one of our better managers over the years. For some reason it has all gone sour. Probably everybody shares the blame. Play hard the rest of the way and start trying to fix it after the season ends. Changes are needed.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I imagine Joe will be one of the first to move on.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Big changes, minor adjustments have failed. Quit trying to sign veterans like Descalso to fix the clubhouse/team attitude. Please stop signing free agents who just had their best season. Front office needs to refocus on acquiring talent.

  • In reply to Naujack:

    IMO they keep trying to 'fix the clubhouse ', is because the manager is incapable of doing so.
    Simple solution: get rid of the manager. Tampa Bay hasn't missed a beat since Maddon is not there.

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    In reply to cubbustible:

    They haven’t? This could be the first year making the playoffs since he left.

  • I have decided it's "Low T." Testosterone shots for everyone!

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Haha Cliff... That’s the first thing that’s made me laugh while reading and thinking about this situation. Maybe they should just start with shots of 5 hour energy for everyone, right before game time.

  • Hi gentlemen. Before the season began, I wanted the Cubs to sign LeMahieu and Brantley. Please help me with this, but was that a monetary budget concern, or did they just missed the boat on those two?
    I lost confidence in Madden after he pulled the stunt with Chapmen in the World Series.
    I was watching the Sox late last night. Wellington Castillo hit a double. The next guy up bunted him to 3rd. Sanchez, the 2nd baseman, bunted him home. Could you ever see the Cubs doing that? Who on the Cubs is even capable of squaring up and laying down a bunt?
    I haven't even got to the pitching, and their lack of developing any pitching whatsoever. Their record in this area is inexcusable.

  • In reply to Playball:

    The biggest problem with this team isn’t having a lead off hitter. How this wasn’t addressed the last two off seasons is inexcusable. I was a Joe fan but I have to admit he has run his course.

  • In reply to Playball:

    Not only did they miss the boat. They refused to consider adding free agents, because Theo was waiting for Kyle Schwarber to develop. Kyle should never have been in the National League to start with.
    Almost every scout new this except Theo, who has a hard time admitting a multi million dollar mistake. There were several better options available to play left field that the Cubs never seriously considered.Drafting underslot players to save money for later rounds means your not drafting the best available player. And this business of having players playing multiple positions is ridiculous. Play your players at the position at their best at. Changing pitching and hitting coaches every year offers no continuity and has a negative effect on some players.This also tells me that there is something wrong up in the front office,possibly to much hands on not letting people do their jobs.

  • In reply to ronvet69:

    I would welcome back Bosio and Mallee today. They let the wrong guys go.

  • The biggest issue started last off season. Theo did nothing except scrap heap the 37-40 spots on the 40 man roster. The we will rely “on internal improvements” mantra was a flawed strategy and now here we are again.

    We have a weak bullpen and the offense is what it is — a flawed collection of hitters closer to their floor than ceiling. Our OF and 2B play has let Joe be Joe by switching out those spots daily. I almost wish our guys had zero flexibility. There is only one guy who showed the ability to play all over and that was Javy. No one else did it with any great defensive performance. They just were able take the field there. All this flexibility has done is let Joe play inferior defenders all over the field and it has cost us games.

    Morrow’s injury crippled and handcuffed the bullpen all at once. So Theo had to find a “diamond in the rough” and he still has a heap of coal. There isn’t one guy that is a keeper at this point. I get bullpens fluctuate from year to year, but to rely on DFA to build a bullpen is questionable.

    Look, we are good. We all want elite. That’s where the frustration comes from. We went from ‘15 a young hungry team on the rise who whacked the Cards to World Champs in ‘16. Since then has been a steady regression and sleepiness in ‘17. And crazy fall to end ‘18. And now a combo of ‘17 and ‘18 this season. Although we have the same nucleus, we are a shell of the ‘16 team. This is maddening and frustrating for sure. I gave Cubber grief for his hot take of blowing it up and selling. Now, he looks really smart. I am coming around on this position. Things need to change, for sure. But I will hold out hope we sneak into the division title and then get hot for 3 weeks and win the whole damn thing.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    All hands on deck ! Book now ! Sail aboard the USS Schwarber with Theo,Jed, and Joe in September ! Many good seats available ! Every booking qualifies to win an authentic Milton Bradley autograft jersey!

  • Some teams are made up of winners, who lack the talent. They come up short. Some have the talent, who are lacking the character to be winners. They also come up short. This team is more the later. We know they have the talent. What is the missing ingredient, that keeps popping up as they find ways to lose? That's what needs to be fixed. If that ingredient can't be identified, Theo and Jed will be forced to start over.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Well, lets see! IF as you say, they have talent, I would guess that whatever talent they (may) have is being mismanaged. Tampa Bay does not miss Joe Maddon. Maddon's message and style seems to have gotten stale. Just as stale as his handling of the bullpen.
    The way I see it, only way to hope to turn this thing around between now and October, is get a new messenger. Binney Joe, thanks, but adios.

  • In reply to cubbustible:

    I've actually made that same point a few times. 'The boys' should have done it sooner if they were going to do it at all. I think I would be more optimistic even at this late date. I figure the front office just plays it out at this point. We are still in the mix,
    despite the malaise.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Agreed. They could fire Joe NOW and hope an interim manager makes a difference for the rest of the year, but IMO they'll play out the season. We spend a lot of time criticizing individual moves - this pitcher, that defensive replacement, but the problem with the manager is much bigger. Regardless of "fault," the team is not playing up to its potential under Maddon's leadership and that can't go on indefinitely. I don't see a complete teardown and rebuild, but I do see changes in manager and at several key positions over the winter.

  • I just had the brilliant idea of looking at our remaining schedule. We finish the season with 14 of the final 24 games on the road, including a 4-game set in Milwaukee and the last 3 of the regular season at St. Louis. There is a 10-game homestand in mid-September with a 4-game series against the DirtyBirds. I'm thinking we may have to sweep that one.

    I'm ready to offer a shot of rum and sacrifice a chicken.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Ha!

  • Losing Dexter Fowler and Chapman without having a suitable replacement was not a smart move. Luckily we now have a replacement for Fowler but unfortunately we won't use him (Baez) in the leadoff position. Losing Joe Maddon would be a disaster. Knowledgeable Cub fans remember that the last time we fired a good manager named Joe he went on to win seven world series with another team!!

  • In reply to charly4:

    Joe Maddon has lost his clubhouse and manages an underperforming team. He will be replaced based on team needs, not a Wikipedia entry about a manager who the Cubs fired nearly 90 years ago.

  • Joe Maddon is a great manager. If there is a better choice to manage our team I would like to know who that person may be. I don't believe that it was Maddon's idea to let Fowler and Chapman get away.

  • In reply to charly4:

    Yikes....if you think Maddon should stay just because Fowler and Chapman are no longer Cubs then you have not been watching the last 3 years of Joe's genius at work.

  • The last time the Cubs won a series on the road was in mid-May. In their last 40 road games, they are 13-27, .325. Simply unsustainable for any championship team....

  • In reply to wthomson:

    They rank 29 of 30 teams in road record, ahead of only the Marlins.

  • In reply to wthomson:

    And we play 14 of our final 24 regular-season games on the road. I hope we can build a big lead before then.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I'm too worn out to calculate it, but I suspect that the Cubs lead the majors by a wide margin in the difference between their home and road records. What in the world could account for such a divergence? Is Theo putting them up in Motel 6? Mattresses to hard? Too soft? Homesick? Playing with borrowed equipment? Allergic to airplane washrooms?

    What gives?

  • In reply to wthomson:

    ...finally figured it out--must be bedbugs.

  • In reply to wthomson:

    What period are you measuring? Tigers, royals also have worse records for the year.. not good company to keep but the cubs are still better than just the Marlins on the road.

    Would you feel better if they were three games over .500 both home and road?

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    In reply to stix:

    The way I look at it, they may not be good on the road, but that bad of a road clip seems in sustainable, so I’m hoping for some positive regression.

  • In reply to stix:

    I stand corrected--for the season, the Cubs rank 27 out of 30 in rod percentage.

    And what concerns me about the road-home discrepancy is that it is a fairly large-sample size discrepancy without any obvious reason. Good teams tend to play .500 on the road and .667 at home, not the Cubs values of .371 and .683. They are champion-level at home, and last-in-the-division level on the road. Why? It makes no sense.

  • In reply to wthomson:

    Getting closer they are better than four teams which gets them to 26. They are the fourth best home record. I don’t think we’re the only ones who can’t make sense of the disparity and a few of them get paid to run this team and they apparently haven’t figured it out .

  • In reply to wthomson:

    We are not a championship team. The 2-7 road start never got better. The season road woes have existed the entire year. If not for the great home record this team is not worthy of a 500 record. No leadership and obvious lack of talent on team. Big changes needed Theo needs to walk the talk now.

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    In reply to AzChris:

    Well, I’m still going to root for them to get it done this year. Quitting doesn’t work for me personally as a fan.

  • In reply to John Winter:

    Of course I am rooting and have never quit but I am a realist and nothing tells me this team will get better on the road and keeping the great home record is not realistic. I hope I am wrong

  • In reply to AzChris:

    I think you made a similar comment before the last homestand. They continue to win at home and lose on the road with the same players. Hard to understand how the mgr can have an impact. Is he only good in Chicago or is it dumb luck. Same question in reverse on road results.

    Mgr doesn’t just get incompetent when they leave Chicago or get to be brilliant when they are at home.

    If the BP could hold leads they would be at least 15 games over and all this wailing would not exist.

  • In reply to AzChris:

    I agree, and would expect regression toward .525 (currently 64-58) in each direction. Unfortunately, .525 (85 wins) is not likely to get it done against the Dodgers, Astros and Yankees.

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    In reply to AzChris:

    Sure I understand that. I was just stating my philosophy, but I respect your viewpoint.

  • If Fowler and Chapman or their equals were wearing Cub uniforms now we wouldn't be so upset about what a bad manager Joe is.

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