Going Streakin'--Cubs 2 Royals 0

It is cliche to say that a team needs to get off to a good start in baseball, but in the condensed season a strong start was always going to be a huge plus. The Cubs found a way to win another ballgame and this win rhymed with yesterday's lack of offense. The Cubs were outhit by their opponent once again and the bullpen delivered some strong innings.

The key though has been the starting staff. Alec Mills delivered seven innings of shutout ball and the Cubs may have found something there. Mills did not have a clean inning until the fifth, but he finished strong retiring the side in order to close out his night. The length was important because it meant just six outs were needed from the shaky bullpen, but a few arms emerge as potential high leverage options in 2020.

WPA CHART


Source: FanGraphs

The Royals were able to threaten a few times in the early innings, but Mills found the pitches needed time after time. The Cubs did the same against Danny Duffy. Kris Bryant led off the game with a double, but the Cubs couldn't advance him. The Cubs reached base at least once through the four innings. Duffy was equal to the task keeping the score level at zero.

The fifth inning has been Danny Duffy's trouble spot so far in 2020 and that popped up once again tonight. Duffy walked two and allowed a bloop hit to load the bases with no outs. Anthony Rizzo hit a pop up for the first out. Javier Báez hit a solid line drive into right that was deep enough for Nico Hoerner to score on. Duffy was able to retire the next four batters to hand a 1-0 game to his bullpen in the seventh.

Ian Kennedy pitched the bottom of the seventh inning after Mills finished the top of the inning again without conceding a run. Kennedy induced two easy outs to start the inning, but Kris Bryant hit a long low drive just into the seats to double the Cubs lead.

Casey Sadler struck out Brett Phillips to start the eighth and induced a groundout from Whit Merrifield for a second out. Jorge Soler hit a solid single to extend the inning. Rowan Wick was summoned to finish the inning. Ryan O'Hearn struck out swinging to finish the inning. Wick was given the ninth inning with Kimbrel's struggles. Franchy Cordero hit a one out single, and did advance all the way to third on some questionable baserunning decisions. However, it was all for naught with Maikel Franco popped out to Rizzo and Alex Gordon did to Báez to end the game.

Random Reference

The Cubs defense sparkled throughout the evening. The starting staff has rolled along like it was 2016, but the Cubs defense might be the thing that is most like 2016. David Bote made several plays at third and Javier Báez displayed some of his tagging magic once again. But there is no way that the reference couldn't be the Cubs own Mr. Sparkle.

Kris Bryant announced his return with his first blast of 2020. The Cubs left fielder tonight found the seats through the wind in the seventh inning. It was a key run to double the Cubs lead late. And for at least a bit longer we get to revel in the fact that we have Kris Bryant and others do not.

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  • Great defense by Bote at third. Running on the combo of Contreras and Baez seems mighty risky. Mills was awesome! And Hendricks at home tomorrow is usually a sure thing.

  • Thanks for the recap, Mike. I see you're back on the Simpsons after the tease of South Park brilliance last night, but that's OK. You'll see the light eventually.

    Not much offense tonight, but we didn't need much. Javy didn't try to do too much, which he has had a problem with in the past, and KB with the big bomb. I was really impressed with Nico's late walk. Big-league pitchers are game-planning around taking advantage of his youth and natural aggression, throwing pitches he can't square up. It was nice to see him making the adjustment and taking those for a walk. Suave.

    The theme of the night was, again, starting pitching. Alec Mills was amazing. That makes 7 quality starts in the first 10 games, and Hendricks up tomorrow. Couple that with solid defense, which Bote flashed on more than one occasion, and some timely hitting, and I'm starting to feel a little nostalgic. I remember a year when starting pitching and defense ruled out season.

    "Does anybody remember laughter?"

    We won, the Brewers and Pirates lost, but the Reds squeaked out a W. The DirtyBirds are still grounded, so our lead in the NL Central sits at a full 3 games, along with bragging rights as the best record in the league.

    Thank you. May I have another?

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    In reply to Mike Pilbean:

    Of course you may!!

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    I like KB in LF and Bote at 3rd. He's better than KB, especially picking up slow rollers with one hand and has a strong arm. He just needs to hit and we have a wonderful 3rd baseman to play there if KB goes back there.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Maybe KB is becoming this years Zobrist versatility player. Some third base, some outfield and 'need a leadoff', Bryant can handle that as well. Very important cog.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Bote might have to change his first name to Javier. I showed range I don't remember on that play covering shortstop in the shift.

  • Another nice win. You covered it well. Mills has secured, I believe, that 5th starters spot and Bote had a spectacular night at third. We just hope the MLB can keep going so that we can keep watching a very good Cubs team. With all the pitching injuries around the league, could Q become a sought out arm?

  • I stayed up late to watch the Hawks last night and had an earlier than usual meeting at work this morning, so no daily roundup from me.

    I don't think anyone needs to be informed that Mills did good, Bote played some great D, the bullpen delivered, and we got a Javy Tag.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Sounds like you are burning the candle at both ends, be careful.

    I think we are watching the maturation of some really good young players. Contreras behind the plate, Javy at the plate, and Happ, Suave, Schwarber as well. Stud players wanting to be complete and fixing holes in their game. Ross effect?

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I think combo of Ross and the players just realizing they let some opportunities slip by them the last couple of years. Some loss of focus (common with a young team that achieves early success) the last couple of years, and they see the end of their time together as a core coming soon, and now want to make most of it.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Michael, what channel were the Blackhawks on? Was it NBCSN #200 on Comcast? I kept searching and couldn't find it.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Sorry, I don't live in Chicago.

  • In a condensed season of 60 games, 10 games equate to 1/6th of the season. An 8-2 start is equivalent to a 21-6 record. I recall a 24-6 start back in 2016 and that resulted in a storybook finish in the rain on the shores of Lake Erie. Therefore a win tonight would put this year's club at the same equivalency pace as 2016.

  • I don't know the rules about this, but is it possible to put Kimbrel on waivers (which no one would pick up because of his contract and performance), then send him to the minors camp to work on stuff?

  • In reply to JayPea:

    I wish, but no. If the Cubs put him on waivers, they are still on the hook for his contract. Another team can (and would) claim him and only have to pay the league minimum, with us paying basically all of it.

    In addition, there are no real minor league games happening. All sending him to South Bend would achieve is getting him work against live batters there, simulated-type situations that he can do while with the big club.

    He has lost some stuff, and that's normal for an aging arm. They've also identified some mechanical/release-point issues he can work on. He'll have to accept the changes and work with what he has. He may not be the future HOF'er he once was, but he can still be effective.

  • In reply to Mike Pilbean:

    I need to edit that. He would clear waivers and become a free agent, but the Cubs would still be stuck with his salary. Another team would then sign him for the league minimum, and everything else I wrote remains the same.

  • In reply to Mike Pilbean:

    So when you are saying he has a mechanical issue with his release point he is tipping his pitches where the FB is coming off his hand in a different position than his curve where a professional MLB batter can do harm knowing a pitch is coming well before recognizing the spin. This means a lot of coaching and work before he becomes effective.

  • In reply to rnemanich:

    Yeah, his arm slot has dropped a couple inches, and Michael has posted a couple images showing the difference. The release point on his curve in particular is a lot lower, and many believe hitters can spot it and are simply sitting on his fastball. We see what happens there.

    Every player and pitcher reacts differently to the shortened ramp-up to the season, and this is Kimbrel's second consecutive year without having a normal Spring Training. I won't blame that for his performance, but in this shortened season he will have to figure it out quickly.

    I think he'll end up being effective, but probably not the dominant closer he once was.

  • What a game last night. Good pitching all around, and even better defense! Starting to trust Saldler and maybe Tepera (I know he didn’t pitch last night, but he looked good on Sunday); add them in with Wick, Ryan, and Jeffress. Of course they all will each falter at some point soon. So we will need the bats to wake up a little now. Good AB by Javy to not try to do too much and getting the Sac fly RBI. It turned out to be all we needed were a walk, single, walk, and fly out to win this game. KB adding an insurance run doesn’t hurt. Hope his bat starts to heat up.

    Also, maybe a little credit to Theo and the staff on their pitching lab and what they’re doing with these guys they’ve brought in for the bullpen. Hopefully these guys keep executing pitches to their gameplan, because it seems to be working. If Mills and Chatwood (who looks like Arrieta light) continues pitching well, is Q expendable?

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    With all the woes the Cubs have had developing pitching, the lab has emerged as a bright spot. What they've been able to do with some of these dead-end arms and reclamation projects has been impressive. I'd also credit Kimbrel, as his version on the knuckle curve has been adopted by many within the organization. I think that may end up being his lasting legacy in Chicago.

    Mills is impressive, another pitcher that relies on knowledge and approach more than pure stuff. Quintana has been out for a while, and is scheduled to throw 2 simulated innings in South Bend Thursday. He never really got ramped up before his injury, so I think he's still a couple weeks away.

    I don't know what happens when he comes back. That likely depends on Mills' performance, as I expect him to get at least two more starts before Q is ready. If we're in contention, I don't think Quintana is expendable. We still need pitching. One of Q or Mills goes to the pen. There is also a real possibility we'll be playing double-headers this season and can use the extra starter.

    When we say expendable, that means dealt for another area of need. We need pitching, particularly high-leverage relief pitching. But Q is in the last year of his contract, a rental to a contending team. We'd have to deal with a contender who needs a starter down the stretch and also can spare a high-leverage reliever.

    I guess it's possible, but highly unlikely.

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    Good points on some of the under the radar bullpen arms and pitch lab. Lost in the shuffle early in this season is the contributions the cubs are getting from some of their under the radar arms, and you can add Chatwood and Mills to the new bullpen arms. I think Theo quietly had a decent offseason when you consider most of the teams additions costed only $1 million or less. I'd also add Winkler to your list who had a nice day on Sunday, and has a pretty solid cutter and deception. So far Kipnis has looked good with his chances, and Jeffress has bailed cubs pitching out of major jams on multiple occasions on his way to giving up no runs thus far. Sadler is quietly off to a nice start after the cubs traded for him, and he's under control for 5 more seasons. All the new bullpen additions are at least holding up in the biggest moments, and quietly improving. These aren't impact power arms by any means, as that's part of the reason the cubs got them so cheap. But at least these new additions are holding the fort, as most of the cubs AAA newcomers have struggled. Hopefully Theo can find ways to add to this bullpen group.

    I've gotta admit Chatwood and Alec Mill have to be the biggest pleasant surprises of these first 10 games. All of a sudden Chatwood and Darvish seem to be in pretty good form after many called them bust signings. All of a sudden here we are really leaning on the two of them. I'm not fully convinced Chatwood or Mills can sustain anything close to this type of dominant start. Chatwood can always regress with his command/mechanics and Mills wasn't exactly thought of as anything more then a 5th starter coming into the season. Mills minor league numbers weren't dominant by any means too. But I agree it's hard to remove either guy if they keep pitching the way they have been. To me this is a great problem to have. If they pitch their way into keeping their rotation spot over Q, then they both must be continuing to pitch at a high level. Quintana would be a needed quality left handed arm added to the bullpen. On the other hand if one of the 2 starters starts to struggle, then the cubs have a proven starting pitcher in Quintana coming to the teams rescue almost like a trade deadline addition.

    What once appeared to be a thin starting rotation doesn't look that way anymore. Fangraphs wrote a nice article on Chatwoods increased usage of his cutter, and he's been having a lot of success getting swings and misses on that pitch. If he keeps commanding his pitches then Fangraphs article concludes that his fast start maybe sustainable. With Chatwood of course it comes down to consistency with his command and mechanics. But overall I'm happy to see the pitching staff start so well after many cubs fans openly questioned this staff's quality after an offseason of under the radar pickups.

  • The Cubs owners still want to get under the salary cap penalty for 2020. Are the Cubs core players still on the trade block? I think so, of course trades depend on the return.

    I hope the bullpen has some internal improvements. From players making adjustments ,in addition to whoever may help from South Bend.

    8/31/20 is the trade deadline, Anything could happen from not much action to the wild west with all sort of teams making deals in this strange season. If we make it that far I'm leaning to lots of teams making deals.

    I was a fan of the Chatwood signing at the time, pitcher with plus stuff, and leaving Colorado. Of course I soured on the signing, but so far in 2020 he is pitching well.

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    I have to be honest---I struck in college. I am glad that we're streaking now too.
    No one saw our starting pitching doing this well this year. I certainly didn't. One of the best things about it is that we're not wasting this streak of great starting pitching. When we have to score we do, when it takes one or two runs then we've kept the other team down. We are playing 2016 defense too. I'm looking at 30 wins as the least to achieve--I think that will get into the playoffs, and after that we don't know anything about home field advantage or even where the playoffs will take place. Just one day at a time.
    Go Cubs!!

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Is "struck" a proper usage of the past tense of "streak"? I've never heard it used that way before, but I don't know anything. Heck, I'm a straight-up nudist if the weather's warm, but now we're waaaayyy off topic.

    How 'bout dem Bears!

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    In reply to Mike Pilbean:

    That's my word for it.

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