Unexpected Nail Biter--Bears 9 Rams 8

A Jake Arrieta start is rarely this stressful, but there many odd twists and turns this afternoon. The Cubs extended their lead over the third place Cardinals at the end of the day, but not without adding a few gray hairs to their fans.

Jake Arrieta, with a little assistance from the home plate umpire, was not the demigod of pitching we’ve come to expect every fifth day. The Cubs went quietly in the top half of the inning, but Kolten Wong lead off the bottom half with a single. Alemdys Diaz switched spots with Wong on a fielder’s choice. Matt Holliday advanced Diaz to second on a ground out, and Stephen Piscotty gave the Cards in earlier 1-0 lead with another single.

The Cardinals lead was short lived as the Cubs scored a touchdown in the second inning against Carlos Martinez. Ben Zobrist singled to lead off the inning because Ben Zobrist is unstoppable right now. Tommy La Stella walked to move Zobrist into scoring position, and Addison Russell‘s one out single would tie the game. Jake Arrieta struck out to give Martinez a chance to escape with minimal damage, but Dexter Fowler singled to give the Cubs the lead. Jason Heyward hit a double down the first base line to clear the bases, and another Ben Zobrist single would make it an even 6 runs in the second inning.

The Cardinals did not quit despite the daunting task of coming back from a 6-1 deficit against Jake Arrieta. Randall Grichuk hit a solo shot in the bottom half of the inning. The Cardinals would get Jake Arrieta again in the fourth inning. Stephen Piscotty walked and Matt Adams doubled him home. Another name we are tired of hearing, Randall Grichuk, drove in Adams making it a 6-4 ballgame. Arrieta finished a difficult fifth inning maintaining the 6-4 score. Seung Hwan Oh pitched the sixth inning for the Cardinals. Addison Russell led off with a single. Matt Szczur dropped a perfect two strike bunt to reach first, but Dexter Fowler had a less than perfect bunt popping up for an easy Yadier Molina catch. Jason Heyward struck out swinging, and the promising frame looked like a wasted chance. Kris Bryant, however, defeated the Final Boss with a 3 run blast to give the Cubs a commanding 9-4 lead.

The game was not over despite the Cubs vanquishing the Final Boss for some reason. Adam Warren pitched the bottom half of the sixth inning, and Ruben Tejada hit a solid single up the middle. Warren was able to get Jeremy Hazelbaker and Kolten Wong, but Tommy La Stella’s second error of the game kept the inning alive for Matt Holiday. A slide that caught too much of the plate was hit over the fence as the Cardinals answered with their own field goal. The Cubs failed to tack on any additional runs in this one, but the Cardinals were not done. Travis Wood was called onto face Matt Adams to start the seventh inning. Matt Adams continued to torment the Cubs with a solo shot to cut the Cubs lead to just one. Justin Grimm retired the three batters he faced.

Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon had a rare slim lead to protect in this one. Pedro Strop rid himself of some more Busch Stadium demons working around a lead off walk, but the top of the ninth was not an easy outing for Rondon. Stephen Piscotty and Matt Adams hit back to back singles to start the inning. Yadier Molina attempted to sacrifice the pair into scoring position, but ended up striking out on a slider. Randall Grichuk also swung over the top of a low slider, and Jedd Gyorko hit a comebacker to the mound to end the game.

The Cubs win a series in what has felt like a very long time. It has not been that long, and beating the Cardinals goes a long ways toward erasing those feelings.

WPA CHART

Source: FanGraphs

Jake Gets C.B.ed
It was not a strong start for Jake Arrieta, but the Cubs refuse to lose on Jake Day. I don’t like to talk about the umpires unless the calls are egregious, but it is hard not to give a little credit for this blip on home plate umpire C.B. Bucknor. The zone seemed tight for Jake for a lot of the game, and certainly played a role in the short outing. It may be bad form, but it is worth noting.

Speaking of Rough Days at the Office…
Bucknor was not the only one with a rough time on the field. Tommy La Stella draw a couple of walks, but he matched that with a pair of strike outs and errors. The sixth inning error was particularly costly. La Stella played back on the ground ball at third, and the bounce caught him square in the chest. La Stella does not have a great arm to begin with and so the play was done once the ball bounced away from him. That error was costly as Warren wasn’t able to pitch around it like Arrieta earlier.

Babe Adams
Stephen Piscotty and Randall Grichuk continued to be pesky, but Matt Adams is so hot right now. Adams drawing a start in this game delivered many key hits, and was involved in half of the Cardinals runs in some form. I was relieved in some ways when Matt Adams only hit a single in the ninth inning. That is how much Adams torched the Cubs this series.

Random Reference
Cubs fans are not exactly known for their rational thinking, but the Cubs bullpen meltdowns did not help matters. Many Cubs fans were ready to play Homer Simpson with a number of Cubs players.

Three Stars of Game
Third Star-Ben Zobrist (3-5, 1 R, 2 RBI)
Ben Zobrist remains Hansel.

Second Star-Matt Adams (3-5, 1 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI)
The Cardinals deserved a star for piling up 8 runs on a Jake day. I am just glad that I don’t have to praise Yadier Molina right now.

First Star-Kris Bryant (2-4, 1 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI)
Hit a game winning home run and you get named number 1 star. It is pretty simple.

Comments

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  • The "slumping" Cubs just finished a 9-game road trip with the same record as the Birds 9-game homestand: 4-5.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Also for all their vaunted offense, and it has been good, all teams slump. The Cubs slumped but stayed alive with good pitching and good defense. The Cards have mediocre pitching and bad defense so when those bats go cold it will not be pretty. I never underestimate the Cardinals but with an 8 game lead over them I feel pretty good right now.

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  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    The "slumping" cubs are 14-8 this month. Going 12-4 against the Phillies, Nationals, Pirates, Giants and Cardinals. I guess compared to April that is a slump. Now Phillies and Dodgers in wrigley for 6 if you win 4 that makes for a very good May record. I haven't looked but would assume June schedule is a little softer.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    The Giants are red hot. They have won 13 of 14 their only loss to the Cubs. It would be fun to meet them and Samardizja in the playoffs.

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    In reply to bleachercreature:

    So, their only loss is to the Cubs (and Jake). They didn't beat us by much with Bumgarner throwing. The Cubs are pretty good.

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    In reply to bleachercreature:

    June isn't bad, but there is a brutal stretch in the middle: 3 @WAS, 3 PIT, 3 STL back-to-back-to-back.

    Get out the measuring stick for that stretch. LOL

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    Don't think they've played the Phillies yet and they have 7 with the Phils & Dodgers on this home stand

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    CB stands not for See the Ball where it is! The Cubs did what good teams do--find a way to win. The Cards tried, but reminded me of the Cubs of the past, they just couldn't get over the hump and win. The Cubs also saw their share of pitches, over 180 today and over 200 yesterday. Whoever the Cards play to tomorrow is going to face a very tired bullpen.
    One more thing. I saw an article by Ken Rosenthal about a Cubs minor league coordinator Mike Roberts (father of Brian Roberts) and how the team and players and their wives and FO help him deal with the death of his wife. Google it--this team is special on and off the field.
    Good win today. Let's win on Friday.

  • I've been a Heyward apologist thus far and who knows I may still be but my lord his swing is ugly. He has that strange hitch but my real complaints are that he's pulling off on every pitch (all his hard hits aren't just foul, they're deep in the stands) and he doesn't get anything close to full extension so he has to have perfect timing to come even close to squaring the ball up.
    With that said, it seems to take him awhile to get on the same page with a new hitting coach and Mallee is a really good one so...

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    In reply to ericccs:

    Even when Heyward puts a charge into the ball, it looks like he's swinging a broken bat when he makes contact. Something in his swing totally diminishes his solid contact and power.

  • In reply to Glen Krisch:

    He pounds everything into the ground. No loft at all in the swing. I don't pretend to know anything about swings or how to fix them, but he doesn't seem to hit very much in the air.

  • In reply to Glen Krisch:

    It's going to have to get a whole lot worse before they would even think about platooning a guy making that much money. But if they moved him down to 6th or 7th in the lineup, that could change his mindset or approach a bit. I'd leave Zo alone, don't touch him - but you have to do something with Heyward.

  • In reply to cubbustible:

    Yep. Fowler and Zobrist are 1st and 3rd in NL in OBP. It's about time to have them bat 1-2 and move Heyward to 6 or 7.

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    In reply to TTP:

    Can you say that louder so Maddon can hear you? But seriously, time for Zobrist to be in the 2 spot.

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    I have to believe that Maddon knows what he is doing and is leaving Zobrist where he is for a reason. He is more thoughtful than most/all managers. I would just be curious to hear is rationale because I agree, I would love to see Fowler/Zobrist get as many PAs as possible.

  • Throwing in the last game of the Pittsburgh series at home, the cubs were 4-6 in the last 10. Somehow, the staggered cubs still managed to outscore the opposition by 43-34. 2-3 in 1-run games, and 0-3 in 2 run games. Really, they were not really out of it in any of the 6 losses. A timely hit or even a run scoring out could have changed the outcome in most of them. If this is what the slumping cubs look like, I will take it any time.

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    In reply to ricco:

    I do think this is what a cubs "slump" will look like. I have said for a while that I don't see a lot of long losing streaks--though there will be some 3-4 game slides I am sure. During a slump 1/3-1/2 of their losses will be games like Bumgarner where he is on his game most of the night. They would beat anyone that night. Every once in a while there will be a game like Lester had the other day...NOTHING worked. But they will squeak in some wins and prevent the opposition from gaining too much ground on them.

  • Barley, right on! And now a 10 game honestand and hopefully the weather getting warmer. We are in Atlanta and looking ahead to Wrigley South in a couple of weeks.

  • Bucknor has been terrible for years. He is examples A in the case for robo-umps.

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    A tight zone is not good with Jake on the mound but it is good for our hitters at the plate. Several pitches that we laid off of today would've been called strikes with a slob like Joe West calling the game, especially with Molina. I felt like C.B. certainly started to squeeze Jake on a couple calls but he was also overthrowing and missing spots consistently.

    Jake even said he picked a good day to be shitty. Pretty spot on. He just wasnt sharp and the Cards made him pay.

  • In reply to Nick Perry:

    Again the argument for a Robo Ump. I think that scoring would increase with a standardized strike zone. If you have less than a second to decide to swing knowing the strike zone and now you have less than a second to decide to swing and taking into account what the Umpire is calling or his tenancy. Pitchers are getting too fast with too much movement(a good thing) but umpires cant process that consistantly (a bad thing) and we have the technology(a good thing). Too many plate appearances change based on a questionable call. IMHO

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    The starting pitching at Iowa is downright embarrassing. The Cubs know this and so loaded their bullpen with starters. But how did we get here? After awhile you would think that the Cubs would have made a hitter for pitcher trade or 2, right? We don't have a lot coming either. Too often a pitcher in A-ball got us excited only to flame out in the upper minors. I have heard Theo say "we can always add a pitcher", so I get it. But is this really the plan? To be so hitter heavy? Hey, I'm not knocking the results.

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    In reply to Jim Pedigo:

    While they don't have to "win" every trade Theo and Jed are adamant that they want to get what they see as fair value.

  • In reply to Jim Pedigo:

    Our problem right now is 40 man quality. Our 40 man is so loaded that we have had to release or let go guys that would be good iowa starters or relievers (straily rusin
    turner ramirez zych etc)

  • In reply to Jim Pedigo:

    The starting pitching in Iowa is that way only because of injuries. They have had to use 12 different starting pitchers already. If healthy a rotation of Williams, Johnson, Zastryzny, Beeler and some combo of the veterans they have on hand would not be an embarrassment.

  • In reply to Jim Pedigo:

    Wasn't Castro for Warren a hitter for pitcher trade?

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    I commented before but the administrator has it somewhere. While we wait for it, I thought I would announce that Eddy Martinez had a walk today! Albert A is still waiting for his.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Martinez actually has been walking quite a bit after his initial slow jump. He has 10 BB in 78 PA in May.

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    In reply to springs:

    Thanks, that's better than I thought. Every time I look at the box score I just see a "0" under BB. I'll pay more attention.
    I'm really not criticizing but looking for improvement in a very talented, young player.

  • Warren fell victim to an error here, but dude has been getting lit up suddenly.

  • Just looked at team barring stats and while we lead the NL in runs per game, the Cards and Pirates both have us in OPS. Now I think that they will regress and we will remain strong, but it makes you realize that our lead over those teams is based on the 4th and 5th starters. And if and when those two teams figure it out, we could have a dogfight on our hands

  • In reply to ericccs:

    Our lead is based on much, much more than our 4th and 5th starters.

  • In reply to TTP:

    It's how we're cutting ourselves from the herd in the NL Central. Bucs and Cards are right there with us in batting and while the Cards aren't good in the field, the Pirates certainly are. 4th and 5th starters are it, dude

  • In reply to ericccs:

    Pittsburgh is interesting. This is their best start in the last three years. Many writers had them as toast this time last year. I think they were a combined 2 games over on June 1st in 2014 and 2015. They will be bringing up a couple of starters after the super 2 period. Maybe earlier with the Vogelsong injury. I haven't read anything on the starters about innings limits pertaining to how far they can go.

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    In reply to Greggie Jackson:

    Tailion basically hasn't pitched in over 2 years before this. He for sure can't go the whole year. Glasnow is still struggling with command and most likely has a 175 inning cap.

  • In reply to in theo we trust:

    Thanks.

  • In reply to in theo we trust:

    Pirates just had Tailion next start skipped. Sounds like prep for a call up

  • In reply to in theo we trust:

    Indeed. Glasnow is avg 6bb/9 and has hit another 10. For all his stuff, he has no idea where its going(yet) stuffwise, hes better than Cole.

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    In reply to ericccs:

    The pirates are over performing everywhere offensively. Matt Joyce is opsing 1.100 and Sean Rodriguez is at 1.000. They don't have anyone underperforming so no I'm not worried. We have rizzo, heyward, soler all underperforming.

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    In reply to in theo we trust:

    And now that Fowler's BABIP has come back to earth we don't really have anyone overperforming on offense (maybe Zobrist? maybe not).

  • In reply to in theo we trust:

    I am a little skeptical of Jordy Mercer too. I'm just sayin

  • In reply to ericccs:

    The Pirates are a very good ball club but I do think the Cubs are a better one and it's more than the BOR guys. By nearly every metric the Cubs are at or near the top in fielding in MLB while Pittsburgh is middle of the pack. Your point about the 4th and 5th starters is valid in that there is a wide gap there, but there is also a smaller, yet significant, advantage in the 1-3 guys. Offensively I think the teams are fairly close. The difference in OPS is due entirely to SLG and there are some unsustainable numbers for some of the the Pirate hitters and you can see that with the team BABIP sitting a little on the high side.

    The Cardinals, on the other hand, are very one dimensional and will lose some games when their bats slump. I think their offensive will be good all year but everybody slumps and sitting 8 games back just past the 1/4 mark doesn't leave them much room for error. The pitching there might get hot for a time but it's not good enough to go on a 10-12 game winning streak and overcoming test defense would be nearly impossible. A hot August/September should put them into WC contention but I don't see them competing for the division.

    I still think the Cubs win this division by a decent margin, maybe 5-6 games, but the Pirates could make it interesting for awhile. The Cubs hot start, best since 1918, has given them some much needed breathing room although I'd sure like to see Arizona pull one off tonight as 4.5 games is a little closer than I would like a talented Pittsburgh team to be.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Agree with all comments above. All 3 offenses have been comparable thus far though we have the most upside. The most daunting aspect of the Pirates/Cards surges is that they both have young players who have gone to the next level. Polanco is for real. Piscotty looks for real. Grichuk appeared to be a one dimensional pull hitter then shoots low and away out to win a game and follows with an oppo rbi single on the same pitch two days later. I think we'll win 105 games, but it'll be a dogfight with the Pirates regardless. Buckle up

  • In reply to TC154:

    Not looking at metrics, just the eyeball test, I would give the outfield advantage to Pittsburgh.

  • Just realized that Steve Clevenger is on the first place Mariners.

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    In reply to Dan Bradley:

    Man, why did we EVER trade that guy. What did we even get for him?

    Fun info department: traded by the Orioles to the Mariners for CJ Riefenhauser and Mark Trumbo. I am sure the Orioles are happy to have Trumbo but CJ is now in the Cubs organization. The Cubs connections with Clevenger run deep.

  • Bryant has been our unsung hero. I know, hard to use unsung in the same sentence with KB, but it just seems so much more attention has gone to others while KB quietly goes about getting one big hit after another.

  • In reply to TTP:

    I'm expecting a big home stand from KB. (And Soler).

  • In reply to TTP:

    I was really surprised to hear Russel has 30 RBI's. That is pretty good also especially for a guy that has hit at the bottom of the order. Is there to LL's in Russell?

  • Yahoo sports says "Shaky Arrieta goes 9-0..." Great nickname, eh? Two-Fingers Brown. Blue Moon Odom. Shaky Arrieta.

  • In reply to wastrel:

    Or 3 finger Brown. It's humid, folks.

  • In reply to wastrel:

    Good catch wastrel. 2-finger didn't have an out pitch

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    In reply to Greggie Jackson:

    Yes, but he had a cerebral approach that I loved.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Well done JM.

  • In reply to wastrel:

    It's the kale farts that makes him look shaky.

  • In reply to wastrel:

    I liked JD's story the other day about "oven mitt" Jones. I am guessing he played the "hot" corner.

  • Home plate ump was terrible,but in fairness, he squeezed Martinez just as much as he did Arrieta.
    Love Heyward's glove,arm and baserunning, but those pllate appearances are just painful to watch. Almost no power, too many K's. Lots of weak groundouts, solid contact is almost invariably pulled foul. Has he always stood so far back in the box, with that extreme open stance? Seems like a recipe for . . . well, for his performance to date. Can't someone fix that?\
    Completely agree w/ above comments that he needs to be dropped out of the 2 hole.

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    In reply to djbk:

    He looks so awkward swinging. I wish Mallee would tell him to go the opposite way and just meet the ball. He could have so much more success doing that. I see Javy doing the same thing. He was more controlled before for stretches. They both should look at Rizzo with 2 strikes or how Russell will go the other way with the outside pitch and how much success he has. You don't have to swing hard, just meet the ball (this is not from personal experience but from reading a lot of Ted Williams and Tony Gwynn and others).

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    In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I wouldn't cite Rizzo as somebody to emulate right now. He's pulling everything right into the shift.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Idk, but I don't think it is wise to change one's swing too much during the season. Heyward has hit in the past and one hopes that he will again. His problem could be related to that wrist, or just time missed due to injury.

  • In reply to djbk:

    Yeah I'm starting to get annoyed watching that huge contract ground out to 2nd

  • In reply to DarBar15:

    I think as fans we should try to ignore the money, what does it matter really? If you watch Baez or Hayward ground out to second with 2 outs and runners on second and third and bryzzo hitting behind you, the result is the same. I realize it is hard and I did say "try".

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    In reply to DarBar15:

    Lester struggled to start last year. If he has like a 2 homer game his slugging would jump like 100 points. Just too early still.

  • In reply to djbk:

    Joe addressed the second spot on the Speigs and Goff show I listened too at lunch. Paraphrasing here but Joe said that he still gets on base a ton (OBP over a hundred points above his avg.) and right now does not drive the ball for RBI's so if you take a good RBI guy (Rizzo, Bryant, Zo) and move them up, you replace an RBI spot with a non RBI guy. He said if he batted Zo second then Zo would not be up nearly as much with runners on as he is now when he is hot. Same for KB.

  • When I look at Heyward's swing, it appears that he is pushing (top hand) the bat through the strike zone as opposed to pulling (bottom hand) the bat through the strike zone. Last year against the Cub's I always thought that he was holding the bat too close to his body, when he was waiting on a pitch. I could never understand how he could get any extension in his swing.,

  • In reply to Cubs1935:

    look at his swing compared to KB's and Rizzo's- two guys close to his height. They both are somewhat crouched and explode forward for impact. Heyward is straight up and explodes down. Mallee has got to change his set up, the swing will adjust. Spread him out, get the butt down a little and explode through the ball.

  • CB Bucknor has been a totally biased, anti-Cubs umpire since day one in the big leagues, he has screwed this team over for YEARS. Umps are imperfect beings, true, but Bucknor is a grade-A prick. Hate him.

  • Heyward is a disaster at the plate. Never seen a guy 6'5" and 240 lbs swing and hit the ball like Wally Backman and Doug Dascenzo. Just terrible right now. He gets zero load on his swing as his hands are tied up near his shoulders and ear with the back elbow pointing straight down. I hope he figures it out quickly.

    TLS can't play defense like that. I can't believe in 56 comments not one mention of his pathetic play. Soler gets grief for how he plays a 2B off the wall. This game was over and by TLS not making the routine play that allowed Holliday the chance to do some damage. This game should have been a laugher.

    I love the way the Cubs just keep coming back. I love the confidence they play with and how Joe keeps them loose. 162 is a long haul and they will be prepared for it. I would have gladly accepted our record and spot in the NL at Memorial Day before the year began. Keep it rollin'!!!!!

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    You must of forgot the TLS diving play to his right where he got up and threw to 2nd to get the force and end the inning. I was watching the Matheny post game interview and he thought that play could've changed the game.

  • In reply to Terry Rosdail:

    That was a very good play but doesn't even take place if Tommy didn't make an error to set up the opportunity.

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