Walk This Way - Rangers 8, Cubs 6

walk_this_way

The Cubs looked to start the year 2-0 against the Texas Rangers in Arlington Saturday night. While things looked promising out of the gate, an inability to throw strikes would come back to haunt Chicago late.

The Cubs jumped all over starter Edinson Volquez in the top of the 1st inning. Kris Bryant doubled down the left-field line with one out. After an Anthony Rizzo walk, Javy Baez ripped an RBI single to left-center to make it 1-0. An infield hit from Willson Contreras and a laser single from Kyle Schwarber made it 3-0. Jason Heyward hit into a double play to end the big inning.

Yu Darvish made his first start of the season and it was laborious to say the least. He struck out the first two men he faced, then he walked the bases loaded before punching out Asdrubal Cabrera to end it. The inning took over 30 pitches and was a sign of the slog to come for the entire pitching staff.

Three more Darvish walks in the 2nd led to an RBI single from Rougned Odor to cut the lead to 3-1. A caught stealing of Ronald Guzman at third base limited the damage in the frame. In the top of the 3rd, a Baez single was followed by a Contreras double to push the lead back up to three.

Another free pass led to trouble in the bottom of the inning as Cabrera smoked a long two-run homer to right against Yu. Joe Maddon was forced to pull his starter after 75 pitches and 7 walks. Steve Cishek finished the inning and Jose Quintana took over in the 4th.

Schwarber greeted new reliever Jeanmar Gomez with a long solo-shot to center field. Willson Contreras laced his second double to right and scored on a Heyward sacrifice fly and lead was 6-3 Cubs. Quintana pitched around three walks of his own to keep Texas off the board.

Q ran into trouble in the 7th inning, Cabrera hit a dribbler to third base that David Bote fielded. He got the ball cleanly, but the throw was in the dirt. While it looked like an error, the official scorer ruled hit. Guzman followed with a double to left to put runners on second and third with none out. Two looking strike outs followed, before Shin-Soo Choo singled to cut the lead to 6-5.

The seemingly inevitable happened in the bottom of the 8th inning. Carl Edwards Jr. took over and allowed a base hit up the middle to Elvis Andrus. Then Nomar Mazara drew walk number 12 for the Rangers. Joey Gallo, he of the tremendous power, stepped up and plastered a three-run go-ahead bomb to center field.

Schwarber got a bunt single off of closer Jose Leclerc in the 9th. That was all the road team would get and the Cubs fell 8-6.

Source: FanGraphs

Yu Can’t Win ‘Em All

Darvish seemed to have good stuff, but his fastball command wasn’t sharp. A tight strike zone didn’t help matters either. The pitch count prevented him from going deeper into the game to work it out. After not pitching in over 300 days I’m willing to give the big righty a break.

Good Plate Approach

The Cubs had a good offensive approach for a second game in a row, with 7 walks of their own. Scoring six runs usually earns a lot of victories. Almost every hitter has had quality at bats the first two contests. It’s a promising trend to hopefully see going forward.

‘Pen Pain

The Cubs need Carl Edwards to be a shutdown reliever. With Brandon Morrow out at least a month a set-up man is key. So it was troubling to see bad Carl in his first appearance. He can be great and his end of the season numbers reflect that. The blowups are very memorable and can’t help but give people pause.  It isn’t fair, alas, thus is the life of a high-leverage reliever.

Random Reference

With all the walks tonight, Gallo’s homer got this reaction from me.

Comments

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  • Tough loss, but I guess I'd rather have Edwards struggle a little to start the season, as long as he finishes strong.
    I just don't know what to say about Heyward, he's got to prove that he deserves to be out there offensively; 1 or 2 potential defensive plays don't always outweigh him hitting into double plays, or just not hitting at all, especially when we have viable alternative options in the outfield.......

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    We need Kimbrel. I know it's only 2 games but CJ is lost and if our starters don't go deeper into games we're sunk. Almost all our relievers are past 30, few have over-powering stuff and with slower pitches there is a smaller margin of error. This was one of those games that Joe was talking about last year--we could have won but didn't, and now we might not even win the series.
    Yu looked bad, but I have to say that he stood in and answered all the reporters questions (in a foreign language) and I liked one of his answers. To a question of what he has to do next time, he said Throw Strikes. He wouldn't have stood there last year after an outing like this.

  • O'Nora's strike zone was bad. He usually is a decent ump. Must have had an off night.

  • Carl Jr. needs to stop the new double wind up leg lift, he looked messed up last night. Just pitch, please.

  • This is one of the games you get pissed about in Aug and Sept. This was a loss taken from the jaws of victory.

    I know I am going to hear the only 2 games into the season reply, but Edwards appears to just be a mental midget. He can’t get out of his own way dating back to last June after his injury. And Heyward.... ‘nuff said. He just can’t hit.

    Darvish is likely the key to the season. Pitching like he is capable of and we are in god shape. Decimating the bullpen with 2 inning starts and we will be looking at 2nd or 3rd place.

    Encouraged with Javy, Schwarber, and Contreras with their nice starts Bryant is Bryant. Rizzo has to get off early this year.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Agreed - this is a game we could look back on in Oct (similar to last year). It is only one game I hear everyone loud and clear but I stand by my concerns with Darvish. Sean wrote that Darvish had good stuff, I would politely, but vehemently, disagree. I also have seen several comments about this being his first outing in 11 months. If I'm not mistaken, he pitched in Spring Training where he deemed himself "back" so I don't get that argument.

    I did like Schwarbers at bats but I'd like to see what he can do against lefties. I was MORE impressed with Contreras game because he went oppo at least twice so that was incredibly encouraging.

    I get being upset with Heyward for past seasons, but he hit .270 last year and went oppo a couple times yesterday and got the ball in the air. He frustrates me as well but at least I saw some good things from him (2 singles on Thursday and a decent approach yesterday). Hopefully he can hold his own.

  • In reply to INSaluki:

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion but Darvish’s only issue was the FB command, the rest of the stuff was nasty. I watched the first two innings again this morning just to make sure I was right. It took 58 pitches for anyone to make contact. Plus FB command is not something he’s had massive trouble with in the past. He got squeezed by the ump early and then couldn’t locate, but the raw stuff was definite there. If the command issue shows up again in his next game I’ll worry, until then I’m going to assume his stuff will get him through.

  • In reply to TC154:

    The Pitch Track screen was showing that NONE of the pitches at the top of the zone were being called strikes. Was the screen wrong?

    BTW, I am going to nominate you for some type of medal for watching those first two innings AGAIN this morning. I might hold onto the second inning recording for those nights when counting sheep does not work.

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    You misunderstand me if you think I was saying any different. The ump was calling nothing high in the zone. I think we can agree that Darvish should have adjusted, he didn’t, and that was on him. My point is that’s not going to be the case in every game and the rest of the stuff was good. If I were to overreact every time a pitcher didn’t adjust to a strike zone then I wouldn’t enjoy the game anymore. I’m sorry but I won’t let that happen. Breaking Yu’s game down to component parts there was more to be encouraged by than discouraged by.

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    In reply to TC154:

    Actually, I think over-reacting (to anything, really) is what some people LIKE about the game. LOL

    Last night was a frustrating game. The team jumped out in front early but couldn't hold the lead. I am not going to try to "assign blame" (God knows there's enough to go around...Darvish getting less than 3 innings in, some players in an offensive funk, Edwards giving up a big shot, etc.). The team played well enough to win. But they lost. As rbrucato said, they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

    I am just going to try to move on. We also win our share of games that we probably had no business winning.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Darvish's command was bad... but oh my gosh is Contreras terrible back there. He's borderline unwatchable. Moving all over the place, over-framing pitches inside the strike zone. The Cubs seem to get jobbed out of a lot of borderline calls every game... and i think Contreras is the reason. He definitely hurts his pitchers' causes.

    More concerning than Edwards' mental fortitude was his velocity last night. Before his arm injury last year he was 97-98. When he came back he was 92-93, and he struggled badly. Last night he was 93 again. If he's sitting at 93, he's of no use to this bullpen, and they need to get Webster or Norwood up here.

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    Won't rewatching them, make one upset as opposed to putting them to sleep

  • In reply to TC154:

    You might want to DOUBLE check your stats. Darvish has a long and storied history of high walk rates. From Texas to LA and now in Chicago.

  • In reply to INSaluki:

    His walk rates (bb/9 innings) from his rookie season in 2012 are as follows: 4.19, 2013: 3.43, 2014: 3.06, 2015: 3.15, 2016: 2.78, 2017: 2.80.

    Those are all well above average walk rates and these numbers basically indicate that walks aren’t even an issue with him whatsoever. I get your skepticism of darvish we all want him to perform but I don’t get where you’re getting this idea that he’s a wild pitcher. He isn’t not even close his walk rates are right in line with the rest of the staff

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    As a comparable if you’re unfamiliar with the stat Edwards wall rate last year was 5.54 and chatwoods was an obscene 8.25 per 9 innings almost a walk per inning. Darvishs career rate basucally indicates he only walks an average of about 1 hitter every 3 innings no reason we should worry about his control long term unless he has an injury or something

  • In reply to INSaluki:

    I was even more impressed by Willson Contreras because he was back to "running like his hair was on fire". His hustle out of the box on that first inning broken bat infield single was not there during last year's second half (IMHO).

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    It's the only way he knows. Wilson will not be effective it he tries to pace himself. He should get a rest today.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    All I want out of Heyward is 100-105 wRC+ and he was there most of last year before finishing at 99. With the rest of the lineup looking very strong (the approaches of nearly all our hitters are really encouraging) having a hitter hovering in that average/slightly above average range is fine. I wish I could disagree with you on Edwards but I’m coming to the same conclusion. The stuff is there, the conditioning is there, but the head is not. It’s hard not to conclude that it never will be.

  • In reply to TC154:

    And that’s why not addressing the pen frustrates me. At least with darvish I feel like there’s almost no way he’ll get full blown chatwood on us bc his career walk rates are well above avg year to year. In addition he practically serves as the 5th starter in a deep rotation. Like TC I think if he commands the fastball then his stuff will play nobody’s gonna swing at your breaking stuff when you can’t command the FB as Kyle Hendricks showed last year in his midseason slump.

    To me the bullpen had to be addressed there’s absolutely no way cj should still be your #2 reliever and there’s also no reason to rely on a reliever like morrow whose coming into the season with a pre existing injury. As good as the young core looked yesterday I still feel like the team has the exact same holes at CF and RF although I hope they prove me wrong. And there’s the same issue of this bullpen not being playoff caliber which is why joe doesn’t entrust most of his relievers in big games.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Mental midget - as soon as Edwards gave up the single up the middle, I told my wife, "He'll lose it now, just watch." Sure enough, he kept missing the plate and walked the next batter and then found the exact center on the pitch he grooved to Gallo.

  • Tony LaRussa once said every team wins 50 games and loses 50 games its what the team does in those other 62 games that make a difference between winners and losers. Game 2 felt like one of those 62 games he was referring to.

  • In reply to CubFanStuckInStl:

    I hear what you are saying, but, IMO, last night’s game falls into the undetermined games.

    The 50 wins and losses are no doubters. The remaining 62 determine your fate. This is one of the 62 that determine your fate. We took a W and turned it into an L.

    Let’s go snatch an L and turn it into a W to make up for this one.

  • I love that bassline...but yeah, that game seemed like a combination of bad aspects from 2017 and 18..at least they scored more than 1 and didn’t get jumped in the first..here’s to a strong showing today to erase this sour taste quickly.

  • I'm having a hard time feeling any confidence in the Cubs bullpen. We should have resigned Chavez. This bunch is timid.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    SSS and all that, but you might want to recheck Chavez's line in Thursday's box score.

    :)

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    I know, but I just do not feel that 'I got this' vibe with this pen.

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    In reply to 44slug:

    Is Chavez really what is standing between you and "feeling the vibe" in the bullpen?

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I don't know about that, but I like the way he challenged hitters throwing strikes. He was bold.

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    In reply to 44slug:

    If memory serves, he also had his 1st pitch (admittedly, a strike) of the season deposited beyond some fencing someone set up in RF before the game. In that game he also had 2 BB and 0 K's and 2 hits allowed.

    I honestly liked Chavez. As a late-season reinforcement he has value because he can start or go multiple innings if needed. But he's not a terribly good pitcher.

    Maybe we are just looking at it differently. To me Chavez is a handy guy to have around. But having him vs not having him doesn't change my opinion of the bullpen.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    That sounds about right, I guess. Do you like our bullpen?

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    Andrus' 1st at bat is what got in Yu's mind. Jmo. HP umpire wasn't calling the high strikes pretty much the whole game. After that AB Darvish's fastball command went to shit. Otherwise he looked decent, especially his offspeed & breaking balls. I usually don't blame HP umps, but he was making bad calls both ways. Either way, CJ still looks like a head case imo. Atleast the offense was clicking. Contreras is looking better which is a big plus. Javy is still in MVP form. Hope he keeps it up.

  • Time of Game = 3:47

    All the hard work and rule changes that were supposed to speed up the game were just flushed down by Mr. Darvish and Volquez. Surely, MLB will consider this game as an outlier and not include it when determining whether the new rule changes are working.

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    In reply to DropThePuck:

    The game has changed. Teams are no longer looking to "slap" the ball. Hitters are trying to either drive the ball or take their walks. Pitchers are trying, desperately, not to give up XBH. Pitchers are throwing the ball way harder than they used to. The days of Larry Bowa who had an admirably low K%, could "put the ball in play" and a horrendously low XBH% are over. The days of pitchers, en masse, "pitching to contact" and only really bearing down with a runner in scoring position are over. That is how you get 2:15 games. When everyone is just waiting for mistake, piling up pitch counts, paying attention to "match-ups," etc. then it will be an aberration game that takes less than 3 hours.

    Fangraphs had a great article about it. They were also talking about how no pitchers throw 300+ innings anymore. They chalked it up, in large part, to pitchers throwing way harder than they used to and "airing it out" rather than "pacing themselves" to get CG. My favorite line was about Noah Syndergaard. They said, "They'd have burned him as a witch...but not before getting 280 innings out of him."

    The game has changed. Personally, I like it. But they can't put the genie back in the bottle. Unless, perhaps, the pendulum has swung too far the other way. And there is an opening for a team to have a "throw-back" movement and get pitchers that can draw weak contact, but pitch to contact. And hitters that simply put the ball in play and then put the pressure on by running rampant. But my guess is that the days of that being effective are over.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    The Royals seem to be trying that with their rebuild. Low strikeout guys that can really run. It’ll be interesting to see how they do. I’m rooting for them because I enjoy watching that style. I know it was the Cardinals, but I really enjoyed watching theIr Whitey ball teams of the ‘80’s

  • The Cubs hitter have looked solid in the first 2 games.
    I just don’t understand not trying to upgrade the bullpen.
    Edwards new mechanics looks like a train wreck. No two deliveries are the same.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    And that’s my thing too I can see a scenario where some of these guys turn things around even if I would’ve liked an upgrade such as in the OF. But this teams bullpen flat out has never been particularly good and I’m pretty sure Joe Maddon has abandoned most of these relievers 3-4 years in a row come playoff time. Astounding they didn’t at least address the pen in a quiet offseason

  • 86 wins: over or under?

  • In reply to Cubs09:

    Well over. I said 93 and sticking to it

  • In reply to TC154:

    So now Montgomery or Chatwood is the fifth starter?

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    In reply to Cubs09:

    Has something happened? An injury?

    If not then the rotation will be Lester, Darvish, Hamels, Hendricks and Quintana. Quintana pitched last night so Maddon is probably using the "off day" to have Lester pitch on Day 5 rather than taking an extra day of rest. I don't think Quintana's been moved to the 'pen.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Yep. I am at 96. I still believe we are the class of the division.

  • In reply to Cubs09:

    That's actually a good #. I'll say push bc that's the # of wins I think this team gets. They will go through offensive stretches that will blow teams away. Then they will go through stretches where they have trouble scoring runs for days/weeks at a time. Simply too many guys who hit below .240 on this team with low contact rates.

  • Man that was painful to watch. Not just that we lost. It was an ugly game. Slow, boring, poorly pitched. We used 2 starting pitchers for a combined 5.7 innings? Ugly with a capital UG

  • Article in Cubs Insider lays much of O'noro's off night to Contreras. Multiple photos and examples of how he caused pitches that were strikes to be called balls. Interesting read.

  • In reply to veteran:

    I didn't read the article, I think Willson could help himself by setting up a little more on the corners. It's hard to hold those pitches moving away from the plate when one is reaching for them.

  • With all of the overthinking Joe does during games, you'd think the thought that when Carl puts the tying and leading runs on base he needs to be replaced would have crossed his mind. I like Carl in general but he is still shaky when he puts runners on.

  • Not to worry..Just ....wait til next year...

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