This two off days in a five-day stretch is for the birds, man. Lame birds. Birds who don’t like baseball.
Even worse, the Cubs lost both days before the off-days. I think I’m going to eat a cake today.
- The Cubs did not win yesterday, thanks primarily to a fantastic performance by Gerrit Cole, the Pirates’ ace who is as good as anyone in the game* when he’s locating his fastball. It’s been a while since he’s done that to the Cubs, but he’s got it in him, and you can’t feel too perturbed about the loss in that respect. Sometimes an ace is just gonna dominate. Given that performance, and your completely enlightened state about human inputs and outputs, you might think it fair that Cole said this about the Cubs after the game (Cubs.com): “I don’t really think they’re the best team in baseball, so it’s just one game at a time. It doesn’t really matter who you’re playing. You just have to keep going at them.”
- Given how the Pirates have reacted to all things Cubs this year, I can understand why Cole would say that. He probably thinks the Pirates are the best team in baseball – and why wouldn’t he believe in his team, right? But, well, he’s probably not right. As things stand today, the Cubs are the best team in baseball, in results, in talent, in projected future performance, and just about every other way you could think to define “best.” It seems that Cole was responding to a suggestion that he’d just dominated the best lineup in baseball when he made his comment, so it was probably more about him brushing off the compliment than about him trying to antagonize the Cubs. I like that Cole said it, though. Rivalries are fun. So far in this one, the Cubs are up 5-1 on the season, and hold an 8.0 game lead in the NL Central.
- *(OK, he’s probably not quite there in the Kershaw/Arrieta/Sale tier, even when locating.)
- Continuing the rivalry thing, I especially loved Joe Maddon’s response to Jeff Locke’s suggestion that Jake Arrieta must have hit Jung-Ho Kang on purpose on Saturday, because a guy like Arrieta doesn’t just miss (ESPN): “I think Jake walked Locke on four consecutive pitches. I really don’t think that Jake was pitching around Locke. My point is, it can happen at any time, that a really exceptional pitcher can lose command of his pitches. That’s how I would answer Mr. Locke. I really believe that Jake was not trying to throw four consecutive balls to him when he was hitting. I don’t think he was intimidated by Mr. Locke being at the plate and was really trying to throw a strike.”
- Jon Lester nearly matched Cole’s performance, striking out nine over 6.2 innings, allowing just two hits (the first didn’t come until the 7th inning), walking two, and allowing one earned run. He lowered his ERA/FIP/xFIP to 1.88/3.11/3.19. His 1.3 WAR is 12th most in baseball. He good. Of course, his ERA is only third best … on his team. (Jake Arrieta is at 1.29, Jason Hammel is at 1.77.)
- Big-time praise for Addison Russell from Joe Maddon and Ben Zobrist (CSN).
- The Rangers and Blue Jays were involved in an absolutely ridiculous fight yesterday, which included Rougned Odor popping Jose Bautista right in the face. It was unbelievable. We’ll get into some of the aftermath in the MLBits later, but my insta-take? It was very lame for the Rangers to throw at Bautista. Then, Bautista’s slide was definitely dirty. Then, Odor definitely went too far with the full-on face punch. Plenty of blame to go around on this one, though I’m questioning whether that the whole thing started because the Rangers wanted to plunk Bautista in his final at bat of the series for his in-the-moment, totally-awesome-and-understandable, not-showing-anyone-up bat flip in the ALDS last year. That would be an extremely crummy thing to do.
- I love watching many of the Cubs’ infielders play defense, so I don’t want to exclude anyone by saying that Javy Baez is a freaking treat to watch. Here he is with a sweet barehanded play yesterday to nab Andrew McCutchen.
- If you missed anything this weekend, catch yourself up here.
- Pretty slick looking Cubs polo at Amazon, with kind of a Spring Training vibe to it.