Is it just me, or did the Cubs look really good in that whole Rangers series? I don’t mean just that they won the games, but that they truly did look rested, refreshed, sharp, and focused. Or is that just my mind telling me something I want to believe? I saw good at bats (even though Cole Hamels was really, really good yesterday). I saw stellar defense. I saw great pitching. It was just a good-looking series. I think. I guess we’ll see how they look against the Mets this week …
- There was quite a bit of visible frustration about the strike zone coming from John Lackey yesterday, and a look at Brooks’ strike zone charting makes it easy to see why. No, the zone wasn’t poorly or unfairly called, but Lackey was repeatedly juuuuuuuust barely off the edge of the plate and in the “usually called a strike though not technically a strike” range. You do that several times, never getting the call, and it’s gonna get you hot under the collar, even if the umpire is calling a good zone (you’ll note, the calls were pretty even and uniform for both sides).
- Brian Matusz debuted at AAA Iowa last night, and his outing went a lot like his start at AA Tennessee the outing before: very solid. Over his five innings of stretching-out-work, Matusz allowed two earned runs (on a homer) on three hits and a walk, while striking out five. He was getting a ton of pop outs and fly balls, which was what he looked like when he was at his (brief) best with the Orioles as a starter (lots of pops and flies, but also keeping the walks down). I remain fascinated to see what the plan is going to be for Matusz, who will almost certainly join the big league team in the coming weeks … but in what role? Normal reliever? Long reliever/super utility pitcher? Sixth starter, replacing Adam Warren? Fifth starter, replacing who? I tend to think Matusz will come up as a reliever, with the hope that by working him as a starter in the minors, the Cubs will have helped him sort out whatever issues befell him with the Orioles in the first place (that seems to have been the plan with Clayton Richard). But they’ll have him available to start if the need should arise – the Cubs have a solid front five, but boy I get really nervous every time I think about what happens if one or two of those guys gets hurt (especially if it happens after the Trade Deadline and, say, the Cubs didn’t pick any other starters up). Keeping both Matusz and Warren stretched out in the bullpen, though, will be tricky.
- The bullpen, by the way, could become very crowded soon, with Matusz coming, with Trevor Cahill (knee tendinitis) eligible to come off the DL on July 24, and with Joe Nathan expected to join the big league team soon. Nathan pitched back-to-back days this weekend, which was among the big tests in his return from a second Tommy John surgery. He did walk a batter in each outing, for what it’s worth.
- All of this bullpen talk, by the way, takes place against the backdrop of the Trade Deadline, which comes in just two weeks. The Cubs will need to figure out what they’ve got as quickly as possible, and it’s not going to be easy to figure it all out in such a short window of time. (Which is why they’ll likely pick up a quality arm in trade regardless of everything else.)
- Jake Arrieta talks about how refreshing the break was for his mind, and about how not picking up a ball for four/five days was exactly what he needed (Cubs.com). He says, after the break, he threw the best bullpen session he has all year. Here’s hoping he looks like the guy we know he can be this week. I say that not just because the Cubs will need him to be much better than he’s been lately, but also because watching Jake Arrieta at his best is among the most fun things in baseball right now.
- Jason Hammel pitched really well on Saturday, and, despite the warm, muggy conditions, he did not have any cramping issues (as he’s had a couple times before this year). The reason? It might have been the potato chips he’s been eating. Seriously.
- The Pirates beat the Nationals in 18(!) innings yesterday, and a young fan went through allllll of the emotions in the process.
- I didn’t know this was a thing – a combo stand for my phone and my Apple Watch. That’s gonna come in handy, and it’s cheap today, too. Sold.
- If you missed it this morning, a look at two killer highlights from yesterday’s game, and the extremity of Eloy Jimenez’s breakout.