The Cubs are in a position where they can afford to lose games and not seriously risk losing their spot atop the NL Central. That’s the good news. The bad news, though, is that it’s not like you want to lose very winnable games like last night’s. When you go into Colorado and have a 5-1 lead entering the later innings, that’s a game you’ve gotta win. The Cubs did not, though they did fight to try and win it in extra innings. Maybe the losing experience will prove valuable in the long run – but exciting wins are valuable, too. In the end, I mostly think about how heavily taxed the bullpen now is, with a bullpen day on tap … in Colorado. More on that later.
For now, other Bullets …
- Notice that Jason Heyward didn’t start last night? Of course you did. Notice that he didn’t get into a game that featured 11 innings, and a lead to protect (twice) with optimal defense? If you didn’t, well, that’s what happened. And it was by design, as Joe Maddon said before the game that, absent an emergency, he was going to give Heyward the entire weekend off. Heyward didn’t play on Thursday, either, so it’ll be a long, four-day break for the Cubs’ starting right fielder. The move was framed as an opportunity to give Heyward a chance to reset, which makes sense given his extreme offensive struggles this year. Given that he wasn’t even available to come in and play defense – in one of the most spacious parks in the NL, and he’s the best defensive outfielder in the NL – may seem a little strange, but I suppose it’s not a total reset if you’re sitting there wondering when you might get in the game. And if the game goes on longer, Heyward may have had to take several at bats, which is what is trying to be avoided. We’ve been given no indication that Heyward is banged up at this time, by the way.
- Will Heyward continue to lose time to guys like Jorge Soler and Matt Szczur? Would he sit in the playoffs? At least against lefties? I think there’s not a sure-fire answer to that just yet, but you can figure it’ll be something the Cubs will work to figure out over the next six weeks, especially with how well Soler and Szczur have been hitting. The good news is that, as Willson Contreras catches more and more, left field remains open for starts by Soler and/or Szczur.
- Tommy La Stella was back in the lineup for Tennessee last night after taking a pitch off the foot in his first game back on Wednesday, but then he was scratched just before the game. That’s usually the scenario when a guy feels good to go, then starts doing pre-game workout stuff, and realizes he shouldn’t push it. That may or may not be the case here, but I guess we’ll see if he plays today. It was a fair assumption that he was going to head up to AAA Iowa at some point after they got back home this weekend, but that’s probably a bit up in the air now.
- Whenever it is that La Stella returns to the big league team, Jake Arrieta said, per Jesse Rogers, that the team met to discuss La Stella and agreed that they would give him a chance to explain himself and then try and make him comfortable.
- Once the Dodgers play today against the Reds, Clayton Kershaw, who has been out for a while, will no longer qualify as the league-leader in ERA. That means, after another brilliant performance last night – in Colorado of all places! – Kyle Hendricks will be the NL leader in ERA at 2.16. You just can’t say enough.
- Each of John Lackey and Hector Rondon, who went on the DL yesterday, got an MRI on Thursday after their issues didn’t quite clear up this week. The results, for the record, were a strained shoulder for Lackey and a strained triceps for Rondon (Sun-Times). No real surprise on either front, and at least somewhat comforting that you’re talking about muscular issues, as opposed to structural issues in the shoulder or elbow. The two will presumably be back in early September, but the Cubs have a lot of time to get them right before they’re really, really needed. I am very in favor of the DL stints here.
- A profile on Eloy Jimenez, one of the Cubs’ best prospects and biggest break-out-ers this year. He hasn’t played in several games, by the way, after being hit by a pitch earlier in the week. I don’t have any news whatsoever on whether there’s an injury, but he is not on the DL.
- The Eugene Emeralds won AGAIN last night, which is 15 wins in a row, a new Northwest League record.
- Heads up (no pun intended) some sizes of the New Era authentic Cubs caps are on sale at Amazon right now, though there don’t seem to be too many left in stock. The sale prices also vary by size.