From the moment Jon Lester couldn’t quite get the edges of the strike zone, and the Cubs gave up a couple cheapo runs in the first inning, the game took on an ugly tone. For his part, Lester was not all that bad, though he was not dominant. The Cubs’ bullpen was close to holding down the fort for the duration of the game, but two reached against Justin Grimm in the eighth, and Hector Rondon served up a hanging slider that got crushed. That homer, by Roberto Perez (“THE” Roberto Perez, who hit three homers this season), was his second of the night.
Only one of those runs technically mattered, though, as the Cubs were completely shut down by Indians ace Corey Kluber, and then the bullpen did just enough to preserve the shutout. The Indians pitchers deserve most of the credit for the Cubs’ flailing bats – it’s hard to drive in runners in scoring position when the ball isn’t put in play. Kluber, in particular, was absolutely nasty.
The Cubs’ best scoring opportunity by far came in the 7th inning, when Ben Zobrist singled to lead off the frame, bumping Kluber from the game. Andrew Miller entered and Kyle Schwarber worked an impressive walk, and Javy Baez knocked an equally-impressive single. With the bases loaded, Miller got Willson Contreras to pop out, and then struck out Addison Russell and David Ross to end the frame.
Folks took issue with the decision not to send Zobrist on Baez’s single (it looked like the left fielder was not charging aggressively, and a send would probably have been justified, even if the result of the play was bases loaded, nobody out), and the decision to let Ross hit in his spot, rather than pinch hit with Jorge Soler. I understand the beef on both of those, though I think the ultimate decisions on each were at least defensible. Me? I probably would have sent Zobrist, and I probably would have let Ross hit (he’s handling the bat very well these days, has caught Miller in the past, and hasn’t looked as vulnerable against hard sliders as Soler).
That’s all academic in a 6-0 loss, though.
Maybe it winds up mattering, maybe it doesn’t, but at least the Cubs saw 46 Andrew Miller pitches in this one. That’s a lot of exposure to a guy they could see many more times in the coming days.
Your other obvious “but hey that was good” thing is that Kyle Schwarber looked really impressive. He had long at bats, doubled off the wall (was within a foot or two of taking Corey Kluber yard when he was dealing), and also worked a really nice walk off of Andrew Miller. Can you even believe he hung in there against one of the best starters and one of the best relievers in baseball, after essentially not playing for six months? Just ridiculous.
In any case, the Cubs lost. It’s 1-0 Cleveland, heading into Game Two tomorrow night. It’s a long series yet.