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The Win Nearly Killed Us, Rondon’s Struggles, Schwarber’s New Commercial, and Other Bullets

Analysis and Commentary, Chicago Cubs News

I was thinking about it after last night’s exceedingly tense win over the Nationals: that’s probably the most nervous and amped I’ve been throughout a Cubs game since Game Seven.


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Now, obviously, there’s no comparison whatsoever between the two, but since that fateful game, I haven’t felt nearly that tight through the gut and posterior.

  • An unfortunate side effect of the way the game ultimately played out is that it flipped from feeling like a “wow, great win over a good team” situation to a “lord that would have been terrible to blow” situation. As Joe Maddon put it after the game (ESPN): “To play so well and not win that game, that would have been awful. That would have been tough.” By the time Bryce Harper stepped to the plate, representing the winning run, I was already five minutes deep in thinking through how I was going to feel when he walked it off. That had the potential to be one of those losses that is very hard to come back from. I don’t mean the players – we’ve seen the Cubs bounce back from nightmarish losses many times the past few years (remember when the Cubs got swept by a terrible Phillies team at home – including a no-hitter – in the middle of 2015, coming on the heels of a terrible streak?). I mean me, personally – last night’s game, had it gone from 5-0 to a loss in the 9th inning, would have taken me some time to get over.
  • So, then, as I said: I’m very happy the Cubs won, but I’m a bit bummed at how the process transitioned my perspective on the win. That’s a me issue, though, not necessarily a Cubs issue.

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  • … and I’ll get over it. Heck, for the players, it might even have been a good thing to nearly blow a game like that and still pull out the win. The wheels don’t have to come off.
(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
  • (Heh. Look at the umpire in the picture there. He sees a couple superstars. And he is impressed.)
  • With the win in the pocket, the Cubs now can win just one of the next three, and they will have split in Washington against a loaded Nationals team. I said it before the series, and I’ll say it again: that’s a good outcome. Winning a four-game set on the road against any team is tough, let alone one of the best in baseball.

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  • The one “Cubs issue” you’d point to from the game is a sad and long-standing one: Hector Rondon continues to be ineffective. Ever since the triceps injury in August of last year, he just hasn’t been the same. Even as the velocity on his pitches has been OK, the command hasn’t been there, the bite on his slider doesn’t seem as sharp, and his release points are moving all over. Thus, even as his strikeout rate is still solid, his walk rate is up, his hard contact rate is far too high for a theoretical late-inning reliever, his fly ball rate is up, and his HR/FB ratio is high. One of the best relievers in baseball for multiple years (including half of 2016), Rondon is currently a shell of the guy he was. Is it permanent? Is it a blip? We’ll see. Either way, it’s a reminder of just how fickle pitching performance can be, even for guys who show themselves to be truly elite for multiple years.
  • Joe Maddon, as the manager of the reigning champs, will head up the NL All-Star team, which means he’s got the pressure of filling out the roster after the starters are voted in. But you know Joe, he’s not gonna let the pressure exceed the pleasure (Cubs.com): “If the game mattered, where it was tied into the World Series, I would put a little more mind into it at this point. The fact that it’s purely an exhibition game for me, it’s just going to be to find out who the names are, divvy up the playing time as well as we can, make sure we keep a pitcher back, so if we go to extra innings we could play to a conclusion, but otherwise, enjoy myself.”
  • Joe Maddon on Javy Baez’s long running catch (ESPN): “That was stupid good.” Yup.
  • Also, Baez is not just on fire, he’s doing it against righties:

  • How about three walks last night for Albert Almora Jr.? The guy who “never walks” now has a 9.6% BB rate on the year, way above the league average mark (8.5%). Will that number probably regress over the course of the season, and/or as he is less match-up protected? Of course. But the fact that he’s even flirting with a league-average walk rate is nuts. And fantastic.
  • Speaking of Almora, he knows how close that one was:

  • Kyle Schwarber debuted with Iowa last night, which coincided – by coincidence only – with a new national Gatorade spot, in which Schwarber is featured with other athletes overcoming early adversity in their careers. His line is about the 108 years thing, but, given everything he’s gone through, his presence feels appropriate:

  • Remember David Ross’s walk-off pick-off against the Nationals in Washington a couple years ago? You’d think they would have learned to be more careful with big leads against Cubs catchers:

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Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation.