Baseball is a sport so full of seemingly random fluctuations with impactful consequences that you can frequently just comment “welp, baseball,” and people know what you mean.
Still, it’s not that frequent that three things in quick succession go against you like they did for the Cubs in the 9th inning yesterday. You had *eh hem* borderline calls turn two would-be walks against Josh Hader into outs. You had Javy Báez pull an El Mago at first base, only to be called out on review thanks to a juuuuuust barely tag. And you had Nico Hoerner battle his way into a 100.4mph line drive at 13 degrees of loft, a combination that is a hit 91% of the time … right into a glove. Any three of those situations could’ve easily gone the other way, and the outcome could have been completely different. All three went against the Cubs.
Widening the scope, it’s not that frequent that three games in quick succession go against you like they did for the Cubs this weekend. One-run games are not entirely “noise,” but they are, by their nature, quite close! So to lose three of them in a row to the Brewers is a bit of a flukey thing, even as we know many of the underlying causes are absolutely attributable to Cubs performance. But if a Brewers groundball finds a glove here or a Cubs liner finds grass there or a call goes the other way, suddenly, the Cubs lose only one or two of those games, and we talk about the weekend entirely differently. I try to keep perspective the morning after these things.
None of that is to say that this weekend did not, in fact, suuuuuuck.
The Cubs had an opportunity to thump the Brewers right out of the division race in mid-August, which is a theme that echoes in the air too thickly for Cubs fans. We’ve seen this shit before the last few years, and it is deeply frustrating. Credit to the Brewers where due. But also debit to the Cubs where due. This team just gives them problems when the calendar hits August and September.
The weekend also sucked because it saw the Cubs’ bats strike out 53 times(!) in the four-game series against the Brewers, which felt like – while watching – it was saying a whole lot more about the Cubs’ bats than about the Brewers’ arms. Deep counts are good, and some calls didn’t go the Cubs’ way, but the team’s whiff rate has climbed to 11.6%, the 4th worst in the NL. Can’t and shouldn’t have that.
In particular, Kris Bryant, Javy Báez, and Willson Contreras all look deeply mired in slumps tied to a sudden inability to barrel the ball consistently, which could just be small sample randomness, but when paired with all the strikeouts? It is more concerning than usual, and since it’s all three of them at once, it’s also more damaging.
The weekend also sucked because it saw Tyler Chatwood go on the IL with a back strain and Jason Heyward scratched because of a back strain (presumably not caught from Chatwood). Jose Quintana won’t be ready to come back for the doubleheader this week. Jon Lester and Alec Mills couldn’t keep up the pristine ERAs.
Blech. It all just felt so blech. The Cubs had definitely banked some good luck already this year – they were due for a weekend like that – but it still … just … blech.
I remind myself that I yearned for this kind of blech back in May, desperately hoping that I’d even have the opportunity to be deeply frustrated by Brewers pitchers by umpires by Cubs bats by Orlando GD Arcia. I should be grateful I even get to be pissed off.
But, hey, it wouldn’t be authentic if I didn’t actually feel the feelings, and then have to convince myself that baseball is gonna baseball sometimes. Now, you turn the page to this crazy Cardinals series, and just hope that the Cubs’ actual performance improves, they get a break or two, and can take at least three of five.