Hold Your Breath on Contreras, Bide Your Time on Arrieta, Nance, Tatis, Ohtani, Schwarber, and Other Cubs Bullets

Four late runs. It’s what cost the Cubs the game against the Dodgers last night, and also what cost the Rockies the game against the Brewers. The Rockies led 4-0 in the 7th inning, but gave up four runs late to tie, and then lost it in 11. That’s why they are now 6-29 on the road this year. That’s nearly impossible. Thanks, though.

•   While we await word on whether Willson Contreras is going to have to rest today (hit by a 98 mph pitch on the hand last night), which would mean Jose Lobaton gets another start, I’m thinking again about the back-up catcher situation. That led me to check on the status of DFA’d catcher Chance Sisco, annnnnnnd the Mets claimed him on waivers last night. They had priority over the Cubs by about three games in the standings at the time. Cool cool cool cool cool cool. May Lobaton somehow magically have a great game tonight.

•   Overall, though, David Ross didn’t seem terribly concerned about Contreras after the game (he stayed in, and it was later called a bruise). I still think he sits today. And hopefully that’s just useful rest anyway for the guy who is probably the most important player on the roster at this point.

•   Ross was also not terribly concerned about Javy Báez, who had a very awkward swing and bat drop late in the game – it was another ball off the end of the bat, which is what rattled him before and cost him some games because of the thumb issue. Báez stayed in and singled on the next pitch, but obviously you wonder if he’ll once again be feeling it more today. Like with Contreras, it wouldn’t surprise me if he sat for a day. Unfortunate that the Cubs are due to face lefty Julio Urias today (he’s split neutral for his career, but much better against lefties than righties this year, so you’d like to have guys like Contreras and Báez in there).

•   Random comment on Urias, who is still only 24 – the Dodgers sure played his service time and options. Despite pitching in parts of six seasons already for the Dodgers, he’s not even a free agent until 2024.

•   I really liked Kris Bryant’s homer last night, as it was a first-pitch fastball right down the pipe, and Bryant didn’t mess around:

•   By WAR (-0.3), Jake Arrieta has been the least valuable starting pitcher in baseball this year. His ERA (5.32) is slightly better than his FIP (which informs WAR), so he’s been only the 9th worst starter by that measure. Last night was a nice step, but Arrieta has given the Cubs just four “competitive” starts (i.e., something like at least five innings, and three earned runs-ish) since late April. During that time, he has a 7.12 ERA. Again, last night was serviceable, and as we’ve been saying for weeks, there isn’t an obvious in-house replacement. But if Alec Mills pitches well again his next couple times? If Trevor Williams rehabs well? If the Cubs get into the trade market? Decisions will have to be made about whether to give Arrieta a look in the bullpen, or simply to move on.

•   Another run-filled, strikeout-less outing for Tommy Nance, who is clearly in a rough adjustment phase for lots of reasons. I’m thinking he’s probably going to be shuffled back down to Iowa at some point when another relief option is ready to go – or if there’s someone else the Cubs want to give a look. Nance has options remaining, and maybe a trip to Iowa would allow him to work on some ways to succeed in the current era. I am being as euphemistic as possible, but there’s a certain reality that has to be recognized: since the announcement that sticky stuff checks were coming, Nance’s previously elite spin rates have plummeted, which have in turn meant a dramatic drop in the movement of his pitches. I love Nance’s story as much as anyone, but we can’t ignore the timing and the data. He’s currently not even close to the same pitcher he was when he first came up. He’s started to use the two-seamer more (which might be the best approach to remaking himself a bit, because the previously super-elite four-seamer is not going to have that same life), but he might need non-big-league time to actually get it optimized.

•   Stuck the landing:

https://twitter.com/bbletter/status/1408632089205936133

•   Jason Heyward had two walks and two hits in the game, making four hits in his last two games … but none of them were, like, good hits? Three groundballs and a bloop. Still waiting to see the improvement in contact that comes with Heyward getting on-time. Haven’t seen it yet.

•   I wonder if the Cubs (or the other 6 MLB teams that haven’t yet reached the 85% vaccination threshold) are paying attention to what just happened to NC State, which got bounced from the College World Series because of COVID issues. We can talk about what we think of the protocols, but while they’re in place, unvaccinated players pose a risk of a shutdown, even to vaccinated players:

•   Again, I think there are plenty of health and safety and public wellbeing reasons to get vaccinated. But even if you ignored that part, you’re just flat out creating unnecessary risk *FOR YOUR TEAMMATES’ ABILITY TO PLAY* by not getting vaccinated. I dread the moment, late in the year or in the playoffs, when an unvaccinated Cubs player tests positive and it winds up clipping four or five guys from the roster for several days.

•   We would all love to see Fernando Tatis Jr. in the Home Run Derby, but he’s gonna skip it this year because of the shoulder. Which is, of course, the right decision. But that doesn’t mean he has to stop hitting homers in games, which he did three times right after announcing he wasn’t doing the Derby:

•   Speaking of dingers – and guys who ARE going to be in the Derby – Shohei Ohtani hit this one OFF OF THE CATWALK ABOVE THE VIDEO BOARDS:

•   That is just jaw-dropping stuff. Statcast says 453 feet, but come on. That was three or four miles.

•   Speaking of dingers that impact the shape of your face, Kyle Schwarber hit ANOTHER one, which has him on just an unspeakable pace:

•   Look at this speedy, slap hitter from nine years ago:

written by

Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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