A Loss That Sticks With You, Thompson’s Gut Punch, Smyly, Mastrobuoni, and Other Cubs Bullets
I deserve some good food today. Probably a pile of ice cream at some point. All the fixins.
- I’m gonna be running all around today for family obligations, which is probably not the worst timing in the world. A game like last night’s sticks with you. And when it caps off a sweep? It sticks worse. And when it continues a long losing streak? It sticks even worse. And when it makes you feel like you’re just now realizing the Cubs have been in a deep swan dive for almost a month, as opposed to losing just a flukey handful of games and a couple blowouts, it sticks EVEN WORSE.
- I was intermittently miserable and numb last night, but this morning, I’m just bummed out. I don’t like the thought that maybe this team can’t actually hang around .500 through the Trade Deadline. The tough schedule ain’t letting up any time soon, and the Cubs are now 5 games under .500. Pick just three of the many, many winnable games they’ve lost since late April, and if the Cubs had won those games, they’re over .500 at this moment. It such a sickening feeling, and I can only imagine how the players are feeling right now on their off-day. Sick, I expect.
- Speaking of which, the bug that got Justin Steele was not limited to Steele, and you wonder if illness limited guys’ availability to work out of the bullpen the last few days. That is *NOTTTTTT* me making an excuse, especially not now. It’s more me wondering who was dealing with what and how it could have impacted their performance and their availability. I just want to know. Was that a factor in Adbert Alzolay pitching with a 5-run lead, for example?
- Anyway, the Cubs blew a 6-1 lead last night, with Mark Leiter Jr., Keegan Thompson, and Brandon Hughes combining to pull it off in the 8th and 9th innings. I guess the Astros played a part, too. David Ross was not happy: “We’ve got to win that game,” Ross said, per the Sun-Times. “We’ve got to pitch better on the back end. Offense did enough tonight, played good defense overall, really nice plays. We’ve got to cash that one in.”
- I’m not sure what he’s going to DO about it, though. The bullpen is the bullpen, and some of the guys who have failed recently are guys the Cubs need to be succeeding. I don’t really know why Thompson got back into high leverage so quickly, so that’s a starting place. Otherwise, I need to think more deeply about the bullpen situation, because we’re getting to the point in the season where the Cubs need to have done a better job knowing who they have, who they don’t, and who can pitch in what situations.
- As for Thompson, who called the loss a punch in the gut, Jordan Bastian notes that recovery time might still be the issue:
One issue the Cubs are dealing with is how often Thompson can pitch. He has responded well to pitching with three days of rest (0.67 ERA with 10 strikeouts and three walks in 13 1/3 innings) this year, but has struggled when used in any other scenario (10.13 ERA with six strikeouts and 11 walks in eight innings).
- It’s pretty hard to give a guy three full days rest in between all relief appearances, but it’s not a new issue with Thompson, and historically, when he HAS gotten those three+ days, he’s been outstanding (including his last time out before last night). Last night, he was pitching on two days’ rest. It might just be a situation where either you can accommodate using him once or twice a week – and make sure it’s a long appearance – or you can’t afford to have him in the bullpen at all. Either way, the current approach of trying to have him serve multiple roles is not working.
- Let me add, though, that for as much as six runs SHOULD win you most games, it’s not like seven runs isn’t better. Or eight or nine. So when you leave a whopping 14 runners on base and lose a one-run game, I’m not going to not mention it. That’s a factor in the loss. Just needed to be noted, even if I’m not bothered, overall, by the offense last night. More on the GOOD offensive stuff later.
- Meanwhile, the Cubs squandered another great Drew Smyly outing, which lowered his ERA to 2.86, the 14th lowest mark in baseball for pitchers with at least 50 innings of work. It’s not just contact-management, either. Smyly’s FIP is 17th best.
- This is humorous:
- Mastrobuoni’s small-sample big league numbers are still quite bad (.214/.290/.286/62 wRC+), but they were COMICALLY bad before last night’s game (.192/.192/.231/10 wRC+). A 52-point increase in wRC+ in one night. Also, Nick Madrigal is currently hitting .241/.275/.299/57 wRC+. Just for comparison sake. Do with that information what you will.
- Out west, Manny Machado has a small fracture in his hand, and reports indicate it’s possible he’ll try to play through it.
- Dustin May had to leave his last start with elbow pain, which turned out to be a flexor pronator strain, and he’s going to miss a month+.