Cubs record: 3-1, t-2 NL Central (1.0 game back)
W: Brad Ziegler
L: Trevor Cahill
BS: Pedro Strop
MVP: Who cares?
Watching this game felt sorta like going out on a blind date to a restaurant you used to frequent with an ex and then seeing said ex getting cozy with someone else. And it’s not even so much that Welington Castillo helped trigger the win for the D-backs. It’s just that Kyle Schwarber’s loss kinda took a little color out of the world. Perhaps it’d be appropriate to say that Friday was like going through a teenage breakup. Everyone tells you it’s going to get better and that there are plenty of fish in the lineup, but you just want to mope and life seems to have it in for you.
You know what would have been good? War Bear. When the Cubs walked four times in the top of the 3rd, I thought: War Bear had a really nice at-bat that ended in a walk on Thursday. And when they only managed to push across a pair of runs in the frame (Jason Heyward bases-loaded BB, Ben Zobrist ground out), I thought: if only War Bear had been there to mash five or six home runs. Still the walks were nice and manufacturing runs is cool.
Jason Hammel, whose spot in the starting rotation is still the source of debate, pitched really well on Friday. He went 6 full innings, allowing a single run on 4 hits and 3 walks while striking out 6 Diamondbacks. Nothing spectacular, but a very solid effort from the number four guy.
In addition to the run walked in, Heyward looked great in right once again. You can tell Len Kasper isn’t really used to having such a stellar defensive force out there, as Heyward easily tracked down balls the Cubs play-by-play man thought could be trouble. Rather than being a knock on Kasper — one of the finest in the game — it’s a testament to just how good Heyward is out there. And maybe just how mediocre his predecessors have been.
Do I even need to say it? I’ll try to avoid talking about He Who Must Not Be Named For the Eleventy Billionth Time, so I’m going to move on to Jean Freaking Segura and Paul Goldschmidt (more like Golds-h-i-t, amirite?). The pair of snakes rattled off a combined 5 hits in 8 at-bats, tying the game in the 8th with a double and single, respectively, against Pedro Strop.
In a move that is probably still being questioned in the online echo chamber, the Cubs chose to pitch to Goldschmidt, easily regarded as one of the best hitters in the game, with two outs and first base open. It looked as though Strop got squeezed on a good fastball early in the count to go 2-0 on the only first NL first baseman with more offensive potential than Anthony Rizzo, but the setup man came back with two nasty sliders to even things up.
A lot of hitters might have a hard time dealing with the change in velo Strop boasts, going from 95mph gas to the 83mph slidepiece and then back. But Goldie locked in on the 2-2 pitch, another fastball, and smacked it into center to plate Segura, who has something like 85 extra-base hits already this season. Of course, Strop had pretty much set the ball on a tee, so there’s that.
Should they have pitched to the All-Star with the career .299/.396/.535 slash line when the guy behind him carries career marks of only .303/.353/.496? Wait, David Peralta’s numbers are pretty good. Well, sure, against righties. But the left-handed hitter (like War Bear…sob) carries a .227/.285/.319 against lefties and the Cubs had Travis Wood in the pen.
Wood did face Peralta in the 9th, inducing a ground-out before giving way to Trevor Cahill. It’s really easy to second-guess moves when you’re watching them take place through the corrective lens of the bottom of a pint glass, but it’s even easier to do so from behind a computer screen the next morning.
This was just one game, but given the other news of the day it felt disproportionately deflating.
The camera cut to John Lackey a little too frequently and there was a weird shot of a shirtless, bearded dude chilling near the Chase Field pool, but the real issue was the Cubs’ inability to do anything offensively. Outside of Robbie Ray’s complete inability to throw strikes in the 3rd, the visitors just couldn’t string together much of anything.
Oh, and that whole seeing your ex at a restaurant thing? Beef Castle singled off of Cahill and was replaced by pinch-runner Chris Owings, who advanced to second on a ground-out and then scored on a Yasmany Tomas single. Had it been almost anyone else, the walk-off hit might have been easier to stomach. But Tomas had looked utterly lost in his previous at-bats, generally flailing at sliders and curveballs from Hammel and Justin Grimm.
After getting Tomas to swing and miss at a knuckle curve to get to 1-1, Cahill threw a sinker that completely defied its name and that was that.
The Cubs will get a chance to get things going again Saturday night in the third game of this four-game series. The good news is that we’re dealing with a 7:10pm CT first pitch, the earliest of the young season. The bad news is that the Cubs are facing Zack Greinke, who you may have heard is a pretty good pitcher. The perennial Cy Young contender was touched up for 7 earned runs in his abbreviated (4 innings) Opening Day start against the Rockies, which I’m not sure bodes well for the visitors on Saturday.
The Cubs will be sending Kyle Hendricks to the bump for his first start of the 2016 season and I’m really excited to see him. Except…his name: Kyle. I can’t help but think about the other Kyle, my favorite Kyle. It’s just not the same without my War Bear. Will it ever be? Probably not. My life is over.