In a game that was on its way to being a low-scoring affair, the fates decided one measly run would not be enough for either team to come out victorious. Jameson Taillon and Jon Lester went toe to toe with each other and it was awesome to watch. I love a good pitchers duel. What I do not love, however, is a bullpen implosion. I also do not cherish seeing the bases get loaded with one out and no runs result from it.
Lester started off the ballgame misfiring, throwing seven straight balls before he threw a strike. The four balls he threw to Jordy Mercer were nowhere near the plate, but Lester got closer to the zone against Starling Marte. Two of the calls in the second at-bat could have gone either way. Marte battled by fouling off great pitches, but eventually Lester got him swinging.
Willson Contreras then gunned down Mercer, who was trying to snag second base. Lester finished the 1st inning throwing 24 pitches, 13 of which were balls. After the rocky start, it was smooth sailing. The starter only allowed three baserunners from the 2nd inning to the end of the 7th.
After the 1st inning, in which the Cubs got three hits and scored no runs, not a whole lot happened until the 7th because Taillon was pitching well. Jason Heyward singled, Contreras reached on an error, and Tommy La Stella (pinch hitting for Lester) doubled Heyward home to drive in the first run of the game for either side.
Kyle Schwarber then walked to load the bases with one out before Kris Bryant grounded into a 5-2 fielder’s choice to record the second out. Anthony Rizzo then popped out to short to end the inning. They could have, and probably should have, gotten a lot more out of the inning, but that’s how it goes sometimes.
Despite the offensive futility, the Cubs were looking good. Until the bullpen did it again. Koji Uehara came into the 8th with a one-run lead and could not find the plate. He sandwiched a double to Adam Frazier between two walks, then gave up a game-tying single to Jordy Mercer.
Uehara was then replaced by Hector Rondon, who got Marte to ground to Javier Baez for a force at home. Andrew McCutchen grounded softly to Rizzo, who barehanded the ball and threw home. Unfortunately, the throw was slightly off line and forced Contreras off the plate. David Freese flewout to Heyward, who made a horrible throw up the third base line to allow Mercer to score.
Justin Grimm came on, but too had issues finding the plate, plunking Josh Harrison and walking John Jaso before giving up a long bomb to Frazier.
Contreras’s arm is impressive. He caught runners at second, and picked David Freese off at first in the seventh. Lester doesn’t need to throw to the bases because he knows his defense is ridiculously good at gunning runners down.
The slide rule is a matter of contention and confusion. According to the Cubs broadcast, the umpires determined that Schwarber was in violation of the rule for “impeding the fielder.” But the fielder had a foot in front of second base, giving Schwarber no opportunity to slide directly to the bag without making contact with the him. That begs the question: is it solely on the runner to avoid making contact with the fielder, or is the fielder also somewhat responsible for trying to get out of the way of a sliding baserunner? Also, how do the officials in New York determine if the baserunner impeded the fielder?
Stats that matter
- The bullpen was downright awful. In their last 9.1 innings of work they gave up 12 runs (11 earned) on 12 hits and five walks, while striking out eight. It was just one of those stretches where the majority of runners allowed on base scored, and is nowhere near the norm. So, Cubs fans, do not break things in your houses just yet because this is not how you’ll see the Cubs bullpen perform.
- The Cubs were 1-8 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base.
The Bottom Line
It’s early in the season, so I would not recommend putting too much emphasis on these games. A lot can (and will) change throughout the Cubs’ 2017 campaign.
The Brewers come to town as John Lackey and the Cubs attempt to drown their sorrows from the previous series. First pitch is at 7:05 PM CST and the broadcast will be on CSN+ And 670 The Score.