Good morning and sorry for the week-long absence. I needed some FMLA time and family comes first.
It was nice to see Yu Darvish make it through six innings yesterday, though he continues to look shaky in the middle of games. He walked Reds pitcher Tyler Mahle in the 4th inning to put two men on with two out, but got Billy Hamilton to pop out to Javier Baez to end the threat. He then coasted to his first win as a Cubs pitcher and 150th of his career. Hopefully getting in the win column will help right the ship for what can only be described as a disastrous first quarter with his new team.
Darvish was aided by back-to-back home runs from Kyle Schwarber and Baez. Later, Schwarber was ejected for just the first time in his career after arguing a high strike-three call by plate umpire John Tumpane. It seemed like a pretty quick hook but didn’t factor in the game’s outcome. The win gave the Cubs a series victory.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 20, 2018
Cubs News & Notes
The difference for Darvish yesterday was his fastball. According to ESPN Stats & Information, opponents were hitting .333 in at-bats that ended with a fastball before yesterday’s start. The right-hander was missing bats only 17 percent of the time. Yesterday was a different story and the Reds simply couldn’t catch up to it, getting just one hit in 12 at-bats on fastballs while whiffing 36 percent of the time.
The homers by Baez and Schwarber were the Cubs’ first back-to-back jacks this season.
Ian Happ went 5-for-11 with nine walks in the four-game series. Happ is batting .314 with three doubles, one triple, four homers, nine RBIs and 11 walks since May 7, when there were whispers the Cubs should have considered sending the sophomore down to Iowa.
Those Manny Machado trade rumors just won’t go away. If I was handicapping it I’d say the Cubs were 6-5 favorites to land the Orioles SS while the Brewers likely have their minds set on acquiring Rangers’ pitcher Cole Hamels.
The Brewers are for real and had they played better against the Cubs this year they’d have a commanding lead in the division. Chicago has shut Milwaukee out five times already this season.
The Cubs have baseball’s second-best team ERA at 3.28, but Houston has been much more impressive. The Astros’ ERA sits at 2.43. If that holds up — unlikely as it seems — it would be the best in baseball since the 1919 Cubs posted a 2.21.
How About That!
After shutting down the Indians 3-1 yesterday, the Astros have now played 48 games this season and they have held the opposition to one run or less in 20 of those. The Astros are 30-18 and lead the AL West by two games. Cleveland is 22-23 but remains in first place. The AL Central is now 45 games under .500 against teams from outside its division.
The Braves lead the NL East at 28-17. After trailing the Marlins 9-4 entering the bottom of the 9th, Atlanta rallied to defeat Miami 10-9.
Cardinals’ reliever Jordan Hicks has supplanted Aroldis Chapman as the hardest thrower in the game. The rookie phenom threw the five fastest pitches of 2018 yesterday, reaching 105 mph twice.
Eduardo Rodriguez and the Red Sox bullpen pitched a rare 13-hit shutout in a 5-0 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday. It was the most hits Boston has allowed in a shutout since at least 1908, the team said.
The Braves released 3B Jose Bautista yesterday. Bautista had hit .143/.250/.343 (63 OPS+) with 12 strikeouts in 40 plate appearances. In other moves, the Nationals promoted 19-year old OF Juan Soto; The Yankees optioned OF Clint Frazier back to AAA; and the Indians activated OF Melky Cabrera.
Sunday’s Three Stars
- The Astros Starting Rotation – per Dave Schoenfield of ESPN: With seven scoreless innings from Lance McCullers, the Astros rotation’s ERA sits at 2.25. It’s averaging 10.55 strikeouts per nine innings — just about equal to Randy Johnson’s career rate of 10.6 — and batters are hitting .186 against them — less than the .195 average Pedro Martinez held hitters to during his 1997-2002 peak. They’ve allowed a .254 wOBA, lower than all but seven regular batters this season
- Shohei Ohtani – The two-way star gave up two runs and six hits in a career-high 7 2/3 innings, striking out nine, walking one and throwing a career-high 110 pitches to improve to 4-1 with a 3.35 ERA, using his devastating split-finger fastball and sharp slider to notch seven of his strikeouts.
- J.D. Martinez – The Red Sox slugger was 2-for-4 with two home runs and 3 RBI yesterday.
Hot Takes & Syrup
- Point: Rays’ manager Kevin Cash hints that closers as starters could be a strategy for Tampa moving forward. Former closer Sergio Romo has made two consecutive starts after 588 big league relief appearances. The experiment reflects a larger organizational task: Determining how to keep opposing hitters from gaining an advantage from seeing a pitcher more than once in the same game.
- Counterpoint: Angels SS Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Romo is bad for baseball. “It was weird…It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion…It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
They Said It
- “The difference was, after the first inning, [Darvish] really gained command of his fastball. Dotting that up at 95 and 96 mph … My take on him is when he gets into a rhythm out there, it’s almost like he stops thinking and just starts pitching. I think he has a tendency to overthink things. When he gets the ball back from the catcher, sees sign, sees glove and throws it, man he gets really good, fast.” – Joe Maddon
- “[Betts] was just all freaking out. He’s like, ‘Dude, I’ve got no pop anymore.’ I’m like, ‘Bro, relax. All right? They come in bunches.’ All of a sudden you won’t hit one in two or three weeks and then you hit three or four in a week. Especially him. He’ll come around and hit three in a game.” – J.D. Martinez
Monday Walk Up Song
Back in the Saddle by Aerosmith. It’s great to be back.