The Rundown: Shutouts Galore, Chris Kross’ll Make Ya…Slump Slump, Pitchers in the Outfield

Wily ol’ Joe Maddon was up to his shenanigans again Wednesday afternoon in Milwaukee, though not even cobbling together a series of tricks could help the Cubs scratch out a series win. Or a run, for that matter.

Astute readers will notice that Mike Canter hasn’t been seen on these pages in a while, but fear not. He’s taking care of some stuff with his Jivewired project and he’s planning to be back next week. Actually, calling it a “project” may belittle his efforts too much. Mike has poured his his heart and soul, among other things, into Jivewired and it’s really cool to see it getting off the ground.

But that also means he’s like a mini Atlas holding the thing on his shoulders, so I guess we’ll cut him a little slack for making you put up with me handling these Rundowns for now.

We’re not always doing business but we’re always open

The Cubs and Brewers have played 11 games so far this season, with the home team holding an 8-3 record so far. That would be somewhat remarkable in and of itself since the Brewers have maintained a lead on the Cubs for most of the season, but what’s really wild is the scoring. Or, as the case may be, the lack of scoring.

The Brewers failed to push across a single tally in five of the first eight games and the Cubs were shut out in the last two. That means seven of 11 games have featured scoring from only one team, which, while it’s enough to back do’ Little Joe, is incredibly frustrating for at least one of the teams involved.

I’d have to guess Kato Kaelin isn’t the only Brewers fan who’s not entirely excited about his squad’s general futility against the Cubs. On the other hand, the five runs the Cubs scored in the 11th inning of Monday’s contest is one more than they’ve scored in the last 37 non-11th innings they’ve played against the Beermakers.

Maybe the Cubs are just doing a really deep subliminal homage to the 7-11 that’s no longer on the corner of Clark and Sheffield.

Chris Kross’ll make ya…slump, slump

Had he been alive to read that sub-head, Dante Alighieri would have reserved a special place in hell for me. But he’s not here, so I thumb my nose at the negative opinions of my terrible puns.

Kris Bryant hasn’t gone yard in a month (May 14) and hasn’t collected a hit in his last 19 plate appearances, so Maddon gave him the day off against a righty with a nasty slider. That makes sense, and Skip has a noted affinity for resting players the day before an off-day (hence the frequent replacement lineups on getaway day), but it was sort of odd to see Chris Gimenez taking an at-bat late in the loss.

It’d be one thing if the Cubs were down several runs or if it was earlier in the game, but down 1-0 with one out in the 9th is kind of a big spot. What was Maddon’s rationale?

“Theoretically, [using Bryant in that situation] sounds wonderful, but I thought Gimenez had some good swings today,” the manager explained after the game. “It’s an easy dialogue to try and conjure up, but I was really trying to give him the day off.”

Maddon also noted that Bryant has been struggling, so it would seem that his refusal to use his superstar in that moment was as much about protecting Bryant as it was Maddon being stubborn. Contrary to his oft-discussed foibles, one area in which Maddon can’t be faulted is in his management of rest days for his best players.

That stuff can be frustrating for those fans who want to see the stars when they go to the ballpark and who want the best possible lineup against a division rival, but these long seasons take a toll. And with Bryant appearing somewhat out of sorts at the plate over the last few games, maybe putting him in cold like that wouldn’t have been a great idea.

And that’s why I believe Maddon gave the explanation that he did, not because he really believed Gimenez gave them just as good a shot to win. I mean, that’d be like having Rita Coolidge duet with Peter Criss instead of Kris Kristofferson (obligatory deep cut musical reference in Mike’s honor).

The kids from left field

Somewhere in rural Arkansas, a shirtless man cracked a beer and hollered a “Yee-haw!” as the Cubs swapped relievers back and forth from left field to the mound.

Neither Steve Cishek nor Brian Duensing made quite the impact on both ends as Travis Wood, but the gambit did take some of the wind out of Lorenzo Cain’s sails.

Thursday walk-up song

Bad Moon Risin’, John Fogerty – Sorry for going back-to-back CCR, but the old man still puts on a great show and this closed it out last night.

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