The Rundown: Kimbrel Implodes, Cubs Barely Escape with Win, League Postpones Two Games Amid COVID-19 Scare

If you watched the Cubs’ 8-7 win last night, the bullpen probably gave you enough anxiety to send you running into the streets maskless and mortified. I felt the same, but woke up this morning realizing the first couple of weeks of the season are going to feel an awful lot like spring training. Relief pitchers got the least amount of work during summer camp, and scores around the league indicate that many teams are having similar bullpen issues.

That eight batters were hit by pitches in last night’s game is a pretty solid indicator that pitchers are still trying to find their sea legs. Regardless, some people are just a little more worked up than others, especially when it comes to Craig Kimbrel. The closer was absolutely brutal last night and didn’t win any new fans with his outing.

Kimbrel could manage to get just one Reds batter out and was mercifully removed in the 9th by David Ross after throwing just 13 of 34 pitches for strikes. The entire bullpen nearly wasted a great effort by Jon Lester, who threw five no-hit innings before watching the bullpen try its best to deprive him of the win. The numbers are ugly, so skip over this next part if you don’t want your breakfast to escape you.

  • 4 innings pitched
  • 7 earned runs
  • 8 walks
  • 2 hit batters

Kimbrel was actually credited with a hold, which is wild, and the Cubs might have lost had Phil Ervin not whiffed on a potential ball four. Joey Votto also managed to avoid being hit by a Jeremy Jeffress pitch with the bases loaded that would have tied the game. When Votto lined out to Albert Almora Jr. and his new jumbo-sized outfielder’s glove, Cubs fans could breathe a sigh of relief and go to sleep. Jeffress got the save with big assists from the two Cincinnati batters he faced.

Still, a win is a win and the Cubs are now 3-1 on the young season. If you are looking for a silver lining. Kimbrel’s fastball was up 2-3 mph over last season and summer camp, but he seemed to not trust it much. Frankly, last night caused too much anxiety for a season that could be cancelled at any minute, but at least it was baseball nerves that were jarred rather than anything regarding the league’s potential COVID-19 outbreak.

Chicago will look to improve to 4-1 this evening. Alec Mills will take the bump to face Tyler Mahle and Ross will need a stellar effort from his starter. He just doesn’t have many bullpen options right now, though I expect the front office may move a player or two from the alternate squad to the regular roster to help out. Mills earned his first career victory pitching in relief last September against the Reds.

Cubs News & Notes

Apropos of Nothing

I was shocked that Rizzo was not wearing a facemask last night.

Odds & Sods

I am of the opinion that contact tracing will reveal the Braves or Phillies are the real culprits here, but stay tuned.

How About That!

The league postponed the game between the Marlins and Orioles due to Miami’s current coronavirus crisis. The Yankees-Phillies game was also postponed and Tuesday’s game has already been postponed as well. The Yankees left Philly and will conduct a practice at Yankee Stadium tonight instead.

The Brewers broke MLB celebratory safety protocols after their 6-5 win over the Pirates last night.

The limited edition Topps Now baseball card created in honor of Dr. Anthony Fauci has broken the all-time sales record for the trading card company.

Fauci tried to explain the reasons for his lack of command on Opening Night. He thought he’d practiced from 60 feet 6 inches — until he got to the mound and realized he must have miscalculated by roughly 20 feet. Oops.

In a discussion with radio host Dan Patrick yesterday, Rob Manfred revealed what it would take to postpone or cancel the 2020 season.

David Price said he exercised his right to opt out because he believed that the health of the players was not at the forefront the league’s plan for rebooting the season.

White Sox manager Rick Renteria would have missed Monday’s game “out of an abundance of caution” after experiencing symptoms, but his test came back negative for COVID.

Monday’s Three Stars

  1. Jon Lester – Five no-hit innings and nothing but weak contact from the Reds gives the big lefty the top slot and a seat in the big chair today.
  2. Rays Pitching Staff – Led by starter Tyler Glasnow and reliever Jalen Beeks, Tampa Bay pitchers punched out 19 Braves in a 14-5 home win.
  3. Clubhouse/Dugout Sanitizing Teams – Somebody needs to recognize those who are doing their best to keep the players safe, so I’ll volunteer.

Out of Left Field

Just a reminder that 14 members of the Marlins organization tested positive for C-19.

“We expected we were going to have positives at some point. I remain optimistic that the protocols are strong enough that it will allow us to play even through an outbreak like this, and complete our season. [The Miami outbreak] is not a positive thing, but I don’t see it as a nightmare. We built the protocols that allow us to continue to play.” – Rob Manfred

Ed. note: Four more Marlins players have since tested positive, bringing them to 15 players who have tested positive at this point. The team remains in Philadelphia.

Sliding Into Home

I had a few days off of my meds and I genuinely felt normal again. But, I had to resume the prescription therapy yesterday, and on top of that I am on a 10-day liver cleanse so I’m pretty miserable. I’m basically fasting, though I did eat a few things yesterday.

  • Breakfast: One hard boiled egg
  • Lunch: Two tablespoons of peanut butter
  • Dinner: A six-ounce dressing-free salad and two dill pickles
  • Snack: Two graham crackers and a Gatorade Zero

I also drank 128 ounces of water. The diet is not an order from my physician, but a suggestion from a friend who had a liver transplant a few years ago. The goal is to lower my enzymes, which will improve my MELD score. The combination of the cleanse and the associated weight loss could boost my liver health. I may be grasping at straws, but I’m willing to try anything right now. At the very least, I am saving money on groceries, which helps with the financial battle.

Extra Innings

It’s going to be a season of attrition, and frankly if the league is able to complete its season and crown a World Series champion, it will likely be the team that stays the healthiest.

They Said It

  • “I don’t have a firm number of days in mind (to pause the season). If we have a team or two that’s really decimated with a number of people who had the virus and can’t play for any significant period of time, it could have a real impact on the competition and we’d have to think very, very hard about what we’re doing.” – Rob Manfred
  • “We gotta throw strikes. Walks, especially in that spot, will kill ya. I chalk that up to a lot of rust. Six days for a closer … any bullpen guy. A lot of the guys, the first time out haven’t been real sharp. There’s only been a couple of them.” – David Ross
  • “I’m not at the full JJ right now, but it’s getting there. I’ve had some good bullpen sessions and played catch. [Bullpen coach Chris Young] and [pitching coach] Tommy Hottovy have been making sure my mechanics are staying over the rubber before I deliver the baseball. That’s the big key. If I do all those things and connect the dots, my velocity, more strikes, more strikeouts, all that stuff will come.” – Jeremy Jeffress

Tuesday Walk Up Song

The Devil Went Down to Georgia by the Charlie Daniels Band – I can’t help but think that this baseball season is a huge tragedy waiting to happen. I hope I’m wrong.

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