The Rundown: Alzolay Flashes Dominance, Cubs Sweep Dodgers, Means By No Means Perfect, Happy Birthday Willie Mays
“They say I’m crazy but I have a good time
I’m just looking for clues at the scene of the crime
Life’s been good to me so far…” – Joe Walsh, Life’s Been Good
I haven’t been as excited to watch a young starter for the Cubs since Kerry Wood made his debut in 1998. Adbert Alzolay was far removed from yesterday’s game by the time Anthony Rizzo walked it off with a single in the 11th inning, but as the contest dragged on through what seemed like an obnoxious amount of pitching changes and pinch hitters, I couldn’t stop thinking about just how good Alzolay is and how much better he is going to be.
Adbert Alzolay, 93mph Fastball and 84mph Breaking Ball, Overlay. pic.twitter.com/ndFnuJq7xK
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 6, 2021
Besides Rizzo and Alzolay, Matt Duffy and Jake Marisnick were Cubs heroes in last night’s 6-5 win. Marisnick hit a game-tying two-run homer off of Walker Buehler in the 5th inning and Duffy may have had the best all-around game of the year. The third baseman was 3-for-4 with three runs scored, an RBI, and a stolen base. Adding a healthy Nico Hoerner back to a lineup that includes Marisnick, Duffy, and Kris Bryant gives the Cubs four high-OBP hitters, something we haven’t seen at Clark and Addison for years.
Still, I don’t mind dreaming on Alzolay’s potential. Half of the 16 four-seam fastballs he threw last night resulted in a called strike or whiff. The 26-year-old also recorded four of his seven strikeouts with his slider. With that type of arsenal, Alzolay has all the makings of an eventual number one or two starter once Brailyn Márquez reaches the majors for good. When you add relievers Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson to the mix, we may start talking about a farm system that is finally able to produce talented, major league pitching.
Cubs News & Notes
- Until this week, the Cubs had won only two of their first nine series.
- I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Bryant hasn’t played third base since April 20.
- Rizzo and Javy Báez botched a potential double play in the top of the 11th last night that thankfully didn’t come back to hurt them.
- Pedro Strop, who recently took a leave of absence from the team, has been granted his release to seek an opportunity elsewhere. There don’t appear to be any hard feelings between the reliever and the club.
- The desire to see what the Cubs have in young pitching may have led to Strop’s departure. It certainly kept him from seeing the game action he had hoped for.
- Steele was nails the other night and could be another big arm the pitching staff so desperately needs. His slider has more spin than all but one other lefty in MLB (min. 30 pitches) and his fastball is among the top 12 for lefties this season.
- Thompson had a better game score on Tuesday than heralded Dodgers starters Clayton Kershaw and Trevor Bauer.
- With Steele, Thompson, and Alzolay, Chicago’s pitching future looks much more brighter than it has in recent seasons.
Apropos of Nothing
I loathe the new social media rules of caPiTaliZatiOn, which is a teen-inspired sarcasm font (derived from the show Spongebob Squarepants, I believe) that looks entirely RiDiCuLOus when used by adults.
Climbing the Ladder
“I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.” – Ernest Hemingway
- Games Played: 31
- Total Plate Appearances: 1,160
- Total Strikeouts: 314
- Strikeout Rate: 27.1%
- Team Batting Average: .224
Odds & Sods
Minor League Baseball is back after 18 months without games and there were also eight errors and 36 runners left on base in this debacle. That said, there are few cities with cooler names than Rancho Cucamonga, which genuinely imagines every stereotype of low level baseball.
One night after setting a new league record with 35 strikeouts in a game, Rancho Cucamonga and Inland Empire combined for 35 strikeouts again tonight in the Low-A West.
Rancho Cucamonga struck out 19 times. Inland Empire struck out 16 times.
— Kyle Glaser (@KyleAGlaser) May 6, 2021
How About That!
It was 27 up, 27 down, and a no-hitter for Orioles starter John Means yesterday, but by no means was it a perfect game.
Yesterday’s no-no was the third of the season, putting baseball on pace for 16 such gems. With a league-low batting average of .234, a chance exists that the record of eight no-hitters in a single season (1884) may be broken this year.
Of course fans are now calling for changes to the dropped third strike rule.
Baseball has truly become a pitcher’s game, and the league needs to fix that.
White Sox manager Tony La Russa was unaware of a ghost runner rule regarding pitchers and it may have cost the White Sox a chance at a win yesterday.
La Russa’s managerial mistakes continue to mount, to the detriment of a talented ChiSox team.
Braves rookie catcher William Contreras slugged the first home run of his career last night.
The Brewers are the latest team to have met the league’s required 85% vaccination rate for loosened team restrictions.
Take Me Out to the Ball Game
What would you say if I told you that you could get free beer, donuts, and baseball tickets in exchange for getting vaccinated? Is that something that might interest you?
The Mets and Yankees are going to offer tickets to less-restrictive sections of their ballparks for fans with proof of COVID-19 vaccinations.
A fan said that Yankees security confiscated his costume because Astros’ players complained about cheating taunts.
The Diamondbacks will start selling individual, single game tickets to fans starting May 17 and plan to remove all existing seating restrictions so that season ticket holders can return to their seats.
The Blue Jays will be returning to Buffalo as their temporary home starting in June.
Wednesday’s Three Stars
- John Means – A passed-ball third strike, which allowed Sam Haggerty to reach first base, is all that separated the Orioles starter from pitching a perfect game. It is the first time a pitcher has thrown a non-perfect-game no-hitter without a walk, hit by pitch, or error, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. Means punched out 12 Mariners batters in the 6-0 win.
- Hyeon Jong-Yang – The former South Korea MVP struck out seven of the first nine batters he faced and eight overall in 3 1/3 innings in his major league debut. The 33-year-old rookie pitched for 14 years in the Pacific Rim before signing with the Rangers.
- Matt Duffy – If the Cubs somehow manage to make the playoffs this season, the all-purpose infielder with a slight resemblance to Don Kessinger will be one of the primary reasons.
Happy 90th Birthday to Willie Mays, a player so revered he has been the subject of a number of pop songs, including this one by the Treniers, which features Mays himself.
Willie Mays memories on his 90th birthday “… the greatest all-around player who ever lived.” #MLB https://t.co/MBYK82vvV0
— PETER MAER (@petermaer) May 6, 2021
Greg Maddux is the author of what may now be my favorite baseball quote of all time:
“No need to steal the sign. I’ll tell you what I throw. It’s an 89 mph sinker, and you won’t even swing at it.”
They Said It
- “I kind of tight roped first base, not touching it purposely to get the double play [3-6-3]. I don’t think Javy saw that. I knew if I stepped on the base and went home, it would have been do or die.” – Anthony Rizzo
- “The willingness to continue to fight, to continue to have the same at-bats, to continue to try to make pitches, to not let things spin out of control and get away from us,. They came up with some big hits in big spots and then we came up with big hits in big spots. And it’s just back-and-forth. Guys believing in one another.” – David Ross
- “You could definitely look at it as a chip on the shoulder for us. I’m not going to say we’ve been bashed, but people are definitely undervaluing us. Now we’re finally getting here to Chicago, and y’all are finally being able to see what we’ve been working on, what we’ve been doing.” – Justin Steele
Thursday’s Walk Up Song
King of the Road by Roger Miller- “I’m a man of means by no means….king of the road.”