The Rundown: Professor Schools Cleveland, Cubs Start 10-Game Trip Sporting Space Jammies, MLB Has First Sticky Substance Controversy, Manfred Making Mockery of Game
“Pull myself together, put on a new face, yeah. Climb down from the hilltop, baby…Lord get back in the race.” – Molly Hatchet. Dreams I’ll Never See
I’m taking a quick poll: Are we happy Kyle Hendricks was able to shut down the Indians and give the Cubs a split in the series, or are we worried that the team will play four on the road against the Dodgers and Hendricks will not start any of them? The Professor was prototypical in last night’s 7-1 win, going six innings while allowing just four hits without a walk. If you had to find one negative it may have been that his pitch count was a little high, but the game never seemed in doubt even when Hendricks was removed with the Cubs clinging to a 1-0 lead.
Not to worry, Chicago hung a crooked number on Cleveland in the bottom of the 6th and by the time Andrew Chafin entered in the top of the 7th, the bullpen was tasked with protecting a five-run lead. That’s as close to a guaranteed win as it gets for David Ross and his squad. As a reward, the Cubs get today off before starting a 10-game road trip against the Dodgers, Brewers, and Reds.
Over the next seven games, the North Siders will tee it up against four potential All-Stars: Walker Buehler (7-0, 2.38), Freddy Peralta (7-2, 2.11), Brandon Woodruff (5-3, 1.94), and Corbin Burnes (3-4. 2.62), the latter of whom has 108 strikeouts in 68.2 innings pitched. They’ll also face Julio Urías and Clayton Kershaw on the first two legs of that three-city trip.
Speaking of All-Stars, one would hope Hendricks has a chance to be selected this season, too. The eight-year veteran has never participated in the exhibition despite being one of the league’s best pitchers each year. He’s 10-4 after last night’s win, his eighth straight, pitching to a nifty 2.54 ERA across 46 innings during that streak.
What you know about rollin' down in the deep? pic.twitter.com/qxCPr9Y8Ni
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) June 23, 2021
On the offensive side of things, it was nice to see the Cubs break out a bit. They looked overmatched through their first turn against Cleveland starter Eli Morgan, who struck out five of the first nine batters he faced in three perfect innings of work. A 4th-inning home run by Kris Bryant gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead, then the batters really uncoiled in that big 6th-inning rally. Bryant’s jack was his first extra-base hit since homering against the Giants on June 4. Willson Contreras and Patrick Wisdom also homered for Chicago.
- The Good: Hendricks was stellar, and has been the team’s stopper in consecutive starts.
- The Bad: Despite getting eight hits, Chicago still struck out 11 times in 33 plate appearances.
- The Ugly: The Cubs’ starters in the first three games against the Dodgers are Zach Davies, Jake Arrieta, and Alec Mills. Davies seemed to be turning things around until he was bombed in his last start against the Marlins.
Cubs News & Notes
- Last night’s offensive output was a much-needed change of pace for the Cubs who have the worst offense in all of baseball since June 1.
- Hendricks extended the best streak of his career to eight wins, the longest by a Cubs pitcher since Arrieta won nine consecutive starts to bridge the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
- The 4th-inning tater by Bryant may have been a much-needed catalyst for the team’s floundering offense.
- Despite the struggles of the rest of the rotation and an inability to manufacture runs by the offense, Chicago’s bullpen continues to be the best in baseball.
- Ross predicted Bryant would break out of his slump last night. Kind of. “That’s not going out on a limb,” Ross chuckled after the game, “when you say, a former MVP and the guy that’s got some of the better stats on your team is going to have a good game.”
- The Cubs sometimes-third baseman is fully in favor of the league’s policing pitchers for illegal substances.
- Nico Hoerner and Justin Steele are getting closer to returning. There has been no progress report regarding Matt Duffy, however.
- The Cubs theme for the upcoming road trip is the movie “Space Jam.”
Odds & Sods
Joe Girardi provided some viral content last night by asking umpires several times to check Max Scherzer for illegal foreign substances before the Phillies manager was finally ejected. Girardi was suspicious of Scherzer’s constant need to wipe sweat from his brow. Welcome to baseball’s new world order.
After being checked for sticky substance 3 times tonight, Max Scherzer stared down Phillies Manager Joe Girardi while walking to the dugout. Girardi then left his dugout and had some words for Scherzer, which led to Girardi being ejected.pic.twitter.com/3laApv2YdR
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) June 23, 2021
Climbing the Ladder
“And when it’s time for leavin’. I hope you’ll understand that I was born a ramblin’ man.” – Allman Brothers Band, Ramblin’ Man
- Games Played: 74
- Total Plate Appearances: 2,695
- Total Strikeouts: 701
- Strikeout Rate: 26%
- Team Batting Average: .226
The Cubs have hit .171 over the last two weeks with 127 strikeouts, and are batting a paltry .220 away from Wrigley Field, which explains their 15-20 road record this season. They are hitting a combined .194 against the Dodgers and Brewers, though they’ve coaxed 44 walks in 12 games against the two teams. A .339 OBP against Los Angeles led Chicago to a sweep May 3-5. Good at-bats will go a long way toward helping Chicago’s baseballers on the upcoming 10-game swing.
Apropos of Nothing
Despite the 2-3 homestand the Cubs still remain tied for first with the Brewers. If you haven’t checked them out, I highly recommend the Quantifying Hope articles by EIC Evan Altman.
How About That!
Something may have seemed amiss if you watched Gerrit Cole last night. His spin rate was way down and the Yankees ace didn’t have the explosive fastball that has become his trademark in a 6-5 loss to the Royals. It was Cole’s first start under the new rules.
Rob Manfred’s decision to crack down on grip enhancers could be making a mockery of baseball at worst, and an unwanted public spectacle at best.
Athletics pitcher Sergio Romo seemed particularly annoyed that the umpires performed a substance check on him Tuesday night, so he dropped his drawers.
Scherzer’s inability to control the pitch that drew the ire of Girardi may have been caused by the lack of any grip aid other than the rosin bag.
The Yankees could be in play for Scherzer if the Nationals make their ace available in trade.
Count Giants ace Kevin Gausman as one of the game’s bigger fans of Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani. “He’s doing something we’ve never seen before,” Gausman said of the potential MVP and Cy Young Award winner.
Consensus No. 1 prospect Wander Franco made his major league debut last night, proclaiming he was “born to hit.” He backed it up against the Red Sox and seems to be a big-moment player from the get-go.
The Pirates, Diamondbacks, and Twins look to be primed to sell at the deadline and the Astros could be one of the league’s most voracious buyers. If the Cubs decide to be buyers, they are certainly going to be in the market for another rotation piece.
Daniel Vogelbach hobbled home to score a run last night in one of the grittiest performances by a runner injured mid-play. The Diamondbacks offered not to challenge the big guy and seemed almost puzzled as to what to do.
Tuesday’s Three Stars
- Wander Franco – The Rays’ rookie second baseman was 2-for-4 with a home run, a double, and three RBI in his major league debut.
- Charlie Morton – A dominating performance that included 11 strikeouts over seven innings against just one hit earned the veteran righty his seventh win of the season as the Braves blanked the Mets 3-0.
- Kyle Hendricks – “Confoundingly average” is how my buddy described the Professor’s performance last night. Whatever you call it, Hendricks just wins.
Kershaw makes a very valid point.
Clayton Kershaw suggests that perhaps managers should lose a replay challenge if they check a pitcher and nothing is found to help assure that managers aren't simply interrupting a pitcher's flow in the game.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) June 23, 2021
They Said It
- “The more you struggle, the more you want success and the harder you’re trying to chase it as we call it chasing hits — we chase the results. That’s why we try to preach patience and the process and those type things, just continue to come in and then do your routine and have your at-bat.” – David Ross
- “It’s just sometimes when you feel good, you have a hit streak of, whatever, 14 games, and you’re getting a lot of hits, you want to keep that going and you don’t want to walk. So you swing at a borderline pitch and then you expand it a little more and a little bit more and then you find yourself chasing pitches that you don’t want to be swinging at and then you’ve got to backtrack and rewind and try to get out of that hole.” – Kris Bryant
Wednesday Walk-Up Song
Wildflowers & Wine by Marcus King – Another pleasant music discovery while I have been rehabbing and recuperating from my latest surgical procedure.