“They pulled me back and held me down and looked me in the eyes and said you just haven’t earned it yet, baby.” – The Smiths, Hand in Glove
Katy bar the door, the Cubs are on a bit of a roll after winning their second straight series with Sunday’s 3-2 win over the Diamondbacks to complete a 4-2 mini-West Coast swing. Following Chicago’s North Side baseballers this season is a little like following the English rock band The Smiths. They’re still addictive even though most of their output is depressing as hell, and once in a while, though very rarely, they provide a happy moment or two.
Justin Steele was yesterday’s stud, and though I still think he’s better suited for bullpen duty, the 26-year-old lefty struck out 10 Arizona batters in six innings of work. A single by Frank Schwindel in the top of the 9th was the game-winner as Chicago improved to 13-20 on the season. Please stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before, but the winning road trip means the Cubs are no longer on a pace to lose 100 games (63-99). As I intimated earlier, we can find a silver lining behind the deepest, darkest cloud if we look hard enough.
Chicago starts a three-game set at home tonight against the Pirates, a team that has proven to be the boy with the thorn in his side against our guys in blue this season. The Pirates have won four of the six games against the Cubs so far this year, and talent-wise the two teams are pretty equal. The last series between them was a perfect microcosm of the 2022 season: Chicago surrounded an awe-inspiring 21-0 win with three listless losses in the four-game set.
After Pittsburgh leaves town, David Ross and his charges get four at home against the Diamondbacks before traveling to Cincinnati for a four-game series with the 9-26 Reds. If the Cubs can go 9-2 over the next two weeks, which is entirely feasible if still difficult to imagine, they could enter their Memorial Day weekend series against the White Sox with a .500 record.
Yes, there is a light that never goes out when you root for the Cubs, though that also means setting ourselves up for painful disappointment. Maybe the team’s marketing department should get Johnny Marr and Morrissey to throw out the first pitch before a couple of upcoming contests. I’d bet most fans would be happy if Chicago can manage to go 6-5 over the next 11 games. Typical me, typical me, I’ve started something I couldn’t finish by getting everyone’s hopes up. Strangeways, here we come.
Cubs News & Notes
- Steele’s effort represented the first 10-strikeout game by a Cubs pitcher actually drafted by the team since Jeff Samardzija in May of 2014.
- Rafael Ortega hit a 428-foot moonshot to lead off Sunday’s game.
- Chicago has one of the best catching tandems in all of baseball.
- The Cubs have placed shortstop Nico Hoerner on the IL and have recalled Andrelton Simmons to take his place. Hoerner has a sprained ankle and his designation is retroactive to May 12.
- Despite a host of injuries that reads like a MASH unit, Chicago’s chances of reaching the postseason improved to 1.5% after taking the Padres series leading into this weekend. Though that metric will improve after taking 2 of 3 from the D-backs, I wouldn’t start making plans for a November rally in Grant Park.
- It appears as if Ian Happ has found a permanent home in left field. The switch-hitter has worked with third base coach Willie Harris on improving his route efficiency, first step, and reaction time.
- Anthony Rizzo is no longer “pissed off” at the Cubs front office.
- Rizzo’s teammates say he “was made for Yankees pinstripes.” Ouch.
- Sahadev Sharma and Patrick Mooney of The Athletic checked in on prospects Caleb Kilian, Nelson Velázquez, and James Triantos (subscription-based content).
- According to vice president of player development Jared Banner, Kilian is “not too far away” from making his MLB debut.
Odds & Sods
LaMonte Wade Jr. made the right decision by taking this pitch but still got rung up by home plate umpire Greg Gipson.
— Welcome to the Ump Show (@umpjob) May 16, 2022
Climbing the Ladder
“One day the track that you’re climbing gets steep/Just remember the days as long as the time that you keep.” – The Stranglers, Skin Deep
Not a whole lot of offense in Arizona this weekend, but as was hypothesized Friday morning, it looks like Schwindel has indeed busted his slump. The first baseman went 2-for-4 on Friday and Sunday, though all of his hits were singles. Check out the combined lines of Willson Contreras and Yan Gomes: .258 BA, 15 XBH, six home runs, and 14 RBI with 25 runs scored.
On the flip side, the Cubs are dead last among 15 NL teams with 25 home runs and 389 total bases.
- Games Played: 33
- Total Plate Appearances: 1,210
- Total Strikeouts: 298
- Strikeout Rate: 24.62%
- Team Batting Average: .232
How About That!
The Tigers derailed the surging Orioles (yes, you read that correctly) by holding Baltimore to three total runs in a three-game sweep. The Orioles had won 6 of 8 against the Twins, Royals, and Cardinals before their bats went silent this weekend.
Shohei Ohtani has now hit 100 MLB home runs, joining Hideki Matsui and Ichiro Suzuki as the only Japanese players ever to reach that benchmark. Ohtani is also the first major leaguer since Babe Ruth to combine 100 homers with 250 career strikeouts as a pitcher.
For those who love deep analytics, Understanding Hitter Development by Justin Dunbar is a great read.
There have been six MLB instances in which a team no-hit the opposition but lost the game.
Sunday’s Three Stars
- Hunter Greene | Art Warren – The Reds’ pair combined to allow zero hits in a complete game, but it didn’t count as a no-hitter as the Pirates downed Cincinnati 1-0.
- Adolis Garcia – The Rangers centerfielder had a big night at the plate, launching two home runs while plating five Texas runners.
- Nestor Cortes – This year’s most-added fantasy baseball pitcher shut down the White Sox yesterday, allowing one run on three hits with seven strikeouts over eight innings. The Yankees starter improved to 2-1 with a 1.35 ERA in the 5-1 win.
The Dunedin Blue Jays, Toronto’s Single-A affiliate, did something unprecedented against the Tampa Tarpons, retiring 24 of 27 batters via strikeout on Saturday night.
24 K's? In 9 innings?!
Are you KIDDING?!
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) May 15, 2022
Apropos of Nothing
I have to travel to North Carolina Tuesday through Thursday and then to New York City Friday so The Rundown will most likely be a scaled-down, lunchtime edition on those days. I am hoping to catch the Charlotte Knights game against Norfolk Tuesday night.
Speaking of which, I’m planning a weekend excursion to South Bend to catch some Cubs minor league baseball on June 25. If you are interested in meeting up please leave a comment and we can exchange numbers.
Monday Morning Six-Pack
- I hope you had a chance to catch last night’s Super Flower Blood Moon, the longest total lunar eclipse since 1989.
- Oakland-area high school drummer Kai Neukermans played the gig of his life over the weekend. That’s because Eddie Vedder asked the 18-year-old to fill in for Pearl Jam’s regular drummer, Matt Cameron, who had to sit out after testing positive for COVID-19.
- Astra Taylor, a co-founder of Debt Collective, has been pushing for student loan forgiveness for over a decade. Now it could happen.
- The Bears didn’t draft a WR1 this year, nor did they sign one in free agency, and perhaps that’s because they believe Darnell Mooney is that guy.
- The website Five Thirty-Eight has a new metric for ranking elected public officials, and it’s called PAR, which stands for popularity above replacement.
- Retired quarterback Drew Brees is officially out at NBC after one full season as a studio and game analyst. The 43-year-old Brees hasn’t ruled out a return to the NFL, though he could move to FOX, where he might eventually pair up with Tom Brady.
They Said It
- “I think it’s a lot easier to just be here and enjoy Chicago, the city. The next time I go to Wrigley, when and if that happens, I can’t wait. It’s just a lot easier to come to Chicago and play here. It would definitely be more emotional. Going to Wrigley Field, especially on a weekend like this, the place would be insane.” – Rizzo
- “Keep dominating and make it obvious, you know? That’s really the messaging. And [Kilian] knows. He knows he’s close. So, it’s just a matter of going out and performing and getting a little bit better every day.” – Banner
Monday Walk-Up Song
One Step Beyond by Madness