The Week That Was
Going into day’s series finale against the San Fransisco Giants, it’s safe to say the Cubs have had a frustrating week – especially for the standards they have set thus far this season. Last Sunday, Jon Lester lost a 2-1 Pitcher’s dual against Gerrit Cole – salving a three game series for the Pirates. Questionably, Cole had this to say about the Cubs after the game.
“It’s just an opportunity to salvage the series, I don’t really think they’re (Cubs) the best team in baseball.
Up until the Pirates victory on May 15th the Pirates had gone 0-6 against the Cubs going back to last years Wildcard game. At the time the Cubs were the only team with single digits in the loss column (still today have the best record in baseball) and had an 8 game lead on the Pirates (currently 6.5 game lead). Statistically, the Cubs are currently the best team in baseball and it’s not even really close.
However, the series against the Milwaukee Brewers was frustrating. On Tuesday the bats sputtered against a struggling Chase Anderson dropping the opening game 2-4, it took 13 innings and a bases loaded walk by Pitcher Travis Wood to defeat the scuffling Brewers 2-1 on Wednesday, and to finish the series they lost 5-3. What was frustrating about the finale loss was the Brewers were playing without their offensive leader Ryan Braun (who did not play the entire series) and Jonathan Lucroy did not start the game. Yet, Hammel gave up 4 runs to a lineup that featured 2nd Baseman Scooter Gennett hitting 3rd. No disrespect to Scooter, but he is simply not a 3 hole hitter.
On Friday the Cubs received a dominant 7 inning start from defending Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta, who lowered his ERA to 1.29. The Cubs took the game 8-1 against the Giants who looked to never look comfortable against Arrieta. The win extended the Cubs winning streak to 22 games when Arrieta starts (his personal streak is at 19 consecutive wins without taking a loss). During the game the Cubs had a scare after Jason Heyward was injured after making an incredible catch in the Outfield and colliding with the wall in Right Field. Luckily, he’s only expected to miss up to 5 games and will not need a DL stint.
Here is what Arrieta had to say after his victory against the Giants:
“Timing wise, I’m still not there, It might sound kind of stupid, but personally, there’s a little more in the tank. Once I get fine-tuned and get everything working, it’s going to get tougher for the opponent. But if I have a game like (Friday) where I have to battle and sequence different, keep them off balance, I’m capable of doing that.
It does indeed sound a little crazy, but Jake has been a bit off with his control. He has already walked 20 batters, almost half way to his 2015 mark of 48. However; Jake having 2 plus plus pitchers (Sinker, Slider) along with his other three offerings being above league average (while his Changeup is at times devastating when he decides to use the offering), he is able to keep hitters off balance and guessing at the plate. Even with his having slight control issues early on, his command within the strike zone has been excellent.
Lester Finally Struggles
Yesterday was perhaps the most frustrating game of the week for the Cubs. Jon Lester was run after 2 2/3 innings and made two key mistakes over the plate that cost him. The double he
allowed to fellow Pitcher Matt Cain – which plated 2 runs in the first, was both poor pitch selection and location. The homerun he gave up to Buster Posey in the 3rd was simply him missing his spot out over the plate to a fantastic hitter.
The one downfall thus far in Lester’s run with the Cubs is that when he becomes visibly frustrated on the mound his performance suffers. He was visibly displeased with the strike zone offered by umpire Greg Gibson, who was not giving a centimeter on the outside corner. Lester was hitting his spots and his mistakes later in his outing may have directly resulted from him believing he was not going to get a call over the outside corner of the plate.
Lester refused to comment on whether or not he was squeezed by Gibson during the game, however he said the following according to Cubs reporter Jesse Rogers of ESPN:
Bad location, the times I was able to get ahead, I couldn’t put any guys away. Just a lot of bad situations I put myself in.
What’s Up Next
Tonight the Cubs finish up their series with Giants. Madison Bumgarner takes the ball for the Giants – while Kyle Hendricks takes the mound for the Cubs. On paper Bumgarner has the advantage, however Hendricks has the ability to give the Cubs six strong innings and give the club a chance to win. It will be a pivotal swing game for the Cubs as they embark upon a new week of play.
While they had an up and down week, First Baseman Anthony Rizzo had a great comment after last nights game – showing Joe Maddon’s influence.
If anyone thought we were going to win 140 games. You can’t ride the highs too high. I don’t think any of us did, and none of us are going to ride the lows too low.