Hairball: Bearded Cubs Bullpen Coughs up Another Game

Only 24 hours removed from a collapse engineered by Phil Coke and Hector Rondon, the Cubs’ bullpen was at it again. Now, I’d be remiss if I didn’t properly assign a bit of blame to both Jon Lester, who failed to make it out of the 6th inning and is sporting a hefty 6.89 ERA in 3 starts, and the Cubs offense.

Things could definitely be worse for the 0-2 Cubs ace though; for instance, he could be 0-3 with a 10.34 ERA for the Brewers. Those are purely hypothetical totals though and any resemblance to Kyle Lohse are purely coincidental.

And what’s more, Lester made a pretty sweet heads-up play after getting a come-backer lodged in his mitt. Were it not for the stagnation of his run support and the inability of the hirsute hurlers who replaced him to keep the Padres from collecting hits, “I Glove You, Man” might have been my title.


I should also point out that San Diego’s starter was pretty solid today too. It’s a bit much to say Cashner ruled everything around me, but he pitched well enough to get his team a win. Of course, his job got a bit easier once his counterpart gave way to a dude who looked like he’d been hawking chicken salad sandwiches at a Phish concert.

It’s really not fair for me to be too disparaging of Brian Schlitter, particularly after seeing the way I pitched to the kids on my rookie Little League team. Then again, maybe I’m the perfect critic. After all, both of appear to be pretty adept at grooving good pitches to the batters we face.

If I may further paraphrase the Wu-Tang Clan, Schlitter consistently ruins everything around me (S.C.R.E.A.M!). A dude who can rock such a glorious beard should really be a beloved character too though. Aside from folks who put of signs about long-haired freaky people, you’ve almost got to actively try to make fans not like you when you look like that. Schlitter appears to be trying.

After sloppily finishing up two outs of mop-up work in the 6th, Tom Hanks’ Castaway stunt double gave way to fellow facial fleece farmer Jason Motte. Yet another dude that I really want to embrace, Motte is active in philanthropy and just seems to be an all-around good guy.

Trouble is, being cool and likeable doesn’t retire hitters. That was particularly true for Yangervis Solarte, who mashed one of Motte’s 7th-inning offerings into applesauce for a 2-run homer. Far be it for me to tell a guy to shave, but maybe Motte and Schlitter would do best to take a cue from Rick Grimes.

Walking Dead fans might counter by saying that Grimes went as crazy as an outhouse rat upon taking a blade to his beard, but since Wrigley’s already home to more than enough of said vermin I don’t imagine two more would be much of an issue. But I digress.

I have spent plenty of blog space fawning over Joe Maddon, but I think it’s time I focus a bit of the blame for today’s outcome on him as well. He is, after all, the one who chose to send these guys out to the mound. I just can’t see a plausible reason for having Brian Schlitter in the game in a high-leverage situation.

At the same time, such situations are going be be inevitable when you’re missing your two most reliable arms in the pen (Neil Ramirez and Justin Grimm) and your starters can’t seem to go deep into games. As a unit, the bullpen has been getting a lot of use and we’re only 11 games deep in the season.

Consider for a moment that Edwin Jackson is one of the most reliable arms outside of the starters at this point. Yeah, I can’t believe I wrote that either. Granted, he’s only made 2 appearances, but E-Jax has only given up 2 hits in 4 innings of work thus far. I’m still leery of giving him higher-leverage innings, but it may soon become unavoidable.

It’s entirely possible that the aforementioned injuries heal up fully and are no longer issues as the Cubs head into the dog days of summer, but these are exactly the kinds of situations that greatly reduce the margin for error for a team that had precious little to begin with.

The offense has all kinds of potential to mask the occasional pitching hiccup, but what happens if those involuntary contractions of the diaphragm become chronic. Scaring them away with Schlitter didn’t work, though holding my breath through Jackson’s stint seemed to help.

In any case, this Padres series was likely a microcosm for what the rest of the season will hold. This is a team that’s going to be in a lot of games and we’re going to see many a contest that could go either way for the Cubs. As such, there will be plenty of disappointments to counter the euphoric walk-off moments.

But lest I sound a bit too much like Eeyore, I think that’s actually a good thing. After all, it’s only with an expectation of success that you can be let down. Odd as it may sound, being disappointed in this team may actually be a good thing…as long as it doesn’t happen too often.

Speaking of things happening too often, what the deal with people catching foul balls in beer cups all of a sudden?


So I guess there’s that to be excited about.


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