The Rundown: Cubs Win Statement Game, Cardinals Blogger Rails on Cubs Fans, Angels Honor Skaggs with Storybook Performance
The Cubs beat the Pirates 4-3 yesterday and everybody else in the NL Central lost, so joy has been restored to Wrigleyville. There has’t been much of a convivial atmosphere surrounding the Cubs lately, so it was a pleasant change and a nice way to reboot the season.
The victory wasn’t without drama — something about Pedro Strop just doesn’t look right — but it was a statement game for Yu Darvish. That’s something both he and Joe Maddon needed, not to mention thousands of Cubs fans who have done well to (mostly) internalize their frustrations with the big righty. Darvish entered Friday’s game 0-5 with a 6.03 ERA in 12 previous home starts at the Friendly Confines.
And how about my guy J-Hey going oppo to drive in the lead run? He’s having a remarkable season and has really settled into the leadership role with this team. He had a couple sparkling defensive plays, too.
Jason Heyward takes back the lead! #EverybodyIn pic.twitter.com/p5CZAFxJFI
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 12, 2019
When was the last time you’ve heard someone say the Cubs should trade Jason Heyward?
Darvish is still winless at Wrigley Field, but he deserves an honorary W for his performance yesterday. He shut down the team that most feasts on Chicago pitching and he looked every bit the ace he has the potential to be. What impressed me most was the fact that 64 of his 92 pitches were strikes, including 13 of 21 first-pitch strikes. The key to beating the Pirates, a team that doesn’t walk as much as they should, is to get ahead in the count.
The Cubs need this version of Darvish if they’re going to make their fifth straight postseason performance. And though the personal win would be a nice get for the right-hander and would slay what is becoming a pretty monstrous shadow that follows him, I’d be fine if the Cubs just win whenever he starts. I’d have no problem if the 33-year-old starter gets his first home victory in a playoff series-clinching performance.
Cubs News & Notes
- In his own mind, Kris Bryant is “pissed” at what he termed a somewhat disappointing first half, and plans to channel that anger into even greater second-half production.
- Bryant clubbed his 18th home run of the season yesterday.
- The third baseman is every bit as good at running the bases as he is at swinging a stick (video).
- Darvish baffled the Bucs yesterday with a six-pitch repertoire.
- When the Cubs first signed Darvish, I marveled at the number of different types of pitches he could throw consistently for strikes. The first thing the front office did in his first spring with the team was to ask Darvish to focus on 3-4 of his better pitches. Maybe they should just let him unleash the full arsenal going forward.
- The Cubs need to get back to basics to break out of their first-half fog.
- Chicago began play yesterday with a 73% chance of making the playoffs.
- Cole Hamels threw Friday for the first time since being placed on the injured list. It was only a light game of catch. There is no firm timetable for his return.
- The last time these two teams met, Joe Maddon was tossed because he was upset that the Pirates were throwing at the heads of Cubs batters. The team is resigned to the fact that teams will continue to pitch them similarly and they’re not thrilled, to say the least. Yesterday’s game was incident-free.
- Paul Sullivan is the Cubs beat reporter for the Chicago Tribune, but in this morning’s column you might have thought he writes for the Pirates. Jeez.
How About That!
In the best story of the season so far, the Angels all wore #45 jerseys yesterday in honor of beloved starter Tyler Skaggs, then Taylor Cole and Felix Pena combined to no-hit the Mariners. Mike Trout noted that the Angels scored seven first-inning runs and finished with 13. Skaggs’ birthday is 7/13, tomorrow. “You can’t make this stuff up,” Trout said.
Retired Mets All-Star pitcher Dwight Gooden faces drug charges after he was caught with cocaine in New Jersey last month, according to a felony complaint released yesterday. Gooden was also charged with driving under the influence.
After telling the rest of the NL East to “come and get us” prior to the season, Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen backed down from his comments yesterday. The Mets are in fourth place at 40-50, and Van Wagenan said he is “shocked” and “disappointed” with the team’s play.
Friday’s Three Stars
- Trout – No better way to honor someone you love than to hit a home run and a pair of doubles with six RBI on said player’s tribute night.
- Domingo German – The big starter cruised through six innings of three-hit ball in blanking the Blue Jays 4-0. German had seven strikeouts without issuing a walk, and has quietly become the Yankees ace.
- Buster Posey – The catcher’s offensive production has been mostly absent this season, but Posey hit a grand slam to break a 10th-inning tie against the Brewers, leading the Giants to a 10-7 win in San Francisco.
If you feel like firing off some hate mail, Cardinals blogger Scott Wuerz is happy to provide your ammunition and he welcomes your response. Rather than attack the Cubs, he goes after their fans. Maybe he was just bored and had nothing better to do.
This is my favorite quote from his piece, because it makes no sense: “Never in the course of human endeavor have more people trashed talked [sic] about less accomplishment than the fans of the Chicago Cubs.”
Wuerz should just go back to trashing his own team and their dedication to modern analytics. Because, hey Scott, you may not have noticed, but the Cubs are no longer lovable losers because they win pretty regularly. In fact, they’ve averaged over 90 wins per season since Maddon arrived. So go home and get your shine box.
.@ScottWuerz is tired of watching the #STLCards and the rest of baseball not play the game the way it should be played. https://t.co/VQROVCuDr8
— News-Democrat (@bellevillenewsd) July 3, 2019
They Said It
- “We could have folded when Marte hit the three-run homer. It kind of took the wind out of our sails, but I was very pleased to see us come together and score right away. We’re going to need a lot of that in the second half because there are going to be times when that happens and we’re going to have to respond accordingly.” – Kris Bryant
- “It’s a great theory. Throw at Javy’s head three times and throw a slider down and away, and you’re going to get him out. So it’s scary and until Major League Baseball steps in and does something, it’s a good formula to get guys out. Throw at them, get them scared and off the plate and throw down and away.” – Anthony Rizzo
- “We made our point the other day. I’m pretty good about putting things down and moving on. I think our group is also. I really don’t anticipate any of that. We came here to play. We need to get the second half off in the right direction. We need to play baseball and play it right.” – Joe Maddon
Saturday Walk Up Song
Heroes by David Bowie. This is for Trout and all his teammates. Last night was a performance for the ages, and a perfect tribute to their late teammate. As much as I love the original, Johnny Depp and the Hollywood Vampires recorded a very admirable cover just recently.