The Rundown: Cubs Sleepwalk Through Loss to Pirates, Kilian Has Longest Outing at Iowa, Gallo Nearly Traded, Guardians Sweep White Sox

“Some fools fool themselves, I guess, but they’re not fooling me.” – Nazareth, Love Hurts

If I am being completely forthright, I was so disgusted with last night’s 4-3 loss to the Pirates that I just didn’t want to write this morning. But I slept on it and realized that this roster is built for mediocrity and that that means sometimes the Cubs will make inferior opponents look like playoff-caliber teams. Last night was one of those times.

Mark Leiter Jr. is never going to make the Cubs’ rotation any better, he’s just a placeholder until Caleb Kilian gets promoted. If anything, we’ve been indoctrinated into the types of outings he produces after a full season of Zach Davies in 2021. In fact, I’ve decided to preemptively seek other forms of visual entertainment when Leiter is scheduled to pitch, not just for my sanity, but for the wellness of those who follow me on social media.

Compounding things is the offensive funk Chicago’s North Side baseballers are dealing with. There was a lot of finger-pointing at the home plate umpire last night, and yesterday’s weaksauce offensive output had all of the Jason Heyward haters front and center. The Cubs struck out 10 times against five nondescript relievers and couldn’t muster a single hit after the 2nd inning. Calling out a slightly expanded strike zone and picking on a guy who did no better or worse than his teammates seems overly egregious. There is little perspicacity in collecting low-hanging fruit.

The Cubs are a confounding team. Last night aside, they control the strike zone much better this season even though only a few of their hitters are making consistently good contact. Because they lack a true power hitter, lackluster pitching performances like yesterday’s, or Wednesday’s 8-2 loss to the Rays, expose the team’s offensive flaws. Eliminating double-digit strikeouts has also eliminated those games where the Cubs can score 10 runs or more. That means that three runs may not be enough to beat a team like the Pirates unless Chicago is getting a stellar outing from its starters and relievers.

At 6-7, the Cubs are under .500 for the first time this season, making a tough short-term schedule that includes tilts with the Braves, Brewers, White Sox, and Dodgers seems overly oppressive. Few of us expect much from this team so the highlight of the season will be watching Seiya Suzuki, anticipating the big league debuts of Kilian and Brennen Davis, and monitoring trade rumors sites to see who will be leaving and who might stick around through the rebuild. Granted, it’s still taking some getting used to after 5-6 seasons of competitive baseball, but I promise we’ll come to our senses.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Jed Hoyer was right when he said baseball is still not past its COVID-19 issues.

Climbing the Ladder

The Cubs had 12 strikeouts last night, the third time in 13 games that they’ve hit double digits. Chicago was also 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and didn’t have a single extra-base hit. Suzuki struck out three times, giving him five punchouts in his last eight plate appearances.

  • Games Played: 13
  • Total Plate Appearances: 474
  • Total Strikeouts: 104
  • Strikeout Rate: 21.94%
  • Team Batting Average: .254

MLB News & Notes

Former big-league pitcher Kent Mercker is a pickleball star, whatever that means.

The Padres and Yankees reportedly discussed a potential spring training trade that would have sent Joey Gallo to San Diego.

The Padres are the first MLB team to reach a uniform endorsement deal. They’ll advertise Motorola with a patch on their right sleeves in 2023.

Would you rather build your offense around young sluggers Vladimir Guerrero Jr. or Juan Soto? Can I choose Shohei Ohtani instead?

Red Sox manager Joey Cora has tested positive for COVID-19.

The Guardians swept the White Sox and things went from bad to worse when Chicago outfielder Luis Robert suffered a minor groin strain in yesterday’s 6-3 loss.

Few starting pitchers are getting the requisite six innings to qualify for a quality start, another example of how analytics has changed the game (for better or worse).

Thursday’s Three Stars

  1. Daniel Vogelbach – His two-run homer seemed to take all the air out of the Cubs’ sails. That kind of voodoo deserves the top spot here.
  2. Sean Murphy – No ifs, and, or butts about it, the A’s catcher had every productive night, going 3-for-4 with a home run, a double, and three RBI in front of basically no fans. Oakland is averaging less than 8,000 fans per game over the last two seasons.
  3. Aaron Boone – He made the strategically sound move of intentionally walking Miguel Cabrera when the Detroit DH strolled to the plate looking for his 3,000th career hit with the Yankees down 1-0. The Tigers prevailed anyway and Cabrera will be on watch again tonight at home against the Rockies.

Suicide Squeeze

Of Cabrera’s 2,999 career hits, only one is a bunt single.

Extra Innings

Your Friday morning feel-good moment is brought to you by BSmile Baseball.

They Said It

  • “I’m going to learn every time I get out there. I think the biggest thing that I want to get over is just being confident in myself. It’s a hard game. If it was easy, everybody would do it. You hear that all the time, but it’s tough. It’s an adjustment.” – Roberts
  • “Ethan is taking some bumps and bruises and trying to establish himself as a big-league reliever. I think that stuff takes time and you’ve got to go through some rough environments and try to get out of those.”David Ross
  • “It’s been a lot of fun so far that a lot of guys are buying into the team approach whether it’s just getting good pitches to hit and just battling our [butts] off in the box. We’re aggressive early, we’re selective when we need to be and I think we just have great makeup [in our] lineup right now. We’re never out of the game.”Frank Schwindel

Friday Walk-Up Song

Hello, I Love You by The Doors – Two of my good friends went to Paris this week with the sole purpose of visiting Jim Morrison’s grave, That sounds a helluva lot more fun than watching a Cubs-Pirates contest.

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