Well that had everything. So to try and pin down one aspect or moment that doomed the Cubs to an unacceptable series split with the Reds is trying to find a needle in a stack of needles. But that’s why you pay me the big bucks.
We obviously can’t go in on Jon Lester, who might have a serious injury. His cutter coming in at 84 MPH is worrying to say the least. Because you know I want to rant and rave about walking Billy Hamilton with two strikes and two outs. And that’s how close Lester was to getting out of the 2nd with only two runs given up on a day you had a feeling the runs would pile up. Maybe his lack of location to Hamilton was due to whatever was grabbing him. And maybe Hamilton always makes it this tough? That’s hard to believe considering his .300 OBP. The Cubs always make it difficult with him. Throw a fastball at the top half to the strike zone, preferably inside but it doesn’t have to be, and let him do his worst. I can almost guarantee it won’t be much.
But let’s leave that.
The Cubs lost by three. In the 7th, 8th, and 9th, their relievers walked the leadoff man. All three of them scored. There’s your difference. This has been an issue for the Cubs pen all year, and now it’s coming home to roost.
Justin Wilson has always had a problem with walks. His anxiety in joining a new team clearly isn’t helping. Rondon didn’t have a problem with walks the two years previous, so I can only imagine it’s a confidence thing with him as well. Justin Grimm is… well we’ve been over this and over this. Grimm used to throw four pitches. Then he put it down to three. Now it’s two. The problem is his fastball is string-straight, and while it’s got pop it’s not overpowering pop. You can get to it, given it’s lack of movement. The only other option is the curve, which hitters seem to have an easy time fouling off. There’s no put away, and his locating just has never been good enough to pick corners. And he knows it. If there’s going to be any saving of Grimm, and I doubt it comes here, he’s going to have to find one of his other pitches again, be it a slider or a change (I’d vote for the latter but the former would probably just be a variation of his curve and easier to reincorporate).
So here’s the problem: The Cubs don’t really have anyone coming out of the pen you can trust to not give anyone free passes to the bases. Only Duensing and Uehara have acceptable walk rates. This isn’t going to play in October, and it might rule out an October if things continue to be this sideways in September.
Again, you’re not supposed to win games when your starter gives up nine anyway, but the Cubs were there. And had their pen not gone Picasso with the zone, they would have had a landmark win, at least for this season.
And there obviously aren’t any answers coming from outside. You’re not getting anything on the waiver wire to fix this. Rondon needs to find the plate again like he did the previous two years. Carl’s Jr. already looks like he’s recovered from his yips. Weigh Davis has had problems with this for months now. If they, or at least most, can find their control again, I’ll roll the dice with this team in the playoffs. If they don’t… at least the heartburn won’t last very long.
Then again, its not going to matter much if Lester is really hurt. Though with Lackey’s resurgence, if Quintana can overcome his season-long struggles with walks as well Arrieta-Q-Hendricks-Lackey isn’t the worst playoff rotation in history. It’s just not the best.