So there is a temptation to go fire and brimstone here. Or there was. You might be expecting that. It’s awfully disappointing. When you expect your team to finally stand up and be counted, to assert… well, anything, this feels like just about the biggest egg they’ve laid all year. Maybe the biggest one in the three years since “The Revival.”
On the other side, if I want to be calm(er), Jimmy Nelson, Chase Anderson, and Kyle Davies are really good. They’ll do this sometimes… except I’m tired of saying, “This happens sometimes,” or “That happens sometimes.” At some point, you just have to go hit the guy that’s out there, I don’t care what the conditions are.
And the Cubs got two starts more than good enough, and one from a guy who has thrown 16 more innings than he ever has in a regular season already (two more than all of last year total) while yo-yoing roles (more on this in a bit). But they weren’t good enough because the bats went to sleep at the worst possible time, which they’ve been doing all season.
But there are questions you are allowed to ask, and I think you’re allowed to ask them because they don’t have answers as far as I can tell, but they should.
Let’s look at the weekend as a whole, as much as we can.
-So Montgomery. He’s been a pretty loyal servant this year, and I’m hesitant to just bus-toss him right now. Yeah, the last two starts have been U-G-L-Y and they ain’t got no alibi. But as mentioned above, he’s pitched more innings than he ever has already, and done it in a few roles. While he was stretched out in spring training, one doesn’t know how the arm and mind will react to this until they actually do it.
And it makes one wonder if any pitcher, or how many at least, can handle being used this way. I think a multi-inning reliever has a place in today’s game, and an important one. But maybe that’s all he should be, instead of being used as a LOOGY, set-up guy, and starter as well. I don’t know, we’ll study this more intently later. You could ask if maybe it would have been a better idea to have a better plan for the 5th starter this year than a shrug emoji, which is what got Montgomery in this place.
-Ok, so today’s game. While the Cubs need offense for sure, with Hendricks out there starting La Stella at third and Happ at second sure is an interesting choice. None of the errors the Cubs made on the infield led to Shaw’s homer directly. Most likely they didn’t at all. But all of them add to extra pitches for Hendricks, with men on. They turn the line up over quickly. Maybe you’re not getting to Shaw in the 6th for a third time if you have an infield that isn’t wearing cinderblocks on their left hands. You can’t prove any of this, but you feel it.
-Again, maybe that’s talent or skills, but it once again shows a team not making all the plays and not being quite as locked in. Javy Baez, just about the only one who has the excuse of fatigue as he’s had to play all of these 20 in a row just about, makes an error that he wouldn’t normally and forgets to cover a base. This is the kind of thing if you’re an NL power don’t happen all year like they have been. That sounds like I’m hanging Javy Danger out to dry and I don’t want to. I’m just using him as an example.
-If the idea was getting productive bats out there, then just what the fuck is Jason Heyward doing out there? Look, I still love J-Hey but we’re almost two seasons into this. This is what he is. He has a 72 wRC+ the past month. In the 6th, with two outs you’ve got a runner on third and you have to get that runner in. Why is Heyward taking the AB? Good karma? Faith? These things have passed. I have waited and begged for my JD Drew Moment from J-Hey, and it’s not coming. You have to pinch-hit there, even with two outs. You have to get that run, or give yourself the best chance of doing so. Zobrist has hit very well lately.
-All of which suggests the manager is too busy telling me how groovy things are to notice that it’s not right. His team is making errors or mental mistakes, his lineups are weird, and things haven’t really “clicked” or more than two weeks all season. No, I don’t want him sewing panic or hysteria, as that would make things work. I’d just like to know that he’s actually noticing.
I still am highly confident this team will limp or stumble or just kind of meander its way to the division. But a “great awakening’…I’m kind of waving the white flag on it. No, it doesn’t have a “W” on it. Sure, maybe they can just turn it on, all the way up, come the playoffs. And hell, the way things are going they might not even have to face Strasburg, Scherzer, and Gonzalez. Though I don’t know that Kershaw, Hill, Darvish/Wood/whatever is much of a let-up. Either way, we’re still looking for proof they can do anything for three-to-five games against any collection like that. Which is not a good place to be.