Bullpen Session

Bullpen Session 4.22.19

4th; -2.5
Streak: W

The Cubs won 2 of 3 against Arizona … Lake Michigan winds added excitement on Friday and Saturday … David Bote’s walk-off single was a thrilling ending to the series … After a (1-6) start the Cubs have climbed back to .500.

-Fri: Cubs win, 5-1
-Sat: D-Backs win, 6-0
-Sun: Cubs win, 2-1 *David Bote walk-off single

FRIDAY: The D-backs infield struggled to field wind-aided fly balls — that was the difference in the game … Professor Hendricks went 7 scoreless and struck out 11 … It was the third consecutive outing by a Cubs starter of 7 scoreless innings (Quintana & Hamels vs. Miami).

SATURDAY: Arizona hit … the Cubs didn’t … Yu Darvish (5 IP, 3 R, 5 H) allowed back-to-back dingers in the first … that was all Zack Greinke would need … He kept the Cubs quite through six efficient innings (0 R, 3 H) … and earned the win — the first of his career at Wrigley Field … Greinke now has at least one win in every National League ballpark.

More history from Saturday’s game … D-backs rookie reliever Taylor Clarke earned the save and recorded his first career hit, an infield single, becoming the first pitcher with a save and a hit in his major league debut since saves became an official stat in 1969, according to the Elias Sports Bureau … Clark was optioned to Triple-A Reno following the game.

SUNDAY: Tyler Chatwood threw strikes … for six scoreless innings … and issued only two free passes … both were wiped out on twin-killings. You couldn’t have asked for a better outing … who knew he had it in him?

Robbie Ray matched Chatwood’s zeros until  a Baez triple scored Rizzo in the sixth.

Pedro Strop failed to protect the 1-0 lead in the ninth when Jarrod Dyson — he of 16 career home runs in nearly 2,000 at-bats — tied the game with a solo HR to right … Strop kept the damage to a run to set the stage for a dramatic finish in the bottom of the inning.

Baez led off with a triple against closer Archie Bradley … Contreras was hit by a pitch to put runners on the corners with no outs, David Bote delivered the walk-off single.

Rizzo: 4-8, R, RBI, 2 BB, 0 K
Bryant: 3-10, R, 2 RBI, 3 BB, 1 K
Contreras: 3-9, RBI, 2 BB, 2 K

Taking the series was all about the Cubs pitching. The Cubs offense was mostly lucky … half of the 7 runs scored crossed the plate due to fielding miscues by Arizona … 
The Cubs didn’t homer in the series (AZ hit 4 HR) … they struck out 19 times … went 5-for-28 (.178) with RISP … Without the Lake Michigan winds, the Cubs likely lose this series … The Dodgers come to town on Tuesday leading the NL in runs scored (136).

Brandon Morrow is out indefinitely after experiencing a setback in his recovery from a right elbow injury … It’s probably safe to assume he won’t return this season … and even if he does, can the Cubs count on him?

Strop is a capable closer, but ideally you want him in the set-up role. That leaves either Steve Cishek (125 career saves) or Brandon Kintzler (48 career saves) to spell Morrow.

The real question is whether any of the three are a long-term solutions or do the Cubs needs to look outside the organization?

Right-hander Alec Mills has been recalled from Triple-A Iowa. Lefty Randy Rosario was sent down.

NEXT – Tue. vs. LAD, 7:05 p.m. CT
Kenta Maeda (3-1, 3.80 ERA)
Jose Quintana (2-1, 3.43 ERA)

Know Thy Enemy

Know Thy Enemy – D•backs

On Nov. 4, 2016, two days after the Cubs won the World Series, the Diamondbacks named Torey Lovullo manager. In his first season, the D-backs won 93 games, an improvement of 24 victories from the season prior, and Lovullo took home the NL Manager of the Year Award. The following year the club won 9 consecutive series to open the season, but lost momentum in the second half and finished one game above .500. Now in his third season, Lovullo is simply trying to keep his team afloat after losing three of his best players during the offseason: Paul Goldschmidt, Patrick Corbin and A.J. Pollack

Zack Greinke … 3-years, $95.5M remaining on his contract … he’s been better than you might’ve guessed with Arizona: 95 GS, 56 quality starts, 3.53 ERA … his 10.2 WAR over the last two seasons ranks among the league leaders. Robbie Ray … became the first pitcher in MLB history to strike out 165 batters in 125 innings or fewer. Zack Godley … finished last season with 15 wins … but also had the highest WHIP 1.45 among NL qualifiers. Luke Weaver … arrived via the Goldschmidt trade. Merrill Kelly … spent the last four years pitching in Korea … he starts Friday’s game at Wrigley. Taijuan Walker … is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and is expected back midseason.

Archie Bradley … has led the majors the past two seasons in holds (61). Yoshihisa Hirano … signed last season as a free agent from Japan … his 32 holds set a franchise rookie record … is vying to be the everyday closer. Andrew Chafin … a lefty specialist who will try to neutralize Rizzo, Schwarber, Heyward, and Descalso.

Adam Jones … 2018: played 145 games; led Orioles in average, hits , doubles, RBI and multi-hit games … elected free agency after the season … no takers until the D-backs signed him—on March 11 … Since joining Arizona, Jones ranks second on the club in runs, hits, HR, RBI, BB, avg., and OBP … What a steal.

Shortstop Nick Ahmed won his first Gold Glove last year. Second baseman Ketel Marte’s bat finally matched his strong defense; he led the NL in triples (12) and set career highs in doubles (33), HR (16) , and RBI (70).

David Peralta had a breakout season in 2018: .293 avg., 30 HR, 87 RBI, .868 OPS … and won the Silver Slugger Award alongside outfielders Christian Yelich and Nick Markakis.

Familiar faces on the coaching staff: Eric Hinske … was the Cubs first base coach in 2014 … and the assistant hitting coach from 2015-17 … spent 2018 as the hitting coach for the Angles … joins the Diamondbacks as their assistant hitting coach. Dave McKay … Spent two seasons as first base coach with the Cubs from 2012-13 … is in his sixth season as the D-backs’ first base coach. Joe Mather … former Cubs outfielder (2012) … is the D-backs Minor League Field/Hitting Coordinator. Dan Haren … started 11 games for the Cubs in 2015 … retired after that season … now serves as the D-backs pitching strategist.

The Diamondbacks reintroduced the bullpen cart in 2018. It turns out they didn’t need to. The only home pitcher to hail a ride was Brad Ziegler, who has since retired. The first ride belonged to Houston’s Collin McHugh; Washington’s Sean Doolittle took advantage on three occasions.

The Diamondbacks (10-9) enter Wrigley having swept the Braves in a three-game set in Atlanta. Probable starters this weekend: RHP Merrill Kelly (1-1, 3.79 ERA); Zack Greinke (2-1, 5.79 ERA); Robbie Ray (0-1, 4.64 ERA). A formidable threesome.

Bullpen Session

Bullpen Session 4.18.19

4th; -3.0
Streak: W W W

CHC 6 – MIA 0
Cole Hamels put the finishing touch on the Cubs three-game sweep in Miami. Javy Báez homered for a second consecutive game; Daniel Descalso had two hits and three RBI; and Jason Heyward drove in a run. The Cubs went 4-for-5 with RISP and scored all six runs with two outs. The Marlins (4-16) have the fewest wins in baseball having dropped 9 of 10. The Cubs have won 6 of 8 to pull within a game of .500.

Descalso: 2-3, 2B, 3 RBI
Báez: 2-4, 2 R, HR (6) 2 RBI
Heyward: 1-4, RBI

Bryant: 1-4, 2 K
Rizzo: 0-4, K

Hamels: 7.0 IP — 0 R, 3 H — 0 BB, 8 K
Bullpen: 2.0 IP — 0 R, 2 H — 0 BB, 1 K

Hamels aggressively attack the strike zone throwing 67-percent of his 97 pitches for strikes. He kept the ball down: 11 ground outs, zero fly ball outs. At one stretch he retired 15 batters in-a-row. Hamels’ last three outings: 21.0 IP, 3 ER, 0 BB & 19 Ks.

Cubs starters dominated the series. Yu Darvish allowed two runs in the opener while Quintana and Hamels combined for 14.0 scoreless innings; the bullpen was spotless in all three contests. Granted, it was the lowly Marlins, but this is exactly what good pitching should do against a listless offense.

The Cubs outscored Miami 17-2 in the series. Báez: 8-13, 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 6 R.

For the season: .159 avg., .312 OBP, 4 XBH, 3 HR, 12 BB, 15 K

*The average number of walks and hits by a pitcher; Hits plus walks allowed divided by innings pitched.

0.85 – Hamels
1.29 – Quintana
1.36 – Lester
1.75 – Darvish
2.18 – Hendricks

Wednesday marked the Cubs shortest game time this season: 2:25.

LAST 10 NL Central
(7-3) – Chicago
(7-3) – Pittsburgh
(7-3) – St. Louis
(5-5) – Milwaukee
(4-6) – Cincinnati

The Cubs are off on Thursday and begin a weekend home series on Friday against Arizona. Hendricks (0-3, 5.40 ERA); Darvish (1-2, 6.11 ERA); Quintana (2-1, 3.43 ERA).

Bullpen Session

Bullpen Session 4.17.19

4th; -4.0
Streak: W W

CHC 4 – MIA 0
The hapless Marlins never had a chance. Jose Quintana threw 7 scoreless innings, did not walk a batter, and struck out 7. Báez went 3-4 including a 439-ft opposite-field home run. Daniel Descalso reached base four times: two hits and two walks; and David Bote had two hits and scored twice. Brandon Kintzler and Pedro Strop preserved the shutout. The Cubs have won 5 of 6, including the first two in Miami, and can sweep the series Wednesday.

Báez: 3-4, 2 R, HR (5) RBI
Bote: 2-3, 2 R, RBI
Descalso: 2-3, 2 BB, RBI

Bryant: 0-5, K
Rizzo: 0-4, K

Quintana: 7.0 IP — 0 R, 6 H — 0 BB, 7 K

Back-to-back strong outings for Q: 14 scoreless innings, 1 walk, 18 Ks. The Marlins had one—ONE—fly ball out against him on Tuesday, and 8 ground outs.

Cubs shortstops in the last 60 years with three consecutive three-hit games.

Last three games combined: 9-14, 6 XBH

I’m seeing the ball really good right now. This is the hottest that I’ve been this year. I’m just trying to focus on keeping it that way and swinging at pitches in the zone.” —Báez

Will we remember the name Isaac Galloway? I know we’ll remember his throw to cut down Descalso at third. An absolute sniper shot. A hose reminiscent of Jose Guillen in right field.

Heyward’s and Bote’s offensive consistency has surprised me. They both get it done on defense.

Bryant and Contreras have been plunked four times between them in the last two games.

3 — Contreras
3 — Bryant
2 — Rizzo
1 — Bote

Albert Alomra Jr. – 4.16.94

Mike Montgomery’s wife gave birth to the couple’s first child on Tuesday. His planned rehab start (lat strain) at Single-A South Bend will be rescheduled.

Good for Carlos Zambrano, 37, on joining the Chicago Dogs of the Independent American Association. If anything, he’ll be a gate draw at Impact Field in Rosemont. I don’t expect much from Z on the mound, but I wouldn’t be surprise if he can still hit for power and maybe even see time as a DH.

NEXT – Wed. MIA, 6:10 CT
Cole Hamels (2-0, 3.79)
Sandy Alcantara (1-1, 4.24)

Bullpen Session

Bullpen Session 4.16.19

4th; -4.0
Streak: W

CHC 7 – MIA 2
Yu Darvish was staked to a 3-0 lead before throwing a pitch; Willson Contreras drew a bases loaded walk and David Bote’s double scored two. Chad Wallach homered off Darvish in the 4th to bring the Marlins within a run, 3-2. But that was all for the Fish. The Cubs tacked on two in the 5th and Contreras wrapped up the scoring with a solo HR in the 7th and an RBI single in the 9th.

Contreras: 2-3, HR (6), 3 RBI
Báez: 3-5, 2 R, RBI
Bote: 1-5, 3 RBI

Darvish: 5.2 IP — 2 R, 4 H — 4 BB, 8 K
Bullpen: 3.1 IP — 0 R, 2 H — 1 BB, 5 K

Contreras has been the steady hand in the lineup. He’s hitting for average (.341), he’s hitting for power (6 HR), and he leads the team in OBP (.471).

Rizzo (0-3) is in a 1-for-20 slump. He has one multi-hit outing this season: March 31 at Texas. On the plus side, he leads the team in walks (12).

Almora Jr. (45 AB) and Zobrist (44 AB) have zero extra base hits between them.

Heyward: 43 AB — 10 BB, 5 K — OBP .455. Can he keep it going?

Báez’s last two games: 6-10, 4 2B, 3 RBI.

Darvish’s outing was just okay. That’s good enough against a lowly Marlins lineup, but he has yet to pitch with sharp command or complete 6 innings. The expectations for Darvish are way higher, which is why his season has become such a tiresome waiting game.

9 — Báez
8 — Contreras
6 — Bryant
5 — Heyward
4 — Bote

Miami’s bench coach is former big leaguer Tim Wallach. His son, Chad, was the Marlins starting catcher on Monday. He homered off Darvish in the 4th.

Jose Quintana (1-1, 5.14)
Pablo Lopez (1-1, 6.60)

Sunday’s PPD game against the Angels will be played on Monday, June 3 at 3:05 p.m. CDT.

Know Thy Enemy

Know Thy Enemy – Marlins

Let’s get one thing straight. The home run sculpture is gone—and that’s a shame. The monstrosity will eventually be displayed for fan amusement outside the ballpark by 2020. Filling the sculpture void is a multi-tiered deck, complete with a cocktail bar; palm trees and ivy will adorn the left field bleachers; and the once lime-colored outfield walls have been painted blue.

Miami Marlins logos

But that’s not all. The Marlins have an updated logo and new threads to match. The visual re-branding is focused on embracing Miami’s “vibe.” I’m probably in the minority, but I was fond of the rainbow-color theme that’s being replaced; a look, I felt, stood out and was unmistakably Miami. 

Although I do appreciate the return of the marlin logo to the cap, the new color set is too heavy on black and too light on ‘90s teal. If Miami’s “vibe” is the glow of a neon bar sign, the Marlins nailed it. Maybe the new fashion grows on me, maybe not. That’s beside the point. What’s more important is that the Marlins stick with the brand for more than a half-decade instead of consistently reinforcing the perception that the entire organization is perpetually in a destabilized state of re-branding and rebuilding.

Don Mattingly is in his fourth season as manager, and the last year of his contract. Under his guidance, the Marlins are (219-265) and have seen their win total drop in three consecutive seasons: 79, 77, 63. Ownership hasn’t done him any favors. The trade departures of Giancarlo Stanton in December of 2017, and Christian Yelich a month later, left Mattingly with 24 rookie-eligible players in 2018. In the offseason, the Fish lost two reliable bullpen arms (Kyle Barraclough and Brad Ziegler) and failed to re-sign star catcher J.T Realmuto. It’s clear CEO Derek Jeter is committed to a complete rebuild with younger, inexperienced players who are years away from contending, regardless of whether it’s Mattingly at the helm or someone new.

The club did, however, add a couple of aging vets on short-term deals: Curtis Granderson, 38, Sergio Romo, 36, and Neil Walker, 33.

Then there’s Starlin Castro, 29, — part of the return package from the Yankees for Stanton — who’s in his second year in Miami. Castro suited up in 154 games at second (four games as a DH) and slashed .278/.329/.400 with 12 HR, 54 RBI, 48 BB, 124 K. Castro, in the final year of his contract, is likely on the move again via trade come July.

CF Lewis Brinson, 25 — part of the return package from Milwaukee for Yelich — has struggled mightily at the plate. In 382 at-bats last year, he hit .199 avg. with 120 Ks. — an improvement from his .106 avg. in 21 games during his lone season with the Brewers. He’s not one for drawing walks, either: 17 last year and 1 in 57 at-bats this season. All Yelich has done is win the NL MVP Award.

Ichiro’s swan song with the Mariners ended in March with the announcement of his retirement following the conclusion of MLB’s opening series in Japan. During his three-year tenure in Miami (age 41-43 seasons), Ichiro played in 432 games and slashed .256/.315/.325; and, of course, will be forever linked to the Marlins organization for recording his 3,000th career hit (MLB) with the club at Coors Field on August 8, 2016.

The Marlins are (4-12) heading into Monday’s game against the Cubs.

Bullpen Session

Bullpen Session 4.14.19

5th; -4.5
Streak: L

LAA 6 – CHC 5
The Angels jumped out to a 3-0 lead. In the 3rd, Javy’s first doubles scored Kyle Hendricks; his second two-bagger scored Rizzo in the 5th, and cut the deficit to 3-2. The Halos coaxed two bases loaded walks in the 6th; Brad Brach walked Albert Pujols, and Randy Rosario walked Cole Calhoun, stretching the lead to, 5-2. A sac fly by Peter Bourjos in the 8th made it, 6-2. The Cubs made it interesting in their final two at-bats. Mark Zagunis delivered a pinch-hit, two-run single in the 8th; and Jason Heyward’s sac fly in the 9th brought the Cubs within one, 6-5. But with the tying run 90-feet away, closer Cody Allen got a favorable checked-swing call on Kyle Schwarber to end the threat, and the game. The Angels have won 7 of 8; the Cubs have dropped 9 of 14.

Báez: 3-5, 3-2B, 2 RBI
Heyward: 2-3, RBI
Zagunis: 1-1, 2 RBI

The Cubs had Allen on the ropes in the 9th. When Brian Goodwin dropped Heyward’s shallow pop it felt inevitable the Cubs would complete a glorious comeback—which they may have done had it not been for the close check-swing call on Schwarber.

Kyle Hendricks has a grand total of 13.1 IP in his three starts. He’s yet to make it past the fifth. The Cubs simply need more innings from him.

It’s one thing to throw pitches out of the zone during a bases loaded at-bat. But an entirely different matter to issue a walk in that situation. That shouldn’t happen. Cub relievers did it twice in one inning on Saturday—and lost the game by a run.

Double-digit strikeouts in 4 of the past 5 games (9 Ks in the other).
Schwarber: .192 avg.
Rizzo: .192 avg.
KB: .231 avg.

Willson Contreras (3) and Victor Caratini (1) have four catcher’s interference calls between them. It’s the strangest thing. And it’s no longer bad luck with Willson. Obviously, a slight — I assume — adjustment receiving pitches needs to be made.

Tommy La Stella reached base in all four plate appearances on Saturday, three walks and Willson’s catcher’s interference.

Sunday 1:20 p.m. CT
Trevor Cahill (1-1, 3.50 ERA)
Tyler Chatwood (0-0, 7.20 ERA)

Sunday’s forecast predicts temperatures in the mid-30s with a wintery mix of rain and snow. No surprise here if the Cubs do everything in their power to postpone the game, and avoid a spot-start from Chatwood.

That didn’t take long. Sunday’s game was postponed at 8:30 a.m. CT. A make-up date has yet to be determined. The Cubs get an extra day of rest before heading to Miami for a quick three-game series Monday through Wednesday. Another off-day on Thursday, then a weekend series against Arizona at Wrigley.