What You Need to Know:
Old. 78 combined years of age. Those were the first things I thought of when I saw who the starting pictures were going to be for today’s game. Cincinnati’s Bronson Arroyo is in his 16th year in the majors, despite missing the last two years. And as for the Cubs’ John Lackey, this is his 15th season in the majors. Arroyo’s ERA was over eight heading into the game while Lackey’s was right at four. This was either going to be a masterful display of wily veteran pitching or a case of whose bullpen could get ready first. It turned out to be a bit of both.
A seven-pitch first inning by Arroyo did not bode well. Both Schwarber and Bryant attacked the first pitch Arroyo threw them and next thing you know, the inning was over. Then, in the bottom of the first, Billy Hamilton worked a nine pitch at-bat, turned it into a single, stole second base, then third, and basically did Billy Hamilton type stuff. Joey Votto sent a fly deep to right center to bring Hamilton in, 1-0 Reds.
The second inning saw Arroyo only throw seven more pitches. This was not looking good. On the other hand, it was only a one-run deficit. But Reds OF Scott Schebler proceeded to hit one in the stands in the second to make it 2-0 Reds. Still just two runs. No biggie. The Cubs just needed to take Cub style at-bats.
Next Level: Time to Adjust
After the third inning, I wondered if I was witnessing something magical. 24 pitches with no hits made it seem so. Nevertheless, the Cubs began to take more pitches the second time through the order. Schwarber saw five before he flew out to left center and then Bryant snapped the no-no by lacing the second pitch to left for a single.
Next thing you know, Rizzo jacked one up to right. Cubs 2, Reds 2. At this point, I was waiting for the Cubs to see Arroyo for a third time. But the newly noted Cub-killer Schebler made it 3-2 with a RBI single in the fourth. Just as it seemed the Cubs were getting back into the game, fortunes changed.
After four, Lackey had thrown 77 pitches. Lackey might make it one more inning. He did. I was surprised to see Lackey come out for the sixth with almost 90 pitches already under his belt. It did not go well as he gave up four runs, three of them on a bases-clearing double by Patrick Kivlehan. The Reds added one more that inning to make it 7-2.
I don’t think it was wrong of Madden to send Lackey out for one more inning. He’s a veteran pitcher. I didn’t think Maddon would leave him out to dry after the first two hitters got on board. Next thing you know, the game was almost out of reach.
All I could think of in the sixth inning was “What would Eddie Butler do in a situation like this?” I think those thoughts are normal to have, but also somewhat premature for April. If this was July, then that might be a different story.
The Cubs put a scare into the Reds in the ninth until a Miguel Montero double-play grounder crushed hopes of another miraculous comeback.
So much for the sweep.
However, two out of three on the road isn’t bad.
Top WPA play:
Rizzo’s fourth inning homer (+.199)
Bottom WPA play:
Montero’s double play in the ninth (-.140)
The 10-8 first place Cubs travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Starling Marte-less Pirates starting on Monday. The World Series Champions will throw Brett Anderson (4.40 ERA) against the Bucs’ Chad Kuhl (2.60 ERA) to open the series.
Lead photo courtesy David Kohl—USA Today Sports