Looks like I’m back to being Master Of Disaster. In the first half of the season, I didn’t get too upset about the results because I was fairly confident things would snap back into gear, the way they were predicted. What did bother me at times was how “loose” the Cubs looked at times. Just not locked in. Some errors here and there, some bad decisions, some poor ABs where it just looked like they weren’t all that interested. That’s bothersome. That’s the kind of thing that has to be addressed immediately, not poor performance.
I hadn’t really noticed it much since the All-Star break, but today was a “loose” game, and that’s before the bullpen did its immolated monk act.
The Nationals first run was a result of a play Kyle Schwarber has to make (and that’s whether or not you think a real center fielder, unlike Jon Jay, would have caught Difo’s liner with a better jump). Yeah yeah yeah, Schwarber is not a good fielder I know, I know. This wasn’t a play in the gap he had to stretch for or something he had to sprint back to the wall for. He just balloon-handed it.
In the seventh inning, Maddon got caught a little flat-footed leaving Lester in. Yeah, the ‘pen has been a bit beat up lately, and this is your #1 guy (say this in your Jack Palance voice), but it’s still the meat of the Nets lineup, including Daniel Murphy who the Cubs haven’t gotten out since 2014. Murphy, and then Rendon, labeled the offerings they saw.
After Rendon’s hit, Schwarber wrongly threw to third, though it’s hardly a cardinal sin. Probably figured it was an automatic double. Wouldn’t have gotten Rendon anyway, got it. Why is Bryant then roping a throw to second that ended up in right field? Then all Wieters has to do is his a fly ball, and the Nats are within one. That can’t happen.
Ok…now it’s bullpen time. Make sure all your affairs are in order.
Montgomery gets the first out of the eighth, but Harper singles. Hey, he’ll do that. Best player in the NL and all that. And here’s where the problems start. While it’s easy to claim Edwards has been a mess for a while, that’s not actually true. Only his previous two outings before this were a face-fire. His previous four were good. Still, the last two have been U-G-L-Y. Why the rush to get him back into the highest possible leverage situation? Sure, there’s something to be said for showing confidence in a young pitcher, but there’s a balance here.
Edwards wasn’t getting any of that cut or run on his fastball to Zimmerman, which I would chalk up to overthrowing. I don’t think Edwards needs to throw 96 to be effective. Whatever speed gets that silly cut to his fastball is what he needs. Falls behind Zimmerman, who is just sitting on a fastball. Lucky it stayed in the park.
Edwards’s next two offerings were two curveballs that he threw with the same expression on his face as the dude in the movie who doesn’t know whether to cut the red or blue wire on the bomb so just closes his eyes and guesses. Neither were anywhere near finished. One hits Rendon to tie the game, and the next one hits shrubbery. That’s the mark of a pitcher who simply has no confidence and is hoping for the best instead of making it.
It may be only one game, but feel the change in complexion now. If the Cubs hold on, you’d split a homestand with two playoff teams, which isn’t optimal, but you’d feel ok about given how things went down. Now you’ve lost both when you ducked Scherzer, Strasburg, and Gonzalez. You kinda needed this one today. Strop was available after only throwing yesterday. Rondon hasn’t pitched since Tuesday, somehow. Both have been highly effective of late. Where were they?
Given that Weigh Davis hasn’t been a smooth ride either lately, I’d understand if the shpilkus is rising in greater Cubdom. The fear is that the front office will do what they did in ’15 and populate the pen with waiver pickups like Cahill and Rodney, which worked…until it didn’t. The easier path is to let Carl Edwards Jr. figure it out in less tight situations and let Rondon and Strop, who both have experience in the big situations, try and steady that ship.
Top WPA Play: Willson Contreras’s first homer of the day in the fourth. (+.128)
Bottom WPA Play: You know the answer to this one, Wieters’s slam in the eighth. (-.282)
Lead photo courtesy Jim Young—USA Today Sports