What You Need To Know: Ride the Chatwood Snake (are we still doing phrasing?).
You’ve seen this start before. Tyler Chatwood is so bad it’s good, like pizza or comedy (or other stuff). He walked seven while getting 14 outs, but because he was so all over the place the Phillies couldn’t zero in on anything (or refrain from writing their wills in their head). He was an out away from qualifying for the win. He struck out six, so that’s something I guess. Anyway, as in most of Chatwood’s starts the Cubs ‘pen was able to take to the baton to the finish line without falling over, and the offense scratched out just enough to outlast a very good Nick Pivetta and Philly (Phillie?) bullpen.
Next Level: I know the default position of any mouth-breathing, Miller Lite-stained fan is to claim to send someone to the minors. So I don’t want to join the chorus. And the only reason I think it might be good for Chatwood is to provide a mental break, not a physical alteration. It’s clear the weight of the world is on him, because after a couple walks today—mostly with two out—he was cursing himself out loud enough for the rooftop goers to blush. The pressure is obviously immense, and with Montgomery doing what he’s doing the Cubs could certainly survive. Maybe working on things where the stakes aren’t so high is the answer.
At the end of the day, you’d take five innings with one run surrendered from your fifth starter every day. Or you would if the rest of the rotation was consistently slapping it, which they’re circling, but they’re not quite there yet. Walking seven just isn’t going to get it done, and Chatwood might need a massive overhaul of his motion to get the most out of what is unquestionably good stuff. That’s nearly impossible to do midseason but solutions welcome.
Anthony Rizzo pulverized another ball to right today, apparently something personal with the scoreboard or patio area over there. It’s always good to see him turn on high and inside fastballs, which he’s done the past two nights.
The ‘pen wasn’t totally masterful, as Brian Duensing had some adventures, but Justin Wilson, Pedro Strop, and Brandon Morrow were clean without raising a fuss. Morrow should probably find his slider or splitter a little more often, but whatever works. It was a day of revenge for the bullpen as Cishek got a chance to sit down Aaron Altherr in a big spot, and Morrow got to do the same to Dylan Cozens. Overall, the Fightins’ left 13 guys on. The high wire act is fine when you don’t fall off.
The big talking point will be Albert Almora’s run off Anthony Rizzo’s sac fly. It was the first illegal blocking call we’ve seen in some ages, and I guess I have to say it was the right call. Andrew Knapp started in the way and only got more so catching the ball, and Almora didn’t have anywhere to go. Of course, he might have gotten around Knapp before the ball got there if he wasn’t defensive-tackle-after-a-fumble-recovery slow, but we can’t change that. It’s impossible for Knapp, as even if he’s standing in front of the plate, catching that throw would take him into the line.
The problem is the plate is different from the other bases, in a stunning piece of baseball analysis. If you block third base and force a runner to go wide, he still has to find a way to hang onto the base. At the plate runners can tap a pinky as they slide by, going to a place where catchers can’t get to if they have to leave the whole lane open. I’m not sure there is a right answer. But I guess the right answer is always the one that goes for the Cubs.
Top Play (WPA): Big Tony’s big fly in the fourth was the Cubs’ top play on the afternoon (+.130).
Bottom Play (WPA): Brian Duensing entered his second inning of work in the sixth, and it showed. After a single and a botched fielder’s choice due to a Kris Bryant error (what is going on with him?), Duensing struck out Odubel Herrera. Rookie Scott Kingery took a 1-0 Duensing offering for a ride to left, though, doubling and scoring two to bring the game within one run (-.186). Luckily, Duensing and Steve Cishek slammed the door on that rally quickly.
Lead photo courtesty Patrick Gorski—USA Today Sports