What You Need to Know:
After Sal Romano and Mike Montgomery spent four innings looking like dueling Cy-Young candidates, the Cubs remembered that, despite weekend evidence to the contrary, they did indeed know how to play baseball. They blew up Romano’s leisurely Sunday afternoon to the tune of five (two-out!) runs in the fifth courtesy of a two-run double by Jason Heyward (because he’s good now), a Javier Baez RBI-single, and an Anthony Rizzo two-run home run. The Reds responded with a pinch-hit, solo home run from pitcher Michael Lorenzen. Apparently, the Reds could just run out a lineup full of pitchers and they’d beat the Cubs 74-to-6.
Montgomery continued rolling into the seventh until the Reds remembered that they’ve crushed the Cubs all weekend. He allowed the first three batters to reach and was removed for Pedro Strop, who promptly allowed a three-run home run to Jesse Winker, and then (approximately) 52 consecutive hits. A 6-1 Cubs lead was an 8-6 deficit by the end of the inning. And two innings later, the sweep was official. Can’t say I predicted that at the beginning of the weekend.
- Seventh inning not withstanding, there is just no way Mike Montgomery doesn’t remain in the starting rotation, right? Hitters are slashing .170/.228/.248. For a little context, Jake Arrieta in the second half of 2015, where he was basically the greatest pitcher of all time, had an opponent slash line of .148/.204/.208. If you want to look at a possible concern area, you could look at Montgomery’s insane .188 BABIP. While that’s indicative of him being difficult to square up, you can almost guarantee some type of reckoning is coming. Even 2015 Arrieta’s was .205.
- Speaking of a reckoning, the Cubs bullpen was overdue for one, and we’ve been enduring it for a little while now. Today’s game was no different. Pedro Strop had his doors blown off –allowing the home run, followed by five straight hits. Over the last two weeks, the bullpen ERA is over six, and with Brandon Morrow and Carl Edwards Jr. out, the Cubs are in one of those unfortunate stretches where no one arm feels particularly reliable. If there was one who had survived the recent implosion, it was Strop. Until today. Welcome to the party, Pedro.
- Over 133 plate appearances, Albert Almora Jr. is hitting .350/.386/.455 from the lead-off spot. Argue all you want about the Almora v. Happ debate, or the legitimacy of the prototypical lead-off hitter, or that Almora’s success is due to favorable situations, but until he stops hitting .350, I’m putting him there every freaking day.
- Buried in this miserable weekend of Cubs baseball was the return of Willson Contreras’s slugging. He homered on Saturday and doubled off the wall Sunday –his first extra base hits since June 6th. Keep an eye out.
Top WPA Play: Jason Heyward’s opposite field, two-run double in the fifth broke a scoreless tie and sent Sal Romano into a death spiral. (+.245)
Bottom WPA Play: Freshly-minted Cub nemesis Jesse Winker’s three-run home run off of Pedro Strop cut the Reds’ deficit to 6-5, but ended up as only the opening salvo to a seven-run explosion. (-.182)
Up Next: The Cubs head west to take on the Los Angeles Dodgers for a four-game series. Anywhere but Cincinnati is fine.
Lead photo courtesy Aaron Doster—USA Today Sports