The Rundown: Baserunning Gaffe Costs Cubs, Kimbrel Near Activation, Ex-Cubs Dominate Last Night’s Action

If I had to sum up last night’s 3-2 loss to the Braves, I’d have to point to the Cubs’ ghastly exhibition in baserunning in the 2nd inning. Joe Maddon called it a “trifecta.” I have some other choice words that aren’t fit to print.

That’s your ballgame right there. The Cubs had the bases loaded with only one out and all they could show for it was Adbert Alzolay, Javy Báez and Willson Contreras failing miserably to execute the A-B-Cs of the safety squeeze. If the Cubs are to miss out on the NL Central title by one game this year, I hope this is the play that all of social media points to when dissecting the season. I’m usually no glutton for punishment, but I can’t stop watching it.

The look on Maddon’s face at the end is priceless. The Cubs manager looks like Rodney Dangerfield.

Chicago should have broken the game wide open there. Braves starter Max Fried had lost all semblance of command and they had on the ropes. It would have been better had Alzolay just stood there in the batter’s box waiting to draw a game-tying walk because Fried had no clue as to how to get the ball over the plate.

If there is any consolation to last night’s game, it’s that Brad Brach looked like a major league pitcher for a change. Perhaps he is sensing that his job is in jeopardy with the team ready to activate Craig Kimbrel — and if that’s his motivation I am totally fine with it — but Brach shut down the Braves over two innings with three strikeouts and he didn’t walk a single batter.

Admittedly, it’s a lightly-hued silver lining to cling to, but it’s at least something to build on for the beleaguered reliever. It would be nice if he’d become the lights-out back-end bullpen piece he is capable of being.

Cubs News & Notes

  • Cubs minor league pitcher Danny Hultzen, the second overall  pick by the Mariners in the 2011 draft, may finally get a chance to pitch in the majors. Hultzen’s career has been derailed by shoulder injuries, but the Cubs signed Hultzen to a minor league contract last summer and he’s regained the mid-90’s fastball that convinced the Mariners to draft him so high.
  • Yu Darvish gets the start in tonight’s game against the Braves. The starter has yet to win a game as a member of the Cubs at Wrigley Field. If he gets a no-decision tonight, it will be his 11th straight start without a victory or loss, breaking the major league record. He’ll face Dallas Keuchel, making his second start for Atlanta.
  • The Cubs are impressed with the quick return to the majors by Keuchel. I didn’t think he looked that great in hist first start, so I hope they jump on him early.
  • Keuchel didn’t mince any words when talking about free agency recently.

How About That!

DJ LeMahieu went deep off Blue Jays lefty Clayton Richard to open the game for the Yankees yesterday, marking the 28th consecutive game that the Bronx Bombers have gone yard. That’s a new major league record.

White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson sprained his right ankle in last night’s game in Boston and was forced to leave. The team said later that x-rays were negative.

Anderson has been generating buzz that baseball has sorely lacked, and epitomizes MLB’s “Let the Kids Play” marketing campaign.

Rick Sweet of the San Antonio Missions won his 2,000th game as a minor league manager. That’s your Crash Davis feel-good story of the day.

The Twins are quietly becoming baseball’s unstoppable force.

Indians’ closer Brad Hand entered last night’s game against the Royals 22-for-22 in save opportunities this season. He’s not perfect anymore.

Our old pal Jesse Chavez started for the Rangers last night and delivered a gem of a performance against the Tigers.

The Rangers intend to be very open-minded at the trade deadline this year.

Tommy La Stella led off last night’s game with an inside-the-park home run for the Angels. I prefer 3 AM to “Tommy La Speedy.”

Tuesday’s Three Stars

  1. Tommy La Stella – Whenever 3 AM goes yard, he makes this list. Last night he kept the ball in play and still homered. The future AL all-star finished 2-for-4 and with his 16 dingers he has been my favorite story in baseball this season.
  2. Jesse Chavez – The former Cubs reliever went 6 1/3 innings, scattering five hits for the quality start and leading the Rangers to a 5-3 win in Detroit. Chavez struck out seven Tigers and didn’t allow a run.
  3. Daniel Vogelbach – The Mariners no longer have any star power, but Vogie comes close. He hit his 19th tater last night and deserves All-Star consideration, too.

Yes, I purposely went with three former Cubs. I could have added LeMahieu, too. Somewhere Jim Hendry is smiling.

On Deck

I start a six-day weekend tomorrow that includes a two-day 100-mile bicycle challenge for charity. I’m just bragging. Move along.

Extra Innings

Like the wretched process for inducting former players into baseball’s Hall of Fame, the process for selecting All-Stars is similarly flawed. But the game doesn’t really matter and has actually become anti-climactic in comparison to the Home Run Derby.

Still, Red Sox DH J.D. Martinez thinks that fans should have no say in deciding who plays in the mid-summer popularity contest. In case you were wondering, Martinez plays DH almost strictly, and only the AL has a voting category for his position anyway because the National League doesn’t believe in ghosts, goblins, the hidden-gunman theory, or the designated hitter.

Further, Martinez is a finalist as a DH. He just feels the underachieving Red Sox deserve greater representation than fan voting has provided. Martinez should probably just stop running his mouth and show gratitude that he’ll probably start at Progressive Field on July 9.

They Said It

  • “[Alzolay] was outstanding. I think he just kind of hit a wall there at the end.”Joe Maddon
  • “He’s going to get better. You can tell his body language, the way [Alzolay] looks and the way he’s prepared to get ready for every hitter is amazing. I like it. His tempo is really good.”Willson Contreras
  • We wanted to get [Hultzen] up to a doorstep away because his stuff so really good. And it’s the type of stuff that could succeed against big league hitters, but he’s been down for so long he’s got to prove it to himself and the organization and Iowa. We’re excited about the stuff coming out of his arm and excited for him.” – Theo Epstein
  • “I get that it’s fun for the fans and stuff like that, I get why MLB does it. At the end of the day it’s a business and they have to promote it, [but] I believe players and coaches should vote.” – J.D. Martinez

Wednesday Walk Up Song

This Magic Moment by Jay & The Americans. I believe Darvish will finally get that elusive Wrigley Field win tonight. The righty is 0-5 with a 5.66 ERA at the Friendly Confines.

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