The Rundown: Cubs Hit Rock Bottom, Bullpen Implodes, Holland & Darvish Defend Maddon, Bellinger First to 40 HR

If you were on that elevator waiting for the Cubs to hit rock bottom, you’ve reached your floor. I don’t blame you if you are afraid to exit. That’s one hot mess you’re looking at.

In what many may say was an overmanaged 8th and 9th innings, the Cubs improbably blew a 5-1 lead and lost on a walk-off grand slam by none other than Bryce Harper, who decided that this was the series he was going to show Tom Ricketts, Theo Epstein, Joe Maddon, and best pal Kris Bryant what a $330 million player looks like.

For some reason, Yu Darvish, who had just pitched a 1-2-3 7th inning on nine pitches, allegedly walked up to pitching coach Tommy Hottovy and said something to the effect of “Yeah, I’m done.” Darvish had had a monster game up to that point, striking out 10 Phillies hitters on just 92 total pitches. To say he was in complete command is the understatement of the year.

I’m not buying it, but I give Darvish a crap-ton of credit for protecting his manager. And, not that it matters to any of you anyway, but I have been patiently waiting for the Derek Holland meltdown since Epstein picked him up off the San Francisco scrap heap. This is what happens when you piecemeal a bullpen with other teams’ unwanted parts and then entrust it to a manager who has trouble using his collection of junk in the best possible situations. For his part, Holland, who only cost Epstein one dollar, also protected his manager.

I don’t want to get into an argument in the comments section about whether Maddon will or will not be the manager of this team in 2020. He will not. And though it’s easy and convenient to say that Epstein handed Maddon the keys to this jalopy when he and Jed Hoyer basically sat on the sidelines all winter, this is still the same team that is playing nearly .700 baseball at home. The Cubs are capable. And on the occasions that they are not, their manager has been putting themm in precarious situations too many times.

Holland and Maddon shouldn’t be the only scapegoats, however. The infield combination of David Bote and Ian Happ, a recipe for disaster if ever one existed, were frequently out of position and missed on at least three plays that an average middle infield should make. The bullpen, highlighted by the continued incompetence of Pedro Strop, was a train wreck.

If you were lucky enough to miss the game, here’s the only recap you will need:

The Phillies entered the 9th trailing 5-1. Brad Miller hit an RBI single with one out to close within 5-2. Roman Quinn followed with an RBI single and Rhys Hoskins was hit by a Strop pitch before Harper’s bomb. Upper deck, throwback digs, and the fastest home run trot of Harper’s career. Game over, series over, Cubs swept.

Chicago will head to Pittsburgh for a three-game set with the Pirates, improbably tied with the Cardinals for first place in the NL Central. But the Cubs look like anything but a first-place team. And even if they make the playoffs, if Holland is the choice to face tough lefties like Harper, Christian Yelich, and Cody Bellinger in the postseason, don’t expect any sort of an extended run.

Cubs News & Notes

How About That!

Bellinger is the first in baseball to hit 40 home runs this year. The Dodgers are everything the Cubs should be.

Mike Trout also hit his 40th home run of the season. This is the earliest in a season (by date and by games) that two players have hit their 40th homer on the same day.

Pete Alonso hit his 39th tater of the season, tying a NL rookie record.

The Indians may be the most dangerous team in baseball and they are peaking at exactly the right time.

Marlins CEO Derek Jeter was rather noncommittal when asked about manager Don Mattingly’s future. “To be fair to Donnie, it’s something we need to talk about sooner rather than later,” Jeter said.

Thursday’s Three Stars

  1. Pete Alonso – The Mets first baseman was 5-for-5 with a home run and six RBI. He also had a walk, making him perfect on the night.
  2. Bryce Harper – No explanation needed.
  3. Yu Darvish – A tough luck loss can’t keep Darvish, who was nearly perfect, off of this list. The ever-improving lefty had 10 strikeouts and scattered just four hits in seven innings, and left with the Cubs leading 5-0.

Not a Star – Tom Ricketts. Thank you for giving Epstein that crisp $1 bill so he could sign Holland.

Apropos of Nothing

Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery is recalling beer that may be potentially explosive.

Extra Innings

Do chicks (or anybody for that matter), still dig the long ball?

Yes, times have changed, both socially and in baseball. I don’t think I’ve heard the term “chicks” as a representation of women in a long, long time. That’s a good thing.

There are way too many homers in baseball these days. That’s not a good thing. There were 10 taters out of 15 total hits in the Astros-A’s game last night.

They Said It

  • “I looked at the pitch.”It was a great pitch. You have to give credit to where it’s due. Tip your hat to him.” – Derek Holland
  • “That one is going to leave a mark.” – Joe Maddon
  • “That was sick. Wow, I don’t even know. I mean, that was awesome. Oh my gosh. Besides winning the division and getting to the playoffs, that was one of the coolest moments I’ve ever had in my life.” – Bryce Harper
  • “That was pretty cool. I’ve never seen the ball carry like that [at Oakland Coliseum]. It was like we were playing on a normal park. That was a rarity. I’ve never seen this park play like that. Usually it’s pretty cold here and the ball doesn’t travel, but that was nice.”Matt Chapman

Friday Walk Up Song

It’s Too Late by Carole King. To save Maddon’s job, that is.

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