The Rundown: Pitching Struggles Bite Cubs in Loss to Snakes, Hoyer Backs Hendricks, Suzuki Could Miss 4 Weeks or More

“Well, I woke up Sunday morning with no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt. And the beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad, so I had one more for dessert.” – Johnny Cash, Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down

The Cubs’ current road trip feels like that post-drunk but right-before-hangover moment that tends to leave one in an alternating state of bliss and agony. Kyle Hendricks was bad, again, and the bullpen, also once again, wasn’t any better. Hendricks shouldn’t be allowed to face more than 18 batters, and Chicago’s relievers have blown five of nine save opportunities by my count.

Can you imagine how good this team might be if Jed Hoyer wouldn’t treat bullpen construction like an afternoon of playing Tinker Toys? He has one of the league’s best farm systems at his disposal and his best players are signed to favorable contracts, so why does he continually build bullpens that would make a M*A*S*H unit queasy?

The ‘pen is so bad that I can’t even talk about Hendricks, though his short outings aren’t helping a backend unit that already looks taxed. I have never had much faith in Adbert Alzolay, and his “play the damn song” tweets should be immediately put on hold until he can figure out how to consistently pitch a clean inning. He’s had just one in five outings, including last night, when he gave up a game-tying home run to Ketel Marte in the 9th inning.

The Cubs have two relievers they can count on — thank you Mark Leiter Jr. and Drew Smyly — but neither will be able to pitch today if Jordan Wicks gets into trouble. Keegan Thompson better be ready to go multiple innings if needed today or Chicago may have to use a starter in relief. Jameson Taillon should return tomorrow or Friday, so that might be a viable option.

I’ll circle back to Hendricks, who faced 18 batters and held a 5-4 lead before the wheels fell off in the 5th inning. There is no way Craig Counsell should have let him take the mound, and what followed was about as ugly as it gets. Hendricks gave up a single to Marte and walked Corbin Carroll and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to load the bases. Counsell brought in Luke Little, who allowed two runs to score via wild pitch, another on a sacrifice fly, and a fourth run scored on a single by Jake McCarthy. Just like that, the Cubs were down 8-5.

Because Chicago can never play a normal game in Arizona, our North Side Baseballers scored six runs in the top of the 7th to take an 11-8 lead. Ian Happ had the big blow, connecting on the fourth grand slam of his career. A team with a decent bullpen should have held on, but Leiter, Yency Almonte, Alzolay, and Smyly — who tossed 26 pitches on Tuesday — couldn’t close out the win.

Counsell has admitted that his reputation as a bullpen whisperer is overblown, and last night provided living proof. Then again, he has had little assistance from Hoyer and his entourage in assembling something that smells even a little competent.

The Cubs and Diamondbacks have an afternoon affair today to close out the series and Chicago’s bullpen looks like it just returned from Valley Forge circa 1777. The visitors may need to score 25 runs to have any chance of winning unless Wicks shuts the D-backs down.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

So Hendricks is historically bad right now. That’s all you had to say, Jesse.

Central Intelligence

Climbing the Ladder

“Yeah, it’s time to move on, time to get going. What lies ahead, I have no way of knowing.” – Tom Petty, Time to Move On

Cubs relievers have already thrown 73.1 innings this season, the fifth-most among 30 MLB teams. The bullpen’s 4.40 ERA and 1.44 WHIP are also among the worst in baseball. They’ve cumulatively walked 13.9% of the batters they’ve faced, and they allowed seven BBs in 4.2 innings last night.

Hendricks? I hate to say it but it’s time to make some tough, honest decisions. I’m not saying Counsell should cut him, but the Cubs have too many starters that are pitching better. Perhaps The Professor can turn things around, but he needs a stint on the IL and a couple of rehab starts at minimum. If that doesn’t help…well, the alternative is still a bitter pill to swallow. I hate seeing Hendricks look like Zach Davies when he played for Chicago.

  • Games Played: 17
  • Record: 10-7 (.588), 3rd place in NL Central
  • In One-Run Games: 3-3 (.500)
  • Total Plate Appearances: 659
  • Total Strikeouts: 142
  • Strikeout Rate: 21.54%
  • Team Batting Average: .247
  • With Runners in Scoring Position: 37-for-134 (.276)
  • Runs Scored: 96
  • Runs Allowed: 83
  • Pythagorean Record: 10-7
  • Chances of Making the Playoffs: 75.3%, 4.2% chance to win World Series 

How About That!

The White Sox are depressingly bad, but Garrett Crochet has been a bright spot. The reliever-turned-starter owns a 3.57 ERA through four starts and 22.2 innings, and he’s struck out 31 batters against only four walks. Opponents are hitting .183/.227/.293 against him.

The Rangers are promoting top pitching prospect Jack Leiter.

The Braves placed infielder Ozzie Albies on the injured list with a fractured toe.

The Guardians (12-5) have baseball’s best record as of this morning.

Mike Trout has heard all the trade rumors but wants to stay with the Angels and win a ring there.

Brooklyn Dodgers great Carl Erskine has passed away at the age of 97. He is one of only 35 MLB pitchers to throw multiple no-hitters.

Former Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog also passed away Tuesday. He was 92.

Tuesday’s Three Stars

  1. Ranger Suarez – You don’t see many complete games these days, but the Phillies starter hurled a 5-0 shutout at the Rockies. Suarez finished the evening with eight strikeouts.
  2. Happ – I like him better at the top of the order but you can’t argue with a 3-for-4 night that includes a grand slam and a double.
  3. Mookie Betts – The Dodgers star tallied five hits with two doubles and two RBI in a 6-2 win over the Nationals.

Honorable Mention: Mother Nature – Last night’s rains caused the White Sox to cancel their tilt with the Royals, preventing the team from dropping to 2-15 overall and 1-9 at home.

Extra Innings

Allow me to present Mr. Happ and his three guests. Those Diamondback uniforms are the ugliest I’ve ever seen, by the way.

Wednesday Morning Six-Pack

  1. The Bears are launching a schedule projection challenge that the odds say nobody can win. Buy a Powerball ticket instead.
  2. Monday’s WNBA Draft drew 2.4 million viewers, a 307% increase from last year. Thank you, Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese, who have a chance to be the league’s version of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.
  3. Disney+ is going to release a restored version of the Beatles rooftop concert on May 8. That means it won’t be available on YouTube anymore, one would assume. The film is called “Let It Be” and the release marks its first official showing in more than 50 years. Peter Jackson did all of the restoration of the landmark film from Michael Lindsay-Hogg.
  4. Today is National Haiku Day and I’ve got one for you. “Cubs’ bullpen is bad. Five blown saves in nine attempts. Please fire Jed Hoyer.”
  5. These 10 words are commonly mispronounced, and I plead guilty to nine of the charges. Dr. Soice? Really?
  6. Did you enjoy last week’s solar eclipse? I see your eclipse and raise a meteor shower.

They Said It

  • “Kyle just wants to have a good start. He wants to get people out, give [his] team a chance to win. You need success, that’s what helps you get past stretches like this.” – Counsell
  • “We have plenty of innings to cover and plenty of pitches to be thrown. Our job is to figure out a way to navigate through the game and get 27 outs.” – Counsell
  • “Brown was excellent. It’s pretty exciting to see what he’s done in his three stints as a starter, basically. . . . He’s earned innings, for sure, and we’ll keep getting him innings.” – Counsell
  • “The mechanics, how it’s coming out, my stuff, a lot better. Bottom of the zone’s better. I’m missing eye levels. But the focus and the mental part, clearly that’s the biggest part of the game, so there’s something there that I need to lock in on and make an adjustment.” – Hendricks
  • “We’re three starts into a season. [Hendricks] has 29 more probably, so I think giving him a little bit of leeway and time to work his way through it, I think it makes a lot of sense. I try to remember over and over that the things we think about in April and the things that we talk about in April so oftentimes by June, let alone August, seem so remote. So that’s hopefully how I’m looking at this rough, rough three starts, that you look up, and he’s clearly in a bad patch and that he got going again and he pitched really well.” – Hoyer

Wednesday Walk-Up Song

Rudy Martinez was the band’s lead singer and referred to himself as “?,” claiming that his soul came from Mars and that he once walked the earth with the dinosaurs. Good morning, hallucinogens and mind expansion. The success of this song was attributed to its use of the Vox Continental, a transistorized organ with reverse-colored keys. Maybe the dude was from Mars, but that doesn’t change my mood after last night’s loss.

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