The Rundown: Cubs Loss Ends Awful Road Trip, Counsell Expects Quick Turnaround, Mets Hang López Out to Dry

“In my dreams, I’m dying all the time. Then I wake, it’s a kaleidoscopic mind.” – Moby, Porcelain 

Thursday was another tough one for the Cubs, with a 6-4 loss to the Brewers that served as a microcosm of Chicago’s 1-5 road trip. Luke Little and Tyson Miller were the latest relievers to let the team down and the offense was decent but not good enough. Little and Miller couldn’t find the strike zone, which was difficult to stomach as I sat behind home plate.

I have a question, and perhaps one of our avid readers can help me. If a reliever isn’t throwing strikes while warming up, why is he being asked to do it in high-leverage situations? Are we to believe Little and Miller were physically ready to enter the game? I know Tommy Hottovy sits in the dugout, but who manages that bullpen? Little threw 18 pitches with seven strikes and walked two batters. Miller threw 11 pitches, struggled to find the zone, and gave up the game-winning homer to Gary Sánchez on a sweeper that barely moved. Neither seemed ready to pitch.

The Cubs are a frustrating bunch. The starting pitching has been great, if not downright filthy, all season. The offense is streaky and trending in the wrong direction far too often. The bullpen is mediocre and even that might be giving that group too much credit. No team should fear playing the Cubs, and that includes the Reds and White Sox, the North Siders’ opponents for the next nine games. The formula to beat Craig Counsell‘s team is simple: keep it close until it becomes a bullpen game, grab a late lead, and take the win.

Jed Hoyer believes his sinking ship will right itself naturally. He also claims his team is too good to continue playing so poorly, but where is the proof? The Cubs started the season 17-10 and are 11-19 since, so which version is the one Hoyer is speaking of? Chicago is getting worse as the team is getting healthier, and 30 games is not a small sample size. His lineup lacks firepower and his bullpen can’t hold leads.

Here’s how the NL Central would look if we only included the last 30 games for each team. None of the teams look like world-beaters, but the Cubs don’t look like they can beat anybody consistently.

  1. Brewers 17-13 (.567)
  2. Cardinals 16-14 (.533)
  3. Pirates 14-16 (.467)
  4. Cubs 11-19 (.367)
  5. Reds 10-20 (.333)

Hoyer needs to find a couple of thumpers and some reliable relievers, something  we’ve been saying since 2020. The notions that good hitters will find home runs and that anybody who can toss a ball can get three outs in a critical situation are folly. Given his elevated payroll, Chicago’s president of baseball operations needs to be held accountable for the mess this team is.

Are we feeling confident Chicago’s North Side Baseballers can beat the Reds this weekend? The White Sox are also 10-20 in their previous 30 games, so what I’m saying is the team Counsell is fielding right now is just a game better than two of the worst in baseball. The Cubs have an opportunity to mount a substantial comeback over the next 10 days, or they could prove themselves to be a team with great starting pitching that also contends for a lottery pick in the 2025 draft. A team will always have a chance when it has a strong rotation, but that sounds a lot like the Marlins, too, who enter play today with a 20-37 (.351) record.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Did Lou Gehrig invent the bat toss? Inquiring minds want to know. The league will honor Gehrig on June 2.

Central Intelligence

Climbing the Ladder

“Eastern to mountain, third party call, the lines are down, the wise man built his words upon the rocks, but I’m not bound to follow suit.” – R.E.M., So. Central Rain

The Cubs continue to struggle with runners in scoring position, going 0-for-5 in yesterday’s loss. That’s a recipe for disaster for a team that creates too few opportunities to score. Chicago did hit three home runs yesterday, one each by Cody Bellinger, Seiya Suzuki, and Christopher Morel, accounting for all of the team’s runs.

Morel’s switch to third base isn’t going as well as the Cubs had planned, by the way.

The Cubs are 3-4 against Milwaukee this year though Chicago’s starters had not allowed an earned run in the first 32.1 innings of play against the Brewers.

  • Games Played: 57
  • Record: 28-29 (.491), 3rd place in NL Central
  • In One-Run Games: 10-11 (.476)
  • Total Plate Appearances: 2,143
  • Total Strikeouts: 503
  • Strikeout Rate: 23.47%
  • Team Batting Average: .228
  • With Runners in Scoring Position: 101-for-434 (.233)
  • Runs Scored: 244
  • Runs Allowed: 254
  • Pythagorean Record: 27-30
  • Chances of Making the Playoffs: 59.6%, 2.0% chance to win World Series 

How About That!

MLB analysts believe the Mets hung reliever Jorge López “out to dry” by making him a scapegoat for the team’s current struggles.

López may have been misquoted due to his inability to communicate properly in English.

The beleaguered reliever was trying to say he was the worst teammate in the world but was quoted as if he was speaking about his teammates. The Mets should have insisted he speak with an interpreter present.

Wander Franco will remain on mandatory leave of absence through at least July 14 according to league officials.

MLB insider Ken Rosenthal said Marlins starting pitcher Jesús Luzardo is a virtual lock to be traded between now and July 30. Rosenthal also named Mets first baseman Pete Alonso as a player to watch as the deadline approaches.

The Giants and Braves are the likeliest suitors for Luzardo.

The last pitcher to enter the 300-win club was lanky lefty Randy Johnson, but membership might be closed. Usage analytics will probably prevent starters from reaching that mark again. Justin Verlander is the active leader with 260 wins. He’s followed by Zack Greinke (225), Max Scherzer (214), and Clayton Kershaw (210).

Thursday’s Three Stars

  1. Ryan Jeffers – Two jacks and three RBI for the Twins DH in a 7-6 win over the Royals.
  2. José Siri – The Tampa Bay centerfielder hit two solo home runs, including one off of Mason Miller in the Rays’ 6-5 win over the A’s. Richard Lovelady earned the win, by the way.
  3. Francisco Lindor – Baseball’s most overpaid player went 4-for-4 with a dinger after calling a team meeting to address the slumping Mets’ offense. Perhaps he and his teammates should do a morning Starbucks run on the daily.

Extra Innings

The I-Cubs may be more fun to watch than their MLB counterparts. That is one mammoth blast by Alexander Canario.

They Said It

  • “We’re not getting wins right now, but I feel like they’re going to come. It’s going to turn. There’s too much talent in here not to. [We] have too many professionals, guys who are just locked in every day, so it’s going to happen. We’ll just stick together and figure it out.”Jameson Taillon
  • “We’ve just got to keep going. When you’re in a tough stretch, it feels like you don’t get breaks. We’ve got to make our own breaks.” – Counsell
  • “[Pete’s] role is to help us win. When he plays, he’s obviously going to play center field. The result is we’ll see Cody maybe at some different positions at times, but we’ll just kind of mix and match and see how that goes. We’re gonna have some choices every day in the lineup. Fun for the fans. Fun for [the media]. There’s gonna be days when he doesn’t play. We obviously brought Pete up to be a part of this and I think it gives us some more choices throughout the game, but I expect that to evolve and hopefully, we get a good solution out of it.” – Counsell

Friday Walk-Up Song

Friday feels courtesy of this fantastic cover by John Mellencamp. This video reminds me of the car wash scene from the movie Cool Hand Luke.

Fun fact: Mellencamp uses the line “Calling it your job ol’ Hoss sure don’t make it right,” from Cool Hand Luke in his song Rain on the Scarecrow.

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