There’s nothing like two games — for the price of two — in one day to bring a couple of Cubs issues to light.
The Cubs have been cruising along quite nicely of late, and they split a day-night doubleheader with the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday, winning the early game 7-2 before losing 6-3 in the night game. Paul DeJong, a graduate of Antioch High School, doubled home the go-ahead run for St. Louis in the ninth inning of the second game, and Matt Carpenter hit his sixth home run of the series.
The second game featured the Cubs’ Javier Baez and manager Joe Maddon being ejected by home-plate umpire Will Little after Baez protested a checked-swing call to end the fifth. Baez threw his bat and helmet down after Little ruled he had swung and struck out. Maddon was tossed for coming out to argue for Baez.
The offense has been transforming itself before our very eyes over the last month or so as the teachings of new hitting coach Chili Davis apparently are taking hold.
At the behest of Maddon, the Cubs are leading the anti-launch-angle revolution, turning their backs on the home-run-or-strikeout approach for one that favors “moving the baseball,” as the intrepid skipper likes to put it.
That was evident in the first game, as Cubs batters rapped out 11 hits, none of them home runs.
“Our guys are really starting to understand: It’s not always about getting a hit. It’s about not making an out, too,” Maddon said. “I think that’s what gets in the way of certain hitters who are unable to organize their strike zone or take a walk. You’re so focused on getting a hit, and I know that’s the objective. But sometimes the objective is to not make an out.
“Part of that concept, which Chili’s trying to get across, is pass it along, pass it along, pass along. When you understand that, then you could have those swarming kind of games. The ball’s not in the stands, but it’s all over the map. You’re putting pressure on the pitcher and on the defense, which we did. I’m really pleased with that.”
First baseman Anthony Rizzo, who has been jump-started once again in the leadoff spot, took that to heart as he opened the first inning with a triple and later scored. (Rizzo had 4 singles in the second game.) The Cubs put 4 across in the seventh inning, getting an RBI double from Javier Baez, a sacrifice fly from Victor Caratini and a 2-run single by Tommy La Stella.
Also having a big day was veteran Ben Zobrist, who singled four times, walked once and scored 2 runs to up his batting average to .296.
“That’s what my game’s about, whether I’m in the middle of the lineup, top, bottom, it doesn’t matter,” Zobrist said. “Get on base and let the other guys hit me in. Occasionally I’m going to hit guys in here or there. Really just find a way to help us score runs.”
The other faced of the Cubs’ game worth watching is the starting pitching. Entering Saturday, the Cubs had gotten just 4 quality starts from June 20 compared with 21 non-quality starts.
Tyler Chatwood came close in Game 1, as he worked 5⅓ innings, giving up just 1 hit. However, his command problems continued as he walked six (one intentionally), giving him 79 walks in 89⅓ innings while giving up 77 hits.
Mike Montgomery gave the Cubs a quality start in the night game, working 6 innings and giving up 5 hits and a first-inning run.
Maddon knows the Cubs are not always going to be able to hit their way past short starts, to say nothing of the strain it puts on the bullpen.
“I’ve been thinking about that,” Maddon said. “It’s hard. It’s almost impossible to hit your way to the last game of the year. The tried and true method I’ve always been involved with has been the pitching and the defense. And then you get your hitting in there. We do need to get it straightened out. We can’t keep putting that much emphasis on the bullpen, that many innings on the bullpen. Six-plus is what we need to start getting out of these guys to make this work.”
On the ejections, Maddon was upset because he felt Baez should have been fined, but not tossed.
“He had no reason to kick him out,” he said. “He didn’t say anything to him. I watched the video. If you throw stuff, that’s a fine. Fine him. That’s what I said. Fine him. You cannot kick him out right there. He did nothing to be kicked out of that game. He did throw his stuff, but he didn’t say anything derogatory toward the umpire.”
Reliever Chavez does well in Chicago Cubs debut
Carpenter hits 3 homers as Cards demolish Cubs 18-5
Cubs look forward to adding new reliever Chavez to the mix
Kyle Schwarber sore after Home Run Derby, but not about the outcome
It’s all good as former Cubs Prior and Brown return to Wrigley
20/20 hindsight on Sammy Sosa’s June slugfest for Cubs in 1998
20 years since 20 Ks: Reliving Cubs phenom Kerry Wood’s memorable day
Get articles sent to your inbox.
Click here to sign up for the