Shark Attacks the Tribe with Goose Eggs at HoHoKam Park
In what was one of the better performances by a Cubs starting pitcher at HoHoKam Park in quite some time, Jeff Samardzija showed Top-of-the-Rotation stuff while throwing six innings of shutout ball (67 pitches - 43 strikes), allowing just three hits and a walk while striking out five. Three relievers followed with three more shutout innings, as the Cubs blanked the Cleveland Indians 2-0 in Cactus League action this afternoon in Mesa, AZ.
Facing a mostly MLB-lineup, Samardzija absolutely breezed through his six innings of work, and after being relieved he went out to the bullpen and threw another 15 pitches, apparently so that he could reach his target of 80+ pitches.
If there was any doubt that Samardzija has the quality and variety of stuff and the stamina to be an MLB starting pitcher, today's outing should go a long way toward allaying those concerns. For example, he got three pop ups in a 1-2-3 4th, struck out the side with gas in a 1-2-3 5th, and got four grounders (one of which was a single) in the 6th (his last inning).
In addition to his pitching exploits, The Shark also ripped a lead-off triple into the LF alley in the bottom of the 5th, long-striding his way around the bases--like running a post-pattern at Notre Dame--before pulling into 3rd base standing up. Unfortunately the next three hitters went down on a feeble ground out and two weak pop ups to leave the Shark stranded at 3rd, but it was impressive none-the-less.
The Cub offense was equally weak against Tribe starter Josh Tomlin as the Cleveland hitters were against Samardzija, before breaking through against the obviously-tiring RHP in the bottom of the 6th.
Alfonso Soriano laced a top-spin liner to left to open the frame, and (with the Indians 1st baseman holding Soriano at 1st) Ian Stewart ripped a single through the wide-open 3.5 hole into RF with one out. Bryan LaHair and Joe Mather followed with RBI singles to plate two runs, giving the Cubs all the runs they needed.
Carlos Marmol worked the 7th, allowing a walk that was quickly erased on an inning-ending strike 'em out/throw 'em out (thanks to an on-the-dime throw to 2nd base by Steve Clevenger that nabbed Ryan Spliborghs).
James Russell allowed two hits in the 8th (a Felix Pie single and a two-out Asdrubal Cabera double), but struck out dangerous Shin-Soo Choo (swinging) on a nasty 3-2 breaking ball in the dirt to get out of the inning.
"On the bubble" for one of the last remaining slots in the Cub bullpen, Rafael Dolis worked a hitless 9th to get the save, but he did struggle with his command, walking two before getting a bat-breaking game-ending 6-3 ground out.
The defensive plays of the game were two nearly-identical over-the-shoulder catches by Starlin Castro in LF foul territory that brought back memories of Shawon Dunston. No shortstop was better than Dunston at catching pop-ups in the outfield, but Castro showed he can make those kinds of plays, too.
Castro also made another nice play on a grounder headed for CF, fielding the ball and getting off an off-balance throw to 1st baseman Bryan LaHair. The runner was called out (although it appeared that LaHair was not on the bag), but whether called safe or out, it was a very fine play indeed.
3rd baseman Ian Stewart also made a nice play on an infield chopper with a runner at 1st base and one out in the top of th 2nd, charging the ball and then rotating his body in the air to throw out the runner at 2nd base. I think Aramis Ramirez might have made the play and maybe gotten an out at 1st base, but no way A-Ram would have thrown out the lead runner at 2nd base. That took the kind of defensive skills and confidence that Stewart has that Ramirez lacks in the field.
Chapman shouldn't be reserved anymore on 40 man.
Interesting split on Heyward according to ESPN. As a CF, his slash line .292/.363/.375/.738. At RF: .212/.204/.300/.604. 21/72 as a CF, 58/273 as a RF.
He's also been better when batting 2nd, but he had a nice start in the 6 hole, but has slumped ever since. He was heating up before the All Star break, but is only hitting .108 in the 2nd half.
When we played the Reds with Chapman, I always thought of it as an eight-inning game. So now other teams have eight innings to try to get a lead against the Cubs. Should be a challenge, assuming three or four Cubs ever start hitting again.
I don't really try to get to know and like these players personally. I'm rooting for laundry, for the most part. Exceptions might be when a player makes trouble in the clubhouse or in the dugout. (Zambrano and Bradley come to mind. Also Papelbon.) But I don't think Chapman is one of those jerks.
Unfortunately, a pretty good summary. It looks like next year Heyward will be getting yet another batting stance adjustment.
The recent good news has been Baez. I'm afraid about the next league adjustment on him, though, which is probably right around the corner.
Bryant I don't worry about too much. Just not seeing the ball well right now. He'll turn it around. Russell's been good with men in scoring position all year and he's 22ish. He'll be fine but next year is likely to be his breakout year.
If Travis' back-to-back-to-back walks cost Hendricks the ERA title, that would really suck.
Edit: "A lifeless loss to a lousy Sox team."
This place is a real downer after a loss to the Sox.
I expect they will go 5-9 games above .500 the rest of the year. 96-98 wins will win the Division.
They should have one more 2-3 week hot streak in them.
However, several players are just "average" for the last month: Zobrist, Ross, Russell, Ceasar. Montero is terrible, plus he cannot throw anyone out. -WAR. Heyward is abysmal at the plate, but a plus in the OF. Still with RISP he has been terrible. KB has not been driving in runs as of late. But Apparently the team is still above average with RISP according to S Sahadev.
I came to that realization tonight. I kept expecting them to play better, but now I realize they aren't going to. They are a .500 team now.
- They have one reliable starting pitcher. Jake's magic is gone, and it doesn't look like it's coming back. Lester has been lousy recently. Lackey's ERA goes up every time he pitches.
- Heyward has been dead weight all year. I can't remember a single series where he was a significant offensive contributor. Not one. Great defense, but but if he were hitting .270 with 10 HR and played average defense, the Cubs would be better off.
new rule...no one's allowed to throw k.bryant a changeup
Team is .500 since early May and is playing like a .500 team. Lack of offense seems to be putting a lot of pressure on the pitchers...and they aren't handling it terribly well.
.500 the rest of the way still may win the division though.
...i hate espn.
nothing like settling into a cubs game to get a few minutes cutaway for an ortiz AB in the 6th inning of the det/bos game.
oh, at least they're doing split screen now...i guess.
I'm liking this rookie Nathan.
Richard DFA'd. Meh...
Throwbacks with fashionable cutouts would be a nice touch.
The next 2 games are nationally televised. I think we dominate tonight, hitting 3 HRs off Shields. Great night for KB to end HR drought facing HR prone pitcher in one of the most hitter friendly parks in the league.