Cubs @ Cardinals: Series Thread (Games 44-46)

The Cubs (22-21) passed the one-quarter mark during the week and take on their division rivals, the first place Cardinals (25-18), for the first time in 2021. The slumping Brewers (21-22) have surrendered the second place spot to the Cubs for the time being. At just over a fourth of the way through the season, the Cubs have just about played to expectations. They've yo-yoed around .500 while getting some pleasant surprises in the early going (Kris Bryant, Jake Arrieta, Craig Kimbrel), and some significant disappointments (Zach Davies, Kyle Hendricks, several hitters). Most recently, Jason Heyward has headed to the IL with a hamstring issue, but lefty sluggers Joc Pederson and Ian Happ have stepped up their performances just in time to pick up some slack. The Cubs have an opportunity to cut the Cardinals' lead in the division during this three-game set. See below for the pitching matchups.

Game 44, Friday, May 21, 7:15 pm central

CHC: RHP Kyle Hendricks (3-4, 5.27 ERA)

STL: RHP Carlos Martinez (3-4, 4.35 ERA)

Kyle Hendricks continues to work on his return to normalcy (and a reasonable ERA). Last time out, he went 8 efficient innings in a win against Detroit. He allowed only one earned run and struck out eight on his way to victory. Over his last three starts he's allowed six earned runs in 20 innings pitched, much of htat coming on soft contact, and he's collected 17 strikeouts. He looks more familiar each time out. Paul Goldschmidt has troubled him in the past, going 10 for 29 with six doubles and striking out only five times. New Cardinal Nolan Arenado and long-time redbird Matt Carpenter each have two career homers off of him while now other Cardinal on the active roster has taken him deep.

As recently as 2018, Carlos Martinez was the Cardinals' Opening Day starter. That same season, however, he found himself in the bullpen after a series of IL stints. Lat and rotator cuff injuries kept him in the bullpen throughout 2019, and he made 5 starts in the shortened 2020 season. That means his 7 starts in 2021 are the most he's made since 2018. He hasn't entirely found his footing. For one thing, he's not missing anywhere near as many bats as you would expect him to. His strikeout rate is about half of his career average. His fastball velocity is almost exactly where it was in 2020, under 94 mph on average, a couple of ticks below where he sat earlier in his career. He's gotten by, however, partly by allowing less than half a homer per nine innings. Cubs hitters Contreras and Happ have feasted off of Martinez with over 1.000 OPS for each of them in a total of 32 ABs (combined). Bryant, however, is 7 for 34 with 15(!) strikeouts.

Game 45, Saturday, May 22, 6:15 pm central

CHC: RHP Adbert Alzolay (2-3, 4.62 ERA)

STL: RHP Miles Mikolas (0-0, -.-- ERA)

Alzolay continued a run of remarkable consistency last time out by going five innings, allowing three earned runs (on two homers), and earning the win. He struck out only three, but otherwise this is more or less the start we've come to expect in early 2021. He's been nearly a two-pitch guy, using his fastball 48.9% of the the time and his slier 42.1% of the time. As might not surprise you, that's lead to a quick hook, especially when lefties are due to get their third look at him. It's probably ungenerous to focus too much on the next step forward for him--staying healthy and in the majors has already been a major step forward. But the next step is probably working a third pitch effectively into the mix. Perhaps he can lean on the changeup or curve to get lefties off-balance.

Mikolas missed all of 2020 due to surgery on the flexor tendon in his pitching arm. This will be his 2021 debut and the start of his third season as a Cardinal. He's held his own against the most formidale Cubs hitters. Eric Sogard is 3 for 5 with a homerun and two doubles off of him.

Game 46, Sunday, May 23, 6:08 pm central

CHC: RHP Zach Davies (2-2, 5.58 ERA)

STL: RHP Adam Wainwright (2-4, 4.63 ERA)

Like Hendricks, Davies has had somewhat of a comeback sub-plot. Over his last four starts, he's allowed only five earned runs in 21.1 innings and he's brought his walk rate back to earth. The core of the Cardinals lineup, Arenado, Carpenter, and Goldschmidt, have pretty much crushed him over their careers.

Adam Wainwright defied aging curves to enjoy a surprisingly strong 2020. He had his lowers ERA since 2015 and accrued 1.1 fWAR across 10 starts. He also enjoyed a .247 BABIP. The batted-ball fates have not favored him to that degree in 2021, however, and his ERA is back into the mid-4s. He's been up and down throughout his starts so far. He pitched a complete game against the Phillies back on 4/26, although he took the loss. Most recently, he allowed six earned runs to the Padres across 4 innings. Anthony Rizzo has seen a ton of him and appears not to enjoy it all that much: he has a .648 OPS in 60 ABs. Ian Happ is 8 for 14 with four homeruns off the veteran righty--not facing an Ace until he's on the wrong side of 35 has its advantages!


nice that is doing (nearly) full pre-game and post-game this season.  dunno if it's every team, but it's a lot of teams.

1 pitch in, so far so good.

nico hoerner hits the hell out of the ball for a guy that gets very little elevation on what he hits.  it may be on the ground and/or into the gaps, but it's traveling quickly while doing it.

j.steele to 10d IL (right hamstring), b.wieck up

With a brutal anle injury for Jason Adam, do they have to 60 him with the MLB club to get his roster spot refunded, still? Or can they refund it with a MiLB stint?

TIM: Jason Adam can either remain on his Optional Assignment and be placed on the Iowa 7-day IL in which case he would continue to be paid at the minor league split salary rate and he would not accrue MLB Service Time, or if the Cubs find that they need his MLB 40-man roster slot at some point he can be recalled from his Optional Assignment and be placed directly onto the MLB 60-day IL in which case he will be paid at the MLB salary rate and he will accrue MLB Service Time beginning with the day he is recalled and placed on the MLB 60-day IL. So since recalling Adam and placing him on the MLB 60-day IL would mean he would be paid at the MLB rate and accrue MLB Service Time, the Cubs will want to wait as long as possible to do it, at least until they actually need his MLB 40-man roster slot.  

Also, if Adam is initially placed on the Iowa 7-day IL and then is later recalled from his Optional Assignment and placed on the Cubs MLB 60-day IL to free-up an MLB 40-man roster slot, time spent on the Iowa 7-day IL will - NOT - count toward the minimum 60 days he would need to spend on the MLB 60-day IL. Only days spent on an MLB 10-day IL (or MLB 7-day concussion IL) can be applied toward an MLB 60-day IL assignment. 

In addition, a player on an MLB 40-man roster can only be placed on the club's MLB 60-day IL or transferred to the MLB 60-day IL from the MLB 10-day IL or MLB 7-day concusion IL if the club's MLB 40-man roster is full (taking the 40 down to no less than 39 players and leaving at most one slot open), except in September if a player is placed on the MLB 60-day IL or transferred to the MLB 60-day IL the MLB 40-man roster must be full - AND - another player must immediately replace that player on the club's MLB 40-man roster. 

As badly as it sounds as his ankle got wrecked.....

Jason Adam with an "open dislocation of the ankle" - If you want to ruin your next three meals, "Google Image" it.

arod bitching about how contreras is giving signals to the pitcher too early.  laments how a fastball high is coming and everyone knows it.

slider down/inside thrown for a strike looking.

arod still continues his rant as if that didn't happen.

I think the  ESPN booth has ARod tonight and I really never paid much attention to him as a color commentator, he is really really bad.  I'm putting on Pat and Ron (which I should have done anyway). Mute switch, check. Now where did I put that dang radio?

i have no idea why, but this season he's leaning real heavy on the steve stone style "this is what ______ should be doing rather than what he's doing" commentary.  he's got a lot of hot takes of players (on both sides) in this game in particular.

I really thought he might get better with practice, but I think he's actually less humble and no more insightful now than he was a couple years ago.

There's no good way to have an ESPN broadcast of your home team, of course. Maybe they're marketing strategy is to just go the "hate clicks" route?

At least he's no longer attacking players for being injured like he did with Darvish a few years ago.  That was the low point for me.  How a former player like Arod, who was suspended for an entire season for cheating, could go there was atrocious. 

gwah...what a f'n blown call at 3rd.  wow.

cubs escape bases loaded, 0 out.  phew.

goldschmidt and arenado had to be dealt with.  wow.

Why is there replay infrastructure if it's not going to be used to get calls right? Asking for a friend...

I hate that the infallible-machismo of umpires prevents them from admitting that there are calls that are just too close for them to see . It would actually make me respect them more since I would know that they weren't just fronting if they weren totally sure. 

I'm a Realtor & let me tell you, I call immediate BS on any seller that has been in a house for 20+ years & puts nothing on the condition report. Makes me more suspicious than actually telling me what has happened with the house.

ESPN mic'ing up the pitching mound so high in the mix is weird.

do we really need to hear every pitcher grunt?  yes, i guess...

On the ESPN broadcast, when the camera shot was showing the runner on 1st taking a lead & then cut to the standard CF view of the pitch, there seemed to be some sort of weird cut. Almost like the time stamps didn't align or the Matrix had a glitch. I wasn't sure if it was actually happening or if it was just me not being used to that shot cut. Probably me, but the timing sure felt off. 

i noticed that, too, and it was weird.  how your camera feeds gonna be out of sync on a live broadcast?  it's not like they gotta delay censor the game.  at the very least the director should have noticed.

My only thought was that it was on purpose to allow the audience to see the break of the runner and the full delivery... which is odd. Same thing could be done with a small pop out shot of first. (Which woukd be a nice standard feature by the way)

contreras just took a kimbrel 100mph fastball off his (glove) wrist.

he's gonna stay in, but thankfully there's a day off tomorrow.

This thing where pitchers & catchers vary sign sequences by use of flash cards they carry in their pockets doesn't seem to be working too well. 

I think that the 2nd & 3rd string Catchers should stand in the dugout with giant poster boards featuring 4 to 6 random images that change for each pitch.

Avocado, Flag of Bermuda, Boomerang, & Bob Uecker's face... must be a slider.

Aroid is a disgrace to baseball. Thanks for reading!

I'm not a violent person & never thought that a "punchable face" was a thing, but Arod. 

I really believe ESPN anything is unwatchable.  Baseball might be the worst because of ARod, or maybe because I forgot more about the game than he will ever know......and that's not a comment on my baseball IQ but that his peaks at about a 65.

If you're streaming ESPN (like Hulu), you can also turn Pat and Ron on via MLB app and, using pause buttons, line up the pic and Pat/Ron almost perfectly. 

Yep.... I synch the picture/sound off the pop of the pitch hitting the catcher's mitt.

A+ in Advanced A-Rod Evasion.

Tribune article today says ESPN crew including Matt V and ARod called the Cubs game from monitors in Bristol Conn. Article says it's a handicap, no shit Sherlock.  I say ARod put in an unlistenable  effort. I realize there are many broadcasters still not attending road games in person but there is a difference between bad color commentary and screeching fingernails on a chalk board. Also, apparently the ESPN broadcast misspelled Harry Caray as "Carey"...predictably sloppy work unless it's a Yankee vs Redsox game.