As Nelson Mandela said, “I never lose. I either win or learn.”
The Chicago Cubs had two drastically different games on Monday and Tuesday, with both resulting in losses. Obviously, the Cubs never want to leave the stadium without flying that famous “W” flag. But in both of those games, there were learning opportunities.
Monday evening, the team played from behind right from the start, with spot-starter Luke Farrell getting the start due to the five-game, four-day series against the St. Louis Cardinals exiting the All-Star break. Farrell gave up five runs in the top of the first, and with Diamondbacks’ starter Patrick Corbin showing no signs of weakness, Joe Maddon elected to save the bullpen as much as he could by using Victor Caratini and Anthony Rizzo as pitchers late in the game.
Rizzo had been asking Maddon for the opportunity to pitch for years, and the story had gained traction within the fan-base after the blowout loss to the Cardinals just three days earlier. When Rizzo finally got the opportunity to pitch in the ninth inning on Monday, the crowd went wild and there were smiles all around. It was a team-building moment for the Cubs and made the loss a little more bearable.
On Tuesday, the team was unable to put together any kind of offensive attack and fell to the D-Backs 5-1. The smiles were gone from the previous night, and one camera shot during the ninth inning showed Willson Contreras and Kyle Schwarber sitting in the dugout visibly frustrated with the back-to-back losses.
Every team loses sometimes. The good ones can laugh off the occasional defeat, but the Cubs are a proud team. They are a team that knows they have statistically the best offense in the league and they took the struggles against the Diamondbacks to heart.
On Wednesday the Cubs returned to form, scoring late to break a tie and taking advantage of errors. Thursday, the team roared back from an early 6-1 deficit with back-to-back home runs in the bottom of the ninth to win 7-6 and split the series.
Obviously the Cubs are always going to be working hard and doing their best. But sometimes, over the course of a 162-game season, a little extra push helps right the ship. This team seemed to take the two losses early in the week and turn them into a learning experience, using it to push them forward.
Theo and Jed Are Still Two Steps Ahead
We are now a week into the Jesse Chavez era for the Cubs and the 34-year-old veteran has been nearly unhittable since joining the club. He’s appeared in four games, allowing just one base-runner in five innings.
The journeyman right-hander had a good season for the Rangers this year, but as Brett Taylor at Bleacher Nation discusses here, Chavez’s success has blossomed even more since an arm slot adjustment over Mother’s Day weekend.
The knowledge of a change like this for a reliever that might not reach the radar of some teams is exactly what Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein love to jump upon. The result is an acquisition of a reliever who has quickly become a trusted member for Maddon in exchange for a low-level minor leaguer, while other teams have been forced to give up elite prospects to acquire trade deadline difference-makers.
I’m not saying Chavez is this year’s Aroldis Chapman, but with the trade deadline approaching quickly, Cubs fans should continue to wear their “In Theo We Trust” gear proudly, as the front office is clearly working diligently to find that proverbial diamond in the rough.
Stats of the Week
Starter ERA – 4.04 (13th lowest in MLB) – That’s right. As much as the starting rotation has struggled this season, they are still in the top half of the league in ERA. The group has struggled to go deep into games, but for the most part, they have managed to limit the number of runs. For comparison, the league average is 4.21.
Starter WHIP – 1.38 (23rd lowest in MLB) – This is the scary part. While they have managed to limit the actual runs scored, the rotation’s WHIP shows that they are playing with fire. This is because they can’t find the strike zone, giving up the second most walks of any staff in the league. They rank 10th in hits allowed, but if they don’t do a better job at limiting baserunners, it is going to cost them in the long-run.
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