Aren’t those pitcher at-bats fun, kids?! Nothing I love more when I go to the ol’ ballpark than watching bad man Miguel Gonzalez hitting with runners on! Forget that stain on the game designated hitter, children, it’s that strategy of whether to pinch hit for our starting pitcher in the top of the second inning that’ll save the game! Those bunt attempts, that’s what’ll bring the crowds in!
Maybe a little bitter considering the runs Carlos Rodon drove in. I’m writing about the Cubs this series, anyway, but I had to get some American League pride out of the way first thing (I grew up with Frank Thomas, pry the designated hitter option out of my cold, dead hands). Aside from being far and away the better team, being without a designated hitter for the majority of their games denies Kyle Schwarber his inherent birthright of the position he was born to play. Swing away, Hoosier boy, to the moon! No man leaps out of bed at the thought of playing left field!
The most common take/criticism/complaint/tweet from the end of the world from Northsiders this season has been them struggling compared to last season. Thus far the Cubs are not on pace for their anticipated 115 wins (prediction taken from various shouts on the Red Line approximately twenty minutes after a 2016 Cubs win). Last year was a juggernaut, jet-fuel, Roadrunner paced adrenaline junkie rampage that would make Hunter S. Thompson blush, and for every pulse-pounding bat out of hell drive to Vegas, there’s the stiff drink taper back at the hotel and anti-drug convention on the Strip. It’s a season that will never be replicated by anyone, let alone the players currently on the come down right after it.
For this year’s edition, the sign of a good team is the “next man up” setup. Though more of an addition by subtraction strategy, the rotating door leadoff man (now apparently Zobrist’s spot to lose) has been the most consistent example of this. Putting players like Schwarber and Rizzo put just as much faith in their replacement clean up hitters as it does the big names at the top of the order: they got on base, someone’s still got to drive them in. Not many other teams have the luxury of affording a bat like Rizzo’s being taken away from an RBI opportunity at least once a game.
Cubbies have also had their fair share of blowout losses (can’t seem to recall us having a game scheduled for the day before the All-Star break either, weird), but they’re very much a one at-bat away team still. Part Palehose pessimism, part Cubs lineup giving no real room to breathe, yesterday wasn’t over until the very end. Have said it a million times here, but we’re a lineup that wins if and (aside from a couple games) only if we get the timely home runs. We also give up a LOT of them, hence me repeating “live by the long ball, die by the long ball” a million times here. Lived by it Monday, died by it early Tuesday. (Carlos Rodon doesn’t like the thought of home run balls being thrown back, wants to make sure someone goes home with a souvenir).
Coming into the year I didn’t think the N.L. Central would be a division that you could hover around .500 and be competitive in, but the Cardinals decline and the trending towards reality Brewers have kept the Cubs afloat. With the playoff experience under their belts, I think the first half of this year will be a gone and forgotten footnote on the team. Decent pitching and this lineup should be good to keep the other side of the league nervous through fall.
Fun to see some good games to start out a series I usually don’t think lives up to the hype. Today’s beanball fireworks were odd. Abreu’s HBP I can live with- those are bullets off Superman’s chest at this point- but don’t you scorn our Beloved Son again, Lackey. Hell hath no fury like a pissed off Hawk Harrelson (“WHAT ARE YOU DO-ING WEG-NER?!?!)