The Chicago Cubs, having dropped two of three in Pittsburgh, went into Milwaukee needing 2 of 3 to get back to .500 before heading home for a tough homestand.
They got good news before the series started, as Christian Yelich was scrubbed from the first game due to a bad back. The Cubs saw that and raised them relievers (Jason Adam, Brandon Workman and Dan Winkler) on the COVID list. They brought up Brad Wieck, Justin Steele and our old friend Pedro Strop from the alternative site to fill in. Would it be enough?
Of course not. The bullpen hasn’t been the problem this year. The Cubs’ hitting can’t even be called anemic, because there isn’t enough blood there to measure. As a team, they are hitting .163 with a team OPS of .561. This after hitting .220 with an OPS of .705. There’s no point in saying “it’s early”, this is who the Cubs are.
Let’s get to this:
Adbert Alzolay. He was absolutely unhittable through 5 innings Monday night before getting into a jam where the up-until-then reliable Andrew Chafin came in and the clock struck 12 on The Sheriff. So his two starts have been marred by an ugly first inning and an ugly sixth inning. One of these days maybe he can put together a start where he holds it down for six.
Willson Contreras. He hit a monsterous home run Tuesday night that gave the Cubs their lone win of the series, and he pimped the hell out of it. A great response to the Brewers’ pitching plunking him multiple times. And for one night, we were all wetter than Meat Loaf’s hankie.
Justin Steele. He made his big league debut, and has pitched 2 1/3 low-leverage innings, but he’s been solid. 4 strikeouts, 2 hits, 1 walk. That’ll play for a guy cutting his teeth in the bigs.
Craig Kimbrel. The early part of his run with the Cubs had fans putting the game in the loss column and getting loosened up to throw balls back from the bleachers. He’s now looking every bit the Hall of Fame reliever. Sadly, it also looks like he’s going to be one of the many Cubs who will be in Topps’ “Traded Set” this year.
Chafin gave up three hits and a walk Monday night, allowing 5 runs – two of which were charged to Alzolay. He got the eighth inning Tuesday, and couldn’t finish the inning, so Kimbrel had to come in and get the four-out save.
Shelby Miller pitched in his first MLB game in almost two years Wednesday afternoon, and allowed 2 hits while walking three (including two with the bases loaded) without getting an out. So for now, his ERA is ∞. Let’s see if he gets the ball again, and there won’t be the butterflies. I mean, he looked good in Arizona, you’d think he can at least be a serviceable long guy in the bullpen.
So aside from the three guys listed above, the Cubs have two coaches on the COVID list, and Kyle Hendricks was held out of his Monday night start due to his not feeling well. Then Matt Duffy went on the COVID list Tuesday and was replaced by not-Nico-Hoerner. The Cubs are playing like dogshit as it is, they really don’t need any outside help.
Things won’t get easier this weekend, as the Atlanta Braves come in for three games. The Braves have been slow out of the blocks at 4-7, and you know they’re looking at a trip to Chicago as the perfect opportunity to get to .500. And without Hendricks, it’s certainly within the realm of possibility.