Cubs

Beaten down, Cubs pitching in survival mode

443982.jpg

Beaten down, Cubs pitching in survival mode

Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Posted: 11:34 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

HOUSTON As soon as James Russell walked off the mound, the Minute Maid Park sound system pumped out the music: Mama said thered be days like this.

Russells family traveled to Houston for his first career big-league start, but its not really about the 25-year-old Texan. For the Cubs, this was just trying to get through Tuesday night and fast-forward to tomorrow.

George H.W. Bush, the 41st president, was among the 23,523 fans who watched the Astros cruise to an 11-2 victory. When the Cubs look at the big picture, its unclear what they see in their rotation.

Russell maxed out at 55 pitches in the second inning and that was it for a reliever who was only expected to go one time through the lineup. This was a bridge to next week, possibly April 19, when the Cubs will again need a fifth starter.

The Astros dropped two perfect bunts to begin the game and didnt let up until Russell had given up five runs, four earned, on seven hits. It didnt help that Alfonso Soriano and Darwin Barney committed errors in the first inning.

I felt pretty good overall, but unfortunately a couple (breaks) didnt go my way, Russell said. You can only worry about the stuff that you can actually control. I must have done something to piss off the baseball gods. It happens.

Hours earlier, the Cubs confirmed that Doug Davis signed a minor-league deal and will stay in Arizona for extended spring training. General manager Jim Hendry projects that the 35-year-old left-hander could be at Triple-A Iowa by months end.

The night before Ramon Ortiz, another veteran pitcher who recently agreed to a minor-league contract, pitched well for Iowa, giving up two runs in 5.2 innings. The 38-year-old right-hander has pitched for six different teams and made 212 career starts.

Ortiz is just a phone call away. Todd Wellemeyer, who has been dealing with a hip issue, only recently began a throwing program and isnt close enough yet.

Davis was sidelined with heart and elbow issues last year. He made only eight starts, none in the seasons second half. The Cubs know him from his five years in Milwaukee, where he went 38-40 with a 4.11 ERA. They remember him with the Arizona Diamondbacks, helping to sweep them out of the 2007 playoffs.

Hendry insisted that the Cubs still would have done these deals even if Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner hadnt gone to the disabled list. Hendry described both pitchers as insurance policies. They might be needed sooner rather than later.
Watch: Quade on Russell
Weve got some time, manager Mike Quade said. Well reassess the group thats here, too. To me, one disappointing outing doesnt mean the end of the road and that we scrap this thing. We have to take a look at it.

Theres no doubt that Russell who emerged as a trusted bullpen piece last season would like another chance to start: Absolutely, I feel great and confident in my stuff. Its just one of those things that didnt go my way.

Going against Brett Myers, this was a game to write off. The Astros right-hander allowed one run in seven innings, making him 11-2 with a 2.16 ERA in 14 career starts against the Cubs.

By late Tuesday night, it was already time to think about who didnt pitch out of the bullpen Sean Marshall, Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol and the high-leverage situations they could handle in the series finale. The Cubs are in survival mode.

It was ugly, Quade said, but we were able to get through it.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

On a mistake-filled afternoon, Javier Baez does what he does best and saves the Cubs

On a mistake-filled afternoon, Javier Baez does what he does best and saves the Cubs

Consider the Cubs’ starting middle infield in Saturday’s 6-5 win over the San Diego Padres to be comprised of two extremes. 

On one end of the spectrum was Addison Russell, who started at second base. Russell was doubled off second base on an Albert Almora line drive in the second inning — a ball hit hard enough where, had it fell in for a hit, he wouldn’t have scored. There was no spinning Russell drifting far enough off second base to be doubled up; it was simply bad baserunning. 

Russell, too, was thrown out at home on an Almora ground ball in the fourth inning. He appeared to lose a pop fly in the sun, too, which fell in for a double in the third inning. 

Manager Joe Maddon was willing to excuse the pop-up double — “The sun ball, there’s nothing you could do about that,” he said — but sounded frustrated with Russell’s far-too-frequent baserunning gaffes. 

“He’s gotta straighten some things out,” Maddon said. “He has to. There’s no question. I’m not going to stand here — he’s got to, we’ve talked about his baserunning in the past. 

“… The baserunning, there’s some things there — we’re making too many outs on the bases and we’re missing things on the bases that we can’t to be an elite team.”

Russell’s mistakes were part of a larger sloppy showing by both teams. As Cubs reliever Brandon Kintzler put it: “No lead was safe. It was really just who was going to survive and not make so many mistakes.”

Javier Baez ensured the Cubs would survive by not merely avoiding mistakes, but by coming up with two massive plays. 

Baez’s three-run home run in the fourth inning gave the Cubs’ the lead for good, and he fell a triple short of the cycle. He’s homered in consecutive games, and Maddon senses the 26-year-old is emerging from a slump that dropped his OPS to .853 after Wednesday’s game, his lowest mark since the small-sample-size landscape of mid-April. 

But it was Baez’s masterful tag in the bottom of the ninth inning that captured most of the attention around Wrigley Field, reminding everyone in the dugouts and stands just how incredible “El Mago” can be. 

Craig Kimbrel walked Wil Myers to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning, and after budding superstar Fernando Tatis Jr. inexplicably bunted (he popped out), Myers took off to steal second base. Kimbrel sailed a fastball high and inside, and Victor Caratini’s throw was well to the left of second base. Myers appeared to have the base stolen until Baez gloved the ball and rapidly snapped a tag onto Myers’ left leg:

”We needed a play made, and he made it,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “It’s what he does.”

Baez’s home run increased the Cubs’ win expectancy by 35.7 percent; his tag on Myers upped it that mark from 83.3 percent to 96.5 percent. This is why the Cubs’ mantra, even when Baez is in a lull, is to let Javy be Javy. 

One player can’t carry a team forever — Baez had his best season as a pro in 2018, only to see the Cubs crash out of the Wild Card game, of course. But it’s hard to not think about the kind of plays Baez can conjure up when the Cubs need them the most in 2019’s playoff race. 

After all, stuff like that tag on Myers — the Cubs have come to expect that from Baez. 

“You saw a lot of plays today, they weren’t baseball plays,” Maddon said. “The game is clamoring for baseball players who know how to play this game, and he’s one. He is one. He’s got the biggest hard drive, the most RAM, he’s got everything going on every day. 

“He sees things, he’s got great vision. Technically, he’s a tremendous baseball player. He’s going to make some mistakes, like everyone else does, but what he sees and sees in advance — it’s like the best running back, it’s the best point guard you’ve ever seen. It’s all of that. As a shortstop, that’s what he is.

“… We needed him to be that guy today and he was. And again, it’s not overtly surprising.” 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Dare we ask... are the Cubs back?

the_cubs_are_back_slide_photo.jpg
USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Dare we ask... are the Cubs back?

Rick Telander, Ben Finfer and Seth Gruen join Kap on the panel.

0:00 - The Cubs beat the Padres from their 6th win in their 7 games since the All-Star Break. Are they really this good or are they just feasting on sub-.500 teams?

7:00 - The White Sox have lost seven straight after the break. Should fans be furious with the slump or still optimistic about the future?

13:00 - The Bears report to Bourbonnais in 6 days. Will the 2019 season be a failure if they do not make it to the Super Bowl?

19:00 - Kap gives out his play of the night in the FanDuel Friday Faves.

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

Sports Talk Live Podcast

Subscribe:

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.