Cubs

Cubs, Brett Anderson start May on wrong foot with blowout loss to Phillies: 'A colossal failure'

Cubs, Brett Anderson start May on wrong foot with blowout loss to Phillies: 'A colossal failure'

Joe Maddon thought Brett Anderson spent the first month of the 2017 season a little uneasy about his position with the defending world champion Cubs.

Most of that, Maddon thought, was due to Anderson pressing in an effort to make sure he didn't let down his new team.

As the calendar rolled over to May Monday night (though it didn't feel like it with the temperature at a soggy 49 degrees at first pitch), Anderson is still in search of peace of mind.

The veteran left-hander survived for just four outs, getting lit up for seven runs on seven hits and a walk as the Philadelphia Phillies (12-12) cruised to a 10-2 victory over the Cubs (13-12).

The Cubs were already behind two hitters into the game as Cesar Hernandez singled and Aaron Altherr doubled him home. Anderson was one pitch away from getting out of the inning, but Phillies first baseman Tommy Joseph lifted a ball into the 14mph winds blowing straight out for a two-out, three-run homer.

"It was kinda a colossal failure from the get-go," Anderson said. "Make a decent pitch to the first batter, bloop single and it's all downhill from there. You see Jon [Lester] or Jake [Arrieta] or whoever at least give your team a chance to win without their A+ stuff. You try to do your part, but today was just a battle from the first pitch and obviously wasn't very successful."

Anderson also had to endure a rain delay that pushed opening pitch back an hour and 25 minutes.

"The delay wasn't so much a factor," Anderson said. "But the first inning when the pseudo-Forrest Gump torrential downpour and then it kinda clears off and the bottom of the first is weird. Ideally, we could've waited 10, 15 more minutes. I still have to go out there and get people out and I wasn't able to do that tonight.

The Cubs have now allowed 32 runs in the first inning this season, by far their worst total by frame:

Beyond the albatross weather, the Cubs didn't get into Chicago until almost 5 a.m. Monday morning after playing the primetime game in Boston Sunday night.

"Andy had a tough night," Maddon said. "There's no other way to slice it. We've been having to come from behind often over the last week to two weeks. It's not easy to continually do, especially when you're getting to bed at five in the morning. No excuses, 'cause Andy came in a night in advance. When you have a tough pitching night like that, it makes it difficult for the team."

On the season, Anderson has given up 15 earned runs on 28 hits and 12 walks in 21.2 innings, good for a 6.23 ERA and 1.85 WHIP. But 13 of those 15 runs have come in two bad starts (Monday and April 18 when he gave up six earned to the Milwaukee Brewers). In the other three outings, Anderson has worked around jams to surrender two earned runs in 16.2 innings despite 11 walks and 13 hits in that span.

"There are no positives to gain from this outing," Anderson said. "With the game starting late yesterday and then the team getting in late, you wanna go out there and give your team a chance to win. I have five starts [this season] now and I'm averaging [a little more than four innings] a start, which is embarrassing from my perspective. Hopefully going forward, I can pitch better and give us a chance."

Mike Montgomery did his part as the long man out of the bullpen, spinning 3.2 scoreless innings of relief. Justin Grimm followed and retired the first five batters he faced before giving up a pair of homers — and three runs total — as the Phillies poured it on.

"Our bullpen did a great job," Anderson said. "I have to pitch better. I haven't gotten in a groove for the most part. It's kinda been hit-or-miss. Hopefully going forward, you can pitch in five-to-six-day rotation, hit that stride and hopefully get some consistent weather, consistent circumstances and pitch better, do better going forward."

Javy Baez scored the only two runs for the Cubs — first on a solo homer on an 0-2 count in the fifth and then on Matt Szczur's sacrifice fly in the seventh — and also had two of the team's four hits.

Ben Zobrist and Willson Contreras collected the only two other Cubs hits — both singles.

As the game turned into a blowout, the Cubs got Kyle Schwarber some time behind the plate, letting the slugger catch the last two innings. It was his first action as a backstop in a regular-season game since September 2015.

Why what Mike Montgomery did against LA could go a long way toward keeping him in the Cubs' rotation

Why what Mike Montgomery did against LA could go a long way toward keeping him in the Cubs' rotation

Joe Maddon needed Mike Montgomery to get through at least six innings given the circumstances presenting the Cubs' manager before Game 2 of Tuesday’s day-night doubleheader against the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

Not only were the Cubs short a man in the bullpen (thanks to Brandon Morrow’s pants-related back injury), but Maddon had to use four relievers — including Pedro Strop for two innings — after Tyler Chatwood managed only five innings in Game 1 earlier in the afternoon. 

So when Montgomery — who had only thrown over 100 pitches once in the last two and a half seasons before Tuesday — saw his pitch count sit at 40 after two innings, and then 63 after three, he knew he needed to regroup to avoid creating a mess for the Cubs’ bullpen. 

What followed was a start that, statistically, wasn’t the most impressive of the five Montgomery’s made since re-joining the Cubs’ rotation earlier this year. But it was an important start in that the 28-year-old left-hander didn’t have his best stuff, yet didn’t give in to a good Dodgers lineup. And holding that bunch to one run over six innings was exactly what the Cubs needed in what turned out to be a 2-1 extra-inning win. 

“Especially when you don’t have have your best stuff, you always gotta — that’s when you really learn how to pitch,” Montgomery said. 

It’s also the kind of start that could be a major point in Montgomery’s favor when Maddon is presented with a decision to make on his starting rotation whenever Yu Darvish comes off the disabled list. Knowing that Montgomery can grind his way through six innings when his team needs it the most without his best stuff only can add to the confidence the Cubs have in him. 

Montgomery didn’t have his best stuff on Tuesday, issuing more walks (four) than he had in his previous four starts (three). He threw 48 pitches between the second and third innings, and only 25 of those pitches were strikes. Of the nine times the Dodgers reached base against Montgomery, six were the result of fastballs either leading to a walk or a hit. 

Even though the Dodgers were able to bother Montgomery a bit on his fastball, Maddon said that’s the pitch of his that’s impressed him the most over the last few weeks. 

“He never got rushed,” Maddon said. “In the past he would seem to get rushed when things weren’t going well, when he spot-started. Overall, fastball command is better — even though he was off a little bit tonight, the fastball command still exceeds what I’ve seen in the past couple of years on a more consistent basis. The changeup, really, good pitch. He got out of some jams but I think the fact that he knows where his fastball is going now is the difference-maker for him.”

Darvish will throw a simulated game on Wednesday after throwing two bullpen sessions last week. Maddon still doesn’t have a timetable for the $126 million right-hander’s return, and said he’s not entertaining what to do with his rotation until Darvish comes off the disabled list. But Maddon did mention Montgomery’s relative lack of an innings load — the most he’s thrown in a season in 130 2/3, which he did in 2017 — as a reason to perhaps not rush him into a permanent starting role the rest of the season. Going to a six-man rotation is a possibility, too, Maddon said. 

But the over-arching point is this: Montgomery will remain in the Cubs’ rotation as long as he keeps earning it. That can be the product of strong outings in which he has good stuff, or games like Tuesday in which he shows the Cubs the kind of resiliency most starters need to get through a full season. 

“I pitch well, good things happen,” Montgomery said. “I’ve always thought that. Opportunities, you just gotta make the most of them.”

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 28th + 29th homers in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 28th + 29th homers in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

For the second time in 1998, Sosa went back-to-back games with multiple home runs. After going yard twice on June 19 of that season, Slammin' Sammy again sent two balls into the bleachers on June 20.

He singlehandedly beat the Phillies that night, driving in 5 runs in a 9-4 Cubs victory.

But that wasn't the most impressive feat of the day from Sosa. His second homer was actually measured at a whopping 500 feet! It was the longest of the season, but not the longest of his career. On June 24, 2003, Sosa hit a homer at Wrigley measured at 511 feet.

The back-to-back big games raised Sosa's season OPS to 1.083 with a ridiculous .685 slugging percentage. He began June 1998 with a .608 slugging percentage.

Fun fact: Kerry Wood struck out 11 batters in 7.1 innings on June 20, 1998 to pick up his 7th big-league victory. As Wood marched to the National League Rookie of the Year that season, he finished with a 13-6 record and 233 strikeouts in only 166.2 innings for a career-high 12.6 K/9 rate.