Cubs allow Brewers one step closer with uncharacteristically sloppy game

Cubs allow Brewers one step closer with uncharacteristically sloppy game

"MVP! MVP!" chants broke out at Miller Park Tuesday night, but not because a bunch of Cubs fans took over the place again and were cheering for Javy Baez.

The Brewers faithful were showing their love to Christian Yelich, who had just given his team a 9-1 lead — though, amazingly, it was Milwaukee's first RBI hit of the game.

With wins in the first two games of the series, the Brewers are now only three games behind the Cubs in the National League Central race with a chance to sweep Wednesday.

It was just that kind of game for the Cubs — a sloppy effort that has been a rare sight from this group over the last few seasons.

Before Yelich's double, the Brewers opened up a 7-1 lead in the seventh inning, scoring all 7 runs via three sacrifice flies, a wild pitch, a passed ball, a hit-by-pitch with the bases loaded and an error when Victor Caratini couldn't catch Addison Russell's throw at first base.

The Cubs committed three errors on the night — one each for Caratini, Russell and Javy Baez.

They also walked 8 Brewers — including Lorenzo Cain four separate times — and hit two guys.

Every pitcher Joe Maddon called on struggled to some effect, beginning with Mike Montgomery (1 earned run, 3 walks, 2 hits in 4 innings) and ending with Norwood, who surrendered the two-run double to Yelich.

On the offensive end, the Cubs managed only 4 hits, did not draw a walk, struck out 10 times and went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position before a mini rally in the ninth inning that was thwarted when Norwood bounced into a double play.

To add injury to insult, Anthony Rizzo had to leave the game in the sixth inning with a right foot contusion after fouling a ball off that foot earlier in the game.

Willson Contreras and his boundless energy join Cubs All-Decade Team

Willson Contreras and his boundless energy join Cubs All-Decade Team

With the 2010s coming to a close, NBC Sports Chicago is unveiling its Cubs All-Decade Team, highlighting the players who made the biggest impacts on the organization from 2010-19.

It didn’t take long for Willson Contreras to introduce himself to Major League Baseball. On the first pitch he saw as a big-leaguer, the Cubs catcher cranked a two-run home run to center field — on Sunday Night Baseball, nonetheless.

That moment was a sign of things to come for Contreras, who has since established himself as one of the best catchers in baseball. The 27-year-old holds a career .267/.350/.470 line with a 117 wRC+ and 67 home runs in four seasons. He’s started back-to-back All-Star Games, the first Cubs catcher to do so since Gabby Hartnett (1937-38).

Contreras offers so much to the Cubs besides his bat. His cannon of an arm and athleticism behind the plate are integral to the Cubs controlling opposing run games. His pitch framing is a work in progress, and admittedly, he could improve in this area by throwing behind runners less, ensuring he gets strikes called.

However, back-picking is part of Contreras’ value. He may lose some strike calls by not sticking a frame, but there've been plenty of occasions where Contreras' arm has provided the Cubs with a spark. His boundless energy is unmeasurable, but its importance to the Cubs — who feed off of it — cannot be overstated.

There are areas where Contreras can improve, and that's a scary thought. But he's already is one of the best backstops in baseball and has earned the starting catcher spot on our Cubs All-Decade Team.

Also considered: Welington Castillo, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Geovany Soto

Cubs sign oft-injured reliever Brandon Morrow to minor-league deal


Cubs sign oft-injured reliever Brandon Morrow to minor-league deal

Brandon Morrow hasn’t pitched in a big-league game since July 2018, but he’ll get a shot at making a comeback next season.

Morrow is set to sign a minor league deal with the Cubs, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. It’s worth $1 million if he makes the Cubs' roster and could reach $2.25 million if Morrow makes 65 big-league appearances. 

Morrow hasn’t pitched since July 15, 2018, missing the second half of that season with right biceps inflammation. He underwent a debridement procedure on his right elbow last offseason, which was supposed to keep him out for the first month of the 2019 season. But Morrow suffered several setbacks and never pitched in 2019. 

Morrow’s agent, Joel Wolfe, told Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times last month that the right-hander feels a sense of loyalty to the Cubs after they stuck by him through thick and thin. He said Morrow was open to a minor league deal.

When he last pitched, Morrow was one of the most dominant closers in baseball. He posted a 1.47 ERA in 35 games in 2018, converting 22 of 24 save tries. He provided the Cubs with a power arm in the back of the bullpen, striking out 31 batters in 30 2/3 innings compared to nine walks.

For the Cubs, Morrow is a low-risk addition with high-reward potential. He told ESPN’s Jesse Rogers that his arm feels great. If he’s healthy, he could be a major contributor to the Cubs' bullpen.

This time, the Cubs won’t place such high expectations on the 35-year-old. They expect closer Craig Kimbrel to bounce back in 2020 with a normal offseason ahead of him. Kimbrel signed a three-year, $43 million deal with the Cubs last June and struggled mightily, posting a 6.53 ERA in 23 games.

If healthy, Morrow could prove to be a lethal weapon in front of Kimbrel. If he can’t stay healthy, it’s not like the Cubs are investing a lot of money in him, as they did two offseasons ago when Morrow signed a two-year, $21 million deal.

Simply put: if Morrow pans out, great. If he can’t stay healthy, the Cubs can move on without losing a large investment.