Cubs Conspectus: Game 27

Cubs 6, Cardinals 5

Fly the W flag, Chicago. Any time you beat the Cardinals, it is reason to celebrate. Forget that 10-17 record you’re showing off.

The Good
It does not get much better than Welington Castillo today. 3-4 with all three hits being doubles. The biggest hit of the game came in the third with the Cubs already up 3-2. Castillo went with the Adam Wainwright outside pitch to drive in Starlin Castro and Nate Schierholtz and give the Cubs a 5-2 lead.

Castillo is now hitting exactly .300 on the season, and I think his start is going widely unnoticed.

Anthony Rizzo followed up his big performance last game with another great day. 2-3 with another home run, two runs scored and three runs driven in.

Travis Wood must get a mention also. After struggling a bit in his last outing, he was strong today against a good Cardinals lineup. Seven innings giving up three runs only two of which were earned. Six hits, no walks, and six strikeouts.

The Bad
Ryan Sweeney had a nice game today but appeared to strain his right hamstring. I expect him to be put on the disabled list tomorrow, and the Cubs do not have a lot in AAA to call up for bench depth.

The Ugly
Justin Grimm had a very rough outing today, and he made all Cubs fans fear an inevitable blowing of the game. However, Brian Schlitter came in and got two big outs before Hector Rondon came in to go one-two-three in the ninth to earn his second save. It looks like Rondon is going to keep getting the ball in the ninth for a while. I sure hope he can keep it up.

Cubs Conspectus: Game 26

Cubs 9, Reds 4

Insurance runs!!

The Good
Anthony Rizzo had a hell of a game at the dish. Anytime you are in a game where your counterpart is Joey Votto, and you outshine him, you have had a good day. He reached base in every at-bat going 1-1 with four walks, three runs and two runs batted in. Did I mention that one hit was a two-run home run off left-hander Tony Cingrani in the first inning? Yeah, that good!

Starlin Castro was also very good again. 3-4 with two doubles and a walk with a run scored and a run driven in.

The Bad
Edwin Jackson was not good today but picked up the win anyway proving yet again that win-loss records are pretty much useless. He is 2-2 with 5.24 ERA while Jeff Samardzija is 0-3 with a 1.98 ERA. Luckily, the bullpen picked Jackson up today.

The Ugly
Mike Olt was 0-5 with two strikeouts and grounded into a double play. He has shown a good deal of power this year, but he is only hitting .164 on the year.

Cubs Conspectus: Game 25

Reds 3, Cubs 2

The Good
The bullpen was very good for the second game in a row. Someone take my blood pressure. Zac Rosscup, Justin Grimm, and Pedro Strop combined to go two and a third without allowing a run.

Starlin Castro went 1-4, but his lone hit came with the bases loaded in the third, and drove in two runs to give the Cubs the lead at the time. It was the Cubs lone hit with runners in scoring position.

The Bad
Jeff Samardzija was not great today. He and Travis Wood were both due for a bad start at some point. He really labored today allowing eight hits and four walks in only five and two-thirds innings. He was very lucky to only give up three runs with that stat line.

The Ugly
Ryan Sweeney really hurt the Cubs today, and I fully recognize that putting him the ugly is unfair tonight. In the top of the second, he hit the ball very hard, but lined out with runners on first and second. In his second at-bat, he hit the ball hard again but was robbed of a hit.

Then in the eighth inning with two outs and guys on first and second again, he struck out looking. He finished 0-4 on the day and is hitting .176 on the season.

Cubs Conspectus: Game 24

Cubs 4, Brewers 0

The Cubs avoid the sweep; I think I’ll weep for joy.

The Good
Starlin Castro belted his third and fourth home runs of the year today. His solo shot to lead off the second inning off a 95-mph Wily Peralta fastball went to dead center and started the scoring for the day. It really ended up being the biggest play of the game as strange as that sounds.

Then, for good measure in the eighth, Castro yanked a hanging slider down the left field line. He had never had two home runs in the same game before this season, and he did it twice this month.

Oh yeah, then there was Jason Hammel again. All he did was throw seven scoreless innings allowing three hits and two walks while striking out seven, and the bullpen actually picked him up today. Scratch that, they were flawless. Pedro Strop went one-two-three in the eighth, and then Hector Rondon struck out the side in the ninth. I do not know exactly what is going on with Rondon right now. I have no idea why he is so much better than he was last year, and even though he did not get a save today because he had a four run lead, I think he is pitching his way into that closer role.

The Bad
Junior Lake went 0-4 from the two hole, and that slot in the lineup continues to plague the Cubs so far this year. I have already mentioned that it is the most important slot in the lineup, and the Cubs do not have an answer right now.

The Ugly
Darwin Barney. His defense is great, but if he is not playing every day, he really should not even be up with the club, and let me clarify, he should not be playing every day. 0-4 today, and his batting average drops to .108 on the season. I cannot overstate how important Emilio Bonifacio has been to this club so far this year.

Cubs Conspectus: Game 23

Brewers 5, Cubs 3

The Good
Luis Valbuena and Welington Castillo each homered, and those two swings accounted for all three Cub runs. I really do not have anything more to say than that.

The Bad
Travis Wood did not have his good stuff today. He gave up seven hits and three walks in five and two-thirds innings and ended up giving up five runs in the process.

The Ugly
The entire offense. Four hits, no walks, and 11 strikeouts. They did not get a runner into scoring position all day. You have to give some credit to Marco Estrada for making them look so bad, but that was not a fun game to watch at all.

Cubs Conspectus: Game 22

Brewers 5, Cubs 2

Matt Garza kicked the Cubs’ teeth in just like he wanted to.

The Good
The bullpen was very good in three innings tonight. Neil Ramirez, who was just recently called up, walked one, but otherwise pitched a flawless sixth, and then Wesley Wright gave up only one hit over the next two innings while striking out three.

The Bad
For the third straight game in a row, the Cubs managed to get exactly five hits. Nobody posted a multi-hit performance.

The Ugly
Carlos Villanueva continues to struggle. He allowed 11 hits in five innings and was lucky to only surrender five runs. He struck out only one batter, and Cubs fans are getting evermore anxious for Jake Arrieta to get healthy enough to come back. We’ll try it all again tomorrow.

Cubs Conspectus: Game 21

Diamondbacks 5, Cubs 2

After winning the first two games of the series, the Cubs fail to win their first series of the year.

The Good
Edwin Jackson was actually pretty good today. Seven innings, five hits, four strikeouts, two walks, and three runs. That is a quality start, and it should have been good enough to beat Mike Bolsinger.

Emilio Bonifacio went 2-4 in the leadoff spot, and Anthony Rizzo belted his third home run of the year (off a lefty).

The Bad
The rest of the offense was putrid. The Cubs hit 5-33 and only walked twice.

The Ugly
Jose Veras again. It keeps getting worse and worse. In one inning he gave up two hits, one walk and 2 runs. His ERA is now at 15.88 for 2014.

Cubs Conspectus: Game 20

Diamondbacks 7, Cubs 5

Wrigley celebrates 100 years of futility the only way the Cubs know how.

The Good
Jeff Samardzija battled through seven and a third innings allowing seven hits and two walks while striking out five, and he left the game with a 5-2 lead. I don’t know what to think about Samardzija so far this year. His strikeout rate is down about 4%, which is significant, but his walk rate is down 2%, which is also significant. That has resulted in him walking one fewer batter per nine innings so far this year. If you can keep an extra guy off the bases every nine innings, you will have more success. His ground ball rate is also up for the third straight season and is over 50% for the first time in his career.

His ERA so far this season is an incredible 1.53. This is due to a certain amount of luck. He has increased his ground ball rate, which is great, but when he has given up a fly, only 3.8% have managed to leave the park. This is sure to regress back to the mean, which for Samardzija has been 10.8% throughout his career. However, even with the drop in strikeouts and the unsustainable home run-to-fly ball rate, his FIP and xFIP numbers indicate his ERA should be right around 3.00. I think both Samardzija and the Cubs would have signed up for that before this year. The BABIP is a little lower than average for him too, but if he can keep the walks down, Samardzija could be set for a breakout year.

The Bad
The offense was not good today. They scored five runs, but they only managed to get five hits, and no one had a multi-hit performance. They were rather lucky in that two of the runs they scored were unearned.

The Ugly
Do I even need to say it? I already noted Samardzija left the game with a 5-2 lead, and it was still 5-2 heading into the ninth thanks to Hector Rondon coming in to finish of the eighth for him. And, then this happened. Happy birthday, Wrigley!

Link: Wrigley Turns 100

I have already made it well known on a couple of occasions that Craig Calcaterra is my favorite baseball blogger going.

This morning he wrote a great piece on Wrigley’s 100th birthday and added a few links to other stories in the process. Everyone should go read it.

Cubs Conspectus: Game 19

Cubs 9, Diamondbacks 2

Holy cow! Two in a row!

The Good
I have often started with the starting pitcher so far this year, and there was no reason to discontinue that trend today. Jason Hammel was very good, again, and I will reiterate how that should return dividends via trade for the Cubs in July. Seven innings, four hits, no walks, four strikeouts, one run, and just like Travis Wood, the lone run was on a solo home run.

The Cubs scored nine runs, so virtually everyone hit well. Luis Valbuena led off tonight giving Emilio Bonifacio the night off, and he set the table well going 2-4 with a walk. Mike Olt hit a three-run home run continuing his power surge, and it was his first off a right-handed pitcher.

The Bad
Blake Parker gave up two hits and a run in the ninth giving him an ERA of 16.20 on the season, and the Cubs do not seem to have a clue what is going on with their bullpen still.

The Ugly
John Baker beat out George Kottaras for the backup catcher position this March, and the Cubs cut Kottaras on March 26th. He resigned with the Indians and was assigned to their AAA team. Despite the fact that Kottaras has not had a plate appearance in the majors this year, he has the same number of hits as John Baker. Baker went 0-3 tonight with two strikeouts and is now 0-17 on the season.