Record: 54-52. Change on last season: +3
What? It was only 3-9? Wow: it certainly seemed an awful lot more than that. We have Vargas to blame for this one, as the Cubs took a seven-run lead after three innings of his pitching, and largely cruised thereafter. It was Chicago's turn to play long-ball, hitting four in total, three off our starter, as Vargas couldn't keep the ball down - a fatal mistake on another night with the wind blowing out at Wrigley. He was pulled after the fourth inning, and the seven runs conceded, on eight hits lift Vargas's ERA up to 5.43.
That's pretty borderline, even for a #5 starter, and Vargas has been pitching embarrassingly shallowly into games. Of the 40 pitchers with 20+ starts in the NL thus far, Vargas has the worst figure for innings per outing, at only 5.38 [Second worst is former D'back, Orlando Hernandez, at 5.40]. At that pace, he could make 30 starts this year and still not pitch enough innings to qualify for the ERA title. I've checked the records back to 1992 and that would appear to be unique: Mike Morgan came closest in 1997, with the minimum 162 innings in 30 starts
Vargas was making no excuses, saying, "I missed a lot of pitches today, that's why I think they hit the home runs," but pitching coach Bryan Price went to, er, bat, for his man: "You can't evaluate pitchers in this ballpark with the way the conditions were. He wasn't his best by any means, I don't want to represent that he was, but he wasn't as bad as it looked either. He's not what you would call your classic sinkerballer-strikeout type pitcher. He's going to have the ball put in play and a lot of the balls that are put in play are going to go in the air and tonight was not a good night for that."
Medders pitched two innings in relief, but gave up the fourth Cubs homer, and two earned runs on three hits and a walk. Pena and Vizcaino threw scoreless frames: Pena's ERA is now down below one, and it was nice to see Vizcaino apparently recovered from his shoulder issue. Though since he only threw seven pitches (all for strikes!) to get the three outs, it was hardly a great test of his stuff.
Meanwhile, our offense was pretty quiet: a two-run pinch hit double by Andy Green, and Byrnes' 16th homer of the year were all the production mustered, and we were limited to six hits and two walks. LuGon had a pair of hits, including his 38th double, while Tracy was on base twice with a walk and a single. But the rookies, Quentin and Jackson, went 0-for-7 with three K's, so not a marquee night for them. Tracy didn't strike out, and Ben noted, K's have been happening less often for him lately: after 24, 27 and 28 for Apr-June, he fanned only 18 times in July, albeit in a few less at-bats.
I think largely because of the early, large nature of the deficit (I haven't looked at the fangraph at time of writing. but I imagine the Cubs reached 90% pretty early and likely didn't descend below it thereafter), apathy in the GameDay thread was at near-record low levels. Thanks to andrewinnewyork, Devin and William K for bothering to turn up - the last mentioned that, contrary to my beliefs, we had seen Hill before. We faced, and beat, him May 4, but on that occasion, Cruz and three relievers pitched an eight-hit shutout. That will help...
I think we should all promise to do better for Wednesday's game. That includes the Diamondbacks hitters, our starter, commentators here and even myself - who missed this one almost entirely, and so is absolutely no position to criticize anyone else for their lack of enthusiasm. San Diego and Cincinnati both lost, so there was effectively no real damage there. But in the ever-changing world of the NL West, it's now San Franciso's turn to be in the cellar, after they lost their ninth straight.
This does go to prove how volatile the division is. In ten games time, that could be the Diamondbacks. Or the Padres. Or anyone else in the division. So we will pause, think of all the things we could say, and move on. ;-) Okay, almost move on. I just wanted to share this paragraph from SB brother, McCovey Chronicles, written before Tuesday's loss:
I'm trying to think if I came up with anything quite as convolutedly brilliant during the June slump: I suspect the short answer is "no", though my criticism of Russ Ortiz probably reached near-industrial level of snark. Hey, wasn't someone monitoring our performance with and without Ortiz around? Might be time to blow the dust off that particular octopus. I was going to say, "puppy", but merely quoting the previous paragraph has probably got PETA calling in an air-strike on my house. So we'll go with the cephalopod instead...
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Today: The Cubs Strike Back