We can all agree that last night's Cubs game was the worst game of the season, right? I'm actually glad that there was such a long rain delay. Even though I slept through a dramatic comeback by the home team, I also slept through the awful "nope, looks like we don't got this" pitching in the 9th and 11th innings.
I'm going to be honest with you - the Cubs aren't playing good baseball right now. But it's tough to put your finger on exactly what it is. Sometimes the offense just disappears, especially against what looks like a favorable matchup on paper. Sometimes the starting pitching isn't great. Sometimes the bullpen suuuuuuucks. Even in the games they lose, the Cubs usually seem to do 2 of those 3 things right, and can you really ask for more than that?
Two and a half weeks ago, we still had that world beater spirit. The Cubs were 47-20 and we just finished sweeping the Pirates in Chicago. The Cubs have gone 5-13 since then and have now lost 7 of their last 8 games. Can you imagine if this team had started the year going 5-13 out of the gate? Chicago's north side would have burned itself down. But take that same stretch of games and plunk it in at the end of the first half and it's a lot easier to swallow. And like I pointed out earlier this week, it's not like all these losses are coming against awful teams. Sure, the Reds are kind of awful and the Braves are definitely awful, but the Cubs have also played 11 of the last 18 games against the pretty decent Cardinals/Marlins/Mets too, so we should cut them a little slack.
Not everything is perfect in Cubsland though. Here are the 3 biggest red flags going into the All-Star break:
1. Someone Needs To Sex Fowler: Remember when Bruce Levine tweeted out that 'Sex Fowler' was out with a sore heel in May? We all had a good chuckle at his supposed typo, but maybe he stumbled onto a darker secret, that the entire Cubs offense runs on someone being available to sex Fowler. Maybe it's in his contract? Either way, I'm glad that he's going to aim to be back after the ASB because we really need some Sex Fowler at the top of the lineup again.
2. Arrieta Needs To Get His Walks Together: Get them all together. So they're together. And if you need to take them somewhere, take them to the walk store. Or the walk museum. Put all your walks in a backpack if you need to. Just get them together.
Honestly though, Jake Arrieta is a competitor and you know he's doing everything he can to figure out this semi-slump he's been in lately which also happens to be one of the most difficult jobs in all of sports. But if I could just take off my psychiatrist hat and put on my pitching coach jowls, I have a suggestion that might turn Jake's season back around. That Clayton Kershaw is really good, so one thing Jake could do is study exactly what it is that Clayton Kershaw does and then just go do that exact same thing. Seems pretty simple, right?
3. This Bullpen: For me personally, I think the bullpen's performance in last year's NLDS made me view them through rose tinted glasses for too much of this year. I mean all these dudes did against the Cardinals in the playoffs last year was get big outs. And yeah, Cahill has kept at least a little of that magic going this season, Clayton Richard is Who We Thought He Is, Neil Ramirez died in a fire and GRIMMHOLE is still lurking. Always lurking.
Fortunately, bullpen arms are pretty easy to come by come trade deadline time, so hopefully the Cubs can stock up.
And you know what? That's a whole lot of complaining from me about a team that is up by EIGHT GAMES and has one of the best records in baseball. So here are a few things to keep in mind and get you right back from being an angry drunk to that sweet spot of being a violently mischievous drunk.
Rondon Blew The Save And That's OK: Blown saves feel bad. Blown saves to terrible teams feel worse. Blown saves to terrible teams that you just made an improbable comeback against in the bottom of the 8th are juuuuust about as bad as they get. So yes, last night's blown save was sooooo bad to watch, but it's just another save. If Rondon would have blown one of the games of the sweep against the Pirates (WHICH ONE???) but nailed down last night, we'd still have the same end result. It would hurt a lot less, but would still be the same result.
We Got A Little Spoiled: Remember when the Cubs had awesome and timely hitting, awesome and timely pitching and awesome and effective bullpen work? All at the same time? Do you remember that the Cubs pulled that off for about 2 and a half months? DO YOU KNOW HOW HARD THAT IS??? Like I said, when it comes to offense/starting pitching/relief pitching, even the best teams can usually do just 2 out of 3. The Cubs are still the team that made a mockery of the rest of the NL for most of the first half. Here's hoping they can come out of the break hungry and destroying worlds again.
We're Still Pretty Great At Everything: Even with their recent slump, the Cubs are second in the majors in runs scored, second in OBP, first in ERA, first in starting rotation ERA and a decent 9th in defensive runs saved. And they've been without Jorge Soler and Dexter Fowler and MIGMON for extended periods of time. And they've needed 2 players from AAA to step in and contribute immediately. And they've lost Kyle Schwarber for the entire season.
Still 8 games up, still selling fake doors. It may not be 2015 anymore, but #wearegood is still accurate.
Tom Clancy Had A Better Division: The Pirates have been red hot recently and are still 8 games back. And it seems like to make any kind of move in the second half they're going to have to count on heavy contributions from two rookies with injury history, one of whom is currently hurt.
The Cardinals are so insecure about the Cubs success that even in his Make A Wish dream world scenario, Matt Carpenter still said he saw the Cardinals about 4 games back of the Cubs at the break and that would be "exactly where they want to be". Uhh...I thought that NOT TRAILING is where you want to be. Right? Isn't that how it works? Anyway, Matt Carpenter isn't going to play again until September because of karma and I couldn't be happier!
Oh, Yeah...: Not sure if you heard this or not, but the entire NL starting infield for the All Star Game is made up of Cubs, two of whom started last season in AAA, one of which is my frontrunner for NL MVP.