The cheer went up as I was passing through security quite a bit later that I’d have liked. Traffic and a GPS that wasn’t willing to take me to my destination had conspired against me all afternoon, forcing me to arrive after the bottom of the 1st had begun.
Oh, there was also that stop at Three Floyds.
“Sounds like Rizzo hit a home,” the usher said as she scanned my ticket.
That’s how bad it had gotten for Rizzo and, really, the Cubs as a whole. After giving up yet another run in the top of the 1st, there was already a palpable here-we-go-again vibe radiating forth from what had been the brightest beacon of hope in sports history just over six months ago.
“Nah, just a single,” I replied, though the crowd had already placed a gulf between us that my words couldn’t traverse.
No matter, the fact that Anthony Rizzo had gotten a hit at all was a big deal, though most of the talk has centered on Kyle Schwarber batting leadoff. Never mind that he’s still seeing the ball well, evidenced by a very healthy walk rate and a strikeout rate that’s come down over the last couple weeks.
That hasn’t stopped the calls and tweets and Facebook posts from demanding that he benched or moved down, either in the order or to Iowa. Because, you know, a few at-bats in AAA will help him miss gloves.
And when Schwarber ambled over to the line to field a Billy Hamilton liner, muffing the ball like a nervous punt returner, the guys behind me discussed how he needed to lose weight. Everyone’s got a solution when the team isn’t playing well.
To be fair, Schwarber does need to improve in some areas. Well, one for sure. He’s got to stop pulling the ball on the ground. Joe Sheehan had a great piece in The Athletic about Schwarber’s rough start, much of which can be turned around by getting a little more elevation and hitting through and over the shift.
There were no elevation issues with his home run off of Bronson Arroyo in the 2nd, a blast right fielder Scott Schebler didn’t even move from his spot to pursue. That gave the Cubs a little more leeway on the scoreboard and had people breathing easier about the slugger in light of all the chatter.
But after a Joey Votto homer pulled the Reds to within two runs in the 7th, it was time for more slumps to be busted. Addison Russell answered with a solo shot and Rizzo followed with one of his own the next inning to effectively ice the game.
Maybe that lady from earlier could see the future.
It’s just one game, but it was great to see the Cubs get over on Arroyo, and to do it largely on the strength of longballs from three hitters who desperately needed to break out.
Maddon is grand
This one game did bear a bit of significance for Joe Maddon, who reached 1,000 career managerial victories as a result of the W. Pretty cool stuff. The skipper tipped a nice red in celebration, but I’m sure the accomplishment was no sooner lauded than it was pushed aside in the pusuit of 1,001 and beyond.
Almora is…bad at defense?
I know, right, that’s crazy talk. But the numbers don’t support the eye test. Albert Almora is also looking like the new odd man out on a roster that features all kinds of new faces coming up.
The Cubs have all of their last first-round draft picks on the roster. Javy Baez, Almora, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, and Ian Happ. Whoa, that’s kinda nuts. For the Cubs, at least.
The home run was nice, but the most impressive part of Ian Happ’s Wrigley debut was the bases loaded walk he took in the bottom of the 6th. On a full count.
Did I mention it was his Wrigley debut?
The crowd enjoyed seeing this young man allow 4 pitches to sail wide. pic.twitter.com/fqpFAL2mRL
— Cubs Insider (@realcubsinsider) May 17, 2017
That’s some serious poise, evidence that the young man can really be a solid major league hitter. Now the question is whether the Cubs can keep him around once everyone gets healthy.
Sorry, no notes this morning. Gotta run.