The Rundown: Shutouts Galore, Chris Kross’ll Make Ya…Slump Slump, Pitchers in the Outfield

Wily ol’ Joe Maddon was up to his shenanigans again Wednesday afternoon in Milwaukee, though not even cobbling together a series of tricks could help the Cubs scratch out a series win. Or a run, for that matter.

Astute readers will notice that Mike Canter hasn’t been seen on these pages in a while, but fear not. He’s taking care of some stuff with his Jivewired project and he’s planning to be back next week. Actually, calling it a “project” may belittle his efforts too much. Mike has poured his his heart and soul, among other things, into Jivewired and it’s really cool to see it getting off the ground.

But that also means he’s like a mini Atlas holding the thing on his shoulders, so I guess we’ll cut him a little slack for making you put up with me handling these Rundowns for now.

We’re not always doing business but we’re always open

The Cubs and Brewers have played 11 games so far this season, with the home team holding an 8-3 record so far. That would be somewhat remarkable in and of itself since the Brewers have maintained a lead on the Cubs for most of the season, but what’s really wild is the scoring. Or, as the case may be, the lack of scoring.

The Brewers failed to push across a single tally in five of the first eight games and the Cubs were shut out in the last two. That means seven of 11 games have featured scoring from only one team, which, while it’s enough to back do’ Little Joe, is incredibly frustrating for at least one of the teams involved.

I’d have to guess Kato Kaelin isn’t the only Brewers fan who’s not entirely excited about his squad’s general futility against the Cubs. On the other hand, the five runs the Cubs scored in the 11th inning of Monday’s contest is one more than they’ve scored in the last 37 non-11th innings they’ve played against the Beermakers.

Maybe the Cubs are just doing a really deep subliminal homage to the 7-11 that’s no longer on the corner of Clark and Sheffield.

Chris Kross’ll make ya…slump, slump

Had he been alive to read that sub-head, Dante Alighieri would have reserved a special place in hell for me. But he’s not here, so I thumb my nose at the negative opinions of my terrible puns.

Kris Bryant hasn’t gone yard in a month (May 14) and hasn’t collected a hit in his last 19 plate appearances, so Maddon gave him the day off against a righty with a nasty slider. That makes sense, and Skip has a noted affinity for resting players the day before an off-day (hence the frequent replacement lineups on getaway day), but it was sort of odd to see Chris Gimenez taking an at-bat late in the loss.

It’d be one thing if the Cubs were down several runs or if it was earlier in the game, but down 1-0 with one out in the 9th is kind of a big spot. What was Maddon’s rationale?

“Theoretically, [using Bryant in that situation] sounds wonderful, but I thought Gimenez had some good swings today,” the manager explained after the game. “It’s an easy dialogue to try and conjure up, but I was really trying to give him the day off.”

Maddon also noted that Bryant has been struggling, so it would seem that his refusal to use his superstar in that moment was as much about protecting Bryant as it was Maddon being stubborn. Contrary to his oft-discussed foibles, one area in which Maddon can’t be faulted is in his management of rest days for his best players.

That stuff can be frustrating for those fans who want to see the stars when they go to the ballpark and who want the best possible lineup against a division rival, but these long seasons take a toll. And with Bryant appearing somewhat out of sorts at the plate over the last few games, maybe putting him in cold like that wouldn’t have been a great idea.

And that’s why I believe Maddon gave the explanation that he did, not because he really believed Gimenez gave them just as good a shot to win. I mean, that’d be like having Rita Coolidge duet with Peter Criss instead of Kris Kristofferson (obligatory deep cut musical reference in Mike’s honor).

The kids from left field

Somewhere in rural Arkansas, a shirtless man cracked a beer and hollered a “Yee-haw!” as the Cubs swapped relievers back and forth from left field to the mound.

Neither Steve Cishek nor Brian Duensing made quite the impact on both ends as Travis Wood, but the gambit did take some of the wind out of Lorenzo Cain’s sails.

Thursday walk-up song

Bad Moon Risin’, John Fogerty – Sorry for going back-to-back CCR, but the old man still puts on a great show and this closed it out last night.

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Evan Altman

Evan Altman is the EIC and co-founder of Cubs Insider and has proclaimed himself Central Indiana's foremost Cubs authority. He is a husband, father, homebrewer, and award-winning blogger with entirely too much pop culture knowledge. Evan's greatest accomplishments include scoring 400 points in Magic Johnson's Fast Break, naming all 10 members of the Wu-Tang Clan in under 3.5 seconds, and winning the Meese Literary Award at Hanover College.

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4 Comments

  1. Interesting that yesterday’s game ended with the 2 catchers striking out.
    What a contrast they provided. The first one, Gimenez, while he fanned, provided a quality at bat; cool, calm, and collected.
    The pitcher knew he had a battle on his hands.
    You had no idea in advance as to the end result; provided good baseball regardless of the outcome of the at bat. Great 9th inning drama that kept you glued to the game.

    When Contreras stepped in, by contrast, I, along with the pitcher, anticipated the result.
    3 swings and Willson could get back on the bus, head to the airport, whatever.
    As long as the pitcher kept the ball away from his bat, he would likely swing and miss 3 times.
    Not an intelligent plate appearance at best; and, at worst, showed that Contreras may perhaps be an excellent batter in normal situations, but not with the pressure of the game on the line.
    Experience only teaches the latter — and that takes time and years of repetition building self-confidence.
    Ane while Giminez lacks Contreras’ stats, when push comes to shove, he has something far more valuable and intangible.
    That is what makes baseball a very special game which modern day analytics and metrics cannot quantify — and thank goodness it cannot.

    A good team has the right mix of players not metrics.No metrics or analytics can teach that as batters, along with pitchers, are human, not machines.
    .And Maddon understands that despite his bosses infatuation with power and angles and all the rest of the stuff no one ever considered a generation or 2 back when baseball was in its prime and a sport in which players could succeed at despite body size, strength and all the rest.
    And we never saw the proliferation and types of injuries that plagues rosters today.

    The only reason I maintain an interest in baseball is because of my past love of the game.
    I could not fall for the game as it is played now unless I was already intwined into it.

    1. I certainly understand your frustration with Contreras and his approach, although at the end of the day – no matter how good Gimenez’s at bat looked on Wednesday – he’s a .217 career hitter with no power. Contreras can improve a great deal with some maturity and experience, whereas Gimenez is what he is.

      I do think that the “art” of baseball is still there. Momentum, attitude, experience, etc. – frequently overcome advanced statistics at any given moment. The stats just weigh heavy on the minds of many managers.

    2. I had a revelation this year. I’m not intertwined to baseball, but to Cubs baseball. There r so many hours in a day, so it makes sense to watch every day of every game of my team. But then I really got turned off by the doom and gloom every single game took after MY team won a WS.
      The novelty of a Shohei brought me back. The love I have for Jake, taking the bump, brought me back. It was a bridge to watch the game in a new/old way. A game of the week, actually playing the game everyday kind of way.
      Baseball is hard. Every double play opportunity is not a double play. Every game and team has managers that are questioned, a player- that if he just could lay off the cutter down and away. Daily opportunity to focus on everything but the grind of 162.
      The benefit of watching Philly and LAA is appreciating baseball again and….
      Mike Trout is the truth.
      If you have ever played with someone who is better then anyone (maybe you) and translating that to never being overmatched at the highest level, being the best athlete in like everything?
      Mike Trout.
      To sit and watch baseball on a level that was foreign, with no hardwired allegiances. And have to wait ((it’s the hardest part)) to see someone dominate, at the level of todays game, is nauseating. The context, of translating my allegiance from a team and witnessing the 162 of someone Literarily better the any single player on MY team I may ever see, let alone the stratosphere of all time? Takes a 5 tool fan.

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