The Rundown: Getting a Leg Up, Pedro Strop Trip, Eloy Jimenez ‘Getting Really Close,’ Lucchesi’s Churve

What a bummer of a way to end a weekend of Cubs baseball. If I’m being totally honest with you, though, I wasn’t upset about Sunday’s ugly loss. I mean, I was, but it had been such a crazy weekend and busy day to that point that the result was a minor nuisance.

This is and will normally be a place for baseball talk, so I hope you’ll indulge me a little more personal commentary this time around. And since page views tend to drop precipitously in the wake of bad losses, I figure it’s only our more loyal readers who’ll be around for this anyhow.

First things first, I’ve been pain-free for two or three days now, which is a good deal. Despite my fears that I may have shared some of this already, I suppose I should explain what’s been going on. It starts with me being an idiot. If you’re not interested in hearing about this and would rather get to the brief notes, just skip to the next bold header.

I started wearing shorts instead of baseball pants to play softball this year (the kind with gloves and a smaller ball, not 16-inch), mainly because I’m getting older and I’m in worse shape and don’t need to be sliding. Well, with my team down and getting nothing going on offense, I decided to go full El Mago and tag from second on a pop…to the second baseman. You know, catch ’em by surprise.

So I’m rumbling toward third like an older, fatter Anthony Rizzo and I see the third baseman readying to catch the throw. And I slide. On a surface that was about as forgiving as a parking lot and littered with tiny rocks that may as well have been glass. Imagine taking 40-grit sandpaper to the side of your calf (I’ve got pics, but I’ll spare you).

The important thing at the time was that I was safe. Until I saw the ball bounce away and then broke for home, only to be tagged just before scoring. More like “Hell Mag…noooo,” amirite? This was all the night of the Home Run Derby, so I’m watching with this big ol’ strawberry on my leg. It was actually feeling much better a week later, enough so that I was able to play again.

Long story short, it actually ended up getting infected a few days after that and I was in pretty excruciating pain for several days. I know many of you out there have dealt with much worse and are probably telling me to piss off with my petty problems, though you’d probably do that anyway, and I get it. But when you can’t sleep well and can’t concentrate when you’re awake and you’re trying to come up with things to write, well, it ain’t easy.

Frequent doses of both oral and topical antibiotics have more or less cleared everything up now and I’m finally feeling much better. To top it off, my son’s basketball camp got moved up an hour Sunday morning, which meant he was able to play in his baseball game after camp. Being able to stand the entire time was incredible, let me tell you.

That was just a really long way of saying I’m sorry if I’ve been snippy or if it seems like I’ve been off my game. I hope to be able to do better for you here soon.

Cubs notes

A series split with the worst team in the NL isn’t great, but the Rockies were able to provide a little help by beating the Brewers Sunday. And only a Wade Davis blown save kept the Brewers from being two games back. It wasn’t the ideal scenario, but the Cubs now have a chance to gain some more ground as they play the hapless Royals in KC.

It’s always kind of funny to me when fans get upset about the players on their favorite team not getting upset about losses. Like the players are supposed to rend their garments and sit on the ash heap each time they take an L or something. I get that you don’t really want guys celebrating a defeat or whatever, but when even the best teams lose 50+ games it’d suck to get down on each one.

That’s part of the reason I enjoy the Cubs’ themed road trips, which they really get into even after a loss. It’s part of the Little League vibe these guys put out, like they’re legitimately having fun being around one another and playing a game.

The theme for the trip to Kansas City was “Dress Like Pedro Strop,” which led to some predictably flashy attire. I do wonder what goes through Cole Hamels’ head on something like this, given he really doesn’t know Strop well at all. Yu Darvish sure got into it, though.

Speaking of Darvish, I’m going to be diving into his outlook in a slightly deeper manner in a separate piece. It’s pretty interesting stuff, or at least I find it so.

Hamels will actually be going at Kauffman Stadium in Monday’s series opener, and a repeat of his previous efforts there would be nice. Though he’s only made three starts in KC, he is 2-0 and has yielded only two total runs on 13 hits and seven walks.

With the full understanding that his reputation as a terrible umpire lends a great deal of bias to the assessment of his work behind the plate Sunday, Angel Hernandez ringing Rizzo up on a pitch that started and stayed outside was pretty bad. I’m not even sure the chart below accurately displays the pitch.

This didn’t determine the game by any means, but it wasn’t the first time Hernandez had impacted play due to a bad call. In Rizzo’s previous at-bat, a called strike on a sinker that was outside the zone both low and away put the batter in protect mode early. Of course, Rizzo ended up blooping in the game-tying run on a similar pitch right after.

Between CB Bucknor squeezing Kyle Hendricks the day before and Hernandez bedeviling them Sunday, the Cubs didn’t have a great weekend with umpires. That cuts both ways, of course, but Hendricks is a guy who doesn’t have a wide margin for error in the first place. While you can’t blame umps for losses, there are some who stand out from the pack as being prone to error and/or agendas.

Other notes

Despite their overall futility, or maybe because of it, the White Sox have been reluctant to call Eloy Jimenez up for his big league debut. That ascension could come very soon, though, as Chris Getz, the team’s director of player development, told 670 The Score this weekend.

And when Jimenez was scratched from the starting lineup of the AAA Charlotte Knights’ game Sunday, Sox fans were obviously excited about the possibilities. Until…

It’s like the bizarro version of the Trent Giambrone #HugWatch we saw around the deadline. Except that Jimenez really should be up in Chicago because he’s got nothing left to prove in the minors, other than maybe brushing up on his defense at third base.

I fully expect this young man to go absolutely nuts over the last two months of the season, thereby sending folks on both sides of town into tizzies over the results of the trade that sent Jimenez and Dylan Cease to the White Sox in return for Jose Quintana.

Bringing it back to the Cubs’ recent loss, I still can’t get over the unorthodox pitch thrown by rookie southpaw Joey Lucceshi. He baffled the Cubs with his “churve,” which is a portmanteau of changeup and curve. Those of you viewing this on a protected internet connection may not be able to see the image, but imagine a slightly modified circle-change grip thrown with wrist pronation similar to that of a curve.

It’s the kind of franken-pitch that you usually see in wiffleball games in the backyard, but Lucchesi happened upon it in college when his standard change didn’t do what he wanted it to.

“I started messing around with it more and figuring out different grips and wrist actions,” he told Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union Tribune. “I was like, ‘Whoa! Look at this.’ I kept figuring out ‘If I throw it like this, it will move like this to righties, and if I do like this, it will move this way to lefties.’”

It helps that Lucchesi’s got some Clayton Kershaw funk in his delivery, but the real key is the accuracy with which he delivers the looping pitch. He struck out nine Cubs without walking any Sunday, though they did appear to be figuring him out as the game wore on. Either way, this was a fun baseball oddity in what otherwise ended up being a poopy game.

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