The Rundown: Cubs Grind Way to Series Win, Dodgers Cite Poor Field Conditions, Imanaga Wins Ohtani Battle, Pitch Clock Debate Rages

“We’re living in a powder keg and giving off sparks.” – Bonnie Tyler, Total Eclipse of the Heart

The Cubs are playing celestial baseball and turned the Dodgers into the Billion Dollar Babies of Beverly Hills by taking two of three games over the weekend. Los Angeles infielder Miguel Rojas had a thing or two to say about playing conditions in Sunday’s finale, didn’t he?

Heavens to Murgatroyd! I suppose MLB’s one-percenters should feel like they were slumming it all weekend at Wrigley Field. Of course, Rojas made one of three errors that helped the Cubs win the game. Los Angeles was simply not prepared for the unseasonably cool and wet April weather in Chicago.

The Dodgers should have been more concerned with their fielding and pitching inconsistencies than playing conditions. The Cubs scored seven of their eight runs in the first four innings and, after a lengthy rain delay, capped the win with another on-demand home run by centerfielder Cody Bellinger. Though Shōta Imanaga did not get the win, he continued his scoreless streak and shut the Dodgers down until Mother Nature intervened.

Chicago’s newest starter rendered Shohei Ohtani hitless in two at-bats, including a 1st inning strikeout. Perhaps Ohtani was blinded by the cloud cover. Thank goodness Los Angeles is not playing today until the eclipse has passed.

The Cubs, meanwhile, are firing on all cylinders offensively. They lead the NL in OBP (.363), walks per game (5.00), walk rate (12.7%), and strikeout rate (18.6%). That combination usually leads to wins. Seven of Chicago’s Sunday starters had an OBP of .341 or higher, led by Ian Happ (.441) and Dansby Swanson (.432). They finished the homestand with five wins in six games, and now head West for three series with the Padres, Mariners, and Diamondbacks.

Javier Assad gets the start tonight against former Cub Yu Darvish. Like Imanaga, Assad is hoping to extend his scoreless streak against an offense that is very similar to Chicago’s, though much less patient. Craig Counsell has not named a starter for Tuesday’s game, but it could be Ben Brown or another bullpen game depending on how well things go tonight. Counsell used three relievers Sunday, including Daniel Palencia, who earned a three-inning save.

That said, Julian Merryweather is on the injury list and Yency Almonte has struggled, so Brown may get his shot. Almonte and Mark Leiter Jr. pitched Saturday and Sunday, making it doubtful either will be available tonight. Palencia is almost certainly off-limits. Drew Smyly is also an option to start on Tuesday unless he is needed this evening.

The Cubs were 4-3 against the Padres in 2023 and 2-1 against the Mariners, but they went 1-6 versus the Diamondbacks. Crucial late-season losses to Arizona cost the Cubs a shot at last season’s playoffs, so a little revenge would be nice. The Cubs finished one game behind the D-Backs, who made it to the World Series. I’ve got Chicago going 6-3 on the West Coast swing, with breakout performances by Brown, Assad, Luke Little, and Nico Hoerner.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Yes, 2020 does seem like a fever dream.

Central Intelligence

Climbing the Ladder

“They say there’s a place down in Mexico where a man can fly over mountains and hills. He doesn’t need an airplane or some kind of engine, and he never will.” – Fleetwood Mac, Hypnotized

Michael Busch had three RBI on Sunday and is now 6-for-15 (.400) with a home run and five RBI in Chicago’s previous four games. Happ has a .914 OPS though he has yet to hit a home run. Garrett Cooper is 4-for-9 this season, with a single, double, triple, and home run. Seiya Suzuki has 10 RBI in his last five games. The Cubs did not steal a base in the series and made just one attempt. It’s still early, but it looks like Counsell is going to run much less than David Ross did.

Assad has a career 2.94 ERA over 153 innings and now has logged a 2.80 ERA in 19 starts. He has been a reliable, understated arm for the Cubs, but maybe it’s time to talk about how good he can be. Little has yet to be scored on in 14.2 MLB innings dating back to 2023. Imanaga has 10 scoreless innings with 12 strikeouts to start his Cubs career.

  • Games Played: 9
  • Record: 6-3 (.667), 3rd place in NL Central
  • Total Plate Appearances: 355
  • Total Strikeouts: 66
  • Strikeout Rate: 18.59%
  • Team Batting Average: .263
  • With Runners in Scoring Position: 21-for-81 (.259)
  • Runs Scored: 58
  • Runs Allowed: 42
  • Pythagorean Record: 6-3
  • Chances of Making the Playoffs: 85.4%, 6.3% chance to win World Series 

How About That!

A debate between MLB, MLBPA, and just about everybody with an opinion raged over the weekend as the union is connecting an elevated number of pitcher injuries to this year’s shorter pitch clock.

Tyler Glasnow has a different but interesting opinion on the rash of starters who are getting hurt.

Shane Bieber and Spencer Strider were hurt over the weekend, and Bieber’s season is already over. Strider will also learn his fate today or tomorrow.

Stephen Strasburg, who has not pitched since June 9, 2022, has officially retired.

Ronel Blanco was stirring up the ghosts of Johnny Vander Meer when he took a no-hitter into the 6th inning of Sunday’s game against the Rangers. Adolis García singled to center ending the Astros starter’s bid for a second straight no-no as well as his string of 44 consecutive outs.

Angels’ third baseman Anthony Rendon broke an 0-for-21 start to the season with a base hit Friday night, his first hit in 278 days.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Henry Aaron breaking the career home run record of 714, held by Babe Ruth at the time.

Three Hall of Fame announcers — Milo Hamilton, Vin Scully, and Curt Gowdy — called Aaron’s shot that night.

The Guardians will have the first pick in this year’s draft plus $18,334,000 in bonus pool money, a new league record.

Sunday’s Three Stars

  1. William Contreras – Milwaukee’s catcher plated five runners on a 4-for-5 day that included two home runs. The Brewers pasted the Mariners 12-4 on Sunday.
  2. Reese McGuire – Sunday was a big day for catchers as the Red Sox backstop notched five RBI with a home run of his own. McGuire also stole a base in Boston’s 12-2 win over the Angels.
  3. Zack Gelof – The A’s second baseman had a triple, home run, and four RBI in Oakland’s 7-1 win over the Tigers.

Extra Innings

Belli bombs, on cue.

They Said It

  • “Before the game, I watched video of their hitters. They have great swings and they also have really good eyes. That’s one through nine. Today I was able to go four innings and zero runs given up but going in, I had the mentality that they’re such a good lineup, that I might give up a few runs and that’s OK.” – Imanaga
  • “I thought Shōta was great. I thought it was more of what we saw on Opening Day. Doing what he’s good at and then filling up the strike zone most importantly.” – Counsell
  • “I’m playing in a puddle of water. Everybody can see it. That’s not the best conditions. I slipped at home plate. Something right there could’ve happened, not just to me but to anybody on the team. Not just on our team. We’re talking about players. We’ve got to take care of each other, and I feel like sometimes just to get the game in, in five innings, it’s not the right way to do it.” – Rojas
  • “I think everyone was in agreement we wanted to try to squeeze in five [innings] knowing the conditions weren’t going to be ideal. I just didn’t like in that fourth inning to stop the game right there once we had already faced a couple batters and then obviously the field sort of became unplayable. It was tough.”Dave Roberts
  • “Pitchers are going to pursue things that make them get hitters out, and velocity is one of them. I don’t think the pursuit of velocity is ever going to end because it’s something that makes pitchers better. I also don’t think we should demonize the pursuit of velocity. If there is a problem, I don’t think that’s the issue.” – Counsell

Monday Walk-Up Song

Happy Eclipse Day to those who celebrate.

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