The Chicago Cubs end their six-game home stand with a tough loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-5, ending their five-game winning streak.
Highlights of the Week
The highest of highlights was the Cubs three-game sweep of the Dodgers against their top three pitchers: Clayton Kershaw, Trevor Bauer, and Walker Buehler. Two of those wins came in extra innings on walk-off hits by David Bote and Anthony Rizzo.
All three wins came in different ways. In game one, the Cubs ambushed Clayton Kershaw early, chasing him after only one inning and four runs. Game two was a battle of clutch hits as the Cubs were forced to comeback multiple times before Bote won it in the 9th. Finally, game three was a bullpen battle where the Cubs outlasted the Dodgers in 11 innings.
The importance of that series was the Cubs winning games in different ways, especially against top tier pitchers like the Dodgers have. No game is the same, and winning teams can win in many different ways.
Two rookies, Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson, recorded their first Major League wins. On top of that, Keegan Thompson may have been the MVP of the entire week. Thompson, who made his MLB debut on May 2 against the Reds, started the second game of the doubleheader against the Dodgers going 3.2 innings, giving up zero earned runs, two hits, and two walks, along with two strikeouts.
Thompson did a really nice job on short notice, and he gave the Cubs a chance to win the game. His second appearance of the week was in relief on Saturday against the Pirates. The young arm came in for starting pitcher Trevor Williams, who was not able to give the Cubs more than four innings. The rookie pitcher went three innings and only allowed three base runners (two hits, one walk) en route to his first career win.
Clutch hits and clutch at-bats were aplenty this week for the Cubs. Matt Duffy is my MVP of the week, as he went 5-for-15 with four RBI's. His most important RBI tied the game ahead of the Rizzo walk-off single vs. the Dodgers. Javier Baez also hit a game-tying, pinch hit two-run home run when the game looked like it was over in the second game of that series.
Joc Pederson had himself a nice three-game set against the Pirates. In his last four games, Pederson was 7-for-14 with four RBI's. He capped off the weekend on Sunday going 3-for-4 with two runs driven in in relief of Jake Marisnick, who left the game early due to an injury.
The most encouraging point of Pederson's weekend was that two of his three hits on Sunday were against a left handed pitcher. The Cubs are going to need him everyday now due to being shorthanded in the outfield. Currently, the only healthy right handed hitter in the outfield is Kris Bryant.
The "Low" Lights
The Cubs were forced to put multiple players on the IL this week and call upon new, and young, faces to replace them.
Jake Arrieta, Nico Hoerner, and Ian Happ were all placed on the injured list. In addition, Javy Baez was not in the lineup for the series finale on Sunday against the Pirates with back tightness, and both Jason Heyward and Jake Marisnick left Sunday's game early. Heyward left with a right hand injury and Marisnick with a left groin injury.
The last lowlight isn't necessarily detrimental, but it was the Cubs' lack of extending leads when they were given opportunities. On multiple occasions, Cubs hitters were unable to drive in runners with less than two outs, putting a short-handed bullpen in very tough situations. Four of the five Cubs wins this week were by one run, as was the only loss of the week too. The Cubs need to work on bettering their team run differential, which at the moment is -5 as they sit 17-17 and 3.5 games back of the Cardinals in the NL Central.
Traveling to Cleveland
The Cubs are traveling to Cleveland for a short two-game series after a much needed day off on Monday. The pitching matchups are set to be Adbert Alzolay vs. Shane Bieber on Tuesday, and Zach Davies vs Sam Hentges on Wednesday.
The Indians are entering Tuesday winners of seven of their last ten games, and only one game behind the White Sox for first place in the AL Central. Facing reigning AL Cy Young winner Shane Bieber is no small task, but the Cubs can certainly win, especially after we just saw the Cubs defeat Clayton Kershaw, Trevor Bauer, and Walker Buehler in the Dodgers series.
It will be important for Alzolay to continue improving and keep the struggling Indians offense down. If the Cubs are able to take the first game against Bieber, they will feel great heading into Wednesday's game facing a rookie, who will be making only his fifth career appearance and first career Major League start.