I haven’t even bothered to look at the Chicago Cubs Twitter. I’m sure much of it says something like ‘what a waste getting Kimbrel.’ He’s not been great, but someone else is to blame for last night’s loss.
Last night’s Chicago Cubs loss might have been one of the toughest to take this season. With a chance to tie the Milwaukee Brewers for first place (How is that even possible?), the Cubs let one slip away in the ninth. The Cubs brought in their big acquisition Craig Kimbrel to close it out–and he didn’t. So it’s clearly his fault. While he gave up the walk that put the tying run on, that’s not entirely the case.
Let’s go back to earlier on the day. On Wednesday, Theo Epstein did an interview on 670 The Score on the McNeil and Parkins show–and Epstein pulled no punches when talking about the Cubs recent play. It may have been the most matter-of-fact interview he’s given in his time with the Cubs, and it was refreshing. You can listen to the full interview here.
"“I don’t think sitting on our hands is really a viable option,” Epstein on the McNeil & Parkins Show. “We want to to be in a position to have enough belief that we’re looking to aggressively add and sort of polish up what we think can be a championship team. If we’re not, that means this stretch of bad play has continued. And if this stretch of bad play continues, then certainly … a ton of change is in order.”"
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One of the things he mentioned in the interview is not being defensively sound, defensive miscues. This is why the blame shouldn’t be placed entirely put on Kimbrel. The play by Addison Russell throwing to home at least cost the Cubs the chance to play extras–in theory.
The Cubs’ Joe Maddon had the outfield in no doubles defense when Jung Ho Kang blooped one down the right-field line. After being the hero in the last inning by throwing out the potential tying run at home, Willson Contreras could only get leather on it, and it turned into a double.
The Cubs stayed back on the infield, not wanting to lose the game but would concede the tying run. On a slow roller from Adam Frazier, Russell had to charge the ball from deep and threw—home. Not first, but home. There was no play at home, and Russell is too good a fielder not to know that. If he had taken the out at first, assuming the inning goes as it did, the flyout to left is the final out, and we play extra innings.
Jim Deshaies had just said right before that Russell had been a ‘vacuum cleaner’ at second. Too bad the vacuum didn’t know where to throw the baseball. This was a shocking loss for the Cubs.
I’m giving Kimbrel a pass since he hasn’t pitched many times this year. And, to be honest, fans didn’t trust anyone else to close. And this is who they wanted. So ready or not, Kimbrel is going to get the ball for the final three outs.
It’s quite a miracle that we’re only a game out of first place. So, as of now, the Cubs will be buyers at the deadline. But as Epstein said, if they aren’t, it because this lousy play continued through the month of July. The Chicago Cubs have usually been a good second-half team. They need to be if some of these players wat to remain in Chicago.