Hey, the Cubs decided to win today! This should be easy. Your Bright Spots:
- I'd be remiss to not start with this one: much-maligned Starlin Castro had a 3-7 day, including a 450-foot home run that the wind somehow knocked down into the ivy for a double. Even more than that, though, his at-bats looked really good today, and he seemed to be seeing the ball really well. Am I going to go through all seven at-bats pitch by pitch? Yes, yes I am:
- 1st inning: Ball 1 in the dirt; Strike 1 low in the zone, swung on and popped foul; called strike 2 high, really, really close pitch, looked out of the zone to me, but the kind of ball old Starlin might've taken a hack at; Fouled-off breaking ball out of the zone low; belt-high fastball popped foul; another fouled-off breaking ball low in the zone; check-swing on Ball 2 in the dirt; low and away offspeed pitch that Starlin flicks into center for a hit.
- 3rd inning: Starlin takes a first pitch fastball up in the zone and drives a hard fly-ball to right center that gets run-down by Choo.
- 5th inning: First pitch slider at the knees that Castro hits hard right at Phillips.
- 7th inning: Called strike 1: a two seamer low and inside; Ball 1: fastball inside; called strike 2: slider inside at the knees that PitchTrax later reveals was indeed out of the zone; Ball 2 low and away; Strike 3: tough-looking splitter in the dirt that Starlin waves at. Maybe his worst at-bat of the day, and it maybe looks worse than it was because of the bad strike 2 call.
- 9th inning: Ball 1: high and way outside; Ball 2: belt high and just as far outside; then a fastball leaking over the heart of the plate that Starlin just destroys. Any other wind conditions and that ball ends up on Waveland.
- 11th inning: Called strike 1: slider at the knees; Swinging strike 2: two seamer tailing off the plate inside that Castro swings over; Ball 1: really, really high fastball; Ball 2: really, really high fastball again; then a fastball up in the zone that Starlin pops up to short. Worth noting that there was a big shadow over the plate and sunshine over the mound, adding to the degree of difficulty.
- 14th inning: Fastball up in the zone fouled straight back for strike 1; Ball 1: a breaking ball outside; Breaking ball low and inside fouled off for strike 2; Ball 2, fastball outside; Ball 3: touuuuuugh slider diving below the knees that Starlin checks his swing on — that's the Soriano Strike, and it's really nice to see Castro holding off from it; then a belt-high fastball that gets smacked into center for a single
What's the takeaway from his day, then? When Castro's swinging early in the count he's making contact and hitting the ball hard. That seems to suggest that what Sveum & Co. are trying to get him to do — look for balls he can drive and wait for his pitch — is taking. If he's not getting his pitch early in the count, he's seeing a lot of pitches, working deep counts, and letting his contact instincts take over when he gets to strike 2. All of that strikes me as a really, really positive sign that he's through the worst of it and is succeeding at making himself a tougher out. It's worth noting that about half of these ABs were against Latos as well, one of the tougher right handed hurlers in the game right now. Seeing the results show up in the box score is great for Starlin's confidence, but even if he'd gone 1-7, with the PAs he put together today, there's plenty of reason to be encouraged.
- Beef Castle had a 3-5 day, more than doubling his hit output for the month of June. Castillo's been in a nasty slump of his own, his season line dropping to .246/.294/.326 after a scorching hot start to the year. Castillo is what he is, but at .080 ISO seems like it's due for at least a bit of regression upward. Hopefully today's nice output at the plate is the sign of Beefy finding his way a bit.
- Good Marmol(TM) sighting! Three Ks in his inning of work.
- Cubs relievers put up 8 innings of 3 hit shutout ball today, walking 1 and striking out 13. For as much shit as we give them when they suck, it's worth acknowledging: damn good work today, boys.
- The Cubs won today. We should probably feel pretty good about that.
- The win today snapped an 11 game home losing streak against the Reds. Always good to end those.
- Aroldis Chapman sat unsued in a 14 inning game. This makes me happy, at least.
Minor League Performance of the Day:
It's early, but the I-Cubs are getting perfect-gamed through 4 innings against the Astros AAA-affiliate. Our AAA-squad is being perfect-gamed by guys not good enough to be on the Astros major league roster right now. Let that sink in. I was going to give this to the Oklahoma City food vendors, but they don't even seem to have any specialty foods designed to shorten your life.
Nobody else is really doing anything noteworthy so far in the system. So, I'm giving the Minor League Performance of the Day to the Snappy Burger, the specialty burger of my hometown Beloit Snappers, Midwest League affiliate of the Oakland A's. The Snappy Burger is a cheeseburger with a brat on top of it. It's fantastic.
EDIT: I take it all back. Albert Almora is 3-4 with a double and a triple. He's now hitting .413/.451/.547/.998 in 18 games at Kane County. He's really, really good, and much deserving of the Minor League Performance of the Day.
That said, you should still eat a Snappy Burger if you ever get the chance.