Another day, another brilliant pitching performance by a Cubs starter. Jason Hammel took the hill in this one, and followed John Lackey’s strong performance from a night before with one of his own.
Hammel went 6 for the Cubbies, allowing just 1 run (on a play Soler should have made in left, but we’ll get to that) and only 5 hits. Most critically, Hammel did a tremendous job of stranding runners, and working out of tough spots.
On the other side, Jaime Garcia pitched for the Cards, and he pitched well. But, unlike Hammel, Garcia could not quite hold on long enough to prevent the Cubs from pulling ahead.
Building on the same type of game Lackey threw the night before, Hammel continued the trend of buying time with good pitching, but in this one he would only have himself to thank for the run support.
In the 4th, Hammel strode into the box with 2 outs. Everyone in the building thought this was Garcia’s ticket out of what had become a taxing inning. But Hammel had something else in mind: a 2-out single to left which would plate both Soler and Zobrist, and give the Cubs the lead. Hammel’s 2 RBI would prove to be the only run support he and the bullpen would receive.
But Hammel shouldn’t get all the credit (even though he totally put the team on his back here). Jason Heyward stood out for the second night in a row by playing his position to perfection. Early on, on a sharply hit line drive down the right field line, Heyward played the ball off the carom, fired a strike to second base, beating the runner with ease. Unfortunately, the normally sure-handed Addison Russell dropped the tag.
But later, in the 4th, with men on 2nd and 3rd and only 1 out, Heyward threw a strike to Montero at the plate, preserving the 2-1 lead for the Cubs.
I’m not even going to make mention of how awful the Cubs were at the plate last night. They sucked. It happens. Not concerned at all.
Jorge Soler looks horrendous out there. And I don’t just mean out in left field. At the plate, Soler looks like a little leaguer. 3 strike outs and a walk last night, and I’m honestly not sure he made contact once. Atrocious, atrocious play at the plate. But what really set me off was the play he didn’t make in left which allowed St. Louis to score the first run of the game. Yadier Molina gave one a ride to left. It wasn’t very deep in the gap. It was a pretty standard long fly ball. To Soler’s defense, the catch would have to be made against the wall, but still it was a VERY make-able catch. The kind of catch the other 8 guys on the diamond expect you to make. He had plenty of time to get to it, though he cut it close by drifting over and not sprinting to the spot, and he botched it. Just botched it. Pretty sure it missed his glove completely.
I would go on to spend the next 5 minutes yelling at Soler through the TV, and the rest of the game shaking my head every time he came up to bat.
But what I don’t want to get lost here is that I like Jorge Soler. I really do. I think he’s got the potential to be an exciting player. I genuinely do. But watching him struggle to make contact, watching him lollygag in left, it grinds my gears. This team needs more from Soler. With Schwarber down, it’s his spot to win or lose. Right now (IMO) he’s losing, and meanwhile Matt Szczur is doing all the right things.