Three takeaways from Cubs loss to Braves
|Tuesday, April 27, 2021, 8:39 AM- -|
After two days of minimal offensive support, the Cubs bats came to life in a big way last night, scoring seven runs against the Braves. The problem was the Braves offense was ready to erupt themselves and got the better of the Cubs once again 8-7.
In a matchup of Zach Davies and Charlie Morton on the hill, both have seen better days, but it was Davies who was struggling out the gates once again. For the fourth straight start, Davies failed to make it out of the fourth inning as up and down command, and a high pitch count did him in. That was especially the case in the first inning when the Braves offense came to life, putting the Cubs in an early hole.
Right from the start, you could tell it was going to be a long night from Davies as his inability to locate consistently and lack of a put-away pitch was on full display. That led to singles by Ozzie Albies and Travis D'Arnaud pushing across the first two runs of the game before a Guillermo Heredia ripped one into the corner for a 4-0 lead after one.
Fortunately for Davies, the Cubs offense came to play as they began getting to Morton in the third. With the bases loaded and two outs, Morton tried to go inside to Kris Bryant only to have Bryant drop his hands and lift one to left. What looked to be a routine flyball carried over the fence for his sixth career grand slam, and just like that, we had a 4-4 ballgame.
Dansby Swanson answered in the bottom of the third with a homer of his own ending an 18-game homerless drought to make things 5-4 Atlanta. Nearing the end of the rope in the fifth inning, the Cubs had another excellent scoring chance as they had runners on the corners with one out. Anthony Rizzo came through in that situation with a fly ball to left, tying things up 5-5.
The decisive blow came in the bottom of the fifth where defending National League MVP Freddie Freeman got a pitch to his liking and cranked it for a three-run shot to right field, putting Atlanta back on top for good 8-5. Willson Contreras was able to get two of those runs back with a long two-run shot in the seventh, but that is as close as the Cubs would get falling 8-7.
Cubs may have a new leadoff man
Ever since Nico Hoerner made his MLB debut in September 2019, there has been an ongoing debate about whether he should be their leadoff hitter. When you look at his approach at the plate, willingness to make contact, and ability to hit high velocity, it seemed like a good choice.
However, Hoerner spent most of his time in the bottom third of the order, producing much better than people thought. Following a great spring, Hoerner was sent to the minors to gain another year of control with him. With Joc Pederson out with an injured wrist, the time was now to call up Hoerner, and so far, it has been a great decision.
Not only is he producing at the level he did this spring, but he is providing professional at-bats, which most of this lineup can't do. That gave David Ross the option to stick him I the leadoff role last night, where he connected for a pair of hits to go with perfectly executed at-bats to move runners over.
With Ian Happ continuing to struggle and the Cubs searching for their first leadoff hitter since Dexter Fowler, Hoerner is certainly giving them an option they haven't had. It will be interesting to see what Ross's thinking the rest of the way is and what happens when Pederson comes back healthy and ready to play.
Nico Hoerner is hitting .429 (6-for-14) with four doubles since being called up from the team's alternate site. #Cubs— Russell Dorsey (@Russ_Dorsey1) April 27, 2021
The Cubs have (at least one) problem in the rotation
When the season starter, there were so many question marks surrounding their rotation, but most of them circled the back end. With Jake Arrieta looking like his old self, Kyle Hendricks starting to turn things around, and even Trevor Williams showing improvement, the rotation appeared to be in better shape than many expected.
That is except for Davies, who is becoming a liability on the mound. Another Hendricks type of starter, Davies has built up a successful career capped off with a career showing with San Diego last year. That is what made him an intriguing trade piece for the Cubs as they acquired him and four prospects in the Yu Darvish, Victor Caratini deal.
Following a great spring and successful first start, there was a lot of built-up surrounding Davies and the potential for him to be a surprise steal. Instead, Davies has turned out to be a liability on the mound, failing to get through the fourth inning in each of his past four starts. Not only has his command been the biggest issue, but the inability to showcase a put-away pitch has allowed teams to jack up his pitch count while putting together tons of hard contact.
He needs to figure things out in a hurry; otherwise, that trade will go down as a bad one for the Cubs if those prospects don't pan out. Already with several starts barely getting through five innings, the Cubs have had to work overtime a lot to start the season. They have to work that much harder with Davies on the hill, and if this continues, they will be burned out by July, causing even more significant issues in the second half of the season.
Zach Davies on early-season struggles: "It really just comes down to execution. It's just not there. Probably one of the worst stretches of my career. It is early, but at any point, it sucks putting your team down four runs in the first inning.— Russell Dorsey (@Russ_Dorsey1) April 27, 2021
Trevor Megill looked impressive
When the Cubs added Trevor Megill in the offseason, there wasn't much of an expectation outside of minor league depth. The former San Diego Padre farmhand put together a tremendous six-year run in the minor leagues but was never given a chance with the big club to this point.
Megill then put up an impressive spring, and had it not been for Shelby Miller and a couple of others, and he may have made the team out of camp. With Jason Adam being optioned to South Bend before the game yesterday, the Cubs decided to call up Megill and wanted to see what he has.
Well, fans can agree that his debut was impressive as Megill threw a scoreless inning of relief with a pair of strikeouts. Not only that, but the big righty was also sitting 97-99 consistently with his heater while showcasing a hard-breaking off-speed pitch with tons of movement. Clearly, the spring he had wasn't a fluke, and there is tons of potential in Megill's arm.
With the Cubs searching for bullpen help, maybe Megill is someone they can count on in certain situations. He has the high-velocity stuff that most of their arms lack and has a future closer mentality. Hopefully, we haven't seen the last of him and last night was the beginning of plenty of successful outings.
Congratulations to former @LMULionsBSB RHP Trevor Megill on making his MLB debut tonight for the @Cubs.— Shotgun Spratling (@ShotgunSprD1) April 27, 2021
He strikes out two in a scoreless inning, allowing one hit on a dribbler through the shift. pic.twitter.com/kbp1GV2DS8