Sunday, August 14, 2022

Cubs Rookie Report From Weekend Series Win Over Red Sox

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Although the Chicago Cubs could not complete the sweep of the visiting Boston Red Sox, the weekend series was full of good signs.  The Cubs have won 4 of the 5 series since their 10-game losing streak ended in May.  A catalyst has been the success of many rookies on the Cubs roster following their call-up to the MLB roster.  Here we will look at how some of those rookies did on the weekend.



Pitching

Matt Swarmer, Scott Effross, and Brandon Hughes combined to throw 5.2 innings of scoreless relief this weekend against a very hot Boston Red Sox lineup.  A good weekend performance allowed Effross to drop his ERA to 2.62 in 34.2 innings of relief this year.  He has only allowed 1 run in his last 7 appearances.

Brandon Hughes has added 27 strikeouts in his 20 innings pitched.  He has been able to transition to his role as a late-inning left-handed middle reliever very well and has been instrumental in getting the Cubs out of tough spots.

Friday

Brandon Hughes picked up his first Major League win on Friday after he came in to relieve Adrian Sampson in the 6th inning.  Hughes finished the 6th and came back out to get an out in the 7th before handing it off to Scott Effross.

Effross got a quick fly-out and ground-out to finish the inning.  The two of them combined for 1.2 innings with Hughes adding two strikeouts.  Chris Martin and David Robertson had a relatively easy job closing down the last two innings, only allowing a single and striking out 3 in the 2-0 win.

Sunday

Keegan Thompson got off to a good start today before a rough 4th inning forced him out of the game early.  Matt Swarmer entered in the 5th inning and left in the 6th after recording an out.  Swarmer scattered two singles and walked one before giving way to Brandon Hughes.  All in all, Swarmer pitched 1.1 innings with two strikeouts and allowed 0 runs.

Hughes also gave up a single in the 6th before striking out Rafael Devers and getting Xander Bogaerts to pop out.  In the 7th, David Ross kept the left-hander to pitch to Alex Verdugo, who lined out to Alfonso Rivas.  With right-handed bats coming up, Ross went back to the bullpen for another rookie, Effross again.

Scott Effross got a fly-out to left and struck out Rob Refsnyder to finish the 7th.  In the 8th, Effross struck out the first two batters looking before giving up a single and then finishing the 8th with a groundout to Morel.

Batting/Defense

Just like the Cubs could not have won this series without the pitching, the rookies hitting and playing in the field were instrumental as well.  Christopher Morel, Alfonso Rivas, and P.J. Higgins were among the familiar faces contributing, and some new ones have shown up as well.

Narciso Crook

Narciso Crook was acquired by the Cubs this offseason and saw some success in the Dominican Winter League.  After being drafted by the Reds in 2013, he has battled through the minors and done well with the Iowa team this year.  With Iowa in 46 games, he slashed .268/.375/.510 and hit 9 home runs.

Crook made his MLB debut on Thursday, going 2 for 3 with an RBI double against the team who drafted him.  He struggled to maintain that success on the weekend, however.

Crook had his first MLB start on Friday and played right field.  He went 0 for 2 with a fly-out and ground before being pinch-hit for by Rafael Ortega.  On Saturday he went 0 for 2 again, adding an RBI Sacrifice fly in the second inning that turned out to be the go-ahead run.  Narciso was the last batter in the 11th on Sunday as well, he struck out with two on base to end the game.  This brought his weekend line to 0-5, Sac Fly RBI.

Nelson Velázquez

Nelson Velázquez got the start in right field on Friday.  In the bottom of the 5th, he kicked off the rally with his first career triple.  This knocked in Higgins and began a 3-run 5th inning that prefaced the Cubs’ comeback win.

Velázquez did not have an at-bat in Saturday’s game, but he did pinch-run for Willson Contreras in the bottom of the 8th.  Nelson got his first MLB stolen base, then moved to third on a wild pitch.  This set him up to score on Patrick Wisdom’s single, providing an insurance run and extending the Cubs’ lead to 3-1 late in the game.

Nelson again got the start in right field on Sunday.  At the plate he went 1 for 4 with a single and walked in the 11th inning, bringing the potential game-tying run to first place, although he would be stranded there.  His weekend line ended at 2-8, Triple, 1 BB, 1 SB.

Christopher Morel

Christopher Morel has certainly been the most exciting of the rookies on the list, making his way into the NL Rookie of the Year discussion.  On Friday, he continued to prove why when he mashed a 2-run home run in the bottom of the 6th inning to tie the game at 6.  He had also added an RBI groundout the previous inning to score fellow rookie Nelson Velázquez.

In Saturday’s 3-1 win, Morel went 1-3 with a single and extended his hitting streak to 5 games alongside the Cubs’ 4-game win streak.  He got the start at second base following a night where he started at second but moved to Center-field later on.  Although he is not a perfect defender yet, the versatility he offers being able to rotate to different positions and provide offense has been invaluable to the Cubs this year.

One of the problems he has had is strikeouts.  They reared their head in Sunday’s loss where Morel went 0-4 with a walk and 3 strikeouts.  In the 2nd and 11th inning Morel had a man in scoring position with less than 2 outs and both times struck out.  This is bound to happen from a young player as he develops, but hopefully, he can manage the strikeout percentage.  All things considered, his weekend stat line was 2-12, HR, 3 RBI, BB, 5 Ks.

P.J. Higgins

Following a night against the Reds where he went 3 for 5, Higgins got the start at first base against the left-handed pitcher Rich Hill.  P.J. showed good patience going 1-2 with 2 walks.  In the 6th inning, he made a nice defensive play on a potentially errant throw by Christopher Morel that could have changed the game.

P.J. got the day off on Saturday and was behind the plate on Sunday.  Like Morel, Higgins struggled with the strikeout.  He had 3 strikeouts including one in the 10th inning, but overall his weekend stat line of 2-7 with 2 BB was pretty solid.  He also has versatility and by catching on Sunday was able to provide some rest for both Yan Gomes and Willson Contreras.

Alfonso Rivas

Alfonso Rivas was out of the starting line-up on Friday against a left-hander but did come in to pinch-hit in the 5th inning.  Rivas flew out to center and added a strikeout later as he stayed in to be the designated hitter in the victory.

He had more success on Saturday, going 1-3 with a single in the win.  Saturday was the only game of the weekend where he played all 9 innings.  In Sunday’s loss, he got the start at first base.  He walked in his first appearance and added singles in the 4th and 6th innings before Yan Gomes pinch-hit for him in the 8th.  Rivas only had one strikeout which has been an issue for him and ended the weekend with a stat line of 3-7, BB.

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