Sunday brunch blog: Jackson, Blackhawks and the minors
It was a nice, quiet morning here at the ballpark as everyone seemed to be nursing happy Blackhawks hangovers. We got into some hockey talk with Cubs manager Dale Sveum. Not Xs and Os type of stuff, but what it means to cheer for another sport in your city.
We’ll start with baseball and wrap it up with the minor leagues below. As you probably know by now, third baseman Ian Stewart hit 3 homers and drove in all 8 runs for Class AAA Iowa Saturday in Game 1 of a doubleheader sweep of Round Rock.
“I don’t know who pitched against him, but nobody else did anything,” Sveum said. “It might have been a pretty quality pitcher who was out there that he did it off of.
“That’s obviously one of the days you dream about having. Hopefully, it getshim going. I don’t know how much playing time he’s going to get with Junior (Lake) there. I don’t know when Vitters is coming back (from injury rehab). Any guy who gets hot (can get) playing time because of that.”
Stewart hit 2 homers off Jake Brigham and 1 off Joseph Ortiz.
Today, Edwin Jackson goes for the Cubs against Pirates lefty Jeff Locke. Jackson is 1-8 with a 6.29 ERA, and Locke is 5-1 with a 2.45 ERA. After Jackson’s last start, Sveum talked about Jackson pitching into some bad luck with balls “finding holes.”
As we blogged a few days ago, that’s a hard sell when you look at the record and ERA, but there is some truth to it, and I brought it up to Dale this morning. Jackson’s BABIP is a high .358, and you figure it has to normalize. His FIP is 3.65. His groundball rate has gone from 47.3 percent last year to 52.4 this year. The flyball rate has dropped from 35.8 to 25.7, so there is the potential for balls finding those holes.
“All it takes is for half of the groundballs to be caught,” Dale said. “Unfortunately, they just seem to be finding holes. Obviously, we put a lot of effort into putting people in the right positions and the calculations. His groundballs seem to be overwhelming to the opposite of where they’re supposed to go. It’s unfortunate that’s happened quite often.
“He’s keeping the ball on the ground, on the earth. In big situations, the ball is just going through the hole constantly. It’s unfortunate.
“I remember when I was in Boston and Derek Lowe was pitching. He was going to keep the ball on the earth. His bad days are when the balls find the holes. There’s nothing you can do about that. You put people in the right situations, the right positions. The law of averages will catch up with you once in awhile, and one bouncing ball will change the whole game around. And in another great outing, that one bouncing ball is caught, and the whole inning is over. It is a game of inches sometimes.”
One more baseball thing before we get into the hockey thing. I came across this story this morning from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune about the slowing pace of major-league baseball games. Yesterday, the Cubs and Pirates played in 2 hours, 53 minutes. These days, 3 hours or under is a moral victory. Check this out:
Games are back to dragging again, and MLB seems to be doing nothing about it. Every now and then, they pay lip service to speeding up the pace, but things fall back to plodding again soon enough. TV timeouts, pitching changes, batters taking more pitches and the ineffectiveness of a lot of middle relievers contribute to some of the teeth-pullers we watch day in and day out.
It was fun talking a little hockey this morning after the Blackhawks’ thrilling double-overtime winner that put them into the Stanley Cup Final last night. Sveum is a big hockey fan, and so are many others in the Cubs family.
“It’s nice to have a championship in the city you’re in,” Dale said. “I think we’ll be able to go to Game 1, and that might be about it. It’s always nice to be able to go and root the team on that’s in your city. I know a lot of us are into it, the hockey fans on the team. It’s a big talk in the morning, today and all that. It’s something when you’re involved in that before, in championships, and some people get to witness that who haven’t been a part of championships, it kind of gives you goose bumps to understand the reality of it whenever that happens. That’s the emotions you get when you’re in those situations.”
You’ll see Cubs players at Hawks games now and then. I asked about some of the guys from Latin America who might be seeing the sport for the first time.
“Franklin Font, one of our coaches, went to his first game and was like, ‘Oh, this is the greatest sport ever,’” Sveum said. “TV doesn’t give it that much justice, but in person, it’s as good a sport as there is.”
Living in Arizona, Sveum also is a fan of the Phoenix Coyotes and had season tickets when the team played downtown. He told this story about his son, Rustin:
“My son was into it a lot at an early age, so we went to a lot of games,” Dale said. “He lost his first couple of teeth at hockey games. He wanted to wait and pull them out at the hockey game.”
Class AAA Iowa swept a doubleheader from Round Rock, with Ian Stewart being the whole show in Game 1. He hit his second, third and fourth homers in the 8-5 win in Game 1.
“That’s probably the best game I’ll ever have in my career,” Stewart told Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register.
Birch wrote that Stewart has looked at films from 2010, when he hit 18 homers for the Rockies.
“When I think back to some of my swings and good times in the big leagues, a lot of it comes from that year,” Stewart told the paper.
In Game 1, Nick Struck got no decision, working 6.2 innings and giving up 7 hits and 4 runs. In Game 2, Barret Loux lasted 3 innings, giving up 2 hits and 1 run. Brent Lillibridge hit his fifth homer. Junior Lake, playing third base, was 3-for-4 with 2 doubles and a stolen base.
Class AA Tennessee lost 3-2 in 10 innings at Mobile. Kyle Hendricks started and pitched 6 innings, giving up 4 hits and 1 run while walking two and striking out six. He has a 2.14 ERA. Rafael Lopez hit his fourth homer.
Daytona (A) was rained out, and the D-Cubs will play two against Brevard County today.
The Kane County Cougars (A) scored a season-high 15 runs on 18 hits in beating Cedar Rapids 15-1. Michael Heesch, a lefty, got the win, working 6.1 innings and giving up 8 hits and 1 run. He’s 3-4 with a 3.73 ERA. The Cougars got homers from Jeimer Candelario (No. 3), Gioskar Amaya (2), Dan Vogelbach (10) and Albert Almora (1).
Almora, last year’s top pick, picked up his second 4-hit game of the season as he went 4-for-5 with the homer and 4 RBI. He is 27-for-62 (.435) t