Cubs’ bullpen gets needed rainout in Denver; doubleheader on tap
DENVER — Five weeks into the season, you’re the defending World Series champions with a mediocre record, coming off an 18-inning loss and a home sweep at the hands of the New York Yankees, and next up is a series at pitcher-crushing Coors Field with a tapped bullpen.
So what do you do?
No. 1, pray for rain.
And, No. 2, if you’re the Cubs, make a T-shirt.
“As Miggy wants me to put on a T-shirt: ‘DWI. Deal with it,’ ” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said, referring to veteran catcher Miguel Montero. “So that’s something we may do in the near future.”
Look for it at a Cubs-friendly website near you. That will make the Cubs 2-for-2 in their Monday objectives after their prayers were answered with a postponement less than 20 hours after they and the Yankees played the longest interleague game in history.
Monday’s rainout — after a one-hour, 16-minute delay — creates a day-night doubleheader Tuesday, at 1:10 p.m. and 7:40 p.m. Central time. Monday’s scheduled starter, Jake Arrieta, slides to Tuesday afternoon against Rockies right-hander Antonio Senzatela (4-1, 2.84 ERA).
“When you go to Colorado, you’re always looking, hopefully, to have some kind of a rested bullpen,” Maddon said before the game, looking at the downpour from the visitors dugout.
Maddon not only got an extra day of rest for his depleted bullpen, but he also has a ninth reliever after right-hander Dylan Floro was added Monday night when the Cubs put outfielder Jason Heyward on the disabled list with a sprained finger.
Stay tuned for a 10th reliever on Tuesday, as doubleheader rules allow teams to add 26th players to their rosters for the day.
The Cubs’ bullpen was forced to throw 19‰ innings combined the last two games because Sunday’s marathon followed starter Brett Anderson’s injury-shortened start Saturday, when he failed to get out of the first inning.
By the time the Cubs arrived in Denver on Monday morning, the sun was rising.
“You feel like you have that hangover without the benefits of actually drinking,” Maddon said.
He joked. And he refused to complain about the circumstances that have dropped his 16-15 team and its bedraggled pitching staff into these especially unfriendly confines for pitchers.
But consider the recent events:
• After a Sunday night game in Boston a week earlier, the Cubs returned home to open a seven-game homestand with a 1:25 rain delay on Monday.
• They finished that series against the Phillies with an extra-inning game Thursday, followed two days later by Anderson’s short start, then Sunday by the longest game at Wrigley Field since an 18-inning game against the Astros in 1986.
• One game after a catcher, Montero, pitched a scoreless inning of relief, three starting pitchers were needed as pinch-hitters Sunday: Jake Arrieta, John Lackey and Kyle Hendricks, each striking out.
• The game “Sunday” lasted more than six hours and ended at 1:14 a.m. with a strikeout by Hendricks. That game set a major-league record with 48 combined strikeouts — five more than the Angels and Athletics combined to produce in a game in 1971.
“Everybody goes through it,” Maddon said, only slightly exaggerating. “I really don’t want us to be that group that makes excuses.”
Anthony Rizzo, who played the final nine innings Sunday after getting hit near the left wrist by a 99 mph fastball from Aroldis Chapman, certainly had a right to complain but called this stretch “just part of the game.”
“The schedule’s been really weird,” Rizzo said of the first five weeks. “But it’s part of it. We knew it. Nothing’s sneaking up on us. We knew what was ahead of us. You just keep playing baseball.”
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