BY: ED COLE
PHOENIX – The Chicago Cubs aren’t a team to be trifled with, especially when you’re the Arizona Diamondbacks, and your starting pitching is struggling.
Rubby De La Rosa was the latest starter to get roughed up on Thursday night, as the Cubs hitters chased him off the mound at Chase Field after 3 1/3 innings. They scored seven runs off him (six of them earned) on six hits, as the Cubs would go on to pummel the D-backs 14-6 in the series opener.
Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo tied a career-high with 6 RBI on 3-for-4 hitting, with one of those hits being a home run. Center fielder Dexter Fowler was 2-for-4 with two RBI, shortstop Addison Russell was 2-for-4 with two RBI, right fielder Jason Heyward was 2-for-4 and third baseman/left fielder Kris Bryant was 3-for-6.
D-backs manager Chip Hale and De La Rosa had differing opinions on his performance afterwards. Hale says De La Rosa had command issues, but De La Rosa says his command was good; there were other factors, he felt, that led to his poor outing.
“The command wasn’t there,” Hale said. “It’s the same story we’ve had with our starters. Patrick (Corbin) gave us a good start (against the Colorado Rockies), but just command, (and) getting the ball up to good hitters is just not going to work in this ballpark; there’s not a whole lot of forgiveness. Too many walks (three), so (he) just didn’t have his good stuff today. Obviously his velocity was good, just not his location.”
De La Rosa felt he had good stuff for Chicago’s hitters, as he tried to keep the ball “low in the zone,” it’s just that, in his opinion, the umpire wasn’t calling enough strikes.
“Pretty much, pretty much,” De La Rosa said. “It’s part of the game though. I won’t try to do nothing about it. I’ll just try to throw the same pitch next time.”
De La Rosa says he tried to put it out of his mind when home plate umpire Adrian Johnson didn’t give him the strikes he thought he deserved, but in the end, it threw a wrench into his game plan, and he had to adjust, to no avail, as the Cubs hitters got to him and worked him over pretty hard.
The operative word Hale used in the postgame media session was “frustrating.” He was really frustrated that De La Rosa had multiple leads to work with early on, but he couldn’t hold them, and got overtaken by the Cubs hitters.
“It’s frustrating,” Hale said. “I think the guys are a little frustrated at this point, I think the pitchers are frustrated, I think the whole organization is frustrated. You get the lead (3-0 in first inning, 4-2 in second inning, 6-4 in third inning) against a good team (in) an exciting game, and (you) continually give it up, it’s tough. (It’s) tough on the guys in the field, and I think it’s starting to wear on some of the pitchers coming out of the bullpen. They feel like they have to pitch perfect.”
Hale says that, because the bullpen’s been so taxed over the first four games, the team’s going to have to look at bringing in one or two more pitchers for some relief.
“It’s tough right now, because all the guys we optioned out, we can’t bring back for 10 days,” Hale said. “We’ll have to look for another non-roster guy, and figure out a move.”
One of the biggest things Hale is seeing from his team through the first four games, is that they’re overworking themselves in an effort to be perfect in an imperfect game, which is leading to defensive mistakes that players like catcher Welington Castillo, third baseman Jake Lamb and second baseman Jean Segura don’t usually make on a normal day.
“For me, as a manager, and our coaching staff, it was embarrassing. I think that’s the easiest way to put it,” Hale said. “We made some gaffes on defense, that we worked so hard in Spring Training, and we’re close enough to Spring Training where we shouldn’t make those mistakes. Guys are human, and maybe there’s just too much stress, (and) too much anxiety on them, and their minds aren’t free enough to work. We’ll work on that, and clean it up, but it’s a tough game to watch for everybody.”
The D-backs and Cubs will play Game 2 of their four-game series on Friday evening, with LHP Robbie Ray taking the hill for the D-backs, and RHP Jason Hammel getting the start for Chicago. First pitch is at 6:40 p.m.