A dismal Sunday afternoon ended a bad week for the Chicago Cubs and White Sox.
The Cubs’ promising start in April has hit a road block in May, while the Sox remain in a free fall after series losses to the Kansas City Royals and Houston Astros.
Every Monday throughout the season, Tribune baseball writers will provide an update on what happened — and what’s ahead for the Cubs and Sox.
Liam Hendriks getting closer
Liam Hendriks’ return to the Sox appears imminent, though manager Pedro Grifol wouldn’t give a date before Hendriks’ appearance Sunday with Triple-A Charlotte.
“We’ll talk to him after and see where we go from there,” Grifol said Sunday morning.
Hendriks struck out the only batter he faced in a 3-2, 10-inning win over the Durham Bulls.
Hendriks said he originally planned to return to Chicago on Sunday and be ready for the series that begins Tuesday against the Cleveland Guardians. He allowed four runs on two home runs in two-thirds of an inning in his previous outing Thursday, and he said he didn’t “want to be a burden” on the team by returning before he was ready.
The Knights have enjoyed having Hendriks around the clubhouse for his personality and his penchant for buying the clubhouse spread.
“It’s awesome being around Liam, it’s just super inspiring,” said Jake Burger, who returned to the Sox on Saturday from his own rehab stint. ”Every time I see him out there and talk to him in the clubhouse, it’s awesome to talk to him. And the spreads are pretty good down there, too, courtesy of him and (Garrett) Crochet. … (Friday) it was a really good food truck with a hot chicken sandwich.”
The Sox trust Hendriks to be honest about where he is.
“Self-evaluation is a really big part of this game, and he’s a really good self-evaluator,” Grifol said. “Not only do I appreciate it, I admire it because I think the instinct is always to get back as quickly as possible. And his instinct and his knowledge is ‘I’ve got to get back when I’m ready to get back and make sure I’m able to contribute to what we want to accomplish here.’”
Christopher Morel flexing power
Christopher Morel is not hitting any cheap shots.
Morel has picked up where he left off in Triple A, hitting three home runs in his first five games since the Cubs recalled him from Iowa. His solo homer in the fifth inning Sunday landed in the second deck in left field. The monstrous 461-foot shot tied Patrick Wisdom (June 21, 2022) for the longest home run by a Cub since Willson Contreras hit one 464 feet on July 29, 2021.
All three of Morel’s home runs have gone at least 400 feet.
“He’s got some some fast-twitch fibers that not all of us have,” said Dansby Swanson, who hit behind Morel on Sunday. “It’s pretty cool when he connects like that.”
When second baseman Nico Hoerner returns from the injured list, which could be as soon as Friday in Philadelphia, the Cubs must find a way to get Morel regular at-bats. That might mean he gets the bulk of his starts as the designated hitter because they appear lukewarm to playing him at third base, preferring his comfortability up the middle.
Finding ways to keep Morel in the lineup could come at the expense of Nick Madrigal and Trey Mancini unless they work in Mancini at first base to give Matt Mervis a break against tough left-handers.
Week ahead: Cubs
The Cubs will be challenged to turn around their rough start to the nine-game trip after the pitching staff surrendered 27 runs in the final two games against the Minnesota Twins.
The Astros and Philadelphia Phillies lineups won’t be any easier. And a scuffling Cubs offense will be tested by Astros starters Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier to begin the series in Houston.
The Cubs get what could be a much-needed day off to regroup Thursday before taking on the reigning National League champion Phillies, against whom they went 6-0 last year.
A big question: Can right-hander Jameson Taillon set the tone Monday in Houston? He hasn’t looked sharp in two starts since coming off the IL and was limited by a pitch count. The Cubs need a strong outing from him, in part to save a bullpen that needed to cover 8⅓ innings the last two games.
- Monday: at Astros, 7:10 p.m., Marquee
- Tuesday: at Astros, 7:10 p.m., Marquee, TBS
- Wednesday: at Astros, 7:10 p.m., Marquee
- Thursday: off
- Friday: at Phillies, 6:05 p.m., Marquee
- Saturday: at Phillies, 3:05 p.m., Marquee
- Sunday: at Phillies, 12:35 p.m., Marquee
Week ahead: White Sox
The Sox get a much-anticipated day off Monday before finishing the homestand with a pair of three-game series against division foes, the Guardians and Royals.
The defending American League Central champion Guardians have underachieved all season. They entered Sunday hitting .228 and ranked third-to-last in the majors in runs scored (138). Shane Bieber will match up against Lance Lynn in Tuesday’s opener.
The rebuilding Royals took three of four from the Sox last week at Kauffman Stadium but have the third-worst ERA in the majors at 5.44, just above the Sox (5.50). Veteran Zack Greinke is scheduled to face Dylan Cease on Friday.
- Monday: off
- Tuesday: vs. Guardians, 7:10 p.m., NBCSCH
- Wednesday: vs. Guardians, 7:10 p.m., NBCSCH
- Thursday: vs. Guardians, 1:10 p.m., NBCSCH
- Friday: vs. Royals, 7:10 p.m., NBCSCH
- Saturday: vs. Royals, 1:10 p.m., NBCSCH
- Sunday: vs. Royals, 1:10 p.m., NBCSCH
What we’re reading this morning
This week in Chicago baseball
May 15, 1996: White Sox’s Tony Phillips punches a Brewers fan
It turned out a fan heckled Tony Phillips, allegedly making disparaging remarks about his mother. After listening to it for a few innings, Phillips took matters into his own hands and removed himself from the game after the top of the sixth to confront the fan.
Sox third baseman Robin Ventura didn’t want to go into the concourse while in uniform and asked strength coach Steve Odgers to follow Phillips and stop him from getting into trouble.
“By that time it was too late,” Ventura said. “He already took off.”
Phillips stood under the left-field stands and called out to the 23-year-old Wisconsin man, motioning for him to come down to talk. Surprisingly, the fan complied. After a brief discussion, the fan shoved Phillips and promptly was clocked twice.
May 16, 1996: Sammy Sosa becomes the first Cub to hit two homers in an inning
He hit them in an eight-run seventh at Wrigley Field during the Cubs’ 13-1 win over the Astros.
“Right now, I’m just feeling good up there,” Sosa told the Tribune. Before the feat, the slugger had six home runs in his last six games and 15 in the first 41 games, raising his batting average to .251 and leading the team with 33 RBIs.
May 16, 2000: Dodgers go into Wrigley crowd after a fan ran off with Chad Kreuter’s cap
“Some guy apparently hit Chad in the head and took his hat or part of his helmet,” Dodgers bullpen coach Rick Dempsey said. “He went to retrieve it and that was it. I got halfway up (in the section) and was smothered.”
Once Kreuter went after the fan, the lower box seats behind the Dodgers bullpen resembled a rugby scrum more than a baseball game. Fans swarmed the players and numerous punches were thrown while bystanders tried to move to safety.
Once the Dodgers on the field became aware of the altercation, they raced to the bullpen to assist.
“Some of our guys were so deep in the stands that I was watching to make sure nobody got hurt,” Dodgers catcher Todd Hundley said. “Security had things under control and then one of the fans threw another punch.”
“It got ugly,” Dempsey said. “At one point I got pinned over a chair and couldn’t move. I was just holding one guy’s arm because he looked like he was going to hit one of our players.”
The game was delayed for nine minutes. The Dodgers went on to win 6-5.
May 17, 1979: Cubs lose to Phillies 23-22 at Wrigley Field
The Cubs spotted the Phillies a 7-0 lead, then tied the game at 22-22 in the eighth, only to lose on Mike Schmidt’s 10th-inning home run off Bruce Sutter. Bill Buckner had a grand slam and seven RBIs for the Cubs.
Perhaps the most amazing stat from the game was that, despite scoring a combined 45 runs on 50 hits, including 11 home runs, the Cubs and Phillies struck out only 11 times in 109 at-bats. Cubs hitters had only four strikeouts in 56 at-bats
The Cubs and Phillies combined to go 17-for-44 (.386) with runners in scoring position, and 11 pitchers were employed.
May 17, 2019: Kris Bryant hits three homers in consecutive innings for the Cubs
He was just the 12th player to pull off the rare feat and the second to do so in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. He went 4-for-6 and drove in five runs in the 14-6 win over the Nationals.
May 18, 1933: The first All-Star Game is announced at Comiskey Park
The July 6 game was played as part of the Chicago World’s Fair celebration. The idea for the All-Star Game, “The Game of the Century”? That came from Tribune sports editor Arch Ward.
“A smart inspiration in the Tribune’s sporting department will give Chicago as an incident of the Fair, the baseball game of all time,” the paper reported on May 23, 1933. “The baseball managements could have found a million reasons why it could not be done but found every reason why it should be.”
By Ward’s design, the lineups for the game were established by a democratic process. The Tribune asked readers to vote for their favorite players, and 47 papers quickly followed suit.
The American League, bolstered by Babe Ruth’s two-run homer, beat the National League 4-2.
May 18, 1990: Ryne Sandberg’s errorless-games streak ends after 123 games and 584 chances
After the 7-0 win over the Astros, someone asked the Cubs second baseman which of the streak’s plays stood out. Sandberg didn’t hesitate.
“Just this last one,” he said. “It’s the only one I can think about right now.”
Joe Morgan of the Reds held the previous record of 91 games.
May 20, 2006: A.J. Pierzynski and Michael Barrett fight during a Cubs-Sox game
White Sox baserunner Pierzynski’s shoulder block into Cubs catcher Barrett spawned a second-inning, bench-clearing brouhaha at home plate.
The fight boiled over into another fight that led to four ejections at U.S. Cellular Field.
Pierzynski said he was simply trying to score and Barrett was in his way. Barrett grabbing Pierzynski and landing a hard right cross was an apparent misunderstanding.
“I hit Michael (who was blocking home plate) and I got up and my helmet was right behind him,” Pierzynski said. “I went to get my helmet and the next thing I know I’m in a bear hug and he said, ‘I didn’t have the ball, b—-.’ The next thing I know I got punched.”
The Sox wound up beating the Cubs 7-0.
“They’re a good low-ball-hitting team as a group and that’s where he lives, so you’ve got less margin for error when the two strengths line up a little bit. And they got the best of him today.” — Cubs manager David Ross on the Twins tagging Marcus Stroman for six runs in 2⅔ innings in Sunday’s 16-3 loss