The Chicago Cubs defensive issues cost them in a June 25 game against the St. Louis Cardinals in London. After taking the first game in the series 9-1, the Cubs were poised to sweep the Cardinals. Leading 4-0 after the first inning in the second game, the Cubs should have won convincingly. Then in the second inning first baseman Trey Mancini made an error that led to three Cardinals runs being scored. After that play, it was all Cardinals the rest of the way and ended with them winning 7-5. To make matters worse for Mancini, the following inning Cody Bellinger pinch-hit for him and played first base for the rest of the game.
Things only got more dire for the Cubs as Marcus Stroman left his start early due to a blister on his pitching hand. After the game, Stroman indicated that this injury should not cause him to miss a start. Stroman stated that the problem arose during pregame workouts. The blister became an issue again during the fourth inning and at that point, Stroman was removed from the game. Coming into this outing, he had seven wins in his last seven starts. But that streak has now ended. Stroman also saw his ERA increase from 2.28 to 2.47 as a result of allowing three earned runs. His record now sits at 9-5 in 17 starts.
The Play in Question
In the bottom of the second, Tommy Edman hit a grounder to Nico Hoerner, who fielded the ball and tossed it to Mancini. Mancini was late to cover first and made a desperate, unsuccessful attempt to grab the ball with his bare hand. One run scored as a direct result of the error. During the following at-bat two more runs scored, which were both unearned. As of now, Mancini has a .991 fielding percentage at first base with two errors. Manager David Ross clearly found that to be an issue and benched Mancini. During postgame media availability, Mancini issued an apology, taking full responsibility for his defensive play’s negative impact.
Fixing the Cubs Defensive Problems
It is clear that for the time being, Mancini will no longer be playing first base. Playing Bellinger at first would be the best move that Ross could make. And with Mike Tauchman playing well enough to fill Bellinger’s slot in the outfield, Bellinger at first seems the most logical move. He has a 1.000 fielding percentage at first this season. Since returning from injury, Bellinger has been playing first when he isn’t in the DH. If Ross decides to play Mancini it should be in the DH spot at least for the time being. A trade at the deadline for a corner infielder that can solidify the Cubs defense needs to be a priority for the team if making a playoff run is important to them.
Ross deciding not to play Bellinger against lefties brings up a dilemma. Bellinger has a .286 batting average against lefties compared to Mancini who has a .262 batting average. So based on that alone, Bellinger should be playing even against left-handed pitchers. It puts the team in a tight corner with Mancini’s defensive instability. Playing Mancini at the DH spot in a lefty scenario would mean that either Christopher Morel or Nick Madrigal would have to play first, assuming that Bellinger and Tauchman don’t play. Playing Morel at first base is worth a try in this scenario unless Ross uses this chance to play Morel at third more often.
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