WASHINGTON -- Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo reacted to the comments catcher Miguel Montero -- who was designated for assignment on Wednesday -- made after the Nationals stole seven bases in their 6-1 win over Chicago on Tuesday."It's frustrating," Rizzo said during an interview on Chicago radio station ESPN 1000.
WASHINGTON -- Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo reacted to the comments catcher Miguel Montero -- who was designated for assignment on Wednesday -- made after the Nationals stole seven bases in their 6-1 win over Chicago on Tuesday.
"It's frustrating," Rizzo said during an interview on Chicago radio station ESPN 1000. "Whenever anyone steals seven bases, Miggy gets frustrated. It's the second time barking in the media and not going to his teammates. As a veteran like he is, you'd think he'd make smart decisions about it."
• Montero designated for assignment
The slow delivery of starter Jacob Arrieta didn't help Montero, who is 0-for-31 in throwing out baserunners this season, and Montero put the blame on Arrieta for Washington's baserunning success.
"It really sucked because the stolen base goes on me," Montero said. "When you really look at it, the pitcher doesn't give me any time. It's like, 'Oh, yeah, Miggy can't throw anybody out.' Yeah, but my pitchers don't hold anybody on. It's tough. ... I don't get a chance to throw. That's the reason they were running left and right. They knew he was slow to the plate, simple as that."
Rizzo said he wasn't aware of Montero's comments until he got back to the team hotel after the game.
"We win as a team, we lose as a team," Rizzo said. "When you start pointing fingers, that just labels you as a selfish player. I disagree. I think we have another catcher who throws out anyone who steals. And he has Jonathan Lester who doesn't pick over, that's no secret. I think going to the media with things like that, I don't think it's very professional."
Maddon said he was aware of the Cubs' problem in defending against the running game. Chicago's other catcher, Willson Contreras, has thrown out 16 of 31 basestealers this year.
"It's an imperfect situation," Maddon said. "It's not about the move to first, it's about time to the plate more than anything. [Arrieta] is a little slow, really gathers, his leg comes up high. It's something he works on. There are times when he's quicker or better, but with guys like [Trea Turner], who are premier runners, it's really difficult. The best antidote is to keep [Turner] off the bases."
Montero was charged with one of the Cubs' two errors on a throw to third, trying to get Michael Taylor in the fourth. There were times, Montero said, when he didn't even consider throwing because he knew it would have to be perfect.
Turner stole two bases in the first and again in the third. He has 32 steals this season; the Cubs have 23.
Montero, 33, is having a good season offensively, as his .805 OPS is his highest since 2012 (though in only 98 at-bats), but he is not as quick as he once was behind the plate, according to Statcast™. His average pop time to second on stolen-base attempts is 2.11 seconds, compared to the MLB average of 2.00 seconds. For comparison, Contreras has a 1.93 average pop time to second (the league leader is the Padres' Austin Hedges with 1.88 seconds).
Of course, very few pitcher-catcher combinations have had any luck throwing out Turner, who is 32-for-37 on stolen-base attempts this year. Per Statcast™, his baserunning sprint speed is the fastest among shortstops at 29 feet per second. The Major League average is 27 feet per second, and Turner is one of just 16 players averaging 29 feet per second or better.
"I love speed. And when you have it, you gotta use it," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said.
"When Turner's on the bag, you try to be mindful of that and vary your holds, but he's fast," Arrieta said. "He's a factor any time he's on. That's why you try to do your best to keep him off base. ... I don't care who's behind the plate -- [Turner] is a threat, and he's shown that. You're better off getting him out, and I wasn't able to do that very well."
In Arrieta's previous start, against the Marlins, he was efficient and gave up one run over seven innings, throwing 82 pitches. On Tuesday, the right-hander did notch his 1,000th career strikeout when he fanned Turner in the fourth, but it's the fifth time this season he's been unable to finish five innings.
"The last start was more indicative of the way I'd like to throw as far as commanding the strike zone and forcing contact early in the count," Arrieta said.
Arrieta can be a free agent after this season. He'd love to secure a contract like Scherzer's (seven years, $210 million).
"I can pitch at his level," Arrieta said. "I just haven't done it consistently. He's been very good throughout his career. I've had a couple good ones, a bad one, a couple good ones. I'd like to be more consistent throughout."
On Monday, the Cubs opened this four-game series with a much crisper 5-4 win. How can they find some consistency?
"That's the million-dollar question right there," Montero said. "If I knew the answer, I'd be talking to the guys to figure it out and get it going. It's tough. It's one of those days, you get beat and go home and you think about it, and it's going to be hard to sleep on it. It was just a bad game."
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.