Hermosillo, Wisdom take flight in slugfest

Thompson struggles after Cubs erupt with 6-run 1st inning vs. Keuchel

August 28th, 2021

CHICAGO -- The Cubs might as well have a "pardon our dust" sign posted at the top of their dugout steps. This is a roster under construction and a group experiencing development and going through auditions.

That made Friday's trip into Guaranteed Rate Field a chance to gauge some things against an October-bound White Sox team. The South Siders dealt the Cubs an ugly 17-13 defeat, but the club from up north understood the landscape coming in.

"A test against the best is always fun," Cubs manager David Ross said before the game. "You always know where you're at when you get to play really good teams."

Friday’s events -- losing the grip on a six-run lead in the first inning, thanks in part to a pair of costly errors by shortstop Andrew Romine that opened the door for an eight-run third -- showed just how far apart the crosstown rivals are right now. Per Cubs historian Ed Hartig, this marks the first time since July 27-28, 1894, that the franchise lost consecutive games when scoring 10-plus runs in each contest.

Within the four-hour, nine-minute marathon loss, though, were a few notable developments. Here were a few of those individual performances with the future in mind:

Hermosillo homers, takes one away
When the 26-year-old was summoned from Triple-A Iowa this month, the idea was to work him at all three outfield positions. In particular, Ross wanted to give him starts against lefties as part of a center-field platoon with Rafael Ortega.

Hermosillo has mostly played the corners, but he looked right at home in center against the Sox on Friday night.

In the fourth inning, Hermosillo ranged to his right and made a running catch to rob Tim Anderson of an extra-base hit. Per Statcast, the play had a 70 percent catch probability. Then in the fourth, Hermosillo sprinted to his left and made a leaping catch at the wall to snag what might have been a homer by Andrew Vaughn.

“He was flying. What is it, 'Like Mike,' right? Isn't that the old saying?” Ross said. “That's what it looked like -- him going up and getting that ball in center [against Vaughn]. ... He can float out there. It was nice. We'll give him some more looks out there.”

Hermosillo faced Sox southpaw Dallas Keuchel twice, drawing a leadoff walk in the first to get a six-run rally started and later flying out in the same frame. In the seventh inning, the Cubs outfielder drilled a 1-2 slider from reliever Mike Wright Jr. out to left field for a two-out, solo homer.

Thompson's rough outing
The Cubs are giving a look down the stretch as a starter with next year's rotation in mind. In his second start since returning from Triple-A, the deep White Sox order presented a daunting task for the rookie righty.

"This is a really good test, a really good lineup, for him," Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said. "It's a team that, there's a lot of chase to them, but there's also a lot of damage on stuff in the strike zone. So, commanding the stuff is No. 1, and not being afraid to pitch to contact with this team."

Thompson was armed with a 6-0 lead in the first inning, but the pitcher was not as aggressive as Hottovy hoped in that pregame assessment. Thompson threw 36 of 62 pitches for strikes, had only a 10 percent whiff rate and lasted just two-plus frames.

“With a six-run lead, it's unacceptable to go out there and not be able to throw strikes,” Thompson said. “No excuse. I set the tone from the beginning on the mound for us tonight. And it's just a long night. It was everything. I was either pulling a fastball or leaving pitches in the middle of the plate that they were hitting hard.”

Wisdom's birthday bombs
Patrick Wisdom is not a favorite for the National League Rookie of the Year Award. He has, however, at least pulled himself into the conversation, and has done so as a journeyman finally getting an extended window of opportunity.

In the first inning on Friday, Wisdom celebrated his 30th birthday by crushing a first-pitch homer against Keuchel. The blast soared a projected 448 feet, per Statcast, and sparked the Cubs' six-run outburst. Then in the ninth, Wisdom added a second shot -- this one a solo blast to left off relief ace Craig Kimbrel.

“That first one, man,” Ross said. “That's a couple here in a row that have just been absolutely crushed. And then there off Craig, getting that ball down, hard line-drive homer that just doesn't come down. He's got so much thump and thunder in his hands. It's impressive. When he connects, he does real damage.”

The homers were the 22nd and 23rd of the season for Wisdom, moving him past Javier Báez (traded to the Mets on July 30) for the team lead this year. Looking ahead to '22, Wisdom has positioned himself well to keep slugging as part of the North Siders' lineup.

“[His] 30th birthday and hitting two homers. That's a pretty nice day,” Ross said. “And he's rocking the 'stache. Maybe we may have to all, as a group, go with the 'stache, if that's the way it's trending.”