Mark Trumbo hitting .194 with 65 strikeouts in last 43 games

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Not so long ago Mark Trumbo seemed headed for a breakout season, making the All-Star team on the basis of a huge first half and hitting .307 with 27 homers, 16 doubles, and a .988 OPS in 85 games through July 20.

And then he just stopped hitting.

Since then Trumbo has played 43 games, batting .194 with three homers, zero doubles, and a .499 OPS while striking out 65 times compared to 11 walks.

He’s been so bad for so long that manager Mike Scioscia has recently been semi-regularly benching him in favor of Vernon Wells, who’s sporting a .227 batting average and .701 OPS after being incredibly unproductive last season.

Here’s how Scioscia explained the situation to Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times:

There are a finite amount of games right now. With a guy like Trum, it’s a Catch-22. He has to go out there and swing, and right now, his struggles are taking some at-bats away from him. When he finds it, he usually keeps it, and it can come quickly for him. We need him, and we’ll definitely give him enough chances to get there with the option of spotting Vernon or some other guys to give us a little boost if he continues to struggle.

Here’s the thing, though: Dating back to mid-July, when Trumbo started slumping, Wells has hit .190 with four homers and a .696 OPS in 25 games. That’s better than Trumbo, sure, but it’s still really, really bad. If Scioscia is going to bench Trumbo for someone he ought to think about it being Peter Bourjos, because at least then the Angels will be getting amazing defense.

The Cubs are in desperate need of relief

Associated Press
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Tonight in Chicago Yu Darvish of the Dodgers will face off against Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs. If this were Game 1, we’d have a lot to say about the Dodgers’ trade deadline pickup and the Cubs’ budding ace. If this series continues on the way it’s been going, however, each of them will be footnotes because it has been all about the bullpens.

The Cubs, you may have heard, are having tremendous problems with relief pitching. Both their own and with the opposition’s. Cubs relievers have a 7.03 ERA this postseason, and have allowed six runs on eight hits and have walked six batters in seven innings of work. And no, the relief struggles aren’t just a matter of Joe Maddon pushing the wrong buttons (even though, yeah, he has pushed the wrong buttons).

Maddon pushed Wade Davis for 44 pitches in Game 5 of the NLDS, limiting his availability in Games 1 and 2. That pushing is a result of a lack of relief depth on the Cubs. Brian Duensing, Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. all have talent and all have had their moments, but none of them are the sort of relievers we have come to see in the past few postseasons. The guys who, when your starter tosses 80 pitches in four innings like Jon Lester did the other night, can be relied upon to shut down the opposition for three and a half more until your lights-out closer can get the four-out save.

In contrast, the Dodgers bullpen has been dominant, tossing eight scoreless innings. Indeed, Dodgers relievers have tossed eight almost perfect innings, allowing zero hits and zero walks while striking out nine Cubs batters. The only imperfection came when Kenley Jansen hit Anthony Rizzo in Game 2. That’s it. Compare this to the past couple of postseasons where the only truly reliable arm down there was Jansen, and in which Dodgers managers have had to rely on Clayton Kershaw to come on in relief. That has not been a temptation at all as the revamped L.A. pen, featuring newcomers Brandon Morrow and Tony Watson. Suffice it to say, Joe Blanton is not missed.

Which brings us back to Kyle Hendricks. He has pitched twice this postseason, pitching seven shutout innings in Game 1 of the NLDS but getting touched for four runs on nine hits while allowing a couple of dingers in Game 5. If the good Hendricks shows up, Maddon will be able to ride him until late in the game in which a now-rested Davis and maybe either Strop or Edwards can close things out in conventional fashion, returning this series to competitiveness. If the bad Hendricks does, he’ll have to do what he did in that NLDS Game 5, using multiple relievers and, perhaps, a repurposed starter in relief while grinding Davis into dust again. That was lucky to work there and doing it without Davis didn’t work in Game 2 on Sunday night.

So it all falls to Hendricks. The Dodgers have shown how soft the underbelly of the Cubs pen truly is. If they get to Hendricks early and get into that pen, you have to like L.A’s chances, not just in this game, but for the rest of the series, as bullpen wear-and-tear builds up quickly. It’s pretty simple: Hendricks has to give the Cubs some innings tonight. There is no other option available.

Just ask Joe Maddon. He’s tried.