The Rundown: Russell Dives to End Game, Maddon and Rondon Ejected, Cubs Make Statement

Addison Russell is our shortstop.

If you don’t agree with that shortstop, I’ll kindly ask you to close your browser window and refrain from reading my work in the future. I know Starlin Castro has the history and the hot bat and Javy Baez has potential for days, but Russell’s skill’s at short outpace either of them and I don’t think it’s even a particularly close race.

With the game suddenly back on the line in the 9th on Saturday, Russell made an insane diving stop before going airborne once more and shoveling the ball to Baez for the game’s final out. Seriously, watch the video: Russell lays out to snag the ball and then launches himself back up in order to generate the momentum to relay the ball to second.

In case you haven’t realized by now, this is not normal. There are a lot of good shortstops, but very few who can be labeled great. While it’s too early to be putting the Cubs rookie into that latter group just yet, it’s clear that he’s got the talent to be there soon and to stay there for a long time. Joe Maddon can move the other guys around all he wants, but Russell is going nowhere.

Maddon and Rondon thrown out

Tensions ran high during and after Friday’s game, so it wasn’t a surprise when warnings were issued after Tommy Pham was hit by a pitch for the second time in the game. As a result, Hector Rondon getting a bit too far inside on Stephen Piscotty meant that both he and Joe Maddon were ejected.

“The umpire came up to me and said, ‘I know it wasn’t on purpose, but you have to go out and take it,'” Rondon explained after the game.

“That’s just an interpretation by the umpires,” Maddon added. “Obviously not trying to do that there. The umpires have the ability to exercise their own baseball acumen and judgement in that moment.

“There was a lot of pressure coming from the other side to do what eventually happened. I’m not going to pass judgement – I’m a very non-judgmental person – partly because it worked out in my favor.”

We’ve seen a lot of this subjective stuff lately, whether it was Chris Coghlan’s hard slide or the various beanings over the course of the weekend. I understand the need to curtail the kind of shenanigans that can escalate into dangerous liaisons, but it’s tough when everyone knows there was no malicious intent.

Statement game for Cubs

While they weren’t trying to send a message with the pitches they threw, the Cubs nonetheless made a statement with the way they played. Saturday’s win guaranteed them a series win over the Cardinals, their second in a row against their rivals. After taking 3 of 4 from the Pirates, the Cubs are making noise in both the Wild Card and divisional races and confidence is in no danger of running low on the North Side.

It’s really a shame the playoffs are set up as they are, since the NL Central now boasts all three of the best records in the majors. To see two such teams play each other in a sudden-death matchup seems silly at this point, but I suppose it’s better than just a couple years ago. Can you imagine winning 95 games and missing the postseason while teams several games behind you move on?

The stretch the Cubs are finishing was to have been their hardest of the season–on paper anyway–and they will finish no worse than 5-2 in the 7 games against the two teams ahead of them. They still have 4 games left against the Pirates and Royals, but the remaining 9 are against the Reds and Brewers. It’s not a stretch in the least to see the Cubs winning 8 of their remaining games, which would put them at 95 wins on the year.

Regardless of what happens in the postseason, this team has defied expectations and has put the rest of the league on notice.

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