I’ve been out of the country for the past week and a half, so I haven’t been able to watch the Cubs. It was difficult, especially with them playing so well.
I tried to find a bar in Barcelona that might be showing some baseball — even found a bar called “Obama,” but no dice on the Cubs game.
It’s good to be back in the States to be able to follow the Cubs again, and that the biggest question facing the team over the next couple weeks isn’t whether they will make the postseason, but whether the one-game playoff will be held in Chicago or Pittsburgh.
For my first game back, the Cubs didn’t disappoint in a 4-0 win over the Brewers.
Another ho-hum dominant performance by starter Jake Arrieta, who picked up his 20th win — the first Cubs 20-game winner since Jon Lieber in 2001. No, I don’t think that the “win” stat is a good measure for how good a pitcher has been. But you have to be doing something right to get to 20 wins. And Arrieta has done a lot right this year.
Last night, he once again looked unhittable while pitching a complete game. After surrendering a leadoff double, he only gave up two infield hits while striking out 11.
I’m not sure what else can be said about Arrieta. He is out-of-this-world good right now. I guess we just have to hope his dominance continues in the playoffs. The way he’s going, there’s no reason not to think it will.
A rookie record
Kris Bryant got in on the fun as well last night, hitting his 26th home run of the year — a Cubs single-season rookie record for homers. He also added an RBI double in the 8th inning. His three-RBI night puts him at 98 for the season.
There was no shortage of hype for Bryant as he rocketed through the minors since being drafted in 2013. I was as excited as anyone to see what he could do in the big leagues. But I don’t think I could have imagined him having a better rookie season. So impressive.
Bullpen game … in the playoffs?
We know Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester are the clear-cut leaders of the Cubs’ starting rotation. But after that, we haven’t seen a lot of consistency in the second half of the season.
Before last night’s game, Joe Maddon wouldn’t rule out deploying a “bullpen game” in the playoffs, in which he’d use a combination of relievers instead of a starter.
While I don’t doubt Maddon would do something like this, I still figure he’d go with Jason Hammel as the third starter and have Travis Wood, Clayton Richard and Trevor Cahill ready to go if Hammel looks shaky early.
Before last night’s game, Joe Maddon orchestrated another team event to help keep things loose. Earlier this season, Maddon invited a magician to the clubhouse.
This time: exotic animals.
It's zoo day at Wrigley pic.twitter.com/NWxaXKJXtH
— Anthony Rizzo (@ARizzo44) September 22, 2015
These types of things hopefully make the players a little more relaxed and take their mind off the baseball grind.
I don’t see much of a downside, really.
* Catcher Willson Contreras and RHP Ryan Williams have been named the Cubs’ minor-league player and pitcher of the year, respectively. Can’t say either of these are a surprise. Contreras had a breakout year behind the plate, hitting .333/.413/.478 for the Tennessee Smokies. Williams pitched so well with the South Bend Cubs that they skipped him up to Double-A. He combined for a 2.16 ERA and only 18 walks in 24 starts.
* A day after blaming a Starlin Castro error on last week’s AC/DC concert at Wrigley Field, Joe Maddon was taking a new stance, writes Patrick Mooney. “I have no problem with any of that. Zero. Zilch. Nada,” Maddon said. “That was an attempt at weak humor yesterday, so I was guilty of that, and I can be very weak at times. Regarding the bad hop, I have no problem with the concert whatsoever.” Maddon may be able to persuade the organization to get rid of the 3:05 Friday games, but I don’t see the revenue-generating concerts going anywhere anytime soon. So I’m not surprised to hear Maddon take a new attitude toward the events.
* Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright has been cleared to resume full baseball activities and is expected to pitch a simulated game this weekend. Wainwright tore his Achilles’ in April, and it looked like it possibly ended his season. But it looks like that’s not the case. Wainwright won’t be used as a starter, however. But remember, when the Cardinals first brought him up in 2006, he helped them win a World Series title as their closer. Because, of course.