The Cubs halted their three-game losing streak on Wednesday night with a huge 1-0 victory over the pesky Pittsburgh Pirates. A big shoutout to the bullpen, which contributed three scoreless innings from the trio of Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, and Wade Davis. So often the last few weeks, the talented but inconsistent relief unit couldn’t be trusted with a slim lead, much less a tie game on the road.
•It has been a long fall for Addison Russell. This is the same young man who hit big home runs against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS and Cleveland Indians in the World Series. At Wrigley Field in early April, Len Kasper publicly referred to him as “future National League MVP Addison Russell.” With a wRC+ of 84 this season and a career mark of 90, you can forgive fans that are starting to get a bit impatient with the 23-year-old’s sporadic offensive development.
The Cubs placed their shortstop on the disabled list on August 4, just as he was getting his season on track. From the end of the All-Star break until he went on the DL, Russell hit .306/.338/.565 with three home runs in 65 plate appearances. At the time, the thought process was that his foot had been sore and the Cubs didn’t believe the injury would keep him out more than the required 10 days.
But that just kept getting pushed back, and now there’s a chance that Russell may not return until slightly before the playoffs begin, if at all. And all of these issues comes before we even mention the shortstop’s personal struggles this year, which consist of a lot of unconfirmed accusations and rumors. Javier Baez has filled in admirably at shortstop, and may be one of the best Cubs-centric storylines in the second half of the season. But there is little doubt that the team is in a better spot with Russell healthy and playing.
•Raise your hand if you had the St. Louis Cardinals’ home run leaders as Paul DeJong, Tommy Pham, and Randal Grichuk. Put your hand down, Evan. Home runs are just one offensive category, but St. Louis’s offense has been led by young and unexpected players often this season. DeJong came up from the minors to give them a major lift at shortstop, while guys like Pham, Jose Martinez, Harrison Bader, Luke Vogt, and Magneuris Sierra have all performed well at times.
On the pitching side, Cardinals fans have gotten a good look at the future late in the season. Carlos Martinez had possibly the best start of his career just a few nights ago, throwing a complete-game shutout against the San Diego Padres. Luke Weaver and Jack Flaherty have made appearances in the rotation, and flamethrowing right-hander Sandy Alcantara has arrived in the bullpen.
It’s easy to rip on the Cards for having an aging roster and throwing a mediocre product on the field the last two seasons, but they have some kids on the rise. It’s unlikely that any of these players ever turn into top-20 talents in baseball, but there are some solid role players in the bunch. Just like the Cardinals haven’t gone away in the NL Central this season, they don’t appear to be going away in the years to come.