The Rundown: Cubs Barely Put Up Fight Against Pirates, Yelich Puts Pedal to Metal, Harper Likely Leaving Washington
Sorry for the late post and the for the length of this one, I couldn’t wake up from yesterday’s nightmare. The Cubs lost again and Christian Yelich dispelled any belief that he is not deserving of the NL MVP.
Oh boy, what a NIGHT. Chicago was so flat last night that the game seemed out of reach as soon as Pablo Reyes hit a three-run home run off of Mike Montgomery in the 2nd inning. Many fans are searching for Zoloft and booking early-October vacations. Why panic?
For whatever reason, Pirates pitchers seem like Cy Young contenders when they face the Cubs, and it may have something to do with a steady diet of offspeed pitches that has flustered and frustrated this offense. The Cubs have five runs in their last six games against Pittsburgh, all of them coming on solo home runs. They are going to need to rediscover their offense or they are going to lose the division to Milwaukee. But the book is out against them now. Expect to see a lot more of the same.
So many of you need to be talked off the ledge. Jason Heyward put it all in perspective.
“I just want to point out, we have the best record in the NL, and we haven’t clinched yet,” Heyward said Tuesday afternoon before the Cubs lost. “That shows you how good our division is. That shows you how good this league is. It’s time to pay respect to how good these other teams have been playing baseball.”
Heyward’s right and cooler heads need to prevail here. The Cubs should be praised and not roasted. They’ve lost their closer and his backup; their offseason acquisitions, two of which made up 40 percent of the rotation, were injured and/or ineffective; the cornerstone of their offense — a former Rookie of the Year and MVP, has missed over a third of the season. And still the Cubs have the best record in the National League. If they can win three of their remaining five games, they will force the Brewers to win out to take the division from them.
“The Pirates are playing them tough,” said Milwaukee OF Ryan Braun. “We know how good a team [Pittsburgh] is. So, the Cubs have [their] hands full but if we don’t take care of business and basically win every game, we’re not going to be able to win division.”
The key for the Cubs is finding their offensive groove and scoring some runs. Pitching and defense will win most playoff series, but scoring wins games.
#Cubs have had a feast-or-famine offense all season. They average 6.5 runs/game in wins and an MLB-worst 2.1 runs/game in losses. That’s the largest discrepancy in MLB
— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) September 26, 2018
Their baserunning has been pretty poor since the All-Star break, too.
While I am at it, what about the impact of Chili Davis? The new hitting coach is starting to get some calls for his head.
#Cubs change in slugging percentage from 2017 to 2018 by regulars in the lineup:
Baez: +85 (.480 ➡️ .565)
— Greg Huss (@OutOfTheVines) September 26, 2018
Take a deep breath. Get a 12-pack of your favorite beer. Things are going to look a whole lot better by the morning, and at the very least, we may be looking at a one-game playoff with the Dodgers. It might be a nice change of pace to only have to face them once this postseason.
Cubs News & Notes
Major League Baseball did not place Cubs shortstop Addison Russell on paid administrative leave solely because of a blog post written by his former wife, Melisa Reidy. You’ll need a subscription to The Athletic to read the article, but here’s a small excerpt:
The chances of Russell rejoining the Cubs for the postseason appear slim; every previous case of a player going on administrative leave resulted in a player agreeing to a suspension without appeal. The list includes Astros closer Roberto Osuna, who did not challenge a 75-game suspension from baseball, but had his assault charge in Toronto withdrawn on Tuesday after he agreed to a series of conditions constituting a “peace bond.”
For what it’s worth, Joe Maddon says it would not be a distraction if Russell plays again for the Cubs. Maddon has “no idea” if the shortstop will eventually return and knows “nothing about the process…playing itself out.” He spoke to reporters prior to Tuesday’s game against Pittsburgh.
I guess I’ll be the guy to remind everybody how ridding themselves of Russell’s contract could actually help the Cubs land Bryce Harper this winter. I’m more focused on this season right now, but free agency is less than two months away, too.
What happens if the Brewers and Cubs tie for the NL Central? What if there’s a tie for the Wild Card?
Kris Bryant left the yesterday’s game because of a bruised left wrist after he was hit by a pitch from Chris Archer during the 4th inning. After the game, manager Joe Maddon said that X-rays were negative, but Bryant isn’t expected to play on Wednesday and his status is day-to-day.
Last night’s loss represented the 11th time the Cubs have been shut out this season. The Cubs have played poorly within their division this season and it really sums up everything up to this moment.
Even with a playoff spot likely assured, there is still plenty of uncertainty surrounding the team over the final five days of the regular season. As such, NBC Sports offers a breakdown of the different scenarios that could play out for the Cubs in the season’s final days.
Pedro Strop (hamstring) hasn’t thrown off a mound yet but Joe Maddon says he’s doing better: “He’s trending in the right direction. I have not heard anything negative and he keeps telling me how great he feels.”
John Lackey is coming to town, likely to see old friends and teammates. Hopefully this is a support trip and not a last-series bullpen addition.
Jose Quintana squares off against Ivan Nova tonight in what is a must-win game for the Cubs. They’re all pretty much must-win games at this point though
How About That!
Jim Bowden of CBS Sports HQ says a return to the Nationals isn’t likely for Harper. Bowden goes on to name-check the Cubs, Dodgers, Yankees, Phillies, and Braves as potentially being among Harper’s strongest suitors in free agency.
The Houston Astros clinched another AL West title and reached 100 wins for the second straight season, beating the Toronto Blue Jays 4-1 Tuesday night behind Alex Bregman’s two-run homer.
The Rockies’ fifth straight win moved them a half-game in front of St. Louis for the second wild-card. Colorado trails the NL West-leading Dodgers by a half-game entering tonight’s action and has a solid chance to win the division title. The Rockies play their remaining five games at home while the Dodgers will finish up with four on the road.
Meanwhile, Arizona infielder Eduardo Escobar homered off Kenta Maeda leading off the ninth inning last, giving the Diamondbacks a 4-3 win that tightened the NL West race. Los Angeles had won 10 of its previous 12 games to surge into the NL West lead.
Tuesday’s Three Stars
- Yelich – Do you really want me to read off his stat line? The Brewers OF was 2-for-6 with a home run and six runs batted in. He is carrying Milwaukee right now.
- David Dahl – The Rockies OF had a home run and four RBIs, going 3-for-5 in a 10-3 win over the Phillies.
- Rob Manfred – The Commissioner is glowing right now thanks to an insane National League race. There’s a real possibility of Game 163s Monday in Chicago and LA for NL Central/West titles and a 163rd game for the second wild card, too.
Before yesterday’s game, @ARizzo44 delivered smiles to patients and a $2 million check to help support the @RizzoFoundation’s Hope 44 programs. pic.twitter.com/tw73RnBCRA
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 26, 2018
They Said It
- “The NL Central is an absolutely loaded division. Everyone has been beating up on each other throughout the whole year. … It says a lot about our guys. It hasn’t jelled for us all as a group, collectively, this year, but we’ve still found ways to be successful to win games.” – Tommy LaStella
- “More than anything, the part of our game that hasn’t been familiar to us has been offensively. The rest of the game has been pretty familiar.” – Joe Maddon
“[Yelich] is speeding up. That’s the best way to say it. It’s getting better. He’s been remarkable in the second half. Somehow, it feels like he’s getting better and doing more. With everything that’s swirling around him and us, it has been special. That’s the best way to describe it. It has been special. You spend a whole career in baseball and you see it once. You’ll be talking about it a long time.” – Craig Counsell
Wednesday Walk Up Song
Feels Like Rain by John Hiatt. Time to turn those frowns upside down, Cubs fans.