The Rundown: Flawless in Seattle, Maples Just Filthy, Battle for Division Looms

Thanks to a nearly flawless game from Jon Lester and an offense that pummeled Mariners’ pitching, the Cubs beat Seattle 11-0 to take both games of the two-game set. Willson Contreras borrowed Thor’s hammer from Kyle Schwarber and launched a 440-foot home run of his own that looked like a laser beam.

Despite great performances from most of the team’s key regulars, it was an electric 9th inning from reliever Dillon Maples that really punctuated the victory. Maples struck out the side using his filthy slider and had Seattle batters looking foolish in the process. He is by far the most electric member of the team’s bullpen and if he can harness his stuff he would give the Cubs a lights-out option at the end of games.

The Cubs are off (again) today before opening a three-game set with the front-running Cardinals at Wrigley Field on Friday. I wish I could find a link, but Chris Russo said on his MLB Network scream-fest, High Heat, that the Cubs are “finished.” He declared St. Louis the only team that will make the playoffs out of the NL Central this season. Chicago (16-12) has a current run differential of +38 and sits three games behind the Cardinals (20-10), who have scored 36 more runs than they have given up.

Anyone want to guess what the Cubs’ record was through 28 games in each of the last two seasons? If you say “The same as this year,” you’re right. The Brewers will follow the Redbirds into Wrigley at the beginning of next week. Should be a fun homestand.

Cubs News & Notes

How About That!

Bryce Harper has slumped miserably in the last 10 games and his honeymoon with the Phillies appears to be over.

The Royals swept their double-header against the Rays yesterday, including a game one victory of reigning Cy Young winner Blake Snell. Tampa Bay had won 11 of 12 games against Kansas City coming into the day.

Yonder Alonso hit a walk-off, two-run single to lift the White Sox to a victory over the Orioles and a double-header split.

Former White Sox ace Chris Sale is scheduled to start the second game of a four-game series for the Red Sox on Friday at Guaranteed Rate Field. Sale is still seeking his first win of the season.

The Cardinals won for the 10th time in 11 games after beating the Nationals 5-1 last night. Washington is trending in the opposite direction, losing nine of their last twelve. St. Louis will go for the sweep this afternoon.

Brewers OF Christian Yelich is on track to return to the lineup this weekend, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Journal Sentinel. The right fielder has been dealing with a back issue the last few days.

Indians ace Corey Kluber broke his right forearm in yesterday’s 4-2 loss to the Marlins. The two-time American League Cy Young winner suffered a non-displaced fracture of his right ulna and will be reevaluated today.

The Padres called up top prospect Cal Quantrill, the team announced. The right-hander took the loss in his debut against the Braves.

Giants pitching prospect Logan Webb was suspended 80 games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug, MLB announced.

Wednesday’s Three Stars

  1. Jon Lester – The Cubs ace was dominant yesterday, allowing just one hit in seven innings. He struck out eight Mariners in earning his second win of the season. Lester lowered his ERA to 1.73, easily the best among Cubs starters.
  2. Nolan Arenado – The slugging Rockies third baseman was a one-man wrecking crew last night, homering twice with four RBI in Colorado’s 11-4 win over the slumping Brewers.
  3. Max Fried – The Braves starer was brilliant against the Padres yesterday, allowing just four hits with no walks in his longest career start. Fried lowered his ERA to 2.11, had seven strikeouts, and improved to 4-1 on the season.

On Deck

One thing I am not looking forward to is how Cubs players will respond when asked about Russell when he returns. How will his teammates respond to him?  It’s difficult and awkward to try to say the right things in supporting a teammate who is guilty of being a wretched human being.

Those types of potential distractions could be one of the reasons the Cubs are waiting to promote him, especially with games coming up against the Cardinals and Brewers on the team’s home stand.

Extra Innings

You didn’t see it on the local broadcast, but after Rizzo’s home run yesterday a Mariners’ fan was caught on camera flipping the bird to either the Cubs first baseman or Seattle starter Marco Gonzales, who served up the gopher. I caught the game on the Mariners feed and saw it. I guffawed.

They Said It

  • “[Lester] sets the pace pitching-wise. Offensively, we hit the ball hard. We hit it out of the ballpark. We played with a lot of energy again. I really appreciate the energy and enthusiasm in the dugout. It’s outstanding.” – Joe Maddon
  • “He has done everything that has been asked of him and beyond from what I have been told. In life, you make a lot of mistakes and poor choices. Everyone who is going to read your story or listen to this has made a mistake in their life they are ashamed of. You learn and grow.” – Anthony Rizzo
  • “Nothing’s [going to] change on the bullpen front. We recognize this is a year where we’re gonna have to make a lot of important calls in-season and pick the right guys and put them in the right position to succeed and I think things have started to really stabilize in the bullpen… We’ll continue to try to help guys be their best selves, make important calls when we feel change is needed, and of course look outside the organization as well as inside to try to find the right combination.” – Theo Epstein

Thursday Walk Up Song

You’re So Vain by Faster Pussycat. A decent, hard rocking cover of the Carly Simon classic. There’s some nice ‘tude here. I always thought the Rolling Stones could really do justice to this song, particularly since rumors abound that the protagonist in the song is Mick Jagger himself. Oh, and bring on the Deadbirds!

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