The Rundown: Lester Leads First-Place Cubs to Eighth Straight Series Win, Contreras Team MVP So Far, Bryant, Báez Sizzling, Too

I was at Wrigley Field for the Cubs game last night and boy, was it cold outside.

How cold was it?

It was so cold, hehehe…it was so cold, I expected Joe Maddon to call on Cody Parkey to close out the game. Ouch. Still too soon, Bears fans?

The cold and rain didn’t bother Jon Lester, who was superb last night. The big left-hander allowed only a single unearned run on nine hits while throwing a season-high 116 pitches. Lester lowered his ERA to a major league-best 1.16 in the Cubs’ 4-1 victory over the Brewers. The Cubs have now won eight straight series, the first time that’s happened since 2008.

Cubs News & Notes

How About That!

Former Cubs pitcher Edwin Jackson is expected to start for the Blue Jays this week, in which case he would set a record by pitching for a 14th team.

Dodgers’ starter Hyun-Jin Ryu held the Nationals hitless through seven innings on Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles. Gerardo Parra broke up the no-hitter with one out in the 8th inning with a ground-rule double to left-center field.

Madison Bumgarner trolled Yasiel Puig yesterday, and it was epic. The two have a storied past and don’t like each other much. The hostilities began during the 2014 season, when Bumgarner took exception to a Puig bat flip, followed by the outfielder’s leisurely trot around the bases. Later in the year, Bumgarner hit Puig with a pitch, causing the benches to empty at Dodger Stadium.

Former Mets closer Billy Wagner has a ’57 Chevy to thank for a few strike calls from longtime MLB umpire Joe West — at least according to former major league catcher Paul Lo Duca.

Derek Holland is not very happy that the Giants have moved him to the bullpen. He claimed the team’s front office has used a fake injury to manipulate their roster. “To be honest, I have no idea what they’re doing,” Holland said Saturday, per KNBR. “And I don’t mean that by [manager Bruce Bochy] and them, it’s more for the front office. We keep changing things. I get a fake injury, so I’m not happy about that. But at the end of the day, I’m going to do whatever they ask me to do.”

Giants management has of course refuted Holland’s claim.

A power outage at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg caused a 43-minute delay in the Yankees-Rays game yesterday.

Astros’ outfielder George Springer is good at baseball.

Sunday’s Three Stars

  1. George Springer – The slugging Astros outfielder was 5-for-5 with a home run and four RBI yesterday. Springer now has 15 homers, which ties Lance Berkman in 2002 for the most in Houston history through 41 games.
  2. Josh Bell – The Pirates first baseman was 4-for-4 yesterday with a home run, a double, and 5 RBI as Pittsburgh manhandled the Cardinals 10-6.
  3. Michael Chavis – The Red Sox rookie third baseman was 3-for-5 with 5 RBI in Boston’s 11-2 win over the Mariners. All three of his hits were singles.

On Deck

This weekend marked the 70th anniversary of the day that Bob Pettit struck out 27 batters in a 12-inning game for Harbor City Narbonne. Pettit is 87 years old now, but he’s still as sharp as the fastballs that made him the first $100,000 “bonus baby” in Major League Baseball history.

During his high school career, he threw six no-hitters and, according to the Society for American Baseball Research, struck out 390 batters in 140 innings. That earned him the nickname “The Wizard of Whiff.”

Extra Innings

Since switching to the Rawlings-manufactured MLB baseball, season-to-date home runs in Triple-A were up 65% over a comparable period in 2018 (1,359 homers vs. 825), according to figures MLB provided to The Associated Press.

Of course the ball isn’t juiced. At least that’s what MLB wants us to believe. But it is manufactured for potentially bigger offensive numbers.

“The balls are flying more because they’re decent balls instead of the inch-high seams,” said Pirates’ outfielder Bryan Reynolds, exaggerating the stitch height. “I think that’s how it should be. You should play with the ball you’re going to play with when you’re up [in the big leagues].”

They Said It

  • “Recently, [Baez] has come up, pulled off a couple balls. I see his head in the dugout. Too big. Chase. And then all of a sudden, he realizes what he’s doing wrong. I don’t say anything to him. And all of a sudden, you see boom, boom. Right-center. Right-center. His head’s back on the ball. He’s making better choices.” – Joe Maddon
  • “I don’t know. I feel comfortable with [the Axe bat].” I’m going to keep going with it. But, yeah, I just had a laugh that it was talked about so much. But it is, it’s a good bat.” – Kris Bryant
  • “Lester pitched really good. He made really good pitches, and they played really good defense, too. I think when they needed today, they made those plays for him. At the end, we just couldn’t get the big hit there.” – Jhoulys Chacin
  • “To be honest, I didn’t think about having a great start like this one. I did put my focus and work into my mindset. That took me out of my game plan last year. I put a lot of pressure on myself to match the homers or RBIs from the year before. It didn’t work out, but I was glad I was able to fail that way and learn from it.” – Willson Contreras

Monday Walk Up Song

Take Me to the River by Talking Heads. The Cubs are off today before starting a six game road trip with three at Cincinnati’s beautiful riverfront stadium starting tomorrow.

This cover of an Al Green song is vastly different than the original’s bright, sunny, straight-forward and soulful affair. The Heads version is a jittery, strangely confident, and awkwardly funky romp that is unlike anything else the band had ever attempted.

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