With his team struggling through a week or so of offensive ineptitude, Willson Contreras decided to take matters into his own hands last night, and it was glorious. If you’ve ever wondered what an all-Chicago World Series might look and feel, last night was a great example. Cold, rainy, October-like weather combined with a marquee pitching matchup and an MVP performance by the Cubs’ catcher gave off all the feels of what would be an epic Fall Classic. Contreras was last night’s hero, hands down.
After going off on ChiSox starter Lucas Giolito last night, the All-Star bound backstop now has six home runs and 19 RBI in 11 career Cubs-Sox games, including a seven-RBI performance in a game last May.
I’m sure you’ve already seen the grand slam and you’ve probably seen his solo shot, too, but home runs are a dime-a-dozen in today’s version of baseball. There were five hit at Wrigley Field last night with the wind blowing in. Series MVP candidates excel in all aspects of the game and nothing says “you can go on home, son” better than a rally-killing rocket to your third baseman to cut down a thieving Tim Anderson.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) June 20, 2019
He’ll grab some bench.
That’s how you separate the men from the boys, am I right? Somewhere Hawk Harrelson was cringing and shouting “You gotta be bleeping me!”
There is no joy in Bridgeport today, except on Twitter, where White Sox fans are treating the series split with the Cubs like it’s their springboard to a Wild Card berth this year. The Sox are a good team, and hovering around .500 at the break usually gives teams a shot at the playoffs. I suppose anything is possible, though the American League postseason looks like it will be somewhat of a bloodbath this fall.
Chances are slim and none, but how entertaining would a Red Line World Series be this year? If anything, the two-game set between the city rivals proved a seven-game championship match would be quite competitive and a whole lot of fun. Perhaps Dylan Cease would start a game for the South Siders. It might even bring the Ol’ Hawkeroo out of retirement. Mercy.
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cubs will promote Adbert Alzolay for today’s game to spell Tyler Chatwood if the need arises. Tim Collins was designated for assignment after last night’s game to open up a roster spot. The Cubs believe Alzolay is on top of his game right now as Theo Epstein said recently his curveball was the best he’s seen from him.
- Chatwood is stepping in for Kyle Hendricks, who is on the injured list with right shoulder inflammation. Walker Lockett will take the bump for the Mets in the first game of the weekend series.
- Chili Davis will make his return to Wrigley Field tonight. Davis was fired in the offseason after serving one season as the team’s hitting coach.
- Here are your winners and losers from the first half of the Crosstown Classic.
- The Cubs continue to struggle with runners in scoring position, though that has been somewhat offset by 117 home runs.
- The Cubs boast five players who have 15 or more taters, led by Anthony Rizzo with 19.
- Kyle Schwarber led off with a double last night on the first pitch he saw from Giolito. His recent hot stretch has been fueled by his aggressiveness at the plate to start each game.
- Jon Lester had a 1.16 ERA in his first seven starts this season, but started last night’s game with a 7.59 ERA in his previous six.
- Cubs TV ratings this season are down 9.8% compared to last year (full season numbers). And though White Sox ratings are up 49.3% combined with an uptick in digital streaming of 104%, the Cubs’ local market share remains more than three times the size of their American League counterparts. That’s insane.
How About That!
Max Scherzer started for the Nationals last night despite suffering a broken nose the day before. Washington swept the Phillies in a day-night doubleheader and has won 16 of their last 23, moving ahead of the Mets for third place in the NL East.
With a strikeout rate that is on the rise due to increased velocity, Madison Bumgarner has suddenly become baseball’s hottest commodity. If I had to go with my gut feeling, I’d say he ends up with the Brewers.
The Yankees are certainly in play for Bumgarner and any other starters that may be available, though they might be cooling a bit on Indians’ starter Corey Kluber. Could you imagine the Yankees if they acquired Scherzer? Cue the Imperial March.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch finally acknowledged that the Brewers actually exist. Back-to-back articles about NL Central rivals performing poorly makes for boring reading, however.
Wednesday’s Three Stars
- Mike Trout – The all-world center fielder is on a roll and has already accumulated 5.1 WAR on the season. Last night he had two home runs and seven RBI in leading the Angels to an 11-6 win over the Blue Jays. Trout has an OPS+ of 196.
- Max Scherzer – One broken nose, one black eye, seven strikeouts, and a shutout victory over the Phillies. The Washington ace is certainly pitching like he doesn’t want the Nationals to trade him.
- Willson Contreras – The Cubs backstop broke out of a mini-slump with two dingers of his own, including a grand slam, and finished the game with five RBI while flashing that rocket of an arm.
Watch out for the Reds. Cincinnati completed a sweep over the Astros with an improbably two-out rally in the bottom of the ninth yesterday. Houston hadn’t been swept this season and hadn’t been swept on the road in nearly two years. Oakland took a three game set from the ‘Stros at Oakland Coliseum in September 2017.
The Reds believe that they have reached a turning point in their season. Their +41 run differential belies their 34-38 record, and they’re tied with the Dodgers for fewest runs allowed in the National League. The Reds head to Milwaukee for a statement series against the Brewers starting tonight.
Apropos of Nothing
I don’t want to brag, but I have yet to be charged by my cable company for the MLB package despite having gone well past the opening-week free preview. Not sure how that billing error skipped by, and none of my friends up here can access the games. After 30+ years of being ripped off by cable companies, it’s a nice little oversight. I hope nobody from Spectrum Cable is reading this.
They Said It
- “We can sit here until we’re blue in the face about the ball. Every pitcher in the bigs has to pitch with it. You can comment on it. I don’t make excuses. I got to make better pitches.” – Jon Lester
- “The wind was blowing in at a gale. Balls flying out easily. The home run that McCann hit just took off. I could see it from the field. You watch the flags from this. It looked like a UFO took off. I don’t know what I’m witnessing, just the way the ball is coming off the bat right now. I guess it’s an extraterrestrial.” – Joe Maddon
- “I hear really good stuff about [Alzolay]. Really good fastball command. Good spin rate. He’s striking people out, he’s throwing hard and it makes me proud. I know where he comes from, how hard he works every day to be here and finally his day has come.” – Wilson Contreras
- “As we have said every time this had been asked since spring, we intend to promote [Cease] to Chicago when we feel he is in the best position to succeed — not just survive — at the big-league level. Although that time likely isn’t too far off, we don’t intend to alter his timetable due to injuries or the performance of the other players in Chicago.” – Rick Hahn
Thursday Walk Up Song
The Ballad of John & Yoko by the Beatles. The Cubs could really use a series sweep this weekend. It’s never easy with this team.