Just thinking out loud, but I wish baseball could implement some type of rule change that would allow the Cubs to finish the season on an extended, 50-game home-stand.
At any rate, if the Cubs could manage to get hot on the road and secure home field advantage for any playoff series, they may be unstoppable come October.
The Cubs won again yesterday and of course they did because it was a home game, where the Cubs are now 38-18 (.678) when opposing teams visit the Friendly Confines. Cole Hamels looked just fine after missing nearly six weeks with an oblique injury, and though he didn’t get the win, he absolutely deserved it. And though Hamels and Albert Almora Jr. were yesterday’s stars, it was Javier Báez who was truly the team’s catalyst.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 3, 2019
I’m expecting a big game from Yu Darvish today, and a sweep for the Cubs. I’ll be in the left field bleachers with another one of our readers for today’s game, and I hope to be singing Go Cubs Go! as I exit stadium.
Cubs News & Notes
- Willson Contreras came up limping badly after grabbing his hamstring running to first base in the the 7th inning of yesterday’s game. The All-Star catcher was visibly upset afterward and will have an MRI on Monday to determine the extent of the injury. Expect Taylor Davis to be recalled today or tomorrow.
- Hamels did everything right in yesterday’s start, and didn’t look like a guy who hasn’t faced major league hitters since June 28.
- Almora hit a solo homer in the 7th off reliever Junior Guerra (3-3) into the Wrigley Field basket and just inside the left-field foul pole to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead. He added a sacrifice fly for some insurance in the 8th.
- It’s been a little bit of a struggle for Craig Kimbrel in his first 12.2 innings with the Cubs, as he’s posted a 5.68 ERA and a 17:8 K:BB. Nevertheless, Kimbrel has converted nine of 11 save chances overall and is locked in as the team’s closer.
- The Athletics beat the Cardinals 8-3 in Oakland last night, so the Cubs once again have sole possession of first place in the NL Central. What a crazy season.
- With just one deadline in place, the Cubs can’t make trades if they need to cover for Contreras. So it’ll be Victor Caratini for the foreseeable future with Davis backing him up. That said, the Angels recently designated Jonathan Lucroy for assignment. Perhaps the Cubs will make a waiver claim. The 33-year-old backstop is signed just for the remainder of this season, and a claiming team would owe the balance of his $3.35 million salary. Lucroy hit .242 with a .681 OPS, seven homers, and 30 RBIs in 74 games.
Apropos of Nothing
Since I used to review music for a living, here’s a quick assessment of the musical performances by opener Katie Day and headliner The Bleacher Bum Band. They both performed at yesterday’s charity event held at G-Man Tavern in Wrigleyville, in honor of John Baker and his glorious performance on July 29, 2014.
Katy Day: Seamless and languid, and most definitely self-assured, Day offered a fresh, crisp dichotomy opposite the more drilling sensibilities of the headliner. At times her voice soars, and her compositions are tied together by an array of warmly textured tones. Her performance alternated between pop-like hooks and dreamy instrumental breaks, with a subtle strain of poetic certainty serving as the foundation of her beautiful performance.
The Bleacher Bum Band: They cook, and their fiery performance yesterday was the highlight of my day. Performing a number of unashamedly cliched rockers with a Cubs’ take on each of their songs, the ‘Bums ripped through a set that was nothing short of a good time. For what they do on stage, Danny Rockett and mates are simply exceptional, and I wish their set went just a little longer.
Updates on Nine
- Despite playing for the Yankees, Domingo Germán remains largely under the radar while enjoying a Cy Young-caliber season as New York’s de facto ace. The Dominican righty is now 14-2 on the season and has an outside chance to be the franchise’s first 20-game winner since CC Sabathia went 21-7 in 2010. The 27-year-old Germán wasn’t even in the rotation when the season started, taking over as a fill-in for Luis Severino back in April.
- Unbelievably, MLB now boasts two combined no-hitters this season after the Astros’ mixed bag of Aaron Sanchez, Will Harris, Joe Biagini, and Chris Devenski threw a clean slate at the Mariners. It was the 12th no-no in team history and the second at Minute Maid Park. Sanchez became the first pitcher to be part of a no-hitter in his debut with a team since Hideo Nomo tossed one in his first start for the Red Sox in 2001. Sanchez broke a personal 13-game losing streak (all with the Blue Jays) with last night’s win and is now 4-14 on the season.
- If I’m rooting for one guy to get a September call up this year it’s Cubs’ lefty Danny Hultzen, currently pitching at Iowa. The former No. 2 overall draft pick was selected ahead of Trevor Bauer, Báez, Francisco Lindor, and Anthony Rendon in 2011 and was nearly out of baseball when the Cubs picked him up in 2018 after doctors advised him to quit playing baseball. He’s 29 now and has had two major shoulder operations, with a near-zero prognosis to continue pitching. And though it’s a small sample size, he has a 2.00 ERA across nine innings with 14 strikeouts in Triple-A. The Cubs currently employ Derek Holland as their lefty specialist, so…maybe?
- Speaking of Bauer, the polarizing right-hander made his first start for the Reds yesterday and was less than stellar. Bauer left Cleveland mildly disagreeing with his exit assessment as stated by former manager, Terry Francona.
- Marcus Stroman made his first start with the Mets and wasn’t much better. Stroman slammed the Blue Jays front office after his trade.
- It didn’t get the headlines that the Zack Greinke trade did, but the Rays’ acquisitions of pitchers Trevor Richards and Nick Anderson from the Marlins for Ryne Stanek and Jesús Sánchez could very well be the most impactful trade of the summer. MLB.com ranked the Rays-Marlins swap second on its list of most important trades, behind only the Astros getting Greinke, and calling it “one of the [day’s] more quietly fascinating deals.” Among reasons for trading Stanek: A 2.71 ERA and 1.060 WHIP in 56 games as an opener; 4.73 and 1.458 in relief, and they shed the uncertainty of his opener-influenced arbitration case in 2021. Anderson has 73 strikeouts in 45.1 innings pitched.
- Colorado GM Jeff Bridich had to stomach a 6-19 July meltdown that saw the Rockies basically fall out of playoff contention. Surprisingly, Bridich made no impactful moves to strengthen the team at the deadline, nor did he sell off any pieces that may have provided some future depth. The disintegration of starter Kyle Freeland has been particularly painful. Freeland boasts an unsightly 6.31 FIP and has a 71 ERA+ after finishing fourth in NL Cy Young voting last season.
- At yesterday’s John Baker Day event, the podcast panel, which included CI’s Corey Freedman, was asked if Joe Maddon would be back next year and if not, what would be his downfall, and who would replace him as manager. The answers were varied with each stating that Maddon probably should go but is basically irreplaceable despite his faults. My answers: Papa Joe won’t be back, the road splits will be his downfall, and if it was up to me to choose the next Cubs’ manager, I’d consider Dodgers hitting strategist Brant Brown as an outside-the-box option. Brown used to be a Cubs’ outfielder and pinch-hitter, and is famous in Chicago for an incident during the 1998 season that nearly killed Ron Santo. Brown has done a remarkable job with Dodgers’ hitters this year, including Cody Bellinger.
- How do we feel about Sammy Sosa these days? I would like to see the Ricketts’ welcome him back to the team with the concession he merely apologizes for walking out on the Cubs during the final game of 2004. We can address the PED issues at another time, but no other alleged cheater has suffered the organizational ostracization that Slammin’ Sammy has.
Saturday’s Three Stars
- Astros Hurlers – Four Houston pitchers threw a combined no-no at the Mariners. That’s pretty special. The ‘Stros are going to be tough come October.
- Nelson Cruz – The “Boomstick” is now an unprecedented six-timer here, and he’s on one of the hottest rolls of his career, carrying the Twins to nine wins in their last 13 games. Cruz had three home runs yesterday and enjoyed another five-RBI game, his fourth of the season.
- Eduardo Escobar – The D-backs second-baseman was 3-for-5 with two taters and seven(!) RBI in helping Arizona destroy the Nationals. Escobar has a career-best 88 RBI on the season now.
Not a Star – The Diamondbacks pummeled Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg in an 18-7 rout yesterday. Strasburg allowed nine runs in 4.2 innings, and though he had seven strikeouts, he also gave up three home runs.
Special thanks to Danny Rockett for a wonderful time at the GMan Tavern on Clark Street yesterday. I couldn’t stay for the whole event, it’s a long drive to Milwaukee, but it was nevertheless a truly wonderful time. The establishment’s staff is first rate.
They Said It
- “Outstanding. That was very impressive for [Hamels] first time back. He’s very athletic. When you watch him pitching, you wouldn’t know that he’s been [out] this long.” – Joe Maddon
- “[I was] just going out there and just trying to execute pitches,” Hamels said. “I knew I was on a pitch count, so I had to make them count. Obviously when you’re able to do that, you’re just trying to not overdo it.” – Cole Hamels
Sunday Walk Up Song
Misirlou by Dick Dale and the Del-Tones – You’ll recognize it as the opening and closing themes of Pulp Fiction but this is a down and dirty guitar instrumental, and one of the finest to boot. Dale was a big influence on Stevie Ray Vaughan.