The Rundown: Cubs and Happ Slam A’s, Critical 10-Game Road Trip Starts Tonight, Lucroy a Cub

Here’s hoping the Cubs can carry the momentum of yesterday’s 10-1 victory over the Athletics with them on their 10-game road trip through Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. One thing is for sure, the offense should be more potent than the one that managed three runs in their last three road games. Nick Castellanos, Ian Happ, and the newly acquired Jonathan Lucroy give Chicago’s lineup so much depth. Speaking of Happ:

Could those three players be the cure to what ails the Cubs when they are away from Wrigley Field? The North Siders need something to exorcise those demonic road forces. I tend to believe the Cubs are probably as good as their home record indicates, and nowhere nearly as bad as they play when they put on their dress grays.

And though the 21-33 road record may not be representative of Chicago’s baseball abilities, it remains a testament to the team’s inconsistencies. You can’t blame luck, good or bad, for those wildly different splits.

“Someone said to bring the white jerseys on the road,” Kyle Schwarber quipped after yesterday’s win.

Anything is worth a shot at this point, though I’m sure MLB might have a problem if the Cubs take the field in Cincinnati donning their home whites.

“To be two different teams, completely, is very awkward,” Joe Maddon said recently. “I don’t have any solid answers. The process has been the same. The work has been the same. Their attitude has been good.”

The results have not.

José Quintana had another big game yesterday, earning his sixth win in his last seven starts. With Jon Lester struggling badly, the rest of the rotation has really stepped up over the last month.

If the Cubs can continue their home success on this road trip, they can really put some separation between themselves and the Brewers and Cardinals, both of whom trail Chicago by 3.5 games in the NL Central. Milwaukee and St. Louis kick off homestands this weekend, and like the Cubs, both teams play much better at home than they do on the road, though their splits aren’t quite so egregious.

Cubs News & Notes

  • Did anything seem less obvious these past few days than Lucroy ending up with the Cubs?
  • Lucroy will pair with Victor Caratini behind the plate for Chicago to help plug a gap created when All-Star Willson Contreras suffered a right hamstring strain on Saturday. Contreras is expected to miss four weeks.
  • The Cubs feel fortunate Lucroy elected to come to Chicago. He could have signed anywhere once he cleared waivers.
  • Lester called himself the “weakest link” of the team’s rotation. The veteran lefty has struggled over his past four starts, allowing 19 earned runs over 22 innings for a 7.77 ERA. Lester’s ERA has ballooned from 3.74 to 4.46 over that span.
  • Lester’s start on Tuesday was pretty awful, but he’s actually had worse games.
  • Happ, whose grand slam Wednesday highlighted a five-run fourth inning, is 6-for-10 with a double and two home runs in his last four games. Hopefully he is earning Maddon’s favor and will see a few more starts. The lineup is certainly better offensively when Happ replaces Albert Almora Jr. or David Bote.
  • Yesterday was Happ’s first start at second base in nearly two seasons. With Happ, Bote, and Tony Kemp on the team, and Ben Zobrist coming back soon, the near term futures of Daniel Descalso and Addison Russell do not appear very bright. Both look to be September call-ups at this point, if that, unless somebody gets injured.
  • Schwarber continues to hit booming home runs and looks as comfortable as he ever has at the plate.

How About That!

The game as gotten much younger as teams are moving toward sacrificing veterans for new blood. There is a new wave of prospects coming up in September, and some of them could affect this year’s pennant races.

Orioles’ manager Brandon Hyde and perennial slump-machine Chris Davis got into a dugout scuffle during yesterday’s game. Hyde elected to keep the issue(s) at hand a team matter. “We’re going to keep it in-house,” the rookie manager said. “It’s private.” Davis is batting .183 this season.

Were there still an August waiver-trade period, we might have seen these 10 hypothetical moves, all heavily impacting this year’s division races.

Yuli Gurriel is good at baseball.

You can’t stop the Mets, you can only hope to contain them, at least when they are wiping the floor with the likes of the Marlins and Pirates. The Metropolitans own baseball’s best record since the All-Star break (19-6), but their schedule gets a lot tougher starting this weekend.

New York’s other MLB franchise is the second-hottest team in baseball after pummeling the Orioles yet again in Baltimore. The Yankees won’t play at Camden Yards again until next season, and finished 10-0 on Orioles’ turf after yesterday’s win. During the course of yesterday’s bloodbath, the Bronx Bombers set a major-league home run record.

Rookie Bo Bichette set a MLB record for extra-base hits to start his career. The Blue Jays shortstop also broke a team record by hitting a double in eight straight games. Bichette is batting .415 with three homers and four RBI, and has yet to go hitless in the first nine games of his young career, also a team record.

The Giants chose not to be sellers at the deadline and have gone 1-7 since. Ouch.

The Dodgers swept the Cardinals. Admit it, you just faux fist-bumped your mobile device.

Wednesday’s Three Stars

  1. Yuli Gurriel – The Astros’ ageless infielder had a home run and eight RBI as Houston trounced the Rockies 14-2 last night. Gurriel is 35 years old.
  2. Ozzie Albies – The Braves’ shortstop had a big night against the Twins, going 4-for-5 with a pair of home runs and two RBI. He also scored three times.
  3. José  Quintana – The Cubs’ fifth starter was dominating: 7 IP, 1 R, 2 H, 7 K, 0 BB as Chicago finished their homestand with a 5-1 record.

Apropos of Nothing

We have had two spectacular overnight storms in Milwaukee the last two nights. Up here, they say the Indian spirits are angry because Christian Yelich took the last two games off. Wisconsin farmers are happy though.

Extra Innings

Everybody In apparently includes grand slams…

They Said It

  • “[Caratini] has done well and this doesn’t put Victor on the shelf. They’ll both play. I’m just trying to figure out the best way to do that.” – Joe Maddon
  • “What happened is I gave up 11 runs. It doesn’t matter how I feel. It doesn’t matter about a game plan. It doesn’t matter about executing pitches. It doesn’t matter about anything. I’m pretty much the weakest link in the rotation right now. I gotta figure out a way to right that ship, pick my end up and do better.” – Jon Lester

Thursday Walk Up Song

On the Road Again by Willie Nelson. Time to put a hard stop to the bad mojo.

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