The Rundown: Bryant & Wick Outstanding in Cubs Win, Maddon Expects to Return, Home Whites Head to Philly

Everything was working against the Cubs yesterday as they found themselves trailing in the late innings of another road game. Jon Lester, the self-proclaimed weak link of the rotation, had struggled to keep his team in the game while Reds ace Luis Castillo was dealing. Umpire Angel Hernandez loomed large behind the plate and Joe Maddon needed to rely on an inconsistent bullpen to somehow snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

With the Cubs trailing 3-1 in the top of the 7th, Kris Bryant gave his team the lead with a huge three-run blast.

Rookie righty Rowan Wick was an even bigger presence in the 7th and 8th innings.

The reliever was just filthy yesterday and remains my dark horse pick to step up as Maddon’s go-to bullpen stopper if the Cubs reach the playoffs. Wick struck out two of the first three hitters he faced, throwing 96 mph fastballs to Joey Votto before freezing him with a cutter for strike three to end the 7th inning.

He punched two more Reds’ tickets in the 8th, making old and new Cub killers Eugenio Suarez and Aristides Aquino look positively silly.

Lester was perturbed by some of the balls and strikes called by umpire Angel Hernandez and noted that “we all know what to kind of expect” when the controversial umpire is behind home plate. If anything, Hernandez has succeeded in doing something that few people can: getting under Lester’s skin and inside his head. But Bryant was nails, Wick was the hammer, and the Cubs escaped with a 6-3 win and a series split with the Reds.

It was the kind of victory that should kickstart the team as it prepares for games in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to close out its 10-game road trip. If anything, one hopes Bryant and Wick have provided the wakeup call to answer the team’s season-long road slumber.

“We Simon & Garfunkel’d it,” Maddon said, referring to the duo’s 1968 album “Bookends.” Eyeroll. Cringe. Please, Papa Joe, refrain from using classic rock symbolism as sound bytes, or, at least just say “We bookended it.” We’ll get the reference.

As for the Cubs, they’ll head into a series with the Phillies leading the NL Central by two games over the Cardinals, who rallied late yesterday to stun the Pirates. The Brewers lost 1-0 to the Rangers and remain 2.5 games off the pace.

Cubs News & Notes

  • Maddon believes he will manage the Cubs for at least two more years. I don’t think anybody has a real read on whether that’s true or not. But if anybody does, I suppose it’s Maddon himself.
  • “I’m operating like we’ll be together for a couple more years, at least,” Maddon said before Sunday’s game. “I’m not going to sit and proclaim I’m looking to go elsewhere. That’s not true.”
  • The home whites will travel with the team for the remainder of this road trip. “They’re going to have to,” Bryant said after yesterday’s game. “Nobody is going back to Chicago, so they’re coming with us.”
  • I don’t know what Ian Happ has to do to remain in the lineup, but it sure would be nice to see Maddon unafraid to ride the hot hand. Happ had another big home run yesterday, giving him four on the season in just 40 at-bats, and carries a career OPS+ of 109.
  • Nicholas Castellanos continues to be a force in the Cubs lineup. The outfielder had two more hits yesterday and is slashing .370/.408/1.169 since he was acquired from the Tigers with a few seconds remaining before this year’s trade deadline.
  • José Quintana will take the bump in Tuesday’s game against the Phillies. The Cubs have won each of Quintana’s last seven starts and the lefty carries a 6-0 record with a 3.67 ERA in that span.
  • Quintana will face Jason Vargas, whose last start against the Cubs came in a June 21 tilt as a member of the Mets. Vargas had to be restrained from charging a reporter after the game.
  • Don’t forget to catch up on the latest Cubs Insider podcasts!
  • Here’s this week’s obligatory Cubs article by the St. Louis Post-Gazette.

How About That

The Indians are now tied for first place in the AL Central after beating the Twins yesterday and taking three of four in their weekend series. Cleveland trailed Minnesota by 11 games on June 15.

The Nationals stopped the Mets’ eight-game winning streak and took a 1.5 game lead on the Metropolitans for the first wild card position. The Cardinals hold the second position, with the Brewers a half-game up on New York. It doesn’t get any tighter than that.

The Orioles rebounded from a 23-2 loss to the Astros to stun Houston with a walk-off home run by Rio Ruiz. How big a win was the dramatic victory? The Astros closed as -450 favorites at Caesar’s Sportsbook, the biggest favorite of the season and the second-biggest over the past 15 years. Ruiz is a former Astros prospect.

Not many things have gone right for the Royals this season, but Kansas City has had surprising, if not completely unexpected, seasons from Jorge Soler and Hunter Dozier. Each entered Sunday with an OPS+ over 125. They then took out some frustration on the Tigers, as both launched a pair of taters that added up to more than 1,600 feet of home run distance.

This season could set yet another home run record, this time for three-homer games.

Sunday’s Three Stars

  1. Mike Minor – The Rangers starter blanked the Brewers over eight innings, notching 11 strikeouts against a single walk as Texas nipped Milwaukee 1-0.
  2. Ronald Acuña Jr. – With a home run yesterday, the sophomore All-Star is inching closer to being baseball’s first 40/40 player since Alfonso Soriano did in in 2006. Acuña Jr. has 33 homers and 28 stolen bases with 42 games left in the season.
  3. Carlos Santana – A game-winning, 10th-inning grand slam to give your team a share of first place certainly deserves the honor of making this list.

Extra Innings

As part of the franchise’s celebration of the 150th anniversary of baseball’s first all-professional team, the Reds wore replicas of their 1969 home uniforms. It was the 11th in a series of 15 throwback outfits the team is wearing this season. All that was missing were mustaches and extra long sideburns.

They Said It

  • “It was huge. If you look at the game, they were rolling. Castillo was rolling. It felt like we might not win this game. That big inning was huge. The Reds have played us tough all year.” – Kris Bryant
  • “The bullpen was outstanding.We had it set up for Wick to face the middle of their order. He was pretty impressive.” – Joe Maddon
  • “[My] stuff was little bit more crisp. That’s a pretty hot team right now, and to kind of minimize some damage there was good. Our guys did a good job coming back there and grinding over the last couple innings to score some runs. That was a big win for us, especially here against these guys.” – Jon Lester

Monday Walk Up Song

Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel. I have a new nickname for Wick.

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