The Rundown: Cubs Lay Up, Maddon Mismanages ‘Pen, Hultzen Added to Roster, Sunday Baseball Notes

After last night’s 3-2 loss to the Brewers, I fully intended to be full of spit and vinegar when I fired up my laptop this morning. But I spent the rest of the evening with good friends, listened to some great live music, and came to the realization that the game was just par for the course for the 2019 Cubs. They win about five of every nine games, and when that is the best you can do, you’re going to lose some tough games to the opponents you most need to put away. That’s probably not what you wanted to hear with seven tilts against the Cardinals looming on the horizon.

Besides, I can’t put it any better than Joe Maddon, who surely feels his time in Chicago slipping away with each painful loss. Maddon said he “liked” David Phelps on Yasmani Grandal, who hit a game-tying home run on the first pitch he saw from the reliever, and that he fully intended for Derek Holland to retire Christian Yelich. Yes, the same Derek Holland who gave up that awful walk-off grand slam to another great lefty hitter, Bryce Harper, a few weeks ago. Then Maddon would turn it over to Rowan Wick for the four-out save.

The bottom line is that Maddon’s hunch went painfully awry while there were better options available in his bullpen. And before you get all salty with Brandon Kintzler for giving up the game-winning double to Yelich, just know that Kintzler worked the slugger perfectly and that Yelich beat him on a night when the reliever had some of his best stuff.

 

I’m disappointed in Maddon and think he should probably leave the organization after this season, but I’ll reserve my full critique until the 2019 campaign has ended. With last night’s loss, the Cubs playoff probability slipped to 69%, with their nearest competitor being the Diamondbacks, who have an 18% chance of getting in. For now, I’ll just say Maddon should take his own advice and stop overthinking the matchups. “Do simple better” is what I believe he called it.

In the meantime, the Cubs are still on pace to win 88-89 games, which should get them a Wild Card berth and could be enough to catch the Cardinals, a team whose schedule gets a lot tougher this week. But even if they do make the playoffs, it appears Maddon is more than likely not coming back, and a few Chicago players will probably be wearing new uniforms next season, too. We can only hope that Addison Russell is one of them, and I’ll close with his quote after his costly error in the 9th inning last night put the eventual winning run on base.

“I just sailed it. In that situation, you have to be on point, especially where we’re at during the season, coming down to the wire.”

Need a win today. There’s nothing else to say.

Cubs News & Notes

From the Christopher Kamka Files

Updates On Nine

  1. The best story of the Cubs season, at least to this point, is that Danny Hultzen has finally made it to the bigs after a long recovery from multiple injuries that could have ended his career. Hultzen was the number two overall pick by the Mariners in 2011 and climbed to Triple-A in Seattle’s system by the 2012 campaign. That was before shoulder troubles necessitated surgeries. He missed all of the ’14 and ’17 campaigns prior to the Cubs signing him in March 2018. “I’ve seen the list [of who was drafted that year] before,” Hultzen said. “Honestly, in the past, that would have an effect on me. But now, I kind of look at that and I can’t do anything but laugh at it, because it’s like All-Star, All-Star, Cy Young, All-Star, All-Star and then the little space where I was picked is kind of blank. I can laugh at that now.”
  2. Nationals’ pitcher Aaron Barrett made a similarly stunning return to the major leagues, too, striking out Braves’ phenom Ronald Acuña Jr., as part of his first inning pitched in four years. After he walked off the mound and walked back into the dugout, Barrett sat on the bench, broke down, and cried into a towel. The reliever had Tommy John surgery in 2015 and suffered a broken humerus while pitching the following season, an injury so devastating those in attendance said it sounded like a “full-on gunshot” when he broke the bone. “Man, what a moment,” Washington manager Davey Martinez said. “[Barrett] came in, his eyes were watery, and I was trying really hard not to cry in front of him. It was an unbelievable moment. We shared it together, we shared it with the team, and he did great.”
  3. What a week for Oakland pitcher Chris Bassitt. Two days after the birth of his first child, the Oakland right-hander shook off a rusty start and set a career-high for strikeouts, punching 11 tickets as the A’s beat the Tigers 10-2.
  4. The best player name I’ve heard this season is Ryan McBroom, the Royals first baseman who was acquired from the Yankees 10 days ago. McBroom was originally drafted by Kansas City in the 36th round in 2013 but elected to return to college. He’s hitting .375 with four RBI in his first week with the team.
  5. With his 41st homer of the season last night, Royals’ outfielder Jorge Soler surpassed Tony Pérez and is now third on the list of Cuban-born players to lead his team in home runs. Rafael Palmeiro hit 47 for the Rangers in 1999 and 2001 and José Canseco hit 46 while leading the Blue Jays in 1998. Pérez hit 40 for the Reds in 1970. Hunter Dozier is Kansas City’s runner up with 25 taters.
  6. Rougned Odor has had one rough season, struggling to hit .200 for the Rangers. But the infielder is still punishing baseballs and he hit his 23rd home run of the season last night despite 72 of his 131 hard-hit balls going for outs. He’s been the fourth unluckiest hitter this season.
  7.  In case you were wondering, Justin Verlander was thinking about a second straight no-hitter on Saturday night. He didn’t get it, but Verlander did solidify his American League Cy Young Award credentials with seven innings of one-run ball, earning his 18th win of the season.
  8. MLB announced that Twins pitcher Michael Pineda has received a 60-game suspension after testing positive for Hydrochlorothiazide, a banned Diuretic.
  9. Following the death of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggswhose autopsy revealed the presence of fentanyl and oxycodone, MLB and the MLBPA may consider testing players for the presence of opioids. Baseball executives and the players are expected to discuss expanding the current random testing program this winter. “For several reasons,” said MLBPA head Tony Clark, “including the tragic loss of a member of our fraternity and other developments happening in the country as a whole, it is appropriate and important to reexamine all of our drug protocols relating to education, treatment and prevention.”

Apropos of Something

Renowned chef José Andrés is a saint and a blessing to residents of the Bahamas, and is making a tremendous effort to make sure that the island’s displaced residents have food, water, and whatever else they may need in the wake of Hurricane Dorian’s destruction.

Extra Innings

They Said It

  • “It’s a huge blow, what happened to Javy. I’m happy to step up and take on that role. I have a lot of confidence in myself and in my abilities. So, I believe if I just get to work and fully commit to that, I think I can go back to being the type of ballplayer that I know how to be.” – Addison Russell
  • “Nobody feels worse than [Russell] does right now. The play he made, first of all, to catch the ball was outstanding. It’s just the ball’s running on him. There’s things you can do to correct that to straighten that out, and that’s what he’s going to have to do.” – Joe Maddon
  • “I’m not even sure words can describe it. Gosh, it’s been a long road. I just think about all the ups and downs of these past few years, and this makes it all worth it.” – Danny Hultzen

Sunday Walk Up Song

It’s Alright by Big Head Todd & The Monsters featuring Hazel Miller. It’s just a loss, and though it mildly sucks that it was to the Brewers, the Cubs are going to have to go through the Cardinals to win the NL Central anyway.

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