The Rundown: Cubs Salvage Series With Big Win, Darvish Stays Hot, Possible Relief Targets, Trout Card Breaks Auction Record
It appears the White Sox are going to be this year’s most tormenting team for Cubs fans. They’re up and coming with a boatload of talent and should make a lot of noise in the AL Central for at least the next few years. Meanwhile, the Cubs are toeing the line of mediocrity again, par for the course whenever they go into a team-wide offensive slump. They’re 5-7 since sweeping the Indians in a two-game set August 11-12.
Now that their lead in the NL Central has shrunk to just three games, there’s a chance that the season-ending series with the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field could come with the division on the line. It’s no fun having to check the scoreboard to see if your rivals have lost, and backing into the postseason is not much of a confidence booster when you are trying to advance to the World Series.
The Cubs are 17-10 after yesterday’s much needed 2-1 win, but thankfully the rest of the division has been similarly pedestrian lately. With Javier Báez slumping badly — he’s just 10-for-73 (.137) at home with one of his three homers — the entire team seems to be stuck in an emotional malaise that needs one El Mago hot streak to break. Báez admits he’s not himself and even sounded little like former manager Joe Maddon over the weekend.
“I’m not trying to suck,” the struggling shortstop said, while also admitting thinks he’s close to breaking out of it. “[I’m] really close. I’ve been feeling good these last two or three games.”
Javy Báez's bat social distancing from Sonny Gray's Breaking Ball. pic.twitter.com/h1EvA4GnFY
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 29, 2020
With Kris Bryant now on the 10-day IL, somebody is going to have to jump start the offense. Kyle Schwarber had a huge home run in the 6th inning yesterday that might be the start of a team-wide offensive rebound. The Cardinals have played 10 fewer games than the North Siders, so that three-game lead feels all the more tight. It would be a shame if the Cubs gave up all of the ground they gained with their 13-3 start.
Chicago starts an 11-game road trip with three against the Tigers today. It won’t be the cakewalk one might think as Detroit just took a series from the Indians and are a respectable (for them) 11-15 on the season. Alec Mills will take the bump today.
Cubs News & Notes
- If you are hoping the Cubs will make an impact move at the trade deadline, Theo Epstein reminded us to check ourselves due to the team’s current financial situation.
- Yu Darvish had 10 strikeouts in seven innings yesterday and should garner strong consideration for the Cy Young Award if he has an equally good September.
- Craig Kimbrel was a pleasant surprise this week, and the spin rate on his curveball continues to trend upward.
- The thought that the White Sox could eclipse the Cubs as “Chicago’s team” seems farcical, but they are fun to watch.
- The White Sox are just another team with a “butt” that first-year manager David Ross wants to kick.
- The Cubs could be getting José Quintana and Tyler Chatwood back soon, which would be a boost for their suddenly struggling rotation. Either could be an option for Tuesday’s game as Ross has yet to name his starter.
- The Cubs are still struggling to hit with the bases load, but Ross doesn’t think there’s reason to be alarmed right now. “I don’t want the guys not to get their bases loaded,” the manager said. “[Happ] hit that ball hard up the middle, somebody’s standing right there.”
Odds & Sods
This restored photograph is nothing short of magnificent.
Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL, July 14, 1932 – A group of young boys sit perched in a tree trying to catch a glimpse of Cubs pitcher Guy Bush shutting down the Brooklyn Dodgers in a 4-1 win. Fantastic colorization by Imbued with Hues, Facebook page – > https://t.co/Xrlqj90OOd pic.twitter.com/SagwIJFo1u
— Old-Time Baseball Photos (@OTBaseballPhoto) August 21, 2020
How About That!
A Mike Trout rookie card sold at an auction Saturday night for $3.936 million, breaking a record as the highest-selling card ever. The autographed chrome “Superfractor” card from 2009 is a one-of-a-kind issue and it broke the previous record-high of $3.1 million for a Honus Wagner card.
Unfortunately for Trout, the Angels have seem to acquired a reputation for playing painfully disappointing baseball.
White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson has been scorching the ball this season, both compared to his prior standards and overall. His 49.1% hard-hit rate ranks 15th among 173 players with at least 50 batted balls this season. His 92.3 mph average exit velocity ranks 14th in that same group.
Injured Yankees starter James Paxton blamed the shorter spring training and lack of proper buildup for all the pitching injuries this season. Luckily he was diagnosed with a forearm strain rather than something more serious. “We didn’t have time to build up,” Paxton said. “My UCL is perfectly healthy, though, so it should be a short thing.”
2019 World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg is out for the season, but he should come back strong if history is any indication.
Royals closer Trevor Rosenthal is among the hottest names on the trade market, and surprisingly the Marlins may be one of the teams looking to add bullpen help at this year’s deadline. Believe it or not, Rosenthal is only 30 and he’s on an extremely friendly one-year deal. His control has returned and he has hit as high as 100.4 mph with his fastball this season. He’d be a great acquisition for the Cubs and the Royals are paying the righty only the prorated amount of the deal he signed in the offseason.
Bleacher Report actually predicts the Cubs will acquire Rosenthal. It certainly works financially. Chicago might be willing to part with prospects such as outfielder Cole Roederer or catcher Miguel Amaya, or perhaps even an Albert Almora Jr., who could benefit from a change of scenery.
Blue Jays closer Ken Giles is also earning a fair share of trade speculation and could be a fit for the Cubs even though he has been limited to just two appearances because of a forearm strain.
José Abreu hit six home runs in the three-game set and White Sox first baseman is really locked in at the plate. I think all Cubs fans are glad to see Abreu leave town.
Indians rookie starter Triston McKenzie, who hasn’t pitched competitively in nearly two years, had a helluva debut against the Tigers over the weekend.
Apropos of Nothing
I came across a fantastic cover of “Into the Mystic” by The Allman Brothers Band featuring Warren Haynes on lead vocals, so I thought I’d share.
Sunday’s Three Stars
- Yu Darvish – The Cubs’ ace is on a hot streak that stretches all the way back to last July, and has become the ace Theo Epstein envisioned when he signed the righty. The Cubs haven’t had a stopper this automatic since Jake Arrieta.
- Nelson Cruz – It’s no secret I have mad love for the “Boomstick” and the 40-year-old DH continues to be one of the best hitters in the game. Cruz hit his 10th tater of the season yesterday and now has 26 RBI on the season, second in the AL behind Abreu. He’s never won a league MVP Award so maybe the short season will get Cruz that elusive trophy.
- Los Angeles Dodgers – Their tribute to Kobe Bryant last night made me a little misty.
The entire @Dodgers team wore Kobe Bryant jerseys before their game today. pic.twitter.com/4eHZ49dbeA
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 23, 2020
Sliding Into Home
Today is my biopsy, so I spent most of yesterday relaxing and meditating to remove some of the negativity and anxiety I’m dealing with. I would like you all to think about me today so here’s my schedule:
- 9:30 am – Arrive at Transplant Center
- 11:00 am – Biopsy
- Noon – Recovery
- 2:30pm – Released to go home
They Said It
- “The hardest part is to balance the mental side of getting through pain or injury, especially when [time] is running out, so you’ve just got to accept it for what it is and take the time to get better. It’s very frustrating just continuing to look at the schedule and realizing that, hey, man, we’re running out of time here.” – Kris Bryant
- “I feel weird. Most people when you get old, you lose velo and a lot of stuff, but I feel really good, more than when I was 25, 26. So I feel weird.” – Yu Darvish
Sunday Walk Up Song
Canter by Gerry Cinnamon – “You could be a Canter if you were just a wee bit less of a wanker more than half of the time.” Thanks, Gator.