The Rundown: Cubs Offense Stays Hot, Rizzo Has Back Issue, La Russa Enforcing Unwritten Rules, Turnbull Pitches League’s 5th No-No
“It’s been five days since you laughed at me saying get that together come back and see me.” – Barenaked Ladies, One Week
The Cubs beat the Nationals 6-3 last night, banging out 13 hits in the process as their offense continues to surge. It was a community effort that featured 11 singles and was punctuated by late home runs from David Bote and Ian Happ. Zach Davies started and was solid, though he didn’t earn the win, and the bullpen was exceptional in holding Nationals batters scoreless over the final four innings with five strikeouts.
Keegan Thompson even collected his first big league hit and almost looked like a professional hitter in doing so.
Four scoreless innings from the #Cubs bullpen to seal the W! #CubTogether pic.twitter.com/sC8XgUFifY
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 19, 2021
The Cubs have now won four of five and can avoid falling back to .500 for the ninth time this season if they can beat Washington today. It’s been the bats that have carried Chicago during their current hot streak, starting with their weekend series against the Tigers. Since Friday, the Cubs are batting .311 with 30 runs scored, and need to avoid the pitfalls of the feast-or-famine offense indicative of their play the last few seasons.
David Ross and his brigade of hitters really need to put together a winning streak to pull themselves away from the heavy gravity that comes with constantly matching wins with losses. If Happ is about to break out, and it looks like he is based on the last three games (5-for-10, 2 HR, 4 RBI), Chicago’s offense can dominate with a nice mix of contact and power with Matt Duffy and Nico Hoerner in the lineup.
- The Good: Hoerner was 3-for-4 with two runs scored, is slashing .353/.433/.904 so far, and is one of five regulars getting on base 35% of the time or more.
- The Bad: Anthony Rizzo left yesterday’s game with a bothersome back. The Cubs labeled the 31-year-old’s removal as a precaution, so the injury may not be a serious concern. Rizzo went 0-for-2 before exiting and should be considered day-to-day until the team updates his status.
- The Ugly: Though Davies has been better lately, he still hasn’t displayed the dominance that made him one of the league’s top pitchers last season. He’s allowed 75 baserunners in 40.1 innings and his strikeout-to-walk ratio is a paltry 1.05.
If the Cubs can get their rotation in shape, they could make some noise in the NL Central, where remarkably, they sit just 2.5 games behind the first place Cardinals. They’ll travel to St. Louis this weekend, hopefully playing better than .500 baseball when they arrive.
Cubs News & Notes
- Talks of a rebuild that includes trading the team’s core players, which seems to be a foregone conclusion for many, may be a little premature.
- In Monday’s game, Kris Bryant left a sweet treat for Kyle Schwarber in left field. “I had about eight or nine pieces of candy in my pocket the whole inning,” Bryant said. “We were talking about bringing him Miller Lite, but that probably would be frowned upon.”
- Reliever Tommy Nance made his major league debut Monday night and his journey to the big leagues is a story “you’ll fall in love with.”
- Nance’s slider spin rate is among the best in baseball.
- The Cubs traded Cameron Maybin to the Mets yesterday and will receive cash considerations in exchange for the outfielder.
Climbing the Ladder
“Bottles and cans and just clap your hands and just clap your hands.” – Beck, Where It’s At
- Games Played: 41
- Total Plate Appearances: 1,536
- Total Strikeouts: 400
- Strikeout Rate: 26%
- Team Batting Average: .238
Odds & Sods
Not a day goes by that I can’t help but think how cool it would be to grab a beer with Andrew “Big Country” Chafin.
To all the @cubs fans in the bleachers come down and say hi. The windows are finally open on the backside of the pen!
— andrew chafin (@BigCountry1739) May 18, 2021
Apropos of Nothing
Songs from the 1990s and early 2000s are now being played on oldies radio and for the love of all that’s unholy, I’m feeling the last semblances of my youth slipping away.
How About That!
Is a no-hitter even newsworthy anymore? Additionally, the pitchers throwing this year’s gems have been among the least likely to do so. Spencer Turnbull, who no-hit Seattle last night, was 3-17 two seasons ago and is now 10-25 since entering the league in 2018. The others have been pitched by a bevy of journeymen starters and failed prospects. The 2021 no-hitter list also includes Padres right-hander Joe Musgrove (32-42 career record), White Sox left-hander Carlos Rodón (34-34), Baltimore’s John Means (18-15), and 34-year-old Wade Miley (89-88) of the Reds.
The Mariners became the first team to be no-hit twice in one month since the 2015 Dodgers. Means shut Seattle down on May 5.
White Sox manager Tony La Russa is unnecessarily enforcing baseball’s unwritten rules against outfielder Yermin Mercedes for swinging at a 3-0 pitch and launching a home run against infielder-turned-pitcher Willians Astudillo Monday night. Chicago was ahead 15-4 at the time.
Trevor Bauer would like you to know that unwritten rules are bogus and old-schoolers are dinosaurs.
Albert Pujols is publicly disputing the reasons that he was released by Joe Maddon and the Angels.
Spike Lee has been signed to produce an ESPN documentary about Yankees great Derek Jeter.
Rennie Stennett, who once went 7-for-7 in a 22-0 win over the Cubs, passed away yesterday. He had four singles, two doubles, and a triple in that game and the bat he used was sent to the Hall of Fame.
MLB insider Joel Sherman of the New York Post listed Twins outfielder Byron Buxton as a potential trade candidate for the Yankees
Take Me Out to the Ball Game
Starting with the first game of the Giants’ upcoming series against the Dodgers, fans seated in socially distanced sections will no longer be required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test or vaccination for entry into Oracle Park.
The Rays indicated they plan on increasing the capacity of home games to 20,000 fans and making changes to mask requirements starting with their next homestand. It’s funny because Tampa Bay rarely draws 20,000+ fans when there’s not a pandemic.
Tuesday’s Three Stars
- Spencer Turnbull – The Tigers starter no-hit the Mariners last night, baseball’s fifth no-no this season. He punched out nine Seattle batters and issued just two walks. The five no-hitters through May 18 match the 1917 season for the most in baseball history by that date.
- Miguel Sano – If there is any evidence — besides the five no-hitters, of course — that a less lively baseball has affected the game’s power hitters, it’s the dearth of three-homer games this year compared to the last few seasons. Sano hit three long flies yesterday as the Twins upended the White Sox 5-4.
- Nico Hoerner – His all-around game may be the best in the league right now. He’s playing gold glove defense, getting on base, and forcing pitchers to throw him strikes by working counts and fouling off a high number of borderline pitches.
If you haven’t seen it yet, the tribute video to Jon Lester will stir up some strong emotions no matter how tough you think you are.
Tenacity on the field. Generosity off the field.
A leader, a teammate, a role model.
Thank you for everything, @JLester34. #NVRQT pic.twitter.com/zxzTDYyLdm
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) January 27, 2021
They Said It
- “You don’t want to see [Anthony Rizzo] go out there and do something stupid and really hurt himself. I talked to him and he’s in good spirits. He’s Rizz.” – Kris Bryant
- “It’s just kind of fun to see new faces take on some roles and get their feet wet. I’m really looking forward to seeing them develop and continue to get better in the big leagues. Who knows how the rest of the season’s gonna play out? But I think we’re in a good spot, for sure.” – Bryant
- “[Pitching at Wrigley Field] was everything I imagined and more. Going through those doors, and it’s just lights on me. I can hear the fans behind me calling my name, and I’m jogging out to the mound. It was just an unbelievable experience and atmosphere.” – Tommy Nance
Wednesday Walk Up Song
Dakota by Stereophonics – Summer weather arrives today and will stick around for the rest of this week, the crowds at Wrigley Field are getting bigger , and the Cubs are hitting the ball with authority. Feels like old times, though part of me wishes Lester and Schwarber were still with the team.