The Rundown: Cubs Sweep Padres, Alzolay Has World Series Fever, Bullpen Stays Hot, MLB Players Suffering High Rates of Injuries
“Roll the dice, boy ’cause my money is on you
Take my advice now, put your money down too
Because there’s something in you that I just can’t pretend
And may your winning streak never end.” – Glen Hansard, Winning Streak
I believe it was Harry Caray who used to say “The Cubs are going streaking!” and I hope that doesn’t offend anybody, but I’m just too damn excited after the now-complete 5-1 homestand that includes yesterday’s 6-1 win and a three-game sweep of the Padres. Chicago is now 32-23 and in first place by a game and a half over the Cardinals.
A sweep of the Padres and 9-1 in their last 10.
The @Cubs are HOT. pic.twitter.com/NsGb1cI9BX
— MLB (@MLB) June 2, 2021
A seven-game West Coast swing is on the immediate itinerary, with the Cubs facing the Giants in San Francisco starting tonight and then heading to San Diego before returning home to face St. Louis. If the results of their next 10 games are similar to the previous 10, they’ll open up a commanding division lead and the better part of the Cubs fanbase will start dreaming of players like Max Scherzer and Zack Greinke as potential midseason rentals.
The turnaround since the Cubs have become a more contact-oriented team has been nothing short of spectacular. If anything, give Jed Hoyer credit for bringing in castoffs like Matt Duffy who have made good at-bats almost infectious. It seems the Cubs are regularly pounding out double-digit hit totals and the team’s batting average has risen nearly 25 points since Kris Bryant vacated third base so that David Ross could put Duffy (and now Patrick Wisdom) into the lineup. In fact, Ross deserves equal praise for getting his minions to buy into the team’s new approach at the plate.
Let’s not forget the bullpen. It’s practically a mantra at this point, but Chicago’s relief corps threw four more shutout innings yesterday to close out the win for Adbert Alzolay. The results are the same no matter who Ross calls on to take each game from the 6th inning to the 9th. Yesterday saw Rex Brothers, Brad Wieck, Tommy Nance, and Dan Winkler holding the Friars scoreless across four frames of work.
With 15 wins in their last 19 games, the Cubs are on one of the best streaks we’ve seen since 2016. Here’s hoping they can continue winning in San Francisco, where the Cubs have always played the Giants well, and in San Diego.
Cubs News & Notes
- Credit Alzolay with this year’s first mention of the World Series.
- Alzolay held the Padres to one run in five innings. He struck out seven, tied for a season-high.
- The rookie starter is looking more and more like a potential future ace.
- May was a pretty special month for the North Siders and now they’re 2-0 in June with both wins coming against the top-ranked team in the game.
- A lot of credit for the team’s success has to go to Bryant. He has been consistently good no matter how well the Cubs have played and has helped Ross mask a lot of injuries by being able to play all over the field.
- Javier Báez hit a two-run homer yesterday and leads the club with 14 on the year. With Bryant resting, Báez grabbed the team RBI lead with 38.
- Ryan Tepera earned NL Reliever of the Month honors for May. The veteran righty allowed just one run in 14 May appearances, posting a 0.61 ERA with 19 strikeouts and no walks.
- Kohl Stewart will get another start this weekend when he takes the bump Saturday night against the Giants.
- Back in 2017, Patrick Wisdom hit 31 homers as a Cardinals prospect for Triple-A Memphis.
- Anthony Rizzo thinks the team is playing well but can still be a lot better. He also believes that he and his teammates have a lot to prove, especially those who wrote them off after a slow start.
- MLB All-Star voting begins this morning at 10:59am CT.
- Craig Kimbrel, who should be selected to this year’s National League All-Star team, is having the best season of his career.
- Might the Cubs break recent tradition and select a starting pitcher with their first pick in next month’s draft?
Odds & Sods
Just call Rizzo “The Stopper.”
Remember when @ARizzo44 struck out Freddie Freeman on April 28, the lone bright spot for his team in a 10-0 loss?
Well, the @Cubs are 22-9 since then — the best record in the NL over that time. Anthony, I think that strikeout turned everything around . . . @MLBNetwork @Cut4
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) June 3, 2021
Climbing the Ladder
“Ripple in still water when there is no pebble tossed, nor wind to blow.” – Grateful Dead, Ripple
- Games Played: 55
- Total Plate Appearances: 2,061
- Total Strikeouts: 520
- Strikeout Rate: 25.2%
- Team Batting Average: .242
The Cubs are now tied for second in the National League with a 106 OPS+, and their batting average ranks third in the league. They’re also second in OBP and tied for third in SLG.
How About That!
The Dodgers scored 11 first-inning runs as they pummeled the Cardinals 14-3.
Trade rumors start to circulate at the start of June each year. Scherzer, Bryant, Trevor Story, and David Peralta are some of the more popular names we’ll be hearing a lot about over the next two months.
Tyler O’Neill is making a case to be baseball’s most exciting young outfielder. I’ll stick with Ronald Acuña, Jr., Juan Soto, Jesse Winker, and Adolis García .
Baseball players are suffering injuries at a record pace this season.
Hamstring injuries, already the most common in baseball, are up 193% since 2019, with 47 IL stints compared to 16 through May 2021. Oblique strains and tears are up 83% this year.
A search for comparable players to Shohei Ohtani always leads back to Babe Ruth.
Diamondbacks’ announcer Bob Brenly has apologized for comments he made about Mets starter Marcus Stroman.
Wednesday’s Three Stars
- Cody Bellinger – The Los Angeles outfielder was 2-for-4 with a grand slam and six first-inning RBI.
- Sean Manaea – The Athletics lefty pitched a four-hitter with eight strikeouts for his second shutout this season, leading Oakland to a 6-0 win over the Mariners.
- Adbert Alzolay – The rookie righty held the Padres to three hits in six innings while earning his fourth win of the season. Alzolay threw 53 of 82 pitches for strikes and didn’t allow a single extra-base hit.
Not baseball-related but definitely share-worthy!
.@Letterman teaching @JerryGarcia how to play “Proud Mary” back in 1982. pic.twitter.com/jyYaUIewni
— Grateful Dead (@GratefulDead) June 3, 2021
They Said It
- “I mean, if you see this whole team, all the way around, you’ll see that we have the whole talent to compete, to win another World Series for this city. I think that’s the mindest now.” – Adbert Alzolay
- “I think we’re pretty damn good, yeah. I think these guys believe that. I think they know that.” – David Ross
- “Stories were written about how good or bad people were this time last year after 60 games. But it’s 162 and definitely not going to get too high and say we’re proving everyone wrong because we’ve got a long season left. It’s day-by-day and tomorrow will be another big game for us.” – Anthony Rizzo
Thursday Walk Up Song
San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair) by Scott McKenzie – With the Cubs in San Francisco, my inner hippie will be in its extroverted glory all weekend.