The Rundown: Unsung Heroes Lead Cubs Past Brewers, Higgins Making Most of Limited Opportunities, Lots of Mock Draft Coverage
“Well, I would like you to hold my little hand and we will run, we will, we will crawl, we will…” – Rusted Root, Send Me on My Way
After yesterday’s 2-1 victory over the Brewers, the Cubs have now won four of six games this month. They took two of three at American Family Field and will now head to Los Angeles to try to continue their run against the Dodgers.
I should just stop writing now.
The Cubs would have lost last night if Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell didn’t go to his bullpen, but as has been the case when the boys in blue are hot, a number of unsung players who probably wouldn’t start for most major league teams provided all the hustle and swag. That includes starter Adrian Sampson, who held the Brewers to one run on four hits with five strikeouts in 5.2 innings. Chicago had no business winning the afternoon affair, at least on paper, but baseball is a funny and unpredictable game.
The Cubs have won four straight series and are 11-8 since bottoming out at 23-40 following a 10-game losing streak. Catcher P.J. Higgins provided the game-winning hit against closer Josh Hader, but give Patrick Wisdom credit for a key stolen base to put Chicago in a position to win it. Though they were just 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position, the two knocks were as big as they come. The North Siders have really struggled in those situations but give them an “A” for high-leverage execution in yesterday’s tilt.
“We’ve played a lot of close games, played a lot of extra-inning games that didn’t go our way sometimes, but we constantly battle,” Higgins said. “I think that’s just kind of our demeanor and that’s kind of our mindset. We’re always in games. We have to scratch and fight to the very end and hopefully come out on top.”
Chicago avoided having to go to extras when David Robertson shut down the Crew in the bottom of the 9th and it was odd hearing chants of “Let’s Go Cubbies!” as Robertson closed it out. I don’t know how it sounded on television but it was deafening in person. Of course, most of the hometown fans headed for the exits after Hader gave up the lead run.
Mark Leiter Jr. will take the bump Thursday in Chavez Ravine and it’s anybody’s guess if he will be tonight’s hero. Perhaps Alfonso Rivas or Yan Gomes will shine, but I’m banking on a big series from Nico Hoerner. It would be nice to see the shortstop get a little national notoriety with a big weekend.
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cubs are expected to aggressively shop switch-hitting outfielder Ian Happ between now and August 2.
- Sampson wasn’t happy after being sent down recently, and last night’s effort may finally provide an opportunity to stick.
- Sampson has really stepped up when the Cubs need him most.
- The first All-Star Game voting update has Willson Contreras leading at catcher in the final phase of voting.
- Kyle Hendricks was placed on the IL with a shoulder strain.
- Higgins is making the most of the opportunities he has been given.
- The backup catcher leans on David Ross to stay mentally prepared when he’s called to start.
- The home run Seiya Suzuki hit on Tuesday started out in foul territory before slicing fair, and came on a very tough pitch to hit. Yay for bat speed!
- Nelson Velázquez and Christopher Morel have forged a bond and the two rookies continue to push each other to be their best.
- Several baseball executives predict that shortstop Xander Bogaerts will sign with the Cubs this winter. I’m not buying it. I truly believe the front office is happy starting Hoerner at shortstop while the organization waits for its minor league players to matriculate through the system.
The latest from MLB Pipeline predicts the Cubs will select hard-hitting catcher Kevin Prada of Georgia Tech.
In their most recent update ($), Baseball America says shortstop Brooks Lee will be Chicago’s first-round pick.
The Athletic’s consensus mock agrees that Lee will be the pick ($). Here’s the synopsis from Sadahev Sharma: “The Cubs seem to be focused on four names who have a chance to drop to them and in this scenario the only one who does, Brooks Lee, makes it an easy choice. If Cam Collier is available, that’s the name most linked to this team, but Lee is a fine takeaway as a polished college bat who could move quickly and kickstart the rebuild with a farm system that has its arrow firmly pointed up.”
Prospects Live recently published their Mock Draft 4.0, and their prediction is the Cubs will use the No. 7 pick to select shortstop Zach Neto of Campbell, citing it as a “data-driven” decision.
Joel Reuter of Bleacher Report is convinced Cam Collier will be the first selection of the Carter Hawkins era.
If you’re a Big Board fan, Fangraphs has published its latest Top 100, with some interesting data. Termarr Johnson is ranked No. 1 overall, and the players most often linked to the Cubs all sit outside the top seven, except for Lee, who is ranked sixth.
Odds & Sods
Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas said he didn’t want to say anything foolish, and then couldn’t stop himself.
An emphatic Miles Mikolas on the Braves hitters continuously being granted time. #STLCards pic.twitter.com/O0KwM7VeP1
— Katie Woo (@katiejwoo) July 7, 2022
Climbing the Ladder
“Reminding me that everything is possible. Yeah, reminding me that nothing is impossible.” – Michael Franti & Spearhead, Hey, Hey, Hey
Thanks to clutch hits by Morel and Rafael Ortega, the Cubs tied up a game that looked like it might end up being a shutout loss. Velázquez had four strikeouts in four at-bats Wednesday. That hurts.
- Games Played: 82
- Total Plate Appearances: 3,150
- Total Strikeouts: 727
- Strikeout Rate: 23.08%
- Team Batting Average: .248
- Runs Scored: 359
- Runs Allowed: 421
How About That!
The executive director of Advocates for Minor Leaguers is calling on Congress to give minor leaguer players the same protections already extended to major leaguers.
Phillies reliever Mark Appel took to Twitter to chronicle his long-awaited big league debut.
Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale is one overgrown baby.
Clickbait Alert: The Angels must trade Mike Trout this year because the superstar outfielder is frustrated, the team needs to rebuild, and Los Angeles has little chance of making up a 17-game deficit in the AL West.
Trout would easily lead the field of best potential acquisitions. A’s starter Frankie Montas currently holds that honor.
Wednesday’s Three Stars
- Corbin Burnes – As usual, the Milwaukee starter dominated the Cubs, striking out 10 batters in seven innings of three-hit baseball. It’s mornings like these that we really appreciate Hader, who has struggled in this series.
- Eloy Jiménez – The White Sox slugger was 2-for-5 with a home run and three RBI, and because Tony La Russa continues to play the ex-Cub in left field, Jimenez should hit the IL any minute now.
- Aaron Judge – The future Cub (!) hit his 30th home run of the season, a grand slam, no less, and he stole a base just for grits and shins in the Yankees’ 16-0 win over the Pirates.
Happy Birthday, Satchel Paige!
Baseball legend Satchel Paige was born 116 years ago today! I bet he's pitching both ends of a doubleheader in heaven right now! ⚾️ #GOAT pic.twitter.com/qPtkBNfAUJ
— Baseball by BSmile (@BSmile) July 7, 2022
Thursday Morning Six-Pack
- Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson has agreed to resign, his office said Thursday, ending an unprecedented political crisis over his future that has paralyzed Britain’s government
- The four-day workweek may be coming to an employer near you!
- He may not be returning to the NFL, so Colin Kaepernick is going to try his hand at basketball…as a league owner.
- The Browns have traded QB Baker Mayfield to the Panthers for a 5th-round draft pick, and Deshaun Watson, who is lightly penciled in as the starter, could be suspended for a year or more. Perhaps a job awaits Kaepernick in Cleveland.
- I’m not a fan of streaming music because of compressed audio, but you can adjust your Spotify settings to almost make your favorite tunes palatable.
- Prime Day is coming, so I am going to spend the next week or so as a shopping influencer. Today’s pick is something anybody with a grill needs.
They Said It
- “[Backup catcher] is a difficult role. And it is one that’s probably a little bit easier for veteran guys to fall into than young guys. But I think early on, you saw [Higgins display] a real ability to handle a pitching staff, call a good game, work to have a quality at-bat, have contact. So, bringing the skill set that he kind of already had, and putting that into that role, it kind of fits easily. But it also takes a nice, [strong-minded] person.” – Ross
- “That’s my role and I accept it. I’m all about it. So, it’s just making sure I’m mentally prepared and making sure I’m fully focused when I get into the box.” – Higgins
Thursday Morning Walk-Up Song
I’ve really become a big fan of Tab Benoit this summer.