“You keep playin’ where you shouldn’t be playin’, and you keep thinkin’ that you’ll never get burnt.” – Nancy Sinatra, These Boots Are Made for Walkin’
If you thought the Cubs were incapable of making a sustained playoff run, they proved you wrong by taking two of three from the Brewers. Kyle Hendricks followed up an excellent performance by Justin Steele to lead Chicago to a 3-2 win over Milwaukee. That’s two consecutive wins against Corbin Burnes and Brandon Wood, a couple of the game’s better pitchers, both played with postseason intensity.
Things got a little iffy in the 8th inning, but these Cubs have a newfound resiliency that helps them overcome adversity and win tough, low-scoring games. It’s a stark reversal from the first two months of the season when Chicago’s North Side baseballers would end up on the wrong end of one-run games.
An off day today provides a welcome respite for the back end of the bullpen because Mark Leiter Jr. and Adbert Alzolay looked genuinely gassed yesterday. Leiter struggled with command and I don’t recall Alzolay throwing a single fastball. Give the closer credit, however. After hitting Mark Canha to force in the tying run, he came back to notch the win an inning later. Canha might be the most-hit man in baseball, so you can’t fault the young reliever.
Things don’t get any easier from here. The Cubs’ next 11 games and 14 of their next 17 are against the three teams behind them in the NL Wild Card race, starting with a four-game series against the Reds this weekend. The Giants and Diamondbacks come to Chicago, then the Cubs hit the road for tilts with the Rockies and D-backs again.
I mentioned in yesterday’s Rundown that I believe the Cubs would win 10 of 12 before heading to Denver, and I stand by that. This team has learned to do the little things well, or as Joe Maddon would say, they “Do simple better.” They’re winning games they would have lost earlier in the season and are now 17-6 in one-run games since the end of May, trailing only the Reds (20 wins) and Brewers (19). That is the definition of a playoff-ready team.
Let me leave you with one last note. I’ve grown tired of hearing all about Cincinnati’s great rookie class. I’d love nothing more than to see Jordan Wicks shut them down on Friday.
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cubs have their sights set on winning the division after winning the Milwaukee series.
- A foundational formula of pitching and defense paved the way to a series win for a Chicago club that is very much in the thick of the playoff picture with a month to go.
- It was so loud at Wrigley Field that Nico Hoerner went to max volume on his PitchCom receiver.
- Since he made his season debut on May 25 after recovering from a shoulder injury, Hendricks ranks second in baseball with 16 starts allowing three or fewer earned runs.
- The Cubs trail the Phillies by three games for the top Wild Card spot and have a two-game lead over the Giants for WC2.
- Roster expansion is allowed starting tomorrow. Lefties Luke Little and Brendon Little are among the pitchers in the conversation to give the bullpen a lift. Ben Brown is under consideration, too, as is Brad Boxberger. Position players who have put themselves on the radar for call-ups include Pete Crow-Armstrong, Alexander Canario, and Yonathan Perlaza. That said, the Cubs can only expand to 28 players.
- The Cubs announced that Canario will play in the Arizona Fall League this year.
- Miguel Amaya played a big part in the successful debut by Wicks.
- The Cubs hope Keegan Thompson will be the bullpen’s X-factor during the stretch run.
- CBS Sports predicts that the Cubs will win the claim on Lucas Giolito with Mike Clevinger going to the Reds.
- Call me crazy, but I believe Matt Shaw will be playing for the Cubs sometime next season.
Odds & Sods
Steele has a kindred spirit in Cole Kmet. Two beasts, one city, and Steele reciprocated nicely.
Bears and Cubs. pic.twitter.com/Olwp4t4QPc
— Chris Emma (@CEmma670) August 31, 2023
- Milwaukee (74-59): It took less than 24 hours for the Brewers to go from riding a nine-game winning streak to contemplating back-to-back losses in games started by Burnes and Woodruff. Milwaukee plays Philadelphia next and Cub fans should hope one team gets broomed, preferably the Brew Crew.
- Cincinnati (69-66): The Reds released outfielder/first baseman Trey Mancini just in time for their four-game set with the Cubs.
- Pittsburgh (61-73): The Pirates have no business putting in a waiver claim on Giolito. He’s a free agent at the end of this season.
- St. Louis (58-76): The last-place Cardinals are struggling to attract fans. Imagine that.
Climbing the Ladder
“I got this feeling that time’s just a-holding me down.” – Kenny Loggins, Footloose
The Cubs need to break out the bats against the Reds this weekend. Yes, they took two of three from the Brewers, but they only scored six runs in the three-game set. Cody Bellinger has 18 RBI in his last 12 games, so Dansby Swanson, Christopher Morel, Mike Tauchman, and a few others need to start driving the ball a little more. Morel scares me on the basepaths and David Ross has been holding him out of the lineup a little more frequently lately.
The Cubs are third in the National League in runs scored and third in stolen bases, but sit 11th in caught stealing. Ross should remain aggressive.
- Games Played: 133
- Record: 71-62 (.534)
- Total Plate Appearances: 5,087
- Total Strikeouts: 1,170
- Strikeout Rate: 23%
- Team Batting Average: .253
- Runs Scored: 668
- Runs Allowed: 591
- Chances of Making the Playoffs: 81.7%, 1.6% to win the World Series
How About That!
The Diamondbacks were swept by the Dodgers, who are now 24-4 (.857) this month. Los Angeles outscored Arizona 23-5 in the series.
The Braves might have the best lineup since the 1927 Yankees.
The Nationals are winning the Soto trade. Shortstop CJ Abrams and lefty MacKenzie Gore, both key pieces in the Soto swap, have flashed excellence for considerable stretches of the summer while James Wood has climbed to Double-A as one of baseball’s top outfield prospects.
Wednesday’s Three Stars
- Christian Encarnacion-Strand – The Cincinnati first baseman enjoyed the first four-hit day of his career and blasted a home run to boot. he also had a double and three RBI as the Reds dropped the Giants 4-1.
- Andrew Vaughn – The White Sox first sacker enjoyed a 2-for-5 night with a home run, a double, and three RBI in a 10-5 win over the Orioles.
- Alejandro Kirk – The catcher led the Blue Jays to a 7-0 win over the Nationals with three hits and three RBI.
Hoerner flashing the leather!
NICO. HOERNER. pic.twitter.com/hEbggkivGo
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) August 30, 2023
Thursday Morning Six-Pack
- The NFL season starts one week from today, and that means the return of First & Long over at Bears Insider.
- Leaders at the Department of Health and Human Services urged the Drug Enforcement Administration to ease restrictions on marijuana.
- The show Suits, which is everyone’s current binge-watch, was altered during filming at the request of the British royal family, who were wary of Meghan Markle’s role on the show. Its creator revealed that in one instance, writers removed the word “poppycock” from one of Markle’s lines. Oh, the humanity. By the way, the series has more pop culture references than any of its peers. If that’s your bag, and you like quick, witty dialogue, you’ll love the show.
- I’m currently addicted to The Right Stuff, the series based on the book by Tom Wolfe which stars Patrick Adams of Suits as John Glenn. Adams is a dead ringer for Ed Harris, who played Glenn in the 1983 movie of the same name, but he has a bit more of a selfish side to his personality.
- Big ups to reader and contributor Vegas Jack for this great video!
- Jeff Beck, Peter Frampton, and Nils Lofgren are among 15 musicians who almost joined the Rolling Stones. I’d pay a fortune to see Frampton with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, but Lofgren and Summers are far more intriguing to me.
Apropos of Nothing
Look at what I had for dinner last night, but try not to be jealous.
They Said It
- “Obviously, we believe the division is reachable. We’ve thought that for a while. It’s definitely something that we as a group have strived for since spring training.” – Bellinger
- “I think that’s what this team has done, they’ve found a way to win for a while now. Scratch and claw and overcome adversity. Again, I talk about the character of this group. They are fun to just sit and watch on a daily basis.” – Ross
Thursday Walk-Up Song
I always love posting videos from The Midnight Special.