“We’re absolute beginners with eyes completely open, but nervous all the same.” – David Bowie, Absolute Beginners
Has David Bowie ever written a bad song? Just asking before I get started.
The Cubs, who have become a nice mix of seasoned veterans and talented first- and second-year players, snatched victory from the jaws of defeat on Monday evening. Chicago’s 5-4 win over the Rockies featured big performances from 36-year-old Yan Gomes, rookie Jordan Wicks, who is now entrenched in the team’s rotation, and Christopher Morel, who hit a gargantuan home run in the 5th inning. Drew Smyly picked up the win in relief and Pete Crow-Armstrong made his big league debut.
The addition of Crow-Armstrong was inevitable. He offers skills that can be difference-makers in the postseason and the push to get there. The rookie plays 80-grade defense and can steal a base or two, though he was nabbed last night thanks to a nifty play by third baseman Ryan McMahon.
Wicks turned in another stellar start. The lefty allowed just one run on three hits with two strikeouts over six innings of work and exited with a 1.99 ERA through four starts. Wicks was pulled after 97 pitches, but he looks effortless on the mound and didn’t appear at all gassed. He deserved the win, but José Cuas coughed up a 3-1 lead in his first truly poor performance since coming to Chicago.
Nevertheless, Gomes was the star of Monday’s win. He was 3-for-4 with three RBI, including a game-winning two-run single in the top of the 9th. The veteran catcher has been invaluably clutch all season.
Javier Assad takes the bump tonight facing Chris Flexen and his unsightly 7.36 ERA. Flexen, a righty, gave up six runs in 2.1 innings in his last start. Ross could give Crow-Armstrong the start and put Cody Bellinger at first base in what is a favorable matchup for the rookie on paper.
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cubs officially welcomed Crow-Armstrong to the team and made several moves in doing so. Alexander Canario, who is set to play in the AFL, was optioned. Adbert Alzolay was placed on the 15-day IL with a forearm strain, and Michael Fulmer was recalled to take his spot on the roster. The Cubs also designated Anthony Kay for assignment to open up a spot on the 40-man for the rookie center fielder.
- David Ross expects Crow-Armstrong to get a little more playing time than Canario did. PCA may get a start in Colorado tonight or tomorrow.
- Crow-Armstrong’s ability to contribute in a variety of ways also would make him a useful part of a playoff roster, assuming the Cubs hold onto the National League Wild Card berth they presently hold.
- PCA is essentially competing with Mike Tauchman, a 32-year-old journeyman center fielder batting .163 with a dismal .483 OPS in his last 95 plate appearances. Ross loves his veterans, but the Summer of Tauchman might be coming to a close before too long.
- Ross will have to juggle the back end of his bullpen while Alzolay is sidelined. Julian Merryweather and Mark Leiter Jr. could split duties as closer, but Brad Boxberger is probably in the mix, too.
- Marcus Stroman tossed Chicago’s only complete game this season, shutting out the Rays while holding them to one hit on May 29.
- Stroman could be the next addition to the team’s bullpen.
- The Cubs have a 96% chance of making the playoffs according to ESPN. Their chances of winning the NL Central are 19% and they have a 77% chance of earning the top Wild Card spot.
- The Rockies activated Kris Bryant before last night’s game. The former Cub missed 45 games after getting hit by a pitch that fractured his left index finger.
- Home plate umpire Brian O’Nora abruptly jogged off the field in the bottom of the 3rd inning, through the Rockies dugout. An approximately 15-minute stoppage ensued before second base umpire Tom Hanahan took over calling balls and strikes. Kyle Freeland suspected O’Nora was throwing up.
Odds & Sods
Alek Manoah might be trying to make a statement, but he’s not going to win many fans by doing so.
— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) September 11, 2023
- Milwaukee (80-63): The Brewers beat the Marlins 12-0 last night. They’re one of the hottest teams in baseball and are playing to get a ring for Craig Counsell, who is not expected to return in 2024. Counsell is probably not going to follow David Stearns to the Mets, but is instead expected to take a year off.
- Cincinnati (74-71): The Reds lost two of three to the Cardinals over the weekend and their playoff hopes are fading fast.
- Pittsburgh (66-78): The Pirates, defined by their youth, have shown signs that they are slowly starting to trend upward.
- St. Louis (63-81): A quick trip to Cooperstown on September 11, 2001, may have saved the lives of Adam Wainwright and his brother Trey.
Climbing the Ladder
“Straddle the line in discord and rhyme, I’m on the hunt, I’m after you.” – Duran Duran, Hungry Like the Wolf
The Cubs are now 60-9 when they outhit their opponent, they’re 20-20 in one-run games, and last night marked their third win when entering the 9th inning trailing the opposition. Chicago is now 36-20 (.643) since the All-Star break and 25-14 (.641) since August 1. The only time the Cubs have led the Brewers in the standings was after a 4-0 Opening Day win, but they need to make their move during this final soft spot of their schedule.
Dansby Swanson had two hits and a stolen base last night and has seven hits in his last 15 at-bats. Cubs batters struck out just twice and the team’s strikeout rate has dropped significantly since mid-July.
- Games Played: 145
- Record: 78-67 (.538)
- Total Plate Appearances: 5,537
- Total Strikeouts: 1,254
- Strikeout Rate: 22.64%
- Team Batting Average: .254
- Runs Scored: 730
- Runs Allowed: 631
- Chances of Making the Playoffs: 90.7%, 3.9% to win the World Series
How About That!
The Rangers once seemed like a lock to win the AL West before losing eight straight and 16 of 20 games.
Mets manager Buck Showalter said opposing teams will “step on your neck and laugh while you’re bleeding” when your team struggles.
Monday’s Three Stars
- Matt Olson – The Atlanta slugger was 2-for-3 with two homers and four RBI in the Braves’ 7-5 loss to the Phillies. Olson now has 50 home runs on the season, and the two teams split a doubleheader.
- Brandon Woodruff – The Brewers starter tossed a complete game shutout at the Marlins with seven strikeouts.
- Yoshinobu Yamamoto – The Japanese star tossed a no-hitter with executives from several teams, including the Cubs, in attendance. Yamamoto extended his scoreless streak to 42 innings in the 4-0 win.
I love that Pat Hughes called Morel’s blast two pitches before it happened.
Christopher Morel, LAUNCHED!
466 feet 😮 pic.twitter.com/ZrgFd9zB8P
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) September 12, 2023
Tuesday Morning Six-Pack
- Disney, which had been withholding its channels, including ESPN and ABC, from the cable company’s ~15 million Spectrum subscribers while the two hashed out a new rate deal, reached an agreement with Charter.
- The blackout ended just in time for subscribers to witness what may be a season-ending injury for Jets QB Aaron Rodgers.
- Walter Isaacson recently dropped a 688-page biography of Elon Musk that isn’t titled “tl:dr,” though it should be, and he’s already been accused of fabricating stories in the long-winded tome.
- Jelly company J.M. Smucker announced yesterday that it is buying the purveyor of plastic-wrapped cakes, Hostess Brands, for $5.6 billion. That’s a lot of Twinkies, Ding-Dongs, Sno-Balls, and Ho-Hos. The deal could be potentially lucrative. Indulgent snacks have grown 20% faster than healthy ones in the last three years, per CEO Mark Smucker.
- The FDA approved updated Covid booster vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna that target the most current strain. The shots will be available by the middle of the month.
- Guitarist Brian May of Queen is very apprehensive about the rise of artificial intelligence in songwriting.
They Said It
- “We have an amazing locker room. We have such a good group of veterans that are easy to talk to and you can approach and hang out with them. The culture of rookie and veteran [being separated] are kind of in the past.” – Smyly
- “I think you need youth and you also need experience. But also, what do I know about how a big league club works, right? I’m just finding my way.” – Crow-Armstrong
- “I think [Pete’s] a really good fit for us — big outfield here. Definitely can play some defense, and steal a base. He’ll get some starts mixed in, trying to slide him — we’re not gonna force anything. We’ve got a group of guys that have gotten us here, but he can definitely help us out. He didn’t have a chance to showcase his skills, but really nice bunt there late and roaming center field. I’m sure he was happy to be part of a win and hopefully, he’ll be a part of a lot more.” – Ross
- “I gave [Canario] a crappy pinch hit, to be honest, and gave him one at-bat and it’s not how you envision your debut going, but I know he’ll be back. He’ll be back at some point, ready to help us, have a long really career, helping us out. Didn’t go as planned to start, but we’re in the middle of a playoff race and just wasn’t a lot of room for him.” – Ross
Tuesday Walk-Up Song
Artificial intelligence offers an entirely different meaning to this song. Freddie Mercury left us nearly 32 years ago. Time passes so quickly, doesn’t it?