“It’s impossible if possible at whose blind word, so clear but so unheard.” – Silversun Pickups, Lazy Eye
The Cubs had the day off, so I’ll minimize the preamble this morning.
Most division races are determined by how well or poorly teams play in September. The Cubs are 7-7 this month, but Milwaukee, who won again on Thursday, is 8-5. Though wins are important no matter when you get them, a 1.5-game swing is a lot more significant with 15 games to play. Put another way, if the Brewers play .500 baseball for the rest of the month, the Cubs would have to go 13-2 to take the NL Central with 91 wins.
In other words, fans should turn their focus to the top Wild Card spot, where Chicago trails the Phillies by a game and a half. The Cubs are in Arizona to face the Diamondbacks this weekend, while Philadelphia travels to St. Louis to play the Cardinals. The Cubs also need to take two of three from the D-Backs to gain the tiebreaker edge for the second Wild Card entry.
If the North Siders can grab the top Wild Card spot, they’ll host all the games in a best-of-three series against the WC2 team.
Cubs News & Notes
- Left-hander Justin Steele (16-3, 2.49 ERA) will take the mound for the Cubs on Friday night. Steele, one of the front-runners for the NL Cy Young Award, is 7-0 with a 2.48 ERA over his past 10 starts.
- Pete Crow-Armstrong is being forced to learn the difference between “prospect baseball” and winning baseball on the fly.
- The Cubs have yet to be featured on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, but they’ll finally get their chance this weekend, much to the delight of Karl Ravech.
- The bullpen is confident it will succeed while Adbert Alzolay is sidelined.
- Fans have reasons to be optimistic about Chicago’s chances of reaching the postseason despite a few recent setbacks.
- Then again, if your glass is half-empty…
- The Cubs would be comfortably leading the NL Central if the outcome of every MLB one-run game was flipped, though I don’t know why it’s important to know that.
- I will be writing The Rundown on Saturdays and Sundays starting tomorrow for as long as the Cubs remain in the playoff race.
Odds & Sods
"A pitcher needs two pitches; one they're looking for and one to cross them up." ~ Warren Spahn pic.twitter.com/NXUNhceaPx
— OldTimeHardball (@OleTimeHardball) September 15, 2023
- Milwaukee (82-64): The Brewers’ magic number to reach the playoffs is now in single digits.
- Cincinnati (76-72): The Reds bullpen has worked 589.1 innings this season, more than any NL team but the Giants. Reds relievers have a league-leading 49 saves, a respectable 44-27 record, and a 3.94 ERA with 567 strikeouts, which ranks fifth in the NL.
- Pittsburgh (69-78): The Pirates, along with the rest of baseball, will honor Hall of Fame outfielder Roberto Clemente today. Clemente’s life was cut short at the age of 38 when he died in a plane crash in 1972 while trying to deliver emergency aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.
- St. Louis (65-81): Dakota Hudson feels his teammates could do a better job of communicating.
The National League Wild Card race is going to be crazy for the next two weeks. Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic breaks down ($) all of the possibilities and potential matchups.
- The Cubs cannot catch the Braves for the best record in the National League.
- The Dodgers were off and remain 11 games ahead of Chicago for the No. 2 seed. LA is 6.5 games ahead of Milwaukee, who beat the Marlins 4-2.
- The Cubs now trail the Brewers by 4.5 games in the NL Central but are five behind in the loss column. Milwaukee owns the tiebreaker right now, but that could change when the teams meet for three games in two weeks.
- The Phillies were off, but hold the top Wild Card spot, 1.5 games ahead of the Cubs.
- The Reds and Diamondbacks both lost and sit 2.5 games behind Chicago. The Reds lead Arizona because they won the season series 4-3.
- The Giants were rained out but leapfrogged both teams into the WC3 spot.
- The Cubs have a tiebreaker advantage over the Giants only, so the Diamondbacks series is much bigger in scope.
- If the season ended today, the Braves and Dodgers would have first-round byes, the Giants would play a best-of-three series at Milwaukee, and the Cubs would travel to Philadelphia to take on the Phillies.
Climbing the Ladder
“We’re all racing for our own reasons, and sometimes in the middle we all meet.” – Heartless Bastards, Marathon
It’s home stretch time now, and it’s going to be an exciting two weeks as teams battle each other and the remaining sand in that postseason hourglass.
- Games Played: 147
- Record: 78-69 (.531)
- Total Plate Appearances: 5,616
- Total Strikeouts: 1,269
- Strikeout Rate: 22.59%
- Team Batting Average: .254
- Runs Scored: 737
- Runs Allowed: 644
- Chances of Making the Playoffs: 88.7%, 2.9% to win the World Series
How About That!
The Red Sox fired chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom after four up-and-down seasons that included a pair of last-place finishes.
Bloom’s departure surprised many of his colleagues and peers ($), according to Kiley McDaniel of ESPN.
The executive’s demise may have been the result of the moves he didn’t make during his tenure in Boston.
Theo Epstein will not be replacing Bloom, but Chris Antonetti and David Forst were mentioned as potential candidates.
On Thursday, MLB announced that it will host the first regular-season game at its virtual ballpark when the Rays host the Angels on September 20.
Team owners will vote on the Athletics’ bid to move to Las Vegas at the Owners Meetings in mid-November. Oakland needs a 75% vote in favor of relocation to proceed.
Oakland is reportedly high on the list for a 2025 expansion team.
A total of 38 players from the preseason Top 100 Prospects list have made their big league debuts this season, tying an all-time high.
Thursday’s Three Stars
- Mitch Keller – The Pirates starter outdueled Josiah Gray and blanked the Nationals on two hits over eight innings with seven strikeouts.
- Kodai Senga – He limited the Diamondbacks to two hits across six innings with 10 strikeouts in the Mets’ 11-1 win.
- Matt Vierling – Detroit’s leadoff batter had a grand slam and a stolen base to lead the Tigers past the Reds.
Matt Mervis CRUSHED
20th homer of the season for the @Cubs' No. 13 prospect.
427 ft | 105.4 mph pic.twitter.com/UWzG4ijq79
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) September 14, 2023
Friday Morning Six-Pack
- Wishing our Jewish readers a shanah tovah u’metuka, a happy and sweet New Year ahead of Rosh Hashanah’s start tonight. I’ll watch some Lars Olfen later to freshen up on my Yiddish.
- It’s time for Bears fans to put the season-opening loss to the Packers in their rearview mirrors.
- Check out the new trailer for Martin Scorsese’s crime epic Killers of the Flower Moon, which at least one critic said contains the best performance of Leonardo DiCaprio’s career. Yes, Robert DeNiro also stars in the movie, pairing the two actors for the first time.
- TikTok now has its own Billboard Top 50 Chart, and I’ve officially lived too long.
- If I give you the clue “tossed salad and scrambled eggs,” would you be able to tell me which TV series is the latest to be resurrected from the past?
- James Ellroy examines the death of Marilyn Monroe in his latest Hollywood novel.
They Said It
- “We have a big series ahead; we have a good off-day to regroup. We just played Arizona. We know how tough they are, so we have an opportunity to go in there, play our game, and make a statement.” – Jameson Taillon
Friday Walk-Up Song
Few of us believed back in March that the Cubs would be in the playoff race after 145 games.