“With a purposeful grimace and a terrible sound, he pulls the spitting high-tension wires down.” – Blue Öyster Cult, Godzilla
The Cubs enter the final week of the season clinging to a postseason berth but with the gargantuan test of needing to beat the Braves and Brewers to get there. A final-week collapse by the Marlins and/or Diamondbacks will get the North Siders in, too. That’s a big ask considering that Arizona gets the White Sox for three games tomorrow, while the Marlins close their season against the Mets and Pirates.
Nobody wants the Cubs to back in. Chicago has played well against the Braves and Brewers, and playoff-caliber teams find ways to beat the tough teams. The North Siders would likely face Milwaukee in the first round if they clinch a Wild Card berth.
Justin Steele takes the bump tomorrow after a day off today, though that’s not the guarantee it was a few weeks ago. Steele was once considered a favorite for the Cy Young Award but has allowed 12 earned runs over his last six innings pitched. David Ross adjusted his rotation to give Steele an extra start this week and the Cubs very much need their ace to get back on track.
Jordan Wicks, Patrick Wisdom, and the bullpen propelled the Cubs in Sunday’s 4-3 win. Wicks is 4-1 in six starts and succeeds by keeping runners off base. He has yet to allow more than three runs in any of his starts, which presents an intriguing option for the Cubs if they do make the playoffs. Wicks could be in line for a postseason start, an opportunity he’s earned in his brief time in MLB, or he could be used in long relief if the scheduled starter struggles. He and Javier Assad would add a lot of length to Chicago’s postseason bullpen.
Just gotta get there first. Four wins this week could be enough, though I’d prefer five.
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cubs took care of business on Sunday by the skin of their teeth.
- The Cubs would need to be the top Wild Card team to host a first-round playoff game. That’s unlikely, but Cubs players are hoping to return to Wrigley for the second round of the postseason.
- Is Craig Breslow leaving the Cubs for a similar post with the Red Sox? Nothing is confirmed, but the story (or non-story) bears watching. Boston still needs a chief baseball officer to replace Chaim Bloom, which should be the job they offer Breslow.
- Brad Boxberger has been placed on the IL with a forearm strain and his tenure with the Cubs is probably over. Keegan Thompson was recalled to take Boxberger’s place.
- Chicago’s pitchers employ several unconventional methods to prepare for games.
- Ross did his part to motivate the Pirates this week, who finish their season with tilts against the Phillies and Marlins.
- Chicago’s manager also believes his team has a good shot to make the playoffs.
- Ross praised catcher Yan Gomes for a spectacular year.
- Rookie Pete Crow-Armstrong stays engaged while waiting for opportunities so that he’s fully ready to contribute.
- Assad deserves all the credit for Saturday’s big win.
- Miles Mastrobuoni has stepped up in a big way lately for the Cubs.
- Seiya Suzuki has also come up big time and again during Chicago’s stretch run.
- Ex-Cubs catcher Erik Pappas is playing for Greece in the European Championship at the age of 57.
- This week’s Saturday Baseball Quiz by Bill Chuck is a lesson in pop culture and baseball.
Odds & Sods
I would have brought a Jell-O mold had I attended, in case you were wondering. I still haven’t been to Wrigley Field since Opening Day last year, though I will be at all three Brewers games in Milwaukee this week.
Bleacher pot luck is a cool tradition at Wrigley for their last home game
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) September 24, 2023
- Milwaukee (88-68): The Brewers clinched a playoff berth on Friday, and first baseman/DH Rowdy Tellez was on the mound for the final out.
- Cincinnati (80-77): The Reds are 2.5 games out of a playoff spot with five games to play, so each tilt is a must-win affair. Cincinnati is the visiting team for its final five games but sports baseball’s best road record (35-19).
- Pittsburgh (74-82): GM Ben Cherington believes the Pirates can compete for the division title or a Wild Card berth as soon as next season.
- St. Louis (68-88): The Cardinals are the fifth-worst team in baseball and hold a 10% chance of winning the top spot in the draft. The Cardinals won’t eclipse 100 losses, but two other teams already have and the Rockies and White Sox are on the doorstep.
- The Dodgers and Braves have clinched their divisions, and the Brewers’ magic number is one. Milwaukee is the likely No. 3 seed while Atlanta’s magic number for the top seed is three.
- Any combination of three Philadelphia wins or three losses by the Diamondbacks gives the Phillies the top Wild Card spot and a first-round match with the No. 5 seed.
- The Diamondbacks play a makeup game against the Yankees today before traveling to Chicago to play the White Sox. Arizona leads the Cubs by a half-game for WC2.
- The Marlins are off today and finish their season with three tilts apiece against the Mets and Pirates. Miami trails the Cubs by a single game for the final postseason berth, but leads the Reds by 1.5 games. Cincinnati owns the tiebreaker against the Cubs and would lose to Miami in the event of a tie.
- If the season ended today, the Braves and Dodgers would have first-round byes, the Cubs would play a best-of-three series at Milwaukee, and the Diamondbacks would travel to Philadelphia to take on the Phillies.
Climbing the Ladder
“The pleasure is to play, and it makes no difference what you say.” – Motörhead, Ace of Spades
The sweep over the Rockies slightly improved Chicago’s postseason chances heading into the brutal week ahead. Yesterday’s win also guaranteed a winning record, something the Cubs have now accomplished in seven of their past nine seasons.
All that remains is clinching a playoff spot, and Chicago’s magic number is six. The Marlins have the tie-breaker advantage over the Cubs and would secure a playoff spot if both teams finish with identical records. The Reds, as mentioned above, need a lot of wins or a lot of help to climb back into the race.
- Games Played: 156
- Record: 82-74 (.526)
- Total Plate Appearances: 5,984
- Total Strikeouts: 1,333
- Strikeout Rate: 22.28%
- Team Batting Average: .255
- Runs Scored: 792
- Runs Allowed: 691
- Chances of Making the Playoffs: 65%, 3.3% to win the World Series
How About That!
The Braves reached 100 wins on Sunday for the second consecutive season.
The Rangers swept the Mariners to retake control of the AL West.
The Yankees have been officially eliminated from the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
Sunday’s Three Stars
- Jon Berti – The Miami infielder blasted two home runs and plated three runners in the Marlins’ 6-1 win over the Brewers.
- Cristopher Sánchez– The Phillies moved a step closer to clinching the No. 4 seed thanks to an outstanding performance by Sánchez. The lefty held the Mets to two runs over seven innings with 10 punchouts in a 5-2 win.
- Eduardo Rodríguez – The Tigers starter blanked the A’s over seven innings with five strikeouts.
I love the way Wicks carries himself on the field and off, but I particularly enjoy his love for Cub fans and Wrigley Field.
Cubs fans are unparalleled. pic.twitter.com/vSkhWSFgsR
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 24, 2023
Sliding Into Home
Health and job issues have kept me from posting much over the past week. I’m trying to keep up, but sometimes I am unable to sit at the computer for more than a few minutes at a time. Please accept my apologies for my absenteeism.
Monday Morning Six-Pack
- The Bears were pummeled 41-10 by the Chiefs and looked disinterested, but they may not be at rock bottom just yet, either. Chicago is now 3-17 under head coach Matt Eberflus. They’re also three-point underdogs to the Broncos, who lost by 50 points to the Dolphins on Sunday.
- Defensive coordinator Alan Williams resigned due to “inappropriate activity,” according to Adam Schefter of ESPN and other sources. I’m not on the inside, but I expect a shakeup at Halas Hall this week, either with player personnel, or some other members of the team’s coaching staff.
- Kyle Busch pulled a move straight out of “Talladega Nights” during Sunday’s Cup Series at Texas Motor Speedway, driving backward to pit after a hard crash into the wall.
- Shenandoah University safety Haley Van Voorhis became the first woman to play in an NCAA football game who was not a kicker or a punter. “I made the impossible possible, and I’m excited about that,” Van Voorhis said.
- The union representing Hollywood writers agreed to a tentative deal with major studios, likely ending a strike that has frozen TV and film production for nearly five months. But hold your horses, production on your favorite shows won’t start anytime soon. Scripted TV won’t restart production because a separate strike by tens of thousands of actors and 100,000+ other Hollywood employees is ongoing. The children stars of “Stranger Things” will be adults by the time they finish filming their final season.
- Netflix officially ended its DVD service on Friday, by the way. That means it’s also time to clear your queue if you haven’t yet.
They Said It
- “We took care of business. We did what we needed to do and we’re all really happy with that.” – Wicks
- “We’ve got six games in the regular season left, and we’re going to take it game by game. I think momentum is crucial, but I don’t think we ever lost sight of that confidence, especially during that little uneasy patch. That’s baseball, but getting back on the horse and having the sweep here at home builds that momentum.” – Wisdom
Monday Walk-Up Song
The Cubs need to play some face-melting baseball this week.