The Rundown: Castellanos & Rizzo Spark Cubs, Hamels Has Decent Outing, Everyone Enjoying Nick at Night

Wrigleyville denizens and Cubs fans across the globe are most certainly enjoying Chicago’s reboot of Nick at Night. Nicholas Castellanos was yesterday evening’s spark as the Cubbies extended their win streak to three games.

Big Stick Nick hit his seventh homer in 18 games since being acquired in a July 31 trade with the Tigers. He’s seeing some fat pitches hitting ahead of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, and Castellanos usually doesn’t miss anything in the strike zone. The right fielder is batting .365 and slugging .743 as a member of the Cubs. His OPB is an absurd .405 and he has either started or been a part of every big inning the Cubs have had this month.

Leading the Cubs on the mound was Cole Hamels, who seemingly turned the corner with yesterday’s outing. The left-hander was 0-2 with a 6.12 ERA in his previous six starts, including a disastrous performance against the Phillies last week. Hamels permitted three runs on five hits to earn his first win since June 12. He also allowed two home runs.

Rizzo has rediscovered his power stroke, too. The veteran first baseman went yard twice last night, giving him three home runs in his last two games. And Craig Kimbrel closed it out with just his fourth clean inning of the season.

After last night’s 5-3 win over the Giants, the Cubs have now won 14 of their last 17 games at Wrigley Field, allowing us all to dream on just how good this team would be if they could get their shit together on the road.  Yesterday’s game started a nice stretch where the North Siders get to play 11 of 14 at home, with a three-day stint in New York City to play the red-hot Mets being the only interruption.

After they finish their series with the Giants, the Cubs will bookend that set at Shea Stadium with winnable home games against the Nationals and Brewers, two teams that have seen their bullpens implode on a regular basis. Washington has lost 12 games in which they’ve led going into the 8th inning. The Cubs are nicely positioned to make an extended run before the calendar turns to September.

Cubs News & Notes

How About That!

The Mets are the hottest team in baseball right now and Pete Alonso continues to carry them. It would take a little bit of luck for it to happen, but last night’s Mets-Indians game sure looked like a World Series preview.

Angels outfielder Mike Trout and DH Shohei Ohtani are the hottest hitters in baseball right now. Imagine how good Los Angeles could be with just a decent supporting cast surrounding their two stars. Trout leads all of baseball with a WAR of 8.3 and Ohtani is batting.447 during his current 11-game hit streak.

The Cardinals are also hot and have now won six straight games against Milwaukee. St. Louis beat the snot out of the Brewers’ bullpen last night.

Speaking of bad bullpens, the Nationals’ relief corps had another ugly outing last night, wasting a superb performance by Stephen Strasburg.

Will D. Smith has hit safely in 15 of 18 games since taking over as the Dodgers starting catcher and has 11 home runs through his first 27 games. That’s a 162-game pace of 66.

For the 37th consecutive day, somewhere in the league a player hit (at least) two home runs in a game. Rizzo, Freddie Freeman, and Bo Bichette — whose two bombs came against Clayton Kershaw — were yesterday’s big sticks. Last year’s longest two-homer game streak was 20 days. Here’s 20 more amazing facts regarding the Year of the Home Run.

Tuesday’s Three Stars

  1. Andrew Heaney – The lefty had a career-high 14 strikeouts without a walk over eight innings in a 5-1 win over the Rangers. Heaney retired 16 batters in a row after allowing consecutive one-out singles in the 1st, then allowed only two more hits after that.
  2. Nelson Cruz – This is now an absurd seventh appearance here for the Twins DH, and he earned it with a 4-for-5 night that included his 33rd home run of the season, three runs, and three RBI. Cruz deserves at least some consideration for league MVP.
  3. Anthony Rizzo –  The power has returned and the Cubs are going to need a typical Rizzo season-ending push to stave off the Cardinals and Brewers.

On Deck

You think Castellanos loves playing for the Cubs? It’s almost seems like a foregone conclusion that both parties would want to extend this honeymoon after the season ends. Have you ever seen a player and team that were more perfect for each other? Hitting at Wrigley sure beats hitting at Comerica Park in Detroit.

If the Cubs can re-sign Big Nick Energy and somehow find a legitimate leadoff man who can play second base — hello, Whit Merrifield — they might be unstoppable home or away. Castellanos, Bryant, Rizzo and Báez may be the best 2-5 combination in the National League. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There’s still unfinished business this season, and we won’t know if anybody has found the combination to the Ricketts’ vaults until December and January.

Extra Innings

How does any Cubs fan not love Castellanos?

They Said It

  • “It’s kinda the mentality like, if what has happened is a memory and what’s going to happen is a thought, you’re taking yourself out of right now. So in that case, every day is Opening Day.” – Nick Castellanos
  • “I’ve talked about it before. September provides its own energy. August, man, you’ve got to find it sometimes. We have taken 5,727 swings each at least, maybe it’s 10,000. I don’t know how many throws they’ve made. I don’t know how many videos they’ve looked at. I don’t know how many data sheets they’ve read. By this time in the summer, I’ve actually written it years ago, it’s got to be at least 80 percent mental and 20 percent physical, maybe 75-25…A lot of this stuff is overplayed. A lot of it’s eyewash. Just do what’s necessary.” – Joe Maddon

Wednesday Walk Up Song

My Kind of Town by Frank Sinatra. Nicky Two Bags owns this city right now.

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