The Rundown: Cubs Plaster Pirates Again, Narrow NL Central Gap, Bryant Locked In, Reds on Tap Tonight

Nothing cures what ails you like the Pittsburgh Pirates, I guess. The Cubs ran roughshod all over the Jolly Roger this weekend in sweeping the Bucs. Yesterday’s 16-6 win capped a weekend in which the Cubs scored 47 runs while padding their run differential by 29 percent. That will do wonders for your Pythagorean record.

And I think we can cease the Kris Bryant trade talk. It’s amazing to me that whenever the Cubs third baseman has a big game that the chatter stops. Apparently, those individuals don’t even bother to log into their social media accounts when he has a hot stretch. Bryant silenced his critics with a 6-for-12 weekend that included three home runs and eight RBI. He is perfectly capable of hitting with runners in scoring position. Who knew?

We can also dispel the rumor that the Cubs only score when they hit home runs. Sure, they provided 14 souvenirs to fans attending the three-game set, but they also pounded out 50 hits in a relentless assault against the entire Pirates pitching staff.

And I suppose we can stop saying the Cubs aren’t clutch, either, as 27 runners crossed home plate with two outs this weekend.

And yes, they played the Pirates, who admittedly looked like they’ve tossed the white towel. But these types of games against mediocre pitchers with virtually no meaning to the opposition other than beating the Cubs have been a thorn in Chicago’s side for two seasons. So consider that mystery solved as well, at least for now.

Starting tonight the Cubs get the Reds for three at home, and Cincinnati is another one of those teams the Cubs just can’t shake. Meanwhile, the Cardinals and Nationals will square off in Washington, which means that each victory over the Reds gets Chicago closer to either the division lead or the first Wild Card seed. The North Siders sit two games behind the Redbirds and have closed to within a buck and a half of the Nats. The Brewers, who beat the Cardinals yesterday on a 9th-inning grand slam by Ryan Braun, remain a game behind the Cubs for the second Wild Card berth.

Cole Hamels gets the start tonight and he’ll have to find a way to keep Eugenio Suárez and Aristides Aquino in the park. Suarez is tied for the NL lead with 47 round-trippers and Aquino has looked ridiculous against the Cubs, batting .467 with five taters and nine RBI in 17 plate appearances. Hopefully the Cubs offense will continue to roll, though they’ll be without injured first baseman Anthony Rizzo. The game starts at 7:05pm local time, so saddle up. September is shaping up to be an exhilarating month of baseball for fans everywhere.

Cubs News & Notes

  • Bryant now has 138 career homers, the most by any Cubs player in his first five seasons in the majors. Ernie Banks had the previous record with 136.
  • Despite nearly unparalleled production over five years, Bryant is still labeled soft by many fans because of his injury history.
  • At the same time, Bryant is, in his own words, “his own harshest critic,” and it is his personal critique of his play that drives him to be so successful despite the injuries.
  • It’s becoming a broken record at this point, but Nicholas Castellanos has been an absolute stud since joining the Cubs at the trade deadline.
  • St. Louis writers and fans think Castellanos would be a nice offseason addition for the Cardinals to bat in front of Paul Goldschmidt next year. I guarantee Nicky Two Bags will hate St.Louis as much as we all do within the next two weeks.
  • It is four days and counting until Cubs-Cards Showdown Number One begins. St. Louis has slowed its roll, struggling against some better teams, while the Cubs and Brewers are streaking.
  • Closer Craig Kimbrel (right elbow inflammation) threw 20 pitches in a bullpen session before the game. He reported no issues, but the team will see how he feels Monday before deciding on the next step.
  • Addison Russell was placed on the seven-day concussion injured list retroactive to Thursday and the Cubs will have to decide what to do with Nico Hoerner when Russell returns. Hoerner boasts a gaudy 179 OPS+ in 32 plate appearances and had an astounding Wrigley Field debut this weekend. My guess is that the rookie has taken Russell’s job away, if only because he’s almost too hot to take out of the lineup. But you never know what Joe Maddon will decide. He’s been The infielder’s biggest supporter over the past 13 months.
  • There’s no better time than the push for October to listen to your favorite Cubs podcasts and Cubs Insider has you covered with all the latest news and speculation.

How About That!

Mike Trout will have foot surgery that will end his season, the Angels front office announced.

Yesterday was the sixth time that Mets reliever Seth Lugo has pitched on back-to-back days, and he hasn’t allowed a run in those second appearances. If you play fantasy baseball, he’s your closer for next season, though Lugo would prefer to start.

With 97 victories, the Dodgers have clinched home field advantage in the NLDS. They’ll play the winner of the Wild Card game unless the Braves surpass Los Angeles in victories by season’s end. Atlanta sits four games behind the Bums with 11 to play and would get the NL Central champion in their division series if the season ended today.

The Brewers have won four of five since Christian Yelich was lost for the season They do not play a team with a better than .500 record for the rest of the season.

Sunday’s Three Stars

  1. Kris Bryant – The third baseman had another big day, going 3-for-5 with three runs scored and four RBI. He went yard twice, and now has 31 homers on the season, along with 77 RBI and a team-high 105 runs scored.
  2. Eugenio Suárez – The Reds third baseman comes to Wrigley Field on the heels of a two-homer game that gave him a share of the NL lead with 47 on the season. Suarez is batting .381 with eight taters and 19 RBI against the Cubs this year.
  3. Josh Reddick – The Astros outfielder had himself a 5-for-5 day yesterday, including a home run and three RBI.

Extra Innings

Big Jon has a big heart, too.

They Said It

  • “I have not given that thought until I know that Addison is ready to rock and roll. And once he does, I know one thing for sure – even if Nico were to start the game, we could upgrade the defense later with Addison in the game, too. So it’s one of those things – I don’t even permit myself to go there. I don’t even know if [Russell is] gonna play or not. I don’t know that.” – Joe Maddon
  • “I think at the end of the day nobody cares if you’re hurt or whatever. If you’re out on the field, all that’s forgotten, and that’s a good thing. If I’m out there, I can play.” – Kris Bryant

Monday Walk Up Song

Lunatic Fringe by Red Rider. Your Monday motivation. Everybody in.

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