The Rundown: Cards Go Down 0-2 to Nats, Torres Leads Yankees Over Astros, Sunday Baseball Notes

Not much news as far as rumors go, but my baseball heart is beating in excitement that the Cardinals are now down 0-2 to the Nationals in the NLCS. St. Louis has to face Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin in Washington after dropping the first two games of the series at Busch Stadium. I look forward to nothing more than seeing the Nationals dropkick the Redbirds into the offseason. The Cardinals look futile at the plate and have a near-impossible task ahead if they hope to reach the World Series.

Meanwhile, Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka was magnificent yesterday, holding Houston hitters to a single hit in six innings, as New York blanked the Astros 7-0. Shortstop and former Cub farmhand Gleyber Torres had five RBI for the Bronx Bombers, plating DJ LeMahieu (another former Cub) three times.

A Yankees-Nationals World Series would give Cubs fans a little skin in the game, but that’s putting the cart before the horse. There is still a lot of baseball left, and I can easily see the ALCS going seven games.

Stat of the Day

Cubs News & Notes

  • Willson Contreras showed significant improvement in his framing skills behind the plate this season.
  • Cubs centerfielders ranked 11th in the National League in on-base percentage (.305), batting average (.232) and runs (69). Albert Almora Jr. is obviously not the answer. The former first round draft choice started cold and after 21 games was hitting just .182 before finishing with a career-low .236 BA.
  • I suppose you can fault Theo Epstein for gilding the lily somewhat in 2019, but the Cubs were coming off a 95-win season, had won 387 games over four seasons. The front office was handcuffed with players that were difficult to move and had little money to spend on improvements. Sun-Times beat reporter Gordon Wittenmyer thinks Epstein has overstayed his welcome. The Cubs’ president of baseball operations welcomes the challenge of returning the North Siders to championship-caliber baseball, and, if anything, he’s certainly earned the chance to get the team there.

Updates on Nine

  1. The midseason death of Angels starter Tyler Skaggs took an unfortunate turn yesterday when it was revealed that an employee in Anaheim’s public relations department served as an oxycodone supplier to Skaggs (and allegedly to as many as five of his teammates as well). Skaggs died at the age of 27 in a Southlake, Texas, hotel room on July 1 after aspirating his own vomit, according to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office. Skaggs’ autopsy, released Aug. 30, found evidence of fentanyl, oxycodone and alcohol in his system. ESPN’s Outside the Lines reported on Sept. 18 that the DEA had begun an investigation into the source of the fentanyl. The Angels allegedly withheld information of known drug abuse by the pitcher preceding his death, but are currently cooperating with the investigation.
  2. Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts is projected to make $27.7 million in arbitration this winter. Not that he isn’t worth it in baseball’s economic bubble, but holy hell. The outfielder previously indicated that he intends to play out the final year of his contract in lieu of potentially accepting an extension with the Red Sox. At that salary, who could possibly trade for him and what would Boston want in return? I’m sure the Padres would be interested, and they’ve got one of the game’s stronger farm systems. You can’t discount the Phillies, who may be willing to spend stupid money again this winter. If you’re looking beyond the usual suspects watch out for the Reds, who seem to have a proclivity to acquire high-priced one-year rentals, and the Dodgers, who may want to make a big splash after another playoff failure. I wouldn’t count on the Cubs being players for Betts at that financial cost, but they probably don’t have the player capital to compete with other teams.
  3. If you’re looking for a team likely to be very busy this offseason, simply crane your neck north about 90 miles. Coming off their Wild Card loss to the Nationals two weeks ago, the Brewers have to decide whether to pick up options on Yasmani Grandal and Mike Moustakas (both are mutual options that require both team and player to exercise them), and they have 16 players eligible for arbitration raises. Milwaukee works well within their constrained budget and GM David Stearns has done a remarkable job keeping his team in playoff contention. The Brewers just missed the playoffs in 2017 and went all the way to Game 7 of the NLCS last year, but in addition to negotiating 18 of 40 currently rostered contracts, Stearns needs to find some starting pitchers. He has his work cut out for him this winter.
  4. Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi wonders if neither buying or selling at this year’s trade deadline was the right move, particularly because of the mid-season resurgence of Madison Bumgarner. San Francisco went 11-15 in both August and September after entering the post-deadline race sitting dead last of the seven teams still considered to have a shot at a NL Wild Card berth. Bumgarner is a free agent now, though he could accept a qualifying offer if tendered. Zaidi will look to his new manager to help with retooling his club and that guy could very well be Gabe Kapler. The two worked well together in the Dodgers organization. In an ironic twist, it isn’t difficult to see Bumgarner landing with the Dodgers, or Kapler’s previous team, the Phillies.
  5. Torres had a torrid start for the Yankees in their ALCS matchup with the Astros. Of course, social media was lit up again with talk that the Cubs severely blundered in moving the all-star shortstop to New York for Aroldis Chapman in 2016. I say flags fly forever, and Cubs Facebook immediately responded with “have the lambs stopped screaming?” Note to self: Stay off of Facebook.
  6. Braves starter Dallas Keuchel is hoping for a much smoother offseason. After declining a $17.9 million qualifying offer from the Astros last offseason, Keuchel went unsigned until the Braves swooped in with a one-year, $13 million offer in June, after the obligatory forfeiture of a draft pick was no longer a factor. The veteran lefty, who will be 32 next season, recorded a 3.75 ERA over 19 starts with Atlanta. He had a 4.83 ERA in his first 10 appearances with the Braves, but posted a 2.55 ERA over his final nine regular-season outings. For the record, Keuchel is vehemently against draft pick compensation tied to free agents.
  7. In case you are wondering, here is the list of payers ineligible to receive a qualifying offer this winter, and therefore not tied to the loss of a draft pick by the signing team, led by Keuchel and Cubs outfielder Nick Castellanos: Reds outfielder Yasiel Puig, who is ineligible because, like Castellanos, he was traded midseason; and Grandal, Moustakas, and Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu, all who accepted a QO last winter.
  8. Cardinals manager Mike Shildt has mentioned that baseballs are not flying quite as far in the postseason as they did in the regular season, citing his team’s analytics department. Through the first two games of their NLCS matchup with the Nationals. St. Louis has scored one run on four hits while striking out 18 times. Not sure the composition of the baseball is his team’s biggest problem right now.
  9. On this date in 1970, Orioles starter Dave McNally became the first (and only) pitcher to hit a grand slam during the World Series. Take note of three things in the following video:, the subdued home plate celebration, the understated television graphics, and legendary announcer Curt Gowdy providing color commentary. I kinda miss the simpler versions of baseball telecasts sometimes.

Extra Innings

In the 1966 World Series between the Dodgers and Orioles, former Cubs starter Moe Drabowsky was the Game 1 winner. Pitching in relief of McNally, Drabowsky allowed just one hit and set a World Series record for strikeouts by a relief pitcher, fanning 11 Los Angeles batters in 6.2 innings. Baltimore eventually swept the series. Dodgers starter Sandy Koufax, though arguably at the peak of his career, announced his retirement following the World Series because of the chronic arthritis and bursitis in his pitching elbow, and the Dodgers finished 8th and 7th in the National League the following two seasons, before a period of domination that lasted 20 years beginning in 1969.

Apropos of Nothing

I turned my heat on last night but I don’t feel so bad right now.


They Said It

  • “We don’t have time for frustration. This is a series that you just got to — [the Yankees] threw the first punch in Game 1. We get to the next day. We can punch right back tomorrow. I don’t think they’re going to be too comfortable tomorrow coming to the ballpark thinking they’ve got an easy game ahead of themselves.” – AJ Hinch
  • “A lot of times guys do better and have more traction their second time around because of the lessons that they’ve learned.” – Farhan Zaidi
  • “Really I think I feel comfortable. It’s so great to play with the Yankees and I get the opportunity to play every day. So for me I’m just being focused, [each day] I just try to help and make some opportunities to me and try to help my team.” – Gleyber Torres

Sunday Walk Up Song

If I Had a Million Dollars by Barenaked Ladies. Betts probably isn’t eating Kraft Dinner these days but I know I am. I should have stuck with baseball as a teen. Maybe it’s not too late for me to become  player agent.

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