The Rundown: Mills Makes History, Cubs Could Clinch Postseason Bid This Week, Pujols Ties Mays on All-Time HR List

“All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War

It seems almost every season we are witness to an unlikely player pitching an unassuming masterpiece. Alec Mills was that guy yesterday, no-hitting the Brewers as the Cubs romped 12-0.

Mills is not overpowering and, for at least the first half of yesterday’s game, didn’t seem like he was particularly fooling Milwaukee hitters. But the first-year starter kept them off balance, changing speeds and locating his pitches precisely, especially from the 5th inning on. Thus he became the second Chicago pitcher to throw a no-no this season. It was also the first complete game of Mills’ career.

In case you forgot, White Sox ace Lucas Giolito no-hit the Pirates last month. While Giolito carries an all-star pedigree, Mills has been something of a fringe pitcher without a defined role or roster guarantee throughout most of his amateur and professional baseball career. In fact, if Tyler Chatwood and José Quintana had been healthy, the 28-year-old righty might not have even started yesterday’s game.

“Never give up,” Mills said afterward. “You know, some people are going to tell you [that] you can’t do it or you’re not good enough.”

Over 114 pitches, Mills gave up three walks while striking out five in a huge Cubs win that will be better remembered as the 16th no-hitter in team history. He also helped to lower the team’s magic number to clinch the NL Central to 13, as the 28-20 Cubs now lead the Cardinals (20-20) by four games. Chicago’s magic number for clinching a postseason bid was likewise reduced by two games to nine.

The Cardinals and Brewers start a five-game series tonight and could boost the Cubs chances to win the NL Central by attrition alone.

Cubs News & Notes

Apropos of Nothing

Mills looks like the guy in your fantasy baseball league who would grab an under-the-radar, sub-premium starting pitcher nobody else would like at twice (like himself, for instance), and then ride him to a championship.

Odds & Sods

I don’t want to sound like I’m picking on the Diamondbacks and their new mascot Rat Leon, but they’re not the first team to employ a rodent — or at least something that looks like one — for the purpose of providing good juju.

How About That!

The Cardinals and Brewers will play a doubleheader today as both teams try to position themselves for a playoff entry. Milwaukee and St. Louis will face each other 10 times in the next 14 days.

The Dodgers beat the Astros 8-1 yesterday and now sit at 33-14 with a plus-103 run differential. They’re just 2.5 games ahead of the Padres, who will host them for three games beginning tonight.

The Mariners beat the Diamondbacks yesterday and remain within striking distance of a postseason bid. They’re only 1.5 games behind the Astros with 14 games remaining, including three at home against Houston starting next Monday.

The White Sox and Twins will start a showdown series of their own tonight. The ChiSox currently own the best record in the American League and are 22-10 against AL Central teams. Minnesota trails Chicago by a game.

MLB’s proposed version of its “Bubble Plan” for the postseason concludes with the World Series being played in Texas. The expectation is that the plan could be ratified by the MLBPA sometime this week.

Lance Lynn looks like a softball pitcher in those powder blue Rangers uniforms. I haven’t enjoyed watching a pitcher of his physical stature this much since the Shooter, Rod Beck, pitched for the Cubs.

Speaking of Beck, did you know the late closer was buried in his Cubs jersey?

Sunday’s Three Stars

  1. Alec Mills – No shocker here. There have been two no-hitters in Miller Park, both by Cubs pitchers and only one against the Brewers, in front of a combined paid attendance of 23,441 and a plethora of cardboard cutouts. Carlos Zambrano threw the first Miller Park no-no against the Astros on September 14, 2008 in a game that was moved from Houston because of Hurricane Ike. That Mills threw his in a stadium devoid of fans due to COVID-19 puts each among the more unique no-hitters in team history.
  2. Albert Pujols – A 1-for-3 night usually won’t get you a mention in this section unless that hit is the 660th home run of your career, tying Willie Mays for fifth place all-time.
  3. Mike Clevinger – The Padres starter tossed a seven-inning complete game in the opener of a twin bill against the Giants. Clevinger allowed just two hits with one walk, and struck out seven San Francisco batters.

Seventh-Inning Stretch

Before Zambrano’s feat, the Cubs had not had a no-hitter since 1972, when Milt Pappas and Burt Hooton each accomplished the feat at Wrigley Field.

On Deck

Pujols needs 36 home runs to tie Álex Rodríguez for fourth place, and the 40-year-old slugger has one year remaining on his contract with the Angels.

Sliding Into Home

I got my biopsy results back late Friday and I was negative for cancer and scarring of the bile duct. I tried not to show it, but either would have probably meant game over for me, especially since I was told after the fact that even with cancer I’d be ineligible for a transplant. Going forward, I’ll still get tested monthly and will do my best to manage and minimize the spread of the existing scarring and grade 3 inflammation.

As I’ve mentioned previously, six in 100 at my stage of liver disease succumb to it within one year; 83% live 3-5 years; and the survival rate is about 2% beyond five years. My short-term goal is to buy a year at a time by preventing the spread of damaged cells as much as possible. My next biopsy will be in March 2021.

While I was anxiously waiting for my results — which I believed with great certainty would be devastating — I had prepared a Cubs Insider resignation column to run yesterday that was about 3,500 words in length and emotionally exhausting to write. I’m glad nobody will ever see it, but that’s why there was no Sunday column.

Extra Innings

Forget the field surgery work of Brooks Robinson for a second and focus on the glory of those orange-on-orange Orioles uniforms.

They Said It

  • “At a young age, it was just ‘I wanted to pitch in the big leagues.’ I don’t think you ever think about no-hitters or things like that. It’s something I never would have imagined in my life.” – Alec Mills
  • “Just a proud parent moment. You see the adversity somebody has been through. To get an opportunity and make the most of it is really rewarding from my seat.” – David Ross

Monday Walk Up Song

Run On by Moby – For some reason this song was playing over and over in my head while I watched Millsy get those last three outs. Moby’s version of this gospel classic samples a 1943 recording of the traditional folk song “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” by Bill Landford and the Landfordaires, which was also recorded by Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash.

Not to get too crazy with music suggestions, but if you like any of the versions of today’s walk up song, you’ll probably enjoy “In Hell I’ll Be in Good Company” by The Dead South, one of my personal favorites, and influenced by Cash’s version of “Cocaine Blues.”

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