The Rundown: Glass Still Half Full (Barely), NL Standings Tighten Up, On to DC, Rizzo’s Ready to Play

The Cubs can blame the weather, travel, and ending the season with just a single day off, but the bottom line is that unless they find a way to stave off the hard-charging Brewers, their attempt to capture a third straight division title is in jeopardy. A fade job by Milwaukee similar to last season just doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

Ideally, Joe Maddon’s squad would have liked to have clinched the division early and then rest some of their regulars up until the playoffs. That’s probably not happening, and the final series of the year could be a battle for home-field advantage in a wild card play-in game with the Cardinals.

But, if you lean toward the glass-half-full side of things, Chicago still has a 71.1 percent chance of winning the division while the Brewers are at just a 26.2 percent. Grabbing a win in Washington today, weather permitting, pads the division lead to a game and a half. A loss shrinks that lead to a half-game and just a one-loss differential while tightening that ever-shrinking collar. Or noose, as it were.

I probably don’t need to tell you the Cubs lost to the Brewers 5-1 last night. Craig Counsell managed his team like last night’s game was win-or-go-homer, going to his bullpen after four innings and bringing in one hard-throwing reliever after another to combat the Cubs’ tired bats. Chicago kept it within striking distance until the Brew Crew put it away in the 9th inning.

Josh Hader — Wrigleyville’s new arch-nemesis — had three more strikeouts, giving him nine total in the three innings he pitched this series.

Cubs News & Notes

The Cubs are a very fatigued team right now. They are going to have to fight through that because their only off day between now and the playoffs, provided there are no more weather fiascos, is next Thursday. Anthony Rizzo’s ready.

Friday’s game against the Reds at Wrigley Field has been pushed back to a 7:05 pm start to accommodate the road-weary Cubs. Thankfully, MLB had no say so in the scheduling change.

The Brewers stifled leadoff hitter Daniel Murphy all series, holding him 0-for-11 across the game set.

The Cubs lost their first series at Wrigley since May 25, but won the season series with the Brewers 11 games to 8, The Brewers dominated lately, though, winning four of the last six.

Brandon Morrow plans to return to action sometime next week.

Yu Darvish underwent elbow debridement surgery in Dallas but is still expected to be ready for spring training. The right-hander was limited to only 40 innings this season by various injuries.

Here are the National League overall standings after last night’s action:

  1. Cubs 84-61 .579
  2. Brewers 84-63 .571
  3. Braves 82-64 .562
  4. Cardinals 81-65 .555
  5. Rockies 80-65 .552
  6. Dodgers 79-67 .541
  7. Diamondbacks 77-69 .527

How About That!

Jhoulys Chacin will start Sunday against the Pirates, as the Brewers look to line up their rotation for the playoffs. The righty was originally scheduled to start Monday’s series opener against the Reds. The switch-up benefits Chacin, who owns a 2.28 ERA in two starts against the Pirates compared to his 4.82 ERA through two outings against the Reds.

Twins first baseman Joe Mauer is considering retirement after this season.

For the first time since 1946, the Red Sox have won 100 games in a season. And they got there with 16 games to spare. Boston has already clinched a postseason spot and their magic number to clinch the AL East title is seven.

The A’s sent 15 men to the plate and scored 10 runs in the 3rd inning yesterday to beat the Orioles 10-zip. The first 11 batters reached base in that inning.

The Diamondbacks lost a heartbreaker Wednesday night when DJ LeMahieu slugged a two-run opposite-field home run against Yoshihisa Hirano. Rather than get to within 1 1/2 games of the first-place Rockies, the D-Backs are now 3 1/2 back. Arizona’s bullpen has been a disaster this month.

The Phillies are crashing and burning. Wednesday’s loss to the Nationals was their fifth straight and ninth in their last 11 games. The Braves have a 7 1/2 game lead in the NL East with 16 to go.

Astros third baseman Alex Bregman has reached 50 doubles, 100 RBI, and 100 runs, becoming the first player in MLB history to log the majority of his games at third base and record 50 doubles and 30 home runs in one season.

Wednesday’s Three Stars

  1. Blake Snell – The Rays’ ace took a no-hit bid into the 7th inning and got his MLB-best 19th win, leading the Rays over the Indians 3-1. Snell struck out nine and walked two in the seven innings. He has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 16 consecutive home starts, and his 1.24 ERA at home is the best in the majors.
  2. David Price – The Red Sox starter continued his post-All-Star break surge with seven shutout innings. He fanned seven Blue Jays in Boston’s 1-0 win over Toronto. In nine starts since the All-Star break, Price has a 1.56 ERA with 60/9 K/BB in 57 2/3 innings.
  3. Curtis Granderson – The Brewers OF homered, tripled, and scored three runs in Milwaukee’s 5-1 victory last night.

Extra Innings

Price says he has no plans to opt out of his contract after this season, but will Clayton Kershaw and others with opt-out clauses do the same?  The list of players who can opt-out after this season includes Kershaw, Jason Heyward, Mark Melancon, Elvis Andrus, and Yasminy Tomas. Kershaw would be giving up $70 million but stands to make $200 million or more if he were to declare free agency.

They Said It

  • “We have to get better. There is no other way of looking at it. We need to swarm again, like we had been doing earlier this year. There might be some fatigue in there. [The players] are not admitting to it, but it’s just a fact. Our guys have been spectacular. Of course, nobody’s really happy. That’s disingenuous if I said that. But we’re going to get on a plane and we’re going to play. I spoke about it yesterday, about keeping a switch on. Because if you don’t, you’re going to get your butt beat tomorrow. But I’m certain the Nationals are not really happy about this either. It’s one of those things that neither team is excited about, but it’s a little more difficult for us.” – Joe Maddon
  • “I got my teeth kicked in.” – Daniel Murphy
  • “That’s a really good team over there. They’ve been playing us close between last year and this one. They’re our biggest rival for sure at this time.” – Kyle Hendricks

Thursday Walk Up Song

Over The Rainbow by Eric Clapton. Chin up, buttercup. The Cubs are still in control of their fate.

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