The Rundown: Báez Walks Off Despite Brusied Heel, Hamels Takes on Phils Today, Looking Back at PECOTA Projections

Last night’s 3-2 win over the Phillies seemed just as improbable as Monday’s 5-4 loss. Both games featured excellent performances by the starting pitchers of both teams. However, the bullpens decided each game, and the relief corps for the Phillies and the Cubs look fatigued and somewhat erratic. Cubs fans, still lack strong confidence once a starting pitcher leaves the game.

If anything, this Cubs-Phillies series has proven that both teams need a reliable closer. I know Brandon Morrow is throwing from flat ground and still plans to pitch this season, but I have my doubts. Joe Maddon is prepared to go through the entire season without a designated closer, provided Pedro Strop gets healthy and Carl Edwards, Jr. finds whatever it is he is missing — confidence, command, and/or control. In other words, hang on, it’s going to be quite a ride.

Yu Darvish pitched especially well on Monday night in his heralded matchup against Jake Arrieta. Both pitchers deserved to get a win. Darvish has 18 strikeouts in his last two starts and seems to have finally turned a corner, though he is still winless as a Cub at Wrigley Field.

Just when it seemed that Javy Báez might miss a long stretch of games, he surprised everybody with a pinch-hit walk-off single last night. Javy’s bruised heel required an MRI, and if the game had gone to extras last night, Maddon had no options left to play second base. Báez is apparently unavailable to play the field, at least last night he wasn’t, and he batted for Daniel Descalso to effectively empty the infield cupboard.

With the bases loaded and one out, El Mago hit the first pitch he saw in three days to right field and slowly jogged to first base, proud owner of a game-winning RBI.

“If [Báez] doesn’t [get that hit], how do you play defense after that? But a lot of time I don’t worry about that stuff,” Maddon said. Well done. Well, at least it seems so anyway.

Cubs News & Notes

  • Cole Hamels will make his first start against the Phillies today. The last time Hamels pitched for Philadelphia, he no-hit the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
  • The Cubs will see increased revenues from their new TV network, set to launch by spring training next year. Those revenues will be available to help shape next season’s roster. Don’t hold your breath on a Craig Kimbrel signing in the next few weeks.
  • The Cubs’ front office would like to upgrade the bullpen before the trade deadline.
  • Arietta still loves Chicago and the ballpark he used to call home. He was appreciative of the reception he received Monday night. “That was something that really brought back memories of getting that same sort of ovation pretty much on a nightly basis,” he said. “Very appreciative of that and I can’t say thank you enough to the city of Chicago. I really can’t, but I’ll do my best.”
  • Kyle Schwarber indicated he wanted to give a truly warm homecoming welcome to the former Cubs’ ace.

How About That!

How do you not love Reds utilityman Derek Dietrich? He is doing everything possible to exemplify the fun side of baseball.

The Cardinals are really struggling since being swept by the Cubs a few weeks ago. Much of the blame should be shouldered by their starting pitching, particularly during road games.

Justin Verlander carried a no-hitter into the 7th inning against the White Sox yesterday before giving up a home run to slugging first baseman José Abreu. He was pitching in front of the player he idolized, Nolan Ryan, who knows a thing or two about no-nos.

Sonny Gray and the Reds bullpen blanked the Brewers last night with a combined 14 strikeouts. It was the team’s league-leading seventh shutout of the season.

Tuesday’s Three Stars

  1. Clint Frazier – The Yankees’ center fielder was 2-for-4 with five RBI as New York clobbered the Orioles 11-3. Frazier’s two hits were home runs.
  2. Justin Verlander – Despite losing his no-hit bid, the dominant starter struck out 12 White Sox batters in eight innings of work to earn his eighth win of the season. Verlander allowed just one hit and one walk.
  3. Sonny Gray – The Reds’ pitching is the best in the National League right now, and Gray contributed to that success by holding the Brewers scoreless across six innings with nine punch outs.

Extra Innings

The Cubs are sitting at 28-18 and on pace for a 97-win season, a far cry from that 79-victory campaign that PECOTA projected back in March.

Per Sam Miller of ESPN, “The bottom line is that PECOTA expected the Cubs to basically have the same offense that won 95 games last year and the same behind-the-pitcher defense that won 95 games last year but a much worse pitching staff, even as it brought most of last year’s 95-win staff back. That’s a fairly bold take, centered mostly on mediocre projections for Hamels, Jon Lester, the bullpen, and Willson Contreras‘ framing abilities.”

They Said It

  • “Give [Cubs’ trainer PJ Mainville] some credit on the tape job. Right before he went up there, we taped him up and he said he can do this. This is right out of the Lombardi era stuff.” – Joe Maddon
  • “I don’t even know what’s going on with him. I don’t know what’s going on with him half the time anyway. ‘Oh, Javy is pinch hitting? I was like ‘Don’t swing at the first pitch.’ ‘He’s like ‘I’m so good. I’m going to get this hit and we’re going to go home.'” – Kris Bryant
  • “I didn’t twist it or anything. I just went too hard to the ground and me heel kind of got jammed a little bit. … All the time I was running it didn’t bother me. When I got to the dugout it was kind of pumping a little bit. It’s just a bruise.” – Javier Báez
  • “I thought [Darvish] was outstanding [Monday night]. Even better than he looked in Cincinnati. I thought it was probably his best start for us to date.” – Joe Maddon

Wednesday Walk Up Song

I Fought the Law by The Clash – This 1979 cover was originally released by Sonny Curtis & The Crickets in 1958 (Curtis replaced Buddy Holly), but was a hit for the Bobby Fuller Four in 1966. This version by the Clash is equally good, but I would have used a more frenzied arrangement were I mixing it, using the Ramones as a reference perhaps.

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