The Rundown: Cubs Face Giants as Schedule Tightens, Fox Analyst Says Cubs Will Miss Playoffs, Down Goes Bote
Are you still basking in the glory of Sunday’s wonderfulness? Let’s hope it carries over to today’s game against the Giants.
Big League players. Little League memories. pic.twitter.com/5EGw41K3Vv
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 19, 2019
Allow me to assume that with the Cubs now free from the pressurized constraints of winning a road series, the team is ready to challenge for its third NL Central title in four years. I know Joe Maddon isn’t one to look ahead so I’ll do that for him, and for Cubs fans reading this. The Cubs play their next nine games outside of the division, with three-game sets at home against the Giants and Nationals before heading to Queens to battle the Mets. All three teams harbor playoff aspirations.
And then the schedule gets really brutal, which may actually be too passive a description given the current standings.
The Cubs end August and start September playing seven of nine games against the Brewers, then they’ll finish the season with 16 consecutive games against division opponents. That stretch includes seven of their last 10 games against the Cardinals. Last September will feel like a cakewalk compared to this season, where every game for the next six weeks will feel like a playoff game.
If you are wondering about days off, the Cubs have just two more after yesterday. Oh and the last three games of the season will be played at Busch Stadium. I guarantee that if the division is till up for grabs heading into that series, St. Louis will be anything but boring.
At this point I think it’s fair to remind you all of the potential dangers associated with nail-biting. I’ll hold off on how to limit your alcohol intake until September starts.
To beat the Brewers, the Cubs absolutely have to get to their bullpen. Yes, we never thought we’d say that but Milwaukee’s vaunted relief corps, including Josh Hader, is showing the effects of two years of overuse. To stop the Cardinals, you have to stop Cubs killer Paul Goldschmidt. They’ve have had his number this year, but the big first baseman has been on a tear since the All-Star break.
But before the Cubs can do any of that, they have to focus on the task at hand, which is beating up on San Francisco and ending any hopes for a Giants playoff push.
If the short-term future suddenly seems like a real-life game of Zathura for the beloved Cubbies, that’s just playoff baseball. I can’t think of one player on this team that wants to relive the bitter ending to 2018 and as fans, missing out on October baseball is akin to your best friend moving to another school district. Or finding out that your robot is defective.
So there it is. The Cubs have conquered one nemesis in finally winning a road series, but there are still many more conquests left. And unless you’re ready for football season, you have to hang in there with them through the inevitable ups and downs while hoping the Cubs push through everything the game throws at them. There’s no evasive action card to play, unless Theo Epstein somehow brings back Brad Brach, who I believe comes with said card in tow.
Are you ready? The correct response is “I was born ready.” Buckle up, everybody. This Bud’s for you.
Cubs News & Notes
- Former Cubs first baseman Eric Karros said that this year’s team will “absolutely not” make the playoffs.
- The Cardinals beat the Brewers 3-0 last night and enter play today a half-game in front of the Cubs with one less loss on the season. (Note: Former WGN radio announcer Lou Boudreau would say “one less loss in the loss column.” As opposed to, you know, one less loss in the win column. Sometimes I miss the Good Kid).
- A St. Louis player to keep an eye on is outfielder Lane Thomas. Yup, I never heard of him either, but he’s been quite good since being called up by the Redbirds.
- How dominant has José Quintana been over his last nine starts? According to Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle, Q is a “different cat” since making an adjustment to where he throws his sinker.
- Raise your hand if you though Quintana and Yu Darvish would be horses 1 and 1A for the stretch run.
- The Cubs will activate Steve Cishek ahead of today’s game. David Bote was optioned to Iowa to free up roster space.
- Nick Castellanos paced the Cubs on their 10-game road trip, going 13-for-40 with 5 home runs. Kris Bryant went 11-for-36 with 3 homers. Javier Báez was 6-for-34 and has not homered since hitting a pair against the A’s at Wrigley Field on August 5.
- Ben Zobrist is still on target to return to the team on or after September 1.
- Maddon has scheduled his annual American Legion week to coincide with the start of today’s homestand. Players will be allowed to report to Wrigley Field whenever they feel like it during the six-game stretch.
- If things break right we could see a Dodgers-Cubs NLCS for the third time in four seasons come October. Let’s slow our rolls and win a few consecutive series first.
- In Saturday’s 2-0 win over Pittsburgh, Jon Lester shut down Pirates hitters, who were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. Lester never gave in to the hitters looking for a fastball or cutter.
- Kyle Schwarber is showing a more mature approach by sometimes going opposite field to beat the shift.
- The Cubs will start playing Cactus League games on February 22 in Arizona.
How About That!
Cardinals’ starter Dakota Hudson took a no-hit bid into the 7th inning last night before being removed after 111 pitches. A ground-rule double by Milwaukee catcher Yasmani Grandal in the 8th kept the Brewers from their date with infamy.
Shohei Ohtani is quietly having a great season. He’s slashing .303/.363/.890 with 16 homers and 11 stolen bases.
The Braves signed outfielder Billy Hamilton yesterday and then said they won’t be giving him any at-bats. A slash line of .211/.275/.544 says that is a very wise decision.
The White Sox believe they are close to contending and may be a surprise team in the AL Central in 2020.
It looks like Red Sox ace Chris Sale will avoid Tommy John surgery, but he’s done for the season.
Monday’s Three Stars
- Asdrúbal Cabrera – The Nationals second baseman plated five runners on a 2-for-5 night that included a home run and a double. The Nats stomped the Pirates 13-0.
- Tom Murphy – The Mariners backstop was 3-for-4 with two taters and four RBI in leading Seattle to a 9-3 win over the Rays.
- Juan Soto – The Washington outfielder was a perfect 4-for-4 at the plate with four runs scored.
I’m a sucker for happy endings and couldn’t be happier for Carlos Carrasco. The hurler’s velocity on his first four pitches averaged 97 mph.
Carlos Carrasco is making his first rehab start since being diagnosed with leukemia.
— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) August 20, 2019
They Said It
- “I want it to be reminiscent of when we played as kids, [when] you didn’t show up so early and take 100 swings in the cage and another 50 on the field or pore over information and data. Sometimes I think the stuff is overdone. I really believe in a fresh mind and body this time of the year.” – Joe Maddon
- “We haven’t really gotten hot except for that four-week stretch in late April, early May. It’s been a while. We’re not relying on that, but we’re looking forward to having our full complement of guys. … We feel like we haven’t really flexed our muscles yet and it’s getting late.” – Theo Epstein
Tuesday Walk Up Song
Cheer Down by George Harrison. We’re heading into the home stretch with chins up right? Harrison is my favorite Beatle and his collaborations with Jeff Lynne as a solo performer and with the Traveling Wilburys are some of my favorite in the guitarist’s canon.