The Rundown: It’s Crunch Time Now, Darvish Out, Zobrist Back, Sunday Baseball Notes

It’s September so we are officially in the home stretch, and what a race the NL Central will be. Though the Cubs start the month in second place, 2.5 games behind the Cardinals, they still control their own destiny…sort of.  The North Siders surrendered a game and half yesterday by losing 2-0 to the Brewers while St. Louis swept a home doubleheader against the Reds.

Chicago will play 21 of their final 27 games against NL Central foes, with 11 of those contests to be held at Wrigley Field. The Cubs have won 12 of their last 14 divisional games at Wrigley Field while outscoring the opposition by a 75-35 margin. Included in those 27 remaining games are seven with the Cardinals, four at home September 19-22 and three to close out the season at Busch Stadium. Simply put, if the the Cubs continue to play as well as they have over the last week, they’ll win the division. If not, they’re in a battle for a Wild Card spot.

The Cubs are 30-25 against their NL Central opponents, while St. Louis boasts a 37-24 divisional record. The biggest advantage the Cardinals have is that 10 of their remaining games are against the Giants, Diamondbacks, and Rockies. If another title is in the cards for the Cubs, they are going to have to storm the division, including those seven head-to-head matchups with the Redbirds.

Cubs News & Notes

  • Yu Darvish has been scratched from today’s start due to forearm tightness. Darvish is only expected to miss the one start as the team plans for him to take the mound Saturday in Milwaukee. The 33-year-old has been battling the issue over the last month and this just precautionary (we hope).

  • Tyler Chatwood will get the emergency start today. He’ll face Gio González, who gave up nine runs to the Cardinals in his last start, eight of them in the first two innings. Chatwood last pitched on Thursday against the Mets, getting two strikeouts in one inning of work. He’s 5-2 on the season with a 4.24. ERA, including a 1-0 record in three starts. González has been nails against the Cubs all season and throughout his career.
  • Ben Zobrist was added to the the Cubs’ roster yesterday, making him eligible for the playoffs, and Joe Maddon says he won’t hesitate to use Zobrist immediately. Casualties include David Bote, who was sent to Iowa and can’t return for 10 days, and Mark Zagunis, who was designated for assignment.
  • When Bote returns, the Cubs will have a glut of second baseman that also includes Daniel Descalso, Ian Happ, and Addison Russell. The also recalled Robel García among five other players. Yes, that’s SEVEN players on the depth chart at the keystone spot.
  • Maddon wasn’t disappointed in the offense yesterday, calling it a “lot of bad luck” created by the Brewers defense.
  • Are you ready for another Game 163 this season, this time between the Cubs and Cardinals? We are certainly trending toward that possibility.
  • There is no better time than now to check in on the Cubs NL Central foes. The Reds and Pirates really have a chance to be spoilers this month.

Updates on Nine

  1. Reds outfielder Nick Senzel is a gamer, wants to be the best hitter in baseball, and is certainly pulling his weight for an out-of-contention team.
  2. Twins catcher Mitch Garver crushed a first-pitch fastball by Tigers closer Joe Jiménez into the left-field seats at Comerica Park last night for the team’s 268th homer of the season, capping a six-bomb effort by Minnesota’s band of merry sluggers in a 10-7 loss to Detroit. The blast gave them the single-season record for home runs by a team, surpassing the 2018 Yankees, with an entire month left in the season. The Twins also boast eight players with 20 or more homers this season, another major league record.
  3. Mike Trout made history last night when he recorded his 200th career stolen base, becoming the youngest player to join the 200-homer, 200-stolen base club. Trout already has 283 career taters and he is still just 28 years old. The Angels outfielder has accumulated an ungodly 72.3 WAR in nine seasons. With 43 home runs and 11 stolen bases this season, Trout can take aim at Barry Bonds, the only player in MLB history with at least 400 home runs and 400 stolen bases.
  4. When Nationals outfielder Juan Soto jacked his 30th bomb of the season last night, he joined an elite list of players who have hit 30+ homers during their age-20 seasons, one that includes Trout, Ted Williams, and Mel Ott, among others. Soto is the first NL player to accomplish the milestone since Frank Robinson did it as a rookie with the Reds in 1956. Trout did it in 2012, when he was the AL Rookie of the Year.
  5. Astros starter Wade Miley has positioned himself nicely to cash in on free agency this year. Certainly he won’t command the dollars and years that Gerrit Cole will, but Miley could be more in demand because he is older and will be semi-affordable as he’s basically been a journeyman starter to this point in his career. Miley enters play today with a 13-4 record and a 3.06 ERA. That’s good for 3.5 wins above replacement.
  6. Stephen Strasburg had a game for the ages yesterday, notching 14 strikeouts against the Marlins with no walks while improving to 16-5. The Nationals’ No. 2 starter has punched 215 tickets in 179 innings this season, and can opt out after the 2020 season, though he’ll be 32 and owed $75 million by Washington for the following three seasons.
  7. Nick Castellanos has been on a monster streak since arriving in Chicago, and no one has noticed more than his brother Ryan. The Cubs outfielder had an epic first month with his new team, slashing .348/.385/1.098 in 122 plate appearances.
  8. When Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge got his first call to the bigs in 2016, his mom and dad drove him from Rochester to New York City in a rental car. Judge sept in the back.
  9. Giants manager Bruce Bochy is retiring after the season, and he gave SF Chronicle reporters John Shea and Scott Strazzante and incredible look into his home life on a very busy off day. Bochy will retire with three World Series titles in his 13 years with San Francisco. Before that he managed 12 years with the Padres, going to the World Series in 1998 where San Diego was swept by the Yankees.

From the Christopher Kamka Files

On Deck

As we enter September and the home stretch, and what is sure to be an epic fight for the civision title, I’ll try my best to post a Rundown every day, including weekends. But take note, I will be out of the country for a week starting October 7, so please continue supporting whomever takes my place in my absence. I hope I return with the Cubs hosting game three of the NLCS against whichever team knocks the Dodgers out of the NLDS.

Extra Innings

You could field a pretty competitive team this year with ex-Cubs players based on their stats going into play yesterday.

  1. Dexter Fowler CF
  2. DJ LeMahieu 2B
  3. Gleyber Torres SS
  4. Jorge Soler RF
  5. Eloy Jiménez LF
  6. Daniel Vogelbach 1B
  7. Josh Donaldson 3B
  8. Martín Maldonado C
  9. Tommy La Stella UT
  10. Jake Arrieta SP
  11. Jeff Samardzija SP
  12. Rich Hill SP
  13. Brett Anderson SP
  14. Dylan Cease SP
  15. Aroldis Chapman RP

Those 15 players have a combined 30.1 WAR on the season. That equates to 81 wins through 135 games, though it is 10 players short of a complete roster. The Cubs are 73-62 right now.

And, if you are wondering where Jiménez and Cease are in comparison to José Quintana, the White Sox pair have combined for -0.7 WAR on the season, while Quintana has pitched to 2.2 wins above replacement.

They Said It

  • “Honestly, it will be just great to see [Zobrist], great to have him here. Baseball wise, he’s a great at-bat every time. I don’t care if he takes five years off, he’ll be able to come back and work the plate, an at-bat. It’ll be nice to have his personality and spirit here.”Anthony Rizzo
  • “[Zobrist] will probably [play] second base, probably left-handed hitting, although I won’t run away from his right-handed side. And just a professional at-bat. That’s the one thing he always brings. He normally doesn’t expand the strike zone. The one thing we’re getting a little bit better at more recently is to not to do that. He’s always been the guy that sets that example when he leads off the game, and I’ve always loved that.” – Joe Maddon

Sunday Walk Up Song

Sittin’ on Top of the World by Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys – It’s my father-in-law’s 90th birthday today and he absolutely loves this song. So forgive the shoutout.

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