The Rundown: Cubs Victorious in Brew City, Zobrist Sparks Team, Another Bomb by Schwarber

It turns out that all the Cubs needed to recapture the magic of 2016 were the returns of Ben Zobrist and Willson Contreras, and for somebody to prevent Joe Maddon from sitting Kyle Schwarber.

The three veterans combined to go 9-for-12 with six RBI and six runs scored to help the Cubs take the first game of their four-game set with the Brewers, 10-5. Schwarber supplied the big blow, his second grand slam of the season, after which Maddon asked him to kindly take a seat.

Zobrist was the catalyst for the offense, reaching base five times with three hits and two walks. He also worked his way deep into the count in nearly all of his plate appearances, giving the Cubs exactly what they have been lacking since he took his leave of absence in early May.

While Zobrist was away from the team, Chicago’s leadoff hitters batted .189 with a .270 OBP, which won’t help win many games. With BenZo back in the lineup, the Cubs have scored 16 runs in two games. Continued offensive outbursts like that will make the North Siders tough to beat.

Contreras has been a tonic of sorts in his own right. It was originally thought the backstop would stay at Iowa for at least part of their playoff run, but Contreras was called up ahead of Tuesday’s game and inserted into the lineup immediately. He’s 6-for-8 with two home runs, two doubles, and three RBI since returning. He also put the Cubs on the board first in both games. The lineup really missed his spark and leadership. Prior to his injury, Contreras had been one of the most productive catchers in baseball

Last night’s win allowed the Cubs to keep pace with the Cardinals, who beat the Giants 10-0 in an afternoon tilt. Chicago did gain a game on almost everybody fighting for a Wild Card berth as the Nationals, Phillies, and obviously the Brewers, all lost.

Cubs News & Notes

  • Chicago is now a season-best 13 games over .500 and will enter play Friday 2.5 games behind St. Louis for the NL Central lead. The 77-63 Cubs continue to hold the second Wild Card spot, two games behind the Nationals and 3.5 games ahead of the surging Diamondbacks, who have won 9 of their last 10 games.
  • Though Milwaukee doesn’t have any potential Cy Young Award winners in their rotation, the Cubs proved that getting to the Brewers bullpen is the key to beating them.
  • Per ESPN’s Jesse Rogers, “Chicago’s hitters don’t hit the poorer starters in the league much better than they do [the] top arms.”
  • The Brewers, who won the NL Central in 2018 and got to Game 7 of the NLCS, are now five games behind the Cubs and 7 1/2 out in the Central. They may need to take the final three games of the series if they hope to remain in contention for postseason play. Milwaukee does finish the season with 14 straight games against sub-.500 teams.
  • With last night’s win, Chicago’s probability of making the postseason improved to 86.5%. Milwaukee’s odds fell to 5.6%.
  • Last night’s game took nearly four hours to complete and a total of 35 players saw action between the two teams, including 12 pitchers. Gotta love September baseball.
  • The Cubs have nine grand slams this season, tying a franchise high set in 1929.
  • Jason Heyward snapped an 0-for-31 slump with a single in the seventh.
  • Craig Kimbrel was placed on the 10-day IL yesterday and David Bote was recalled to take his spot on the roster. The closer is dealing with elbow inflammation. Bote hit a 9th-inning home run last night for the team’s final run.
  • Yu Darvish is still on track to make his start Saturday. Javier Báez was scratched last night and is still considered day-to-day.
  • Darvish threw his normal bullpen session before last night’s game. The righty threw 29 pitches and pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said everything was normal, declaring Darvish good to go.
  • Big Yu might be on a pitch count or innings limit when he takes the bump. If so, the Cubs could employ Tyler Chatwood or Adbert Alzolay to piggyback his start.
  • How do the Cubs catch the Cardinals and capture their third division title in four years? Here’s how.
  • The greatest September call-up in team history may have been Ernie Banks, who played his first major league game with the Cubs on September 17, 1953. The Hall of Fame shortstop and first baseman turned in a tremendous performance at the plate that fall, going 11-for-35 (.319 average) with two home runs and six RBI in 10 games.


How About That!

One bellwether stat says that Justin Verlander is not quite a Hall of Fame pitcher, despite a long list of accomplishments that includes Sunday’s no-hitter, the third of his career.

A report indicates that Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg may opt out of his contract and elect free agency after this season. He would forfeit $100 million in doing so, including a payment of $45 million in 2023. Strasburg, 31, is 16-5 with a 3.47 ERA (135 ERA+), 1.04 WHIP and 215 strikeouts in 179 innings this season.

Mike Trout hit a bomb last night that left the bat at 111.1 mph and traveled 455 feet, his 45th home run of the season, tying him with Pete Alonso of the Mets for the MLB lead. Trout, Alonso, and Josh Bell are now tied for the MLB lead with six home runs of at least 450 feet.

Astros pitcher Aaron Sanchez will have season-ending shoulder surgery, general manager Jeff Luhnow announced.

Thursday’s Three Stars

  1. Reynaldo Lopez – The young White Sox hurler pitched his first career complete game, notching 11 strikeouts as the White Sox beat the Indians 7-1, giving Chicago a split in their four-game series with Cleveland.
  2. Ben Zobrist – The veteran utility player has been a sight for sore eyes to his teammates and manager. Zobrist had three singles and two walks and scored three times.
  3. Willson Contreras – The Cubs catcher enjoyed a 4-for-5 night with a home run, his 20th of the season, and two RBI. He also scored two runs. He is the fifth Cubs player to hit at least 20 taters this season.

Extra Innings

Marlins left-hander Brian Moran made his MLB debut last night and struck out his younger brother, Pirates third baseman Colin Moran, with a full-count slider during Miami’s 10-7 win at PNC Park. It was the first time since 1900 a brother faced off against his sibling in his Major League debut in a pitcher-vs-batter scenario.

They Said it

  • “[Injuries] are just the nature of the season, it seems. Hopefully it’s going to be short-lived. Just talking to [Kimbrel] right now, it doesn’t sound horrible. We’re playing The Match Game, starring Gene Rayburn. We’ve done it before. Everybody’s ready to rock and roll.” – Joe Maddon
  • “Maybe we need to be on this side [chasing the Cardinals]  to kind of have that urgency, and that sense of like, ‘Hey, let’s get going. Let’s grind it out. Let’s focus.’ And I think having all those guys — having Zo back, all these guys up, fresh faces — is going to play into that.”Kris Bryant
  • “I’m not playing for statistics. I’m playing for W’s.” – Ben Zobrist

Friday Walk Up Song

Add it Up by the Violent Femmes. It’s almost magic number time for the Cubs, Cards, and anyone still hoping to sneak into the postseason with a Wild Card berth. Keep your eyes on the Diamondbacks, whose play is very reminiscent of the Brewers last September.

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