The Rundown: Cubs Better Lucky Than Good, Magic Number Now 10, Baseball Agrees to Playoff Bubble
You could use any number of bad baseball cliches to describe the Cubs’ 6-5 win over the Indians last night:
Better lucky than good: Chicago won the game on consecutive hit-by-pitches in the bottom of the 9th, the game-winning one taken by Cameron Maybin with the bases loaded after Jeremy Jeffress blew a two-run lead and the save in the top half of the inning. Considering the team’s frequent failures in bases-loaded situations this year, Maybin was standing in the right spot at the right time when righty Nick Wittgren lost command of his changeup. Wittgren has held right-handed batters to a .212 average this season, but Maybin was the fourth batter he has hit in a righty-righty situation.
Defense wins championships: Other than an errant throw by Kris Bryant, the Cubs were nearly flawless in the field, including a web gem catch by Anthony Rizzo and what amounts to a game-saving throw by Jason Heyward.
92.3 MPH from Heyward to nab Lindor. pic.twitter.com/dGIdDI8ZiC
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) September 16, 2020
The way Big Yu has reinvented himself is truly remarkable: Yu Darvish looked somewhat Cy Young-ish with yet another quality start and remains the Cubs’ best starting pitcher by a wide margin since he turned things around in July of last season.
The Cubs have all the momentum right now: When a team finds a way to win a game it should have lost and its closest competitor gets bombed 18-3 by the same team whose bats looked achingly slow and off-balance just three days earlier, that otherworldly juju known as “momentum” is working in your favor.
You’ve got to play them one game at a time: By going 6-4 over their last 10 games, the Cubs have gained two games on the 4-6 Cardinals at the most critical time of the season. Unbelievably, two of those Chicago losses came against St. Louis.
El Mago has a really high motor/always gives 110% percent: Javier Báez is having one of the worst seasons of his career, but he never looks like he’s given up and he’s always playing out of his mind. His laser-beam homer to center yesterday kick-started the Cubs’ offense early. He also scored while stealing second base on a strikeout by Heyward when a wayward throw by Cleveland catcher Sandy Leon allowed El Mago to scoot all the way home. “I wasn’t thinking to score from first,” Báez said after the game. “But after the ball went in the outfield, it was time to improvise.”
It’s a make-or-miss league: The Cubs reduced their magic number to win the NL Central to 10 games, while the Indians, now losers of seven straight, sit six games behind the White Sox in the AL Central with virtually no chance of catching them.
I’m just here to help the team win any way I can: Maybin, who was acquired by Theo Epstein at the trade deadline to provide some much needed punch against left-handed pitchers, really took one for the team last night.
A win is a win: The bullpen, especially Jeffress, was atypically bad last night, but the Cubs still managed to come away with a big win.
The Cubs will go for the series and season sweep of the Indians tonight. Jon Lester, coming off of his best start of the season, will face righty Aaron Civale. The Cubs need to be wary of what could be a trap game, and we are all hoping Bryant can overcome his struggles with seeing pitchers for the first time.
Cubs News & Notes
- Báez never ceases to amaze. His sprint home came two days after he scored from second base on a sacrifice fly against the Brewers.
- Bryant believes he will work his way out of his slump and has no doubt he’s an all-star caliber player. The slugging third baseman was 1-for-3 with an RBI last night, but seemed to run the bases just a little gingerly.
- According to Báez, Rizzo gathered him and several other players who have struggled at the plate during this short season to talk before last night’s game. It must have worked, because the Cubs batted .314 as a team and Javy had that huge home run.
- Darvish would rather focus on the postseason than potentially winning the NL Cy Young Award.
- In addition to throwing more fastballs than usual during his no-hitter on Sunday, Alec Mills also pitched higher in than zone more often than normal.
- Mills’ wife celebrated his no-no by ordering Pequod’s Pizza after the Cubs returned to Chicago Sunday night.
- Could you imagine a Cubs-White Sox World Series played at a neutral site? As the teams sit right now in their respective leagues, the postseason brackets really favor each getting to at least the League Championship Series.
- It appears Tyler Chatwood may have thrown his last pitch as a member of the Cubs.
Odds & Sods
Reds reliever Amir Garrett takes the postgame press conference to a refreshingly new level.
Let @Amir_Garrett borrow 146 seconds of your time. You won't regret it. pic.twitter.com/rQukrCgqJA
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) September 16, 2020
Apropos of Nothing
Why does Dave Roberts complaining about Trent Grisham showing up Clayton Kershaw bother so many people? What’s the point? Though he’s not going to change anything with his rant, he’s still entitled to his opinion. Jayce Tingler crossed the line when he condemned his own player (Fernando Tatís Jr.) earlier this season. Roberts did nothing but speak his mind and whether he sounds outdated or not, ripping him for it seems slightly trivial.
How About That!
The .400 watch is officially on for White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson, though it will be a tall task. The reigning AL batting champion was 3-for-5 last night and is now batting .377 on the season. Anderson has hit .451 in 13 games this month and, assuming he averages five at-bats per game the rest of the way, he’d need to go 29-for 60 (.483) to end the season at .400 exactly.
The league and the players union reached an agreement on postseason play yesterday, which includes neutral sites for Division and League Championship series, as well as the World Series.
During the Brewers’ big win over the Cardinals last night, both benches emptied as manager Mike Shildt and catcher Yadier Molina heard some chirping from the Milwaukee dugout that didn’t sit well with either.
Rob Manfred said the expanded, 16-team postseason is likely to remain beyond 2020, adding that “an overwhelming majority” of owners had already endorsed the concept before the pandemic. “I think there’s a lot to commend it,” he said. I’m all for it, though it seems almost universally hated.
Former Yankees third baseman Álex Rodríguez and fiancee Jennifer Lopez haven’t given up hope of buying the Mets, even though Steve Cohen closed on a deal Monday to purchase the club.
Believe it or not, the shortened season has been as much of a grind as a 162-game schedule, if not more so, for most MLB players.
Tuesday’s Three Stars
- D.J. LeMahieu – The diminutive former Cubs second baseman was 4-for-6 with two doubles, a home run, and five RBI as the Yankees pummeled the Blue Jays 20-6.
- Daniel Vogelbach – The hulking DH, and also a former Cub, was 3-for-4 with a home run, three RBI, and four runs scored as the Brewers pasted the Cardinals 18-3. Vogelbach is batting .462 since joining the Brewers on September 3.
- Ryan Yarbrough – The Tampa Bay reliever and sometimes opener had lost 16 straight decisions until earning the win with 5.2 innings of yeoman-like relief work last night as the Rays defeated the Nationals 6-1. Yarbrough allowed only a single earned run and had five punchouts.
Take another victory lap Millsy!
Congrats once more to @ATMills37, the NL Player of the Week! pic.twitter.com/AClfpq2t6c
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 14, 2020
They Said It
- “When Javy gets on, he can definitely cause chaos. That was a nice run to add — that really was. We needed that, obviously, that extra run’s huge.” – David Ross
- “I was running really hard, so I couldn’t stop. I like to run hard around the base, and once I’m around there, I can pick up where the ball is. And I saw it right there, so I just kept going.” – Javier Báez
- “When we all look back on this season, it’s not going to be about your numbers, it’s going to be about how we came together as a group and got through something that was a crazy time, a crazy time that we’re living in.” – Kris Bryant
Wednesday Walk Up Song
Pancho and Lefty by Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson – Need a big win from Lester tonight.
“The desert’s quiet, Cleveland’s cold, and so the story ends…”