“I’m like evil, I get under your skin just like a bomb that’s ready to blow.” – AC/DC, Shoot to Thrill
I’ve seen two games in my lifetime where the Cubs hit six or more home runs and scored 20 or more runs. The first one was in 1977 when the Phillies beat the Cubs 23-22 despite three home runs by Dave Kingman and seven RBI by Bill Buckner. Last night, Chicago’s North Side Baseballers demolished the Reds 20-9 as a very powerful way of thanking president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer for not selling at this year’s trade deadline.
Hoyer didn’t do much, but he did acquire Jeimer Candelario, who started his Cubs career 2.0 with a four-hit night. If last night’s offensive onslaught is a sign of things to come, Wrigleyville is going to remain electric through the remainder of the season and deep into the playoffs. Candelario was acquired from the Nationals for DJ Herz and Kevin Made, and those players are so insignificant I had to revisit the trade to remember their names.
Some Cubs fans, mostly those who remain perpetually unhappy in their fandom, were upset that Hoyer didn’t acquire a left-handed reliever. The Brewers were able to free Andrew Chafin from the Diamondbacks, who were buying and selling all day. All it cost them was reliever Peter Strzelecki, who sounds like he might be better suited kicking for the Packers.
I despise the lefty-lefty faction of armchair analysts because that strategy all but died when MLB started requiring pitchers to face a minimum of three batters. Hitting is about timing and pitching is about disrupting it, no matter which side of the mound one throws. Most good managers don’t stack left-handed hitters back-to-back, and besides, most MLB teams hit lefties better than righties.
Still, a bullpen acquisition or two would have been nice. However, Chicago’s pen isn’t all that bad if you’re okay with letting Adbert Alzolay close. The Cubs’ relief pitchers don’t walk a lot of batters and do a decent job of keeping the ball in the park. They don’t have a lot of saves, but the Cubs are 25-14 in blowout games, a whopping 36.4% of their schedule thus far. By contrast, the first-place Reds are 8-14 in games decided by five runs or more.
Ironically, the Cubs being built to play tight, lower-scoring games should favor them based on their defense and pitching. But things haven’t gone according to plan because Chicago is 11-13 in one-run games and Cincinnati is 24-21. That five-game swing is the difference between being in first place instead of third.
Cubs News & Notes.
- The Cubs were the first MLB team to score 20 or more runs this season.
- Hoyer said the team’s recent play made going all-in a strategy that was easy to embrace.
- The president of baseball operations specifically pointed to two recent games that convinced him this team has postseason potential.
- Adding Candelario immediately improves the Cubs at first base, but he also gives them some flexibility. The switch-hitter could play third base if needed, so the Cubs could become creative with their lineups.
- The veteran infielder’s path back to the Cubs was filled with several full-circle moments.
- The Cubs cut ties with Trey Mancini to open a spot for Candelario. The organization is on the hook for the rest of his contract this year plus an additional $7 million in 2024. The cost to carry Mancini’s contract shouldn’t impede Hoyer in free agency this winter, however.
- The Cubs made a minor trade yesterday, sending Adrian Sampson and Manny Rodríguez to the Rays for Josh Roberson.
- MLB.com listed the Cubs as one of seven deadline-winning teams.
- Justin Steele got the easy win last night but he also received a gift from MLB scoring officials before the game. Five earned runs were removed from his stat line from a game going back to July 16 against the Red Sox. Steele entered play last night with the National League’s best ERA (2.46) because of the reversal.
- Ben Brown has been placed on the 7-day IL with an undisclosed injury.
Odds & Sods
I don’t know if any of you caught the pregame show on Marquee yesterday, and I know Hoyer was exhausted, but he (kinda-sorta) let it slip that the team has talked to Cody Bellinger about staying in Chicago beyond this year, and Hoyer seemed upbeat. Bellinger’s option hasn’t been exercised in case you are confused by the lower graphic.
“Belli knows how we feel about him.”
Jed Hoyer on Cody Bellinger. pic.twitter.com/fkk5XnQoFj
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) August 2, 2023
- Cincinnati (59-50): The Reds didn’t make any major acquisitions this week because GM Nick Krall felt it might disrupt Cincinnati’s long-term plans.
- Milwaukee (58-50): The Brewers activated starter Wade Miley from the IL and optioned utilityman Owen Miller to Triple-A Nashville.
- Pittsburgh (48-58): The Pirates and Padres agreed to a trade that sent LHP Rich Hill and first baseman Ji-Man Choi to San Diego. Pittsburgh received lefty Jackson Wolf, outfielder Estuar Suero, and ex-Cubs first baseman Alfonso Rivas.
- St. Louis (47-61): The Cardinals considered trading for hurlers Logan Gilbert and Dylan Cease yesterday.
Climbing the Ladder
“But when the day is done and the sun goes down and the moonlight’s shinin’ through. Then like a sinner before the gates of Heaven I’ll come crawlin’ on back to you.” – Meat Loaf, Bat Out of Hell
Welcome back, Candy Man! The North Siders finished the night with seven homers, trying a modern franchise record (last achieved on May 17, 1977). In addition to blasts by Swanson (2) and Bellinger. Patrick Wisdom, Mike Tauchman, Nico Hoerner, and Miguel Amaya all homered. The Cubs finished with 21 hits, and every position player had at least one knock.
- Games Played: 107
- Record: 54-53 (.505)
- Total Plate Appearances: 4,129
- Total Strikeouts: 966
- Strikeout Rate: 23.53%
- Team Batting Average: .256
- Runs Scored: 539
- Runs Allowed: 472
- Chances of Making the Playoffs: 49.9%, 2.7% to win the World Series
How About That!
The Mets quickly switched gears from heavy payroll, league-conquering baseball to prospecting for the 2025-26 seasons. One would think New York is completely out on Ohtani this winter, but then again, nobody really knows what the hell Steve Cohen is thinking.
Tuesday’s Three Stars
- Dansby Swanson: The All-Star shortstop was 2-for-4 with two home runs and five RBI in yesterday’s route. He might have had a third, too. Patrick Wisdom was hitting in his spot when he homered off catcher/mop-up reliever Luke Maile.
- Bellinger: The Chicago centerfielder had three hits, three RBI, a home run, and a stolen base.
- Candelario: Four hits in his return to the Cubs gets him on the list.
One video is worth 100,000 words…and 20 runs.
They Said It
- “There was a period where it looked like we were gonna be sellers. I think back to when we were seven under and playing the Nationals down 3-0. It looked like we were going to drop to eight under. We ended up scoring 17 that night and then sort of didn’t look back for a while. That was not very long ago. At that point, it did look like things were going in (a selling) direction.” – Hoyer
- “Candidly, it was such a seller’s market. There was not a ton of talent this year on the market when we looked at it overall. I think all the teams kind of felt that way. We talked to different executives. It was not a really robust market in a lot of ways. We tried pretty hard. We were definitely in on a lot of different guys.” – Hoyer
- “It’s funny, because the last time we played the Nationals, [Candelario] said, ‘Hey, keep winning, keep winning, because I might get traded [to Chicago] if you’re competing.'” – Cubs assistant hitting coach Juan Cabreja
Wednesday Walk-Up Song
I have a one YouTube video per column policy, so you’ll just have to click this link to discover today’s walk-up song.