“Turn up the old Victrola, gonna steal your heart away.” – Donna Summer, Dim All the Lights
The Cubs once again lost stunningly to the Braves, and it felt like a dagger to the heart of the team’s playoff chances. Defense and pitching have been a big part of Chicago’s success this season, but both have been absent in this series. David Ross is taking some heat for some poor decisions, particularly on X.
Off the top of my head, I’d say Ross has cost the Cubs seven wins this season, and I’m not including his dreaded Sunday lineups. That said, Chicago’s bullpen is out of gas as the losses of Adbert Alzolay and Michael Fulmer could keep the Cubs out of the playoffs. Chicago’s North Side baseballers no longer control their destiny, so even sweeping their final four games does not guarantee they’ll play October baseball. The Braves are a much better team and proved it in the first two games of the series.
As much as it stings knowing the Cubs should have won both games, the season has been a success nonetheless. Most analysts predicted back in March the Cubs would win 70-75 games. With an influx of young talent and a tweak here and there, Chicago is well-positioned to win the NL Central in 2024. Hoyer will then need to sustain that success through the rest of the decade.
The Cubs won’t be eliminated if they lose tonight, but I’d rather see Ross give at-bats and innings to his rookies. Let Pete Crow-Armstrong and Alexander Canario play in Milwaukee, and maybe call up Cade Horton to start one of those three games, too. Though I dread saying “Wait ’til next year,” I’m okay with that sentiment this season.
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cubs have an elimination number of four after last night’s loss.
- Alzolay said he hopes to come off the IL on Friday. Before Wednesday’s game, Alzolay threw 20 pitches in a live batting practice workout at Truist Park.
- Jed Hoyer is “not a huge fan of bunting” and would rather see Ross protect his outs, though he spoke diplomatically about it.
- Hoyer will use lessons learned at the end of this season when building his 2024 bullpen.
- The Cubs activated infielder Jeimer Candelario before Wednesday’s game and optioned Jared Young in a corresponding move.
- Chicago took a flier in January on Julian Merryweather, and he responded by delivering a breakout season.
- The Cubs are hoping Marcus Stroman will find his early-season form and be the stopper in Atlanta this evening. The Braves will call up rookie AJ Smith-Shawver to make his fifth start of the season.
Odds & Sods
Queue “This Charming Man” by The Smiths, and dedicate it to Rob Manfred.
EXCLUSIVE: Multiple sources say it's "not an accident" that Major League Baseball asked Brewers owner Mark Attanasio to head the committee tasked with relocating the Oakland A's to Las Vegas amid uncertainty surrounding stadium financing in Milwaukee. https://t.co/9wMRtQ2pb4
— Dan O'Donnell (@DanODonnellShow) September 26, 2023
The commissioner also said MLB will eventually have separate broadcasts focused solely on gambling analysis, each pitch, each swing, ability to bet on everything and get constant analysis.
- Milwaukee (89-69): The Brewers will open the playoffs against the No. 5 seed with a three-game set at American Family Insurance Field starting October 3.
- Cincinnati (81-78): The Reds could bring first baseman/DH Joey Votto back for one more season.
- Pittsburgh (74-84): The Pirates are a good fit if the Padres make Michael Wacha and Nick Martinez available this winter.
- St. Louis (69-89): The Cardinals are seeking to add up to three starting pitchers in free agency, and one target could be Aaron Nola.
- The Phillies beat the Pirates and clinched the top Wild Card slot.
- The Diamondbacks lead the Cubs and Marlins by two games with four left. Miami and Arizona own the tiebreakers vs. Chicago, which means the North Siders are essentially another game behind both.
- If the season ended today, the Braves and Dodgers would have first-round byes, the Marlins would play a best-of-three series against the Brewers in Milwaukee, and the Phillies would host the Diamondbacks in a best-of-three series.
Climbing the Ladder
“Drowning me in your promises, better left unsaid.” – Pat Benatar, Heartbreaker
Chicago starter Jameson Taillon allowed three hits over six-plus innings, retiring 17 of 18 hitters at one point. Taillon will need to be much more consistent next season.
- Games Played: 158
- Record: 82-76 (.519)
- Total Plate Appearances: 6,065
- Total Strikeouts: 1,350
- Strikeout Rate: 22.26%
- Team Batting Average: .256
- Runs Scored: 803
- Runs Allowed: 704
- Chances of Making the Playoffs: 48.3%, 2.0% to win the World Series
How About That!
The Astros and Mariners are in a heated battle for a Wild Card berth, and benches emptied when Astros reliever Hector Neris allegedly called Seattle star Julio Rodríguez inflammatory names in Spanish.
The Rays waited 10 days to bust out the bubbly because they didn’t want to celebrate a postseason berth after a loss.
Over the coming months, seven MLB clubs will be in the throes of funding efforts or finalizing the pieces to build new stadiums or renovate existing ones, costing the public and clubs billions of dollars. The impacts will shape attendance and also set the stage for league expansion that would add two additional facilities.
Wednesday’s Three Stars
- Ronald Acuña Jr. – The current NL MVP favorite is the first player in MLB history to have at least 40 home runs and 70 stolen bases in the same season. Announcers Jon “Boog” Sciambi and Jim Deshaies ripped into Acuña and the Braves for a subsequent 10th inning celebration. One pitch later, Ozzie Albies ripped a walk-off RBI single to right that dropped the Cubs into a tie with the Marlins.
- Miguel Cabrera – The soon-to-be-retired Tiger blasted the 511th home run of his esteemed career in a suspended game that will be completed this afternoon.
- Gerrit Cole – The Yankees ace hurled a complete game, two-hit shutout at the Blue Jays with five strikeouts.
Happ has been a lot better than many fans are willing to admit.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 28, 2023
Wednesday Morning Six-Pack
- American presidential debates have devolved into an unwatchable mess of name-calling and finger-pointing, but they’re not going away anytime soon.
- Hospitality workers in Las Vegas have authorized their union to call a strike against casinos and hotels if they can’t reach a deal, though no deadline has been set.
- NASA astronaut Frank Rubio returned to Earth early yesterday, capping a yearlong stay aboard the International Space Station. At 371 days, Rubio’s voyage is the longest single spaceflight by an American astronaut in NASA history.
- Bruce Springsteen is postponing the remainder of his scheduled tour dates this year while he takes time to recover from peptic ulcer disease.
- Hood ornaments are a novelty these days, unless you drive a Rolls-Royce, but their place in automotive history is well preserved.
- David Letterman auditioned for the lead role in “Airplane!” but all he got was an acting lesson. Surely you can’t be serious.
They Said It
- “There was a curse in Boston until there wasn’t, and there was a curse here until there wasn’t. There’s no curse. Ultimately, I would hope that the real benefit of 2016 is people believing that good things can happen. If we’re good enough, we’ll win. The supernatural is not causing missed fly balls for Brant Brown or Seiya Suzuki. What I learned in Boston is what I learned here. If the team is good enough and gets the right breaks at the right moments, you can win. I don’t even think about that stuff. When I heard that today, I kind of laughed because I thought we graduated from that. Apparently not.” – Hoyer
- “Bunts are a tough one, right? When you call for them and it works, everyone looks smart. When you call for bunts and it doesn’t work, everyone gets mad. Generally, I’m not a huge fan of bunting…but there are certainly late-game situations [when] it makes sense. Obviously, unfortunately, it didn’t work out [Tuesday] night.” – Hoyer
Wednesday Walk-Up Song
From CBGB to American Gigolo.