No game last night so I spent my morning perusing the internet for any Cubs-related items I may have missed. The North Siders begin a stretch of 23 consecutive games and will close out the season with just 2 days off unless weather interrupts the schedule. Perhaps a day of much-needed rest will re-energize the bats.
Cubs News & Notes
After hitting off a tee without any complications in recent days, Kris Bryant will step in against pitching for the first time since being placed on the disabled list in late July. If Bryant’s left shoulder responds well to the swings, he could be cleared to play in simulated games or head out on a minor-league rehab assignment at some point later in the week. Bryant expects to return in time to have an impact on the pennant race.
The Cubs need Bryant too as the bats are slumping something awful. Javy Baez (.239 in August), Addison Russell (.231), Willson Contreras (.208), Albert Almora Jr. (.200) and Ian Happ (.167) have helped slow the offense to a crawl. Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist have pretty much carried the team this month.
Sunday marked the 49th anniversary of Ken Holtzman’s no-hitter for the Cubs against the Atlanta Braves. I remember watching that game with my dad, who hated Holtzman — who he called “Crybaby Ken” — and actually rooted for the Braves to get a hit in a rare anti-Cubs moment. Dad handled finances and investments for a number of Cubs’ players in the pre-free agency era of baseball and he and Holtzman did not often see eye-to-eye.
The upcoming schedule looks favorable for the Cubs provided they don’t play down to the competition. As the team guns for their fourth straight postseason appearance they have a chance to pick up some momentum against some teams looking to play spoiler: Detroit (starting tonight), Cincinnati and the Mets.
Cole Hamels is a thinking-man’s pitcher, and his performance in his first four appearances as a Cub has helped reenergize the rotation and clubhouse with the feel of winning emotion.
Dusty Baker claims the Cubs and the city of Chicago turned on him big time at the end of his tenure as the team’s manager. You can read Ken Rosenthal’s entire interview with Baker at The Athletic, though you will need a subscription to do so.
— 670 The Score (@670TheScore) August 17, 2018
Our own Erik Mauro looks at the previous two weeks of NL Central Division baseball in this week’s Central Intelligence column.
How About That!
The A’s hosted children from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants wishes for children with critical illnesses, and players met with the kids pregame. Khris Davis had Anthony Slocumb, a 10-year-old in remission from a cancer called Langerhans cell histiocytosis, sign his jersey. Davis then hit a mammoth home run while wearing the jersey.
Oliver Drake has been the most well-traveled player in the major leagues this season. The Twins pitcher has been designated for assignment five times by four clubs since early May — Milwaukee, Cleveland, the Los Angeles Angels (twice) and then Toronto — before joining Minnesota this month. He’s learned to pack lightly.
Corey Kluber moved into a tie for the major league lead with his 16th win as the Indians beat the Red Sox 5-4 Monday night.
The Red Sox now have an actual losing streak, though the team is still on pace to win 114 games.
Athletics outfielder and regular web-gem recipient Ramón Laureano hit the first two home runs of his big league career last night.
An unnamed team has put a waiver claim in on Nationals infielder Daniel Murphy. Could it be the Cubs?
— Phil Rogers (@philgrogers) August 21, 2018
Can the Rangers keep using beloved but increasingly ineffective veteran right-hander Bartolo Colon rather than look at possibilities for the future?
Robinson Cano’s dramatic home run lifted the Mariners over the Astros 2-1 last night, sending Houston back into a tie with the Athletics for the AL West lead and moving the Mariners to within 3 ½ games of the lead.
The surging Cardinals launched back-to-back home runs off of Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen in a 5-3 St. Louis victory last night. Of course Matt Carpenter hit one of them.
The Mets had a very Mets-like loss to the Yankees last night and I love it.
Hot Takes & Syrup
- Per The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly, the Giants placed OF Andrew McCutchen on revocable trade waivers. He added there is a “very good chance” the 2013 National League MVP is playing for a new team by the end of this week.
- According to Scott Miller of Bleacher Report, “strikeouts, power pitchers and defensive shifts have conspired to keep batting averages low and diffuse old-fashioned rallies.” Of course Miller leans on Rich Gossage to help validate his points. A few other old-timers chime in as well. It makes great theater.
- Twins OF Tyler Austin’s father took some shots at his son’s former teammate Greg Bird on Twitter. His facts, math, and grammar are slightly off. (A) Austin plays for the Twins, not the Yankees; (B) Austin just hit his 11th home run, not his 18th; and (C) it’s “hear” not “here.”
man tyler austin’s dad is salty af pic.twitter.com/ECrxrB6QIc
— samantha (@newportliving) August 20, 2018
Monday’s Three Stars
- Ramón Laureano – the Oakland OF entered last night’s game with zero career home runs in 11 games and left with two career home runs in 12 games. He was 2-for-4 on the night with five rib-eyes.
- Mike Fiers – the journeyman starter continues to thrive since his trade to Oakland. He worked seven innings of one-hit shutout ball with eight strikeouts in last night’s 9-0 victory over the Rangers, which means he’s allowed just three runs in three starts with the A’s.
- Bryse Wilson – the Braves 20-year old rookie right-hander was dealing last night, shutting the Pirates out over five innings with five strikeouts in Atlanta’s 1-0 win.
A candid look at Rich “Goose” Gossage aka “Old Man Yells At Cloud”
They Said It
- “We could sit here and talk all day about the way the game has been changed, and not in a good way. I try to watch a baseball game, and I find it very difficult to be able to watch today.” – Rich Gossage
- “Every box score you read, it’s 5.1 innings pitched for the starter. I’ll bet some guys in our box in Atlanta. A buck. Before the game, we’ll say, ‘What’s the over [for how long the starting pitcher will last]? It’s 5.1. I’ll bet the under because you know the starter is not going to make it. Even in the American League [in which, because of the designated hitter, managers don’t pinch-hit for pitchers].” – Bobby Cox
- “I think you’re seeing results of a couple of things over the years. One, the number of ballparks it’s a joke to pitch in. It’s not really fair, to be honest with you. You think about [Baltimore’s] Camden Yards and Philadelphia, Cincinnati. Houston’s a joke—I mean they’re world champions, but it’s a joke to try to pitch there—Colorado, Arizona. You get tired of watching the highlights on MLB Network and ESPN because everybody hits a home run. Every hit is a home run.” – Pete Rose
- “Slowly but surely, they’re regulating emotion out of the game.” – Mike Hargrove
Tuesday Walk Up Song
Old Days by Chicago. For Goose and friends.