The Rundown: Cubs Take Series Finale, Garcia Joins Team, Cubs To Use Closer-By-Committee Approach For Now

Any win in September is huge, but when it comes against a hard-charging division opponent it seems almost monumental. Because as Cubs fans we are still somewhat programmed to expect the worst, forgetting that this is essentially the same team that engineered a World Series championship by winning three straight games less than two years ago, yesterday’s win sure felt like a nice chance to exhale and relieve some self-imposed pressure.

Still, the 6-4 win was not without its tense moments. When Kyle Schwarber put the team up 6-1 with a mammoth home run, I never imagined the game would turn into a nail-biter. Brewers manager Craig Counsell was spot-on the other day: “For some reason, the games that we’re playing here against the Cubs, it doesn’t matter how it starts out — it’s going to finish something like that. It’s been pretty consistent. You better make sure you have a ticket for it.”

Pedro Strop worked through a somewhat shaky 9th inning to preserve the victory. So we can ease up on the panic for at least a day. Maybe we tend to forget this team has a 99.7 percent chance of reaching the playoffs and is at 89 percent to win the division. Generally you can play around using house money with those odds.

On to Washington for the final leg of this road trip, where Daniel Murphy will be able to tell his buddy Bryce Harper just how great it is to play for the Cubs. Chicago could use an easy victory or three.

Cubs News & Notes

As we know, Strop has not been anointed as the team’s closer, so Joe Maddon may use a closer-by-committee approach through the end of the season. “In a perfect world, you probably will see Strop at the end of the game,” Maddon admitted. “We have other guys capable of getting the last three outs.”

If you read between the lines, it is looking more and more likely that Brandon Morrow could be done for the season. I do not expect him back. I hope I’m wrong.

The Cubs played their 16th game in 16 days Wednesday on the way to 23 games in 23 days. Maddon insisted his team is physically okay with doing that this late in the season. “We had a tough game (Tuesday) night, but otherwise we’ve been playing really well,” Maddon said, referring to an 11-1 loss. “We’ve been playing really well for a good period of time in spite of the difficult schedule to this moment. I’m really proud of the way our guys have handled that because I don’t really sense fatigue. I don’t feel that from the group.”

David Bote could be the Cubs’ X-factor during the 2018 playoffs.

Jamie Garcia met with the media yesterday. The veteran will be used as a relief pitcher through the rest of the season. Meanwhile, Drew Smyly has amped up his rehab program and seems just about ready to go, too.

How About That!

Rockies shortstop Trevor Story has five homers in his last three games and is 14-for-32 (.438) in his last eight games overall, leading the Rockies into first place in the NL West.

The Dodgers dropped two of three to the Mets to fall a game and a half behind Colorado.

Atlanta’s standout rookie Ronald Acuña Jr. set the franchise record for single-season leadoff home runs with his missile off Boston’s Hector Velazquez. The home run was his 24th of the season and the eighth leadoff homer in just his 44th start in the top position.

In his last 11 starts, Yankees starter Louis Severino has a 6.83 ERA in 55 1/3 innings and opponents are hitting .323/.360/.574 against him. That’s rough.

Shohei Ohtani needs Tommy John surgery but will wait until the offseason. In the meantime, he will serve as the Angels’ DH. Not sure why they pitched him the other night, as Ohtani injured his elbow in his first start since June.

Nationals manager Davey Martinez received a vote of confidence from GM Mike Rizzo. “I haven’t considered any other scenario,” Rizzo said when asked if Martinez would be back.

Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas has established himself as the team’s ace.

The Tigers roughed up White Sox rookie starter Michael Kopech.

The Indians’ magic number to win the AL Central now sits at eight games. Cleveland is the only team in the division that has a record above .500.

Wednesday’s Three Stars

  1. Trevor Story – The Rockies’ All-Star shortstop swatted three home runs against the Giants on Wednesday night, including a mammoth 505-foot blast that is the longest recorded by Statcast since the system debuted in 2015. Story did have a chance to hit a fourth home run in the 8th inning, but he struck out.
  2. Shohei Ohtani – The rookie phenom went 4-for-4 with two home runs and 3 RBI. They were his 17th and 18th homers of the year.
  3.  Corey Kluber – The Indians’ ace became the first major leaguer to reach 18 wins by pitching the Indians to a 3-1 victory against visiting Kansas City at Progressive Field. Kluber recorded his fifth start with at least 10 strikeouts, tossing 6 2/3 innings with one run on just two hits.

Extra Innings

It’s been 100 years to the day since the World Series between the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs began. CBS Sports’ Cody Benjamin tells the story of how a September World Series, World War I and a shortened season changed the game of baseball forever. Could a 100-year reunion and rematch be in the works for this season? How great would that be for baseball?

They Said It

  • “We’re very much aware of that. Would love to have [Morrow] back; but even if he does come back, how do you utilize that, because you can’t just push him two days in a row. When you have an anchor at the end, you can manage the game differently up to that point. When you don’t have that, you have to manipulate it. There’s no question about that.” – Joe Maddon
  • “I came here and I made myself available. I told them, ‘Hey, whatever you guys feel like I can contribute to this team, win some ballgames, I’m here for that.’ ” – Jamie Garcia
  • “It’s a young group with a veteran mindset. You lose a tough one [Monday] and they played really well yesterday. All you can do is come out and try to win this ballgame.” – Daniel Murphy

Thursday Walk Up Song

How the West Was Won and Where it Got Us by R.E.M.

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