The Rundown: Brewers Simply the Better Team Right Now, Hader Was Lights Out, Cubs Puzzling Faith in Carl Edwards Jr

It’s on now.

As I said from the beginning of the season, the Brewers aren’t going away. Right now they are a better team than the Cubs and, no matter the excuse, the Brew Crew is playing with a purpose while the Cubs are limping to the finish line. You have to be envious of Milwaukee’s bullpen.

Josh Hader, Corey Knebel, Jeremy Jeffress and Corbin Burnes make the ragtag gang that the Cubs send out there look like the mop-up team. Hader struck out six consecutive Cubs batter last night and that was the ballgame. Sigh.

With starters generally going six innings or less for most teams, a lot of crucial games are going to come down to a battle of the bullpens. With arms dragging and the innings piling up,the Cubs look defeated as soon as Joe Maddon turns to his relief corps. His faith in Carl Edwards Jr. is puzzling.

So it’s a one game lead, two ahead in the loss column. Things feel kind of urgent, don’t they?

I went to bed last night angry at Maddon, Edwards, Jon Lester, and the guy who sets the defensive alignments for the Brewers. I was awake most of the night seeing ball after ball hit into the area occupied by Jonathan Schoop, turning potential singles into groundouts. I thought about Lester not coming out when he originally looked injured and giving up two quick hits.

I questioned the decision to call on Edwards for one of the most important at-bats of the season while my nightmares consisted of him losing his direction when he should have gone to home plate after uncorking a wild pitch, allowing the winning run to score. I lamented that Maddon burned an at-bat by Kyle Schwarber, a move which prompted Craig Counsell to bring in Hader, when he could have used Ian Happ or even Tommy La Stella.

Just Thinking: Schwarber is dealing with a back injury and is expected to be sidelined for at least another day or two, so did Maddon announce him as a pinch hitter to “force” Brewers manager Craig Counsell to go to Hader? Why would he do that?

Just Venting: I have a problem with saving your big guns for later in the game. You don’t go into the last third of a tight ballgame hoping to win it in the 9th. You win it now, if you can, and then hope Pedro Strop can close it out.

I’m done talking about last night. The Cubs were out-played, out-hustled, and out-managed. They lost a crucial game on a wild pitch and blatant laziness. Let’s hope the Cubs play with a renewed energy tonight. In the meantime, I’ll be the first to buy Edwards a ‘Respect 60-6’  t-shirt.

Cubs News & Notes

The Cubs don’t have time to get Drew Smyly ready for the playoffs but Brandon Morrow might be available. Still not buying it.

Hader played the role of the hammer last night and was more than exceptional, needing just 24 pitches to strike out six consecutive Cubs batters, using mostly fastballs with an occasional slider thrown in for good measure.

I’m calling it: The Cubs will not play in Washington, DC Thursday afternoon. Hurricane Florence is bearing down on the East Coast and the Cubs sound as if they are hoping for another postponement. With any luck, the team won’t even have to travel.

“It’s (Major League Baseball’s) call on something like this,” president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. “Our voices have certainly have been heard, but we don’t have any control.”

Stefan Xidas sang the National Anthem before the game last night. The 30-year-old, who has Down Syndrome, earned the opportunity after he wrote a letter to Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, asking to sing if he raised at least $5,000 for Special Olympics.

How About That!

The Rockies destroyed the Diamondbacks last night, winning 13-2 and increasing their lead in the NL West to a game and a half.

Ji-man Choi belted a two-run homer to right field, lifting the Rays to a 6-5 walk-off win over the Indians. Tampa Bay has won four in a row and eight of its last nine. I love how he emphatically capped his home run trot.

Justin Verlander shut down his former team last night and made history in the process. He and Gerrit Cole became the first right-handed teammates to strike out 250+ batters in a season since Randy Johnson (334) and Curt Schilling (316) did it way back in 2002.

The Cardinals’ new closer was their opening day starter.

Monday’s Three Stars 

  1. Josh Hader – See above.
  2. Scooter Gennett – The Grown Man Named Scooter smacked four hits in his five trips to the plate, scoring twice and driving in three runs in his quest to win the National League batting title. Gennett is now hitting .319 on the season and is 16-for-40 with three home runs in the Reds’ last 10 games.
  3. Justin Verlander – The Houston ace struck out 10 Tigers in his first game in Detroit since being traded to Houston in August 2017. The World Series champion Astros opened a three-game lead over Oakland atop the AL West.

Extra Innings

Everyone talks about the impact of this winter’s free-agent class, with Manny Machado and Bryce Harper expected to earn record deals. Indeed, Jim Bowden and most of baseball see the Cubs as favorites to land Harper (subscription required).

The 2019 class isn’t too shabby either. Nolan Arenado, Didi Gregorious, Xander Boegarts, Anthony Rendon, and Gerrit Cole could all be available. Would love to see Cole on the Cubs to eventually replace Lester.

They Said It

  • “When (Sonny) Liston fought (Muhammad) Ali, it wasn’t just a walk in the park for Ali. The Brewers are good, and they’ve made themselves better. I was thinking about that walking in. They’ve put a lot of professionals in their dugout, in their clubhouse. It’s not any walk in the park or a dance around the ring when you’re playing these guys. They’re very good. They’ve got really good arms. The guy tonight presents a lot of problems, (Wade) Miley. It’s no surprise. They’re better.” – Joe Maddon
  • “It’s not anything painful. Just a kind of uncomfortable. After I got out of the game and got back up here, it felt a lot better. Hopefully tomorrow will be the same.” – Jon Lester
  • “I’m just proud of our guys. They hung in there as best they could. Beyond this weekend, you’ve got to look at the stretch as a whole. We’re just about at the end of a stretch of 23 days in a row with a game, four-city road trip. This time is the ultimate dog days. Our guys have been handling it really well overall. I think our guys are pretty resilient. You look up and you’ve got 20 games left … You’re playing the team that’s chasing you. This is something you would definitely sign up for. It’s fun. It gets the blood pumping.” – Theo Epstein

Tuesday Walk Up Song

Don’t Look Back by Boston. Obviously.

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