The Rundown: Much Deserved Day Off, Cubs Still Favorites to Land Harper, Dodgers Are On Fire

Remember how little you did on the last day of school each summer? The Cubs provided a similar effort in last night’s 9-0 loss, playing like a team that was about to embark on its first day of vacation. In other words, they showed up because attendance was mandatory but that was about it. I’m sure this day off has been circled on calendars team-wide.

Cole Hamels pitched like the Texas Rangers lefty who was made available for not much more than a handful of magic beans, but I’m sure he’ll right the ship. The offense could muster just a single hit against Robbie Ray and three relievers, but I’m positive they’ll find their groove again after some well-earned rest.

Get some sleep, boys. You need it. You stunk last night, but you’re excused. An 18-11 record on a monstrous swing of games gets the team an A+ and a top-of-the-line waffle maker.

The Diamondbacks tagged Hamels for four runs and five hits in the first inning and it was game over. I’m sure the team was so anxious to fly home last night that Anthony Rizzo may have just stayed in his uniform.

The Cubs will not have to leave Chicago again this season until the playoffs start. Whether they represent themselves as Central champions or a Wild Card entry depends on how these last 10 games go. They will play three against the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field followed by four games at home against the Pirates. The Cubs then host the Cardinals on the final weekend of the season. Ideally, Chicago will make that last series meaningless, at least from a personal standpoint. If they can go 5-2 against the ChiSox and Pirates, the Brewers would have to finish 8-1 to steal the crown.

Some end-of-year hijinx, though not optimal, can certainly be tolerated.

Cubs News & Notes

Hamels has allowed five home runs total in his last three starts, including two Wednesday night.

Brandon Morrow was shifted to the 60-day disabled list Wednesday. This is simply procedural, as Morrow has already been ruled out for the remainder of the season due to a bone bruise in his right arm. The Cubs also selected righty Allen Webster from Triple-A Iowa.

LHP Jose Quintana (13-10) is the scheduled starter in Friday’s opener against the White Sox, making his first career start against his former team.

Despite admiration and confidence from Theo Epstein, the team’s biggest question mark will be the bullpen and how those relievers are deployed once the playoffs start. Joe Maddon has had a quick hook in recent years when the team enters the playoffs, and we’ve seen that a bit this past month, though injuries and tired arms had something to with that as well. Who will be the team’s closer this October? The Cubs may use a committee of sorts, led by Justin Wilson and Steve Cishek. “[Wilson] could be the linchpin,” Maddon said. “I’ve been saying that since spring training. He can get lefties and righties out.”

Cardinals fans fear a Cubs lineup that could potentially feature Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and…Bryce Harper.

How About That!

Yasiel Puig predicted the Dodgers will win the NL West. The enigmatic OF slugged a tiebreaking, three-run homer in the seventh inning that sent Los Angeles past the Rockies 5-2 last night to increase their NL West lead to 2½ games. In the month of September, Puig is batting .400 with nine runs, one double, seven home runs and 14 RBI in 14 games.

Puig had his house burglarized for a fourth time and the second time in a month.

In his last nine starts, Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler is 3-1 with 72 strikeouts and just 18 walks to go with a 0.88 WHIP.

The Yankees overpowered Boston in the Bronx Wednesday night, postponing an AL East clinch celebration for the second consecutive night.

Jason Kipnis made his 1,000th career hit count last night, as it came on a walk-off grand slam to defeat the Chicago White Sox, 4-1.

The Rays won their fifth straight and enter today 5 1/2 games behind the Athletics for the second wild-card spot. Tampa has 11 games remaining, so the math makes it almost impossible either way. But the Rays are at least determined to make it interesting.

Orioles OF Adam Jones rejected a trade to the Phillies to “maintain his stock” entering free agency.

If you’re a fan of chaos and drama, you’ll be pleased to know it is still possible to have a three- or four-team tie in the Wild Card race. The Brewers, Cardinals, Rockies and Dodgers could finish with identical records.

Wednesday’s Three Stars

  1. Walker Buehler – The Dodgers have a co-ace and it is Buehler. The rookie starter completed six innings against the Rockies last night despite a 36-pitch first, striking out 12 batters and allowing just two unearned runs. As Los Angeles inches toward the NL West championship, teams will have to figure out how to keep from dropping into an 0-2 hole when starting a series against Clayton Kershaw and Buehler.
  2. Robbie Ray – I hesitated to add him here because the Cubs obviously phoned it in last night, but Ray was stellar, finishing with eight strikeouts in six innings while allowing just a single hit.
  3. Jason Kipnis – Apparently it is somewhat vogue now to win a game with a walk-off grand slam and Kipnis followed in the footsteps of David Bote, Francisco Mejia, and Dan Vogelbach with baseball’s fourth final-at-bat grand slam in the last six weeks.

On Deck

According to OddsShark, the Cubs are the favorites to sign Bryce Harper this offseason (+150—bet $100 to win $150), followed by the Dodgers (+350), Yankees (+450), Phillies (+650), Nationals (+700), Red Sox (+900), Angels (+1200) and Giants (+1500).

Extra Innings

John Goodman does an exceptionally good imitation of Robert DeNiro.

In baseball news, I’m dead. The Rays dressed as babies for their final flight of this season. I like the idea of dress up, but it would be way more fun if clubs made their teams fly commercially when doing so.

I Said It

NL Division series that may feature the Braves against the Dodgers and the Cubs against the Brewers could be two of the best matchups we’ve seen since the Cubs and Dodgers started squaring off in the NLCS as a regular thing. It could be the toughest challenge either has faced in their attempt for a third consecutive league championship series.

They Said It

  • “It’s always nice to have that [one closer]. However, there are other guys. These other guys have done a fantastic job. If we continue to match them up and don’t beat up anybody, we can continue the same trend.” – Joe Maddon
  • “It’s not exactly the way we drew it up, but we have quality relievers out there who are unafraid, The quality of our bullpen is being overlooked.” – Theo Epstein
  • “I’ve pitched in some big games, but the later you get in the year, the bigger it all feels. It’s tough to catch fire at the right time, but its never a bad thing to be that team, and I think we’re doing it.” – Walker Buehler
  • “We’re going to win the West.” – Yasiel Puig

Thursday Walk Up Song

You Can Do Magic by America. Squatting on eight right now.

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