The Rundown: Cubs Conjure Split, El Mago Plays El Héroe, Kimbrel Nearly Ready, Mets Get into Altercation with Reporter After Loss
Leave it to the Cubs to take a series in which they rightfully should have won at least three of four games and turn it into an exercise in thrilling adventure to salvage a split. The North Siders spurned the Mets’ attempts to remove “Central Division Leaders” from their current bio — the reeking fruits of a lethargic 17-22 stretch since mid-May — thanks to a milestone (and incredibly clutch) hit by the face of the franchise.
Javy, THANK YOU. pic.twitter.com/aHA1oAZprI
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) June 23, 2019
It was El Mago’s 100th career home run and a curtain-call moment.
So 39,077 fans went home deliriously happy yesterday, though I wouldn’t have been one of them. After Saturday’s woeful 10-2 loss, I decided making the trip from Milwaukee to Wrigley Field wasn’t going to be worth the effort and I was going to be damned if I would give up my entire day for a repeat performance. Instead, I watched from a bungalow booth of a local craft beer establishment, and though I did go home happy, it was more about my libationary endeavors than the victory.
I don’t mind being transparent about that, though it was the first time in my life I willfully wasted $200 worth of tickets to a Cubs game in favor of a dozen or so $5 beers and a $7 Lyft ride from bar stool to doorstep. Fittingly, I spent the day drinking a coffee-flavored brown ale called Bat Shit Crazy.
That’s frustration borne of the reality that the Cubs are playing every bit as poorly of late as PECOTA projected they would back in the first week of February. The beer was delicious, however, and hopefully yesterday’s come-from-behind win will be the catalyst that propels this team to more consistent, winning baseball. I probably could have done without a handful of food truck tacos, and though I’d like to blame my morning indigestion on Chicago’s less-than-exciting fight to play .500 baseball, I am positive that my dietary choices are the true root cause.
Cubs News & Notes
- The milestone blast by Javy Báez made him the 23rd Cubs player to reach 100 homers and third shortstop, joining Ernie Banks (512) and Shawon Dunston (107). Only two Cubs, Banks and Kris Bryant, needed fewer games than Báez, who played in his 602nd on Sunday.
- If Adbert Alzolay is going to continue filling in for Kyle Hendricks and/or working as the team’s sixth starter, we are going to have to come up with a catchy nickname because like everybody else I struggle to say and spell his name correctly.
- Craig Kimbrel started for Iowa over the weekend, making his first back-to-back appearances as a Cub. He’s scheduled to pitch for the team’s AAA affiliate tomorrow and is on track to be activated sometime during the upcoming series against the Braves.
- Mets’ first baseman Pete Alonso hit his 27th home run in the 4th inning of yesterday’s game, breaking the team record for most by a rookie in an entire season set by Darryl Strawberry in 1983. Alonso accomplished that feat in just 78 games.
- Mets manager Mickey Callaway cursed at Newsday reporter Tim Healey and pitcher Jason Vargas had to be restrained from charging him during a confrontation in the team’s clubhouse after the game.
- The Cubs activated relief pitcher Tony Barnette yesterday, sending Rowan Wick back to Iowa.
- Ian Happ continues to work on his hitting at Iowa, but still has a great deal of work to do toward his eventual return to the bigs ($).
- Fifty years later, the Cubs’ 1969 collapse still triggers anxiety for a generation of fans.
- The saga of Eric Zorn and his defection to White Sox fandom has caused some angry backlash. The Tribune columnist addressed those comments with a form letter, comparing the debate to those concerning recent anti-abortion laws, which, sorry, seems a little too dramatic.
- I’m thinking Báez lost a clubhouse bet of some sorts on Friday afternoon. Maybe he was just celebrating the return of summer weather.
- The Cubs will host the high-scoring Braves for a four-game series starting today. Jon Lester will take the bump against Julio Teheran in the opening tilt.
How About That!
Albert Pujols called his return to St. Louis one of “the best moments of my career.” The former Cardinal great received a standing ovation each time he stepped up to the plate.
Can anybody beat the Dodgers? After six straight victories, Los Angeles now leads the NL West by 13 games. To put it into greater perspective, the Rockies have won 20 of 30 games and still lost two games in the division race.
Including yesterday’s blast by pinch hitter Will Smith, three Dodgers rookies have hit three consecutive walk-off home runs. The backup catcher now has three home runs in just 22 at-bats on the season.
Hunter Pence is a finalist to make the AL All-Star team in what has to be one of the best stories of the first half of this season.
Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman is not a fan of former Red Sox pitcher and current announcer Dennis Eckersley. After Stroman struck out Eduardo Núñez to end the 6th inning, he yelled and stared into the Red Sox dugout. Eckersley , who was calling the game for NESN, called Stroman’s celebrations “tired.”
After losing three straight to the Nationals, the Phillies were swept by the Marlins this weekend. Philadelphia is 1-9 over their last 10 games and riding a seven-game losing streak.
Commissioner Rob Manfred conceded that the baseball is different this year.
Sunday’s Three Stars
- J.P. Crawford – The Mariners shortstop was 4-for-4 with a home run and four RBI as Seattle smoked the Orioles 13-3.
- Fernando Tatis Jr. – The rookie Padres shortstop entered Sunday with an OPS+ of 150. But he makes this list because he scored on a “sacrifice fly” that barely left the infield.
- Yordan Alvarez – The Astros rookie was 2-for-5 with a big home run yesterday to help Houston defeat the Yankees, stopping baseball’s longest winning streak. Through 12 games with the big club, Alvarez is now slashing .333/.429/.813 with seven taters and 16 RBI.
The new Big 3.
The @Cubs are the only team with 3 active players to hit 100+ homers before turning 27. pic.twitter.com/EfoKzvdprl
— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) June 23, 2019
I found the perfect gift for your backyard yesterday, and it is currently marked down from $295. I can neither confirm nor deny that the Red Sox front office gifted these babies to their players after knocking the Yankees out of last season’s playoffs.
I can buy a Death Star fire pit for $94 online.
America is the best and worst place on Earth right now. pic.twitter.com/qXKfqYVX4T
— Hank Peña (@hankpena) June 23, 2019
They Said It
- “[Alonso] is doing something amazing. He’s almost got 30 homers and we’ve still got two more weeks until the All-Star break. I like the way he’s playing the game and the way he’s hitting the ball.” – Javy Báez
- “[Báez] was so frustrated [yesterday]. I said, ‘Bro, it’s good that you know that. Go up with another plan. Do your thing. You’re gonna win this ballgame.’” – Pedro Strop
- “I’ll knock you the [expletive] out, bro.” – Jason Vargas
- “There’s only one Albert Pujols. What a privilege it’s been these last three days in St. Louis.” – Mike Trout
Monday Walk Up Song
Sugar Sugar by the Archies. Javy makes life so much sweeter for Cubs fans, doesn’t he? Vargas makes a great Jughead, too.