The Rundown: Ben Zobrist’s Return, Billy Ripken Declares Cubs Dead, Wild Finish in Washington
Well, Ben Zobrist is back and he had a typical Zo-like game yesterday, grinding out at-bats, getting on base, setting the table for the guys behind him, and of course scoring a few runs.
The Cubs won the game 6-1, and looked every bit as good as they played when BenZo was last active. There were a few caveats, however. Jon Lester needed to wriggle out of three bases-loaded jams and Jason Heyward grounded into that 4-3 putout like he practiced it every day after school during his formative years. In giving credit where credit is due, I think the team owes a lot to batting coach Anthony Iapoce for their collective ability to burn worms on anything belt high or lower. I wonder if they actually have a roll-over drill.
Kyle Schwarber has been King Kong in that left-handed batter’s box lately hasn’t he? Did you see that bomb he hit last night? I believe Schwarber may be the key to any hopes the Cubs may have to catch the Cardinals this month. The left fielder has been a one-man wrecking crew lately, at least during the games that Joe Maddon actually plays him.
Night, night. pic.twitter.com/uHxchS6d7Y
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 4, 2019
If you were watching MLB Tonight last night, you may have heard analyst Billy Ripken declare the Cubs practically dead, as he indicated they have no chance of catching the Cardinals. Really? A three-game lead with 24 to play is insurmountable? Let’s just stop the season right now and start the playoffs this weekend then. I believe the Cubs will catch the Cardinals, but even if they don’t, I’d be more than happy to see the Cubs beat the Dodgers in the NLDS and square off against St. Louis in the NLCS.
Let’s settle this rivalry like street fighters. I’d love nothing more than to see Adam Wainwright crying into his towel after the Cubs send him home for the winter. For what it’s worth, Ripken also said he is “not a fan of high-leverage reliever stuff,” whatever that means. So consider the source. But really, what does that mean?
I’m sorry if I am coming across as a little salty this morning. The neighbors above me had an all-night rager and I woke up to a foreign, skunky smell wafting through my condo. I didn’t sleep much, so my edge is just a little duller. I therefore overcompensate by finding nitpicky things to add to my column. My old man would say that’s a rapier-like wit, or that I was as sharp as the point on my head. You choose.
On to Milwaukee, where Chicago has just four games left against Naked Christian Yelich and his teammates until next season. What about a potential playoff matchup? Ripken would like to remind you to stay in your lane. The Brewers are four games behind the Cubs, and if the Cubs are three games behind the Cardinals then…oh just forget it.
Cubs News & Notes
- Will the return of Zobrist to the lineup down the stretch spark the Cubs’ largely inconsistent offense?
- Jed Hoyer regrets that the Cubs didn’t pull off a trade to acquire Justin Verlander in 2017.
- I’ll continue to disagree until I am blue in the face, but Matt Snyder of CBS is the latest to suggest Kris Bryant may be the team’s best option to hit leadoff. If all the other guys are having trouble hitting, what good does getting Bryant on base to start the game do?
- Bryant took the day off yesterday to rest an achy knee and is considered day-to-day.
- One day later, Brad Wieck and his filthy curveball are still the talk of Chicago.
- Willson Contreras announced return to the lineup with a booming 450-foot home run to left-center field leading off the bottom of the 2nd inning, giving the Cubs a 1-0 lead.
- The Cubs are being cautious, but remain optimistic regarding the health of Yu Darvish and Javier Báez.
- The front office says they are more concerned with the workload for Darvish than they are with his forearm tightness. He pitched just 40 innings last year and has exceeded 150 this season.
- Derek Holland was activated from the 10-day IL yesterday, bringing the Cubs active roster to 35 players.
- The Cubs continue to strengthen their chances of making the postseason.
NL playoff chances, per Fangraphs: Nationals 98.6%
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) September 4, 2019
How About That!
Home plate umpiring has been pretty bad this season. Here are some of the more egregious strike calls of the first half of the season.
The Yankees blasted the Rangers 10-1 the night after Texas shut them out for the first time since Joe Girardi managed the Bronx Bombers. That’s 429 days without getting blanked. Can you imagine a Cubs fan having those kind of bragging rights?
Neither the Mets nor the Nationals deserve to make the playoffs after last night’s sad excuse of a 9th inning, but it sure was fun to watch. It’s hard to believe Brad Brach had no part of that last inning.
That’s all I’ve got today, I’m a little rushed. Call me if you’d like an IOU.
Tuesday’s Three Stars
- The Mets and Nationals – What an epic inning. The Mets scored five runs to take a 10-4 lead, only to watch as Washington plated seven runners in the bottom of the 9th to stun New York. Kurt Suzuki walked it off with a three-run homer off of closer Edwin Díaz.
- James Paxton – The big lefty breezed through seven innings of one-hit ball against the Rangers. Paxton punched out 12 Texas batters against a single walk.
- Ben Zobrist & Carlos Carrasco – Both veterans made triumphant returns this week. Carrasco has been out kicking cancer’s ass and was recently cleared to play. BenZo took some time to take care of his family through through some personal strife.
Nicholas Castellanos now has more home runs in one month with the Cubs than he had the entire rest of the season with the Tigers.
Stand tall, kick high, swing hard. #ThePhilosopher pic.twitter.com/EkDmnSPENI
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 4, 2019
They Said It
- “April and May, I don’t think it was a mirage. But at the same time we can’t just show up and say that’s who we are, because you are what you do and the last couple months haven’t been what we’re looking for. Usually as the weather warms up, your production improves, and ours has gone in the other direction this year, on the heels of last year’s second half too. So you actually have to be kind of honest with ourselves and get back to the best version, more dynamic offense.” – Theo Epstein
- “We still have nine good names in the lineup. It would have been nice to see what it looked like with everybody. But it just did not want to occur today. I was thinking, ‘OK, we’re just missing Javy today.’ And then all of a sudden, that went away a little bit, too. So with that, I wanted to do a little bit different with the lineup.” – Joe Maddon
- “It was great having Zo and obviously Contreras back, too. Benny at the top of the lineup, seeing a lot of pitches up there, and Contreras having a lot of good at-bats.” – Kyle Schwarber
Wednesday Walk Up Song
Bennie and the Jets by Elton John. How could it not be?