The Rundown: Cubs Looking For Series Split, Quintana Nearing Return, Kimbrel Gives Hope, Sunday Baseball News and Notes
With yesterday’s 6-5 loss, the Cubs have run into their first losing streak of the season and hopefully it can be contained to just two games. Aside from the bullpen being unable to shut down the Brewers yesterday, Javier Báez and Willson Contreras looked terrible at the plate, and the North Siders are looking a lot like the 2018 and 2019 teams in a couple of key areas.
Final (10th): Brewers 6, Cubs 5. pic.twitter.com/pJFFmN9nz3
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 15, 2020
Báez is 0-for-19 against Milwaukee in his previous 19 at-bats and, like most of his teammates, is failing miserably when it comes to situational hitting. On Friday, Cubs batters whiffed three times with the bases loaded, and in the two losses, Chicago has left 18 total men on base. Those are the types of things that will push a playoff team out of contention, especially one with a suspect bullpen.
From my viewpoint, it also looks like the Cubs lose a lot of fire at the plate once Brewers manager Craig Counsell yields to his bullpen. It’s no secret that Chicago batters are prone to an occasional strikeout, but Milwaukee’s relievers, who have recorded 27 punchouts in 15.2 innings this series, make them look downright silly.
If the Cubs are to salvage a split today, they’ll need to avoid getting into a bullpen game. Jon Lester will take the bump for the 1:20 PM CT start facing Josh Lindblom who has a 14.2 K-rate despite a 5.68 ERA to start the season. Lester has a 1.06 ERA and is looking to improve to 3-0.
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cubs remain optimistic that they are doing all of the right things to avoid being slowed down by COVID-19.
- In Friday’s outing, Craig Kimbrel started looking a little more like his old self.
- I’m going to make one trade deadline prediction: The Cubs will acquire one of Ian Kennedy or Brandon Workman to improve their struggling bullpen. They are paying Kimbrel too much money to trade for one of the better closers.
- Though starter José Quintana is nearing a return from injury, Alec Mills has left little doubt he has earned the right to remain in the rotation.
- Quintana (thumb) is scheduled to throw a four-inning simulated game today.
- New manager David Ross has become a believer in Ryan Tepera and admitted he misjudged Tepera’s abilities before the start of the season.
Odds & Sods
“Elvis Presley is dead at the age of 43.” – Jack Brickhouse
Today is the 43rd anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley. I remember hearing the news from Jack Brickhouse while watching the Cubs beat the Pirates 6-5 in 15 innings. That Chicago team, which had virtually no power to speak of, was 66-51 after the win, 2.5 games out of first, but would go 15-30 the rest of the way to finish fourth in the NL East. The Cubs announcer said nothing else regarding the King of Rock’s death, and color commentator Lou Boudreau simply added, “That’s really a shame.”
Apropos of Nothing
The first motion picture, created by British photographer Eadweard Muybridge using a series of still photographs of a horse running, was created on June 11, 1878, and it’s truly fascinating.
Updates on Nine
- I’ve never been as high on Nico Hoerner as other Cubs fans, and it seems like league pitchers are catching on to him now that they know his tendencies. The second baseman has just two hits and two walks in his last 27 plate appearances, and yesterday was caught stealing with two outs during the ninth inning with Kris Bryant at the plate. He’s slugging an anemic .275, easily the worst among players getting regular playing time. On the other hand, Jason Kipnis leads the team with a 223 OPS+ and is slashing .357/.445/1.205 in 33 PAs. In fairness to Hoerner, he lacks the development time that the front office usually requires of its first-year players.
- It will be a shame if Mike Trout retires from baseball having not won a World Series. The Angels outfielder is slugging .710 this season and hit his ninth tater of the year yesterday in a 6-5 loss to the Dodgers. He added a stolen base as the Angels fell to a 7-14 record in their first season under Joe Maddon. Trout has just 12 postseason at-bats in his ten-year career.
- Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. also hit his ninth homer of the season, tying him with Trout and Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge for the major league lead. The young shortstop now has 33 home runs and 21 stolen bases in 421 big league at-bats.
- Yankees starter Gerrit Cole came within one strike of earning his 20th straight regular-season win before getting pulled, as New York beat the Rays 8-4 Saturday in the first game of yesterday’s doubleheader.
- Today marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Indians shortstop Ray Chapman, who was hit in the head by a rising fastball from New York Giants submarining pitcher Carl Mays.
- Also on this day, Sports Illustrated made its debut in 1954, featuring Braves third baseman Eddie Matthews on the cover.
- Yesterday’s start by Cubs swingman Colin Rea was his first since 2016. With a couple of doubleheaders scheduled against St. Louis this week, it’s probably safe to assume Rea will get at least one more turn through the rotation.
- The actions of Cleveland starters Zach Plesac and Mike Clevinger have left them on the outs with their Indians teammates and many players throughout baseball. After reinstating both pitchers from the COVID-19 restricted list, the Indians demoted both to their alternative training camp. Each must stay there for at least 10 days unless there is an injury on the big league roster.
- Reds starter Trevor Bauer lit up Scott Boras this weekend. The mouthy pitcher accused the power agent of attempting to get his vlog shut down and said Boras had his clients accuse Bauer of disclosing a positive COVID-19 test of a teammate. Meanwhile, Boras stated that he is making his private jet available to any of his players who get traded ahead of the August 31 deadline.
Scott Boras: wants to shut my vlog down, is not a friend of the people or fans, is not a fan of players marketing themselves, is not a fan of marketing his players.
PSA to all the players reading this, he doesn’t care about you. He cares about himself and his ego. Be smart.
— Trevor Bauer (@BauerOutage) August 15, 2020
Saturday’s Three Stars
- Clint Frazier – The Yankees outfielder went 3-for-3 with a home run, a double, a walk, and five RBI in an 11-5 win over Boston on Saturday. Frazier is now 7-for-11 with a pair of home runs and eight RBI in three games since being recalled to replace injured outfielder Giancarlo Stanton.
- Shane Bieber – The Indians ace improved to 4-0 on the season, striking out 11 Detroit hitters in a 3-1 win. The right-hander has 54 punch outs through his first five starts, third-most by any pitcher in the modern era, just shy of Nolan Ryan (59 K’s in 1978) and Randy Johnson (55 in 1999).
- Fox Sports WI – The local affiliate (for me) has allowed Milwaukee’s regular announcer, Brian Anderson, to go on assignment with the NBA, meaning he will remain in the league’s bubble for the duration of the postseason. That makes this a very personal choice because now I can actually stand to watch when the Brewers play the Cubs. There is no such thing as dead air when Anderson broadcasts a baseball game because he never stops talking.
Sliding Into Home
I just want everybody to know that I’m in a good place right now, and I know what I need to do to remain as healthy as possible in the short- and long-term. Though I am no longer eligible for a liver transplant, I remain on the list in case something changes. In fact, if my biopsy on August 24 reveals a cancer of the organ, I could theoretically become eligible again. I’m not rooting for cancer though.
- 6-of-100 individuals at the same stage of liver disease as me die within three months;
- 83-of-100 individuals matching my current condition live three to five years;
- Two percent live five years or more;
- My blood labs from Thursday indicate that my rising enzymes have leveled off, and my white blood cell counts are way down; and
- I have continued losing weight at a healthy pace.
In the meantime, our great friends at 26 Shirts have designed a limited-edition Grateful Dead themed shirt to raise money to go toward my medical expenses. I’m very grateful and had no idea this was happening, so it is my hope we can generate 100+ sales, just like the previous edition. By the way, my weight is now down to 242, so by January I may be able to slide snugly into a regular XL. Fingers crossed on the weight loss though, as I don’t like many of the foods on my allowed list, which is basically a diabetic version of a Mediterranean diet, my least favorite cuisine.
All MLB clubs will celebrate the centennial of the founding of the Negro National League, with all players, managers, coaches, and umpires wearing a 100th-anniversary patch on their uniforms during today’s games.
A great way to start your Sunday. #negroleagues100 #biggerthanbaseball #tipyourcap2020 pic.twitter.com/EQvqDVVH5O
— The Other Boys Of Summer (@NegroLeagueFilm) August 16, 2020
They Said It
- “This season’s getting played. That’s our mentality. Button everything up. Be as safe as possible. That’s what guys have been doing. It’s six more weeks of [the] sprint. Tomorrow we’ll be ready.” – Anthony Rizzo
Sunday Walk-Up Song
Jailhouse Rock – Though the lip-syncing is awful, this iconic video set the benchmark for themed performances that would become the norm at MTV two decades later.