The Rundown: Kimbrel Looks Dominant, Trade Rumors Heating Up, Happ Keeps Hitting, Brennaman in Hot Water
Putting everything aside that happened between the Cardinals and Cubs yesterday and throughout the five-game series, the best development of the week has to be the reemergence of reliever Craig Kimbrel. For a guy whose mechanics have been out of whack for pretty much the entirety of his Cubs career, the struggling closer sure has looked vintage lately. In yesterday’s 4-2 win over St. Louis, Kimbrel was positively dominant.
Dirty Craig. ? pic.twitter.com/zbXd405K4D
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 20, 2020
All of a sudden, a bullpen that features a back end of Rowan Wick, Jeremy Jeffress and Kimbrel in whatever order David Ross chooses to deploy them, looks pretty pretty darned formidable. If you add strikeout machine Ryan Tepera to the mix, the Cubs genuinely look like they can lock down any game in which they enter the 7th inning with a lead. Kimbrel is the key, though.
Maybe it was just a matter of the relievers getting some work in, or maybe pitching coach Tommy Hottovy has finally convinced his 2020 regiment to be a little more aggressive in the zone. Regardless, the ‘pen has looked outstanding as of late in situations where they’ve been asked to maintain a lead and close out a game.
The Cubs bullpen now seems to be a strength, keep those fingers crossed, and who’d have thought we’d ever say that?
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cardinals pasted the Cubs 9-3 in the opening game of the twin bill. Alec Mills really struggled and spotted St.Louis a 4-0 lead before getting a single out.
- Despite Kimbrel’s impressive outing, Ross is still not ready to anoint him as the team’s closer.
- Adbert Alzolay was recalled yesterday, started the second game, and looked really impressive.
- Alzolay struck out six St. Louis batters in five scoreless frames, though he didn’t earn the win.
- Kid Dynamite David Bote (hey, dude needs a nickname) has been a clutch performer with the bat and the glove this season. His two-run single in the top of the 7th broke a 2-2 tie and set the stage for Kimbrel to close out the win.
- With Kris Bryant out, Ian Happ is becoming a legitimate leadoff option for Ross.
- The first-year manager said he is going to “assess” whether or not to keep Bryant in the leadoff spot once the third baseman returns from his wrist injury.
- Happ homered in the 1st inning of yesterday’s game, his sixth of the year. His 197 OPS+ is a pleasant surprise.
- Theo Epstein believes the Cubs and several teams will need to be creative ahead of the trade deadline in order to improve their playoff chances.
- A Cubs-Cardinals game played on a summer afternoon at Wrigley Field is an almost perfect combination. All that was missing was the crowds and the bustle surrounding the stadium.
- Jon Lester will take the bump on Friday night against the White Sox, when the Cubs resume play after today’s day off. The ChiSox will counter with Dallas Keuchel.
Odds & Sods
White Sox manager Rick Renteria, possibly to his outfielders, and on the QT of course: “Whatever you do, don’t let Eloy Jiménez field anything.”
Luis Robert steals a routine fly ball from Eloy Jimenez, Statcasted
Eloy's distance needed: 39 feet
Robert's distance needed: 103 feet pic.twitter.com/qxCCAcUQGd
— David Adler (@_dadler) August 18, 2020
How About That!
Longtime Reds’ television broadcaster Thom Brennaman’s future is in doubt after the play-by-play veteran was heard using a homophobic slur on a hot mic during yesterday’s game.
Reds players showed support for the LGBTQ community after Brenneman’s disgusting comment.
Based on credible rumors and a healthy dose of informed speculation, Bleacher Report analyzes some of the juiciest trade rumors making the rounds, including a suggestion that the Orioles will trade reliever Mychal Givens to the Cubs for Brailyn Marquez. Go ahead and laugh…I did. Seems like Baltimore would need to sweeten that deal just a little.
The reactions across baseball regarding the grand slam Fernando Tatis Jr. hit the other night suggest that times are indeed changing ($) and the old school purists are nothing more than a few cranky voices staving off irrelevancy.
The 21-year-old Tatis is currently leading the majors in home runs, RBI, stolen bases and runs scored, and is on pace for an historic season.
The Padres are one of baseball’s most talented young teams. Manny Machado hit a walk-off grand slam for the Friars yesterday, the team’s third bases-loaded tater in as many games.
At 8-17, the Angels are off to their worst start in history. I would think that doesn’t bother Joe Maddon too much, who probably sees the short season as a chance to evaluate his squad ahead of the 2021 campaign. You have to feel for Mike Trout, though.
Reds starter Trevor Bauer tried to wear cleats that said “Free Joe Kelly” in support of the suspended Dodgers pitcher, but MLB nixed that pretty quickly.
Wednesday’s Three Stars
- Kyle Tucker – The Houston outfielder had a 4-for-5 night that included a home run and a pair of triples as the Astros overwhelmed the Rockies 13-6. Tucker finished the night with four RBI.
- Johnny Cueto – For teams looking for a decent starter at the trade deadline, Cueto might be an option. He flashed a bit of his former dominant self in San Francisco’s 7-2 win over the Angels. The Giants righty earned his second win of the season with eight punchouts in 5.2 innings.
- Craig Kimbrel – Considering his recent struggles, Kimbrel really deserves to be recognized for earning his first save of 2020.
Sliding Into Home
I’d like to thank COVID-19 for reintroducing me to something I haven’t done in decades.
Have you ever just jumped in the car and cruised your favorite streets or destinations for no particular reason other than to listen to some good music and do a little soul searching? Gas is cheap these days, and for me, the northbound drive over Hoan Bridge into Milwaukee proper, past the Summerfest Grounds and Art Museum, alongside the lagoons at Veteran’s Parkway, on to Bradford Beach, continuing to North Point and into Shorewood, is one of the most scenic drives in America.
Listening to Ben Folds and Dave Matthews while driving at twilight almost made the trip perfect, but then I saw actual surfers hitting the 3-4 foot breaks on Lake Michigan at North Beach and it was pure heaven. At that time, the sunset makes it look like there are diamonds floating on the water. I arrived home just in time to see Bote give the Cubs the lead in the second game.
The Cubs get Luis Robert, Tim Anderson, Jiménez, and the rest of the White Sox in a three-game set that starts at Wrigley Field on Friday. Expect a lot of energy from both teams.
Marly Rivera: Checking in with White Sox phenom Luis Robert: 'It still seems like a dream' https://t.co/BM4YjimuIB
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) August 20, 2020
They Said It
- “[Kimbrel] is still getting there. But tonight was a nice time for him. He’s been trending in the right direction. This guy, I’ve said it all along, he’s going to be a big part of our bullpen and be part of our success if we are going to do what we want to do in this season. You see it.” – David Ross
- “I feel pretty good right now. Everything feels pretty under control. I feel like I can throw the ball where I want or somewhere close to where I want. When that happens, everything kind of falls into place. The last couple outings have looked good, but I’m looking to do a lot more than three scoreless outings.” – Craig Kimbrel
Thursday Walk Up Song
I Won’t Back Down by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – This one’s for you, Dirty Craig.