The Rundown: Cubs Inching Closer to Division Title, Rotation Trending Upward, Manfred Hopeful Fans Can Attend Postseason Games

“Victory is won not in miles but in inches. Win a little now, hold your ground, and later, win a little more.” – Louis L’Amour

The Cubs were idle last night but the Cardinals and Brewers split a doubleheader, so David Ross and Co. saw their magic number to win the NL Central reduced to 12. They just need any combination of eight wins and Milwaukee losses to clinch a postseason berth. That and an extra day to marvel over the no-hitter tossed by Alec Mills on Sunday made for a nice, relaxing way to burn a PTO day.

Tonight the North Siders will start their final homestand of the season, with two games against the Indians before the Twins come to town for a three-game set. Chicago’s bats have been relatively silent at Wrigley Field all year, but they’re on an roll right now after scored 16 runs in their last 10 innings of play at Miller Park. If that’s the start of an offensive breakout, the Cubs couldn’t have picked a better time.

In the meantime, the Cardinals and Brewers should continue to beat up on each other with any outcome favorable for the Cubs. The bottom line is that winning takes care of everything and Chicago solidly controls its own destiny with 12 games left on their schedule.

The good news is that the starting rotation seems to have righted the ship. The Cubs have allowed just 12 runs in their last seven games, with most of the damage coming in an 8-5 win over the Reds on Thursday. Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, and of course Mills were lights out against the Brewers over the weekend.

Yu Darvish gets the call tonight seeking his eighth win of the season. With two more starts, unless the Cubs clinch and rest him, he has an outside chance to reach double digits in victories for his first time since signing in 2018. The Indians will counter with righty Carlos Carrasco and, as I mentioned yesterday, I expect Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber to have big games tonight.

Cubs manager David Ross calls Darvish starts “win day.” The ace has been on cruise control for most of the season, but hit a speed bump in his last outing. He’s still one of the favorites for the NL Cy Young Award, along with Jacob deGrom and Trevor Bauer, but he’ll need to nail it with these last few starts.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Christian Yelich has lost his mojo. The outfielder is batting just .199, including a pedestrian 103 OPS+, with just under two weeks remaining in the season.

Apropos of Nothing

Other than massive viewership for the debut of Tom Brady in Tampa, NFL television ratings took a bit of a hit in week one. I do not condone the boycotting of sports, especially by those who say “stand for the National Anthem” while simultaneously preaching that sports and politics should be kept in separate corners. Still, I believe the pandemic has taught us all that we can actually live without gamedays, and once this is over, professional sports is going to have to find unique ways to recapture lost fans. Baseball will find itself in a similar predicament based on any number of PR blunders since the 2019 season ended.

How About That!

Rob Manfred is hopeful MLB will have limited fan attendance for some MLB postseason games.

The Dodgers vs. the Padres is the new high-stakes rivalry baseball needs. I think the Twins-White Sox rivalry is right up there, too.

Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns addressed all the Josh Hader trade rumors yesterday, though there was never any real indication that Milwaukee was trying to move their closer.

Adam Engel and Tim Anderson led the White Sox (31-16) to a key win over the Twins (30-19) last night, increasing their lead in the AL West to two games.

Playoff-style baseball has returned to the South Side.

The sale of the Mets to Steve Cohen could bring a seismic, Dodgers-like shift to the NL East.

Orioles outfielder Ryan Mountcastle is looking more and more like the favorite to win AL Rookie of the Year with each passing game.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts still carries a great deal of anger over the 2017 World Series.

Yankees outfielder Clint Frazier will remain in the lineup after Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge return from injuries.

Monday’s Three Stars

  1. José Iglesias – The Orioles shortstop was 4-for-4 with a home run, four RBI and three runs scored as Baltimore destroyed the Braves 14-1.
  2. Mike Minor – The veteran starter and swingman earned his first victory of the year with a complete game shutout against the Mariners. Minor struck out eight Seattle batters and allowed just two hits.
  3. Dinelson Lamet – The Padres starter shutdown the Dodgers last night to improve to 3-1 on the season. Lamet struck out 11 Los Angeles batters over seven innings, giving up just a run on three hits.

Extra Innings

Trent Grisham tattooed a meatball thrown by Clayton Kershaw and old schoolers lost their minds because he wasn’t respectful enough to simply put his head down and circle the bases. Though I prefer the “act like you’ve been here before” sentiment, I’m not opposed to players getting caught up in the moment, either. The point is, if the Dodgers are feeling a little butt-hurt, then just show the Padres how they think it should be done. End of story.

I think the Los Angeles is a little more upset that San Diego has won eight straight and is threatening to wrest the NL West lead during the home stretch.

They Said It

  • “Velocity isn’t everything. I’m on the right team. [Hendricks] is a great example of being able to be efficient, and being able to pitch the way you know how and not necessarily just blowing people away. But at the same time, you still have to attack hitters with everything you got.” – Alec Mills
  • “You’re watching how [Mills] continues to execute pitches,. You’re thinking through so many different scenarios: If he gives up a hit or something kind of derails him a little bit. So you’re trying to have precautions in the back of your mind, and not wanting to mess with anything.” – David Ross
  • “How about Alec Mills! Congratulations Sir Alec- and remember announcers can’t jinx no- no’s. Only wizards and elves can.”Jim Deshaies

Tuesday Walk Up Song

On Top of the World by Cheap Trick – With no game yesterday, today’s column sort of feels like a well-deserved victory lap for Millsy. He definitely earned it.

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