The Rundown: Cubs Sweep Bucs, El Mago Steals Show, Crick Flashes Fishy Slider, Reds in Chicago for Weekend

“Don’t runaway midnight hideaway…Don’t you fade away ’til the morning light.” – Bodeans, Fadeaway

Instant Replay

The Cubs swept the Pirates and were temporarily tied for first place with the Cardinals (I’m not sure why I thought St. Louis was off yesterday, but we’ll call that a pre-senior moment) after yesterday’s 5-3 win. They’ll start a weekend series with the Reds tonight at what is sure to be a chilly Wrigley Field, so let’s hope the early spring conditions don’t send the Cubs bats back to their early April disposition.

There’s a lot to unpack from yesterday’s game, which probably belongs in Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum instead of baseball’s Hall of Fame, but the things that stood out the most were so bizarre that even Stefon from Saturday Night Live couldn’t explain it. There was the shirtless guy in the third base stands who looked completely naked at times; Pittsburgh reliever Kyle Crick showcased a slider that moved so much it looked like a Wiffle Ball; and Javier Báez “stole” first base in what might be the first ever home-to-first rundown that turned a fielder’s choice into a run-scoring double.

We could spend the rest of our lives watching baseball and never see what Báez did yesterday afternoon in Pittsburgh. I only wish that former ESPN anchor Kenny Mayne was still around to break it down.

As far as Crick, he made no secret of the fact that he doctors his pitches. Each time he received a new baseball the first thing he’d do is go to the dirty spot on the bill of his cap and at one point you could see the ball was actually stuck to his hand. Pine tar will do that and it will also increase the spin rate on a baseball to extraterrestrial levels, which is to say it can help a journeyman reliever look otherworldly at times. Then again, we are allegedly cohabitating our planet with aliens from outer space, so maybe Crick is simply here to provide data to some intelligent life form from a distant galaxy. Perhaps the Smoking Man is behind the whole thing.

The Reds come to Chicago today and they’ve had their share of shenanigans all season. After a strong start, they’ve faded to the back of the NL Central pack thanks to a bullpen that has ranged anywhere from shaky to pathetic. They’re 3-7 in their last 10 and each new loss brings them a step closer to tanking. The Cubs, by the way, have now won 10 of 13. Let’s hope the North Siders stay hot despite today’s expected 51-degree, cold and wet game time temperature.

  • The Good: Have a day, Patrick Wisdom! The young outfielder was 2-for-3 with a double and his fifth career home run.
  • Simply the Best: El Mago. The Pirates radio team gets the Daytime Emmy for their explanation of the play. “The calliopes can be heard from here to Sewickley.”
  • The Bad: The Pirates are exceptional at finding new ways to lose. The Pittsburgh recap of yesterday’s game reads like a Shakespearean tragicomedy.
  • The Ugly: There are few things more offensive than a shoeless, shirtless dude at a baseball game. Chalk it up to baseball in the time of COVID-19.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Earmuff the kids, but five years later “ass in the jackpot” is still the best baseball phrase of all time.

Climbing the Ladder

“Sunlight fall down on the fields, sunlight fall down over me work all day, be all that I can be.” – Bodeans, Good Things

  • Games Played: 49
  • Total Plate Appearances: 1,849
  • Total Strikeouts: 467
  • Strikeout Rate: 25.3%
  • Team Batting Average: .240

How About That!

Cardinals pitcher Giovanny Gallegos had his hat confiscated the other day so it can be examined for illegal substances, and St. Louis manager Mike Shildt thinks baseball is making an example of the wrong guy.

White Sox manager Tony La Russa is embracing the vitriol from fans and writers.

The Phillies look like they might be sellers at this year’s deadline. Though Bryce Harper probably won’t be available, Andrew McCutchen, Vince Velasquez, Archie Bradley and Héctor Neris are on expiring contracts.

Shohei Ohtani missed his start yesterday because he was late to the ballpark and manager Joe Maddon identified a couple of bizarre reasons for the two-way star’s tardiness. The Angels lost 5-0 without Ohtani.

After another hitless game yesterday, outfielder Cameron Maybin is now 0-for-26 since the Mets acquired him from the Cubs.

Orioles fans ripped the team’s New Era Local Market baseball cap so badly it was pulled from the manufacturer’s website. The hat features a crab, the face of Edgar Allan Poe, the USS Constellation, the state outline and the nickname “Charm City” in cursive. “Nevermore,” quoth the raven.

Minor League teams that were on the brink of extinction are back, but things aren’t the same.

Thursday’s Three Stars

  1. Javier Báez – You don’t do something that’s never been done before without earning the top spot here.
  2. Alek Manoah – The rookie Blue Jays pitcher stifled the Yankees in his MLB debut, holding the Bombers to two hits in six innings with seven strikeouts.
  3. Dylan Cease – The White Six righty has been the most improved pitcher in baseball this season, and last night he recorded 10 punchouts in a 5-1 win over the Orioles. Cease has a 2.98 ERA on the season.

Extra Innings

If Kris Bryant and the rest of the Cubs core really want to make things uncomfortable for Jed Hoyer, they’ll force him to be a buyer at this year’s trade deadline. If he wants to keep his ever-improving farm system intact, the president of baseball operations will really need to get creative.

They Said It

  • “My first thought was to go headfirst, pretty much out of the baseline, but the throw got there so early. I was just trying to make Willy score even though there were two outs. I just improvise. At the moment I can react pretty fast. I’m pretty good at tagging and not letting people tag me”Javier Báez
  • “He has this way about him. You can call it swag or baseball IQ. He plays the game like a kid. I think that’s why a lot of people fall in love with him.”David Ross

Friday Walk Up Song

Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) by Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band (Live, 1975) – With perhaps up to 25,000 fans at Wrigley today, it’s going to be a beautiful day for Cubs baseball no matter the weather.

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