“Welcome to the jungle, we take it day by day. If you want it you’re gonna bleed, but it’s the price to pay.” – Guns N’ Roses, Welcome to the Jungle
The Cubs continue to defy the odds and are squashing the narrative that they’re just an average team. Jed Hoyer built this team to win close games thanks to strong pitching and tight defense, and the 9th inning of last night’s 3-2 win over the Cardinals was the culmination of those offseason efforts. After Adbert Alzolay put two batters on with no outs, Nico Hoerner and Dansby Swanson pulled off an eye-popping double play. Both were upstaged one batter later by Mike Tauchman.
HOLY COW!! MIKE TAUCHMAN!
CUBS WIN! pic.twitter.com/K7nFdwZ8im
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 29, 2023
The call by St. Louis announcer Chip Caray is downright degenerate. Losing to the Cubs in this fashion is a microcosm of the neverending nightmare that has become the Cardinals’ season. The silence after Caray’s call is indeed golden.
Tauchman has been one of Jed Hoyer’s best under-the-radar signings, the equivalent of flipping the bird at Theo Epstein for the likes of Jon Jay and Daniel Descalso. If the Cubs had a guy like Tauchman in 2019, their history might look vastly different. The center fielder’s spectacular catch may have pushed Chicago into buy mode while simultaneously forcing St. Louis to sell. The Redbirds are dead birds and it’s entertaining to watch the North Siders putting them out of their misery.
On the flip side, I keep saying the Cubs need a bona fide closer and I’d hope Hoyer has San Diego GM A.J. Preller on his speed dial if the Padres are truly making Josh Hader available. I like Alzolay, but I’d rather see him manning the 8th inning for now because he lacks Hader’s experience and electrifying strikeout rate. I realize acquiring a replacement is not the popular opinion, but I’m just trying to look at this roster minus my Cubs blinders. Give me a guy who can throw gas in the manner of Aroldis Chapman.
But that’s nitpicking on my part. I’ve enjoyed the last week of baseball as much as any stretch of games since the last out of the 2016 season. These Cubs remind me of the organization’s 2015 iteration or the Cleveland squad from Major League. Let’s hope Jameson Taillon can keep the winning streak going tonight. There’s nothing better than watching the Cubs take Adam Wainwright to the woodshed.
Cubs News & Notes
- Alzolay was surprised he came so close to giving up a walk-off home run after throwing an elevated 98 mph fastball over the outer half of the plate. “Amazing,” he said, unable to suppress a smile. “Great, great, great catch right there. Game-saving right there. It was just electric.”
- Alzolay’s infamous celebrations run opposite to his very grounded approach to pitching.
- The Cubs recalled righty Hayden Wesneski before yesterday’s game and he served as an opener for Drew Smyly. The pair combined for 10 strikeouts in 6.1 innings, the only damage being a pair of solo home runs by Lars Nootbaar.
- Chicago’s postseason odds have skyrocketed thanks to the current winning streak.
- The Cubs have won nine of 10, giving them a 52-51 record, and they are above the .500 mark for the first time since May 6.
- To a man, each player on Chicago’s roster is focused on the push to make the playoffs.
- Nobody knows how this roller coaster season will end, but it has been fun.
- It’s looking more and more like the Cubs will hang onto trade candidates Marcus Stroman and Cody Bellinger. Don’t look for any buy rumors, however, because they just don’t exist, and Hoyer won’t crack under questioning.
- Bellinger is listed as the number one “bust to avoid at the deadline” and I can’t stop laughing.
- Opportunity and perspective are the keys to this four-game set with the Redbirds.
- The Cubs and Cardinals are two organizations going in opposite directions, and the ejections of Miles Mikolas and Oliver Marmol on Thursday night illustrate that perfectly.
- Those ejections added a wonderful twist to the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry.
- The league suspended Mikolas for five games and Marmol will be sacked for one. The Cardinals skipper served his suspension Friday night, but Mikolas appealed his. I wonder if he’ll use the magic grits defense.
- Pitching prospect Cade Horton had a night, thank you very much, and could be emerging as a future ace.
- Ryan Dempster throws batting practice to Hoerner? Who knew?
- This morning’s baseball quiz by Bill Chuck is perfect for trade deadline week. Each successive question is tougher than the previous, but I answered seven correctly.
Odds & Sods
If #STLCards are not trading Nolan Arenado, they are handling it very poorly. Front office has ghosted, leaving Arenado to speak on reports and rumors tonight after game. He initially declined, then came back and talked. He’s a pro, but he’s frustrated. Bad spot for him to be in.
— Ben Frederickson (@Ben_Fred) July 29, 2023
- Milwaukee (57-47): Justin Wilson was set to make his return from Tommy John surgery, but was derailed when he “felt something significant” in his left lat/triceps area. The Brewers reliever landed back on the IL immediately.
- Cincinnati (57-48): The Reds organization was forced to pull a minor league t-shirt from its merchandise stores because it crossed some lines. Unfortunately, other vendors quickly copied the logo so it is still widely available.
- St. Louis (46-59): The rumors tied to Nolan Arenado and the Dodgers continue to strengthen, but the Cardinals’ third baseman is frustrated by the lack of communication from the organization.
- Pittsburgh (45-58): Oneil Cruz, who broke his ankle back in April, is close to returning to the Pirates lineup.
Climbing the Ladder
“He’s the one that makes ya feel alright.” – Mötley Crüe, Dr. Feelgood
I want to say that last night’s game had a playoff-like atmosphere, but I’m disinclined to give the Cardinals the credit.
Don’t look now, but the Cubs have quietly climbed to No. 6 overall in run differential. The offense deserves the bulk of the credit, too. Entering last night’s game, Chicago’s batters led the league in runs per game (7.17), batting average (.301), OPS (.873), and stolen bases (20) since the All-Star break. The lineup is much stronger when Swanson, Hoerner, Ian Happ, and Seiya Suzuki are all healthy.
- Games Played: 103
- Record: 52-51 (.505)
- Total Plate Appearances: 3,972
- Total Strikeouts: 935
- Strikeout Rate: 23.54%
- Team Batting Average: .254
- Runs Scored: 509
- Runs Allowed: 453
- Chances of Making the Playoffs: 49.0%, 2.4% to win the World Series
How About That!
The White Sox continued razing their roster by trading Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly to the Dodgers. Los Angeles sent outfielder Trayce Thompson and pitchers Nick Nastrini and Jordan Leasure to Chicago in return.
A-Rod’s faux pas is on par with this bit of Ohtani satire by The Onion.
This shot of Camden Yards is nearly biblical in scope.
Friday’s Three Stars
- Tauchman – He singlehandedly won the game last night and there is no denying that.
- Bobby Witt Jr. – The Royals shortstop was 4-for-5 with six RBI and a walk-off grand slam, but Tauchman upstaged him by stealing a home run from Alec Burleson.
- Zack Wheeler – The Phillies’ ace held the Pirates to one run on three hits over 6.2 innings with 11 strikeouts.
For Tauchman and the Cubs, it doesn’t get any better than this.
Mike Tauchman respect button —-> 🔁 pic.twitter.com/Oa0AWxidgj
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 29, 2023
They Said It
- “That was nuts. We don’t win that game early in the season.” – David Ross
- “We’re in such a time in baseball of trying to understand and evaluate and analyze everything. Sometimes things just line up and happen and you just roll with it and enjoy it.” – Hoerner
- “There’s ups and downs in a season, but we have a lot of really, really good baseball players in this room. We’re pretty multidimensional on offense, and the bullpen has been sharp. The starting pitching has been great all year. The defense kind of speaks for itself. That’s all the characteristics of a good team.” – Tauchman
Saturday Walk-Up Song
These Cubs have been a blast to watch since mid-June.