Baseball

VS

 

Records: Cardinals 2-3 / White Sox 10-9

Start Times: Saturday game 1 1:10/Game 2 4:00/ Sunday 1:10

TV: NBCSN

Dude, That’s Not Pizza: Viva El Birdos

 

Probable Starters

Game 1: Adam Wainwright (1-0 1.50 ERA) vs. Lucas Giolito (1-1 4.37 ERA)

Game 2: TBD vs. TBD

Game 3: TBD vs. Dallas Keuchel (2-2 3.04 ERA)

 

It’s been a bit since I’ve gotten the chance to talk with you all about the Sox. Unfortunately work occasionally cuts into my ability to churn these things out. Suffice to say in the time since I posted the Brewers preview some stuff has happened. The Sox started out gangbusters against the Brew Crew, then faded down the stretch. Then they lost 2 of 3 to the Tribe, and the first game to the Tigers before Dallas Keuchel decided enough was enough. He gave the young offense a verbal lashing, then repeated what he said (with less cursing, I’m assuming) to the local media.

What he said apparently worked, as the Sox dropped 15 runs on the heads of the Tigers after only scoring 10 the previous 6 games combined. Having Tim Anderson back certainly helped, as he kicked off the party by drawing an 8 pitch walk his first at bat back and was later knocked in by Eloy Jimenez with the 3 run shot. He also fell a double short of the cycle on Wednesday, going 4-5 and welcoming Matthew Boyd to the game by smoking a no-doubter into the left field seats.

Taking 2 of 3 from the Tigers should be the bare minimum for this team going forward if they have any interest in making the postseason this fall. Standing in the way of that this weekend are the Rona-laden St. Louis Cardinals, who have thus far only played 5 games this season.

We could go over how ridiculous it is ad nauseum to have the Cards try and pack 55 games in 42 days like they’re going to have to do to play out the string, but that’s best left to angrier people like our old boss Sam.

What this does mean is the White Sox are getting to play a team that hasn’t taken the field in over 2 weeks. One would have to assume both their hitters and pitching staff will be pretty rusty, and with the appropriate aggressiveness, be taken advantage of.

The Red Birds have only announced one starter thus far, and that’s the aging prince Adam Wainwright for game one of the doubleheader tomorrow. After only pitching 160 innings total from 2016-18 due to various maladies, Wainwright was able to reinvent himself last season which for a 39 year old is no mean feat. He started 31 games in 2019, going 14-10 with a 4.19 ERA. While that’s nowhere near the numbers when he was at the height of his powers, for a 5th starter on a team with playoff aspirations you could do a whole lot worse.

For the Cards actual ace, they turn the ball over to Jack Flaherty. Last year Flaherty went 11-8 with a 2.73 ERA and 231 strikeouts. His WHIP was outstanding at .093 which is pretty nuts for an entire season. Flaherty doesn’t throw smoke, usually topping out around 93-95 mph. What he does have is pinpoint control, which his 2.52 BB/9 rate proves. He mixes 4 pitches with regularity (4 seam, curve, changeup, and slider), and the slider has the kind of movement usually reserved for frisbee golf. Luis Robert is gonna see a lot of those, as will Eloy.

Were I a betting man, I’d put my money on him facing off against Keuchel on Sunday. The kid is the real deal, and as long as he’s healthy should anchor the Cards rotation for the foreseeable future.

Speaking of the future of the Cardinals, this weekend should feature the debut of uber-prospect Dylan Carlson (#1 in the Cards pipeline and #18 overall in MLB according to MLB.COM). Carlson was the Cards #1 overall pick in 2016, and slashed his way through their minor league system without getting much competition. Through AA and AAA ball last year, Carlson slashed  .292/.372/.542 with a .914 OPS in 126 games, which looks kind of like the Sox own CF prospect. Carlson is a switch hitter with a plus hit tool, and is an above average defender in the outfield. Hopefully he takes a few games to get his feet under him and is more a problem for the Cubs and not the Sox.

For the pale hose this weekend, the question is whether or not they can sustain the hot hitting they got in the final two games of the series against the Tigers. Pitching wise having both Giolito and Keuchel going in the series is a good thing, and game 2 Saturday would be the perfect time to use Ross Detwiler in an opener role. Detwiler has been pretty nails thus far in the season being used in a relief role, but hasn’t thrown hardly at all lately. Ricky Renteria decided he’d rather have Drew Anderson get rocked by the Indians on Saturday rather than use Boss Ross. Anderson has since been punted to the land of wind and ghosts (Schaumburg), so this seems the perfect opportunity for Detwiler and pleasant surprise Matt Foster to eat some innings tomorrow.

With the Cards hardly playing since the calendar flipped to August, the timing is perfect to steal at least 2 of 3 from STL. Having Tim Anderson lighting the fuse at the top of the lineup seems to be working, so more of that please. Luis Robert smoking that bases clearing double Wednesday is hopefully a sign he’s adjusting to the steady diet of breaking balls he’s been seeing over the past few weeks. Keep Eloy out of the netting, and the series should be theirs.

Let’s Go Sox

 

 

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Cardinals 85-67   Cubs 82-70

GAMETIMES: Thursday 6:15, Friday-Sunday 1:20

TV: Fox Thursday, ABC 7 Friday, WGN Saturday, NBCSN Sunday

I DON’T LIKE YOU EITHER: Viva El Birdos

SERIES PREVIEW POSTS

Depth Charts & Pitching Staffs

Cardinals Spotlight: Doing What They Wouldn’t

And so it’s come to this. After a four-year stretch where it generally felt like the Cubs had switched the dynamic on THE AULD RIVAL FROM THE SOUTH, everyone in blue is prepping for the most gruesome of deaths. Maybe it comes this weekend. Maybe the more cruel twist comes on the final weekend of the season. Either way, a feeling you thought you might have left behind has come roaring back. It’s almost comforting in a way, because we’ve lived with it for so long.

Oh, but there’s hope too. A hope that this infuriating, unsatisfying, unenjoyable season could find salvation. Perhaps the previous five and a half months wouldn’t sting as badly if it ends by sticking it to the Cardinals over seven games in 11 days. Perhaps the stale and foul taste of this season can be washed away. It’s possible, it’s just that it’s not something we’re accustomed to.

In all likelihood, the Cubs have to take at least five of the seven games on offer from The Red Menace. And even that could only likely ensure a tie, as in the interim the Cubs have the Pirates while the Cardinals have three games that looked like they might be treacherous a couple weeks ago against the Diamondbacks, but assuredly aren’t now. Anything less than a sweep of the Pirates could doom the Cubs. But we’ll get there.

A split here and it’s over. Three games down with six to go means even a 6-0 finish isn’t going to be enough. And of course there’s the small matter of the Brewers lurking as well, and they finish with one against San Diego today, and then Pirates, Reds, Rockies. It could open up for them if the Cubs and Cardinals hold each other in place.

And the real fear is that the Cardinals can expose two of the bigger problems the Cubs have through their rotation. One is that the absence of Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez is just too much to carry. The second is that the inconsistency within the Cubs rotation is another they can’t overcome thanks to the solidity of the Cardinals’ staff. The second one is debatable, as the matchups have come out ok. Both will throw top of the rotation guys in Kyle Hendricks and Jack Flaherty tonight. Both will throw question marks in Jose Quintana and Michael Wacha tomorrow, though you’d trust Q slightly more than Wacha. The weekend finishes with what look like advantages for one team (Saturday for the Cards with Hudson, Sunday for the Cubs with Darvish). But baseball doesn’t work that way.

While the Cardinals offense over the whole of the season hasn’t been impressive, it’s been more than enough of late to go by the Cubs as they sat around poking a carcass with a stick. Perhaps it was their own. Tommy Edman, the kind of young go-getter the Cardinals always produce that pop for a few weeks and make you want to reach through the screen and either throttle him or just yourself before they sink back into anonymity, has been their hottest hitter. Right behind him is the Shit Demon behind the plate, and you’re already picturing some piece of garbage off his fists landing softly enough over Zobrist’s head to not actually make a sound to drive in two in the 7th of one of these. You’ve seen it too many times. Kolten Wong and Paul Goldschmidt are both on one as well, so the challenge is set.

And you don’t want to be trailing this team late, because they’ve fashioned quite the shutdown pen of late. I wouldn’t trust Carlos Martinez with anything valuable, too many memories of him going to the zoo at the slightest hint of trouble, but he also hasn’t given up an earned run in a month. Ryan Helsly, Giovanny Gallegos, and Dominic Leone have all been great the past month. The Cardinals know exactly how they’re getting to the last out. The Cubs have to guess every night.

It doesn’t shape up well. But it doesn’t have to. A Bryant or Schwarber binge. Quintana rediscovering what worked in August to join what Hendricks and Darvish have continually been doing. A meltdown from any Cardinal reliever, and it could all swing back.

The Cubs have a lot to overcome without even considering the opponent, like injuries and general malaise. We’ll find out if they can ever truly lock it in as they claimed they would all season, or if they’ve always wanted it to just be over like most of us have.

Pessimism is for assholes. C’mon Cubs, give us a reason to keep hoping for at least another week. We’ve got nothing else to do anyway.

Baseball

While this series doesn’t have to serve as an execution in the public square, it’s hard for Cubs fans to feel otherwise given the whiskey-dick nature of the entire season. Should it go that way, the epitaphs will range far and wide, even though it will mostly do with what the Cubs didn’t (or wouldn’t) do in the offseason. There will be articles about “Cardinals Way” or “Magic,” and you’ll customarily vomit up your ankle joints. Some will speculate whether this signals a tectonic shift in the NL Central, back to the way things were forever, or whether this was just a one-off. We’re sure you’re very excited.

But one thing to focus on, if the Cardinals should hang on, is that they’ve done what the Cubs refused to do. Because this isn’t a great lineup, the Cardinals have had to pitch their way through. And they’ve done it behind a couple of first-round picks and developed relievers. We know, it sounds illegal, but it turns out teams can actually do that.

The Cardinals spent 1st round picks in recent years on Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson. The Cubs will see both this series. You’ll recall the Cubs policy has been to spend high picks on hitters, because they’re more of a sure-thing (and boy don’t Happ and Almora and Russell look like sure-things!), and they would either develop the pitching in bulk in later rounds or simply buy it on the open market. And it worked there for a minute.

But they’ve been passed by a team led by Flaherty and Hudson. Flaherty is the unquestioned ace of the staff, sporting a 4-to-1 K/BB ratio while striking out over 10 hitters per nine innings and keeping his ERA right around 3.00. He’s been otherworldly of late, as he had an ERA of 0.71 in August and 1.23 in September so far. His K/BB ratio is nearly six in that time.

Flaherty of late has been throwing what is a plus-fastball less in favor of a two-seam or sinker. It’s gotten him a ton of grounders, as over half of his sinkers end up killing worms, and this month it’s been near 75%. His slider has been the real weapon, as it had been generating over half whiffs on swings taken against it. Of late though, it’s been losing some tilt and some of those whiffs, and that might be one concern the Cards have closing out the season. Flaherty has already thrown 23 more innings than he did last year, and perhaps fatigue is showing in the finish on that slider.

Hudson isn’t as explosive, but he’s been no less effective during this Cardinals charge/plague. He carried a 2.38 ERA in August and a 1.89 so far in September. He doesn’t have near the strikeout power that Flaherty does, but he does his work by getting an obscene number of ground-balls. And for once, the Cardinals infield isn’t a collection of generally bewildered carnies. They catch everything thanks to Wong and DeJong.

Hudson gets there through the use of a power sinker that averages about 94 MPH but doesn’t get a lot of swings-and-misses. It’s meant for hitter to pound into the ground, and that’s precisely what they do. Hudson will feature a cutter more often to righties, and that’s another meant to generate ground-balls.

Given that Hudson is 25 and Flaherty 23, it feels like the top of the rotation down there in Mos Eisley for the foreseeable future. Wouldn’t that be nice instead of wondering what might fall off Hamels tomorrow or if Lester is finished?

In the pen, the Cards have been able to convert Carlos Martinez from a occasional boob of a starter into an effective reliever. John Brebbia and Giovanny Gallegos were brought into their minor league system either via Rule 5 or trade and turned into effective relievers. That’s another thing the Cubs haven’t done in a while.

Now, the pen is hardly long-term fixed, and given the volatile nature of any pen could turn back into a suck factory next year. Still, St. Louis was able to fashion a successful one for a season out of spare parts and leftovers, which the Cubs have been angling for for a couple season. They’ve had to solve that with established free agents, which has had a mixed record. Then again, Andrew Miller is essentially a scarecrow these days as well.

Even with that, Flaherty and Hudson will anchor whatever the Cardinals are for the next few years. They’ve led the Cardinals to a three-game lead with 10 to go. Meanwhile, first-round flameouts like Happ and Almora and a half-season of meh (followed by one of greatness, to be fair) from Schwarber are a big reason the Cubs are where they are.

Maybe all policies on the draft shouldn’t be so ironclad.