Baseball

Not only did this Cubs team get crushed in a four-game series against the Cardinals, a hated rival, but the Cardinals won their franchise-record 16th game in a row while doing it and all but officially ending the NL wild card race, as now the closest teams behind them for the second spot are 5.5-6 games back.

There’s not a lot of good to report, especially considering Nico Hoerner continues to be injured, sitting out the last two games of this series due to “general soreness.” Wisdom was out for the final game, as well, with wrist soreness. Not that any of it matters, of course.

September 24, 2021 Game 1
Cubs 5, Cardinals 8 (F/7)
WP: Reyes (10-8) LP: Steele (3-4)
Box Score

Another Justin Steele start for this one, and another Justin Steele loss. He pitched five of the seven innings for the Cubs, dueling for much of the game with the Cardinals’ starter, J.A. Happ. J.A. won out on this one, with Steele allowing a two-run dinger in the 3rd inning and two more dingers in the 5th inning to make it 6-0 Cardinals. Seven hits, two walks and five strikeouts in five innings—it could be better.

The Cubs were snakebitten for the first half of this one offensively, even loading the bases in the 4th when they were only down two runs, but were never able to make anything happen, with strikeouts and double-plays making things hard. By the 6th inning, after two more Cardinals runs given up by Tommy Nance, the Cubs went on a bit of a rally, but rallies lack in meaning if you’re down eight runs. Nevertheless, two walks, a homer, a single and two doubles and suddenly the loss looked a lot less brutal on the scoreboard. But trust me, it was pretty brutal if you watched the whole way through.

September 24, 2021 Game 2
Cubs 4, Cardinals 12 (F/7)
WP: LP:
Box Score

It’s a waste of my time to write about this game and it would be a waste of your time to read about it.

September 25, 2021
Cubs 5, Cardinals 8
WP: Kim (7-7) LP: Heuer (7-3)
Box Score

At least runs were scored in three separate innings in this 8-5 loss as opposed to the previous 8-5 loss. Once again, the Cards scored first with a solo dinger to right field. Then two singles, a double and a walk in the 3rd gave the Cubs their first lead in the entire series, which they returned quickly to the Cardinals in the next half-inning, as starter Adrian Sampson gave up his second homer of the game, this time to Tyler O’Neill.

The 4th inning featured a bit of déjà vu from the 3rd inning, as Willson Contreras and Ian Happ scored two more runners on their own. This time the Cubs bombarded St. Louis with three singles, a sac bunt and a walk in the 4th to go up 4-2, where the score stayed for two innings.

Sampson was taken out at the start of the 7th inning for Codi Heuer, who ended up being the losing pitcher for the Cubs when he gave up four hits in a row, tying the game. Scott F-Ross replaced him and gave up a sac fly on his third pitch of the game, giving the Cards a lead they would not give back. Tommy Nance gave up three more runs on the mound in the 9th inning, and though Happ hit a solo dinger to center field at the bottom of the 9th, it wasn’t enough for a Cubs comeback. Shocking, I know.

September 26, 2021
Cubs 2, Cardinals 4
WP: Cabrera (4-5) LP: Heuer (7-4)
Box Score

Another game where the Cubs were out ahead with a lead and blew it. Granted this was a 2-1 lead against a team on a 15-game winning streak, but you did hope the Cubs would hold on.

In the 3rd inning, Paul Goldschmidt hit a solo homer to put the Cardinals in front, but an inning later in the 4th showed the Cubs’ only meaningful burst of offense this game after a walk, a single, a double by Sergio Alcantara and a sac fly by David Bote put the Cubs ahead 2-1.

The Cardinals hit another solo homer in the 8th inning off Rowan Wick, meaning it all came down to the 9th inning, where Codi Heuer became the losing pitcher for the second game in a row. He couldn’t find a strike, walking the first batter on four pitches, allowing a single in his next pitch, allowing a sacrifice bunt, intentionally walking Paul Goldschmidt to load the bases, and then a wild pitch was thrown in order to score the Cardinals’ go-ahead run. Then a single was hit to Heuer, which he dropped on the ground in an embarrassing error where the Cards scored another runner.

The Cubs were able to get two men on in the bottom of the 9th inning for Frank Schwindel to come up to bat, but an infield fly rule ruled him out and ended up not allowing the Cardinals to throw out Austin Romine at 3rd base. The Cardinals were so pissed about this that their manager was ejected yelling about it, but it ended up not mattering as Ian Happ struck out on three pitches to end the game. That’s Cub.

The Cubs’ final midweek series is against the Pirates starting tonight. The Pirates suck. The Cubs suck. It will be some low-quality baseball. But maybe both teams can make it an interesting series instead of a one-sided shellacking. See you then. Go Cubs go!

Baseball

What once could’ve been two teams fighting for the top of the division just a few months ago has now devolved into two teams with no playoff hopes playing a meaningless series of late-July baseball. There were SOME entertaining moments throughout the series, although the bar may be set quite low on what Cubs fans consider “entertainment.” A miraculous come-from-behind win and watching our young pitchers in Adbert Alzolay, Dillon Maples and Keegan Thompson (plus veteran Kyle Hendricks) is never a bad thing. However, we did see a lot of bad things this series too, as we still can’t hit, our bullpen is exhausted and Kris Bryant is once again injured. Let’s break it down and move on.

July 19, 2021
Cubs 3, Cardinals 8
WP: Woodford (2-1) LP: Mills (4-3)
Box Score

In classic Cubs fashion, there was no offense to be had for the first half of the game. Alec Mills was the starter and he looked good about one time through the lineup before things really began to unravel. In the 3rd, he allowed a single and a groundout that sent a runner to second. Then Dylan Carlson singled as Mills ducked from the ball instead of reaching his glove out and catching it, my pet peeve that pitchers nowadays enjoy doing that nearly always gives up a base hit. It ended up scoring the Cardinals’ first of many runs.

Things got much worse at the bottom of the next inning, where the Cardinals ended up scoring 4 runs on a plethora of fielding errors and singles and fielder’s choices where the entire team more or less imploded together. I don’t even want to describe how ugly it was. Javy Baez committed two of the three errors in the inning, which does nothing but plummet his trade value, if your current focus is solely on the future and getting some new core players. Mills threw 32 pitches in this inning alone, which promptly ended this outing as soon as the final out was called.

The 5th inning saw offense from some surprising faces, as it was Patrick Wisdom, Rafael Ortega and Eric Sogard who singled three times in a row to load the bases in a no-out situation. It was Ian Happ up to pinch-hit, and unfortunately he was hitting more like himself, grounding into a double play. The Cubs ended the inning only able to score one measly runner in Wisdom. It wouldn’t be enough, as the Cardinals would score three more runners in the bottom of the 6th to make the game all but over.

Every Cubs pitcher allowed a hit this game, with our bullpen not being as strong as they usually are on that front. However, it was Mills and Keegan Thompson who gave up all the runs. The bullpen allowed no walks and were responsible for four of the ten strikeouts. This game was definitely a forgettable one.

July 20, 2021
Cubs 7, Cardinals 6
WP: Maples (1-0) LP: Reyes (5-4)
Box Score

This was some crazy baseball, coming from the most unexpected team at the most unexpected time. For eight straight innings, the Cubs’ bats were almost completely dead, only being able to produce one measly run in the 2nd inning, and only getting three hits total for the first eight innings of the game. The Cardinals quickly took control of the game for the next few innings after that initial Cubs run, giving them a commanding 6-1 lead going into the 7th inning that made everyone want to change the channel. (If you didn’t, you were about to get some crazy baseball.)

It felt like just one final inning before the inevitable loss until it was time for the Cardinals to replace Justin Miller with Luis Garcia in the 9th inning. Things went off the rails pretty fast. Despite Wisdom striking out to start the inning, the third strike ended up being a wild pitch that allowed him to make it to first base. Hoerner moved things along with a single that sent him to third base when the Cardinals committed a throwing error on the play.

Jake Marisnick getting walked loaded the bases, causing the Cards to yank Garcia in exchange for Alex Reyes, Sergio Alcantara walked after him to score Wisdom to make it 6-2 Cardinals.

Willson Contreras struck out next, but he can be excused considering he had one of only three Cubs hits all game before the 9th. Anthony Rizzo walked again, scoring another runner to make it 6-2. Then Baez hit a ground ball single that scored two runners, and Ian Happ of all people came in to get the double that scored the winning run for the Cubs. It was a complete whirlwind of an inning that ended, amusingly, the same way it started: with Wisdom striking out swinging.

Dillon Maples gets his first win of the season in just his second appearance from a near-month-long stint on the IL, and he looked pretty good doing it. He pitched one inning, the 8th, and had two strikeouts and allowed no hits. Additionally, Craig Kimbrel came out in the 9th to throw his signature two-strikeout save, getting yet another audition to any contending teams who may be vying for him. (His departure is inevitable, unfortunately.)

The rest of the pitchers weren’t much to see, as Trevor Williams only made it five innings and allowed four of the six Cards runs, and Rex Brothers allowed two runs in the 6th for a 4.25 ERA. However, the efforts of just about the whole lineup made up for these gaffs thanks to their 9th-inning rally in the win. It’s the little victories at this point, Cubs fans.

June 21, 2021
Cubs 2, Cardinals 3 (F/10)
WP: McFarland (1-0) LP: Kimbrel (1-3)
Box Score

When Kyle Hendricks is on the mound, he does just about everything in his power to give the Cubs a win, which was exactly what happened tonight. Despite giving up eight hits in 6.1 innings played, Hendricks was able to keep the Cardinals off the board for the first two-thirds of game. In the 5th inning, the Cardinals had runners on first and third base with only one out, but Hendricks was able to pitch himself out of that jam, making a throw to Hoerner to get the out on a sacrifice bunt attempt and then striking out Dylan Carlson.

The Cubs once again couldn’t convert on a ton of offensive chances. They scored the first run of the game in the 3rd inning after Hoerner singled and Rafael Ortega hit a triple to score him. (Ortega had another hit in the 1st inning; two-hit outings for Cubs players officially means you had a Good Game.) However, the Cubs couldn’t score any more runs in the inning, despite runners once again on the corners, as Ortega got caught stealing home to end the inning.

In the 6th, the Cubs had another opportunity to extend their lead after Contreras was able to hit a double to start things off. Unfortunately Contreras was unable to score, as yet another out at the plate was successfully made by the Cardinals. By that time the momentum was lost and the Cardinals got out of that inning unscathed as well.

Heyward got another double in the 7th inning, but once again the Cubs couldn’t convert. Hendricks, showing signs of tiredness in the 6th inning, came back out in the 7th for whatever reason, where he immediately allowed a single. A double two batters later ended up scoring the Cardinals’ tying run. (Could’ve seen that coming.) Andrew Chafin replaced him and immediately gave up a hit, but no more runs for the Cardinals.

The game seemed to be over, but once again the Cubs barely squeaked out enough offense to stay alive in the top of the 9th inning, where of course it was Eric Sogard who doubled to score Hoerner, who had earlier been hit by a pitch, to tie the game. The Cubs even loaded the bases after the Cardinals swapped out their pitcher and the new guy, John Gant, hit two more Cubs with the ball. However, Rizzo grounded out to end the inning without the Cubs being able to usurp the lead.

Keegan Thompson was tasked with getting three outs in the 9th inning, and he started out well; despite allowing a single he then threw two straight strikeouts. But after he walked the next batter, it was time to pull out the big guns. Kimbrel appeared in his 3rd-straight game, getting the Cubs to the 10th inning, but eventually would get the loss as he ended up walking Nolan Arenado and allowing a single to Yadier Molina that scored the walk-off run.

July 22, 2021
Cubs 2, Cardinals 3
WP: Kim (6-5) LP: Alzolay (4-10)
Box Score

Once again, the Cubs’ offense essentially came all at once in one inning, which is not a winning strategy. Jake Marisnick was responsible for both Cubs rubs. He doubled to score Patrick Wisdom, who got on base through a walk, and Baez, who singled.

It was another story for the Cardinals, who gained three runs in the first three innings against Adbert Alzolay. Alzolay allowed only four hits in his six innings pitched and had eight strikeouts, but it didn’t keep the Cardinals from capitalizing when he did allow hits, through home runs by Dylan Carlson and Nolan Arenado.

Rossy put in Dillon Maples for the 7th, who hasn’t been too bad at all since returning from injury. However, after hitting Edmundo Sosa in the head and commencing a 10-minute injury delay, he was obviously shaken up by the events, walking the next batter after striking out his first. Ross did the right thing by replacing him, but unfortunately he was replaced by Winkler, who is sketchy to watch at best. Winkler allowed the bases to be loaded to Arenado but was able to get out of it after Arenado flew out to end the inning.

There was only one hit for the rest of the game, and it came from the Cardinals with Trevor Megill on the mound in the 8th. Kris Bryant even pinch hit to try and get some offense going, where he ended up walking, but the rest of the team just couldn’t generate enough offense to even put anyone in scoring position. Same old story.

The Cubs go back to play the Arizona Diamondbacks again this weekend, in case you didn’t get enough of that dreck last time. Since we saw the D-backs last series, they have won three of their last three games, sweeping the Pirates. Granted, that’s not hard to do, as the Pirates are also basement-dwellers in the MLB, but that’s a better three-game record than what we came up with.

At this point every game is an opportunity to make trade candidates look good before they get dealt from us for prospects we’ve never heard of or players that aren’t as good. It’s a tough point in the season, but let’s attempt to enjoy it while we can, I guess? Go Cubs go!

Baseball

The good times certainly outweighed the bad if you were a Cubs fan this weekend. With Wrigley Field at 100% capacity and the fans going nuts, the Cubs seemed to get another rush of adrenaline that pushed them to winning an important series against the Cardinals. After Friday’s blip, where Kohl Stewart only went 4 innings, the Cubs starters were, dare I say it…good?

Both Kyle Hendricks and Zach Davies went 6+ innings this weekend, giving the bullpen a needed breather to keep from tiring out as this full-length season continues. More big games from the starters, and the Cubs, dare I say it, look dangerous? More important games are coming up, and soon, so we’ll have to see how this team fares.

June 11, 2021
Cubs 7, Cardinals 5
WP: Nance (1-0) LP: Cabrera (1-2)
Box Score

Let’s be honest: the game didn’t start the way any of us wanted to, with the Cubs pretty much always behind on the score, as Kohl Stewart made his second start as a Cub and almost immediately started giving up hits. In the 2nd inning, a walk and two singles were able to score the Cardinals’ first run of the game, and they added onto that in the 3rd when a walk and two more singles allowed another run to score.

It took around half the game for the Cubs’ offense to show up, but I’d take that over them never showing up at all. The Cubs started out with a solo home run by Joc Pederson in the 4th, and by the top of the 5th the Cardinals had scored another run before Stewart was pulled for Keegan Thompson. A single by Nolan Arenado was all the Cards needed to make the score 5-1 Cardinals, but amazingly the Cubs came roaring back at the bottom of the inning with three runs of their own. Although Contreras walked and Jason Heyward (finally) singled, it was Sergio Alcantara, the second baseman for today, who was the hero of the inning. His triple scored two runs, and after a kind of hilarious Yadier Molina throwing error, he was able to score to make it 5-4.

Though by this time the inning ended with the Cubs behind, it was Anthony Rizzo in the 6th who hit a solo bomb to tie the game, and in the 7th inning it was Heyward again with a leadoff single, Jake Marisnick with a single, and Joc Pederson again being the catalyst for some runs as he hit a double, scoring both men in front of him. The Cubs ended the game offensively for both sides through a solo homer by Contreras in the 8th.

Once Thompson stepped off the mound, the Cubs only allowed one hit and one walk and had five strikeouts. The Cardinals tried to make contact on Craig Kimbrel’s pitches in the 9th inning but kept getting pop-ups that were easy plays for guys like Baez. Even when the first batter hit a ground ball off Kimbrel’s pitch, it was Baez who made a crazy split-second play to Rizzo to get him out quickly. Good work was done by all.

June 12, 2021
Cubs 7, Cardinals 2
WP: Hendricks (8-4) LP: Gant (4-4)
Box Score

The Cubs have done it again. In front of a rip-roaring crowd, it only took two innings for them to blow this game wide open. Kyle Hendricks was able to pitch 6 innings, a rarity these days for a Cubs starter, and allowed the only two runs the Cardinals would get all game. Those runs were both homers and came off of only three hits he allowed; he also had two strikeouts on the day.

The Cubs, however, had three home runs this game. The first one opened up scoring in the 2nd inning by Ian Happ that scored Willson Conteras, who walked earlier. Four straight walks (and one Pederson flyout) later, and the Cubs were up 3-1. Javier Baez singled to make it 4-1, and Rizzo got hit by a pitch which made the game 5-1 Cubs.

The team never looked back, despite the Cardinals hitting another solo home run to start the 3rd inning. A single and a walk put Hendricks in the diciest situation of the day, but he was able to get out of it thanks to the defense behind him getting lineouts and forceouts. Alcantara homered in the bottom of the 3rd, once again showing Cubs fans that he is competent on both an offensive and defensive level, but what call-ups haven’t been like that so far this season?

Maybe it was Trevor Megill, who didn’t have a good outing after being recently called up, trading places with Kohl Stewart for a reliever position. Megill only lasted 0.2 innings in the 9th and gave up one of only two bullpen hits of the game for the Cubs. He allowed two walks, loading the bases. The Cubs, not wanting to extend this game any longer than necessary, just decided to yank him and put in Craig Kimbrel, who was able to get the final out of the game.

June 13, 2021
Cubs 2, Cardinals 0
WP: Davies (4-3) LP: Martinez (3-7)
Box Score

The Cubs continue to dazzle, including on the starting pitching front, as Zach Davies went 6.2 innings of baseball where he gave up only 2 hits and 2 walks. Can I believe I’m writing these words? Not exactly, but I’ll take all the good that I can get for this team.

The Wrigley Field crowd cheered the whole way through (and made a very impressive beer snake in the bleachers) as the Cubs scored twice in the 3rd inning to go up on the Cards. It started out with Eric Sogard — yes, once again I’m amazed — hitting a double to start out the inning. He scored on a fielding error just two batters later, as Pederson was able to reach first. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo then drew back-to-back singles to make it 2-0 Cubs.

Baez was not playing today after likely reinjuring his thumb after running to catch a ball in left field during yesterday’s game. Sergio Alcantara once again filled in for him at short, making all the big plays at shortstop that were needed, occasionally in an impressive Baez-like manner. More please.

After Davies looked shaky to start the 7th inning in a two-out situation, Rossy decided it was time for the bullpen. Ryan Tepera finished out the inning, getting the forceout to strand a few Cardinals on base. He might’ve gone three-up, three-down in the 8th inning if not for an overthrow to first base by Patrick Wisdom. And Craig Kimbrel? Well, we’re all just glad to be watching his hall-of-fame career.

The Cubs immediately turn around to face the Mets this week in New York. The Mets stand at the top of the NL East, and with a 3-game margin. They have played less games than the Cubs have, but are still similarly matched in points percentage, .561 for them vs. .578 for us. The Cubs have quickly and shockingly turned their entire season around, and if they win some games against New York this week, that’s right folks — we will be buyers at the deadline. You won’t have to see Kris Bryant leave until the winter.

Knock on wood, of course.

Baseball

BOX SCORES

Game 1: Cardinals 1 – White Sox 5

Game 2: Cardinals 3 – White Sox 8

Game 3: Cardinals 4 – White Sox 0

 

That was an acceptable palette cleanser from the verp that was this past weekend in the Bronx. The Sox starters were the story of the series, with Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito and Carlos Rodon all notching quality starts en route to taking two of three from the Red Birds. Liam Hendriks seems to have returned to form as well, coming into the legendary 8-3 save situation after Garret “Garbage Time” Crochet (and I mean that with the utmost respect, as he’s too good a pitcher for mop up duty) loaded the bases in the 9th inning on Tuesday night. He struck out the side in true Mariano Rivera fashion to seal the deal, screaming FUCK all the while. My dude.

The offense was present and accounted for in the first two games, and then vanished completely in game 3. Much like the rest of the time when the Sox score 2 or less runs (in which they are a paltry 1-7 in the month of May and 2-10 overall) the outcome was not in their favor, aided and abetted by TLR’s insistence on giving away outs trying to bunt runners over.

Which wasn’t helped by Yermin Mercedes’ inability to hit with RISP on Wednesday, going 0-4 while stranding 10(!) runners on base. Just leaving this out there, but since LaRussa needlessly threw Mercedes under the bus in Minneapolis, he’s slashed .207/.273/.480 with 1 run and 1 RBI as opposed to his slash line in the 8 games before: .344/417/.980 with 4 runs and 8 RBI. It’s one of those “I’m not sayin, I’m just sayin” kinda things. Is it that he’s just slumping right now, or that pitchers have figured him out? Sure, that’s a possibility. The timing is very suspect, however.

Anyways, to the bullets.

 

Numbers Don’t Lie

 

Game 1

-Lance Lynn was a beast in this one, taking a no hitter through 5+ innings, ultimately ending with 7 innings, 3 walks and 4 Ks en route to his 5th win of the season. While TLR was waxing poetically about how “difficult” it was to pitch against his former club, Lynn held no such sentiment, saying “I’m an asshole when I pitch” and declaring the win to be one of the “Most satisfying” of his career.

-Andrew Vaughn blasted his 4th home run of the season off a pretty good changeup by Cards starter Kwang Hyun Kim. He also added a single to bring his average up to .230, a pretty solid feat for a guy who spent about 6 hours total in the minor leagues. The hit tools are very clearly there, and he’s gotten better playing the OF. Good shit.

-Tim Anderson broke out of his mini slump with a 2 run double down the RF line, though he was ultimately gunned down by Molina at 3rd trying to stretch it into a triple. I’m pretty happy with both of those things, as being aggressive on the basepaths like that is Timmy’s M.O.

-Michael Kopech came in to shut the door in the 8th and 9th and looked pretty damn good doing it, striking out half the batters he faced and walking none.

Game 2

-This was billed as a marquee pitching matchup between two former high school teammates who became aces at the big league level. It was…not that. The Cardinals defense were struck by a bad case of The Sucks, and Flaherty tried his damndest to hold it together but in the end gave up 7 runs, 4(!) of which were of the unearned variety. Lucas Giolito looked solid, if unspectacular in his 6 innings of 2 run ball. There was a moment before he came out for the 5th where Ethan Katz and the training staff came out to look at him for some reason, but Lucas waved them off and threw two more. Don’t know what it was about but I guess it bears watching.

-As mentioned above, Garret Crochet’s mystifying usage thus far this season has clearly made him rusty. More garbage time duty tonight turned into a save situation for Liam Hendriks, who mowed down 3 Cardinals to clean up the mess. Crochet has one of the best ERAs in the bullpen, yet we continue to see a bevy of innings pitched by Jose Ruiz (who would have trouble getting ME out). I don’t get the rationale, and it irritates the fuck out of me.

-Nick Madrigal and Jose Abreu made sure the Cards paid a price for the clown show in the field, going 5-8 between the two of them with 5 RBI, including this massive dong by Jose in the 7th inning, estimated at 69-420 feet. Nice.

 

Game 3

-Sure is a shame that we’re only going to get one season of the Ethan Katz-fueled version of Carlos Rodon, as he mowed down 10 Cardinals in dominant fashion. Rodon is the biggest example of just how out of touch with the pitching game Don Cooper had become at the end of his career.

-Unless you’re Billy Hamilton and it’s 85% of your offensive ability, bunting is fucking stupid. Yet here we are, with 3 sac bunts on the day that yielded zero runs. Fuck that shit into the sun, and let these professional hitters swing the fucking bats.

-Adam Eaton left the game with a hamstring injury and is considered day to day, leaving….nobody to play in the outfield. If Eaton is missing a stretch of time, then Rick Hahn is out of excuses and a move has to be made.

-In a scary moment, Michael Kopech stumbled off the mound after a pitch in the 8th and limped off the field. Supposedly the tweak to his ankle is minor and he won’t require a stint on the DL, but I’ll believe that when I see it, considering this team’s luck this year with injuries.

-Aaron Bummer and Jose Ruiz didn’t cover themselves in glory yesterday, quadrupling the Cardinal’s lead between the two of them.

-The Sox hitters were unable to get anything started (or finished for that matter), on their way to their 4th time being shut out this month. A new RF power bat that hits lefty from Seattle might be able to help with that. Who knows?

 

Next up is a 4 game set against another Bird-Themed baseball club, the Baltimore Orioles. As was foretold, they currently sit in the basement of the AL East, but that is fairly misleading as the O’s have the ability to jump on a team in a hurry. Anthony Santander and a cancer-free Trey Mancini have the kind of power to make opposing pitchers pay, and John Means might be a legit ace after his perfect game earlier in the season. Now is not the time to let off the gas, take 3 in the series and move on to Cleveland.

Let’s Go Sox

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: Cubs 82-77   Cardinals 90-69

GAMETIMES: Friday 7:15, Saturday 6:15, Sunday 2:15

TV: WGN Friday, Fox Saturday, ABC 7 Sunday

OUR EXECUTIONER: Viva El Birdos

PREVIEW POSTS

Depth Charts & Pitching Staffs

Cardinals Spotlight: The Next One

Two years ago, which seems like an eternity now, the Cubs came into St. Louis in the last week of the season. They put the NL Central to bed in front of their greatest enemy, and then the next night ended the Red Menace’s flickering wildcard hopes even though the game meant nothing to them. Fate can be cruel.

Having ended the Cubs playoff hopes, the Cardinals will likely celebrate taking the NL Central right in front of them and their fans deluded enough to enter the gates for this one. Perhaps an interested or even breathing Cubs team could knock the Cards down to a date with Max Scherzer on the road on Tuesday night, but that is not this Cubs team. It’s also incredibly beat up now, which won’t make for much of an excuse as they watch that celebration.

The Cubs will roll into this one with Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Kyle Hendricks, Yu Darvish shelved for the season to protect themselves from themselves. Cole Hamels is only getting a start to try and prove to prospective suitors in the winter he’s not in fact dead. The lineup is going to be utterly hilarious, and you can already hear the Brewers bitching about it from Denver. This is what the Cubs have become, and it does not feel good.

The Cards still have plenty at stake. They need to match whatever the Brewers do in Denver to avoid a 163 and/or wildcard, plain and simple. That’s motive enough you would think. So Dakota Hudson and Adam Wainwright are the first two out of the chute, with Jack Flaherty waiting for a 163, wildcard, or Game 1. It could be any of those. He could even go Sunday if the Cards need it. Considering the lineup the Cubs might put out that day, he could throw a perfect game in 80 pitches.

That’s where it stands. the ultimate humiliation for the Cubs. Who knew it could fall so far in just two seasons? We thought a sea-change had been engineered, and yet here we are forced to watch yet another installment of St. Louis getting one over the Cubs. Perhaps it’s an image that will serve to light a fire under next year’s team, but they’ll need more than that. What is pretty clear is that this is Joe Maddon‘s last series as a Cub manager. Though every fan has been back and forth on what Maddon is and what maybe he should have been, what he definitely was is the most successful manager in the team’s history. It hardly seems like it was only five years ago that his hiring signaled something new about the Cubs, the combination of hope and expectation. If this is how it ends, no matter how you feel, you can’t deny it’s bene a ride.

That article can be written another time, though. And it will.

On a sentimental level, it’s perhaps the last time we’ll see Nicholas Castellanos in a Cubs uniform. There are others who could be doing so for the last time as well. That’s a worry for another time. This is just about getting through it, or pretending it isn’t happening as I’m sure a lot of you will understandably opt for. Some pains are too great to endure first hand. Just knowing it’s happening is enough.

 

Baseball

Perhaps it all started with David Eckstein, who wasn’t even really the Cardinals go-hard that always seemed to play above his head but infatuated Cardinals Nation anyway (and they’re always white. So, so white). Eckstein came from somewhere else, of course. But there’s always one Cardinal who you just know is going to annoy the piss out of you for a decade because they’re just so…Cardinal.

Oh there have been failed attempts. Skip Schumaker. Brendan Ryan was actually cloned from Eckstein but never really worked out. Colby Rasmus was going to be the outfield version until he bitched his way out of town. They even imported Ryan Theriot to be that guy. There was a time when it was feared Daniel Descalso would be that (and he ended up annoying the piss out of us anyway). Randal Grichuk or Stephen Piscotty or Peter Bourjos definitely had chances which they never really took. So we guess it’s been a while since the Cards have had that squeaky clean, try-harder-than-you piss-ant that their fans hold up as all that’s good and right about baseball and why they’re just better than you because they recognize it and you don’t. Usually it’s right alongside a minority actually doing the work, but we’ll leave that this time. Sadly, this year it’s worked.

We give you Tommy Edman.

It’s always a bad sign when they have a y at the end of their name, just to more greatly portray their down-home-ness. Go by Tom, you’re a fucking adult, dude. Or supposed to be.

Anyway, Edman came up in July and all he’s done is hit, field, and run exceptionally. He’s been worth nearly three WAR in barely half of a season, and at 24 he’s going to be the rash in our ass for a long while it seems.

Is he a product of the Titleist baseballs? Yeah, a bit. Edman had never slugged much over .400 at any level in the minors until getting to AAA this year, where of course they’re setting all kinds of records for homers and power. Suddenly he was slugging .513 in Memphis when he’d never managed over .403 before. That’s continued in the Majors, where he’s got 11 homers in 89 games after hitting seven all of last year in AA and AAA.

Yeah, Edman hits the ball pretty hard, with a near 25% line-drive rate and a 40+% hard-contact rate. Whatever. This shouldn’t be happening and fuck him.

Still, the dude knocked Matt Carpenter out of the starting lineup, and Carpenter had been the Cardinals’ most consistent hitter for years, doing whatever they needed. That’s no small feat. And we can’t take Edman’s fielding and speed away from him, and they’re not going to go anywhere even if the baseball returns to the land of normal physics soon. Because of that speed, Edman is always going to run a high BABIP as he beats out infield singles more than most. Because of course this guy for the Cardinals has to beat out infield singles. It’s like a goddamn law.

If they aren’t already, the stands of Busch are going to be littered with Edman jerseys soon. There will be shots and shots of home-schooled children (if they even get that) in Edman shirseys while their parents tell them about how Edman plays the game the right way as they wait for his autograph. You can see it now in your head. You know it to be true. He’s going to get some sort of game-winning hit in the playoffs too, probably off his knuckles that has no business landing in the outfield unscathed as you go reach for your revolver. It’s going to happen, accept it now.

With Edman, DeJohn, Wong, and Goldschmidt, the Cards infield seems cemented for a long while now. You know the targets, you know the opposition, so you might as well plan for the “Edman-is-better-than-Baez” debates now. They’re coming, you can’t stop them. What it will mean is that Edman isn’t nearly as fun as Baez, and that’s why they’ll say he’s better. Better fundamentals. Respects the game more. Doesn’t need attention. Just wants to win. You know what they’ll really be saying.

You can script it out from here.

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.

Baseball

Game 1 Box Score: Cardinals 2, Cubs 1

Game 2 Box Score: Cubs 2, Cardinals 0

Game 3 Box Score: Cardinals 8, Cubs 0

Here’s what will definitely happen. Either in the postgame tonight or before the game tomorrow, Joe Maddon will tell the press that the Cubs have to get back to grinding out at-bats. They have to dig out some offense. They have to fight through this. And then they won’t, which either means Joe is telling them this along with whatever hitting coach they’ll fire this time around as a smokescreen, and they’re not listening. Or he’s not even bothering to tell them and is going straight to the press, because he knows and the players know he’s getting punted no more than five minutes after the final out of the season.

Here’s what very well might happen. The Cubs will peter out somewhere, either after Game 162 or in the Division Series or coinfli flip game after the balloon-handed nature of both the Brewers and Cardinals gifts them a spot somehow. And either Theo Epstein will find out the purse strings are still being yanked by the Ricketts and he’ll walk, or he’ll hope letting Maddon walk is enough of a cover again to mask that his system has produced exactly his dick in his hand since 2016 or so.

Really, what this road trip has shown is that there has been a systematic failure at pretty much every level of this organization. On the biggest swing of the year, the Cubs best players all went turtle. None of them have hit. And you’d be tempted to say that’s just the vagaries of baseball, except we’ve been talking about this in some fashion for two months. Baez was dominant in the season’s first two months by actually occasionally taking a walk and going the opposite way almost as much as he pulled the ball. So he’s going to spend six weeks swinging at everything and trying to pull everything. Contreras is going to swing at the first pitch he sees. Bryan is going to have to gut out an injury that clearly should have him on the IL because the bottom of the roster is non-existent. If Addison Russell didn’t suck out loud, they could go without Bryant for 10 days. If David Bote didn’t suck deep pond scum they could go without Bryant for 10 days. But they do, so he has to play and do a pretty mean David Bote impression for six games. Anthony Rizzo is nowhere. All when they have to be here.

This team doesn’t fight. They don’t dig deep in close games and find a way to get on base, to score, to win. They find ways to lose. And maybe that’s just what happens when a team thinks no matter what it does the bullpen is just going to blow it anyway. There’s no gumption about this squad.

But why should there be? They heard their GM say that there would be changes, that production would be all that mattered. And then nothing changed. No one’s on alert. Addison Russell got another chance. So did Bote. So did Almora. So did Schwarber. Who’s on edge?

But then why would this team feel their front office and ownership is fighting for them? They watched the same team basically come back, the one that wasn’t quite good enough last year. The Cardinals added Goldschmidt. The Brewers added Grandal. The Phillies added Harper. The Braves added Donaldson.

Here’s an exercise for you. Go and watch two interviews with the Astros right after they got the news their team had traded for Zack Greinke. See the bounce. Do you think any Cubs were doing that when finding out about Castellanos and Phelps? Castellanos is only here due the failure of multiple players, not to boost something that already is working.

This team plays entitled. Like nothing will happen. Because really, it won’t. This is all set up to burn down after 2021 anyway, and everyone in the organization looks like it’s just going to sit around waiting for that.

The urgency, the desperation, the fight, the want-to, whatever you call it, you find it on this team. I can’t. They accept what’s happening to them because that’s been the nature of the whole operation. Oh sure, they’ll get wins when Hendricks or someone else tosses a gem, or Kyle Davies places a “HIT ME” sticker on a barely-fastball. And this doesn’t mean the Cubs won’t win the division, based on the aforementioned nature of their competition.

Well, maybe not “win’ it, so much as just open the front door and see that it’s been left there so they might as well take it inside. That’s what the Ricketts Family, Epstoyer, Maddon, and everyone have created here. And there’s no reason to think it will change.

This team isn’t going anywhere. Someplace might land on them, but it will still be standing still when it does. And that you can believe.