The Rundown: Aquino Terrorizes Cubs, Road Splits May Cost Maddon, Sunday Baseball Notes

The Reds have their own Pasha of Bash, and his name is Aristides Aquino. What a display last night. It was equally nice and frustrating to see Alec Mills figure out that he could keep Aquino in the park simply by not hanging anything over the heart of the plate. I was actually hoping the rookie would go yard for a fourth time, just because I’ve never seen it personally.

Anyway, after a promising start to this road trip on Thursday night, the Cubs have laid two clunkers in Cincinnati, and after last night’s 10-1 loss, Chicago’s lead in the NL Central is back down to a buck and a half. Maybe they should ditch those white jerseys when they ship off to Philadelphia after today’s game.

Sorry for the bad flashback, but Aquino’s third homer last night was historic. He tied Trevor Story for the major league record when he hit is seventh tater in his first 10 games in the bigs.

It’s easy to see why the team felt they could trade Yasiel Puig for Trevor Bauer. Aquino is the most exciting thing in baseball right now outside of Flushing, NY and the Reds are a better team since the trade. Cincinnati players and fans are now talking wild card.

Even Joe Maddon realizes that the division may be one of the toughest in baseball and that any of the five teams could win it. The Cubs’ road woes are apparently not apathy-driven.

“When your team has gone to the playoffs four years in a row,” said Papa Joe, “it’s hard to accuse them of a lack of hunger. What I have seen this year is teams have caught up. That’s what I’ve talked about. It’s not the same sashay that we’ve had maybe a couple years ago to get there. It’s tougher.

“Other teams have gotten better. And we’ve got a pretty big target working on us now.”

The Cubs will try to even the series today, but it’s going to be a tall task. The North Siders will send their weakest link to the mound to square off against Red Legs ace Luis Castillo. Let’s hope Jon Lester has discovered whatever it is that has sent his ERA skyrocketing to unsightly levels this month.

Cubs News & Notes

Updates on Nine

  1. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Aquino became the 13th player on record to hit a home run in three straight innings. As it happens, the last player to achieve the feat before Aquino was Kris Bryant, who did so back on May 17 against the Nationals.
  2. Aquino wasn’t even the best rookie hitter of the day yesterday, though. Astros outfielder Yordan Álvarez also had a three-homer game, marking the first time in MLB history a pair of rookies has gone yard three times on the same day. Álvarez led Houston to a 23-2 win over the Orioles. That’s not a typo.
  3. The Cubs traded Mike Montgomery to the Royals for Martín Maldonando, who was subsequently traded to the Astros for Tony Kemp, in part because Montgomery felt he would be more effective as a starter and wanted to play for a team that would give him that opportunity. The left-hander flashed ace-like potential in shutting out the Tigers last night.
  4. The Mets’ recent magic reached a new level on Friday as Todd Frazier belted a game-tying three-run blast off Sean Doolittle in the 9th and Michael Conforto soon followed with his first career walk-off hit to give New York its seventh straight win. Before that, the Mets were 0-44 when trailing in games entering the 9th inning. The Amazins enter today just a half-game behind the Nationals and Brewers for the first wildcard.
  5. The Mets announced yesterday that minor league outfielder Tim Tebow will miss the rest of the season due to a deep cut on his pinky finger. Tebow, who is expected to return in 2020, had a miserable season, slashing just .163/.240/.255 in 264 plate appearances and fanning in nearly 38% of his trips to the plate.
  6. Bryce Harper had a perfect response to a Giants fan who was heckling the outfielder all night: He blasted a home run. Harper apparently doesn’t like being called overrated.
  7. Brewers’ outfielder Christian Yelich is heading toward another photo finish in the race for NL MVP. Last year he and Báez entered September duking out what was a true heavyweight battle. This year, Yelich will try to stave off Dodgers slugger Cody Bellinger.
  8. Astros shortstop Carlos Correa jacked a 477-foot bomb at Camden Yards yesterday, the longest home run ever recorded at the Baltimore stadium.
  9. Believe it or not, Mike Trout had never hit a baseball out of Fenway Park until last night. Trout is in his ninth season with the Angels.

Apropos of Nothing does not rank Aquino among Cincinnati’s top 30 prospects, but prospect rankings are subjective and his Triple-A performance is hard to ignore. Franmil Reyes, who went to Cleveland in the Bauer-Puig deal, never appeared on any top prospect lists, but his power made him a coveted player.

Saturday’s Three Stars

  1. Yordan Álvarez – The rookie outfielder had three home runs and plated seven Astros runners and now has 48 RBI in his first 45 big league games, a full-season pace of 172.
  2. Mike Montgomery – The former Cubs swingman had the best start of his professional career, shutting out the Tigers over seven innings. Montgomery didn’t allow a walk, surrendered just four hits, and punched 12 tickets in earning his first victory for the Royals.
  3. Aristides Aquino – The rookie phenom is simply on a tear that is nearly unprecedented, mashing with baseball’s best. Reds teammates are calling him “The Punisher.”

Extra Innings

It has now been 25 years since baseball’s last work stoppage. In 1994, the Montreal Expos, despite a $19-million payroll that ranked 27th out of 28 teams, had an MLB-best 74-40 record and a six-game lead over Atlanta in the National League East when players walked off the job August 12. The Expos played their final game that season August 11 at Pittsburgh, a 4-0 loss to the Pirates. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig canceled the season, including the playoffs and World Series, a month later.

From the SABR Community Historical Files

It’s a rare occasion these days if a pitcher tosses just one complete game per season.

They Said It

  • “A few more smiles and a refreshing kind of attitude. That’s who we have to be. You never do anything well if you’re uptight.” – Joe Maddon
  • “Obviously, we’re comfortable at home. I think that goes for the group, and myself included. I’m very comfortable at home. I’ve just had a couple blowups on the road that have inflated that, I think. I’ve had some good games on the road, too. I just need to be more consistent overall.” – Kyle Hendricks

Sunday Walk Up Song

Tubthumping by Chumbawamba. The road splits are getting old, and the excuses remain as stale as ever.

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