The Rundown: Darvish Spectacular in Defeat, NL Postseason Race Tightens, Epstein Drawing Some Heat
Last night may have been one of the more frustrating losses of the season for the Cubs, if only because Yu Darvish looked so unbeatable for most of the night. He had a rough start in the Cubs’ 4-2 loss to the Reds, giving up three quick runs in the 1st inning before settling down and continuing the domination he exhibited in his previous start.
At one point Darvish struck out a team-record eight consecutive Cincinnati batters. Former Cubs Kyle Farnsworth, Kerry Wood and Juan Cruz also racked up eight consecutive strikeouts, but each did so over multiple games.
Darvish also tied Mark Prior and Rick Sutcliffe for most strikeouts by a Cubs pitcher over a two-game span. Counting the 14 tickets he punched against the Padres in his last outing, the big righty has 27 strikeouts over 13 innings.
.@faridyu has 27 strikeouts over his last two starts (13 IP). ? pic.twitter.com/GalydC1GKn
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 18, 2019
“Yu’s on quite a run right now,” Joe Maddon told reporters after the game. “I don’t even know if some of that stuff’s been done before. But, unfortunately, their guy is really good, too.”
Unfortunately for Darvish and Cubs fans, the team’s bats, which had been so impressive in sweeping the Pirates and wining the first game of this series, fell silent at a most inopportune time. That’s not to take anything away from Reds’ starter Sonny Gray, but the Cubs, being the streaky bunch that they are, can ill-afford to have their offense disappear with one game left in this series followed by four with the division-leading Cardinals.
The North Siders had won five in a row, outscoring their opponents 59-18 during the stretch. But the offense managed just two runs on five hits against Gray and relievers Michael Lorenzen and Raisel Iglesias.
With the loss, the Cubs fell to 82-69, tied for second place in the NL Central with the Brewers, two games behind St. Louis. Chicago and Milwaukee also trail the Nationals by a game and a half for home field advantage in this year’s Wild Card game.
The Brewers are on some kind of a September roll again, having won 11 of their last 12 games. Over the last two seasons, the Brew Crew is 31-10 (.756) in baseball’s final month. You may recall that Milwaukee won 10 of its last 11 games last year, including a 3-1 win over the Cubs in Game 163.
Cubs News & Notes
- The honeymoon between Cubs fans and Theo Epstein may be over if Chicago misses the playoffs. I think that’s a little extreme but I get it. A team that competes for the division title every season is no longer good enough when expectations demand a deep playoff run. If you aim high and miss your target, you have to expect backlash.
- Epstein has talked in the past about how he likes to change challenges every 10 years, however, he’s about two years away from hitting that 10-year mark in Chicago.
- Might the Red Sox be interested in luring the Cubs president of baseball operations back to Boston?
- Your updated playoff probabilities, courtesy of FanGraphs: Nationals 94.6%; Cardinals 82.9%, Cubs 63.6%, Brewers 55.2%. Chicago’s loss combined with Milwaukee’s win represented a 28.5% one day change.
- Craig Kimbrel threw 16 pitches in a simulated game yesterday and could be activated this weekend.
- By the way, the Cubs’ bullpen has been ridiculously good lately. Entering last night, Cubs relievers had a 2.02 ERA with 96 strikeouts over 73.2 innings since August 28.
Four pitchers from the Opening Day bullpen are now with other teams. Plans A, B and C for the closer role have gone awry in different ways.
And the Cubs’ bullpen has been the NL’s best in September. They bailed out Hamels Monday for a 5th straight win: https://t.co/lolGNdr3h5
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 17, 2019
- Other than Darvish and Kyle Hendricks, it’s been a different story for Cubs’ starters recently.
- Rowan Wick has been nearly elite, and his fastball ranks 14th among 280 qualified relievers in terms of per-pitch value this season.
- Outfielder Brennen Davis and pitcher Cory Abbott were named the organization’s top minor league players of the year.
- Jon Lester takes the bump tonight and needs to step it up. Lester is 8-4 with a 4.37 ERA at home this year, but has pitched poorly in his previous two starts, getting lit up for 15 runs (12 earned) over 10.1 innings. He’ll face Tyler Mahle, who has a 6.43 ERA in his last three starts. Cubs’ hitters have slugged .506 with six home runs in 23 career innings against the Reds starter. They’ve also whiffed 22 times. Chicago enters their final game of the year against the Reds trailing the season series 10-8.
How About That!
Blue Jays’ second baseman Cavan Biggio hit for the cycle last night, making he and former Astros second baseman Craig Biggio just the second father-son duo to accomplish the feat in major league history. The elder Biggio did it against the Rockies in 2002.
The Wild Card races in both leagues are just about as compacted as it gets. The race for the NL Central title looks to be bit of a barn burner, too, as two games separate three teams entering the penultimate weekend of this season.
How do you stop the Brewers? The Padres started Chris Paddack, who punched out nine Milwaukee batters while holding them to just four hits, and still lost 3-1.
Pittsburgh closer Felipe Vázquez was arrested yesterday and placed on administrative leave without pay. I don’t want to get into the sordid details but the Florida Department of Law Enforcement released a statement that covers it. The Pirates organization indicated that they are complying with the investigation. Vázquez is incarcerated in Pennsylvania, but will likely be extradited to Florida to answer charges.
Tuesday’s Three Stars
- Cavan Biggio – When you hit for the cycle you get recognized. Biggio was 4-for-5 yesterday with four RBI, three runs scored, and hit his 14th homer of the season.
- Miguel Rojas – The Marlins shortstop had six RBI on a 4-for-6 night that included three doubles. Strangely, Rojas did not cross home plate once in Miami’s 12-6 win over the Diamondbacks.
- Justin Verlander – The Houston ace just makes it look too easy, leading the Astros to a 4-1 win over the Rangers. Verlander coasted through six innings, needing just 87 pitches to notch eight strikeouts while earning his 19th win, leading the majors.
How can we make Nicholas Castellanos stay with the Cubs next season, if only for the quotes and social media takes? Yeah, he’s a pretty good hitter, too.
“There is nowhere you could go that I won’t be with you. -Gramma Tala"
(Via nicholascastellanos9 on IG) pic.twitter.com/IwJFRSJFNi
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 17, 2019
They Said It
- “I think I’m in a pretty good place.But still, we lost today. We only need wins at this point. So, I’m so frustrated.” – Yu Darvish
- “That was [my] first time playing behind [Darvish] since coming back, and, um, I mean, you don’t have to do a lot out there.” – Ben Zobrist
- “There’s a lot of complementary pieces right now. But, Rowan Wick has really been like this linchpin to this whole resurgence of the bullpen.” – Joe Maddon
Wednesday Walk Up Song
Shoot to Thrill by AC/DC – When the Cubs, lose the doom and gloom crowd bubbles to the surface to regale us all with Twitter tales of disaster and implosion. We’ve known all season that the the NL Central title would come down to the last seven tilts with the Redbirds. If you’re scared of St. Louis, don’t watch. Personally, I can’t wait. We’re one day away from baseball’s version of Wrestlemania. Does it get any better than this?