Based on baseball’s common core math for a 60-game series, the Cubs will move on to Cincinnati to play the Reds with a record of 5.4 – 2.7. Per Jayson Stark, the only number that matters this season is 2.7 (subscription to The Athletic required), as in any win or loss is mathematically worth that number during this sprint of a season.
The Cubs showed us this weekend that they are nearly unbeatable when their starting pitching is on point. They also showed that the bullpen still needs more than a little tinkering.
Kyle Hendricks pitched the opener on Friday like he’s on the verge of a fistful of Cy Young awards. Yu Darvish struggled with command in Saturday’s 8-3 loss to the Brewers and new manager David Ross witnessed firsthand the incendiary makeup of his relief corps. Somebody pass the Rolaids, please and thank you.
Greg Madd… I mean, Kyle Hendricks…Beautiful front door 88mph Two Seamer. ? pic.twitter.com/I0lyAppbL4
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 24, 2020
Tyler Chatwood closed out the series with a sparkling effort of his own, and if he can continue to pitch like we all envisioned when he was signed nearly three years ago, he leaves the front office with a lot of options.
- Keep him in the rotation and hope he helps guide the team to a deep playoff run;
- Extend him as part of a long-term rotation led by Hendricks and Darvish;
- Trade him to help the Cubs get under the luxury tax threshold; or
- Ride out his contract and let him walk in free agency
The season is going to move pretty quickly, so the Cubs are going to have to put any losses behind them almost immediately. Ross showed this weekend that he is perfectly capable of helping his team do just that. The offense looks like it can compete with anybody, and hopefully Jon Lester and Alec Mills can match the efforts of Hendricks and Chatwood. It would be much more comforting, and boost Chicago’s playoff chances substantially, if the bullpen can sort itself out.
Lester takes the bump against the Reds tonight and don’t kid yourselves, this is a huge series. The Cubs were miserable on the road and in intradivision games last season, including an 8-11 record vs. Cincinnati. Additionally, the North Siders will get their first look at Nick Castellanos as the enemy. It should be a wildly entertaining series, a sweep of which would be worth 8.1 theoretical wins if the Cubs can pull it off. Hendricks will get the start on Wednesday against Sonny Gray and I believe the pitching matchups favor Chicago in this set.
Cubs News & Notes
- By letting Hendricks complete his gem on Friday, Ross has set the tone for the season and gave a good indication of how he intends to manage his pitching staff.
- I’ll talk more about it tomorrow, but can we please just relax with the narratives surrounding Kris Bryant? I don’t know if I am more offended by the Bryant doubters or his apologists. I know he looked late on a 92 mph fastball yesterday and missed a meatball of a hanging curve in a subsequent at-bat, but a lot of players are still working on timing. KB will be fine.
- Castellanos is pumped up to play against his former Cubs teammates.
- Cincinnati’s other key offseason pickup, Mike Moustakas, went 4-for-8 with a homer and four RBI in his first two games as a Redleg before being placed on the injured list Sunday after waking up ill. It’s uncertain if he tested positive for COVID-19. Nick Senzel is also sick, so the Reds could be missing some firepower this series.
- Reds infielder and DH Matt Davidson started and played Cincinnati’s opener on Friday and then learned after the game that he had tested positive for the coronavirus. It’s possible he was notified while the game was in progress, because he was lifted for a pinch-hitter after his second at-bat. Jesse Winker finished the game as the team’s extra hitter.
- Because of the sudden surge of sick Reds players, Anthony Rizzo says the Cubs trip to Cincinnati “is a little nerve wracking.” Catcher Willson Contreras said he will be travelling with his own bedding.
- On Friday, Jason Heyward ran out to right field carrying a city of Chicago flag, reminiscent of that iconic Sammy Sosa moment once baseball resumed play after the 9/11 tragedy of 2001. The Cubs honored the BLM movement with a show of unity before Friday’s game, though Heyward asked his teammates not to kneel.
- Without fans at Wrigley Field, players from both teams could be heard chirping at each other from their dugouts before the start of the fourth inning on Saturday. Willson Contreras was the loudest Cubs player, and several members of both teams popped out onto dirt near their benches. Umpires jumped in and calmed things down quickly before players could cross the foul lines.
- Anthony Rizzo and Orlando Arcia shared a moment during Friday’s game, and Rizzo explained the nature of his interaction with the Brewers shortstop.
- Reliever Brad Wieck exhibited decreased velocity with his fastball and was placed on the 10-day injured list. Ryan Tepera was recalled to take his place.
- The White Sox are now outpacing the Cubs in some merchandise sales.
Odds & Sods
Sign of the times.
Anthony Rizzo is out here giving away hand sanitizer ?? pic.twitter.com/kbjj7BoUCw
— Baseball Quotes (@BaseballQuotes1) July 24, 2020
Apropos of Nothing
Ross finally has a managerial page at Baseball Reference. By taking two of three from the Brewers, the new skipper passed John Vukovich, Joe Altobelli, Rene Lachemann, Vedie Himsl, and Roy Johnson in career victories by a Cubs manager.
How About That!
The Marlins have a coronavirus crisis of their own, and that should worry the league. The team delayed its flight home from Philadelphia based on the fear of a team-wide outbreak and their home opener against the Orioles has been canceled.
Angels outfielder Mike Trout is still struggling with his decision to play the season while COVID-19 continues to spike across the country. The three-time AL MVP and his wife are expecting their first child in less than two weeks.
Shohei Ohtani failed to record an out in his return to the mound. He allowed three singles, walked three consecutive batters and left with a 4-0 deficit and two men on. His fastball, which can typically reach triple digits, did not break 95 mph.
During a conference call Saturday, J.T. Realmuto told reporters the contract extension that Mookie Betts signed to stay with the Dodgers is “definitely positive” for the upcoming free agent class. Realmuto added that the expense showed owners have money to spend on top players, and despite what figures to be a down season economically, they’re still willing to lay out that kind of cash.
Fox broadcaster Eric Karros brought it up during Saturday’s game and then quickly retracted his statement, but statistics show that Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich is more valuable than Trout. Numbers don’t always tell the truth.
World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg was scratched from what was supposed to be his first start of the season for the Nationals last night because of a nerve issue with his right hand. Strasburg described the problem as a nerve impingement in his wrist and said it initially arose early this month when teams reconvened for a ramp-up to the regular season.
Dr. Anthony Fauci received his own baseball card after throwing out the first pitch in the Nationals season opener on Friday night. Topps honored the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases with the limited edition card.
How do you not love the Stone Pony and his ability to stoke the baseball fires of desire?
I used to miss Steve Stone on Cubs broadcasts, but he has become somewhat annoying the last few seasons in a Bob Costas kind of way.
With every team in the AL Central at 1 and 1 you get the feeling this year will absolutely go down to the wire to earn postseason play. The Yogi Berra saying, It’s getting late early applies now in this sprint. Expect spotty defense and inconsistent pitching but Oh That Offense
— Steve Stone (@stevestone) July 26, 2020
Sliding Into Home
I spent the weekend burning songs from iTunes account on to CDs, something I haven’t done in over a decade. When I logged in, I felt like I was sifting through the cobwebs of my memories, wondering why I purchased a song from a band I have no recollection of liking, for instance. The Apple sales algorithm was nice enough to remind me of the last song I purchased, which was on November 3, 2016. Try to guess before clicking the link.
Sunday’s Three Stars
- Carlos Carrasco – The veteran right-hander made his first start for the Indians since his leukemia diagnosis with leukemia, and notched a win over the Royals. Carrasco struck out 10 Kansas City batters in six innings.
- José Ramírez – The Cleveland DH was 3-for-5 with four runs scored and four RBI. He also belted two home runs.
- Dansby Swanson – The Braves shortstop tied a career-high by plating five runners in a three-hit effort as Atlanta shellacked the Mets 14-1.
They Said It
- “We were just talking about it, some of the guys. It’s definitely something to be concerned about; if a clubhouse guy went over to their locker room, things like that, and making sure that room’ [has been] deep cleaned.” – Anthony Rizzo
- “I know the risks involved. I’m here to play baseball. If I get sick, I get sick. I’ve accepted the fact that it might happen.” – Trevor Bauer
- “I don’t see today as a situation where I feel like I need to kneel. I say that because this is what progress looks like. You have acknowledgment. You have unity. You have people of multiple races, people from different cultures, different struggles, staying together, acknowledging the Black struggle in this country. [It’s] also being held up on a pedestal [where it hasn’t been] before in baseball and also in sports and in this world.” – Jason Heyward
Sunday Walk Up Song
Honky Tonk Women by The Rolling Stones featuring Sheryl Crow – Mick Jagger turned 77 yeterday, so I had to go Stones, and Crow is magnificent in this live performance. Here are my top 5 Rolling Stones songs, in order:
- You Can’t Always Get What You Want
- Gimme Shelter
- Sympathy for the Devil
- Tumbling Dice
- Rocks Off