The Rundown: Cubs Earn Postseason Berth Despite Loss, Lester & Bryant Could Be Keys to Postseason, Dodgers and Braves Clinch Division Titles
The Cubs backed into the postseason last night after losing to the Pirates 3-2 because the Phillies were swept by the Nationals in a doubleheader. Chicago’s magic number to win the NL Central remains at 4 as the Cardinals beat the Royals 5-0. As things now sit, the Cubs are the current No. 3 seed in the National League because the Braves won last night to clinch the NL East.
David Ross becomes the seventh @Cubs manager to reach the postseason in their first season. pic.twitter.com/5Okt38DC0I
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) September 23, 2020
Here’s how the NL playoff pairings look with five games remaining on Chicago’s schedule:
- Dodgers (1) vs. Brewers (8)
- Braves (2) vs. Reds (7)
- Cubs (3) vs. Marlins (6)
- Padres (4) vs. Cardinals (5)
The Cardinals and Brewers will play each other 5 times this weekend and St. Louis still has two possible makeup games against the Tigers that will be played if they affect the division championship or playoff seeding. The Giants and Phillies are still in the thick of the race, too, though Philadelphia is fading fast.
The Cubs have now made the playoffs five times in the last six seasons, something none of us have ever seen. Chicago has been pretty mediocre since starting the season 13-3 and, though they look nothing like a playoff team right now, all bets are off once the tournament starts. Still, if they don’t do something to wake up those bats, the Cubs could be staring at a first round exit. The North Siders managed just five hits last night, with the lone extra base hit being a game-tying home run by Anthony Rizzo in the top of the 8th.
If you’re looking for positives from last night’s game, José Quintana started and pitched well over two innings despite giving up a run. Adbert Alzolay was excellent in relief, striking out seven Pittsburgh batters in four innings of work. I question David Ross for the way he handled his bullpen last night, particularly how he replaced Ryan Tepera with Andrew Chafin. The recently-activated lefty allowed a walk-off blast to Pirates catcher Jacob Stallings, while Tepera has been one of Chicago’s most reliable relievers. I understand Ross wanted to turn switch-hitting Josh Bell around, but it reeked of over-managing to me.
The Cubs will try to reduce their magic number to three or less in tonight’s 6:05pm CT tilt. Ross will give the ball to Kyle Hendricks and the Pirates will counter with Trevor Williams, who is 1-8 with a 6.70 ERA on the season. Opponents are hitting .310 against him and he has given up the most home runs in the National League. The Cubs beat Williams 6-3 on July 31 in a game that featured the first home run by Jason Kipnis as a member of the Cubs.
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cubs have not placed Kris Bryant on the IL, but they did option Rex Brothers to their alternate site in South Bend to open a spot for Quintana.
- What would the Cubs have looked like over the last five seasons ($) if Theo Epstein had picked Jon Gray over Bryant in the 2013 draft?
- Ripping Bryant for his injuries is simply a bad (and lazy) take.
- The third baseman did get some good news concerning his oblique and is optimistic he can return this season.
- Hendricks struck out a season-high 10 batters while beating the Twins 1-0 in his last start.
- Despite their ongoing offensive woes, Bradford Doolittle of ESPN ranks the Cubs lineup as second best in the NL among playoff-eligible teams ($).
- Should the Cubs consider Jon Lester for their playoff rotation? In 154 postseason innings, Lester has a 2.51 ERA along with a 21.8 percent strikeout rate and a 6.6 percent walk rate ($).
- Ross may be leaning toward giving the veteran lefty a spot in the rotation, especially if the Cubs make it past the first round.
- The recent surge by Lester is making both short- and long-term decisions a little more difficult for the front office.
- GM Jed Hoyer indicated that discussions regarding any potential return by Lester for the 2021 season will take place this winter.
- Whatever the team decides regarding the two superstars, Lester and Bryant could be significant keys to Chicago’s postseason hopes.
Odds & Sods
The postseason is nigh, which means Rob Manfred is preparing to assume center stage and continue his assault on the state of the game.
Rob Manfred: MLB plans to have fans at NLCS, World Series in Texas, hopes there are expanded playoffs (but not this format) in future, is open to rule changes, and talks about severe challenges MLB has overcome to get this season to brink of conclusion. https://t.co/D1poCcA0o6
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) September 23, 2020
Apropos of Nothing
I absolutely love the expanded playoff format and hope the owners and the MLBPA agree to keep it in place next season and beyond. I love it even more because the notion seems almost universally despised by most of the people who love the pompous exuberance of bat flips while loathing old-timey baseball things like unwritten rules.
Who cares if the owners make more money? It’s not like they’re ever going to agree on anything that means less revenue, especially after MLB played the 2020 season in empty stadiums. The notion that players will earn less money going forward is absurd, too. The upward trajectory of salaries since the dawn of free agency is one of the few constants of almost every season.
And please, don’t come at me with the fact that the game is rewarding mediocrity. The regular season is a virtual snoozefest compared to the playoffs, and nothing is more exciting than seeing half the league fighting for a playoff spot during the last week of the season. Do you know what the difference between a .500 team and .580 team is? One extra win every two weeks. Most teams have at least 13 games each season where a loss can be attributed to a bad call, a fluke play, an injury, plain old attrition, or something wildly unexpected.
How About That!
The Dodgers (39-16) clinched their eighth consecutive division title. Only the 1991-2005 Braves and 1998-2006 Yankees had longer streaks.
The Angels announced that Andrelton Simmons informed the team that he has chosen to opt out of the remainder of the season. In a press release, the organization stated that they fully respect the shortstop’s decision.
Cole Hamels is experiencing shoulder fatigue and the Braves announced the 39-year-old starter will be sidelined for the remainder of the season. Hamels made just one start this year.
The Phillies’ 7.21 bullpen ERA so far this season is both astonishing and completely unbecoming.
The Orioles were a surprise playoff contender for most of the season but they were eliminated last night.
There will be no Triple-A champion this year, but its history is loaded with a lot of cool facts and oddities, including the fact that the Indians organization has more AAA championships than any other MLB affiliate.
Pirates prospect Oneil Cruz was under the influence of alcohol during a crash in his native Dominican Republic that killed three people early Monday morning, according to multiple reports.
Tuesday’s Three Stars
- Marcell Ozuna – The Braves DH and sometimes outfielder now has 53 RBI in 54 games played after plating five rus in Atlanta’s 11-1 win over the Marlins. Ozuna was 4-for-5 with two home runs and a double, and has really boosted his market value heading into 2021 free agency.
- Yadiel Hernández – The Washington left fielder hit the walk-off, extra inning tater that put the Cubs in the playoffs. Hernandez was 2-for-3 in the game, and the homer was the first of his MLB career.
- Gio Urshela – The Yankees 3B, who was part of rumored trade talks with the Cubs for Bryant in the offseason, had a 4-for-5 night with a double and two RBI. Urshela is slashing .308/.377/.896 on the season with 29 RBI in just 128 at-bats.
Look at those wonderful old cars. It’s like a scene from the movie “American Graffiti”. My father told me that when his father took him to Cubs games as a kid, men would dress “gentlemanly,” as if baseball fandom carried a sense of aristocracy.
Candlestick Park, San Francisco, ca 1960 – Different view I've never seen before, I surmise that from the models of the cars this photo was shot after the ballpark opened. Either way what a time to drive a car, look at all those beauties! That Oldsmobile needs a paint job though pic.twitter.com/MBJvTfNYDo
— Old-Time Baseball Photos (@OTBaseballPhoto) September 22, 2020
They Said It
- “[Lester] is going to handle that stage, which is a bigger stage than people give it credit for, better than most because he’s been there. I think it actually raises his game. As many times as I’ve seen him on that stage, I think it makes him better, whereas I don’t think I could say that about a lot of people I’ve played with in those environments. He definitely takes it to the next level and is able to harness all the things that go with that and step out there and perform.” – David Ross
- “David Ross – I can speak for the whole team – he’s got our undivided confidence and respect. We all have his back. He knows that he has all of our respect.” – Kyle Schwarber
Wednesday Walk Up Song
I Only Have Eyes For You by the Flamingos – One of the best songs from the “American Graffiti” soundtrack and still a wonderfully romantic slow dance at any wedding.