The Rundown: Cubs On Cusp of Crown, Contreras Executes Other-Worldly Bat Flip, Lester Starts Possible Clincher
Do you feel better this morning?
The Cubs broke out the bats in a big way to beat the White Sox 10-0, so, because the Cardinals split their doubleheader with the Brewers, Chicago’s magic number to win the NL Central is just one game. There are two games still to be played at Guaranteed Rate Field, with St. Louis playing the Brewers twice more and possibly having to face the Tigers twice.
As things stand right now, here’s how the first round of the NL Playoffs would start:
- Dodgers (1) vs. Giants (8)
- Braves (2) vs, Reds (7)
- Cubs (3) vs, Marlins (6)
- Padres (4) vs. Cardinals (5)
The Brewers and Phillies sit a game behind the Giants, so each still has a fighting chance. Milwaukee is still in control of its own destiny with those games against the Redbirds. If they can sweep, they could vault past San Francisco and St. Louis. That said, one loss to the Cardinals coupled with a Giants win over the Padres would completely eliminate the Brew Crew.
The Reds and Marlins each clinched a spot in the NL postseason tournament last night and a Cubs-Marlins first round tilt scares me just a bit because of Miami’s young pitching and Chicago’s propensity to struggle offensively. The Cubs will throw Kyle Hendricks, Yu Darvish, and Jon Lester (if necessary) in the first round. If Miami is indeed the opponent, they’ll likely counter with Sixto Sánchez, Sandy Alcantara, and Pablo López.
Willson Contreras had a breakout game last night, hitting two bombs and driving in four. Jimmy Cordero drilled Contreras with a pitch in the 7th inning and was immediately ejected. He may have been motivated by a brazen bat flip after Contreras hit his first home run.
Willson Contreras with an all-time bat flip 😱 pic.twitter.com/LwPC979r1d
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 26, 2020
It’s likely the recent bad stretch of baseball by the White Sox added a lot more fuel to the ire as well. The bats of the latest iteration of the South Side Hit Men have gone eerily silent in the last 8-10 games, and a six-game losing streak now has the White Sox sitting in third place in the AL Central.
There is a little more clarity in the Junior Circuit as eight teams have now clinched playoff berths, with only the final seedings still up for grabs. If the postseason started today, the White Sox would open with three against the Athletics in Oakland as a potentially dangerous 7 seed:
- Rays (1) vs, Blue Jays (8)
- A’s (2) vs. White Sox (7)
- Twins (3) vs. Astros (6)
- Indians (4) vs. Yankees (5)
Cubs News & Notes
- Remember last week when I asked how you might feel if the Cubs needed Jon Lester to win a division-clinching game? He’ll get his chance tonight, while the White Sox hope Dane Dunning can be the stopper they so desperately need.
- Lester has a 1.06 ERA over his last 17 innings pitched. Nobody in the Cubs’ projected starting lineup has faced the right-handed Dunning thus far.
- The Cubs and White Sox have split four games this season and the South Sider is up in the all-time series 64-62, including a 32-30 edge at home.
- White Sox manager Rick Renteria was tossed from the game after Cordero hit Contreras, his third ejection in the last week. Feeling the heat much?
- The Cubs blasted five home runs and scored 10 runs in last night’s game. They had scored a total of 10 runs in their previous seven games and had just four taters in their last 370 plate appearances as a team, two by Anthony Rizzo.
- Javier Báez also went yard with a 428-foot blast off of Dylan Cease in the 4th inning.
- Báez roped a double in the 9th inning, batting left-handed against infielder Yolmer Sánchez, who was mopping up the mess left by his teammates. El Mago was almost immediately doubled off second base when he forgot the number of outs on a lazy pop out by Billy Hamilton.
- The shortstop is slumping this season, but still remains the team’s human highlight reel.
- Fun Fact: Hamilton has more stolen bases (4) than hits (2) plus walks (1) this year.
- Jason Kipnis was encouraged by last night’s offensive breakout.
- Kris Bryant took some swings in a batting cage at Wrigley Field, testing the right oblique he tweaked on a swing Monday against the Pirates.
- José Quintana has been removed as the starter for Sunday’s finale and will be replaced by Adbert Alzolay. Quintana will likely piggyback the rookie for an inning or two.
- Despite recent struggles, David Ross believes that prior playoff experience will help the Cubs once the postseason begins.
Cubs manager David Ross: “This is a talented group. Everybody that I’ve talked to outside of our organization fears this group.”
— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) September 25, 2020
Odds & Sods
“You wanna talk this old-school bullshit about the rules? Well, here’s a rule you might remember: I’m the mother**king one who calls the shots.” – Tony Soprano
White Sox GM Rick Hahn on 670-AM this morning, regarding Cub Willson Contreras' bat flip last night: "If you don’t want the guy to showboat, get him out."
— Daryl Van Schouwen (@CST_soxvan) September 26, 2020
Apropos of Nothing
If you are a Grateful Dead fan and haven’t seen the concert film “Dear Jerry: Celebrating the Music of Jerry Garcia,” I recommend it with a five-star rating. It’s a genuinely fantastic and moving tribute to the late leader of the Dead and father of jam-band rock. The performance of Help on the Way > Slipknot > Franklin’s Tower > Scarlet Begonias > I Know You Rider by Billy Kreutzmann and The Disco Biscuits (aka Billy & The Kids) is one of the best live performances I’ve ever seen. Fans know that the “>” separator means the entire suite is one 30-minute jam.
How About That
Devin Williams of the Brewers has quietly become his team’s best reliever, if not the best in baseball.
Milwaukee placed starter Corbin Burnes on the IL with a strained oblique. With a 215 ERA+ and 2.6 WAR, Burnes should receive some NL Cy Young Award votes this season. Darvish leads all NL starters with a 3.0 WAR after last night’s shutout performance.
Manager Dave Martinez and the Nationals have agreed to a one-year contract extension.
The Padres recently lost starter Mike Clevinger to bicep tightness. Now they’ve lost their ace, too. Dinelson Lamet was removed from last night’s loss to the Giants and is also suffering from bicep tenderness.
The Angels lost to the Dodgers 9-5 and were mathematically eliminated from postseason contention.
In clinching a playoff berth last night, Astros manager Dusty Baker has now led five teams to the postseason to become the first manager in MLB history to accomplish that feat.
Friday’s Three Stars
- Willson Contreras – Two dingers, three runs scored, four RBI, one HBP, and three opponents ejected. Oh yeah, a legendary bat flip, to boot.
- Yu Darvish – The Cy Young race will come down to Darish, Jacob deGrom and Trevor Bauer, but the righty really helped his chances with a stellar performance last night. Big Yu allowed just three hits over seven strong with five strikeouts.
- Dusty Baker – Love him or leave him, you can’t deny Baker has been one of the best managers in the history of the game. Baker’s career record is 1892-1665 (.532), though he has yet to win a World Series.
Despite playing for the Mets, deGrom is a pretty good dude.
Jacob deGrom’s final pitch for the NL Cy Young Award comes tonight. He’ll be wearing these cleats, which will be signed and auctioned off to help @mtb_org raise money for minor leaguers. As you know, their season was wiped out. pic.twitter.com/CtYr8pXD96
— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) September 26, 2020
Sliding Into Home
Today’s column is dedicated to Scott Crandall, and tomorrow’s will be too. We’re all pulling for Twin31s, who chose his handle in honor of former Hall-of-Fame Cubs pitchers Fergie Jenkins and Greg Maddux.
Today is Record Store Day, and I would be out shopping but my car is the shop and I fear it will cost a lot more to fix than I can afford. I’m still going to browse, though, just because I love the smell of new vinyl. Please support your local merchants, even if they don’t sell records. It’s been a tough year for retailers.
They Said It
- “I didn’t mean to throw it that high.” – Willson Contreras
- “I’m not going to change anything. I play hard for my team. I always want to do the best for my team. But if they don’t like me, that’s fine. I don’t play for other teams to like me, anyways. And if I have to do it again, I will do it again.” – Contreras
- “I loved every second of [the bat flip]. Probably not my style, if I’m playing, but these guys need a little bit of an edge.” – David Ross
- “We’re already in the postseason, so let’s work on having good at-bats, work on finding a different feeling … so when the time comes, you’re not just trying to flip the switch and hope that you can roll it out there and be a new lineup.” – Jason Kipnis
Saturday Walk Up Song
Jealous Again by The Black Crowes – I think White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson may have been a little awestruck by Willson’s theatrics last night. By the way, the Crowes are dropping a new 12″ recording of this song and it is available in limited quantities today. I do this reverse cover thing in my mind where I wonder what a song might sounded like if covered by a predecessor and I bet Creedence Clearwater Revival would have killed this song.