“I said-a hip, hop, the hippie, the hippie
To the hip hip hop-a you don’t stop the rock
It to the bang-bang boogie, say up jump the boogie
To the rhythm of the boogie, the beat.” – Sugarhill Gang, Rapper’s Delight
Gee, the Boys in Blue are fun to watch these days.
If you haven’t noticed, the Cubs are now 14-7 this month after last night’s 4-3 win over the Pirates, and now sit just one-half game behind the Cardinals for first place in the NL Central. As inconsistent as the North Siders were in April, they’ve certainly been rock steady since the first of May, and are playing their best baseball in years.
The bullpen continues to be the strength of the team and last night was no different. Keegan Thompson, Andrew Chafin, Ryan Tepera, and Craig Kimbrel kept Pittsburgh off the board for the final four frames, giving starter Jake Arrieta the victory. The team’s relief corps has allowed only one unearned run over its last 29.2 innings. With a win tonight, the Cubs could wrest first place from St. Louis provided the White Sox can sweep the Redbirds today.
Joc Pederson has been another bright spot for the resurgent Cubs this month and after last night’s game, the slugging left fielder is now batting .375 since May 6. The former singles machine has seven extra-base hits this month, including three on Tuesday. Pederson is providing the kind of production Cubs fans haven’t seen at the top of the lineup since Dexter Fowler left town.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 26, 2021
Indeed, all cylinders are clicking for Chicago’s baseballers these days and they now sit 4-1 on their current six-game road trip. With two more tilts in Pittsburgh followed by a three-game set with the Reds in Wrigley before the Padres come to town, the Cubs have an outside chance to finish the month with 20 victories. They’d need to run the table, but it doesn’t seem as impossible as it might have when the Cubs ended April with an 11-15 record and last place seemed much closer to reality than first.
- The Good: With a run differential of +17, the Cubs are better than all of the teams in the National League’s Central and East divisions.
- The Better: Arrieta pitched last night like it was 2015. He was masterful after spotting the Pirates three runs in the first two innings.
- The Best: Pederson was 3-for-5 with two taters last night and really seems to be enjoying life at the top of the order.
- The Bad: David Bote was 0-for-4 and his batting average dropped to .188. An injury to Nico Hoerner combined with a stint on the injury list for Matt Duffy may force Bote into more playing time, so he’s going to need to turn things around.
- The Ugly: Hoerner went down hard attempting to bunt his way on in the top of the 6th, grabbing his left hamstring in agony as he stumbled over first base. It was painful to watch and by the looks of things, he may be out for some time.
Cubs News & Notes
- Better to be lucky than good? How about both? The Cubs are making their own luck while amassing wins this month.
- Chicago’s bullpen is arguably the best in baseball right now and is so good it is actually carrying the team. Ryan Thomure has all the details and relevant stuff in this week’s Tuesday’s Trends for Cubs Insider.
- Thompson is seeing a lot more high-leverage work and has really earned the trust of David Ross.
- Kris Bryant is playing his best baseball in a couple of years while managing five positions and four different gloves, and the
formerthird baseman has embraced playing right field with Jason Heyward out.
- It was not immediately clear how serious Hoerner’s injury was, but Triple-A shortstop Sergio Alcantara was pulled from his game in Iowa soon after the injured second baseman left the field last night. Hoerner was hitting .338 this season, including two more hits last night. The Cubs are 17-13 since he took over second base after being recalled.
- Pederson is the team’s hottest hitter right now.
- The team’s ability to manage a number of injuries has been the key to their success this month, but the potential loss of Hoerner may be one of the more difficult to overcome.
- New Era has released “Local Market” baseball caps for all 30 teams, and Cubs and White Sox fans were not impressed.
- Outfield prospect Brennen Davis made his season debut this weekend, and started his year with a home run and stolen base.
Climbing the Ladder
“Gonna build a mountain from a little hill
Gonna build me a mountain ‘least I hope I will.” – Sammy Davis Jr., Gonna Build a Mountain
- Games Played: 47
- Total Plate Appearances: 1,771
- Total Strikeouts: 452
- Strikeout Rate: 25.5%
- Team Batting Average: .238
You heard it here first: If the Cubs get their BA up to .252, which has been the standard for this team since 2015 (excluding last year), they will win the NL Central. Chicago sits third in the NL with a 102 OPS+, right behind the Nationals (105) and Dodgers (111).
Odds & Sods
There will never be another Bill Veeck and that’s a shame, whether you liked his avant-garde way of promoting baseball or not.
Today In 1959: Martians Invade Comiskey Park! ~ Chicago #WhiteSox shortstop Luis Aparicio looks on as head "Martian" Eddie Gaedel addresses the fans. It's another classic promotional stunt from the legendary Bill Veeck! #MLB #Baseball #History pic.twitter.com/YdYAqSMsRH
— Baseball by BSmile (@BSmile) May 26, 2021
How About That!
Ohtani is just two years shy of free agency and could be a fit for the Dodgers if he decides he wants to move on to a winning team.
The Rays continue to find ways to win without spending money, but shouldn’t be praised for such frugality.
If the A’s decide to relocate, Portland and Nashville are better options than Las Vegas.
Astros fans are well aware that their team cheated, but would like everybody to kindly move on.
What could be more fun than a baseball game between the Savannah Bananas and the Macon Bacon?
Tuesdays Three Stars
- Rich Hill – Out of nowhere, the Rays soft-tosser put up a pitching line that is usually reserved for guys who regularly register upper 90s: 13 strikeouts without a walk in eight innings pitched.
- Joc Pederson – Two homers, a double, and three RBI from the leadoff spot is a pretty fantastic line.
- Shohei Ohtani – Could the two-way star win a Cy Young Award and earn league MVP honors as an outfielder? Ohtani slugged his AL-leading 15th home run of the season last night and, though he didn’t pitch, he is 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA and 63 strikeouts as the Angels’ top starter. His OPS+ is 151 and his ERA+ is 189, which is truly remarkable.
Out of Left Field
The Pirates get no respect from anybody, including the manufacturers of the team’s licensed apparel.
Hill will probably never be compared to Randy Johnson, unless you’re talking about his performance last night.
Rich Hill is the oldest pitcher (41y, 75d) to toss 13+ Ks in a game since Randy Johnson in 2008 (44y, 347d). pic.twitter.com/i7zSGTy1dD
— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) May 26, 2021
They Said It
- “I think it’s important to show off your versatility not only defensively, but offensively, in being able to move around the lineup and do certain things. I’ve embraced that attitude. If you’re able to play more positions, you’re able to hang around longer, and I want to play this game as long as I can. I really enjoy playing the outfield right now. There’s always a bunch of kids out there. In St. Louis, I think the end of the first game, there was a couple of kids that just wanted to play rock paper scissors. Best out of three, they smoked me.” – Kris Bryant
- ”I’ve had a roller coaster of success over the years, and I’ve learned you do your best by staying out of the results because they can really drag you either way. You have to stay on an even keel and just trust yourself. You can’t really force anything in this game. It’ll tell you when it’s time to do it.” – Joc Pederson
- “It may be one of those seasons where [being] the healthiest group on the backside of this whole thing is the real competitive advantage in the whole scheme of what we’re going through.” – David Ross
Wednesday Walk Up Song
Protect Ya Neck by Wu-Tang Clan. The Cubs can’t afford any more injuries.