“Pearls and swine bereft of me. Long and weary my road has been.” – Audioslave, I Am the Highway
The Brewers come rolling into town today from north of the Cheddar Curtain riding an eight-game winning streak and with a four-game lead in the NL Central. They’ve won 30 of 48 going back to July 1 and they’ve been a great last season team under manager Craig Counsell. Milwaukee is 200-166 (.546) in the final two months of the season since Counsell took over, counting this year but discounting the shortened 2020 season.
Yes, the Cubs have a tall task at hand starting this evening at Wrigley Field. They also finish the season with a three-game set against the Brewers in Milwaukee. Expect both series to have a loud, playoff feel.
Don’t count the Cubs out though, because they’re hanging right there with the Brewers. Chicago has been equally hot and has played to a 30-19 record since July 1. That means Milwaukee has gained just half a game on the Cubs since then and can’t seem to shake Chicago’s North Side baseballers. The Cubs do it with one of the best offenses in the National League, while Milwaukee’s strength is its starting rotation and defense.
Speaking of pitching, the matchups don’t particularly favor one team. Jameson Taillon takes on Wade Miley tonight, and I’d give the Cubs a slight edge. Tomorrow’s tilt features Cy Young candidate Justin Steele against Corbin Burnes, who won the award in 2021. The Cubs tagged Burnes with a 4-0 loss on Opening Day. Milwaukee returned the favor in Game 2, beating Steele 3-1 behind Brandon Woodruff, who starts Wednesday. The Cubs will counter with Kyle Hendricks in the afternoon affair. The Professor is 10-8 lifetime against the Brewers and holds opponents he has faced four or more times to a .203 batting average.
If Chicago can match Milwaukee’s starters, their offense should carry them to at least two wins in the series. Woodruff has been great since returning from injury, but Taillon and Steele are starting winnable games. It’s going to be a whole lot of fun, regardless. Games with playoff implications for the Cubs stopped being the norm a few years back. Win or lose, it’s nice to have a fighting chance again.
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cubs are now 10-1-1 in their last 12 series dating back to mid-July.
- Seiya Suzuki has been leading Chicago’s offense since his rest in New York. He enters tonight’s game with a career-high 10-game hitting streak.
- Suzuki is hitting .390 with a .431 OBP and is slugging a whopping .763 since getting that timeout.
- Steele is the anchor in the Cubs’ push for the playoffs.
- If you’re one of the fans who gets irritated because David Ross consistently bats Ian Happ third, you’re probably going to be upset for the remainder of the season and playoffs.
- Yan Gomes has emerged as the team leader, but the Cubs also have a lot of confidence in Miguel Amaya according to Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic.
- Rookie Jordan Wicks had a fantastic debut against the Pirates on Saturday night.
- Advice from pitching coach Tommy Hottovy helped settle Wicks down after a very rough start.
- After the visit from Hottovy, Wicks retired the next 15 batters he faced, striking out nine, and five in a row at one point.
- The Cubs envision a battery of Wicks and Amaya as a big part of the team’s future.
- Michael Fulmer was placed on the 15-Day IL with a forearm strain when Wicks was promoted.
- Hendricks lost on Friday night, but had some of his best stuff in years.
- ESPN lists Pete Crow-Armstrong, Cade Horton, and Ben Brown as potential 2024 Rookie-of-the-Year candidates who could help the team ($) in this year’s push for the playoffs.
- Adbert Alzolay, Mark Leiter Jr., and Julian Merryweather don’t have the name recognition that other relievers do, but the Cubs bullpen deserves props because of those three nonetheless.
- Do you have trouble recalling when big baseball events happened? If so, you’ll love this week’s baseball quiz from Bill Chuck. I went 4-for-9.
Odds & Sods
How about a little levity courtesy of Connie Mack and Moe, Larry, and Curly before the biggest series of the season?
Connie Mack and the Three Stooges pic.twitter.com/LDqz8vP1Ae
— BaseballHistoryNut (@nut_history) August 28, 2023
- Milwaukee (73-53): Counsell and Brewers owner Mark Attanasio had been discussing a contract extension since the offseason, but those talks have stalled.
- Cincinnati (68-64): Elly De La Cruz uncorked a 99.7 mph laser to thwart a bid for an inside-the-park home run by Corbin Carroll.
- Pittsburgh (58-73): A rogue firework nearly set the roof of PNC Park ablaze on Saturday evening.
- St. Louis (56-75): Noah Syndergaard was designated for assignment by the Guardians this weekend, and he could be a pitcher of interest for the Cardinals’ depleted rotation.
Climbing the Ladder
“I’ve got to keep on keepin’ on, you know the big wheel keeps on spinnin’ around.” – Steve Miller Band, Jet Airliner
Cody Bellinger had five RBI on Sunday, has 75 on the season, and leads the majors with 46 since the All-Star break. Jeimer Candelario has three home runs with the Cubs and 19 on the season after hitting a two-run shot in the 4th inning of yesterday’s game. Javier Assad also looks like he’ll be a big part of Chicago’s future rotation. The right-hander struck out seven Pittsburgh batters in seven innings of work.
The Cubs are now 27-17 (.647) in games decided by five runs or more.
- Games Played: 130
- Record: 69-61 (.531)
- Total Plate Appearances: 4,989
- Total Strikeouts: 1,149
- Strikeout Rate: 23.03%
- Team Batting Average: .254
- Runs Scored: 662
- Runs Allowed: 583
- Chances of Making the Playoffs: 70.7%, 1.8% to win the World Series
How About That!
The A’s are the first team to be eliminated from playoff contention this season.
It’s been a little over 20 years since the Mariners had sole possession of first place in the AL West this late in the season.
Sunday’s Three Stars
- Bellinger – He was 3-for-5 with two doubles, a stolen base, and five RBI.
- Aaron Nola – The Phillies starter one-hit the Cardinals over seven innings with nine punchouts in a 3-0 win.
- Jeremy Peña – The Houston shortstop dropped a 5-for-6 effort in the Tigers that included a triple, a double, three RBI, and three runs scored. The game featured the last battle between ex-teammates Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera.
Let’s hope Bellinger, Candelario, and Suzuki stay hot against Milwaukee. By the way, most Brewers fans up here believe Candelario will be the team’s third baseman in 2024.
We’ll see you at Wrigley Field tomorrow.
Bellinger: 3-for-5, 2 2B, 5 RBI (season-high), 2 R
Candelario: HR, 3 RBI, R
Suzuki: 2-for-3, 2 2B, RBI, 2 R pic.twitter.com/fe56poc4pX
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 27, 2023
They Said It
- “Yan is just really engaged in everything that we do. He is locked into his game planning, locked into his weight room, and his training room routine. He is always ready to give a good at-bat. Even when he’s not playing, he’s locked in on the bench.” – Taillon
- “There’s a lot of stuff that [Ross] has taken in. He’s done a great job of always evolving. To keep being the same guy every day — and keep the belief in the group — is such an important thing and one of the reasons why we’re in the position we’re in right now.” – Happ
- “There’s a lot of things that you can look at from a lineup standpoint, but since we’ve been going well, Ian’s been in the three-hole. We’ve been one of the top run-scoring teams in the second half of Major League Baseball and we have a top-six offense in all of baseball. Why would a mess with that? If it ain’t broke don’t fix it kind of thing, right?” – Ross
- “[Hottovy] said, ‘It’s only up from here’. Nah, I’m just kidding. He came out and he was like, ‘I’m coming out just to slow the pace and to tell you you’re just missing a little bit.’ That’s all it really was. And to just keep pounding [the zone]. And he said, ‘They’re gonna start swinging here. So just get back to what you do.’” – Wicks
Monday Walk-Up Song
This is my Monday mood. Let’s go Cubbies!