The Rundown: Rookies Carry Cubs to Big Win Over D-Backs, Busch Ties Team Record, League Honors Jackie Robinson

“After all the jacks are in their boxes and the clowns have all gone to bed, you can hear happiness staggering down the street, footprints dressed in red.” – Jimi Hendrix, The Wind Cries Mary

For those living in the Midwest, there is nothing worse than a West Coast game that goes into extra innings, especially on a weeknight. That the Cubs eked out a 3-2 win makes things a little better, but I for one can’t wait for the team to return home.

Still, Ben Brown is a dude and Michael Busch is a beast, and this trip has been something of a coming-out party for both. That’s been needed because the Cubs are slumping, particularly their bats, despite a 4-3 record on the current road trip. Brown is becoming something of a stopper, however, and manager Craig Counsell will have a tough decision to make once Jameson Taillon and Justin Steele are healthy.

Brown, Javier Assad, and Shōta Imanaga have combined to go 4-0 with 43 strikeouts, a 1.05 ERA, and a 0.76 WHIP as starters. You won’t lose many games with those numbers, even if your team can’t hit its way out of a paper bag. I wouldn’t be surprised if Counsell goes to a six-man or hybrid rotation once his injured pitchers are healthy. Doing so might help Kyle Hendricks bounce back, too.

Busch has been genuinely carrying this team since it left San Diego last week. If he hits a home run in this evening’s tilt, he’ll break the team record for taters in consecutive games that he tied last night. Nobody has run it to six in the history of this franchise. David Ross might have sat Busch in the middle of this streak, but Counsell will continue to run with a hot hand. You never leave the table in the middle of a heater, correct?

Last night’s win wasn’t pretty, but it allowed the Cubs to keep pace with the Brewers and Pirates in the NL Central. Chicago is on a pace to win 101 games, and though it’s far too early to make that projection, Counsell is finding ways to win despite his slumping lineup. They’ll need to hit tonight with Hendricks taking the mound, though. It would surely be nice to reverse two troubling early-season trends in one fell swoop.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds and Sods

How the heck did Nico Hoerner hit this ball?

Central Intelligence

Climbing the Ladder

“Purple haze all in my brain. Lately, things just don’t seem the same.” – Hendrix, Purple Haze

Despite winning three of their last four, the Cubs are batting just .200 with RISP in those games. Busch is the hottest slugger on the planet with home runs in five consecutive contests. He’s slashing .327/.410/1.141 with six taters and 12 RBI and is an early favorite for Rookie of the Year. Will he sustain that? Let’s see what happens when pitchers start to adjust. He did hit .323 with 26 bombs and 90 RBI at Triple-A Oklahoma City last season.

The rest of Chicago’s offense has gone ice cold, led by Cody Bellinger, who is currently sporting a .180 average. Six starters are hitting .250 or less. Yikes!

I’m adding one more statistic to track this season, and that’s Chicago’s record in one-run games. Ross was 10-17 (.370) last season, and I saw a Twitter post over the weekend when the Cubs were 7-6 that said the team would be better off with Ross instead of Counsell. Okay then. I’ve said it before, but I believe games decided by one run are one of the best ways to quantify the performance of a manager.

Counsell is a huge Hendrix fan, by the way, and walked up during his playing days to “All Along the Watchtower.” 

  • Games Played: 16
  • Record: 10-6 (.625), 3rd place in NL Central
  • In One-Run Games: 3-2 (.600)
  • Total Plate Appearances: 614
  • Total Strikeouts: 134
  • Strikeout Rate: 21.82%
  • Team Batting Average: .239
  • With Runners in Scoring Position: 30-for-115 (.261)
  • Runs Scored: 85
  • Runs Allowed: 71
  • Pythagorean Record: 9-7
  • Chances of Making the Playoffs: 79.3%, 4.4% chance to win World Series 

How About That!

The league honored Jackie Robinson yesterday, and several players spoke out on what it means to wear No. 42. The Cubs will celebrate Robinson’s legacy when they return home this week.

The Mets welcomed Robinson’s wife Rachel to celebrate yesterday

The MLB record for consecutive games with a homer is eight, accomplished by Ken Griffey Jr. (1993) and Don Mattingly (1987).

Five teams are on pace to lose 100 games. Perhaps MLB should hold off a bit on expansion.

Baseball needs a ball-strike challenge system if only to take its games out of the hands of Ángel Hernández.

William Contreras is staking his claim as one of baseball’s best catchers.

Eric Hosmer is trying to become baseball’s version of Pat McAfee. Let’s hope he shies away from interviewing Aaron Rodgers.

The White Sox have agreed to a deal on a minor league contract with veteran outfielder Tommy Pham. Poor Tommy.

First, it was the uniforms, and now it’s the quality of the baseballs, and Kenley Jansen is not happy.

Former MLB player Yuniesky Betancourt is among four people recently arrested for committing insurance fraud.

Monday’s Three Stars

  1. Seth Lugo – The Royals starter blanked the White Sox over seven innings to lower his ERA to 1.05. The ChiSox, by the way, are on a pace to win 21 games.
  2. Jackson Chourio – Milwaukee’s rookie centerfielder was 2-for-4 with a home run and a stolen base, though the Brewers lost 7-3 to the Padres.
  3. Busch/Brown – The rookies are leading the Cubs right now, which bodes well for Chicago’s future. Matt Shaw and Cade Horton are coming soon, too.

Tuesday Morning Six-Pack

  1. The NFL Draft is less than two weeks away, and I’ve decided I want the Bears to draft TE Brock Bowers. Teaming him with Caleb Williams, Cole Kmet, D.J. Moore, and Keenan Allen would give Chicago some very heavy offensive artillery.
  2. The Bears started their offseason workouts with Tyson Bagent as QB1. That’s just a temporary designation, of course.
  3. The Chicago Sky drafted three powerhouse players yesterday: Kamilla Cardoso, Angel Reese, and Brynna Maxwell.
  4. Reese was positively stunning on the orange carpet last night. She and Williams are bringing an upscale fashion sense to Chicago.
  5. Some are saying Ryan Gosling’s recent SNL skit is the program’s best in years, which it isn’t, but it is a wonderful tribute to Mike Judge. This tribute to Tom Brady on Super Bowl Eve is still my favorite.
  6. Ghost kitchens boomed during Covid but are becoming a thing of the past. Wendy’s had a few up here, and one remains drive-thru only.

Apropos of Nothing

I got shellacked by the IRS yesterday and didn’t feel like writing because of it. I owe over $7500 and now I might have to start a podcast or something to earn some extra dough. Those things pay, right? I may need to start working the corners as a Viet Nam veteran named Agent Orange who is crippled and blind. Maybe I’ll trouble each of my Facebook friends to send me their $2 bills and rolls of nickels.

Extra Innings

Busch’s blast off Merrill Kelly tied him with four other Cubs players who homered in 5 straight games: Morel (2023), Sammy Sosa (1998), Ryne Sandberg (1989) and Hack Wilson (1928).

They Said It

  • “This is the exact type of situation where you need to double down and really make sure player development is operating extremely well. You’re going to have to bolster the major league team from within. You won’t be able to just acquire, acquire, acquire from outside.” – Jason Kanzler, Director of Player Development
  • “Look when you lose players like [Suzuki], you don’t replace players like that. While he’s out, guys hopefully pick it up around him and collectively perform at a good level around him. But you can’t replace players that are performing at that level with one person.” – Counsell

Tuesday Walk-Up Song

The Cubs can clinch a winning road trip with a win tonight. They’ll finish with a  6-3 trip if they sweep the series, just as I predicted last week.

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