Extended Road Trip Continues in Dramatic Fashion
What a roller coaster of emotions over the span of an inning and a half in last night’s game. In the bottom of the eighth inning, the all-too-familiar feeling of dread was creeping on as Brian Goodwin and Bryce Harper both collected two-out singles to bring the go-ahead run to the plate.
Next thing you know, Justin Grimm has coaxed a ground ball from Ryan Zimmerman and the Cubs offense is piling on insurance runs to go up 5-0 in the top of the ninth. It was almost like this team was the defending World Series Champions or something!
Then the 2017 bizarro-Cubs returned, with Hector Rondon and Wade Davis allowing three more National runs before a wild pitch from Davis made it a one-run game with runners on second and third with two outs and Ryan Zimmerman at the plate. Then…EXHALE. David struck out Zimmerman, and the Cubs got a much needed win against a quality opponent, albeit one that should’ve required far less gut-wrenching agony.
Honestly, should we even be entertaining these Bryce Harper potentially signing with the Cubs rumors? Last night was the first time the Nationals’ superstar has faced the Cubs since chatter began to swirl that he’s interested in playing for the North Siders when he becomes a free agent after next season.
It’s too early to speculate about this as a realistic possibility, but the mere mention of adding a guy who’s currently hitting .315 with a .420 OBP and 18 home runs before the All-Star break has to get the blood pumping just a little bit.
The Cubs contained him to a certain degree last night, giving up three singles but no extra base hits to the slugger. That’s certainly the last time I want to see him at the plate representing the winning run in the bottom of the ninth this week, I can tell you that.
Schwarber’s AAA Debut and Candelario’ Return to the Bigs
Kyle Schwarber’s much anticipated Iowa Cubs debut didn’t go quite as planned, with strikeouts in his first three at-bats before a single in the eighth inning. Jeimer Candelario’s return to the big league team, however, proved slightly more fruitful, as the promising prospect sharply doubled in his second at-bat of the night and played solid defense.
As there’s no real timetable for Schwarber’s return, it will be interesting to monitor his progress over the next week. If anything, regular at-bats should only help the struggling slugger regain some of the form he enjoyed during the Cubs last two postseason runs. But if the strikeouts and shockingly low batting average continue in the minor leagues, it may be time to get legitimately worried.
Addison Russell, Kyle Hendricks Nagging Injury Issues Continue
If I had to guess, Addison Russell is becoming increasingly ready to leave the 2017 season in the rearview mirror. His latest setback is a pinching pain in the front of his right shoulder this weekend, which the shortstop later said felt better after treatment. Since he had to leave the game Sunday, manager Joe Maddon didn’t start him in last night’s game against the Nationals. Russell did strike out swinging in a sixth-inning pinch hit appearance.
Russell has raised his average from .207 to .232 with multiple extra base hits over the last two weeks, which is a positive sign during a frustrating season. Hopefully this doesn’t derail the progress he has been making in the face of his off-the-field issues.
In other positive news, injured starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks played catch for the second straight day on Sunday without discomfort in the right middle finger that had been bothering him. There’s still no definitive timetable for his return, but I think we can all agree there’s no reason to rush him at this point in the season.