Sunday, September 27th, 2015
1. Game Notes (Cubs lose, 4-0)
This is a weird spot to be in, because yesterday’s loss doesn’t really mean much, and may actually work in the Cubs’ favor somehow. I am inclined to actually root for the Pirates in this afternoon’s series finale because that will bring them a little bit closer to passing the Cardinals in the NL Central standings. This would change who the Cubs play in the one game playoff, of course, and would likely pair them up against Pittsburgh in the NLDS, should it come to that.
I was at yesterday’s game with my son, and had forgotten what the atmosphere there can feel like it late September when the Cubs are a playoff team. That said, they were essentially dominated by Francisco Liriano. In any other context, I would have loved to have been able to see him do what he did in person, but against the Cubs on a very beautiful Saturday afternoon, it was a bit of a damper. Our pitcher, on the other hand, just didn’t have it. Jason Hammel looked pretty good through the first four innings, forcing several groundouts and pitching very efficiently. In the fifth inning, however, he looked like a different pitcher. Half a dozen straight hits forced him out of that inning without having earned an out and having given up 3 runs.
Kris Bryant had a nice day at the plate, going 2 for 3 with a double and a walk. Outside of that, Addison Russell and Dexter Fowler were the only other Cubs to reach base via a hit. Russell also had 2 walks.
2. Cubs have clinched
We know this, of course, but it casts a different light over this final week of the regular season. Do we root for the Cubs to somehow pass the Pirates, even though those odds are increasingly slim? Do we root for the Pirates to keep winning and change the landscape of the NL playoffs?
Whatever does happen, with one game left against Pittsburgh and then three against the Reds and the Brewers on the road (not to mention a one game makeup at Wrigley tomorrow against the Royals), the Cubs should be able to cruise relatively easily into the postseason while collecting probably somewhere around 92 or 93 wins on the year (and probably 9 or 10 more than I thought they’d have in 2015).
In all, just focus on enjoying the fact that we’re in, and few of us expected to be.
3. About that rotation
I mentioned in it this post, but the question of the playoff rotation still lingers after Hammel’s performance yesterday. I’m kind of with Joe on this one:
The idea of a bullpen start is more and more appealing, and I have faith in guys like Travis Wood, Trevor Cahill, and Clayton Richard (who looked pretty good yesterday) to put together a decent start.
4. Tides turning on Starlin?
This is strictly speculative, but after being in the stands yesterday and hearing Starlin Castro applauded when he was announced as the starter and each time he came to the plate, I’m wondering if the sentiment surrounding this player has shifted again. Since being benched, he’s returned as a role player who plays like a star. This is almost a week old, but no less interesting:
Even opposing beat writers are finding things to like about him:
Ultimately, the question of what to do with our middle infield is one that is unclear. The biggest need the Cubs might have going into 2016 and that will hopefully be addressed during the winter is the lack of reliable starting pitching after Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester. I will safely go on record as guaranteeing that Addison Russell is not traded this offseason, so that leaves Castro or Javier Baez. And really, I feel like I change my mind every day with who I’d rather trade between those two, if I had to. Not that I think they must trade either of those guys, but as a piece in a deal that brings a quality SP back, they are probably the surest bet.
5. What’s on tap?
Today is the series finale against the Pirates, and the last time the Cubs will see them this regular season before a possible one game playoff showdown.
For the Pirates, they’ll send A.J. Burnett (9-5, 3.15) to the mound. Burnett has not looked good in his last 6 starts, giving up 25 earned runs in 32 innings. He has not gone 6 innings in a start since July 20 against the Royals. Burnett missed the month of August and has made three starts since returning. He’s gone, 5, 5.1, and 5.2 innings respectively in those starts, but it should be noted that, even when pitching poorly otherwise, he still strikes people out at a high rate.
The Cubs will send Arrieta (20-6, 1.88), and as I said a couple of days ago, I think we see his 21st win here. The pitching matchup is favorable, and he has just been so dominant lately. His workload has been high lately, which concerns me a bit, so my hope is that the Cubs can put a lot of runs on the board early so Joe Maddon feels comfortable turning it over to the bullpen relatively early.
THIS DAY IN CUBS HISTORY
1930:Â In a 13-8 victory over the Reds at Wrigley Field, Hack Wilson hits two home runs, establishing a new National League mark for homers. The Cub outfielder’s total of 56 for the season will stand until Mark McGwire breaks the record in 1998.
1935:Â With their 21st consecutive win, the Cubs clinch the National League pennant. Chicago beats the Cardinals in the first game of a doubleheader sweep to punch their ticket to the World Series.
1942:Â On the last day of the regular season, the Cardinals clinch the National League pennant as sore-armed hurler Ernie White throws a five-hit complete-game, beating the Cubs in the first game of a twin bill, 9-2. The Redbirds also win the night cap to finish the season with 11 victories in their final 12 games.
1967:Â Ferguson Jenkins posts the first of his six 20-game win seasons when the Cubs beat the Reds at Crosley Field, 4-1. The Canadian right-hander will lead the American League with 25 victories after Chicago deals the future Hall of Famer to the Rangers in 1974.
1993:Â In a 7-3 victory over the Dodgers, Cubs’ reliever Randy Myers becomes the first National League pitcher to record 50 saves in a season.
1998:Â Padres’ reliever Trevor Hoffman ties the National League saves record as he gets three straight outs in a 3-2 victory over Arizona. His 53rd save (out of 54 chances) matches the standard set by current teammate Randy Myers, who did it for the Cubs in 1993.
2002:Â In his first full season as closer, John Smoltz, preserving a Bravesâ 3-1 victory over the Mets, converts his 54th save of the season to establish a new National League mark. Randy Myers (Cubs -1993) and Trevor Hoffman (Padres – 1998) had previously shared the record.
2003:Â Cubs’ slugger Sammy Sosa blasts his 40th home run to establish a National League record by reaching the plateau for the sixth consecutive season. The Chicago right fielder, who had previously been tied with Ralph Kiner and Duke Snider, needs another season of at least 40 homers to equal Babe Ruth‘s major league mark of seven seasons set from 1926 to 1932.
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