The Rundown: Cubs Paste Nationals, Bryant, Baez Sizzling, Contreras Leads NL Catchers in Homers
It’s troubling for me to watch the Washington Nationals for a number of reasons:
- They’re far too good of a team on paper to play as poorly as they do, which can’t bode well for manager Dave Martinez.
- Their bullpen gives me bad flashbacks to the first 10 games of the season for the Cubs.
- Now that I am used to seeing the Cubs contend season after season, how am I going to handle it as a fan if they ever present a product as consistently bad as the Nationals?
After the Cubs pasted Washington 14-6 last night, I couldn’t help but think that just two seasons ago these two teams battled in an epic NLDS that took so much out of the Cubs they had nothing left in the tank to get past the Dodgers in the 2017 NLCS.
If I had to go with my gut instinct, I don’t think Martinez will finish the season as Washington’s manager. And that’s too bad. The Nationals are now 2-13 in series openers this year. Crawling out of a hole like that time after time is a lot to ask of your team.
And how about Kris Bryant? What a performance from the slugging third baseman. I hope he has an endless supply of those Axe bats because he has been unstoppable since he started using one.
KB's second career hat trick!@budweiserusa pic.twitter.com/VKF6sHXtV5
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 18, 2019
Bryant’s reemergence as a consistent power threat has allowed Javier Báez to stay under the radar a little. The shortstop was 2-for-4 last night, has a 15-game hitting streak, and is batting .330 on the season. Javy leads the Cubs with 27 extra base hits and is slugging a robust .611.
Odd happenings from the Cubs bullpen last night: Brad Brach needed just one pitch to record two outs while Carl Edwards Jr. escaped a self-induced jam by getting an out without retiring a single batter. Edwards balked a run home, then threw a wild pitch that bounced off of Willson Contreras and right back to him. Brian Dozier was caught in a rundown between third and home and was called out for going outside the baseline to avoid being tagged by Edwards.
Cubs News & Notes
- Bryant’s home runs came in three consecutive innings. According to STATS, he’s the 12th player to accomplish that feat, but only the second to do it in the 7th, 8th and 9th.
- The 14 runs scored tied a season high set against the Brewers on April 6 in Milwaukee.
- A dominant rotation and the return of Anthony Rizzo from injury has the Cubs feeling good about continuing their current hot streak against some tough opponents. After the Cubs complete their weekend series with the Nationals, they’ll face the Phillies, Astros, Cardinals, and Dodgers.
- With his home run last night, Contreras leads National League catchers with 11 taters and he’s driven in 29 through 39 games. The backstop hit only 10 homers in all of 2018.
- Kyle Schwarber had a home run in a 13-pitch at-bat last night and reached based four times. His counting statistics (.220/.345/.398, 6, and 13) are a little light, but Schwarber continues to find ways to help the team win.
.@kschwarb12 wins an epic battle. #EverybodyIn pic.twitter.com/s2oJQ8VQKd
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 18, 2019
- Schwarber batted leadoff last night; the combination of Schwarber-Bryant-Rizzo-Báez-Contreras at the top of the order has the potential to be one formidable bunch.
- Former Nationals and current Cubs reliever Brandon Kintzler has no love lost for his former organization. “I know they got the worst bullpen in baseball,” Kintzler said. “So I’ll just leave it at that.”
- CBS Sports gives the Cubs a grade of A- at the quarter point of the season.
- These top prospects, including shortstop Zack Short of the Cubs, who was chosen in the 17th round in 2016, are considered the best value picks of recent MLB drafts. Short reminds me a lot of Ryan Theriot.
How About That!
The Braves cranked three home runs in a nine-run 6th inning in support of Max Fried and rolled to a win over the visiting Brewers. The Braves were up 12-0 after six innings before an insane rally by Milwaukee closed the gap to 12-8.
Nine of the first 10 Rangers batters reached base safely in the 2nd inning against Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas as Texas beat St. Louis 7-3. The Cardinals are in the midst of a 3-11 run that includes a three-game sweep at the hands of the Cubs.
The Astros have won nine straight games. Reliever Ryan Pressly pitched a perfect 8th inning in yesterday’s 3-1 win over the Red Sox and set an MLB record with his 39th consecutive scoreless appearance. Houston has matched the 2017 World Series championship team for the best start in franchise history at 30-15.
George Springer in his last 63 at-bats: three doubles, nine homers, 21 runs scored, nine strikeouts, nine walks. He has to be an early-season favorite for AL MVP.
The Marlins have scored 2.56 runs per game thus far. The next-worst offense is the Tigers, who have scored 3.40 runs per game. That’s a huge gap between the Marlins and the 29th-ranked offense even after you correct for the DH. Curtis Granderson and Starlin Castro are tied for the Marlins team lead with 11 RBI. Eleven!!
The Yankees, despite so many injuries, night be baseball’s best story so far this year.
Friday’s Three Stars
- Kris Bryant – 4-for-6 with three homers, three runs scored and five RBI. ‘Nuff said.
- Willson Contreras – The Cubs backstop was 4-for-5 with two RBI in last night’s massacre. His 9th inning two-run dinger closed out Chicago’s scoring for the night.
- Rich Hill – The Dodgers starter was simply dominant last night, finishing 10 strikeouts in six shutout innings, needing just 84 pitches to stifle Reds batters.
I have an insanely odd work schedule for the next two weeks because the company I work for is growing at a super accelerated pace. I apologize in advance for missing an occasional article. Once June 1 arrives I will be back to a normal schedule and The Rundown will not be absent unless I die or win the Powerball.
A look back at one of the highest-scoring games in major league history, when the Phillies beat the Cubs 23-22 in wind-blown Wrigley Field on May 17, 1979. Philadelphia pitcher Randy Lerch homered in the top of the 1st and couldn’t finish the bottom of the inning. It’s amazing to hear announcer Jack Brickhouse mention the left field catwalk that no longer exists. This is my second favorite non-World Series nostalgic Cubs video, right behind the 20-strikeout performance by Kerry Wood in his rookie season. Enjoy the history.
They Said It
- “We have seen [Bryant] hit the ball consistently harder over the last two or three weeks. He looks like he [did] a couple of years ago, and he is also reacting with the same kind of confidence. It’s a good thing to watch right now.” – Joe Maddon
- “I’m seeing it good, and being on time I think is the biggest thing. I think early on in the season my timing was off. Now I feel like I’m right where I need to be. So, that’s a good thing, walking up to the plate and knowing that your timing is there and all you have to do is see the ball and hit it.” – Kris Bryant
Saturday Walk Up Song
Boys of Summer by The Ataris. Yup, their one hit was a cover of the more pedestrian version of the Don Henley classic. I still prefer Henley’s version, but if you need a little early 2000’s post-grunge rock and roll I’ve got your fix. Remember when most popular music was made using guitars? Now you have to listen to The Highway on satellite radio to hear anything recently recording using an amplified six-string. Sigh.
If you listen to the Ataris version very closely you can even hear synthesized, mock seagulls.