The Rundown: Another Frustrating Loss, Cubs-Cards Finally Here, Hendricks Takes Bump Tonight

What happened to all the hits? I asked myself that last night just about the same time Pat Hughes did on the radio broadcast. Sadly, I still do not have an answer except that it’s more of the same troubling inconsistency that has shadowed this ballclub for two years. It seems unfathomable that the same team that scored 55 runs over four games could muster just four runs on nine hits in the following two.

The Reds bounced the Cubs 3-2 last night, dropping them with a loud thud at the feet of the Cardinals, who enter Wrigley Field tonight with the NL Central title on the line. At the same time, the Cubs are trying to stay ahead of the Brewers for the final Wild Card spot, while still hoping to catch the similarly inconsistent Nationals for the higher seed and home field advantage in baseball’s play-in game.

It almost feels like Chicago has to win tonight to have any shot at the division, and they’ll have to beat Jack Flaherty, one of the hottest pitchers in the game, to do so. The Cubs need a statement game and realistically, a statement series. By Sunday night we should know where the North Siders stand and whether they’re frontrunners or hopeless chasers for one of three available postseason berths.

“We all know what’s in front of us,” starter Jon Lester said after last night’s game. “We’ve got to play good baseball this weekend, and hopefully we can do that.”

A nice sentiment by Lester, but not the stirring expression of confidence I was looking for. Words like “hopefully” rarely create the spit and fire you’d expect going into the biggest series of the season.

“When you look at that schedule at the beginning of the season, you hope you have an eight-game lead by the time this occurs,” Joe Maddon said. “But then you get in the position we’re in, you’re thankful that you have to play them that many times.”

Being thankful just to be in a position to compete is a little milquetoast and far too gracious if you are truly interested in my opinion, but that’s just par for the course with Maddon. Shouldn’t he be in the business of conquering enemies and capturing large chunks of Midwest real estate?

How do you handicap this series? It’s impossible, and maybe that’s the skipper’s dilemma. It’s entirely possible he has no idea as to which version of his ballclub is going to show up on any given night. I know I can’t predict that.

I’m hoping that the Cubs approach this series in the same way that they did their three-game set against the Mets at Citi Field a few weeks ago. Chicago traveled to New York for a series where almost everybody expected them to get steamrolled by the Mets’ elite rotation. Instead, the Cubbies thrashed the Metropolitans with a sweep that effectively ended any hopes of a postseason shot for Mickey Callaway’s squad.

I’d like to see the Cardinals leave Chicago with their shoulders slumped and their fans asking themselves the same question we ask ourselves as a matter of routine these days. Why can’t a team with this much talent close it out?

Cubs News & Notes

  • The Cubs expect their new regional sports network to fuel one of baseball’s biggest payrolls next season. Does that mean that the riches the Marquee Network promises will guarantee pressers featuring Nick Castellanos, someone to lead the pitching staff, and a leadoff batter to be named later? I’m ambivalent there. I think it means the front office will have more money to extend their core four with a little sauce leftover for improvements on the fringe.
  • The launch of Marquee also means the end of a decades-long affiliation between the Cubs and WGN-TV.

How About That!

Your heartwarming story of the night:

The Cubs, Cardinals, Brewers, Nationals, A’s, Rays, and Indians are all fighting for their playoff lives as MLB enters its final ten games of the season.

Five teams have clinched playoff spots thus far. Here’s a quick scouting report on each.

Managers have tendencies, some good and some bad, and it’s possible that a managerial decision or two may have as much influence on who reaches the postseason and who doesn’t.

San Francisco skipper Bruce Bochy became the 11th manager to win 2,000 games when the Giants beat the Red Sox 11-3 last night.

Gerrit Cole joined an elite club last night as well.The Houston righty became the fourth active pitcher to reach 300 strikeouts in one season, joining Max Scherzer, Chris Sale, and Clayton Kershaw. He also reached double-digit strikeouts for the 19th time this season and seventh time in a row, tying Justin Verlander’s club record, set earlier this year.

It’s been a banner year for fans of home run-powered baseball, and more records are likely to fall before the season ends.

Wednesday’s Three Stars

  1. Dinelson Lamet – The Padres starter simply mowed down the Brewers last night, striking out 14 Milwaukee batters in six innings as the Friars topped the Brew Crew 2-1.
  2. Gerrit Cole – The AL Cy Young candidate punched 10 Rangers’ tickets last night while improving to 18-5 on the season. Cole leads the majors with 302 strikeouts.
  3. Tommy Pham – The five-tool Rays outfielder enjoyed a 5-for-6 night with two doubles, three runs scored, two RBI, and a stolen base, his 23rd of the season.

Extra Innings

Not a good look for Schwarber, and Reds’ reliever Amir Garrett made it worse by mocking the Cubs slugger.

They Said It

  • “We still got plenty of opportunity. We’ve got to take care of it ourselves.” – Joe Maddon
  • “When you play for the Cubs, there are high expectations.”Steve Cishek
  • “I believe in high standards, and I believe in the theory of relativity too. So certain things don’t look as good after you’ve won more games than anyone else over a four-year period and won a World Series and gotten [to the playoffs] four years in a row. They don’t look as good as they would’ve otherwise.” – Theo Epstein

Thursday Walk Up Song

My Own Worst Enemy by Lit. Another frustrating loss.

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