As strange as it sounds to say the pressure was on the Cubs as they headed to Detroit for a three-game series fresh off of a big win against the White Sox, that’s absolutely the case. They had seen their division lead dwindle over the previous week, the top of the order still wasn’t hitting, and they were facing former No. 1 overall draft pick Casey Mize.
Then there’s the fact that they’d acknowledged they were pressing as a team, so this wasn’t a fan-driven narrative. Javy Báez has been right in the middle of that admission, hacking away at everything and wearing his resultant frustration like a mask of pain that belied nothing. For the Cubs to get back what we’d seen earlier in the season, Javy needed to get right.
That’s exactly what happened Monday night as he went 3-for-5 with a pair of homers and a single that exemplified the approach that took him from free-swinging novelty to legitimate threat. The funny thing is he didn’t even look all that great in each of those at-bats, getting out front and firing his hips early in several cases. But sometimes all it takes is for a ball drop or to run into a mistake to remind a hitter that he’s still quite capable of playing the game.
“Listening to him come back in the dugout, about how good that felt for him, I think is a positive.” David Ross said after the game. “A really nice approach, that homer to right. I think that’s got to be a big weight lifted off of his shoulders.”
When Javy’s going right, it’s as though his confidence alone will get a mishit to fall safely. Nothing breeds confidence like a pair of dingers, so let’s see if a few days of playing Tiger King gets him on one of those patented tears. Perhaps the best thing about Javy getting hot is that his play tends to be infectious and gets everyone around him to elevate their own play. That goes the other way, too, which may explain some of the scuffling.
The Cubs would love to be firing on all cylinders when they head to Cincinnati before finishing the road trip in Pittsburgh. Beating up on inferior teams may not excite the pundits, but the W’s count the same and the Cubs just need to keep making marks in the win column whenever they can.
Cubs News & Notes
- David Bote hit a mammoth homer to open the 4th inning and essentially break Mize and the Tigers. After going 3-for-5 with 4 RBI, he explained that hitting coach Anthony Iapoce always says, “The key to hitting is hitting.” Profound and true.
- Tyler Chatwood will be activated form the IL today and will make the start against the Tigers. He hasn’t pitched since August 6, when he got bombed in Kansas City, and it’s anyone’s guess how he’ll respond after the layoff.
- José Quintana will also be activated today and will pitch out of the bullpen for the time being. He might be used as a piggyback starter with Chatwood if the righty isn’t ready to go deep yet, but it’s also possible Q is deployed in carefully selected situations to ease back into action. He has only four career relief appearances, but was prepping as a reliever during his rehab in South Bend.
- There were some thoughts that Quintana could wrest a rotation spot back from Alec Mills, who had made consecutive rough starts characterized by big mistakes. He was able to get back to his winning ways Monday night with an efficient effort that saw him cruise through seven innings with seven strikeouts and a walk. He gave up a late homer, but the game was well in hand by then.
- Corresponding moves will obviously have to occur, with the potential for Duane Underwood Jr. to be DFA’d looming large. He had looked great heading into the season but his performance so far just hasn’t been good enough to remain on the active roster and he’s out of minor league options.
- Why David Ross continues to pinch run for Kyle Schwarber with Albert Almora Jr. is beyond me. It’d be bad enough if it was simply of a matter of Almora actually being slower than Schwarber, not to mention everyone else on the team other than Anthony Rizzo and Victor Caratini, but the Cubs just recalled Ian Miller for the express purpose of adding speed. That tag-up in Game 7 was a long time ago and should not determine these moves four years later.
Odds & Sods
Trevor Bauer got all kind of attention last night when he pretended to crack a beer on the mound after getting a strikeout. Maybe he ended up getting a real buzz from it, because he ended up allowing two homers among seven total hits and wore the loss as a result. What a douche.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 25, 2020
How About That!
Albert Pujols knocked an RBI single to pass Alex Rodriguez on the all-time RBI list. The 40-year-old* El Hombre now sits at 2,087 RBI over 20 seasons, second only to Hank Aaron’s 2,297 over 23 seasons, and has one year remaining on his Angels deal. Pujols needs at least two more full seasons after this one to catch Aaron, which is complicated by the possibility that he’s older than his listed age.
MLB.com has 5 blockbuster trade proposals if you’re interested in that sort of thing.
If you prefer bold predictions, MLB.com’s got 30 of those for you. Jordan Bastian really ran with the topic, writing that Craig Kimbrel could be on the move. Bastian notes that it’s highly unlikely, but there’s a reason they call ’em bold.
The Yankees may be getting desperate for pitching help, so expect them to be on the market in a big way over the next week. Mike Clevinger could be a target there after becoming persona non grata in Cleveland.
Justin Verlander has resumed throwing after being shut down with a right forearm strain. He’s up to about 20 pitches and is still hopeful that he can return in September.
They Said It
- That’s what we work for. I know I have been struggling, but I don’t stop working. I don’t stop trying to get better. Today, we finally got the result and I had a really good game. … There’s a lot of pressure with this short season and all this stuff, but the thing is to control that pressure when the big situations are there.
Monday Walk Up Song
Last Train to Clarksville by The Monkees – Mills is from Clarksville, Tennessee and this song was a major discussion point in the radio broadcast of Monday’s game. Also a big part of the broadcast, perhaps a first in the history of the current duo, was that Ron Coomer actually disagreed with Pat Hughes when Pat believed Javy had given up on a potential double play.