The Rundown: Cubs Close Season With Win, Bring on the Marlins, Cubs Enter Postseason Oozing Swagger, Four NL Central Teams Make Playoffs
Are you ready for some playoff baseball? I was convinced MLB couldn’t pull it off, and was legitimately frightened that one column in the past two months would have been about the cancellation of the season due to a COVID-19 death. Instead, the 60-game sprint of a season is over and 16 teams have a chance at winning the 2020 World Series. That includes the Astros and Brewers, who enter the postseason tournament with 29-31 records.
Nothing better than October. pic.twitter.com/vMQozmG2PL
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) September 28, 2020
The Cubs will kick off their first round match with the Marlins on Wednesday at 1pm CT. I love that it’s an afternoon game, something of a rarity for the Cubs at Wrigley Field this year. Fans are unable to attend, though the rooftops are open, so I don’t imagine the old ballpark at Clark and Addison will have the same electric feel as when these two teams met in 2003. Still, there is a palpable excitement for this year’s playoffs because the North Siders will enter as NL Central champions for the first time since 2017.
If the Cubs beat the Marlins and advance to Round 2, they’ll head to Dallas for the division and championship series. One of the Braves or Reds would stand in the way of Chicago’s hopes of reaching the NLCS. That path doesn’t seem as difficult as the Dodgers, who could very well play the Padres if they can dust the Brewers this week. There will be no off days during each of the first three rounds of the tournament, so the postseason will be every bit the sprint that the regular season was. In fact, it’s almost odd that we have to wait two days for the Cubs festivities to start.
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cubs beat the White Sox yesterday and will keep the Crosstown Cup for at least another year.
- It looks like Kris Bryant has found his mojo just in time for the start of the playoffs. The third baseman hit another homer yesterday and that’s the best his swing has looked all season.
- Light-hitting Billy Hamilton also went yard yesterday and he stole home in the game, too. Someone will call him the team’s postseason X-factor in the next day or two, I guarantee.
- Brailyn Marquez was promoted ahead of yesterday’s game and saw late-inning action as a reliever. The rookie allowed five earned runs and couldn’t finish the 8th inning. He has a promising future, but it’s obvious he just isn’t ready right now and I doubt he’ll see any meaningful action in the playoffs. Patrick Wisdom was DFA’d to open up a spot for Marquez.
- Theo Epstein said Cubs’ fans shouldn’t read too much into the rookie’s shaky outing. The president of baseball operations mentioned Marquez may be a depth option in the coming weeks, if needed.
- In the meantime, Adbert Alzolay pitched like a he could be a future ace. He really worked White Sox hitters well, garnering eight strikeouts in five innings of two-hit work.
- The Cubs know that Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks will start the first two games of the team’s upcoming Wild Card Series. The order is still something manager David Ross and his staff are discussing behind the scenes.
- Pitching powered the Cubs throughout this season, so the expectation should remain that Chicago’s arms will be the driving force for a deep October run.
- The Cubs enter the playoffs healthy and in a good state of mind after navigating the regular season with no COVID-19 incidents.
- Some Cubs fans are upset because Ross made a broad generalization about a specific group of the team’s social media followers while defending Bryant. Hey, if the shoe fits…
- Ian Happ is dealing with an ankle injury, but should be ready for Wednesday’s game. Happer has been the team’s most improved hitter this year despite a late-season slump.
- Happ spoke about his recent hair restoration procedure.
- Here are the Cubs’ top 20 moments of the regular season.
Apropos of Nothing
Admit it, that 60-game schedule felt more like 180 games at times, didn’t it?
Odds & Sods
If jewelry is the gimmick that allows Anthony Rizzo and Bryant to go off in the postseason, I say the first baseman should take the entire team over to Jewelers’ Row on Wabash, stat.
In pursuit of more jewelry. #FlyTheW pic.twitter.com/lmuwh1yIvz
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 28, 2020
How About That!
Indians starter Shane Bieber won the Triple Crown of pitching and should be a shoo-in for the AL Cy Young award. Bieber will face last year’s winner, Gerritt Cole, in Game 1 of Cleveland’s first round series against the Yankees.
New York second baseman DJ LeMahieu became the fourth player in Yankees franchise history to lead the majors in batting average, joining none other than Mickey Mantle (.353 in 1956), Joe DiMaggio (.381 in 1939) and Lou Gehrig (.363 in 1934). LeMahieu is also the first modern day player to win the title in both leagues.
Juan Soto became the National League’s youngest batting champion, going 1-for-1 before being pulled yesterday and finishing the season with a .351 average.
The Brewers backed into the postseason when the Phillies and Giants lost their respective games. They’ll serve as an appetizer for the Dodgers in Round 1. The NL Central is sending four teams to the playoffs, obviously a league first.
As expected, the Angels announced that the team has decided general manager Billy Eppler will not return for the final year of his contract. Eppler held the position for 15 years.
The Red Sox announced that manager Ron Roenicke will not return in 2021.
Just like the NCAA tourney, you can enter the MLB.com bracket tournament challenge thanks to this year’s 16-team field.
Sunday’s Three Stars
- Trea Turner – The Nationals shortstop had a career day yesterday, going 2-for-5 with a grand slam and seven RBI as Washington jumped all over Mets starter Seth Lugo in a 15-5 win. Turner should be in discussions for league MVP.
- Billy Hamilton – The light-hitting reserve outfielder had a home run and stole home in the Cubs finale. His SLG jumped 60 points in one game.
- Adbert Alzolay – The most impressive part about this young man’s performance was not the eight punchouts in five innings, but his commanding mound presence. Alzolay shows a world of difference in make up between this year and last.
Our opinion of @BillyHamilton stolen bases has 𝙚𝙫𝙤𝙡𝙫𝙚𝙙, okay? pic.twitter.com/nFglKdxLww
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 27, 2020
They Said It
- “You’re never satisfied with just one [championship]. You always want more, more. Sometimes it comes. Sometimes it doesn’t. But, the group here is a really good group and a lot of talent, so I don’t see why we couldn’t put more rings on the board.” – Kris Bryant
- “[The players] feel like it’s not done yet. And that there’s a great opportunity this year to add to their legacy, continue their legacy and continue to do remarkable things for the Chicago Cubs during this period of sustained success.” – Theo Epstein
Monday Walk Up Song
Let The Day Begin by The Call – Bat flips, gold chains, high socks, stealing home, and Bryant’s attitude: I like the swagger the Cubs are carrying into the playoffs. Most of all, I hope they continue to have the same fun that’s made them so wonderful to watch all season.