The Rundown: Cubs Win Streak Hits Three, Unsung Heroes Gelling, Alzolay Rocking as Reliever, Rays Using Run Prevention to Dominate
“My shadow’s the only one that walks beside me. My shallow heart’s the only thing that’s beating. Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me; Till then I walk alone.” – Green Day, Boulevard of Broken Dreams
We’ve made it to September and the best thing we can say about the 2021 Cubs is that it’s been an interesting year, one for the books actually. The team looks nothing like it did when it left Arizona in March, and certainly nothing like the last time Chicago was truly competitive back in 2017. That’s not to say the games aren’t interesting.
The Cubs swept the Twins in a two-game set before last night’s thrilling 6-5 win over the Pirates in 11 innings. I think we can safely assume the Boys in Blue won’t be losing 100 games this year and, if anything, it’s time to give the Replacement Cubs a little credit. They’re scrappy, they understand timely hitting, and if they could get any decent innings from their starters they could probably be at least a .500 team.
If you had to choose which players have a right to compete for starting jobs in 2022, you’d have to start with Frank Schwindel, who was named the NL August Rookie of the Month yesterday. Rafael Ortega deserves consideration, too, and he looks every bit like a poor man’s Dexter Fowler in the leadoff spot. Patrick Wisdom could be a star in this league if he could just cut down his whiff rate. The power is genuine, and he seems like a potential team leader.
The best part about these alt-Cubs is that they’re finally starting to gel as a team. It doesn’t appear that any of them are feeling any pressure to replace the legends that left at the trade deadline, and that’s probably because we expected little from any of them. Schwindel will never pass anybody’s eye test, and in fact, I jokingly refer to him as the Kurt Rambis of MLB. He looks nothing like a ballplayer but where would the Cubs be without him?
As far as the bullpen, they’ve been spectacular the last three games other than a blown save by Rowan Wick last night. When David Ross makes his call to the pen, Baseball-Reference is a handy utility to have close by. Scott Effross and Adrian Sampson killed it last night, and the night before Adbert Alzolay was absolutely filthy. Codi Heuer has been solid since coming over from the White Sox, and Manuel Rodríguez is so much fun to watch.
Scott Effross strikes out Jacob Stallings on this nice slider. pic.twitter.com/guNDbTzQHH
— Andy Martínez (@amartinez_11) September 3, 2021
A top-five pick in next year’s draft is out of the question now and if the Cubs continue to roll, they’re going to play themselves out of the top 10. Most fans are only casually interested right now, but if you’re not too careful, you may actually start liking these Cubs. They’re actually not terrible, the difference between the No. 5 and No. 10 picks isn’t usually that significant, and Ross deserves a lot of credit for keeping his team competitive, even though Chicago is doing it against their fellow also-rans. Still, it’s nice to see them fly the W more than any of us expected.
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cubs have been mindful of Alzolay’s workload since spring training, and as he nears his limit, he’ll finish the year in the bullpen.
- The rookie pitcher said that despite working out of the ‘pen for the rest of this season, his goal is to be part of Chicago’s rotation next season.
- The Cubs may have found their new high-leverage triumvirate for closing victories with a combination of Heuer, Rodriguez, and Wick.
- Justin Steele was magnificent against the Twins the other night.
- Steele wasn’t feeling his slider, but the rest of his mix of pitches was electric and Ross walked away impressed. “I thought he mixed the four and the two well,” the manager said after the game. “Sometimes those pitches blend together. I thought tonight, there was a real separation in the two. Looked like it was sinking hard.”
- Keegan Thompson was the victim of a quick hook from Ross last night, and the manager indicated Thompson has to be better as a starter than he’s showed so far.
- Speaking of quick hooks, will Rossy ever allow Zach Davies to pitch long enough to qualify for a win? Davies has been terrible and high pitch counts have cost him victories in his last two starts.
- Ian Happ is on another late-season tear. Yawn.
- A blast and a bloop pretty much summed up Happ’s evening.
- Last night’s win wasn’t the prettiest of baseball affairs.
Odds & Sods
This is not your normal variety of walk-off performances, but then again, it’s Happ.
Well that was … something
Cubs have won 3 straight 👊 pic.twitter.com/whZbStqLBR
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) September 3, 2021
Climbing the Ladder
“I stopped an old man along the way, hoping to find some old forgotten words or ancient melodies. He turned to me as if to say ‘Hurry, boy it’s waiting there for you.'” – Weezer, Africa
- Games Played: 135
- Total Plate Appearances: 4,954
- Total Strikeouts: 1,338
- Strikeout Rate: 27%
- Team Batting Average: .231
Though they played 11 innings, the Cubs and Pirates combined for 31 strikeouts, 18 by Chicago’s hitters.
Apropos of Nothing
Though I was laid up the last few days, some music industry friends of mine allowed me to watch the Weezer/Fall Out Boy/Green day show from Summerfest Thursday night and I was floored. I had never seen Green Day live, and they were very impressive. I’d pay to see them again, and in fact, I hope they tour next summer so that I can. If the tour is stopping by your city before it ends later this month, go see it. You will not be disappointed.
How About That!
This year’s NL MVP race could be the tightest ever, though it would seem Fernando Tatis Jr. is the favorite with one month left in the season.
Baseball operations analyst Katie Krall of the Reds hopes to be the game’s next female general manager.
The Dodgers and Giants will play this weekend with first place in the NL West on the line.
Run prevention has made the Rays one of the game’s toughest opponents this season, and bodes well for a successful postseason run.
If the Padres hope to get into the playoffs they’ll need their superstars to be superheroes.
Teams are virtual division-winning locks if they lead by at least six games on Labor Day, but are improbable for postseason play if they trail by more than 3.5 games in the Wild Card standings. That means that as of this morning, the Brewers, White Sox, and Astros are heading to the playoffs minus a disaster of epic proportions.
The Beyond the Game committee in Dyersville is already looking ahead to the next MLB game between the Cubs and the Reds at the Field of Dreams site in 2022.
Juan Soto has a whopping .516 OBP since the All-Star Game thanks to 48 walks in 42 games.
Thursday’s Three Stars
- Andrew McCutchen plated four runners last night in a 2-for-5 effort while leading the Phillies past the Nationals.
- Despite the loss, Juan Soto did everything he could to keep Washington from falling. The young outfielder was 3-for-4 with a home run, a stolen base, and four RBI. Soto is quietly garnering some MVP consideration, though it will be a tough sell because the Nats are 55-77.
- Rafael Ortega had a big night last night, including his ninth tater of the season. He finished the night with three RBI.
Congratulations to Frank Schwindel, the NL Rookie of the Month for August!@NationalPro pic.twitter.com/MxCKtXebCU
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 2, 2021
Sliding Into Home
The past week has been just about the scariest since I was diagnosed with a faulty liver last year. Without getting too complicated, I had some pressure on the esophagus due to internal bleeding so the doctors inserted a shunt into my jugular vein to bypass an arterial blockage. I’m feeling better and with proper blood flow I could theoretically reverse some of the tissue scarring. I had incorrectly interpreted that I had reached cirrhosis, but the shunt was put in place to alleviate the spread of the damage toward the bile duct, and of course, if the blockage had burst I’d have been in real trouble.
They Said It
- “[Alzolay] is a real weapon, as you saw [Wednesday]. He’s got length, he can come in in short bursts — there’s a lot of options we can do with him down there, keeping him as sharp as possible. And if we need somebody to have a start, we want to flip somebody sometime, we’ve got that option too.” – David Ross
- “My main [focus] right now is just to be able to [keep pitching]. So it was either I got two or three more starts and then I’ll be shut down or I can come out of the bullpen and keep pitching through the whole month.” – Adbert Alzolay
Friday Walk-Up Song
Wake Me Up When September Ends by Green Day – Despite the team’s recent surge, and I use the word lightly, I am looking forward to Chicago’s offseason more than any in recent memory.