“We’re jammin’, and I hope this jam is gonna last.” – Bob Marley & The Wailers, Jammin’
Bring on the Braves!
The Cubs scored more runs via walks than hits in last night’s 5-3 win over the Reds, but they took three of four in the series and showed Cincinnati that the wrong team entered play yesterday in first place. The Cubs are now 2.5 games behind the Brewers for the NL Central lead and two games behind the fading Reds for the final Wild Card spot. Good morning Chicago, and welcome to Wrigley Field’s wonderful playoff-like atmosphere.
The Braves are going to be a big test, but I like the pitching matchups this weekend. The weather could be a factor, too, though it shouldn’t stand in the way of two turbo-charged offenses. Atlanta and Chicago have been among the hottest teams in baseball since mid-June, and the collision of the two juggernauts couldn’t come at a better time. The Cubs have a chance to prove to the rest of baseball whether they are contenders or pretenders. It’s also fun rooting for a team that is leading with its pride but is still considered an underdog among baseball’s elite.
It won’t happen, but I dreamt Cade Horton and Jordan Wicks would be recalled for this series. As it is, David Ross has yet to announce his starter for Saturday’s tilt. Marcus Stroman is out, making Hayden Wesneski the likely choice, though I’d love to see Horton or Wicks tame the Braves. We’ll have to wait until next year for that to come to fruition. The Cubs are notoriously deliberate in controlling the matriculation process, at least compared to teams like the Reds and Braves.
That said, Chicago’s veteran core is the reason why the postseason is well within reach. The addition of Jeimer Candelario adds a lot of length to the lineup and the Cubs are now averaging 7.8 runs per game since the All-Star break.
The fortunes of Chicago and Cincinnati reversed course this series and when all is said and done, Reds manager David Bell is going to be held accountable for allowing Ben Lively to take a 13-run bullet in Tuesday night’s 20-9 loss. He lost his team that night and gave the Cubs a big leg up in the pennant race by doing so. Getting purposely tossed last night probably didn’t earn him the respect from the players he was hoping for.
Kyle Hendricks takes the mound this afternoon against Max Fried, and Justin Steele will start Sunday against Charlie Morton. The Cubs won’t face Spencer Strider this weekend, which is another reason to celebrate. Let’s get this party started, shall we?
Cubs News & Notes
- The lack of offense didn’t derail the Cubs, who were able to take advantage of the Reds’ fielding mistakes once again.
- Christopher Morel sees Candelario as an inspiring mentor. Morel still remembers gathering around a television in 2016 with the rest of the Cubs’ prospects at their Dominican complex to watch Candelario make his major league debut.
- Dansby Swanson is swinging a hot bat and hopes to continue his torrid pace against his former teammates this weekend.
- The acquisition of Candelario has pushed Seiya Suzuki into a platoon role.
- It looks like Suzuki is also becoming a part-time player now that Mike Tauchman is having so much success. Patrick Mooney of The Athletic wrote that Ross is expecting players to curb their egos ($) and put winning ahead of playing time. This moment feels a lot like August 2015, when the Cubs moved Starlin Castro off shortstop and Joe Maddon pulled Jason Hammel four innings into the first game of a series against the Giants.
- Also from Mooney’s article, and an interesting tidbit at that: Once top pitching prospect Ben Brown (lat) comes off the injured list, the Cubs will likely begin converting him to the bullpen to see how his stuff might play in shorter bursts at Wrigley Field.
- Ross also said the team thrived under the sense of urgency to stack wins to convince the front office to shift into buy mode for the stretch run.
- Cody Bellinger is one of the most popular players in Chicago’s clubhouse.
- Of course, we all know what Jed Hoyer thinks of Mr. Bellinger.
- By the way, it was refreshing that Tom Ricketts and Crane Kenney didn’t steal Hoyer’s spotlight this week.
Odds & Sods
Evan lays down the smack to Reds fans and we’re all here for every minute of it.
How’d that work out? https://t.co/ekYc1DzqGS
— Evan Altman (@DEvanAltman) August 4, 2023
- Milwaukee (59-51): Andrew Chafin has already endeared himself to Brewers fans and I feel entirely betrayed.
- Cincinnati (59-52): Cincinnati’s unexpected success is tearing apart its fanbase. A large faction wants to win now, while others tend to prefer the Reds not trade prospects to win immediately. I’d say Hoyer has built the best model for threading the needle.
- Pittsburgh (48-60): In the meantime, Pirates fans are getting tired of perpetually playing for next year.
- St. Louis (48-62): Jack Flaherty should be seen as a cautionary tale for the Cardinals’ organization.
Climbing the Ladder
“I’m a shooting star leaping through the sky like a tiger, defying the laws of gravity.” – Queen, Don’t Stop Me Now
I take requests, or so it might seem.
The North Siders scored 46 runs in the series, which tied a modern-era record for a four-game series (also achieved against Cincinnati on July 27-29, 1961). It is the most runs in a four-game series for the franchise since plating 52 against the Pirates from Aug. 16-19, 1890, per team historian Ed Hartig.
The Cubs are just two games behind the Brewers in the loss column and the two teams will face each other seven more times this season, including a three-game set in Milwaukee to close the 2023 regular season schedule.
Adbert Alzolay earned a dominant four-out save and I’m coming around to his ascension to closer. I’d prefer he strictly works the final inning, however. I know he has a little more stamina because he used to start, but he may take a hit to his confidence if he fails to clean up messes left by his fellow relievers. Mark Leiter Jr. looked unhittable last night. He struck out four of the five batters he faced, leaving Cincinnati hitters bewildered at the plate.
Chicago’s relievers had nine strikeouts in four innings of work, which will usually hold any lead.
- Games Played: 109
- Record: 56-53 (.514)
- Total Plate Appearances: 4,175
- Total Strikeouts: 977
- Strikeout Rate: 23.40%
- Team Batting Average: .258
- Runs Scored: 560
- Runs Allowed: 481
- Chances of Making the Playoffs: 55.5%, 4.8% to win the World Series
How About That!
The Braves activated Fried this morning for today’s start against the Cubs.
MLB dropped the new logo and announced renovations for Rickwood Field in Birmingham. The Cardinals and Giants will play a game honoring the Negro Leagues at the iconic field next season.
The NL Central remains quite competitive and could be represented by two postseason teams.
Teams that decided to become sellers will have a tough time competing for free agents this winter. The arrow points up for Hoyer, and down for Steve Cohen.
Thursday’s Three Stars
- Sal Frelick – The Milwaukee rookie was 2-for-5 with a three-run homer and five RBI in the Brewers’ 14-1 win over the Pirates.
- Brady Singer – The Royals starter tossed eight innings of three-hit, shutout baseball in a 9-2 win over the hapless Mets.
- Austin Hays – The Orioles outfielder enjoyed a 4-for-5 evening in Baltimore’s 6-1 win over the Blue Jays.
This is pretty cool.
"So many sights to be seen on every side of the city, inside every neighborhood. Our shared history is what should connect us."
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 3, 2023
Friday Morning Six-Pack
- The Bears signed edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue to a one-year, $10.5 million contract with $10 million guaranteed.
- Ngakoue was the best defensive end still available and is a monster addition to an improving defense that is wiping the practice field with Chicago’s offense right now. Starting guards Teven Jenkins and Nate Davis are sidelined with injuries, and Cody Whitehair is getting mauled playing next to two inexperienced linemen.
- Tom Brady became a minority owner of the English second-tier soccer team Birmingham City Football Club. Whatever happened to pickleball?
- The Americans came into this World Cup ranked, as usual, No. 1 in the world. But due to injuries, the team is missing several of the veterans who were key to the USWNT’s victory four years ago in France. They’ll draw Sweden next, and they could be in big trouble.
- Warner Bros.-Discovery said it saved more than $100 million in the second quarter due to the Hollywood actor and writer strikes. Bastards.
- Lead singer Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age is tired of bands who refuse to play their biggest hits in concert. Add me to that list, too. Concert tickets cost as much as a mortgage payment in some cases. I’ve got no time for majors who feel the need to rediscover their indie roots.
They Said It
- “Right now, you got to put your ego aside, We’re not trying to fit in everybody’s at-bats and get everybody at-bats. We’re trying to win every single game at all costs.” – Ross
- “Every advantage we can take advantage of, we’re going to try it, whether that’s information or playing time or day-after-night rest or maximizing the guys that are swinging the bat well. It’s just juggling that as best as I possibly can, moving guys in and out, and giving guys rest. There’s a lot of underlying things that are really beneficial, too.” – Ross
Friday Walk-Up Song
I’m going to see Salt-n-Pepa with Shaggy at Wisconsin State Fair tonight, but this song is also appropriate given Rossy’s comments.