“When you pine for the sunshine of a friendly gaze…” – Perry Como, (There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays
Baseball is truly a game of inches. We all know it and take it for granted, but when we see the principle in action it’s always amazing. Dansby Swanson has been slumping along with the rest of his teammates and looked particularly tired on the Cubs’ most recent road trip. Then he hit a 1st-inning home run on Tuesday night that just made it into the outfield basket, providing the spark this team so desperately needed.
As Vin Scully once put it, “The roar of the crowd has always been the sweetest music. It’s intoxicating.”
Seiya Suzuki and Cody Bellinger also homered, and Alexander Canario joined them by hitting his first big league homer. Oh, by the way, it came with the bases loaded. Canario was a surprise starter and made the most of his debut by going 2-for-4 with a double, the granny, and five RBI. Not bad for a guy who currently “sits at the bottom of the depth chart” and is only with the team because Jeimer Candelario is on the IL.
The 14-1 win over the Pirates was the elixir for a 2-8 stretch that saw the Cubs lose their foothold on the second Wild Card spot. Six of those losses were to the Diamondbacks, who surged ahead of Chicago in the playoff race. We knew the final two weeks were going to be heated, but give the North Siders credit for stoking the fire.
Let’s all mark Game 151 as the most exciting game of a crazy season, at least so far.
Cubs News & Notes
- Injuries forced David Ross to change his lineup ahead of last night’s game.
- Christopher Morel said he predicted Canario was going to hit that grand slam.
- Canario’s night put a nice bow on a long year that started with two significant injuries last fall.
- The Cubs placed Nick Madrigal on the IL with a bad hammy and recalled Jared Young to take his place. Young had a run-scoring pinch-hit triple in last night’s win.
- Last night’s thrashing of the Pirates proved the Cubs can overcome adversity and embrace the challenge ahead.
- One of the persistent issues throughout the previous 10 games was a lack of clutch hitting. The Cubs hit .205 with a .527 OPS and 45 wRC+ as a team with runners on base in that stretch.
- Jon Greenberg of The Athletic writes that the Cubs are exactly where they wanted to be ($) when the season started despite the recent stretch of poor play.
- Chicago’s play over the last two weeks has reminded some of the older fans of the 1969 collapse.
- I’m of the opinion that it’s more like 2019.
- Swanson’s homer provided a much-needed sigh of relief for Chicago’s struggling offense.
- Erstwhile starters Marcus Stroman, Drew Smyly, and Hayden Wesneski should be fixtures in Chicago’s makeshift bullpen for the rest of the season.
- The Cubs have another outfielder at Triple-A who has made a strong case for a big-league promotion. Yonathan Perlaza hit .288/.389/.541 with 39 doubles and 22 homers in Iowa’s first 111 games. He entered Saturday’s game leading the team in hits (126), runs (92) doubles (39), RBI (84), walks (70), and stolen bases (11).
Odds & Sods
J.P. Crawford gives a whole new meaning to the dog days of summer.
Here is the J.P. Crawford content you didn’t know you needed pic.twitter.com/QyabgpY07I
— ROOT SPORTS™ | NW (@ROOTSPORTS_NW) September 20, 2023
- Milwaukee (85-66): The Brewers eliminated the Cardinals from postseason contention with a 7-3 win last night. Craig Counsell earned his 700th career win and is Milwaukee’s longest-tenured manager with 1,321 games.
- Cincinnati (79-74): Joey Votto is having a good time playing meaningful games in what could be his final season with the Reds.
- Pittsburgh (70-81): Mitch Keller gets the start tonight and he’s two strikeouts shy of 200 for the season. The Pirates ace is hoping to also reach 200 innings. He’s 17.1 innings shy with three starts remaining.
- St. Louis (67-84): The Cardinals own the fifth-worst record in baseball and have a 10% chance of winning the 2024 draft lottery. If you weren’t aware, the Nationals (67-85) are not eligible for a lottery entry.
- The Brewers beat the Cardinals 7-3 last night and remain six games ahead of the Cubs in the NL Central. Milwaukee’s magic number to clinch the division is six and it is just four to clinch a playoff berth.
- The Phillies lost 9-3 to the Braves but still hold the top Wild Card spot, 2.5 games ahead of the Diamondbacks and three ahead of the Cubs.
- The Diamondbacks won their fourth straight and have a half-game lead over the Cubs for WC2.
- The Cubs have sole possession of the third Wild Card entry with a half-game lead over the Marlins and a full game over the Reds.
- If the season ended today, the Braves and Dodgers would have first-round byes, the Cubs would play a best-of-three series at Milwaukee, and the Diamondbacks would travel to Philadelphia to take on the Phillies. The Cubs will look to create a little more separation when Justin Steele takes the bump this evening.
Climbing the Ladder
“Everyone’s a superhero. Everyone’s a Captain Kirk.” – Nena, 99 Red Balloons
The Cubs are 10-1 against the Pirates this season and they’ve outscored Pittsburgh 88-28 in those games. If Chicago gets into the playoffs, continually pushing the Bucs off the plank with a bullying vigor will be one of the biggest reasons. The Cubs have scored seven or more runs in eight of those wins. They’re also batting .299 (113-for-378) with 11 home runs against the Pirates this season.
Javier Assad held the Pirates to one run on five hits in five innings. The only run he allowed was a solo homer by Ke’Bryan Hayes in the 3rd inning. Closer Adbert Alzolay (strained right forearm) was scheduled to progress to long toss on Tuesday.
- Games Played: 151
- Record: 79-72 (.523)
- Total Plate Appearances: 5,787
- Total Strikeouts: 1,297
- Strikeout Rate: 22.41%
- Team Batting Average: .254
- Runs Scored: 763
- Runs Allowed: 664
- Chances of Making the Playoffs: 63.2%, 3.4% to win the World Series
How About That!
The Orioles currently hold the No. 1 seed in the AL playoffs, but they need to hold off the Rays for first place. The top Wild Card entry is the No. 4 seed.
The 30-year-old lefty is wrapping up one of the most bizarrely dominant and statistically extreme seasons by any pitcher in MLB history.
The Cardinals are committed to adding multiple top-of-rotation starters this winter.
Max subscribers will get treated to playoff baseball this fall, plus live NBA and NHL games. How many streaming services will we need to watch all of the postseason action?
Tuesday’s Three Stars
- Canario – Well done, young man.
- Ronald Acuña Jr. – The Atlanta outfielder ripped two home runs and stole a base on a night the Braves honored him with a bobblehead giveaway. With 39 taters and 67 stolen bases, Acuña is about to become baseball’s first 40-60 player.
- Austin Hays – The Baltimore outfielder was 2-for-4 with two taters and four RBI. He didn’t get a bobblehead, but he led the Orioles to a 9-5 win over the slumping Astros.
There is so much to love about this slam by Canario. First, there’s the home run itself, and then we get a shot of Bleacher Jeff with his mind blown. But the best thing might be Morel ripping his jersey off. I wonder if Morel gave Canario the same advice Willson Contreras gave him before his first homer.
GRAND SLAM! pic.twitter.com/SNHwvGiSSy
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) September 20, 2023
Wednesday Morning Six-Pack
- The New York Times has eliminated its sports department.
- Maybe people are more concerned with the blandness of vanilla spice than they are with the Mets and Yankees.
- The XFL and USFL, two pro football leagues that are not the NFL, are reportedly in talks to merge and create one spring league.
- Tiger Woods and Justin Timberlake have opened a mammoth sports bar that spans an entire block in New York City.
- Dazed and Confused turns 30 this week. A box office flop at the time, the movie developed a huge cult following with its seemingly meandering but deceptively well-structured storyline. The film paints a vivid portrait of the small-town high school experience and what that felt like to grow up in 1970s Middle America.
- Do you have a favorite One-Hit Wonder? I’ve been crossing my fingers for weeks that I’d have an opportunity to post this song, and now I do. I can’t believe that Take On Me by A-ha is not at the top of this list.
They Said It
- “I said ‘He’s gonna hit it out with bases loaded and I’m gonna take my shirt off and celebrate it big.’ Simply put, there’s a lot of things in baseball that — even though you can’t see them or aren’t written — you can feel them. That’s when I took it off and I told the boys ‘I told you! I told you! It was a moment — it was as if I had hit it because I had an intuition and I told my teammates.” – Morel
- “I always say a lot of times when you don’t hit, you look tired. We just haven’t hit during that [2-8] stretch. I don’t think the quality of our at-bats was nearly as good as when we were playing well. A lot of times people during those periods, people want to say the team looks flat, because when you have bases loaded, no one out twice and you get double-play balls, you look flat or tired. When guys are circling the bases, you look like you have a lot of energy.” – Hoyer
Wednesday Walk-Up Song
Love Over Gold debuted 41 years ago today, and it remains one of the finest long players from Dire Straits.