“Here’s a little agit for the never-believer, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.” – R.E.M., Man on the Moon
After Jason Heyward sent the Reds packing with a walk-off three-run blast last night, the scrub-Cubs now boast eight wins in their last nine games and I promise that is as unbelievable to write as it is to read. The Cubs won 4-1 largely because Alec Mills, who takes soft-tossing to an unparalleled level, kept Cincinnati batters in check for seven innings. Mills threw 51 of 73 pitches for strikes and all looked like they’d have trouble registering on a radar gun. It was the fourth quality start of the year for the righty, who will probably be relegated to swingman again next season.
As far as Heyward, every once in a while the wily veteran actually looks like a $22 million player and his at-bat in the 10th inning of yesterday’s game was one of those times. That was one Schwarber-esque blast. Best of all it, came against former failed Cubs reliever Brad Brach, who allowed three runs on two hits without retiring a single batter, triggering a little PTSD in each of us.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 9, 2021
Brach’s ERA since July 6 was 12.60 before last night’s game and there is no pitcher that seems more capable of crushing any postseason dreams his host team may have. Reds fans must tremble in terror when he enters the game. Speaking frankly, how the heck does Cincinnati manager David Bell justify letting Brach enter a tie game with a ghost runner on second base and his team fighting for its postseason life?
Not for nothing, but do the Reds really look like a team that is battling the Padres for the National League’s second Wild Card berth? The castoffs and misfits that comprise Chicago’s roster are playing with more verve and bigger energy than their NL Central rivals. It’s almost enough to make Nick Castellanos think about jumping ship this winter and returning to the Friendly Confines. Somebody wake up Jed Hoyer but do it quietly before Tom Ricketts finds out what’s going on.
My apologies, I’m not here to bury the Reds. They’re doing a fine job themselves, having now lost five straight series.
With last night’s win, the Cubs are now just a game behind the Tigers for the 12th pick in next year’s amateur draft. If they continue at this blistering pace (they won’t), they could play themselves into the top half of baseball’s 30-team field. Consider the Dive for Five as unlikely as a playoff berth this year. On the plus side, the North Siders are making a late-season run rivaled only by the fictional 1988 Indians from the movie Major League and they’re having a heckuva lot of fun doing so. It’s crazy and a little unbelievable, but it sure is entertaining.
Cubs News & Notes
- Will the Cubs and Castellanos be a fit this winter if the Reds’ right fielder elects free agency? Castellanos said that’s entirely up to the Ricketts family, which I would think at least confirms he will be opting out of his contract.
- Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson will be the primary focus over the final three weeks of the season for pitching coach Tommy Hottovy. The team would like to go to Arizona next spring knowing both are ready to compete for spots in the rotation.
- Outfielder Michael Hermosillo will miss the rest of the season with a forearm injury.
- Hermosillo, a native of Ottawa, IL, hopes to remain with the Cubs in 2022.
- Christopher Morel did his best impersonation of Heyward with a walk-off three-run homer of his own for the Tennessee Smokies.
Odds & Sods
“Ian Happ is en Fuego.” – Former ESPN Sportscenter host Kenny Mayne (presumably).
Ian Happ last 24 games
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) September 9, 2021
Climbing the Ladder
“You know, and one day I was one of life’s losers, even my friends were my accusers, and in my head, I’d lost before I’d begun.” – Santana, Winning
- Games Played: 141
- Total Plate Appearances: 5,176
- Total Strikeouts: 1,390
- Strikeout Rate: 26.9%
- Team Batting Average: .232
The Cubs have won three straight series, and it’s no coincidence that Happ is equally hot. He hit another home run last night, a mammoth 444-foot blast, and though we’ve all seen this movie before, it does show how good Happ can be when he’s locked in. He just needs consistency.
How About That!
The Brewers’ magic number to win the NL Central is now 10 after last night’s 4-3 win over the Phillies. Milwaukee has a 12-game lead over the second-place Reds.
Ted Simmons stole the show while giving his Hall of Fame induction speech yesterday in Cooperstown, NY. Simmons recognized four pioneers in the quest for players’ labor rights: Curt Flood, Catfish Hunter, Andy Messersmith, and Marvin Miller, who joined Simmons in the Hall of Fame Class of 2020. He closed his speech by mentioning his wife and quoting John Lennon from the Beatles’ song “The End.”
The Giants scooped up José Quintana off the waiver wire and he was immediately effective in a multi-inning role for his new team. Quintana will join Kris Bryant and Tommy La Stella in a return to Wrigley Field this weekend.
Juan Soto has one of the game’s most unique batter’s box routines. Ben Lindbergh of The Ringer breaks it down.
A few weeks back, Darvish took the time to meet a young fan whose family drove 3.5 hours just to see him pitch in Atlanta, only to have the game postponed due to weather. I’ll continue with more from Larry Brown:
“But that’s not all. Darvish then reached back out via Instagram and invited Landon to visit Petco Park in San Diego for a game. Darvish offered to pay for the flights, tickets, and hotel. Landon and his father took Darvish up on the offer and attended a game earlier this week. According to [San Diego Union-Tribune’s Annie] Heilbrunn, Darvish gave Landon the VIP treatment before the game.”
Wednesday’s Three Stars
- Nathaniel Lowe – The Rangers first baseman was 3-for-5 with an RBI against the Diamondbacks and finished the night a home run shy of hitting for the cycle.
- Josh Lowe – Nathaniel’s little brother debuted for the Rays last night and was 1-for-1 with a walk and a stolen base. Josh was Tampa Bay’s first choice in the 2016 draft (13th overall). He was the 58th player used by the Rays this season, a new club record.
- Brandon Lowe – The Rays second baseman, who is not related to Nathaniel and Josh, was 2-for-3 with a run scored and is only here because my OCD would not allow me to include anybody else.
Codi Heuer has a 0.90 ERA in 20 innings with the Cubs and he and Rowan Wick are going to be downright nasty closing out games next season. The 25-year-old right-handed reliever may end up being the jewel of the Craig Kimbrel trade with the White Sox. Heuer throws easy high-90’s cheese and has about two feet of horizontal movement on his slider. I’d love to see a frame-by-frame of this clip.
Codi Heuer, Vicious 90mph Slider. pic.twitter.com/Acsz5SD8XS
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 19, 2021
They Said It
- “Baseball turns you into a realist real quick. Obviously, I don’t throw 100…but at the same time I know I can get outs. I know I can do it consistently and give us a chance to win. I’m going to take that and run with it.” – Mills
- “This is the first time in my career, being in that position, to play spoiler. And it’s a lot of fun playing good baseball, of course, but when you have some incentive to do it… it’s nice to see some results.” – Heyward
- “The one thing that from the outside looking in that will always remain the same is what the Cubs organization is, what Wrigley Field is, how much Cubs fans genuinely love their team. That’s what the organization is. As long as that is served first, it’s impossible for it to go in the wrong direction.” – Castellanos
Thursday Walk-Up Song
Going Up the Country by Canned Heat. I don’t know what it is about these replacement Cubs, but I wouldn’t mind attending an autumn kegger and bonfire with most of them.