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Count this one double: Cubs 17, Mets 5

Count this one double: Cubs 17, Mets 5
Nuccio DiNuzzo - Chicago Tribune

The Cubs don't stay down for long.

After an ugly sweep at home at the hands of the Brewers over the weekend, the Cubs are quick to remind us of how good they are capable of being. Granted, it is against the Mets---who, as a team, should be optioned to the Pacific Coast League for a season or two---but as they have shown with regularity, the offense rarely stays quiet for very long. Tonight, they exploded for 17 runs on the way to securing the series win against New York.

It would be dizzying and laborious to detail how each run was scored, but the pivotal moment came in the fourth inning. After jumping to a 2-1 lead in the first, the Mets had tied the game in the top of the second, where it looked to stay tangled for a while. Especially after a baserunning blunder from Willson Contreras and Ian Happ, it looked like a night destined to send the Cubs to a Thursday night rubber match. Thankfully, they instead scored three runs in the fourth and never really gave the Mets a chance from there.

As good innings often do, it started with a leadoff hit, this one from Javy Baez, who reached on a single to second base. Jon Lester's sacrifice bunt moved him into scoring position, and then Ben Zobrist singled to move Baez to third. Kris Bryant walked to load the bases, and then Anthony Rizzo drew his first of two bases loaded walks. Baez scored, and the Cubs had the lead again. Contreras atoned for his baserunning in the previous inning with a single to left that drove in two more runs, and that was really it.

The Cubs scored again in the sixth, thanks to a bases-loaded error by Asdrubal Cabrera. Happ had scorched the first pitch sinker to third, but Cabrera let it go right through his legs, and Bryant was able to score from third easily.

Four runs in the seventh, thanks to a Baez homer that landed in the left field basket reminiscent of his deciding longball in the first game of last year's NLDS and a double from Rene Rivera and a walk from Ben Zobrist that preceded Albert Almora, Jr. smoking a 2-2 slider over the fence in center.

The Mets added three dignity runs in the top of the eighth when rookie Dominic Smith took advantage of Justin Grimm being...Justin Grimm. His three-run blast made it a 10-5 game at the time, prompting me to wonder if the premium arms in the bullpen would be able to avoid spoiling a potential night off.

But the Cubs scored a touchdown in the bottom of the eighth. With one out, Jason Heyward walked, Baez singled, Rene Rivera doubled again to score both. Then Zobrist walked, and Bryant singled to load the bases for Rizzo, who walked with the bases loaded again. Almora followed with a triple to right that cleared the bases, and then Jon Jay pinch hit for Grimm and drove in Almora on a dribbler to short.

17-5. Cubs win.


Source: FanGraphs

Additional Thoughts:

Shameless plug alert: I had something new on Sporting News on Monday. It's about the Brewers, so consider yourself properly warned.

Now that that is out of the way, I remain convinced that the Cubs are plenty good enough to win the division and do so somewhat easily, but I worry about a division series. This weekend against the Cardinals and then the four-game set in Milwaukee next weekend are going to make for some tense baseball, but the Cubs have put themselves in the position to take the division. The Brewers and Cardinals are in an uphill climb, and each day they don't gain ground in the standings, they leave with less opportunity to realize October baseball.

But what concerns me about the Cubs is their bullpen. A strength last season and for much of the early part of this one, I see a smaller set of reliable arms. If the starters can remain healthy, then perhaps Joe Maddon has the pieces he needs to circumvent this weakness, but I'll be biting my nails whenever the game goes to the 'pen in October.

It's not usually my way to find the negative, especially in a 17-5 win, but I have my sights set on the demands of the postseason.

Player of the Game:

How do I justify not picking Jon Lester, who pitched another quality start? Or Anthony Rizzo, who drew two bases-loaded walks tonight? Or Javy Baez, who got three hits---including a homer---and scored three times? Or even Rene Rivera, who came in the game as a substitution when Contreras was lifted for a pinch runner and nonchalantly hit two doubles?

But it's Albert Almora tonight. Almora, who entered the game in the seventh inning as a defensive replacement and still managed to hit a home run and a triple and drive in six runs. Six.

Comments

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  • Stubbstradamus

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    Thank you. Albert is ready for a starting role and the more he plays the better offensively he'll get. Don't forget his baseball IQ either.
    Has anyone seen Maples lately? I feel he should be getting experience in these games and tonight would have been perfect.
    Anyway, a great win. Let's get a good game from Tseng tomorrow.
    Go Cubs!!

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    It will be interesting too see Tseng pitch tomorrow. I didn't realize his AAA stats were so good. Maybe he'll ultimately turn out like Hendricks, a guy who in hindsight was wildly underranked, despite stellar minor league stats.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    I'm pulling for Jen-ho, but he's nowhere near as talented as Hendricks.

  • In reply to notcarlosdanger:

    I'm obviously not an expert. But I remember when Hendricks was the pitcher of the year he was listed as something like the 10th best prospect. He should have been maybe the second, after only Bryant. Anyway, I can dream...

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    Hendricks got better, and actually started pitching with less velo after he reached majors. Good command improved to great, and he stopped throwing a four seamer. Started relying on change more than curve as well

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I think it will be the destiny of every pitcher who doesn't have great "stuff" and still succeeds in the minor leagues to be compared to Hendricks.

    To me Tseng doesn't have to be "as good as Hendricks" to still be plenty effective. He can be valuable if he can stay healthy, make all is starts and then put together some seasons of success getting 10-15 wins and an ERA in the mid-upper 3's. If we can get that from him at around $500-600K rather than $15M+ I call it a win.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Since June 1, Almora is posting a wRC+ of 95 versus RHP. Really good to see him have success against RHP.

    He has an overall .310/.348/.462 line since June 1 with a 109 wRC+.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Almora has to show he can hit right handed pitching on a consistent basis before he is an everyday starter. Maples is not ready to pitch in a playoff stretch.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I am wondering if Boz (and Wade Davis for that matter) isn't taking this time to work with Maples on tightening up that wipeout slider just a bit so it helps his control. Take a week off of game duty, throw one inning sides before each game and get him fine tuned, then unleash him as we get closer to the end. Just a theory.

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    In reply to KJRyno:

    Obviously possible. Certainly plausible. But I would rather see what he does in games. I am all for coaching outside of games, but that is not a guarantee what he will do when the adrenaline starts pumping, the other team is trying desperately to get on base, etc.

    I wonder if Joe simply has a specific scenario in mind for Maples and they just haven't come up (such as close and late with the Cubs AHEAD).

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I'd lean more towards it being innings related. Maybe giving him a break and seeing how he responds and gearing him back up to see if he can help down the stretch and Oct.. At minimum, he gets time with the big club to acclimate for next year.

  • It's a Double Dip! StL lost to CIN, so the Magic Number for clinching the division is now 15.

    MIL is now officially the closest chaser, in 2nd place at 2.5-games back, StL at 3, but both StL and MIL have the same number of losses, which is the important part, Magic Number-wise. The MIL loss to PIT on Monday, whlie the Cubs were off, now plays its part.

    Go, Cubs!

  • The pen has me worried too. A five run lead isn't safe anymore. I know once the starter goes to the shower, we need the relief staff to put on the Superman capes on and finish the job. Strop and Rondon make my blood boil sometimes. Grimm is losing his trade value. Wilson? Heck no! Carl's Jr isn't the magic potion anymore. Everyone's human. Prone to errors.

  • In reply to LRCCubsFan:

    Yeah... the pen will be interesting to see how it shakes out for the playoff roster. (Yes, I said it.). Remember the 2003 NLCS? Miami used starters as relievers because once its playoff time it's the best getting the ball. I could see Lackey being used when normally they would have gone to Rondon, Grimm, etc... Hes pitched really well. Also Monty will go back to pen. Edwards & Strop have pitched much better after both having their hiccups. Duensing has been decent & Davis is Davis. That's a pretty good, solid 6. I believe they'll take Koji & Wilson. That makes 8 plus the 4 starters. They may go Rondon if they want 13 pitchers, but he's no lock. I would stick w/12 & carry the extra catcher. Rivera has been a good get.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    I think Zastryzny could fill both Koji and the current version of Justin Wilson's roles. You may be right about Koji though, as I would have kept Johnson and DFA'd Koji and the two innings we are going to get out of him before the end of the season. It appears the Cubs have plans for him though.

    I imagine the Montgomery to the bullpen move was a direct result of Maddons inability to find a low,enough leverage situation for Wilson to pitch in.

    That being said, I'm sure booing Wilson off the field will help him find his control.

  • In reply to LOB8591:

    I wouldn't boo the guy... He has a track record of being really good. He's just not good right at the moment. There's a reason we traded for him... he just needs to regain it.

  • Not good news, but probably not too surprising. Because of hurricane Irma, MLB has moved this weekend's MIL-MIA series from Miami to ... MIL. I am sure that MIA will still be the home team and bat last, but couldn't MLB find a neutral location? MIL will still gain some advantage, playing in their home park. Attendence will be resticted to 10000 on Friday and 23000 on Saturday, so at least MIA will feel like its at home in that regard.

    I am reminded of how the Cubs were in a pennant race with HOU back in 2008, and a hurricane moved the Cubs-HOU series from HOU to MIL. Zambrano pitched a no-hitter, and the Cubs swept the two-game series to put the proverbial nail in HOU's coffin. The dates? Sept 14-15, 2008.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    This is a disgrace that MLB made this decision. It is unacceptable to give a team competing for a playoff spot and inherent advantage versus the other teams. Manfred = major fail.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    They are playing in Tampa this weekend so no, I don't get it either.....Tampa caught it worse than Miami did but there is still a lot of power outage down here.....

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    In reply to rbrucato:

    I am fine with them moving the game to another location other than Miami. But it needs to be a neutral field, not a home field for one of the participants. Surely there is another team on the road somewhere between Miami and Milwaukee. Right?

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Exactly.

    However, I like that Joe took the high road and said no big deal.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    There is no baseball to be played at Pittsburgh, Citi Field, Camden Yards, The Ballpark Formally Known As Comisky, and Busch Stadium this weekend.

    Based on the relocation of the NYY-TB series from Tampa to Citi Field, I wonder how much revenue streams are affecting this decision. If so, why not some acceptable stadium of a AAA team? Wouldn't for example Nashville or Charlotte love to host a MLB series for the weekend, regardless of who was playing?

    I cannot help but wonder what Theo and Jed think about this.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    I wonder how much revenue streams are affecting this decision.

    I think this is totally what it is.

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    In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    Especially if they are putting attendance caps on it.

    My guess is that Theo and Jed think, "As long as we keep winning the Brewers can play their games on the moon for all we care."

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Agreed. A neutral site is the only way to go.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Maddon has no problem with it

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Did he share that with you over a glass of wine after last night's game?

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    In reply to rbrucato:

    Why do you ask. Does it conflict with what he told you over a glass of wine after the previoius night's game? LOL

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    In reply to rbrucato:

    Why do you ask? Does it conflict with what he told you over a glass of wine after the previous night's game? LOL

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    In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Sorry for the double reply.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Nope, I'm in Atlanta. I'm sure Joe would paint a pretty picture for the media. And I would be very confident this action by MLB really pisses off Theo, Jed, and Joe along with the team. They would never admit it publicly.

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    In reply to rbrucato:

    It might tick them off. But the benefit of being in 1st place is that as long as the team wins it doesn't really matter what anyone else does. I think they would be a good deal more upset if the team were CHASING the Brewers. But at that point the league might have thought of putting it at a neutral site.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Bruce Miles‏ @BruceMiles2112

    Joe has "no issues" with #Brewers and #Marlins switch.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    I would find way more interesting to find out Theo's opinion of it over what ever his drink of choice is.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    Apparently Oslo's Ullevaal Stadium was already booked ...

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    Not baseball-configured. Rightfield porch way too short.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    Two questions I immediately thought of -

    - We play in Tampa Tuesday. Wasn't Tampa hit harder than Miami?

    - Doesn't Marlin's home field have a roof?

    Really doesn't matter in the long run though. This division will be decided with head to head matchups plain and simple.

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    In reply to KJRyno:

    Depending on how much damage there was AROUND the stadium having a roof might not make any difference. I don't know the current conditions around Miami and maybe they have already cleaned up but if not that would be a reason. I know the Astrodome had a "rain-out" early in its history. The stadium and field were fine. But there was so much rain that it wasn't safe for people and players to go to the game due to flooding.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    The clean-up and undo "burdening of public service resources" is given as the reason. The stadium is playable, the roof has only very minor damage.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    There is a ton of flooding in Miami and there was a hole in the roof that they're trying to repair so they're probably worse off. Also Tampa was hit pretty hard but my understanding, through friends that live in the area, is that St. Petersburg where Tropicana Field is located, was not hit quite as hard and is returning normal quicker than some areas.

  • Based on his interview it sounds as if wasn't Joe's idea to pitch Tseng. Appears it was mandated from above. Being a team player, Joe said he supported the decision. Tseng has been in Arizone getting ready for tomorrow.

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    I haven't been on the board for a while, so I am sure it has been commented on, but Rene Rivera has been a force offensively (SSS obviously applies). I didn't think in my wildest dreams he would be slashing .313/.389/.469/.858. I don't think he is likely to maintain it for long, but between him and Avila The Cubs have maintained outstanding offensive production despite losing someone like Contreras for a month.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Sure have! They have got it done! Good job Theo:)

    Wilson and Grimm tho, wow......ouch.

    You would think the #52 will soon be available.....

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I agree. He's gotta be on the playoff roster... 3 solid catchers, like last year. Wilson & Rondon better get straightened out, they are no lock for the playoff roster. I think it's between those 2 for the last spot as of right now. There is no Hammel to leave off this time.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    I'll worry about the playoff roster when and if we get to the post season.

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    In reply to Milk Stout:

    To me Lackey fills the 'easy to leave off the playoff roster" role. I would love to have him in the 'pen but his bug-a-boo is the 1st inning. Not good for a reliever.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I think his 1st inning troubles are a non-factor. The first inning is typically one of the most difficult ones for SP (across the league) because that's the inning where the top of the order is guaranteed to bat. It usually doesn't have much to do with a SP getting settled in (although admittedly that part is much harder to quantify).
    Lackey's stuff intrigues me as a bullpen guy. Going to the pen, guys usually ramp it up a bit. So maybe he can get a couple MPH on the fastball... but his slider has been deadly at times. He could be useful with a mid-90's fastball and wipeout slider combo in short spurts.

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    In reply to Kramerica20:

    I get your point about having the other teams top of the order up guaranteed and the pitcher having to "settle in." But I would still rather put a guy in the pen who is "lights out" the first 2-4 innings and then the wheels come off the 2nd and 3rd time through the order.

    And maybe you are right. Lackey wouldn't be the first guy to experience success moving from starting to the bullpen late in his career, even if just for a post-season series.

    The thing that would intrigue me is that he has so much experience that there is almost no chance of him being "overwhelmed" by the situation. He would find a way to wriggle off the hook. And when he is on he is actually very good. He has been in enough "bases-loaded/nobody out" situations in his career that he knows there are multiple ways to get out without giving up a run or only 1 run grudgingly conceded.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Yeah that could play a role too.

    Honestly, without checking the numbers and just going based on the eye test... if the playoff started right now would you trust Lackey or Lester more?
    For me, probably Lester. But the question is not ridiculous, like it would have been 6 weeks ago.
    If Jake's not ready I guess it's moot anyway.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Middle relievers are guys who couldn't make it as starters. I'd rather he get the ball in a close game than Wilson, Rondon, Koji & Grimm...

  • Grimm,rondon,strop(50% of the time),wilson make me really nervous whenever they come in the game.

  • In reply to bolla:

    Haven't looked up the stats as of late, but I feel very shaky every time Grimm is brought in. He seems to give up 3 runs each outing.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    A third pitch besides arrow-straight fastball and 60ft slider bouncing off the catcher's gear would help.

  • In reply to NoDoubtAboutIt:

    yeah, when he throws that slider for a strike, they don't hit it. Mainly because they sit fastball and expect all other pitches to be balls.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Grimm is trash. His game log going back about 15 games is cringe-inducing.

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    In reply to Kramerica20:

    Just a quick question about arbitration. Let's say the Cubs offer Grimm $1.5M and he asks for $1.75M and the arbitrator decides that Grimm "wins" the arbitration case. What are the Cubs options at that point? Can they say, "We aren't willing to pay that. You are a FA." Or are they obligated to pay him $1.75M and can "release" him but are still forced to pay him his salary?

    My point isn't the dollar amounts but what, exactly, the team is allowed to do if they do NOT win the arbitration case.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Man, I'm the wrong person to ask.
    for what it's worth, I don't expect Grimm to throw a pitch for the Cubs in 2018.

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    In reply to Kramerica20:

    I didn't mean the question strictly for you, though I do appreciate your input. I don't particularly think that Grimm will pitch for the Cubs in 2018 either. But I was just wondering, abstractly, WHAT the Cubs options are for any arbitration eligible players. Is it a legally binding contract or is it just a figure that an arbitrator arrives at and the team can "take-it-or-leave-it." If I had to guess I think that as soon as the arbitrator gives his decision BOTH sides are obligated to it and the team, and certainly not the player, can't simply refuse it. But, at the same time, during arbitration the player is still "under team control" makes me wonder if the team could walk away from the arbitration decision.

    I don't think ANYONE will be giving him a "qualifying offer" when he reaches FA though, right?

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    Unfortunately for Grimmer, I think you are right. In the latter half of 2014, when we first started to turn the corner, anytime we had a lead Ramirez, Grimm, Strop, and Rondon morphed into a shutdown bullpen that I thought would play for years. Joe then came on board and started using Grimm as his middle-inning closer whenever we needed to snuff out a rally. Now it seems Strop is the only one of the bunch that is reliable. Relievers, including JWilson are a tough group to predict.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    They would owe him the $1.75M. If they did not want to take a risk of him winning they would release him. That is the point of arbitration, both sides agree to have a 3rd party settle the dispute.

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    In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    That's kind of what I figured. Thanks!

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    That is what my gut was telling me -- that he was brutal. Disappointed in him. I thought he could really hold down that spot, but he has gagged it away.

    I expect Grimm and Rondon to be gone. And it wouldn't shock me to see Strop traded either. Could be an entirely new bullpen in 2018.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I don't think Strop goes anywhere. They extended him through 2019 prior to this year. And he's really been very good in his time as a Cub.
    Rondon still intrigues me. Especially lately as he's been pumping 99. But just when you think he's back he'll get tagged.
    Man, even Grimm intrigues me. Throws hard, devastating breaking ball. But he can't get it over the plate. So he's forced to groove the fastball. Or he'll hang the breaking ball like last night.
    Oh well. After he's gone, my lasting memory will be his double play inducing 102 MPH grounder from Lindor in game 3, followed by the raging fist pump from Grimm. Awesome moment.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    Possibly. I just think the cost of the bullpen is becoming a factor. Rondon and Strop will make over $14MM combined in 2018. I just don't see the Cubs wanting to pay those amounts. And then Davis is a FA, so is he in play. Lose Rondon and Strop but retain Davis? I probably would do that even though I am anti paying closers big money.

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    In reply to rbrucato:

    But where does Strop go? Just cut him and eat the remainder of his contract? Try to find a deal for him? My guess he is as valuable to the Cubs as he is to anyone else.

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