These Are the Times That Try Men's Souls; Cubs 5, Brewers 3

September 21, 2017

THESE are the times that try men's souls. The Cincinnati Red and the bandwagon fan will, in this crisis, shrink from the pressure of the playoff chase; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of Tom AND Laura Ricketts. Ryan Braun, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Theo knows how to put a proper price upon such goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as a DIVISION TITLE should not be highly rated. Milwaukee, with a ball club to enforce her tyranny, has declared that she has a right (not only to CHALLENGE OUR CUBS) but to BIND us to OUR SEATS FOR A LONG, CLOSE GAME ON A SCHOOL NIGHT...Even the expression is impious; for so unlimited a power can belong only to Frank Chance.

Sorry about that (not sorry), but late baseball and a long week somehow caused me to recall excerpts from Thomas Paine's "The Crisis," which I was forced to memorize in Mr. Cormack's 8th Grade US History class.  God bless him, and Central Junior High School.

This one was a biggie, folks.  As Jim Deshais said during the broadcast, "This is the biggest game of the season...until tomorrow."

The Cubs decided to go after Brewers starter Zach Davies aggressively tonight.  That led to a quick first inning that saw the Cubs retired on just 7 pitches.  We did get to see a one-out single by Kris Bryant, but he was quickly erased on a double play ball hit by Anthony Rizzo.

With a poor performance by Jon Lester last night, all eyes were anxiously on returning Cubs starter Jake Arrieta.  I would be lying if I told you I feel a lot of confidence in our starting rotation outside of Kyle Hendricks right now - and that my stomach was churning a bit with Jake returning from injury...especially considering the quick first inning by Davies.  Turns out Jake was pretty crisp, all things considered.  He did allow a one-out single to Neil Walker, but got Ryan Braun to fly out before Travis Shaw popped up to Javier Baez to end the inning.

The second inning looked like it might follow the same suit as the first, with Willson Contreras grounding out on the first pitch.  Then, after taking a called strike (that was outside), Kyle Schwarber waited on an elevated curve ball, and, well...did what he does, murdering the ball to the opposite field for his 29th home run.  Addison Russell had a nice at bat up next, getting ahead 2-0, then singling to center.  For a brief moment, I thought maybe the guys had figured things out, and might settle in for a nice offensive night.  Such optimism was, of course, folly.  Jason Heyward popped out weakly to third, and Javy Baez struck out on three pitches to end the inning.

Arrieta kept the Brewers scoreless in the bottom of the second.  By this time, home plate umpire Paul Nauert had established an odd strike zone.  He appeared to be giving a few extra inches on the outside to left-handed hitters, while not calling strikes on the bottom part of the zone.  On top of that, there must be a slightly funky camera angle used at Miller Park, as pitches didn't appear to line up particularly well with the CSN Pitch Cast feature.  At any rate, we got to see yet another game with a questionable, and inconsistent strike zone.

After a lead-off strike out by Arrieta in the top of the third, Jon Jay looped a single to right.  Kris Bryant followed with a broken-bat liner up the middle, which was fielded by second-baseman Walker with his momentum taking him out of a solid throw to first.  If it weren't for the fact that the Brewers were shifted to Bryant's pull side, it may have been a double play ball to the shortstop.  Bryant beat it easily, however, and the Cubs were in business.  Rizzo followed with a solid single to right field.  Jay ran through a stop sign by third base coach Gary Jones, and scored when the throw was high and slightly up the third base line.  Bryant, who had initially slowed at second, was ultimately called out trying to advance to third on a play where he was initially ruled safe.  With two outs, and only one on, Contreras grounded into a force to end the inning.  The lead was 2-0, which was nice, but the out at third was a downer.

Arrieta got through the third unscathed, though he allowed another hit to Walker.  The Cubs would again threaten in the top of the fourth, only to be disappointed.  Schwarber drew a walk after a nice at bat.  Addison Russell flew out, but the Cubs caught a break when Heyward's taylor-made double play ball was bobbled by Walker at second.  Heyward was thrown out at first, but Schwarber stood in scoring position with Baez up.  The Brewers elected to intentionally walk Baez to get to Jake Arrieta, but Davies fell behind in the count 2-0.  After a strike made the count 2-1, Schwarber took off for third base, and was thrown out easily by Davies, who stepped off the rubber and tossed to third.  Schwarber was caught in the rundown, and the inning ended.

Of course, there's nothing that says a pitcher will come through in that situation, but Jake does handle the bat pretty well, and has been known to help his own cause on occasion.  I'm not sure what Schwarber was doing, but it ended up being a worst-case scenario situation for the Cubs.  Instead of, at worst, the pitcher Arrieta ending the inning and having Jay lead off the fifth, the inning was over, and Jake had to lead off.

And, because the Brewers are better than we like to admit, and because in baseball you tend to get punished for poor plays, the Brewers cut the lead in half in the bottom of the fourth.  With one out, Domingo Santiago got a hold of an Arrieta offering and knocked it over the center field wall.  The Cubs went 1-2-3 in the fifth.

Jake made it through the bottom of the fifth, though there were some anxious moments.  With no outs and a runner on first, Davies bunted a foul ball off of Willson Contreras.  He rolled on the ground for a little bit, and eventually got back up to continue play.  Davies struck out, and Brett Phillips ended up stealing second anyway.  Eric Sogard walked to put runners on first and second with Cub-killer Walker up next.  Arrieta induced a ground ball to Rizzo at first.  Anthony whipped it to Russell at second, and back to Arrieta streaking to first to cover.  Initially Walker was called safe, but was called out after review.  Jake left the game after the fifth inning and 71 pitches.  Overall, it was a promising night, allowing just one run on five hits.  He only struck out two, but didn't give up much hard contact, outside of the Santiago homer.

What else is there to tell? The Cubs offense went cold, continuing the aggressive approach with Davies.  He managed to pitch through 7 innings, on just 77 pitches.  Meanwhile, the Cubs went to Carl Edward Jr. early.  He pitched a 1-2-3 inning and had a strike out on a filthy breaking ball.  Brian Duensing started the bottom of the 7th, and was greeted with a single by Eric Thames.  He was erased quickly, however, as Manny Pina hit a grounder right at Russell at short, for a 6-4-3 double play.  Duensing walked Keon Broxton - Davies was due up next.  It seemed that it was somewhat intentional, in order to get Davies out of the game.  Pedro Strop was summoned to get the third out, and he struggled.  He walked pinch hitter Jesus Aguilar to put runners on first and second, and got frustrated by a couple of calls (the "outside" corner tightened up, and the umpire flat-out missed a pitch in the lower part of the strike zone).  On 2-1, Eric Sogard lined a single to right that tied up the game.  Strop eventually got out of the inning, but not before walking another batter (and needing to be calmed down by Contreras, of all people).

Can we skip the 8th inning?

I suppose I can't.  It kinda sets up the nice finish.

Back-to-back walks to Jon Jay and Kris Bryant made one feel like the Cubs might take the momentum right back.  Unfortunately, Rizzo struck out and Contreras hit a sharp ground ball - right at the shortstop Sogard, who turned the 6-4-3 to end the inning.

Justin Wilson got the bottom of the 8th, and...well, he struck out the first guy he faced.  Then Santana doubled down the left field line, and stole third to really put the pressure on.  With the infield drawn in, Eric Thames hit a ground ball that would have been the second out, but Baez couldn't handle it.  Santana scored easily, and the Brewers led 3-2.  Justin Grimm struck out two batters to clean up some of Wilson's mess to keep it close enough to give the Cubs a chance in the 9th.

The Brewers went with Jeremy Jeffress to close out the game, which was to the Cubs' advantage.  Ian Happ led off with a chopper to Neil Walker at first.  Thankfully, Jeffress didn't quite hustle to the bag, and Happ was called safe on a bang-bang play.  It was also advantageous that the call was safe, because the replay guys in New York found that there was not conclusive evidence to overturn the call.  Let's be clear.  If Happ had been ruled out, there's no way he is on first base as a result of any review.  Addison Russell worked the count to 3-2 before striking out swinging on a borderline pitch at the top of the zone.  The Cubs got a little more luck, as pinch hitter Alex Avila did NOT hit one of his characteristic hard grounders, but instead chopped a ball to the left of Sogard, who had switched to second.  Making the safe play, Sogard got the second out at first, with Javy Baez on deck.  Jeffress got ahead of Javy 1-2, making him look pretty bad on a splitter at one point of the at bat.  But Javy always does *something* in a game, and you haven't seen me mention that *something* yet.  Down to the last strike, Javy stroked a ball past shortstop Orlando Arcia to drive in Happ for a tie ballgame.

As good as that felt, it only tied the game, with the Brewers still to bat in the bottom of the ninth.

Grimm started the 9th, and got Sogard to ground out.  Neil Walker hits Cubs pitching, though, and singled.  Joe went to the closer, Wade Davis to get out of the inning - so he promptly hit Ryan Braun to put runners on first and second.  The situation worsened when Travis Shaw lined a single to right field.  Luckily, it was hit hard enough that Walker could not even think about scoring.  With the bases loaded and just one out, Maddon brought Ian Happ in to the infield to prevent a ground ball, run-scoring hit.  Domingo Santana apparently felt it wasn't enough to simply knock in a run, but end it on a grand slam.  Thanks to a few home run swings (and misses), Davis got him to strike out.  That brought Orlando Arcia to the plate...and Davis couldn't find the zone.  He got behind 3-1.  With Arcia taking all the way, he grooved a 95 mph fastball down the center of the plate for strike two.  At 3-2 Arcia hit a weak comebacker to Davis to end the inning.

partydown

To the tenth we went, and Oliver Drake came in to pitch for the Brewers.  Oliver Drake, you'll remember was acquired by the Brady family in 1974 to bolster the lineup when Tiger went down with a hammy.  Or not, you decide.

At any rate, he was equally as effective as "Cousin Oliver" was for the Brady Bunch, immediately giving up a double to Jon Jay.  Usually dependable Keon Broxton probably should have made the catch on a run, but it glanced off of his glove as he leaped into the air.  The un-clutch Kris Bryant did the clutchiest of things, and crushed a homer to center to give the Cubs a 5-3 lead.  Rizzo followed with a ball off the top of the wall that went for a triple.  The Cubs weren't able to add on from there, but they'd managed to re-take momentum.

And remember those shaky, earlier innings by the Cubs bullpen? Forget about them, because Wade Davis was smokin' in the bottom of the 10th.  He struck out the side, 1-2-3 to end the game.  If it weren't the Brewers, you'd almost feel bad for them, having come back to take the lead late in ballgames two nights in a row, only to lose both games.

Three Stars of the Game

#3 Jon Jay has struggled a bit more of late after a very good first half, but tonight he was a key guy in the lineup.  He was 2-for-4 with a walk, and scored two runs, including the go-ahead run in the 10th.

#2 Javy Baez obviously came up huge in the 9th, driving in the tying run.  He also was 2-for-3 on the night, and played a solid second base.

#1 The reigning MVP, Kris Bryant, came up big in the "biggest game of the year" tonight.

Moving Forward

This one was huge, as the lead in the NL Central went from (nearly) 2.5 games to 4.5 games in the 9th and 10th innings.  If the Cubs let this one slip away, it gives the Brewers THAT much more hope/momentum/mojo...whatever you want to call it.  Instead, they have to live with the fact that they've blown two straight games, and could be just 1.5 back if it weren't for blown saves.

Tomorrow night John Lackey will take the mound for Chicago against rookie Brandon Woodruff.  It feels a lot better going into this one with a veteran pitcher pitted against a 24 year-old kid pitching in the biggest game of his life.

 

 

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  • Great win. Sports Book at the Hard Rock was crazy. What a fun night.

    RIP '17 Brewers!!!!

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Brew crew are far from dead. They and the Cards are watching closely as the Rockies are fading fast. Brewers will be 1 back from getting the 2nd NL Wild Card and the Cards will be right behind them!

  • In reply to Tennwolfeman:

    Dead for the division

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Not even close. Pride comes before the fall.

  • 1. What a game! What a win! What a comeback! Unbelievable! Amazing! Oh my! Yes!

    2. These guys really, really, really NEVER QUIT!

    3. In the pregame thread, I asked who would be the hero. Heroes abound. Davis is first star. KB (2nd star) is an obvious choice for it, but he would have never gotten the chance without Davis’ heroics in getting out of that bases loaded jam in the 9th. Javy is 3rd star for that game tying hit, down to their last strike. Jake also makes a claim for a star as does Schwarber.

    4. Joe gets a lot of criticism for his moves and I was surprised when he brought itnDavis, but what a move. Joe knows, baby!

    5. Two crushing losses in a row for Brewers. But they won’t pack it in. Looking forward to the rest of this series.

    6. I will never - NEVER - again gripe about Bryant not coming through in the clutch. That home was as clutch as it gets. In the biggest game of the year. He is GREAT! Nuff said.

    7. I loved seeing how excited and fired up that dugout was after KB’s homer. They knew how important this game was. Most intense, exciting game since Game 7. Loved it.

    8. I love this team. And I don’t care how good Nats or Dodgers or anyone else is. Our Cubs can and will to toe to toe with all of them.

    It’s (Still) Our Turn!
    Go Cubs!
    Yes!

  • In reply to TTP:

    You know, you're probably right. Davis should have a star. I'll still argue that KB and Javy get numbers 1 and 2, though. Without Javy, Davis doesn't pitch, without KB he doesn't get the win and sweet 10th. He was very good in the 10th, though. Ended it on an absolutely filthy slider.

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    In reply to TheSinisterUrge:

    I definitely think Davis deserves a star - I also tip my cap to the Pirates for forcing Knebel (unsuccessfully) into the game last night and rendering him unavailable for this one - thanks Bucs!

  • In reply to TTP:

    Was a nice win. This game is a reflection of last year when the team rose above some questionable moves by Joe. Glad this team is talented enough to overcome them. I don't like taking jake out after 5 innings and having a bullpen pitch 4 innings. Pitch count is bs at this point. A pitcher can get hurt on any pitch. Then the club needs to hold him out until hammy will allow at least 80 pitchers. I didn't understand the double switch and putting the best defensive fielder/outfield arm on the bench. Could Jason have thrown base runner out? We will never know. Bringing it Davis was risky but I felt more comfy with him pitching then Grimm. Just glad middle of order came thru to end it in the 10th.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    I don't agree that "pitch count is bs at this point" at all, as the team will need Jake to go deep into the playoffs. Jake threw 71 pitches. Are you really suggesting that Joe have him come out in the 6th to throw 9 more pitches?" Or, considering the importance of this game, keep Jake on the DL and give Tseng another start? I'd much rather err on the side of caution.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    No reason he shouldn't have been allowed to go 6 innings. 3 innings is stretching but 4 was not a good move. If good enough for 5 then good enough for 6. Can't baby these guys at this point of the season unless u are up big enough.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    I can't deny my frustration in game 6 and 7.
    But I'd argue this was the best game of the year. From a Team standpoint, Joe used the roster he has.

  • I'd argue you that this was a typical Joe game that the guys bailed him out.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    Oh, you will always argue that. Until you change your moniker.

    There is a reason we have the best record in the MLB since the All star game and yes, Joe has a big part in that. The team for the most part is rested (yes, that day off for KB seems to have done wonders). Jake doesn't have an enormous amount of innings like in the past. And we might actually be deeper on the position player side than the team that won it all last year.

  • In reply to KJRyno:

    Joe has little to do with wins. It is a position of little praise. Anyone could have coached these guys to 3 straight play off season. I would bet Ricky would have won a WS too. It is all about the talent.
    I am not sure what a moniker is but I guess I need to change it. Jake was better when he had enormous innings.
    Deeper is pretty far fetched. I'd rather have Fowler instead of Happ or jay. I'd also rather have Ross and Miggy.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    I could question moves all day, in hindsight.
    But I will say, Jon Jay is not a lead off batter for a playoff team.
    For this team, this year, Zobrist or Bryant is the only thing that makes sense to me.

  • It's not hindsight. I have same opinion right after he makes them. And the players bail him out. In all honesty the game was won by the challenge. Happ was out but they called safe and that was the game.
    Leadoff gap falls on front office for not getting one. Not sure who to blame for running schwarbs out there Day after day.

  • Urge, help with the filter please.

  • In reply to TTP:

    Think that got it. The whole "software ate my post" thing started around the time I left, so I'd never actually played with those admin tools before. Looks like maybe I didn't screw it up!

  • "The Crisis": well played. I like Lincoln's second inaugural: "Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of the Brewers may speedily pass away."

    Go Cubs!

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    In reply to Cubswin09:

    I recall a post you made a few weeks ago. Something like this:
    "Hey, remember that big win where Javy wasn't a central player in the game whether it was a timely hit, inspired base-running, spectacular defense? Yea. Neither do I."

  • Bryant coming to bat in the 10th:

    JD..."yeah I've got a feeling he's gonna make a loud noise here in this at-bat"

    KB..."BOOM!!"

  • Paine is always a good choice for Cubs fans. Well done for a nice extra innings affair on a big night.

  • Excellent re-cap Urge (liked the early Old World musings) in what has to be the best game of the year, a nail-biter till the end.
    What Davis did was Big League! Jake looked pretty good too at a time when we all need a boost in starter confidence.
    What a swing......either way! This was not only a huge win for the BeerMugs but an even bigger loss for them, they let the Cardinals back in it and could have even been leading the Rockies by now if they only took care of business.
    Javy & KB.........money.
    Fantastic night despite that home plate ump....

  • fb_avatar

    What a win! If we had lost the lead would have been 2 1/2 games with momentum to the Brewers. Now, it's 4.5, they're down for having lost 2 games in a row in the later innings and we feel up. So many came through for such a low scoring game, and Davis was terrific despite pitching the last 4 of 6 days. Get used to it---Joe goes with those who come through and you're the no 1 go to guy.
    Thank you Cubs, I feel much better now.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Amen

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Chapman: Joe is going to run u into the ground
    Davis:I know, would u trade it for a 90m contact and a Ring?
    Chapman: .......

  • Sorry to have to bring it up, but in the third paragraph, Lester lost last night.
    But that first one was awesome

  • D'oh! In my old age I get my Jons/Johns mixed up!

  • I said a few weeks back that Bryant was not very clutch and the data and the eye test backed that up. I also said that if the Cubs are going to win this thing and move on, he was going to have to snap out of it. Let's be honest, he wasn't coming through in the high leverage spots. It could have been because he's still nursing that finger. It could have been anything. He seemed to be stuck on 25 hrs and 59 RBIs and he was for the first 10 games of this month. Before Bryant finally came through with that big 3 run HR against the Mets last Tuesday, he was hitting .171 in September with 0 HRs and 0 RBIs. Including and since that hit, he's hitting .406 with 3 HRs and 10 RBIs over his last 8 games. Whatever it was that snapped him out of it, it was definitely needed. This is the guy the Cubs need and it's good to see.

    Winning the 1st game of this series is huge. They need at least 1 more win to basically make the series moot but it's always good to get that first one out of the way early and to steal the win tonight the way they did really has to sting the Brewers and hopefully will have a hangover effect on them.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to joparks:

    You are correct that the eye-test and the data said Bryant wasn't coming through in high-leverage situations. There was no denying that. While WPA says a run scored later in the game is more "valuable" toward a win a run is still a run, whether it is driven in in the 4th inning or the 8th inning.

    Bryant is very good and likely the best player on the Cubs team. This would have been true whether he hit the HR last night or had flown out to Ryan Braun and Rizzo came through with a double down the RF line driving in Jay.

    In fact, the article many point to when discussing Bryant's lack of "clutch" (http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-one-stain-on-kris-bryants-record/) ends with this paragraph:
    "To get back to where I started, Kris Bryant should still be considered one of baseball’s premier superstars. There are few things he can’t do, and even this one significant issue is almost certainly just a function of noise. When Bryant’s career is up, these seasons will probably look like random blips, signifying nothing but their own joint existence. But one cannot deny they’ve existed. It is, one could safely conclude, the damnedest thing."

    All that said, though, it is good to have an example of Bryant coming through in a "clutch" situation.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Don't look now, but Bryant trails Rendon by 0.3 fWAR for the NL lead.
    MVP indeed

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I don't know how Bryant gets (in some circles anyway) a reputation for not being 'clutch'. Not intended as a knock on anybody posting here BTW.

    The guy has still scored over 100 runs with a week to go in the season, and his OBP is up over 0.400 again. And he's played is usual solid defense. More importantly - last year's MVP numbers and expecting them every season is probably too high a bar to set. If he can deliver 25-30 HR, 30-40 2B, drive in 80-90 runs and score 100+ per year,.... AND play good defense, we're talking about potential HOF career numbers in the long run.

    He's #7 in MLB for WAR according to fangraphs,... 6.4 isn't bad at all.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    I don't buy FG's clutch metric as a telling one. Seems to be too much arbitrary noise baked in. The fact is that Bryant has created 45% more runs than the league average hitter, and a run created is a run created. I don't care what inning or leverage situation a player does it in. As you said, he's scored 105 runs. As for people who point to his low RBI total... It's hard to drive in runs hitting behind 1st half Schwarber and 2nd half Jay, as Bryant has.

    And by the way, his 2017 numbers are nearly identical to his 2016 (MVP) numbers:
    2016: .292/.385/.554 wOBA- .396 wRC+ 148
    2017: .292/.406/.536 wOBA- .398 wRC+ 145

    Personally I'd vote for Votto, but Bryant should be in serious consideration.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Kramerica20:

    I don't know that I consider Bryant the MVP this year, but he is making a case for himself as a top-tier player. He just does EVERYTHING so well.

    I posted this a couple weeks ago but Bryant has done something that warms my heart--and freezes the hearts of the opposition. He has gotten his K% down, his BB% up, and his BABIP has stayed right around the .330 mark. Given that this has been stable over 1300 PAs I think we can conclude that Bryant is not someone likely to have a BABIP of around .300 (+/-10) like most players. Also, his K% has gone down each year. If he can nudge it down next year to closer to 16-17% and maintain his BB% he will be a devastating force in baseball with his power, baserunning, defense, etc. Just for perspective, in 2015 he struck out 199 times in 650 PAs. In 2016 he struck out 154 times in 699 PAs. In 2017 he has 120 Ks in 633 PAs. If we adjust for number of PAs imagine those 60 or so PAs that DON'T result in Ks. He doesn't hit into many DPs so many of those (probably around 20 based on BABIP) have turned into HITS and some of those turned into RUNS.

    His biggest Achilles Heel his first two years was a propensity to strike out. If that is off the table AND he is still able to take his BB (and take advantage of his good base running) this guy will be a perennial Top-3 MVP candidate. Even if he doesn't win it every year--and he won't--that is still impressive. To me the difference is he has learned how to foul off pitches just off the plate with 2 strikes. Even if they would probably be called a ball he has learned to foul them off and MAKE the pitcher throw another pitch. That pitch MIGHT turn into a mistake. Or a pitch that is more clearly a ball. By doing that he has cut down on his number of K's which are generally wasted outs...unless it is against the Blue Jays in the 10th inning.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Yeah - I'm not even sure that (WAR aside) Bryant is the Cubs real MVP this season. That I would tag onto Rizzo - that guy has just been massively consistent for several years in a row.

    Given - it's easy to get RBIs with Bryant regularly on base in front of you,....

    But - Bryant is going to be in consideration for MVP a lot of times before he retires - that's a fact if he can stay as healthy as he has been to date.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to drkazmd65:

    I have no trouble giving the MVP to Rizzo over Bryant. If Contreras hadn't been hurt he might be in the running as well. And if we are talking "value" as in "when he plays well the team is hard to beat" then Javy should be in the conversation too despite not putting up huge WAR numbers. And that doesn't even get into the pitchers...

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Agreed about Contreras and that missed injury time. He was really carrying the team offensively that stretch before he went down. That injury aside - we could be talking about a solid defensive Catcher with 90+ RBI.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to drkazmd65:

    MOST of the commentary about his "lack of clutch" has been because he has a relatively low--or has had a relatively low--production level in "high leverage situations" and his WPA isn't that high. If you think about it, if the score is tied 3-3 in the 10th inning (just to pick a scenario out of the sky) if a guy hits a 2-run homer, for instance, those 2 runs are MORE VALUABLE (in this strictly hypothetical situation) to getting a team win than hitting a GS that puts the team up by 11 instead of 7 in the 5th inning.

    Mostly I like the WPA stat (it is what the little line-graph put into these post games are based on). But I think saying a guy like Bryant isn't "clutch" because his RBI and R tend to take place earlier in the game is taking the data out of context.

    FWIW, I consider 25-30 HR to be disappointing from Bryant. I think he is capable of 33-40 HR AND the 30-40 2B, 100+ R and RBI each year (though R and RBI are contingent on other players around him). If he is batting behind someone with a .370 OBP he has well over 100 RBI this year IMO.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I think he thinks he is capable of 33-40. etc. What fascinates me about KB is he had a plan going into the year that everyone knew about. I do not anticipate his K rate going down from here. If anything he would be better off at league average. Regardless, he will only get better.
    And, thank you for posting that last paragraph earlier. A lot gets lost in that WPA. It tells u what happened, and very little correlation to what will.

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-one-stain-on-kris-bryants-record/

  • I started thinking about what the spark of the team is - last year "you go we go" Dexter. This year.... I really think it's Bryzzo. Here's a few numbers:
    When they do well, the team does well. When Bryant doesn't score a run, the Cubs went 28-45. In the 22 games where Rizzo drives in Bryant, the Cubs are 18-4. When Bryant scored a run, the Cubs have been 57-22. You Go, We go. When Rizzo drove in a run, the Cubs were 44-13. When Rizzo had and RBI and/or Bryant a run, the Cubs have gone 65-25.

    Last year, Dexter was a factor, the man, etc. This year, these are the guys. When they produce, we win...

  • In reply to Break The Curse:

    The last numbers should be 65-24... Minimal but accurate.

  • In reply to Break The Curse:

    Lastly! In 75% of the Cubs win, Bryant has scored a run and/or Bryant has driven in a run. When they don't produce the Cubs are 20-43...

  • Well, the Magic Number to clinch the division is now 6.

    Can we call them the Hydras, since we can't seem to cut off their heads? Or maybe the Black Cats, since they seem to have 9 lives?
    StL beat (and swept) CIN, leaving them 5 games back and only 1.5 games back COL for the 2nd NL WC. MIL is (still) 1 game back. Maybe it will be the NL WC that goes to the wire.

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    In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    We have cut off their heads multiple times. It is just that 2 Ryan Brauns grow back to replace it. Weird.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Regenerative abilities from performance enhancing drugs.

    But my post and references to hydras and black cats was more about StL. Weren't they supposed to be dead and buried after the sweep last weekend? But here they are, 1.5 games of the 2nd WC.

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    In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    Missed the STL reference. Thought it was the Brewers. Sorry. My bad.

    To me the Cardinals are sunk. They have 10 games left and have to get 6 MORE wins than the Cubs. So if the Cubs get 4 wins the Cards are done. I doubt it happens this week, but I wouldn't be surprised to see them eliminated by the Cubs.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I am not all that worried about StL winning the division. I guess it is just that would rather not see them in the post-season, AT ALL, not even as the 2nd WC. I do not want to even take the chance that Wickdipper's "mini-dream" (see below) ends up as a nightmare.

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    In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    I read that too. I LOVE being able to point out that the Cubs are 1-0 in post-season series vs. the birds. It would be sweet after it happened, but I would rather not see the birds in the playoffs either.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I would like to beat them again in the postseason. That would be FUN!

  • We deserve to get to wring our hands over this season. I grabbed my nephew by the cheeks, looked him in the eye and screamed,
    'your son is going to live in a world, for the rest of his life, that the Cubs won a World Series.

    ramifications?

    The last World Series winner to win their division the following year was the 2009 Philly's!
    Like it or not, this team is special
    Will they win it all this year
    probably not.... the last team, that would be the 2000 Yankees

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    I think the "ramifications" will be best assessed in 25 years by your nephews therapist.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Ha! The $ I could of saved.....

  • And if they don't there will still be other teams whose fans will be more disappointed.

    I think that not only do the fans of Washington, LA, Houston, and Cleveland expect their teams to win it all given their records and how the teams look on paper, but they're all looking to end their own long WS droughts.

    And potential WC teams Milwaukee, Minnesota, and Colorado, while maybe not having the same expectations of postseason success, have their own droughts going.

    Yeah, it would be great to win again. But, I guess going one whole year without a championship wouldn't be the end of the world.

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    In reply to Lildude:

    Last year took that 800 lb gorilla off the Cubs back. They don't "have to" win this year. We would all love them too. But going to the playoffs 3 years in a row and, if all goes well, making it to the NLCS 3 straight years is impressive. Now the other teams have to deal with hearing how long it has been since they have won a title.

  • I don't know any of you personally. You guys were probably watching the game. I'm out in Oregon watching a feed from Yahoo, hanging on to every pitch, waiting for a Tweet from Carrie Muscat, or when a Brewers beat writer would describe a Cubs score, I'd reply with a go Cubs go! I was a nervous wreck, yelling at my phone! I know I get on my Wife's nerves, but I got a fist bump, when the Cubs won. The Cubs are like Bulldogs.

  • In reply to LRCCubsFan:

    Dude, get the MLB.TV subscription.

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    In reply to Kramerica20:

    Or an MLB At Bat subscription ($20/year I think get highlight videos DURING the game, usually within 5 minutes of a significant event).

  • In reply to LRCCubsFan:

    I hope you are not / were not affected by the fires, smoke, and ash.

    We visited the Columbia River Gorge, Mount Saint Helens, the Pacific Coast, and Portland a few months back. Spectacular scenery. Except for Portland which lived up to its "Keep Portland Weird" banners.

  • Does anyone know? Have the cubs ever had 3-30 homer guys in one season. If they havent, it could be interesting because they have a shot this year.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    Yep! In 2004 the Cubs had 4 guys with more than 30 homers.
    Moises Alou(39), Arabia Ramirez(36), Sammy Sosa(35), and Derrek Lee(32)

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    In reply to bleachercreature:

    2004 they had 4. Sammy Sosa 40, Derrek Lee 32, Moises Alou 39, Aramis Ramirez 36

  • First game of the year truly excited, was it the stakes? (yes), game play? (possibly?), or the outcome after they were down to their final strike? (assuredly so). The math Cubs up 5 in the loss column, w/ 10 remaining, 5-5 takes them to 90, which Brewers can only finish at if they win out, same for Cards, and yet Cubs have 7 games remaining w/ both and they 3 w/ ea other, math is impossible for both to challenge 90; St think Cubs finish w/ 93-69 record though, meaning they win 8 of the next 10. It's a close out.

  • In reply to rnemanich:

    Both challengers can't get to 90, but either could by winning out. Cubs can even clinch at 89 (4-6) provided they aren't swept along the way (e.g. 1-2 vs. MIL, 1-3 vs. STL, 2-1 vs. CIN) and MIL-STL series is not a sweep either way. Best either could do is 88 by sweeping their other series. That would probably earn second wild card since Rockies are crumbling and finish with Dodgers.
    Unless Lackey comes up big, don't be surprised if Joe concedes tonight to rest the pen and plays for either Kyle or Q to win one, then clinch in front of the BFIB next week.

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    In reply to charactercounts:

    I could see Joe punting tonight to give the bullpen a night off. All the better if John can pitch well and make it a moot point.

  • In reply to charactercounts:

    Given that the Cubs are 10-2 in the last twelve games that John Lackey has started (since July 5th), I will go out on a limb and predict that John will come up big again tonight and Joe will not have to concede ANYTHING.

    Of course, if tonight's HP umpire went to the same Umpiring school as last night's (Paul Naert?) or last Friday's (Bill Miller), John will have another short night and a still lighter wallet.

  • In reply to rnemanich:

    This has always been a (completely arbitrary) landmark for me in a team's season, when we can play .500 ball the rest of the way and the challenger needs to win out. The earlier, the better.

  • You know when your body is tired but your mind is still all wound up and no matter how hard you try you can't fall asleep? I was kind of like that last night but right before I finally did fall off I had what I wouldn't call a dream.....maybe a mini-dream.....just popped in my head.....this scenario popped up.

    This is not only possible, this is plausible and it goes like this:

    1) Cubs Win 3 out of 4 this weekend pushing the Brewers below the Cardinals.
    2) Cubs split the next series against St Louis allowing Milwaukee to get even with the Cards in the standings.....by then we have the division.
    3) Cardinals destroy the Brewers in their 3 gamer and catch the Rockies for the last WC spot.
    4) Cards beat AZ in the WC card game.
    5) We beat Washington and the Cardinals take out the Dodgers.

    See where I'm going with this? Lol

    We clinch the pennant against WHO? We clinch the pennant WHERE?

    It "couldddddddddddd" happen Denizens! Just Like that:)

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    Last time I checked, we own the dirty birds
    onward.....

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    I checked. The league has rules against one team "owning" another team. Though I am suspicious that the Dirty Birds were paying the Cubs to lose for about a century.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    LOL!

  • L10 games define who has momentum which is everything right now! In the AL, it's the Tribe (9-1) and in the NL, it's the Cubs (8-2). LET'S REPEAT!!

  • In reply to Tennwolfeman:

    The Yankees have an identical record to the Cubs, both for the season and both are 8-2 in the last 10 games. An omen?

  • VERY nice win! There are no guarantees, of course, except that the Cubs WILL leave Milwaukee as the division leader. I feel a lot more confident with the Cubs 4.5 games up with 10 to play than I would 2.5 games up.

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    First off, "These are the times that try men's souls" intro was inspired, Urge. Can't top that.

    Second, this was the game the Brewers simply HAD TO have. Obviously they have to win if they want to sweep. But also, I thought Davies gave them their best chance to win against Arrieta. As someone else pointed out Joe might punt tonight's game if necessary to give the 'pen a rest. Let's hope they simply beat the crew into submission and win 10-5 or something like that.

    Third, the Brewers just had 2 crushing losses in a row. Likely their full bullpen will be available to them tonight so it might be tougher in a close game. But there is no guarantee that it will be a close game.

    Finally, As has been said before, the Brewers are now 5 games back in the loss column with 9 to play for them (the Cubs have 10). They are getting VERY close to where they will almost have to win-out their season to win the division.

    "The Cubs just taught the Brewers the difference between 1st and 2nd place."

  • Where would the Cubs be without Wade Davis this year???

    Great pickup during the Off-Season by the FO!!! Both Davis and Jay have been big contributors to the team's success this year.

  • In reply to CubFanStuckInStl:

    +1.

    Jorge Soler for Wade Davis (plus comp pick if we don't re-sign). I think we offer him a 3 year deal in the offseason to lock down the backend and extend 'the window'. CEJ and Wilson (lol) don't look ready to close next season..

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    In reply to LAX2ORD:

    Not a guarantee that he is offered a "Qualifying offer" to get the comp pick. I think the QO will be around $18M this year. Davis MIGHT take the Cubs up on the offer. Not that it would be a bad thing, but he would be one of the, if not THE, highest paid closer in baseball. Not necessarily what the Cubs want to do. But, then again, they might see it as a no-lose proposition. But I think the comp pick would be after the 2nd round. The pool money would be nice, but that is not where one often finds a great player.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    "I think the QO will be around $18M this year. Davis MIGHT take the Cubs up on the offer. Not that it would be a bad thing, but he would be one of the, if not THE, highest paid closer in baseball."

    Well, the guy hasn't blown a save all year, so maybe he should be.

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    In reply to hoffpauir6:

    I don't put much stock into the "save" stat. We could get ourselves 2-3 really good relief pitchers for $18M.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I'd rather have one lock down guy.

    Some years (like this one) a few bullpen failures are the difference between playing or watching in October.

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    In reply to hoffpauir6:

    But Davis had a stretch where he was FAR from a "lock-down" guy. There was a month where he was just plain not effective (JUL17-Aug13). He had, over 8.2 IP 10BB, 10K, 3 HR, and gave up a slash line of .294/.455/.559. It is a small sample size but it wasn't all based on one attrocious outing. He didn't have a single time where he pitched a clean 1-2-3 inning. So, for over a month he was far from "lock-down." Most, if not all, pitchers go through stretches like that. Which is why I am hesitant to give a reliever a large chunk of change. Because they aren't able to bury their problems by piling up "good" innings they can be susceptible to having their struggles magnified (see Justin Grimm, Justin Wilson, Hector Rondon...)

    AND then we have situations where your "lock down" guy isn't available because he is tired. I doubt Davis pitches tonight. Knebel wasn't available for the Brewers last night which might have affected the game. If you have 2-3 pitchers who may not be "dominant" but are effective then the odds of all of them being unavailable on the same night is pretty rare.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    18M is a big number. Heck, I don't like any of the numbers that premium closers are fetching these days. But the QO is a no-brainer. As another poster mentioned, Melancon got 15.5 AAV so that makes a oneyear QO 'reasonable'.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I think there's 0% chance the Cubs don't offer Davis a QO. If he rejects it, they get a draft pick (depending on his new contract I believe). But if he accepts it that's a dream scenario in my book. You get an elite closer for one more year (while the Cubs' remaining payroll is not yet enormous), making what he's worth on the open market, and you aren't tied to him beyond that year, when he turns 34. I think the only deterrent to offering Davis a fair FA contract will be that he's already 32, and he's going to command, at the very least, Melancon's 4/62. If they can get Davis for 3/45ish, I'd jump at it. I doubt they can though, so it's either offer him a QO and hope he takes it, or don't offer it and lose him altogether with nothing coming back when he walks.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    Yeah, but since the rule change, that draft pick isn't anything to run home and tell mommy about.

  • In reply to KJRyno:

    Right, but it's something. If they don't offer it to him they get nothing. If they do and he rejects, they get a (non-first round but still a pick) draft pick. If he accepts, they get a closer for 1 more year.
    win-win

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    In reply to Kramerica20:

    I am not crazy about giving a reliever, even a really good one, $18M or thereabouts. We could probably find 2-3 guys that, in aggregate, can replace what Davis does and not be susceptible to "if he gets hurt/loses his stuff" we are out the cash.

    It may very well be that the Cubs can find someone like Duensing. Not guaranteed, but not a huge risk either. If I can save $10-15M I believe I can get a guy or two that will give me more wins in the end than that "lock down closer."

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    But that's why him accepting the QO would be a dream. It's $18M only for one year. The Cubs can eat the $18M if he gets hurt, and as far as relievers go, Davis is as consistent and reliable as they get.
    I'm not crazy about it either if it's for multiple years. If you're replacing his production with 3 cheaper guys, that's exactly why he's so valuable. He only takes 1 roster spot to give you elite production.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Theo does not like big long term contracts for relief. I'd think he'd jump on 1-18m. Especially with Edwards not progressing as hoped.
    Speaking of, I'd be curious of CEJ's #'s starting an inning vs. coming in mid inning. Regardless, he sure looked sharp last night.

  • In reply to LAX2ORD:

    Mark Melacon, who like Davis is 32, signed a four-year contract for $62m with the Giants. My guess is that Davis would get at least four years and probably more money per year. Davis is the team MVP is my book. If he had blown just 2 saves all year, the Cubs would be in a much stickier situation.

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    In reply to Cubswin09:

    I am guessing he is looking at Melancon, Jansen and Chapman as "comparable" and looking for that kind of contract. I don't blame him. He is entitled to ask. If I am the Cubs I say, "Thanks, we'll get your ring to you sometime next year. Please sign in the AL where your skills will be better appreciated because you won't have your stats watered down by facing pitcher or having to face the Cubs. And, to be honest, we would rather not face you. OK?"

    All kidding aside, bullpen arms are fickle (see the afore mentioned Mark Melancon). We caught, likely, Davis' best year. I still say $15-18M would get us at least 2-3 good relief pitchers. Even if none of them are as good as Davis, having 2-3 guys means that we will have guys more likely to be rested. I don't want to invest $15+M in a relief pitcher.

    As for Davis the MVP of the team I get your logic. But I think that there are other guys more valuable to the team. If your analysis is based strongly on his "Save percentage" I guess I don't buy that. To me Bryant, Rizzo and Contreras were all more valuable to the team's record.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    Totally correct where would we be without Davis right now???

  • In reply to LAX2ORD:

    Jorge hasn't exactly been tearing 'em up in KC, either. I hope he can turn it around, but he hasn't been anywhere near the player that some thought the Cubs were giving up for Davis.

  • Looking at the various scenarios of Cubs wins / Milw / Stl losses that would lead to a division title for the Cubs leaves me believing that if the Cubs can't win at least 1 more in Milw and can't split against the Cards, they don't deserve to be the champions anyway

  • Terrific win!! Perfectly stated Joel, "The Cubs just taught the Brewers the difference between 1st and 2nd place."

    But I wouldn't be true to my season-long concern if I didn't point out that the ump made two pretty clear errors on the last hitter (one "ball", one "strike"), including a final "strike" that Pitchtrax clearly showed was a ball inside. If that had been Javy at the plate, I would be a very unhappy camper.

    MLB, that's inexcusable. Get it corrected before next season.

  • In reply to wthomson:

    That home plate umpire had what has to be the worst game I've seen all year. Strike zone was all over the place for both sides, and not just borderline calls. Egregious calls both in and out of the zone. And he inexplicably called Rizzo safe on that play at the plate in the 10th. The whole crew was bad, with 3 plays being overturned by review.
    Umpires are the living worst.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    Fortunately, the Brewers did not call for a review on KB's 10th inning shot. No telling what this umpiring crew would have done!

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    In reply to DropThePuck:

    "It was too high."
    "What does that even mean?"
    -Major League

  • I haven't seen a lot of Justin Wilson this year or his struggles with awfulness. He was not awful last night. In fact I was encouraged by his short outing.

    The K was huge and the double by Santana - a high heater on the hands - was a either a great piece of hitting or pure luck. JD was impressed, "that's supposed to be a pop-up." Then Baez seemed to not even see Thames' line drive that went right past his glove.

    To nit-pick, I wouldn't call his inning a mess - this time. Wilson should be the LH version of Strop. That would be a big plus.

    If he can come into the highest leverage situations and pitch like that, the bullpen is much better off.

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    In reply to JohnCC:

    Wilson definitely has the skill for it. He has struggled with the Cubs but he is a quality pitcher overall (a 1 fWAR guy in the pen is usually a pretty valuable asset).

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    god, I hate to think a deep playoff run hinges on Justin Wilson (who had incredible #'s), but here we are

  • In reply to JohnCC:

    Javy (and the rest of the Cub infield) was playing in after Santana stole 3rd base. Not much chance of even Javy getting Thame's hit unless it had been right at him.

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    I wasn't picking on Javy, he was standing on the infield grass, that was hot shot and he didn't have much chance. Rather, my point was that line drive was a routine out in any other situation. Wilson didn't get knocked around and he didn't get wild.

    His numbers with Detroit were just impressive. He's got what it takes. I think he was nervous and felt real pressure when he first came over, he didn't perform well and it got into his head and snowballed.

  • In reply to JohnCC:

    While pitching for the Tigers this year, Justin Wilson's BB9 (walks per 9 innings) was 3.6; since joining the Cubs, his BB9 stands at 10. The eye test indicates that a large number of his pitches to LH batters are 6-12 inches outside.

    Any theories? Mechanical issue? Trying to get hitters to chase and they refuse?

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    I said this before the trade and I'm not backing off. Justin Wilson just ain't that good.
    I don't know how WAR is calculated for relievers, but I know good relief pitchers shouldn't consistently have an ERA north of 3.50 and a WHIP of 1.30. Wilson's numbers have lived there 3 of the last 4 yrs.
    Good relievers don't give up 1.3 baserunners per inning. By comparison, Strop and Rondon over the last 4 yrs have never had 1.3 WHIP, even as bad as Rondon's been this year (1.28).
    I think the Tigers sold high on a guy way over his career norms, similar to the Cubs with Duensing, and we are getting the market correction.

  • In reply to NoDoubtAboutIt:

    While I agree to some extent, at no point in his career has Wilson ever been this bad.

  • Urge, that opening paragraph was brilliant and perfect for what us Cub fans have been going thru during that game last night!

    While the Brewer fans were all clinking their beer steins together in celebration of a victory over the rival Cubs, KB dispelled the rumors of his unclutchiness and came up big in possibly the biggest game of the season, so far. And WD, for his part, is really blowing me away right now with his steely focus and good results in back-to-back-to-back-to-back games.

    Baez' hit did remind me a little of his big hit in the 9th inning of game 4 in the NLDS last year in SF. Have to love his enthusiasm after the hit and the reaction in the Cub dugout! These guys are really "in to it" and wanted that game, and the win, more than we could ever realize. Nice to see the players express themselves like that as a relief to the tension that was there all night.

    This was a huge game and a huge win for the Cubs! Keep it rolling.

  • In reply to DetroitCubFan:

    Baez' hit did remind me a little of his big hit in the 9th inning of game 4 in the NLDS last year in SF. Have to love his enthusiasm after the hit and the reaction in the Cub dugout!

    I thought the same thing. And the same thing I thought then, go with that 2 strike pitch up the middle and you will be a beast.

  • By the way, the Cubs magic number to make the playoffs is Rockies=7, Brewers/Cardinals=6 (same as to win the division).

  • According to "538", the Cubs are favored in only 1 (Hendricks) of the 4 games against the Cards.

  • In reply to wthomson:

    Again according to "538" (https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2017-mlb-predictions/cubs/) the Cub starters are currently "ranked" Hendricks +21, Arrietta +15, Quintana +11, Lackey -4 & Lester -10.

  • In reply to wthomson:

    No offense, but the headline is:
    The Cubs have a 98% chance of making the playoffs

  • No offense taken. I was just trying to provide some "data" related to the postseason.

    For me, magic numbers of 6/7 with 9/10 left to play is pretty much of a lock.

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