Last Game: Cubs 10, White Sox 0
Up Next: Cubs (33-25) @ White Sox (34-24) 6:10 CST
Forget Yu Darvish's seven shutout innings, and the two encouraging perfect innings by Dan Winkler and Andrew Chafin which completed the shutout... the Cubs scored some freakin' runs, ladies and gentlemen.
You can breathe again.
Hopefully, this will allow the Cubs to loosen their grip on their bats, as well.
You could tell it was weighing on all of them. As frustrating as the recent offensive futility was for us to watch, it had to be worse to live through. These are all professionals with a lot of pride. All have reached the pinnacle of their profession and proven themselves time and time again. And for all of them to drown at the same time, for such an extended stretch... I almost can't imagine how they must have felt.
"Picking your teammate up" when they fail is a fundamental of baseball culture. Given that the game, and hitting in particular, is often described as one of failure, where being successful on average just once in three tries will rank you among the elite in the sport, the mantra makes sense. Knowing you, and in turn your teammates are going to fail often, it has to be a psychologically stabilizing force to have faith others will pick up the slack when you aren't pulling your weight, and you can return the favor later. It helps weather the natural ebb and flow throughout a season.
But it is truly rare for an entirety of a team to fall into the type of icy waters all Cubs hitters slipped into of late. Nobody was coming through. The ship was sinking, but unlike a Titanic-style insufficient number of life boats, on this journey there appeared to be none. No one could find a place of safety where they could reach down and pull another out of the water. It sure seemed like they were out of time to save themselves before they sank into the deep, dark abyss of another playoff failure.
Until last night.
A solo oppo SchwarBomb opened the scoring in the 2nd. It wasn't much, but it surely had to feel like someone finally discovered some place safe and dry. The homer gave the Cubs an early lead, something they've rarely had this month. You still couldn't feel confident, or even comfortable, really. But when Willson Contreras blasted a three-run shot the next inning, the outpouring of relief was evident: in his expression, in his turn toward his teammates and the shouts which followed, and of course in the epic nature of the bat flip which capped it all off.
The Cubs continued to hit with power. Javy annihilated a pitch he has often missed this season. Victor Caratini even got in on the action with his first homer of the year. But the team also got a couple of clutch hits. Luck was also on their side for the first time in a while. After so many at'em balls over the final two games in Pittsburgh, hard and soft hit balls found holes. It was a complete offensive effort.
Maybe they are still drifting in the middle of a hostile ocean. Or maybe Willson's blast was a metaphorical call of "Land Ho". We'll have to wait and see, but at least for one day, hope has returned.
Injuries, Updates, and Trends
- Magic Number: 1 !!!!!
- With the playoffs fast approaching and Ildemaro Vargas still on the IL, the Cubs need for an extra infielder intensified to the point where they selected the contract of journeyman Patrick Wisdom from South Bend. The Cubs were without an extra infielder on the 40-man roster since Zack Short was dealt at the deadline (the only other position players available were catcher Miguel Amaya and outfielder Albert Almora Jr).
- The still-0-for-as-a-Cub Jose Martinez was optioned back to South Bend to make room on the active roster. Martinez has some experience as a first baseman and outfielder but isn't a particularly reliable fielder anywhere. Wisdom's ability to play 3B (even if he isn't great there) gives the Cubs a little more flexibility.
- To make room on the 40-man IL, prospect Manuel Rodriguez was moved to the 45-day IL. Rodriguez was hurt in ST, and from what I understood he had returned to full health, but given he was never added to the 60-man player pool that information may have been inaccurate. For those wondering why the Cubs had not moved him to the 45-day IL earlier in the season so that they would have the extra roster space to work with, a player on the 45-day IL receives MLB pay, and just as importantly for a prospect, they begin earning MLB service time. The Cubs clearly did not want to make that move, but with depth necessary for the playoffs, and now with so little time in the season, the salary and service time are negligible.
Filed under: Morning Cubs Roundup