The Rundown: Cubs Beat Nats Again, Justin Wilson Getting Big Innings, Billy Joel Playing Wrigley

Slow night for baseball, so today’s Rundown may offer a little less content than you’re used to. This series against the Nationals should have been so meaningful and exciting while played in a playoff-like atmosphere fraught with tension, just like the set the Cubs just completed in Milwaukee. Instead it was a ho-hum affair in front of a sparse crowd that seemed like a cruel joke to Nats fans. After all, the last time the Cubs played at Nationals Park, the Northsiders extinguished Washington’s best chance at a World Series birth in one of the craziest games ever played.

This National League Division Series rematch, staged a month before playoff baseball, might have conceivably carried far more importance and intrigue. The Cubs won 6-4 in extras thanks to another heroic game-winning RBI by David Bote. Pedro Strop picked up the win and Jesse Chavez earned the save. It’s worth noting that Strop pitched the 9th in a tied road game, traditionally a role reserved for your closer, so that means Maddon has utilized Strop as his hired gun on consecutive nights.

That’s important because the news surrounding Brandon Morrow’s return is less than rosy. His bullpen session scheduled for Sunday could determine if he pitches again this season. I mentioned yesterday to read between the lines because feigned optimism surrounded by foreboding quotes generally means “it ain’t happening.”

Cubs News & Notes

David Bote gets compared to Daniel Murphy at times so it was great to see him reestablish his role as offensive closer against the Nats. He got the game-winning RBI last night, which was a fantastic encore to his previous game against Washington.

In the few weeks since that white-knuckle walk-off grand slam, Washington threw in the towel and declared its own surrender, punctuating that move by trading Murphy the Cubs.

Justin Wilson is a favorite of Joe Maddon and the lefty has earned his manager’s confidence, often being called upon in high-leverage situations. For what it’s worth, Wilson was a closer for the Tigers, racking up 13 saves in Detroit before being traded to the Cubs. “We talked about that a lot in spring training,” Maddon said. “He could be the linchpin to this whole season in the bullpen. Right now he’s demonstrating that.”

The Cubs and the Red Sox are the favorites to play in this year’s World Series.

Nationals pitcher Joe Ross will make his season debut tonight against the Cubs. Ross had Tommy John surgery last year and hasn’t pitched at the major league level in 14 months.

How About That!

The Indians dropped their magic number to seven games with a 9-4 victory over the Blue Jays. Barring an historic meltdown they should be the first team to clinch a division title this year.

The Braves broke a three-game slide with a clutch, extra-innings 7-6 win over the Diamondbacks. Arizona has really faltered after seizing first place from the Dodgers a week ago, winning just one game since. The winning run scored on a wild pitch. Tough way to lose an important game.

Blue Jays rookie Rowdy Tellez became the first player in the live-ball era to record extra-base hits in each of his first three plate appearances.

Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports reported that the Toronto Blue Jays and John Gibbons will part ways after the 2018 season.

It was Castillo vs. Castillo in the Reds Padres game last night, with Jose beating Luis. They are not related.

Thursday’s Three Stars

  • Francisco Lindor – The potential AL MVP went 4-for-5 with two homers, four RBI, and three runs scored. He’s hitting .288/.362/.535 with 40 doubles, 33 homers, 84 RBI, 117 runs and 22 steals this year and is arguably the best fielding shortstop in the Junior Circuit.
  • Francisco Mejia – The Friars’ rookie backstop made his first start Thursday and made it count by clubbing the first two home runs of his career. Mejia was acquired by the Padres from Cleveland for Brad Hand.
  • Rowdy Tellez – In his first start, the guy with one of the greatest names in baseball was 3-for-4 — all doubles — with an RBI.

On Deck Circle

Billy Joel plays at Wrigley Field tonight and it is a traditional date night for my step-daughter and me, but she is in New York City for school and I can’t attend unless someone wants to purchase me a ticket. Stub Hub prices are a little bit out of my budget these days. My all-time favorite Joel song is New York State of Mind so I am so proud that Eleanor is really owning the Big Apple these past two years.

Here, Joel ranks his five personal favorites.

Extra Innings

If you thought Hawk Harrelson’s farewell tour was the biggest broadcasting news coming out of the South Side, guess again. Fox Sports Detroit broadcasters Mario Impemba and Rod Allen engaged in a “physical altercation” in the broadcasting booth following the Tigers’ win over the White Sox Tuesday night.

They Said It

  • “I’m trying to be confident about it. There’s not really another kind of mindset that you can have. But I’m hoping it just holds up and doesn’t hurt too bad. I don’t know where the pain’s going to plateau or how many outings it’s going to take where I can’t throw through it anymore or whatever.” – Brandon Morrow
  • “What you’re seeing [with Wilson] is a strike-thrower with that little extra thing he has at the end [of his fastball]. That gets lefties and righties out. It’s not just about getting lefties out.” – Joe Maddon
  • “I thought that in the midst of a lot of trials [Nationals’ manager Dave Martinez] was always positive. I thought we always played hard for him, which I think is a reflection of the manager. I wish I would have been able to play more for him. I wish I would have been able to (play) better for him.” – Daniel Murphy

Friday Walk Up Song

Keeping the Faith by Billy Joel. Cubs fans, we’ve got this.

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