The Rundown: Heyward Walks Off, Cubs Need Closer, Organization Takes Stand Against Intolerance, Russell Returns

The Cubs are a lock-down closer away from being a completely dominant team. They need a reliever who can take the mound in the 9th inning that immediately deflates the opponent while instilling confidence in his manager, teammates, and the fans that victory is imminent. Right now, nobody screams “Game over!” in that situation.

The ragtag bunch of yeoman that Joe Maddon relies on does a fine job of managing the late innings. But it sure would be nice if his bosses in the front office were a little more honest with themselves. Yes, the Cubs have a decent bunch of relievers, but they need a mercenary to protect their leads when the game is on the line, not a pickpocket.

When Kyle Ryan and then Steve Cishek entered the game with a 2-1 lead, did anyone believe a win was practically guaranteed? And when Tyler Chatwood entered the game with the score tied at two, didn’t giving away a game that should have been a win seem inevitable? Fortunately, Jason Heyward rescued everyone with a walk-off extra-inning blast. I love the theater and drama, but I’d feel a lot more comfortable knowing I have a guy in my back pocket who makes getting the last three outs of a game seem routine.

Last night’s 3-2 victory should be a lesson in reflection for Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. I don’t believe it is a matter of assets or finances at this point. It feels a lot more like stubbornness. I know they want and expect to win with this team. But why make things more difficult when the easier solution is just a phone call or two away?

There is some combination of 24 players on the current roster that is capable of giving this team their second World Series championship in four years. It is on the front office to find that missing piece to the puzzle, whether it is signing Craig Kimbrel or trading for a proven closer.

Cubs News & Notes

How About That!

The Dodgers swept the Braves and won for the fifth time in their last six games. They’re a season-best 11 games over .500 and 9 games better than they were by this point last year.

A minor controversy brewed during Wednesday night’s game in the Bronx between the Mariners and Yankees. Seattle starter Yusei Kikuchi apparently was using pine tar he had slathered on the underside of the brim of his hat.

Buster Olney of ESPN believes “dozens and dozens and dozens” of MLB pitchers are visibly using foreign substances and that almost all of baseball knows about it.

Can Christian Yelich, who had another home run last night, make a push for 60 this year? Prior to 2018, Yelich had never hit more than 21 homers in a season. He leads the majors with 16 so far this season, despite missing five games with a back injury.

The Brewers are almost as hot as the Cubs right now, having won nine of their last 12 games.

Meanwhile, the Nationals have lost four straight and 14 of their last 19 games. Things haven’t gone too well for manager Dave Martinez through his first 200 games of leading the team.

David Montgomery, chairman of the Phillies and the team’s longtime former president, has passed away after a five-month fight with jaw-bone cancer.

Wednesday’s Three Stars

  1. Jorge Polanco – The Twins shortstop matched his career best with five hits, finishing 5-for-5 with a two-run homer in Minnesota’s 9-1 victory over the Blue Jays.
  2. Kyle Hendricks – The Professor was stellar again, scattering five hits across eight innings with seven strikeouts.
  3. Ronny Rodriguez – the Detroit infielder finished a home run shy of the cycle, going 3-for-4 with 4 RBI as the Tigers smoked the Angels 10-3.

On Deck

Clayton Kershaw is on a mission to expose rampant child trafficking in the Dominican Republic. According to International Justice Mission, nearly five million of the estimated 40 million enslaved children worldwide are believed to be the prey of sex traffickers. Tens of thousands of those victims are Dominican girls.

Extra Innings

Russell seems to be comparing his 40-game suspension to being incarcerated. I understand what he is implying and I apologize if I am nitpicking, but he lost a little less than six weeks of pay split over two seasons, and despite everything he earned a raise instead of being put through arbitration. He did not “serve time.”

That being said, I hope he can spend the rest of his life being a positive, rehabilitated role model, first as a father and husband, and then as a teammate and professional.

They Said It

  • “When I saw the ball going to the left a little bit, I’m thinking ‘you got to be kidding me’ because you know it’s deeper as it gets closer to the [left field] corner. But thank God for the basket.” – Jason Heyward
  • “I hope Addison continues to grow. That’s what this is all about. And he should expect to face adversity along the way. He doesn’t deserve to be met with an unconditionally warm welcome and with open arms. I think he will receive an appropriate response, and that’s something he needs to take responsibility for, to process, to handle the right way and to grow from.” – Theo Epstein
  • “There’s a lot of science behind [the Axe bat]. How the bat naturally comes through the zone, how it falls into the zone. You don’t have to work for it. I like the idea behind it.” – Kris Bryant
  • “I’m excited to meet the people on the front lines who have dedicated their lives to fighting the trafficking and slavery in the DR. You can write checks, which is awesome. Every nonprofit needs the support. But to put boots on the ground and go see it can change your heart.” – Clayton Kershaw

Thursday Walk Up Song

Wild Night by John Mellencamp and Me’Shell Ndegéocello. Two consecutive walk-off wins?

I’m a big fan of this 1994 cover, though it is not nearly as good as the original by Van Morrison. Mellencamp is a great musician, but he no substitute vocally for Morrison. The difference maker is Ndegéocello.  Her range is somewhat suppressed by the arrangement and Mellencamp’s stifling unsophistication, but she has a moment or two where she really gets to let loose.

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