The Rundown: Strop Really Struggling, García Slugging His Way to More Opportunities, Russell Inserts Foot in Mouth, Trade Deadline Intel

That was a tough loss last night, one of those that when you finish a game out of first place you go back and put a big red circle around it. The Cubs bullpen has been a frightening and frustrating mix all year, and last night was one of those games where you want a knee-jerk reaction from the front office, and anything short of acquiring a Ken Giles or Kirby Yates will seem insufficient.

For all the talk of the Cubs acquiring a professional hitter, perhaps they need a shut-down reliever instead.

Something is wrong with Pedro Strop this year. Whether it’s a short- or long-term issue, he can’t be trusted until he gets right. I talked yesterday about A-list and B-list relievers, and in blowing a two-run lead to the Giants in last night’s 5-4 loss, Strop may have found himself a spot on the latter. A division-winning team does not lose games like that in the 8th inning. It’s infuriating to fans, and it should be.

If you are looking for a reaction from the Cubs’ skipper, Joe Maddon remains unfazed.

“Of course, you can always use more bullpen depth,” Maddon said after the game. “But I felt really good about the way we played tonight.”

The Cubs had to stick with Strop because they burned their only lefty reliever, Kyle Ryan, earlier in the game, and the bullpen was taxed after heavy usage in high heat over the weekend. Still, you have to get that game to Craig Kimbrel with a chance to close it out.

Strop has now allowed seven runs on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings since the All-Star break. Last night was the fourth time this season that he has given up multiple runs, something he did only three times all of last season. Your setup guy is supposed to get the team to your closer and if he can’t do that consistently, he needs to be put on hiatus. This loss stings almost as much as the July 3 game against the Pirates. Maybe more so, considering the team’s recent resurgence.

Speaking of resurgence, the Cubs and Giants will meet for game two of the series this evening with Yu Darvish squaring off against Madison Bumgarner, two of the games hottest pitchers of late. The Cubs are going to need Darvish to extend his string of dominating performances.

Cubs News & Notes

  • Cole Hamels could be ready to return to the Cubs as early as this weekend, and Willson Contreras could be back as soon as tomorrow.
  • Hamels will make a rehab start for the Iowa Cubs tonight. Hamels has a 6-3 record in 17 starts this season, posting a 2.98 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP across 99.2 innings of work and could be named the team’s starter for Sunday’s game in Milwaukee against the Brewers.
  • If the Cubs want to keep Alec Mills on the roster, they do not need a sixth starter until July 29 when they face the Reds. Mills has pitched decently in two spot starts. It’s also possible that Maddon could piggyback Mills and Hamels on Sunday.
  • The Cubs sure could have used a lefty reliever in their last two losses.
  • If you continue to support Addison Russell as the team’s starting second baseman after what he said yesterday, you’re blind or just being confrontational.
  • Further, Robel García has earned a chance to play every day. The switch-hitter stings the ball almost every time up, though he’s not as good defensively as Russell.

  • That ball traveled 454 feet at 113 mph. Eight of Garcia’s 10 hits since being called up have gone for extra bases. That’s good.
  • On the flip side, Albert Almora Jr. is generating the least offensive value in baseball over the last year. Perhaps it’s time to call up Ian Happ.
  • Or maybe Theo Epstein can finish a deal to acquire Tigers’ outfielder Nicholas Castellanos, start him in right field and moving Jason Heyward to center. No matter what changes are coming, the Cubs are going to have to decide if they prefer a stronger offensive lineup. Almora Jr. and Russell would be better utilized as late-inning defensive replacements.

Deadline Intel

Astros president of baseball operations Jeff Luhnow believes the Astros can win it all with their current roster. He did add that Houston is seeking a postseason-caliber starting pitcher, as well as exploring options for catching depth. listed its 20 deadline predictions early this morning, including Zack Greinke to the Phillies and a highly sought-after super UT to the Cubs.

For teams looking to acquire impact bats before July 31, here are the 10 best hitters assumed to be available.

If you’re looking for mound help, these are the 10 best available pitchers.

For teams that are sellers, here are the top 10 prospects that could be available.

How About That

Brandy Halladay’s speech on behalf of her late husband at this weekend’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony was incredibly heart-tugging. Roy Halladay retired following the 2013 season with a career 203-105 record and a 3.38 ERA. He won the Cy Young in each league and was an eight-time All-Star.

The Yankees are the second-most valuable franchise in all of sports. The Cubs are ranked 14th, easily the highest of all professional franchises in the Windy City. The Dallas Cowboys top the list.

The Cardinals are listed as one of five teams that could make a huge second-half surge. The Cubs are listed too. In Maddon’s tenure, the Cubs have played at a 105-win pace in the second half and he two teams play each other seven times over the last 10 games of the season. It’s going to be another nail-biting September.

The Twins proved they could play with the Yankees on a big stage and in a playoff-like atmosphere.

Paul Goldschmidt hit a 10th-inning grand slam to lead the Cardinals over the Pirates.

Astros rookie slugger Yordan Alvarez homered and knocked in a pair of runs on Monday in an 11-1 win over the A’s, making him the first player to have 35 RBI in his first 30 career games.

Monday’s Three Stars

  1. Mitch Garver – The Twins backstop was my sleeper fantasy catcher this year and he hasn’t disappointed. Garver hit two home runs last night with three RBI while going 3-for-4 and is slugging .674 on the season with an OPS of 1.059.
  2. Gerrit Cole The Astros co-ace was dominating last night with 11 strikeouts across seven innings of one-run baseball.
  3. Ivan Nova – The White Sox hurler pitched a complete game in a 9-1 win over the Marlins. Nova scattered four hits without a walk, throwing 76 of 112 pitches for strikes.

On Deck

Hamels and his wife Heidi will host The Hamels Foundation’s First Pitch Gala in Chicago Sunday, August 4, 2019, at Artifact Events. The gala will be The Hamels Foundation’s first event to be held in Chicago since the left-hander joined the Cubs organization a year ago.

The Foundation’s commitment to education will be celebrated, highlighting their ongoing, groundbreaking work in the Southeastern African country of Malawi and across the United States. In addition to introducing Chicago-area grant recipients, The Hamels Foundation looks forward to the First Pitch Gala’s capacity to build key relationships with the Chicagoland community.

Extra Innings

Giants outfielder Alex Dickerson didn’t play in last night’s game, but he still had a pretty entertaining evening. Dickerson, along with three members of the San Francisco Shock — a professional Overwatch e-sports team — spent part of the day playing Super Smash Bros Ultimate, among other games, on the Giants’ $10 million scoreboard. The Giants are 19-8 since the outfielder was called up from the minors, so I am positive the team had no problem with letting him play.

They Said It

  • “Stropy is really able to move things forward, but he’ll review. … He’s been there before. He’s been one of the best relievers in baseball for years for a reason, and I think one of the biggest reasons is that he’s able to take a bad moment and throw it in the trash can fast.”Joe Maddon
  • “I wanted a sinker in [on the game-winning hit]. I have to keep working on it and find a way to make it sink.”Pedro Strop

Tuesday Walk Up Song

Atmosphere by Joy Division. Perfection doesn’t exist. Still, the Cubs need to pull up their stirrups and bring home a win tonight. Again I ask, have you guessed this month’s theme of walk up songs?

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