The Rundown: Flaherty Shuts Down Cubs, Lester Vents, Maddon Demands Urgency Then Backtracks

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but it’s a good thing the Cubs acquired Nicholas Castellanos or Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty might have no-hit Chicago last night. I know, though the Cubs offense is a joke right now, it’s certainly no laughing matter. There’s no dancing around the subject: The Cubs offense is frankly…offensive.

The Cardinals spanked the North Siders 8-0 last night and the Cubs played like they wanted to be any other place in the world other than Busch Stadium. Not to take anything away from Flaherty, who was filthy all night, but a lineup that should strike fear into the hearts of most pitchers certainly lapses into and out of a comatose state far too often, particularly on the road. Chicago batters could muster just three runs in the three games in St. Louis, and two of them were unearned. You don’t win many games showcasing that kind of limited production.

So the 3-6 road trip is mercifully over and the Cubs will have to turn it around on the upcoming homestand with three games against the Brewers and three with the Athletics. In case you’re wondering, Joe Maddon and his crew play 27 games at home the rest of the season and 28 away from Wrigley Field. If they don’t find the remedy to their punchless road woes, it’s going to be tough to win the division.

A wild card entry from the NL Central is not guaranteed in what is a very compact race for top runner-up. The Cubs, Nationals, and Phillies are tied for the top spot with the Brewers just one game back in the race for the two openings.

Cubs News & Notes

  • Cole Hamels is set to return from the IL this weekend and is slated to start Saturday’s game against the Brewers.
  • Flaherty had gone 12 successive starts without a win until last night and the Cardinals had lost eight of those games. The only hit he allowed was a two-out single in the 6th inning to Castellanos.
  • Castellanos should be licking his chops to play in Wrigley Field for the rest of the season, if his 2019 spray chart is any indication. The ballhawks on Waveland Avenue should be equally excited.
  • CBS Sports takes a look at how the deadline trades changed their World Series projections. The Cubs’ moves are worth 1.1 wins and increased their World Series chances by half a game.
  • Jon Lester said the teams’ veterans need to stand up, take accountability, and find a way to win on the road. “Anytime the ownership group and management make moves, it’s a positive for us,” Lester said. “So we, as a group, in this clubhouse, have to figure it out and play better, regardless of whether they make moves or not. It’s on us — it’s not on them. It’s a nice boost, but we’ve got to play better.”
  • Ben Zobrist will meet the Cubs in Chicago this weekend, get checked out by the team physicians, and then head to South Bend to start a rehab assignment. They could use some vintage BenZo right about now.
  • Last night, outfield prospect Cole Roederer launched his seventh home run of the season for South Bend and added his 13th stolen base of the season. He’s been one of the organization’s hottest hitters lately.
  • Maddon added that it’s “big boy time” yesterday. I guess the urgency we were promised at the start of the season has been replaced by a super urgency of some sorts. Of course, that didn’t stop Papa Joe from abandoning said earnestness in order to tinker with his pitching staff because…
  • In a questionable move, the Cubs skipper let recently acquired relief pitcher Derek Holland face switch-hitting catcher Matt Wieters yesterday. Holland has been putrid against righties this year, everybody knows it, and Wieters immediately blasted a three-run homer off of the southpaw. That drew a spicy reaction on social media. You may want to cover your eyes instead of reading the responses. Yikes.

How About That!

With his 6th inning strikeout of Austin Hedges, future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw passed Dodgers’ legend Sandy Koufax on MLB’s all-time strikeout list. The Los Angeles lefty now has 2,397 strikeouts in 2,219 1/3 career innings. Koufax, already enshrined in Cooperstown, struck out 2,396 batters in 2,324 1/3 innings.

The Mets won their seventh straight game last night and are now 53-55, just four games back in the hunt for a wild card spot.

If you’ve already given up on this year, here’s 10 potential trade targets to prime your pump for this winter’s hot stove. Teams can start hitting the reset button three months from today.

The Rays marched into Fenway Park and swept three games from the formerly red-hot Red Sox. Following Thursday’s win, Tampa sits in sole possession of the second wild-card spot, a half-game up on the Athletics and 3 1/2 games up on Boston.

For the second time in four games, Josh Hader blew the save by giving up a game-winning home run to Matt Chapman in the 8th inning yesterday. The Brewers closer has allowed five home runs in his last 11 1/3 innings and he’s allowed 11 homers in 52 1/3 innings this season.

Sam Dyson did his best Brad Brach impersonation yesterday. The newly-acquired Twins reliever gave up a 4-1 lead shortly after entering yesterday’s game against the Marlins. We call that a Brachonian effort in these parts.

Thursday’s Three Stars (aka Let the Kids Play)

  1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – The rookie outfielder slugged two of Toronto’s five home runs as the Blue Jays pasted the Orioles 11-2. Vlad was 3-for-5 on the night with four RBI and two runs scored.
  2. Will D. Smith – I’m convinced the Dodgers backstop would garner strong consideration for Rookie of the Year had he played the entire season. Smith hit a mammoth grand slam last night and is now batting .349 on the season with six taters in just 43 at-bats.
  3. Harold Ramirez – One of the few Marlins’ bright spots in another dim season, the rookie outfielder led the 42-65 cellar-dwellers to an inspiring 5-4 win over the Twins. Ramirez had a triple, a home run, and two RBI.

Also a Star

Flaherty, but I am still refusing to add Cardinals to the section above. Call me a sore loser.

On Deck

When Trevor Bauer retires from pitching, he should consider a career directing feature films. His tribute to the city of Cleveland after being traded by the Indians to the Reds is a goosebump-inducing endeavor. I’m not necessarily a fan of Bauer at times, but this is amazing stuff.

Extra Innings

Things couldn’t be better for Nathan Peterson, who attended a Rockies-Athletics tilt a couple weeks ago, hit 96 mph on a radar gun in a fan-forward speed challenge, and then found himself signing a contract to pitch in the Oakland organization. This feat of arm strength came a few months after Patterson turned heads on social media with another showcase of his pitching repertoire…while his left arm was in a cast.

They Said It

  • “I couldn’t be happier with where I’m at right now.” – Nicholas Castellanos
  • “To be honest with you, I don’t care. I’m just here to help in any way possible, whether that be off the bench or if they want me to serve water to the guys.”Tony Kemp
  • “I can’t be as aware, in a sense, that I was last year giving guys plate appearances, at-bats, developmentally speaking, We have two months. To put our best foot forward, I will move guys in and out, but I don’t feel as compelled to move guys in and out as I did last year.” – Joe Maddon

Friday’s Walk Up Song

The Load Out/Stay by Jackson Browne. These road trips seem longer and longer with each losing effort in visiting cities. The Cubs really need a solid homestand.

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