The Rundown: September Hype, Brewers on Tap, Home Run Records Continue to Fall

It’s September, which I’m now proclaiming as National Sports Hype Month, and what a way to kick off the end of summer. Cubs, Brewers, Bears, Packers. Let your Keg-O-Rater flow, baby.

The Cubs enjoyed their first of two remaining off-days this month and the rest of us got to spend the evening scoreboard watching and gaming NL Central and Wild Card scenarios in our heads. I don’t know about you, but that Cardinals-Giants game nearly flatlined me.  At the end of the night, San Francisco somehow emerged victorious and the Cubs gained a half-game on their despised rivals from St. Louis.

And honestly, 2.5 games behind in the division sounds a helluva lot better than 3.5 games out, especially when it was just about two weeks ago that the Cubs enjoyed a 3.5 game lead of their own. But the Redbirds have won 20 of 25 while Chicago has been middling at best, going 14-11 in the same span.

There’s some semi-good news on the horizon, though.

Now that you’ve exhaled a little, allow me to rain on your parade just a bit. The remaining schedule really doesn’t matter if the Cubs are going to close out the season playing .560 ball and hoping the Cardinals lose three more games than they do. The title is within grasp and if the Cubs want it, they are simply going to have to take it from St. Louis. Nobody wants Chicago to back in and then get smoked in the NLDS by the Braves. You go in on a holy tear, then you lay waste to any team standing between you and the World Series.

Are the Cubs capable of that? Certainly. But that’s on the players, so I’d expect we’ll spend the rest of our month experiencing equal amounts joy and frustration. That seems to be the Cubs Way over the last three seasons. But you gotta love the hype that comes with a tight race and seven head-to-head matchups with the Cardinals starting two weeks from tonight.

Cubs News & Notes

  • The Cubs swept their two-game set against the Mariners and Ryan Thomure has your series recap.
  • Mark Gonzalez of the Tribune provides a great Q&A with Cubs fans. These are actually some of the best questions I’ve seen in this type of forum. I’d like to do something similar once a month. Maybe next season.
  • The Cubs open a four-game series with the Brewers starting tonight. Brewers-Cubs and Bears-Packers on the same night and at the same time? Sounds like a bar night to me. Anyway, in case you want to relive the less-than-memorable series at Wrigley Field last weekend, here you go.
  • The Cubs have one of the deepest rosters in baseball, which should be an advantage over the final four weeks of the season.
  • You get just one guess, but let’s see if you can tell me which Cubs starter will kick of the series at Miller Park tonight. Need a clue? Over his last 11 starts he is 8-1 with 63 strikeouts.
  • A Cardinals beat writer compares the stellar season of starting pitcher Jack Flaherty to the epic 2015 season of Jake Arrieta. Flaherty is 9-7 with a 3.15 ERA so far. Arrieta was 22-6 in ’15, threw a no-hitter, won the NL Cy Young Award, and finished sixth in MVP voting. So yeah, I don’t get the comparison. Flaherty is on a nice run of 11 starts, but Arrieta was positively dominating.
  • Kyle Schwarber has been one of the team’s most dynamic players in the second half, but has remained slightly under the radar thanks to the exploits of Nick Castellanos. A slight adjustment at the plate has made a world of difference for Schwarber, and as I said yesterday, he could be the key to catching the Cardinals.
  • Naturally, this is where I remind any Cardinals fans who have stumbled across this article — BECAUSE EVAN WILL TAG IT SO THEY DO — of the nightmare that is War Bear. Bring on the Redbirds!

How About That!

I don’t know what to make of Reds relief pitcher Michael Lorenzen, though it was nice to see him crushing the dreams of Phillies fans last night.

Jorge Soler became the first player in Royals history to reach 40 home runs, and now all 30 clubs have had at least one in their histories. The longest 40-homer drought now belongs to the Pirates, going back to 1973 when  Willie Stargell hit that mark.

In the Year of the Home Run, White Sox right fielders have somehow combined for just three home runs. To put that in a better perspective, former Cubs right fielder Sammy Sosa hit three home runs in a single game five times in his career.

I’m officially all in on the Pete Alonso-for-MVP campaign. He’s a lock for Rookie of the Year after hitting another bomb last night, his 45th of the season. The Mets would be in last place without him.

If Gerrit Cole signs with the Nationals this winter, they would have arguably the best rotation in the history of baseball. It could happen, too. Washington saved $190 million by letting Bryce Harper walk and signing Patrick Corbin instead, and there is a strong possibility that Anthony Rendon will leave after this season, too.

Home run records continue to fall as the Dodgers broke the single season record of 249 formerly held by the 2000 Astros. Joc Pederson recorded the record-breaking blast. Counting his final at-bat Sunday, Pederson has gone home run, home run, double, home run, home run, walk, home run in his last seven plate appearances.

Wednesday’s Three Stars

  1. Michael Lorenzen – With a homer, a win and an appearance in the outfield, Lorenzen pulled off a feat last accomplished by Babe Ruth. Cincinnati’s versatile reliever also prevented the Phillies from gaining ground on the idle Cubs in the Wild Card race.
  2. Mookie Betts – The Red Sox outfielder single handedly destroyed the Twins, going 4-for-5 with two home runs and five RBI in Boston’s 6-4 win. Betts hit his two homers on the first two pitches he saw.
  3. Joc Pederson – The Dodgers outfielder has been on a tear lately, and last night he went yard twice with three RBI on a 2-for-3 night. He also drew a walk and scored three times.

On Deck

It’s the 100th anniversary of the NFL, and festivities started just after 3am this morning in Grant Park. Yes, you read that right. Hopefully Bears fans will have something to brag about besides the ’85 Super Bowl champions come February.

Extra Innings

The Cubs make some of the best hype videos in all of sports, and I cannot wait to see what they unveil for this year’s postseason. The Bears are right up there with the Cubs media team, too. Hearing former Cubs announcer Jack Brickhouse calling Bears games truly gives me chills.

They Said It

  • “We should be full go. They’re all energetic players. That’s what we need. I’ve talked about [how] September provides its own energy. Listen, we’re in a race. There’s no reason to show up and not feel that way, but these are the guys.” – Joe Maddon
  • “It’s in our own hands.” – Kyle Schwarber

Thursday Walk Up Song

Only Wanna Be With You by Hootie & The Blowfish. It’s football season as of today, and whether the Dolphins, Packers, Bears, or Cubs make you cry, this will always be a signature song for sports fans everywhere, and a nice reminder of a time when ESPN was actually fun to watch.

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