The Rundown: Strasburg Puts Cards in Deep Hole, Espada Interviews for Cubs Managerial Opening, Kapler Next on List

I certainly don’t want to concede anything to the Nationals because the potential exists for four more games in the NLCS, but if the Cardinals don’t win all of them, their season is over and Washington will advance to their first World Series in team history. Great pitching wins in the playoffs, and few teams have the mound ammo that the Nationals possess.

Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer, and last night’s starter Stephen Strasburg have held the St. Louis offense to one unearned run, three walks and 28 strikeouts in 21.2 innings. Including Patrick Corbin, Washington starters have pitched to a 1.59 ERA and a .164 opponents’ batting average in 56.2 innings this month. That doesn’t include those pitchers’ numbers as part of the DC bullpen.

And pity the Cardinals, as they’ll face Corbin in tonight’s elimination game after last night’s 8-1 loss.

As for Strasburg, he’s racked up 57 strikeouts against five walks in 41 career postseason innings. His 1.10 ERA trails only Sandy Koufax (0.95) in MLB history among pitchers with at least five playoff starts. The Washington starter has made six career postseason starts and recorded at least 10 strikeouts in four of them. He became just the fifth pitcher in postseason history with multiple games of at least a dozen strikeouts.

The historic run by Strasburg comes at a very opportune time. He should have a lot to consider when deciding whether to opt out of his contract and become a free agent next month. Many teams will pay up for that kind of playoff success, and one of those teams, the Yankees, could use an ace in their rotation.

As for the Cardinals, who suffered through a disastrous 3rd inning last night, only one of the 34 MLB teams to be down 0–3 in a best-of-seven has come back to win. That happened in 2004, when the Red Sox rallied after being down three games to the Yankees in the ALCS. After an historic comeback, Boston swept the Cardinals in the World Series that year, winning the organization’s first championship since 1918.

Cubs News & Notes

  • Houston bench coach Joe Espada interviewed for the Cubs managerial opening yesterday while the Astros traveled to New York for Game 3 of the ALCS. Espada is one of four known interviewees for the Cubs vacancy. Fired Phillies manager Gabe Kapler will be the fifth, and he’s scheduled to interview later this week.
  • The timetable for Kapler’s interview is still unknown. Kapler, 44, lasted two seasons in Philly, going 161-163 with a third-place finish in the NL East, followed by this season’s fourth-place finish.
  • Why would the Cubs consider Kapler?  Patrick Mooney of The Athletic  believes Epstein likely has an interest in Kapler’s time overseeing the robust farm system of the Dodgers ($) from 2015-17, which occurred in the middle of seven consecutive NL West titles. Maybe he can replace Jason McLeod, instead.
  • The Giants are interested in Will Venable to replace retired manager Bruce Bochy. Venable served as Chicago’s first base coach this season, and also interviewed for the opening with the Cubs.
  • Former Cubs outfielder Sam Fuld has declined a couple of opportunities to manage next season, including an interview offer extended by the Cubs.
  • For a franchise that is going have to take their budget into account when building the 2020 roster, it is imperative that Craig Kimbrel locks down the role as Chicago’s closer. Kimbrel will earn $16 million in each of the next two seasons. The Cubs hold a $1 million buyout ahead of the 2022 season.
  • The Cubs have to make decisions on a number of team options heading into this offseason. Keeping Anthony Rizzo should be a no-brainer, and declining Brandon Morrow is a similarly easy call. Tougher decisions exist on José Quintana and Kendall Graveman, the latter of which is a unique case. Most of us believe Addison Russell will be released as well, but Epstein has yet to tip his hand, and rightfully so.
  • Just my opinion, but I can see the Cubs extending Rizzo this winter while exploring a Quintana trade with the Mets.
  • Also just my opinion, but I’d love to see the Cubs pursue Athletics infielder Marcus Semien in trade. Maybe Quintana is a fit there, though the Cubs would have to add to the deal, even though Semien is in the final year of his contract.
  • How would you feel about Jake Arrieta coming back to the Cubs? The veteran starter can opt out of his $20 million salary for 2020 and become a free agent if the Phillies don’t exercise a two-year, $40 million option for 2021-22. Don’t hold your breath, though. Neither of those things is going to happen after Arrieta’s season-ending elbow surgery. Believe it or not, Arrieta was Philadelphia’s highest paid player in 2019, earning $30 million. Bryce Harper collected $27.5 million this season.
  • Former Cubs starter Mark Prior is likely to take over as pitching coach for the Dodgers after Rick Honeycutt was selected by the organization to transition into a role as a special assistant to the front office.

Tuesday Stove

The Mets are interviewing former big leaguer and current ESPN and MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM analyst Eduardo Pérez for their managerial opening, bringing the list of known candidates up to six, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post.

Speculation continues to increase that Strasburg will opt out of his contract with the Nationals this offseason. That doesn’t necessarily mean Strasburg will be departing Washington. Clayton Kershaw used his opt-out power to land a new three-year, $93 million deal with the Dodgers last offseason.

On his most recent Big Time Baseball podcast, Jon Heyman predicted Strasburg will head to Southern California and names the Padres and Dodgers as potential suitors.

Washington’s all-purpose utility man Howie Kendrick is a free agent after this season, too, and his playoff performance should help earn him a few extra dollars this winter. He has been a postseason hero for the Nationals this year.

Once their league championship series ends, the Yankees and Astros may continue to battle well into the offseason. The stakes are just as high, with the prize being starter Gerrit Cole.

St. Louis pitching coach Mike Maddux hit two holes-in-one at the Army-Navy Country Club prior to Monday’s tilt between the Nationals and Cardinals. Maddux said they were the fifth and sixth aces in his golfing career.

Extra Innings

They Said It

  • “We’re very respectful of what the task at hand and what we’re trying to do. We also want to make sure that any of our people are given the opportunities for these special circumstances, [understanding] these jobs are rare…[Joe Espada] is a really good baseball man. He’s smart. He’s got leadership qualities. Any team that wants to consider him is heading down the right path with him.”AJ Hinch
  • “[Kimbrel] is really determined to have a great offseason and looking forward to a full and legitimate spring training. He feels awful about the way this year went, recognized that he was in an unusual position, but I think you’ll see a really determined individual who will benefit from the full spring training.” – Theo Epstein
  • “We saw the odds [two hole-in-ones on the same day]was one in 67 million. I’m saying, ‘All right. We got a real good shot tonight.’” – Mike Maddux

Tuesday Walk Up Song

Everybody Hurts by R.E.M. – Cardinals fans are aghast that their team has virtually no chance of reaching the Word Series. That’s a shame.

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