The Rundown: Nats Jump on Astros, More Cubs Manager Rumors, Cards Targeting Lefty Starters

Juan Soto and George Springer were a joy to watch in last night’s Game 1 tilt between the Nationals and Astros. Soto finished a triple shy of the cycle in leading Washington to a 5-4 win over Houston. As for Springer, he is becoming somewhat of a World Series hero. His 7th inning homer off of Tanner Rainey was his 14th career postseason home run and marked the fifth straight World Series game in which he’s gone yard. That broke a tie with Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson and Lou Gehrig.

Soto and Springer upstaged what was supposed to be a marquee matchup between Max Scherzer and Gerrit Cole. Scherzer grinded out the win and Cole lost a game for the first time since May 22. Anyone who thinks or says that the Nationals stunned the Astros hasn’t been following the game. Yes, Cole has been all-world this season, but Washington has been baseball’s hottest team since Memorial Day.

After sitting at 19-31 on May 23 after losing six of seven games to the Cubs and Mets, almost everybody expected manager Davey Martinez to get fired and for Washington to become sellers of premium pitching at the deadline. But then they went 74-38 the rest of the way to grab a Wild Card entry and, after last night’s win, have gone 9-2 in the playoffs to knock off the Brewers, Dodgers, and Cardinals. Still, no matter how they finish this season, they are the perceived underdogs in this series.

Tonight’s game in Houston features another outstanding matchup, with Stephen Strasburg taking on Justin Verlander. It seems almost embarrassing to call it a must-win game for the Astros, but if they go to Washington down by two games, this series gets exponentially tougher. Teams that go down 0-2 at home in the current 2-3-2 format have come back to win the World Series only three of 25 times.

Cubs News & Notes

  • Just when you thought Joe Espada was the favorite to replace Joe Maddon based on a second interview, it turns out David Ross was also called in to formally talk with the Cubs front office a second time. Ross already works for the Cubs, so is he ever really not being sized up for the gig when he meets with his bosses?
  • One National League source believes Ross’ chances are no longer as good as originally perceived, based on a conversation last week with a Cubs official.
  • That said, Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago, in an interview on yesterday’s Waddle & Silvy Show, believes Ross could be announced as the team’s new manager as early as tomorrow.
  • Interesting quote attributed to Ross in the article linked above: Maddon’s “old school to the core; he just uses the analytics in his favor for certain wacky situations where he may take the pitcher and put him in left field.” While Ross noted that Maddon’s methods with the Cubs came off as unconventional, “90 percent of the time, it worked out.”
  • The Cubs are listed as one of five potential landing spots if the Red Sox decide to trade outfielder Mookie Betts. They’d have to get creative to fit Betts on the roster since their top 15 players will count for more than $200 million in payroll next season, and they’d also probably have to give up some of their best young players. Before you say “Give Boston Kris Bryant,” it would make no sense to acquire Betts for one year at that expense. Chicago’s farm system is currently ranked 29th in all of baseball per Baseball America.
  • In his latest Cubs inbox,’s Jordan Bastian addressed whether the team could consider dealing catcher Willson Contreras, who has historically rated poorly as a pitch-framer, elevating Victor Caratini to the starting role, and then signing a defensive-minded backup.
  • CI’s Brandon Miller refutes some of those alleged deficiencies in his post from yesterday that indicates Contreras has greatly improved his framing abilities.
  • “We’ve won a lot of games with Willson Contreras behind the plate,” Theo Epstein said. “We’ve had a lot of success pitching with [him] behind the plate. There are certainly areas he can continue to improve upon, but shame on us if we can’t continue his development at the big league level, because this is like the most tooled-out, athletic catcher, who has a huge heart…cares, and wants his pitcher to succeed.”
  • Joe Bloss of named the Cubs organizational all-stars at each position.
  • Speaking of minor league players, pitcher Oscar De La Cruz represents a bit of a conundrum for the team’s front office. The right hander was removed from the 40-man roster following a suspension in 2018, and will have to be added by November 4 or he will become a free agent.

Wednesday Stove

David Price’s record for the largest contract ever signed by a pitcher ($217 million over seven years) could be in jeopardy this offseason, with one MLB executive predicting that Cole will land a seven-year deal for an average annual salary between $33 million and $35 million, according to SNY’s Andy Martino.

Starling Marte is arguably the Pirates’ best trade chip this winter. However, the consensus among those within the industry is that centerfielder will remain with Pittsburgh for the start of next season, though he could be moved at next year’s trade deadline.

According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Madison Bumgarner is “on the list” of pitchers the Cardinals will target, though not necessarily their top choice. St. Louis will be targeting left-handed starters this winter, and may put out feelers on Cole Hamels, Dallas Keuchel, Rich Hill, and Hyun-Jin Ryu.

On Deck

I would assume disciplinary action, up to and including the dismissal of Astros assistant GM Brandon Taubman, is forthcoming.

Extra Innings 

I’ve can’t even.

They Said It

Quotes from new director of player development Bobby Basham on some of the younger Cubs stars.

  • On Nico Hoerner: “I think the constant story with Nico has been the guy has special makeup. He’s a worker. He’s a competitor. … I don’t know of many guys who could have made their plans to show up in the Arizona Fall League, three weeks later get a call, get on a plane and show up and make their big league debut for a playoff-contending team and do as well as he did.”
  • On Brennen Davis: “I think our thought process on the amateur side was this guy’s going to be a slower build and his raw athleticism needed to be harnessed on a baseball field. But he made some adjustments with our hitting staff, really dug in, moved him off the plate a little bit, created some space, started to understand his body. It just clicked way quicker than we could have hoped for … and we hope it’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
  • On Brailyn Marquez: “This is a 20-year-old lefty still growing into his body. When he got locked in, there were some ace-like performances there. He needs to stay healthy, keep improving his command and build up his stamina. But this guy has as high a ceiling as anyone.”

Wednesday Walk Up Song

Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve – Watching Soto and Springer perform last night reminds me that the Cubs youth movement that started in 2015 has basically stalled, and that as much as I would love the Cubs to hire Ross, Espada may be a better choice to help get those players out of their collective rut.

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