The Rundown: Hoerner and Contreras Lead Cubs, Chicago Could Set Dubious Batting Record, Epstein Believes Offensive Turnaround Coming

Willson Contreras is really rolling right now and may be single-handedly jumpstarting the Cubs’ offense, but I think Nico Hoerner deserves as much credit as anybody for last night’s 8-5 win over the Reds. Scoring from second on a grounder to the right side is the kind of ballsy baserunning that is usually the M.O. of Javier Báez, but Li’l Nico showed he can be just as draw-dropping quick as his teammate. This was after he hit a two-run double to put the Cubs on the board.

In a game took over four hours to complete, not including a rain delay that pushed the start back by well over an hour, that play gave the Cubs a lead they would not relinquish despite a shaky 8th inning. Hoerner’s double also snapped a 17-inning scoreless streak, and last night’s win stretched their lead in the National League Central to three games as the Cardinals split a doubleheader with the Tigers yesterday.

Contreras has really been surging since the start of September, going 4-for-4 last night and reaching base in all five plate appearances. He ripped a two-out double to score Kris Bryant for an insurance run in the bottom of the 8th. Contreras is now batting .457 (16-for-35) with 10 runs scored and eight RBI on the month

The Cubs now head to Milwaukee for a three-game set with the Brewers. Jon Lester (2-2, 5.80 ERA) and Brandon Woodruff (2-2, 3.91 ERA) are the probable starters for tonight’s 7:1pm game. Damn, I wish I could attend those games.

Cubs News & Notes

  • Kyle Ryan picked up the win in relief last night and he is surging thanks to an uptick in velocity.
  • Entering last night’s game, Chicago was only hitting .207 at Wrigley Field this season, 30 points below the all-time lowest batting average set in 2015, per historian Ed Hartig. With roughly 150 at-bats remaining over five home games, the Cubs will need to go 56-for-150 (.373) against the Indians and Twins to avoid a new low-water mark.
  • Thursday’s eight runs are the second-most the Cubs have scored at home this season. Their season-high is nine, set back on July 26 against the Brewers.
  • Bryant is having his worst season ever and needs to get really hot to salvage his 2020 season ($). Frankly I’ll be okay if he gets hot in the postseason.
  • From the above article: Over half (52 of 102) of Bryant’s plate appearances this season have been against pitchers he’s seeing for the first time. He’s posted a slash line of .208/.269/.354 with a 25% strikeout rate and 5.8% walk rate against those pitchers.
  • Ian Happ is having a breakout season and could lead the team’s next wave of core players.
  • Theo Epstein thinks every Chicago player is capable of a strong finish, including Báez, Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Kyle Schwarber.
  • Adbert Alzolay started last night but didn’t factor in the decision. With two days off in the next week, Alzolay may not need to start again except in an emergency.
  • I saw this on TV last night: The Cubs bullpen has the best ERA in baseball since August 26.
  • Colin Rea was optioned to South Bend so Alzolay could make last night’s start.
  • Trevor Bauer said the Cubs were chirping at him all night on Wednesday, even when the Reds’ ace left the game with a 3-0 lead.

Odds & Sods

Wednesday was one for the record books.

Apropos of Nothing

COVID-19 is still a thing, in case you forgot, so please continue to protect yourselves. I do believe a vaccine is coming soon, so there is hope on the horizon.

How About That!

The 20 combined RBI for Adam Duvall, Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuña Jr. on Wednesday night tied the MLB mark for RBI by a trio of teammates in one game. It happened on April 30, 1944, when the Giants’ Phil Weintraub (11) and Ernie Lombardi (7) were joined by pair of teammates who each drove in two. More famously, when the Red Sox routed the St. Louis Browns 29-4 on June 8, 1950, Bobby Doerr (8), Walt Dropo (7) and Ted Williams (5) drove in 20 runs between them.

Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts played second base last night for the first time since 2014.

Mike Trout is good at baseball.

Due to makeup games that were postponed due to COVID-19, the Marlins, Cardinals, and Phillies will have to navigate brutal September schedules.

The Marlins and Phillies are playing in baseball’s first non-postseason seven-game series since 1967.

Joe Kelly is the hero MLB needs right now.

Fernando Tatís Jr. leads the list of MLB’s 100 most interesting players. At first I was shocked Yu Darvish didn’t make the list, but it looks like pitchers were not included.

Red Sox rookie Bobby Dalbec homered in his fifth consecutive game last night, and has hit all six of his taters on the season in those five games.

The Giants have released former World Series MVP Pablo Sandoval.

Thursday’s Three Stars

  1. Brady Singer – The rookie Royals righty held the Indians hitless through eight before giving up a single to Matt Herges. Singer finished the night with eight strikeouts against just two walks and the lone hit in improving to 2-4 on the season.
  2. Nico Hoerner – The rookie second baseman was a demon on the basepaths, going 2-for-4 on the night with three RBI, a stolen base, and scoring the go-ahead run from second on an infield single.
  3. Willson Contreras – The backstop was 4-for-4 with two doubles and a walk, scored twice, and drove in the Cubs Final run of the evening.

Extra Innings

From 1996-2005 I worked for a trading firm in Chicago and spent 25% of my time working at the American Stock Exchange in Manhattan. A lot of my friends worked for Cantor-Fitzgerald and all of them passed away when the World Trade Center was bombed on September 11, 2001. It still seems like yesterday that we were watching everything happen on live television, instant messaging our friends in New York to evacuate those offices.

They Said It

  • “Every swing [Contreras] takes right now, it feels like it’s damage. Every swing is either straight back or a rocket somewhere. He’s taken his walks too. He’s gathered the strike zone of where people are trying to get him out.”David Ross
  • “We haven’t gotten some of the expected contributions from our best hitters, that’s playing into it overall,” Epstein said. “You could parse the numbers any way that you want. And if you look deep enough you can find evidence that we’re hitting into some poor luck. But I don’t want to rely on that. I don’t think that’s a primary factor in what’s going on. We just haven’t really had sustained offense here, and I think we need our best leaders to produce in order to accomplish that. We’ve gotten solid contributions from elsewhere in the lineup.” – Theo Epstein
  • “They were yelling at me all night. It’s kind of funny, you know, I’ve got to give them props. They actually chirped all night and yelled at me all night. Normally when they get behind, they shut up real quick. So I really got to give them props. I mean, even when I got taken out, they’re yelling ‘bye’ at me. So I give them a nice little wave and some other stuff because it was impressive that you can chirp at someone after he shoved it up your ass for 7 2/3 innings.” – Trevor Bauer

Friday Walk Up Song

Fortunate Son by Creedence Clearwater Revival – I often frown on patriotic jingo, so 9/11 sometimes represents mixed emotions for me when politicians use the remembrance of that day as propaganda, especially during an election year. Citizens do it, too. One of the saddest moments of my life was my first trip to New York City after the attacks, when the Manhattan financial district was mostly just a gigantic hole in the ground and New Yorkers were selling pictures of the twin towers pre-bombing for $50 and up. I have friends who are now ghosts there and it ripped the soul from my body.

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