The Rundown: Cubs Enter Easiest Part of Schedule, Stroman Ready to Return, Shift Rules Working

“We’re all movin’ on up. Lord, have mercy. We’re movin’ on up!” – The Impressions, We’re a Winner

The Cubs capped a semi-successful road trip by taking two of three from the Blue Jays but still managed to fall in the standings. The North Siders trail the Brewers by 3.5 games and the Marlins have a one-game lead over Chicago for the final Wild Card spot. No pumping the brakes now. Chicago’s North Side baseballers have upcoming series against the White Sox, Royals, Tigers, and Pirates before a three-game set at Wrigley Field against the Brewers to close the month of August.

On the flip side, Milwaukee butts up against one of the rougher stretches of their schedule. They play the Dodgers in Los Angeles before traveling to Texas to play the Rangers. The Brewers then face the Twins and Padres at home before their trip to Chicago. The Cubs should be in first place when the teams meet; if they’re not, something will have gone dreadfully wrong.

I know the temptation to sit starters will gnaw at David Ross, but it’s time to go chips-in with the division crown within reach. That means letting Mike Tauchman hit leadoff and keeping Jeimer Candelario and Christopher Morel in the lineup. Nick Madrigal can rotate in and out at third, but Ross needs to keep Patrick Wisdom on the bench. Chicago seems to lose its spark when Tauchman isn’t playing, as evidenced by Sunday’s 11-4 loss to the Blue Jays. Sure, Jameson Taillon pitched poorly, but imagine where the Cubs would be if Ross refused to enlist his wretched Sunday lineup all season.

This is where you push the envelope and punch a hole in the sky because the combined record of Chicago’s next four opponents is 192-284 (.403). The Cubs won’t win all 12 of those games, but they should. Let’s hope Marcus Stroman is ready to go. Keeping Drew Smyly out of the rotation will go a long way toward catching and passing the Brewers. The team expects Stroman to be activated Wednesday, the first day he is eligible, to start against the White Sox at Wrigley Field.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Manny Machado might want to check ESPN or FanGraphs. Baltimore is 73-45 this year and was 83-79 in 2022, but hadn’t had a winning season since 2015, a stretch that included three seasons with at least 108 losses.

Central Intelligence

Climbing the Ladder

But now we’re on our way, let the ride just take us. Side by side and make us see the world through new eyes every day.” – Pet Shop Boys, Winner

Bellinger is on pace to finish with 5.8 WAR, which would be the second-best of his career. Swanson is right behind him, with an expected WAR of 5.4, and Nico Hoerner is close to that pace, too.

  • Games Played: 118
  • Record: 61-57 (.517)
  • Total Plate Appearances: 4,538
  • Total Strikeouts: 1,062
  • Strikeout Rate: 23.4%
  • Team Batting Average: .255
  • Runs Scored: 597
  • Runs Allowed: 533
  • Chances of Making the Playoffs: 67.6%, 3.4% to win the World Series

How About That!

OPS isn’t a perfect indicator when calculating OPS+.

José Ramírez has been helped the most by the new shift rules, but Bellinger and Jason Heyward aren’t far behind.

The Rays have placed Wander Franco on the restricted list amid allegations on social media of the nature of his relationship with a teenager.

Umpire Ángel Hernández lost again in his racial discrimination lawsuit against Major League Baseball when a federal appeals court refused to reinstate his case Tuesday.

The Professor Obvious Award goes to Bleacher Report for ranking Shohei Ohtani as the top player with whom to build a franchise. Of course, it hasn’t done the Angels much good, has it?

Yu Darvish passed Hideo Nomo on the list of most MLB strikeouts by a pitcher born in Japan.

Shane Victorino and MLB are calling for financial assistance to help Hawaii where a series of wildfires has killed at least 96 people this month. You can help by texting HAWAII to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Monday’s Three Stars

  1. Max Scherzer – The new Rangers ace dominated the Angels last night, pitching seven innings of one-hit baseball with 11 strikeouts in a 12-0 win.
  2. Eddie Rosario – The veteran outfielder led the Braves with four RBI on a 3-for-5 night that included a home run in an 11-3 win over the struggling Yankees. Atlanta entered the game slugging .502 as a team, which would be the best mark in 25 years.
  3. Grayson Rodriguez – The Baltimore starter outdueled Darvish in a 4-1 win over the Padres. Rodriguez tossed seven innings of three-hit ball with seven punchouts as the Orioles increased their playoff odds to 98.9%.

Extra Innings

I like the looks of this list.

Tuesday Morning Six-Pack

  1. Retired NFL player Michael Oher says the popular movie and book about his adoption by a white couple when he was a teenager in need of a stable home are based on a recently discovered lie. That’s according to a court filing that accuses Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy of never adopting him and cheating him out of millions of dollars. Big Mike has never been a fan of the film The Blind Side. The allegation makes the line “Don’t you dare lie to me,” seem awful fallacious.
  2. In a huge win for “yutes,” yesterday a Montana state court ruled in favor of young people who claimed the state violated their right to a clean environment by allowing the proliferation of fossil fuels without checking their impact on climate change.
  3. July’s record-breaking temperatures were not subtle. A new heatwave is headed this way this weekend.
  4. If you want to go Mach 10, you should at least understand how airplanes fly.
  5. Hip-hop celebrated its 50th birthday on August 11. The genre was born at a house party in the Bronx in 1973. I disagree. Check out the hardcore eponymous release by The Last Poets in 1970 and thank me later for enlightening you.
  6. What’s the greatest debut rock album of all time? I chose Led Zeppelin I, and if you agree with me we’d both be correct.

They Said It

  • “I love unique looks in the bullpen. Having guys with different slots, different pitch types, and pitch packages really allows you to do some cool things as far as matching guys up with certain hitters.”Tommy Hottovy

Tuesday Walk-Up Song

Not the first drop, but assuredly the first mainstream hip-hop hit. Also, check out the song’s origins according to Nile Rodgers.

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