The Rundown: Cubs Facing Flamethrowers on Current Road Trip, Taillon Pushed Back, Mason Miller Drawing Trade Interest

“Sit down, take a look at yourself. Don’t you want to be somebody? Someday somebody’s gonna see inside… You have to face up, you can’t run and hide.” – Little River Band, Lonesome Loser

The Cubs are battling the mother of all slumps, and as a reward they get to face flamethrowers Jared Jones, Paul Skenes, and Chris Sale in four of their next six games. O Death, where is thy sting?

To make matters worse, Chicago scratched starter Jameson Taillon for tonight’s game, bumping up Javier Assad in his place. Hayden Wesneski can ably replace Taillon in the rotation, and Kyle Hendricks will arrive soon, but the Cubs are a better team with Wesneski in the bullpen. Taillon has been dominant since returning from injury, so a relapse or another injury would be unfortunate. Chicago’s relief corps is a tad better than its struggling offense right now, though neither is trending upward.

Manager Craig Counsell does not agree that his team is struggling at the plate.

“I don’t necessarily agree with that,” Counsell said after Wednesday’s game. “On the road trip maybe. This is a baseball season. You’re going to face some guys that are pretty good. We faced a guy that was pretty good today. That’s part of what the season entails.”

That guy would be Dylan Cease, who looked like the second coming of Don Drysdale on Wednesday. Cease held the Cubs to one hit with 12 strikeouts over seven innings. The lone knock was a squibbler by Yan Gomes that Cease couldn’t come up with. Perhaps that game was rock bottom for Chicago’s bats or maybe they just need a one-on-one and a bottle of rum with Jobu.

Jones, Skenes, and Sale will take turns being that guy, though Skenes might be on a  65-75 pitch limit. If the Cubs can work the counts in their favor they can get to Pittsburgh’s bullpen, which is among the worst in baseball right now. It’s still not as bad as Chicago’s, though, especially if Wesneski has to start.

The Cubs usually hit the Pirates well, but Jones and Skenes are unknown entities. Still, I expect the Cubs to have a big series and take two of three. Cody Bellinger, Nico Hoerner, and Michael Busch will be your weekend heroes. See you all Monday.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

I love that Morel is bribing Tom Ricketts with an autographed baseball in exchange for a potential shutdown closer, like Mason Miller, for example.

Central Intelligence

Climbing the Ladder

“I laughed and shook his hand and made my way back home.” – Nirvana, The Man Who Sold the World (David Bowie cover)

The Cubs were so bad against Cease on Wednesday that their team batting average dropped five points. Chicago needs to snap out of those offensive doldrums now that their schedule is tilted more heavily toward divisional matchups. They’re climbing the ladder from the bottom of the well right now, and things won’t be any easier when they face Skenes.

  • Games Played: 38
  • Record: 22-16 (.579), 2nd place in NL Central
  • In One-Run Games: 7-6 (.538)
  • Total Plate Appearances: 1,421
  • Total Strikeouts: 335
  • Strikeout Rate: 23.57%
  • Team Batting Average: .233
  • With Runners in Scoring Position: 73-for-300 (.243)
  • Runs Scored: 174
  • Runs Allowed: 161
  • Pythagorean Record: 20-18
  • Chances of Making the Playoffs: 86.4%, 3.8% chance to win World Series 

How About That!

Gymnast Olivia Dunne is Skenes’ girlfriend and some are calling her baseball’s version of Taylor Swift. Please make it stop.

Miller and Bo Bichette are among a dozen young stars who could be traded ahead of this year’s deadline.

Miller is drawing trade interest, but “no team has come close” to meeting the team’s “steep” demands ($), per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. How steep? He’d probably cost Hoyer two top-100 prospects. That list includes Pete Crow-Armstrong, Cade Horton, Owen Caissie, Matt Shaw, Kevin Alcántara, James Triantos, and Jefferson Rojas.

The Orioles have the most talented young core in all of baseball.

Padres second baseman Luis Arráez will make MLB history if he wins the batting title this year because it will be his third consecutive title with three separate teams.

The industry expectation is that the Marlins will continue to move players well ahead of the trade deadline. Jesús Luzardo and Jazz Chisholm Jr. could be the next to depart.

ESPN 1000’s David Kaplan said earlier this week the Cubs and Marlins could be working on a deal to address Chicago’s bullpen.

Thursday’s Three Stars

  1. Dairon Blanco – A 3-for-3 game with a home run, four runs scored, two RBI, and two stolen bases is about as good as it gets. The Kansas City left fielder led the Royals to a 10-4 win over the Angels.
  2. Manuel Margot – The speedy Twins centerfielder plated five runners but did so with just one hit, a double.
  3. Michael Kopech – The White Sox closer earned a four-out save while throwing nothing but strikes.

Extra Innings

I find it hard to believe that no Cubs player has hit for the cycle since Mark Grace in 1993, but it is accurate.

Friday Morning Six-Pack

  1. Metrics prove that the Bears could be a playoff team this year despite going into battle with rookie QB Caleb Williams.
  2. I spent the last two days rewatching The Last Dance while recuperating and, yes, it’s still a great series. Nobody competes more than Michael Jordan, and nobody holds a stronger grudge either.
  3. Inside the NBA stalwart Charles Barkley could command a contract worth as much as $20 million per year on the open market, per FOS, if TNT’s broadcast partnership with the NBA is not renewed after next season.
  4. The Beehive State is buzzing. Not only was Utah ranked the best state in the country for the second consecutive year by US News & World Report, it also has a new NHL team. They don’t have a nickname yet, though six of the finalists (Frost, Ice, Freeze, Blast, Blizzard, and Glacier) sound like Gatorade flavors.
  5. Not everybody appreciates the Grateful Dead with the verve that I do, but if you’re like-minded, you’ll love this full concert from Orchard Park, NY in 1989. It’s one of the band’s best recorded shows.
  6. The Chinese are taking knockoffs to a new extreme by dyeing dogs to look like pandas for a Taizhou Zoo exhibit.

They Said It

  • “I don’t expect that [Marlins-Padres trade] to kick off like a ton of early deals. Maybe it’ll be earlier than usual, but it’s not going to be all [of a] sudden, in mid-May, everyone’s making a bunch of trades. I don’t expect that to happen.” – Hoyer
  • “Mistakes happen on the baseball field, for every team. Every team, every day, mistakes happen. And some of them aren’t mistakes. Some of them are created by the other team. I think there are areas defensively that you’re really happy about, too. I think there are areas of, frankly, holding runners that I’ve been really happy about. I think we’ve also been pretty darn good at it up until [having a bad day]. The numbers would bear that out in limiting attempts. You can’t just throw your head [down] and be all upset when mistakes happen because they’re part of the game.” – Counsell

Friday Walk-Up Song

Let’s hope the Cubs find their wood this weekend. Maybe Pfizer makes Viagra for bats, or at least some John de Conqueror root.

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