The Rundown: Brown Mows Down Brewers in Big Win, Davis Scorching for I-Cubs, Aaron Inches Closer to Bonds in Home Run Totals

“This city desert makes you feel so cold. It’s got so many people, but it’s got no soul.” – Gerry Rafferty, Baker Street

The Cubs had been lifeless, limp, monotonous, and tedious for the better part of a week, but Ben Brown put the team on his shoulders last night and carried them home. Brown pitched seven innings of no-hit baseball, leading Chicago to a 6-3 win over the Brewers to break his team’s five-game losing streak.

The win against Milwaukee was important because the Cubs had fallen to .500 for the first time since an April 1 win over the Rockies evened them up at 2-2 on the season. Chicago’s North Side Baseballers were swinging big bats back then, but have been as frigid as a polar vortex since the beginning of May. Their starting pitching has been magnificent at times, including the first two games of this series, but you can’t win if you don’t score.

Brown left with a 1-0 lead last night, then Héctor Neris blew the save in the bottom of the 9th. A late flurry of 10th-inning offense led the Cubs to victory, evening the road series at a game apiece. The extra-inning five spot was a welcome turn of events considering Chicago’s flailing offense. It also took a little heat off manager Craig Counsell. Of course, Counsell isn’t responsible for the floating garbage barge Jed Hoyer gave him, but he was supposed to be worth at least eight wins over David Ross. That hasn’t been the case so far.

With one-third of the season in the books, the Cubs still feel like they are a third baseman, first baseman, starter, and reliever or two away from competing. That’s been the wish list every offseason since Hoyer took over, and though Michael Busch had a big game yesterday, the Cubs aren’t getting enough juice from anybody in their lineup. Brown has been fantastic when tasked with big assignments and it would be absurd to think he’s going back to the bullpen anytime soon. Kyle Hendricks and Jordan Wicks are dependable starters when they’re on, but each should be forced to pitch as well as Brown has to earn the right to start.

Brown had a rocky debut though he has been on fire lately. He has a 1.61 ERA in 12 appearances since, including six starts. He’s allowed 27 hits in 44.1 innings while striking out 54 batters. Opponents are hitting just .179  with a single home run against the rookie hurler when he starts. A rotation of Brown, Shōta Imanaga, Justin Steele, Javier Assad, and Jameson Taillon would give Chicago an opportunity to win every game. That said, Cubs’ hitters must start pulling their weight, too.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

The play-by-play of this rain delay is as funny as the incident. Nobody was hurt, thankfully.


Central Intelligence

Climbing the Ladder

“Trying to make some sense of it all, but I can see it makes no sense at all.” – Stealer’s Wheel, Stuck in the Middle With You

The Cubs were 17-10 (.630) before dropping 17 of their next 27 games to fall to .500. Imanaga (3.0), Assad (2.2), and Brown (1.4) lead the team in WAR, while Mike Tauchman (0.9) is Chicago’s best hitter by that metric. Five of Chicago’s nine regular hitters are below league average in OPS+ while Nick Madrigal and Yan Gomes are near the bottom of the league in total offensive production.

  • Games Played: 55
  • Record: 28-27 (.509), 2nd place in NL Central
  • In One-Run Games: 10-11 (.476)
  • Total Plate Appearances: 2,065
  • Total Strikeouts: 492
  • Strikeout Rate: 23.83%
  • Team Batting Average: .227
  • With Runners in Scoring Position: 101-for-421 (.240)
  • Runs Scored: 234
  • Runs Allowed: 238
  • Pythagorean Record: 27-28
  • Chances of Making the Playoffs: 64.5%, 1.7% chance to win World Series 

How About That!

Josh Gibson now owns several MLB records after his historic numbers and other Negro Leagues stats have been added to the Major League leaderboards.

The addition could make Henry Aaron the all-time home run champion once again, as his Negro League stats would leave him two shy of Barry Bonds. That said, about 25% of those stats are still missing. Aaron also hit five home runs for the Indianapolis Clowns in 1951-52, though those numbers are not deemed official. Stay tuned, research is continuing.

Ángel Hernández finally made the right call. The controversial umpire announced he is retiring from MLB effective immediately.

Hernández leaves the game with a lengthy list of shameful calls. Count Kyle Schwarber as one player who is happy to see the umpire walk away.

Star outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL.

Rival executives believe the Braves will swing a trade to replace Acuña. The White Sox may have a suitable replacement in Tommy Pham.

Bob Nightengale dropped some interesting trade nuggets in his recent piece (scroll to the bottom):

  • The White Sox are resisting all temptation to trade center fielder Luis Robert Jr., who is scheduled to return in June after being sidelined for two months.
  • Boston plans to trade All-Star veteran closer Kenley Jansen by the trade deadline. He’s earning $16 million this year and the Red Sox have no interest in bringing him back.
  • Teams are keeping a close eye on Rockies catcher Elías Díaz. He’s having his career-best season, hitting .311 with four homers, 23 RBI, and a .804 OPS. Diaz is a free agent after the season.
  • The Blue Jays are the team buyers are keeping their eye on at the trade deadline. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Justin Turner, George Springer, Jordan Romano, Yusei Kikuchi, and Chris Bassitt are reportedly available.

Tuesday’s Three Stars

  1. Brown – He dominated the Brewers. Enough said.
  2. Jeremiah Estrada – The Padres reliever struck out the side in the 9th inning yesterday and has strung together 13 consecutive Ks and has 28 punchouts in 16.1 innings this season. The Cubs waived Estrada on November 3, 2023, to free up a roster spot ahead of free agency.
  3. Josh Naylor – The Guardians first baseman blasted two home runs with five RBI in Cleveland’s 13-7 win over the Rockies.

Extra Innings

Brown, Gasser, and Paul Skenes are three of the most promising rookies in baseball, and all pitch in the NL Central.

Suicide Squeeze

The 2024 season is now one-third complete. Should the Cubs be buyers, sellers, or neither at this year’s trade deadline? If you choose to sell, who would you try to move and what would you expect in return?

Safety Squeeze

I had my electrophysiology appointment yesterday and, unfortunately, it looks like I need to go the surgical route to have my pacemaker leads removed from my heart. The actual implant was removed seven years ago and the wires and anchors remained attached to my heart but will come out June 7.

The surgery is very risky, and though they’ll still try the laser option, my surgeon believes the leads have been in too long for the non-invasive route to be successful. I received my first implant in 1985, but pacemakers at that time were designed to prolong life for just a few years. None have been designed for a 40-year shelf life or longer.

The clinical success rate of laser lead extraction is about 97.7% if it can be done. The surgical option is successful 100% of the time with a caveat: There’s a chance of puncturing the heart or tearing a surrounding blood vessel. This can cause major bleeding in the chest and might require a blood transfusion or immediate open-heart surgery. The fatality rate drops to about 50% in those instances according to the surgeon, especially if my heart needs to be stopped, but he doesn’t believe we will get to that point. I know my fingers are crossed.

I’ll need some time off to recover, probably 3-4 weeks. If you want to know how to get hold of me while I get better leave a message in the comments section. I will step back through most of the recovery period and will post articles only when I have the energy to do so.

They Said It

  • “[Brown had] an angry fastball. It was just really good, and it was overpowering for much of the game.” – Counsell
  • “No one has been hot. Ultimately, that’s a very unusual thing. Normally, you have a few guys who are hot, a few guys who are cold, and a few guys in the middle. Right now, there’s no one carrying the load. That really has an impact. All these guys that have really long track records of success, I think they’ll get back to where they have been and that’ll allow us to start scoring runs again.” – Hoyer
  • “We had a really good offense last year. We’re struggling this year with the same guys. I think we’ll hit. I don’t know what else to think of it. Obviously, we’ve asked as many questions as we can. The hard part is there’s no team meeting to snap your fingers and do it. You have to come out of these things. We don’t know when. But I’m very confident we’ll come out of this and we’ll also start scoring runs. I do think there will be a cumulative exhale.” – Hoyer

Wednesday Walk-Up Song

Brown had one angry fastball!

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