The Cubs are closing in on a spot in the post-season tournament and with another good week could punch their ticket to the playoffs at Wrigley Field. There are seven games remaining on home schedule. The Cubs take on the Brewers for the next three days. After Thursday’s off-day, the Pirates spend the weekend at Wrigley. The last home game of the regular season is next Monday against the Royals.
The Cubs enter play Monday two games behind the Pirates in the standings and nine games in front of the Giants for the second NL Wild Card. Any five combinations of Cubs wins or Giants losses and the Cubs are post-season bound.
Correction: The Giants and Nationals are both nine games behind the Cubs for the second NL Wild Card. Any five combinations of Cubs wins and both Giants and Nationals losses as of Monday would put the Cubs in the post-season tournament.
While the Cubs are busy with the Brewers, the Pirates have four games in Colorado. The Giants have Monday off before a three-game series in San Diego (Sept. 22-24) and three across the Bay in Oakland (Sept. 25-27).
Update: The Nationals have three games at home against the Orioles to start the week (Sept. 21-23) and host the Phillies over the weekend (Sept. 25-27).
Joe Maddon will have to make sure his team does not have a letdown for the next three games. After facing the Pirates and Cardinals in back-to-back series, the Cubs will have to keep up the intensity against a last place Brewers team.
The Cubs have a chance to make the weekend series with the Pirates and the last seven games of the regular season about home field advantage in the Wild Card Game not about just getting in the tournament.
Jason Hammel gets the ball Monday night in the first of three with the Brewers. Hammel’s had quite a bit of success against the Brewers over the last two seasons and maybe he could use Monday has a way to point his season back in the right direction.
Jake Arrieta gets another shot at win No. 20 on Tuesday and Kyle Hendricks is expected to start Wednesday.
Will the Cubs tweak the rotation with Thursday’s off-day?
Dan Haren is currently scheduled to start the opener of the Pirates series on Friday. The Cubs have not skipped any of the starters this season, but have pushed them back. Jon Lester could pitch on regular rest if he faces Gerrit Cole in the first of three with the Pirates. And Maddon could actually run out Jon Lester, Jason Hammel and Jake Arrieta in the Pirates series with all three pitching on regular rest.
If Arrieta starts Sunday night against the Pirates, his last start of the regular season would be in Milwaukee on Oct. 2, which would put him on the hill for the Wild Card Game (Oct. 7) on regular rest.
Joe Maddon has not addressed the plans for the rotation moving forward..
Buster’s Top 10
The Cubs moved into the top three in Buster Olney’s weekly power rankings. The Cubs went 5-2 in seven games against the Pirates and Cardinals this week.
Buster Olney’s top 10: Cardinals, Pirates, Cubs, Dodgers, Royals, Blue Jays, Mets, Rangers, Yankees and Astros.
As Joe Maddon said, “It’s not a bad week between Pittsburgh and St. Louis. If you’re a Cubs fan, you’ve got to be pretty proud of your boys.”
News and Notes
• According to Elias Sports, Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant became the first pair of Cubs rookies to hit consecutive home runs in more than 60 years when the two went back-to-back Saturday. Ernie Banks and Gene Baker hit consecutive homers on April 23, 1954 at Crosley Field against the Reds.
• The Cubs have won 87 games under Joe Maddon in his first year as the team’s skipper. Only three managers have recorded more victories in their first season with the Cubs than Maddon … Johnny Evers (88 in 1913), Jim Frey (96 in 1984) and Dusty Baker (88 in 2003).
• Anthony Rizzo has hit 30 home runs this season and has been hit 29 times. Don Baylor is the only player in Major League history that has 30 homers and 30 HBP in the same season. Baylor had 31 home runs and was hit by 35 pitches playing for Boston in 1986.
• Jon Lester is 11 strikeouts away from having the most strikeouts in a single season by a Cubs’ left-handed pitcher … Ken Holtzman, 202 (1970); Hippo Vaughn, 195 (1917); Jon Lester, 192 (2015); Dick Ellsworth, 185 (1963).
• Peter Gammons looked back at the recently completed Cubs and Pirates series.
• Pedro Strop received a day at the beach as Joe Maddon promised him. The Cubs think Pedro Strop has turned a corner against the Cardinals according to Comcast SportsNet. Strop is 1-2 with a save in his last 29 appearances. Strop has allowed eight runs on 18 hits with 11 walks and 29 strikeouts in 25 1/3 innings (2.84 ERA, 1.14 WHIP).
• Bruce Levine reported the Cubs are America’s Team again. The Cubs are playing in front of an average of 35,000 fans per road game, “making them the top road draw in the majors.” The Cubs averaged 36,272 fans through 73 home games. The Cubs are on pace to draw 2.9 million at Wrigley this season and that is with losing ticket sales in the bleachers at the beginning of the year.
• According to Bruce Levine, the Cubs-Cardinals scrap took form of hard slides in final matchup. Levine noted the late slides made at second base by two Cardinals players and asked Addison Russell about Yadier Molina taking him out.
And last, but not least, the best organization in baseball showed a lot of class Sunday.
This Day In Cubstory
1997 – Ryne Sandberg went 2-for-3 in his final game at Wrigley Field. Sandberg was lifted in the fifth inning for a pinch-runner and made a curtain call while Harry Caray sang the 7th inning stretch. The Cubs beat Curt Schilling and the Phillies 11-3 and Kevin Tapani picked up his sixth straight win.
1990 – Cubs released Mark Clear and Tom Thobe
1981 – Scott Rice, born
1975 – Doug Davis, born
1971 – Ron Santo hit the 300th home run of his career and Burt Hooton blanked the Mets and Tom Seaver 3-0 at Wrigley Field.
1970 – Cubs selected Hoyt Wilhelm off waivers from the Braves. In December of 1970, the Cubs traded Wilhelm back to the Braves.
1966 – The smallest crowd in the history of Wrigley Field was on hand to see the Cubs beat the Reds 9-3. Only 530 attended the game that lasted two hours and 24 minutes to complete and featured home runs by Billy Williams and Aldolfo Phillips.
1919 – In the final home game of the season, the Cubs beat the Braves 3-0 behind a five-hitter from Grover Cleveland Alexander. It took 58 minutes to play the game, the shortest nine-inning game in Cubs history.
1901 – Clarence Child singled home the winning run in the 17th inning as Chicago beat Boston 1-0. “Long Tom” Hughes struck out 13 while going the distance. Hughes’ outing was the longest, by innings, since Clark Griffith tossed 14 on June 19, 1900. There was not an extra basehit in the game and Hughes’ complete game remains the longest shutout in Cubs’ history.