The Cubs outplayed the Cardinals for 25 of the 27 innings of the three-game series, but it was the eighth inning of the finale that changed the perception of the trip to St. Louis. The bullpen had another meltdown against the Cardinals. And the players were not happy or satisfied and reportedly upset with only winning the series.
The Cubs maintained the lead over the Giants for the second Wild Card (nine games) but lost ground to the Pirates (three back) and the Cardinals in the division (7 ½ games).
With 24 games remaining in the regular season, the Cubs goal is to catch the Cardinals in the NL Central. Losing Wednesday made a tough task even more difficult.
Joe Maddon confirmed Wednesday that Jake Arrieta has been lined up to start the NL Wild Card game on Oct. 7. With Monday’s off-day, the Cubs are moving Arrieta up a day in the rotation. Arrieta will start the first game of the day-night doubleheader Tuesday at PNC Park. Moving Arrieta up in the rotation lines him up to pitch on regular rest in the Wild Card game. The Pirates have already altered their rotation so Gerrit Cole can start the one-game playoff.
By moving Arrieta up, he will start today in Philadelphia, Sept. 15 (Pirates), Sept. 20 (Cardinals at Wrigley) and during the Pirates series the last weekend at Wrigley according to Comcast SportsNet.
Jon Lester was asked how he felt about the Cubs lining up Arrieta for the Wild Card game. Lester said he would be on the top step cheering on and supporting Arrieta. Lester pointed out Arrieta has been the best pitcher in the National League and endorsed Arrieta starting the game.
Lester cautioned the Cubs have to first get to the game. But once they do, he “could give two flying you-know-whats” as to who starts. Lester wants what is best for the Cubs and gives the team the best chance to win.
According to the Sun-Times, the Cubs made the decision three weeks ago that Jake Arrieta would be put in a position to start the Wild Card game.
Jake Arrieta is 2-1 in three starts against the Pirates this season with a 0.86 ERA and 0.71 WHIP (two runs on 11 hits with four walks and 19 strikeouts in 21 innings). At PNC, Arrieta is 3-0 in four career starts with a 2.63 ERA and 0.88 WHIP.
- Full Report from Comcast SportsNet
- Full Report from the Sun-Times
- Full Report from Carrie Muskat
- Full Report from Comcast SportsNet – Lester endorses Arrieta
- Full Report from ESPN Chicago – Lester endorses Arrieta
Javier Baez looks like a different player at the plate (8-for-25 with two doubles, a home run, two walks and six strikeouts) than a year ago. Baez is much more under control and he’s hitting the ball up the middle and to the right side. Defensively, Baez looks incredibly comfortable at third base. And he’s made rather difficult plays at third, second and short look routine.
Joe Maddon loves Baez and everything he brings to the table. Maddon is convinced when he is able to slow down his at bats like he slows the game down in the field that he will be a special player.
Maddon talked to the beat writers about Baez prior to Wednesday’s game. Maddon said, “He falls out of bed, he can play defense. It’s incredible to watch how smooth he is. He’s just different. I don’t know if I’ve had anybody quite that comfortable on the infield, especially at that age.”
And Javier Baez is left-handed. Mark Grote reported Wednesday everything Baez does outside of baseball is as a lefty. Baez attributes being left-handed has helped him with his defense.
The Cubs bullpen had another bad day in St. Louis on Wednesday and gave a game to the Cardinals. Joe Maddon defended his decision to lift Jon Lester after seven innings and retiring 20 of the last 21 batters he faced.
With the bottom of the lineup due in the eighth, Maddon wanted Pedro Strop to have a clean inning. If Lester would have allowed a baserunner, Maddon would have gone to the pen. Strop is his primary eighth inning man. Strop’s worst outings of the season have come against the Cardinals and Maddon thought Strop could get the job done against the bottom of the lineup and “re-establish his confidence.” Strop walked Mark Reynolds and it changed Maddon’s plan.
Joe Maddon has gotten a lot of a makeshift bullpen this season. Now it is crunch time and relievers are going to have to step up and get the job done.
A healthy Neil Ramirez and Carl Edwards Jr. could have big roles over the next three-plus weeks. It will be interesting to see how Maddon uses the two right handers who have dynamic stuff.
As Maddon said, the Cubs can no longer lose leads late in games.
News, Notes and Rumors
• According to ESPN Chicago, don’t discount Dave Martinez’s impact on Cubs’ turnaround.
• Jon Lester wouldn’t point fingers after Cubs could not finish off the Cardinals according to a report from Comcast SportsNet.
• Joe Maddon has repeated for at least a month his regulars will be given days off down the stretch to keep them fresh. Kris Bryant received a day off Wednesday. Bryant was in the on-deck circle in the eighth, but Jonathan Herrera ended up batting for Jon Lester. Addison Russell is next in line for a day off according to ESPN Chicago.
• Kyle Schwarber has the quickest bat Tim McCarver has seen in the National League since Billy Williams.
• According to Jon Heyman, De Jon Watson, Mike Hazen and Frank Wren “have surfaced as candidates for the Red Sox GM job.
• Jon Lester’s last two starts against the Cardinals: Lester took the loss on July 6 after allowing two unearned runs on two hits with two walks and eight strikeouts in seven innings. Lester received a no-decision Sept. 9 (Wednesday) after giving up one run on two hits with one walk and seven strikeouts in seven innings.
• Comcast SportsNet explained how what Dave Roberts did in 2004 for the Red Sox has impacted Quintin Berry’s career. Quintin Berry is the Cubs’ designated pinch-runner and he sees the similarities with this Cubs’ team to other winning teams he’s played on. “These boys are loud, these boys are hungry. You’ve got a lot of young guys here are on the verge of doing something they’ve never done before. They’re all excited and it’s all new to them. It’s nice to have that freshness … everybody out here and being hungry and ready to go.”
• Johnny Cueto is struggling on and off the field in Kansas City according to a report from Hardball Talk.
This Day In Cubstory
2001 – Cubs released Trent Hubbard
1999 – Cubs signed free agent Shane Andrews
1999 – Cubs released Doug Creek
1997 – Cubs selected Ramon Morel off waivers from the Pirates
1989 – Rookie Steve Wilson struck out 10 batters in five innings and the Cubs pen struck out eight more in a 4-1 victory over the Cardinals. Dwight Smith hit a two-run homer and The Boys of Zimmer took a 2 ½ game lead over St. Louis in the NL East.
1980 – Bill Gullickson struck out 18 Cubs in a 4-2 loss in Montreal. Gullickson set the rookie mark for the most strikeouts in a single game … a record Kerry Wood would top 18 years later.
1969 – Cubs dropped out of first place for the first time in 155 days with a 6-2 loss to the Phillies.
1968 – Billy Williams hit three home runs in a 3-1 victory over the Mets. Williams hit two longball the previous day. Williams’ five home runs in a two-day stretch tied him with Cap Anson for the franchise record.
1961 – Ken Hubbs made his Major League debut at the age of 19 and went 2-for-3 with two runs scored and a RBI in a 14-6 loss to the Phillies at Wrigley Field.
1941 – Johnny Schmitz made his Major League debut and posted a win after throwing one pitch in the ninth inning. Cubs topped Brooklyn 5-4.
1935 – Cubs beat the Braves 4-0 behind Charlie Root.
1918 – Players on both the Cubs and Red Sox threatened to strike and not continue the World Series unless $2,500 each is guaranteed to the winners and $1,000 each for the losers of the Series. The players backed off when they were told they would appear greedy with the Country at War. There were no fines, but no rings or mementos would be given out for the Series. On the field, Hippo Vaughn started on two days rest and tossed a five-hit shutout in a 3-0 Cubs victory over the Red Sox.