With three games left on the schedule the Cubs still have a shot at hosting the NL Wild Card Game. The Cubs (94-65) are two games behind the Pirates (96-63). The Pirates play a Reds’ team at PNC that has given them trouble this season. The Pirates are 6-10 versus the Reds this year, but Cincinnati has mailed in the remainder of the season having lost their last 12 games.
The Cubs spend the weekend at Miller Park and the Brewers are preparing for the return of Wrigley Field North. The Cubs would have to sweep the Brewers and get help from the Reds in order to have home field advantage in the Wild Card. The Cubs hold the tiebreaker over the Pirates, so if both teams finish with identical 97-65 records, it will be a wild Wednesday at Wrigley.
Jed Hoyer and Joe Maddon talked to the beat writers Thursday about the roster for the Wild Card Game. The Cubs plan to talk Sunday and Monday to finalize the Wild Card Roster and starting lineup.
Jason Hammel finished a difficult second half on a positive note Thursday. Hammel kept the Reds off the board for five innings, gave up five hits without a walk and struck out five batters. Joe Maddon planned on pulling Hammel after five innings, but did not tell him. Maddon wanted to use Justin Grimm, Fernando Rodney, Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon on Thursday as a tune-up for the Wild Card game. Maddon is also planning on using the four relievers the same way Saturday.
The Cubs have not made it official that Jake Arrieta will start the Wild Card Game much less announce starters for the NLDS against the Cardinals.
The Cubs’ elder statesman, Anthony Rizzo, is closing in on the century mark for RBI. Rizzo doubled in a run in the fifth inning of Thursday’s game. Rizzo has 96 RBI on the season. While runs batted in is a team driven stat, have a 100 RBI season is quite an accomplishment.
Anthony Rizzo is batting .277/.387/.511 with 38 doubles, three triples and 30 home runs for a .899 OPS in 157 games.
Players Choice Awards
The MLBPA announced the finalists for the 2015 Players Choice Awards on Friday. Jake Arrieta is one of three finalists for the NL Outstanding Pitcher Award and Kris Bryant made the cut for the NL Outstanding Rookie Award.
To no surprise, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw are the other two finalists for the National League pitcher award. And the Giants’ Matt Duffy and the Pirates’ Jung Ho Kang are also finalists for the rookie award.
The Players Choice Awards will be announced November 9 on the MLB Network.
News and Notes
• The Cubs are 94-65 on the season that is 21 more wins than a year ago, the biggest increase in wins from one season to the next since 2002-03. The ’02 Cubs were 67-95 and the ’03 Cubs posted an 88-74 record. Only two Cubs’ teams since 1945 have posted more wins in a single season than the 2015 Cubs. The ’84 Cubs were 96-65 and the ’08 Cubs finished with a 97-64 record.
• The Tribune reported Javier Baez is driven by the memory of his sister.
• Len Kasper pointed out Thursday the Cubs trail only the Blue Jays for the most walks in the majors this season. The Cubs have walked 554 times and the Jays have taken 561 free passes. The Cubs have not led baseball in walks since 1929. The 2008 team led the National League, but was second in the majors to the Red Sox that season.
• Austin Jackson drove in eight runs within a 24-hour span over two games in Cincinnati. When Jackson smacked the three-run homer in the third inning of Thursday’s game, he became the 803rd different player to hit a home run for the Cubs’ franchise since 1876. Christopher Kamka added Jake Arrieta was the 800th different player to hit a homer in franchise history.
• According to Joel Sherman, the Cubs are just at the start of a special run. And Joel Sherman posted his year-end awards. Kris Bryant is Rookie of the Year in the NL according to Sherman with Addison Russell finishing fourth. Jake Arrieta finished second in the Cy Young and Joe Maddon was behind the Cardinals’ skipper for the NL Manager of Year.
• Carrie Muskat reported Joe Maddon’s team first approach has sunk in with the Cubs.
• Loose Cubs keep rolling into final weekend according to a report from ESPN Chicago.
• The Sun-Times reported those Rays and these Cubs are two different worlds for seasoned Joe Maddon.
• Rich Hill made his fourth start Thursday for the Red Sox. Hill took the loss and could not keep the Yankees from clinching a Wild Card spot. Hill posted a quality start. The lefty allowed two runs on four hits with three walks and six strikeouts in six innings. In four starts, Hill was 2-1 with a 1.55 ERA and 0.66 WHIP (five runs, 14 hits, five walks, 36 strikeouts, 29 innings).
• Mr. Cable Cutter posted a report on how to watch the MLB playoffs online without cable, the 2015 edition.
This Day In Cubstory
2012 – In a matchup of 100-loss teams, only the second occurrence in Major League history, the Astros (55-105) beat the Cubs (60-100) at Wrigley Field, 3-0. In 1962, the Cubs (58-101) and expansion Mets (39-118) played at Wrigley Field.
2006 – Jim Hendry announced the Cubs would not be renewing Dusty Baker’s contract to return as the team’s manager. Baker won an NL Central title in 2003 and finished his four-year run as Cubs manager with a 322-326 record.
2001 – Sammy Sosa hit home run No. 60 and became the first player in big league history to hit 60 or more homers in three seasons.
1987 – Rafael Lopez, born
1984 – Cubs beat the Padres 13-0 in game one of the NLCS. Rick Sutcliffe , Bobby Dernier, Ron Cey, Gary Matthews homered, Ryne Sandberg went 2-for-4 with a walk, two runs scored and a RBI.
1979 – Preston Gomez was hired as the Cubs manager replacing interim skipper Joe Amalfitano, who took over for Herman Franks on Sept. 24.
1964 – Hector Villanueva, born
1935 – Lon Warneke pitched a four-hit shutout in a 2-0 win over the Tigers in the first game of the World Series.
1932 – Cubs lost 13-6 to the Yankees at Wrigley Field to close out the World Series. The Yankees won the series four game to none.
1925 – Grover Cleveland Alexander and the White Sox Ted Blankenship pitched all 19 innings of a game that ended in a 2-2 tie in the City Series at Comiskey Park.
1910 – Cubs clinched the National League Pennant with an 8-4 win over the Reds in Cincinnati.