Seven of the 16 games on what could be the last day of the baseball season have playoff implications. And that includes the games at Miller Park between the Cubs and Brewers and the Reds and Pirates in Pittsburgh.
The Cubs shutout the Brewers 1-0 on Saturday night behind what Joe Maddon said was Kyle Hendricks best start of the season. Not long after Hector Rondon picked up his 30th save of the year, Aroldis Chapman closed out the Reds 3-1 victory over the Pirates. The Cubs are one game back of the Pirates for home field in the NL Wild Card Game.
The Cubs hold the tiebreaker over the Pirates due to winning the season series (11-8). If the Cubs can complete the sweep over the Brewers and the Reds beat the Pirates for the second day in a row, both teams will finish the regular season with a 97-65 record, and the NL Wild Card Game will be at Wrigley Field on Wednesday, not PNC Park.
Joe Maddon changed his plans for Sunday’s game with the Cubs having a chance to host the Wild Card Game. Dan Haren is starting what could be his final game in the big leagues and will oppose rookie right hander Jorge Lopez. But instead of treating Sunday like a Spring Training game and getting his starters out of the game after a few at bats, Maddon said Saturday night the Cubs will play the game to win it.
J.A. Happ starts for the Pirates on Sunday and Bryan Price is giving the ball to Josh Smith. On paper the Pirates have a rather large advantage with Smith on the hill. But the Reds have given the Pirates all they can handle this year (11-7, 5-3 at PNC Park).
Major League Baseball made a change this year. Every game on the final day of the regular season was scheduled to start just after 2:00pm CDT. 14 of the 16 games on Sunday all start around 2:00pm CDT (2:05pm and 2:10pm), the doubleheader between the Cardinals and Braves in Atlanta are the only exceptions.
Joe Maddon is not concerned where the Wild Card Game is played. The game is more dependent on the starting pitcher according to Maddon. The Cubs have not announced Jake Arrieta will start Wednesday yet. The Pirates made it officially official Saturday. Clint Hurdle announced that Gerrit Cole would start the Wild Card Game against the Cubs.
The Cubs enter play Sunday with 96 wins and the third best record in baseball. The Cubs are 49-32 at Wrigley and 14 games over .500 on the road. The Cubs have the best road record in the majors. The Cubs are 47-33 (.588) followed by the Cardinals (45-34, .570), Pirates (45-36, .556) and Rangers (45-36, .556).
Kyle Hendricks finished his first full season in the majors with two rather impressive outings. Hendricks allowed two hits and two walks while tying a career-high with nine strikeouts over six shutout innings against the Royals. And Saturday night, Hendricks surrendered just one single over six innings with eight strikeouts and no walks.
Hendricks did not allow any runs over his last 13 innings while giving up four hits, two walks and 19 strikeouts. And anyone that watched Hendricks noticed a difference in the young right hander. Hendricks pitched with a confidence that he lacked for a majority of the year.
Kyle Hendricks went 8-7 in 32 starts with a 3.95 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. Hendricks allowed 82 runs, 79 earned, on 166 hits with 43 walks and 167 strikeouts in 180 innings.
Travis Wood has pitched well out of the bullpen this season. Wood began the year in the rotation but struggles as a starter pushed him to a relief role. Wood is 2-2 in nine starts with a 5.06 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. As a reliever, Wood is 3-2 in 44 games with a 3.00 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. Wood has limited left-handers to a .233/.299/.302 line and right-handers to .230/.306/.398.
For the season, Wood is 5-4 in 53 games, nine starts, with a 3.88 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 3.43 FIP.
Joe Maddon likes Wood pitching out of the bullpen and based on the numbers he has done his job while seeing an increase in velocity. Wood is under club control for one more year. Wood is making $5.685 million this season, his second arbitration year. Wood would be eligible for free agency after the 2016 season.
Mark Gonzales caught up with Travis Wood and talked to him about his relief role. Wood said being a reliever has helped “the sharpness of his pitches and he has been able to sustain his velocity in the 93 mph range.” Not only did his velocity return, but his curve is more crisp than when he was starting earlier in the season.
Wood does not think his days as a starting pitcher are over. And Wood told the Tribune he’s going to prepare in the off-season as a starter.
Jason Motte has been on the disabled list since Aug. 24 with a strained right shoulder. Motte did not make it back for the end of the regular season but he could play a role in the bullpen if the Cubs advance deep in the post-season.
According to multiple reports, Motte went to the Cubs’ facility in Mesa Saturday to continue his rehab. Patrick Mooney indicated Motte’s shoulder has been responding to treatment and he will pitch simulated games to build up his shoulder.
The Pink Flamingo
Merkle’s Bar and Grill in Wrigleyville has changed its name for the duration of the Cubs post-season run. And not only will Joe Maddon have a bar named ‘The Pink Flamingo’ for hopefully the next month or so, but all of the proceeds from its new flamingo drinks will be donated to charity on behalf of Joe Maddon.
Wrigleyville is Going to the Birds
Merkle’s Bar and Grill Changes Name to The Pink Flamingo for Playoff Run; Owners Offer Joe Maddon Part Ownership, Will Donate Portion of Proceeds to Charity on Joe’s Behalf
Chicago baseball Skipper Joe Maddon has many goals in life. One of them surely is to bring a World Series Championship to the North Side of Chicago. Another one, as mentioned in a recent press conference, is to own a bar called, “The Pink Flamingo”.
The owners of Merkle’s Bar and Grill, located in the heart of Wrigleyville at 3516 N. Clark St., want to help Joe achieve one of those goals and are renaming their bar to “The Pink Flamingo” for the duration of the playoff run. What’s more, they are willing to make Joe an honorary owner of The Pink Flamingo, and will be donating the proceeds of its new flamingo drinks sold during this run to Susan G. Komen Chicagoland Area on Joe’s behalf.
“We want to see Joe achieve all of his goals,” said Russell Bishop, GM of Merkle’s Bar and Grill in a statement. “We thought we could support Joe by helping him achieve one of them, hence allowing him to concentrate on his main goal, which is winning a World Series Championship”.
The Pink Flamingo will feature specialty, handmade cocktails including Maddon’s Mule and its three newest cocktails infused with beer and named after Joe’s three real-life flamingos, “The Winston”, “The Warren” and “The Clementine” – all on top of the newly created, “Joe’s Nachos”. The Pink Flamingo is the only bar in Wrigleyville to feature 30 craft beers on tap all from local breweries in Chicago and the greater Chicagoland area. The bar’s legendary hot wings and burgers may be enough to get Maddon to casually belly up to the bar.
Merkle’s Bar and Grill will unveil a new, Pink Flamingo sign and the interior of the bar, guests will find a five-foot blow up flamingo, plastic flamingo stirrers, pink flamingo lights and much more. There will also be a special seat at the bar that is saved for one VIP guest only.
“Joe, we would love to have you on-board and there will be a pink stool at the bar with your name on it,” said Pete Faber, co-owner of Merkle’s Bar & Grill in a statement.
Local residents, flamingo enthusiasts and baseball fans are encouraged to stop by the new Pink Flamingo in the coming weeks to help celebrate a legendary season and support everyone’s favorite North Side baseball team. For more information, please visit www.facebook.com/MerklesChicago.
News and Notes
• Addison Russell is peaking at the right time according to a report from ESPN Chicago. Russell will be “the fifth youngest shortstop to start a playoff game in the World Series era, which goes back to 1903.”
• Comcast SportsNet explained why the Cubs believe Jake Arrieta will be unstoppable in October.
• The Cubs worked on bunting prior to Saturday’s game at Miller Park. Joe Maddon told the beat writers, “We’ve worked on it all year. But if you do it like that, what does it tell the players? That is really important.”
• The Sun-Times reported Quintin Berry gives the Cubs key dimension in playoffs.
• Going into the final day of the season, the Cubs’ pitching staff leads the majors in strikeouts (1,425) while the offense also leads baseball in strikeouts (1,509). According to Daren Willman, swings and misses throughout baseball increased this season for the eighth year in a row. There have been 74,231 swings and misses in 2015, up from 72,799 in 2014.
This Day In Cubstory
2012 – Cubs granted Blake DeWitt free agency
2012 – Cubs granted Alex Hinshaw free agency
2012 – Cubs granted Randy Wells free agency
2008 – The Cubs dropped the third and final game of the NLDS to the Dodgers 3-1.
2003 – Cubs won their first post-season series since the 1908 World Series with a 5-1 victory over the Braves at Turner Field. The Cubs won the fifth and deciding game to take the series three games to two.
1989 – Cubs lost game one of the NLCS to the Giants 11-3 behind a huge game from Will Clark.
1977 – Bobby Scales, born
1960 – Billy Hatcher, born
1951 – Cubs traded Bob Borkowski and Smoky Burgess to the Reds for Johnny Pramesa and Bob Usher
1948 – Cubs traded Bill Nicholson to the Phillies for Harry Walker
1944 – Tony LaRussa, born (Tony LaRussa played in one game for the Cubs in 1973. LaRussa pinch ran for Ron Santo on April 6 in a 3-2 victory over the Expos on Opening Day)
1939 – Bill Nicholson hit a two-run homer in the top of the ninth in front of a packed house at Comiskey Park (42,267) and tied the first game of the City Series 9-9. The Cubs won the game in 10 innings after Augie Galan drove in Stan Hack.
1925 – For the first time in the 50 year history of the franchise, the Cubs finished the season in last place. The Cubs went 68-86 and ended up 27 ½ games behind the Pirates in the National League.
1908 – Cubs beat the Pirates 5-2 in front of 30,247 at West Side Grounds behind Mordecai Brown and clinched a tie for the National League Pennant.
1906 – Jack Pfiester shutout the Pirates 4-0 in Pittsburgh for his 20th victory of the season and the Cubs record setting 116th win of the year. Pitcher Carl Lundgren played the entire game at second base. The Cubs finished the season with a .763 winning percentage.