The Cubs handled their business during the quick three-game trip to Pittsburgh and wake up Thursday morning with the best record in baseball, the only team in the game with 20 wins on the season. The Cubs next 10 games are at Wrigley, beginning with a four-game series with the Nationals.
Joe Maddon’s team faces a big challenge with four games against Dusty Baker, Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and the Nationals. Kyle Hendricks faces Joe Ross in the opener on Thursday night.
Theo Epstein accompanied his team on the trip to Pittsburgh and fielded questions about his contract. Epstein told the beat writers his “contract extension talks with ownership are status quo” according to the Sun-Times.
Gordon Wittenmyer explained “it seems more an issue of the sides making time to finish a new deal than any snags in talks that were expected at one point to get hammered out by the season opener.”
Cubs’ Radio pre- and post-game host Mark Grote caught up with Theo Epstein and asked if there was anything new in regards to his extension.
“No. The good thing is I’m not a player and I’m not going anywhere.”
“It’s not free agency or anything like that. So it’s status quo,” Epstein said. “Tom and I have a great relationship. He’s expressed a desire to keep me in my current role for a long time and this is certainly where I want to be.”
“We just haven’t gotten around to talking specifics about a contract yet. I’m sure that time will come at the appropriate time. Really, when I wake up in the morning that’s not what I think about. I think about how we are going to win that night and what small things I can do to help make the organization better.”
Theo Epstein is expected to sign a five-year contract extension in the $45-50 million range. Once his extension is complete, it’s believed extensions for Jed Hoyer and others in Epstein’s front office staff will be finalized.
Javier Baez, by far, played the most complete series of his big league career in Pittsburgh. Baez was a difference maker in the field and at the plate. Even when Baez made outs, the balls were properly struck following professional at bats.
Baez was 3-for-5 with a double and two RBI on Wednesday and finished the three-game series 5-for-12 with a double, three RBI and zero strikeouts.
In 14 games this season, Baez is batting .341/.372/.488 with two doubles and a home run for a .860 OPS.
Baez impacted the series with his glove, making highlight reel plays at third base in consecutive starts, and at second base in the opener after entering the game at second base when Ben Zobrist had to shift to the outfield.
Joe Maddon thinks Baez is one of the best defensive infielders in National League right now. Maddon said Tuesday the Cubs have to find playing time for him.
“Javy continues to play a different level of baseball,” Maddon said to the beat writers. “I’m talking about the whole game. He’s so mentally aware of the situation that it’s fun to watch.”
Jason Heyward missed his third straight game Wednesday and Joe Maddon is not sure if Heyward will be able to play Thursday. Maddon is going to makeup two lineups, one with and one without Heyward.
According to the Sun-Times, the Cubs aren’t considering placing him on the disabled list.
Maddon said Heyward made progress Wednesday.
Maddon pointed out before Wednesday’s game there is no reason to push it as far as getting Heyward back in the lineup. Maddon almost used him Tuesday but went with Ryan Kalish instead. Heyward is technically listed as day-to-day.
The Cubs completed the three-game sweep in Pittsburgh without Heyward as players, like Javier Baez, stepped up offensively and defensively. Jason Heyward needs to take the time and make sure the wrist is as pain-free as possible now so the injury doesn’t pop up again this season.
Cubs Run Differential
The Cubs run differential creates headlines on a daily basis.
The Cubs have scored 159 runs while allowing 66 through the first 26 games for a plus-93 run differential.
The 2016 Cubs plus-93 run differential is one run better than the 1939 Yankees through 26 games. The ’39 Yankees has the best run differential in the history of the game, plus-411. Only two teams in the Modern era (since 1900) had a better run differential after 26 games than the Cubs, the 1902 Pirates (+103) and the 1905 Giants (+96). The Cubs are on pace for a plus-579 run differential, according to Baseball Tonight, which would obviously shatter the current record.
Bernie Miklasz pointed out the Cubs are 13-2 versus the NL Central and have outscored the Cardinals, Pirates, Brewers and Reds 102-36.
Christopher Kamka supplied the best stat of them all on Wednesday. Over the last 11 games, the Cubs have struck out 75 times and scored 78 runs.
Cubs-Nationals Probable Pitchers
The Cubs and Nationals finalized their rotations for the four-game series at Wrigley. The Cubs will not see Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals will miss Jon Lester.
Here are the matchups, weather permitting, for the next four days:
- Thursday (7:05pm CDT) – Kyle Hendricks vs. Joe Ross
- Friday (1:20pm CDT) – John Lackey vs. Max Scherzer
- Saturday (3:05pm CDT) – Jason Hammel vs. Gio Gonzalez
- Sunday (1:20pm CDT) – Jake Arrieta vs. Tanner Roark
News and Notes
• Paul Sullivan asked do zany suits help Cubs, as long as they win, who cares?
• The Sun-Times reported the Cubs were dominant in decisive sweep of rival Pirates. The Pirates did not have a starter last longer than five innings. Gerrit Cole, Jon Niese and Juan Nicasio made 303 pitches in 14 combined innings. Bill Brink provided the Pirates view of the sweep at the hands of the Cubs.
• The Cubs savor sweep of Pirates, await challenge against Nationals according to the Tribune.
• ESPN Chicago reported the Cubs complete dominant sweep of Pirates.
• Next? Cubs sweep Pirates and take aim at Nationals according to Comcast SportsNet.
• According to Christopher Kamka, Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester have a combined 1.19 ERA in 83 innings with 53 hits allowed and 75 strikeouts.
• Anthony Rizzo has at least one RBI in 10 of his last 12 games. Rizzo has hit six homers with 16 RBI in last 12 games.
• Patrick Mooney reported Joe Maddon digs Bryce Harper’s style.
• According to the Sun-Times, the Cubs are rolling but the front office is not done trying to improve the roster.
• Jason Heyward has made some weird decisions according to FanGraphs.
• Las Vegas’ own Kris Bryant and Bryce Harper are ‘bound by common passion’ according to the Tribune.
• The Sun-Times reported love or hate them, Harper, Cubs lead baseball’s changing culture.
• According to Peter Gammons, Ryan Kalish reached out to Alex Cora, his manager in Winter Ball, after he was called up Tuesday. Kalish thanked Cora for the opportunity last winter that helped get him back to majors.
• The Iowa Cubs activated Ben Carhart to take Ryan Kalish’s spot on the roster. Matt Murton is day-to-day with an oblique injury.
• Dusty Baker will likely have his leadoff man back for the Cubs series. Ben Revere is expected to be activated from the DL prior to Thursday’s opener against the Cubs. And the Nationals have scored 14 run in six games on the road trip according to Dan Kolko.
• Rafael Lopez signed a minor league contract with the Reds, according to Justin Rocke, and was assigned to Triple-A Louisville.
And last, but not least, ESPN Chicago posted a Q&A with Joe Maddon.
This Day in Cubstory
2008 – Cubs signed free agent Hector Carrasco
2004 – Cubs released Bryan Corey
2001 – Sammy Sosa homered and drove in four runs behind seven solid innings from Julian Tavarez as the Cubs beat the Dodgers 20-1 at Wrigley Field.
1999 – In a 13-6 victory over the Cubs, the Rockies became just the third team in the 1900’s to score a run in every inning of a ballgame. The Rockies scored single runs in the first, second, third, fourth and sixth innings and scored two runs in the fifth, seventh, eighth and ninth innings. The Cardinals also accomplished the feat against the Cubs in 1964. The Giants scored a run in every innings against the Phillies in 1923.
1998 – Cubs traded Ben VanRyn to the Padres for Don Wengert
1991 – Cubs signed free agent Alex Cabrera
1958 – Dave Grumpert, born
1946 – Cubs scored 11 runs in the seventh inning. Pitcher Hank Borowy drove in four with a pair of doubles in a 13-1 victory over the Phillies at Wrigley Field.
1938 – Cubs scored 12 runs in the sixth inning off Hal Kelleher of the Phillies. Kelleher faced 16 batters in the sixth inning and was charged with all 12 runs in a 21-2 loss to the Cubs. The Cubs set a National League record for scoring the most runs in one inning of the same pitcher. Augie Galan collected three hit, scored three times and drove in four runs with a triple and a home run.
1923 – Jim Kirby, born
1917 – Lenny Merullo, born
1900 – Jimmy Ryan hit the 20th leadoff homer of his career and his final home run with the Chicago National League Ball Club in a 4-3 victory over Cincinnati at West Side Grounds.
1876 – In the National League’s first 1-0 game, St. Louis’ George Bradley beat Albert Spalding.
1867 – Tom Vickery, born