The Cubs return to the field tonight (9:10pm CDT) for the first of three games at Dodger Stadium. The Cubs begin the last Friday in August with a 14-game lead on the Cardinals in the NL Central after the Mets 10-6 victory in St. Louis. The Cubs are 36 games over .500 with an 81-45 record, eight games better in the loss column than the Nationals (74-53).
Kris Bryant has played his way into the conversation for NL Most Valuable Player. Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Daniel Murphy (Nationals) and Corey Seager (Dodgers) are considered the favorites in the National League for the MVP award heading into the last weekend in August.
Bryant has put up the numbers while playing six different positions on the field. Bryant’s recent tear (29-for-40 in last 16 games with seven home runs, 18 RBI and 22 runs scored) has resulted in a slightly better than .300 batting average with an on-base percentage closing in on .400.
In 123 games this season, Bryant has hit .301/.393/.575 with 30 doubles, a triple and 33 home runs. Bryant has scored 104 runs and has 86 RBI. Not bad for a player in his first full-season in the big leagues. Bryant is actually the second player in Cubs history to hit 30 or more home runs and 30 or more doubles in his age-24 or younger season, the only other player to accomplish the feat was Ron Santo in 1964.
For as much flack as Joe Maddon gets for batting Bryant second in his lineup, the numbers are simply ridiculous.
In the 51 games (200 at bats) Bryant has batted in the two-hole he has hit .335/.430/.600 with 12 doubles, a triple and 13 home runs for a 1.030 OPS. Batting third where most think Bryant should hit, he has a .276/.364/.565 line with 15 doubles and 18 home runs for a .928 OPS in 62 games (239 at bats).
Bryant has put together a tremendous season and would put up numbers no matter where he hit in the lineup. Getting Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo to the plate as many times as possible is just smart baseball.
Albert Almora Jr.
The Des Moines Register had good news on Albert Almora Jr.
Almora Jr. returned to the I-Cubs on Thursday and could be activated from the DL by the weekend. Almora Jr. has missed a majority of the month. Almora last played on Aug. 10 after bruising his hand making a play in the outfield. Almora Jr. went to see a hand specialist and the Cubs received good news on Almora Jr.
Marty Pevey told The Des Moines Register that Almora Jr. as a bone contusion (bruise) and nothing else. Pevey said Almora Jr. would not be rushed back but the Cubs are looking at him possibly returning to the lineup by Saturday or Sunday.
Albert Almora Jr. is expected to be recalled next week when the roster expands.
David Ross returns to Dodger Stadium for the last time in the regular season this weekend. The Cubs and Dodgers could meet up in the postseason, but Ross is treating this trip to Los Angeles and Dodger Stadium as his last one.
Ross was selected by the Dodgers in the seventh round of the 1998 draft. Ross made his Major League debut on June 29, 2002 with the Dodgers. Ross pinch hit for Shawn Green in a 7-0 loss to the Angels. Dave Roberts was the Dodgers centerfielder, Eric Karros was at first base, Mark Grudzielanek at second and Adrian Beltre was at third. Ross played for the Dodgers thru the 2004 season.
According to the Tribune, Ross will make a presentation and say goodbye to Vin Scully on Friday.
David Ross talked to Mark Gonzales about returning to Dodger Stadium and facing the organization that drafted him for the final time. Ross admitted this weekend will be emotional for him.
Chris Coghlan officially started a rehab assignment with the I-Cubs on Thursday. Coghlan played left field and batted second in his first game with Triple-A Iowa.
The Cubs are expected to activate Coghlan from the DL on Sept. 1 when the roster expands. Coghlan is on the DL with bruised ribs (right rib contusion).
Tommy La Stella
Tommy La Stella is still with the I-Cubs. La Stella hit cleanup Thursday and was the designated hitter. La Stella went 0-for-4 with a strikeout.
La Stella is 3-for-12 with three strikeouts in his three games with Iowa.
John Andreoli has played his way into consideration for a callup to the big leagues when the roster expands next week. Andreoli could give Joe Maddon the speed component he likes to have on his roster during the final month of the season.
The Des Moines Register spoke with Andreoli and I-Cubs skipper Marty Pevey about him possibly getting The Call next week. Andreoli had a bad start to the season after impressing Maddon and the coaching staff in Spring Training. Pevey said the organization “never lost faith in Johnny.” The Cubs saw last year what he’s capable of and believe in his potential.
Andreoli downplayed the possibility of a callup and said he was focused on Thursday’s game.
John Andreoli would have to be added to the 40-man roster, which currently stands at 39 players, in order for the Cubs to call him up to The Show next week.
Cubs-Astros – Sept. 11
ESPN announced Thursday that the World Wide Leader picked up the Cubs-Astros game on Sept. 11. The Cubs were scheduled to finish the three-game series in Houston with an afternoon start time (1:10pm CDT).
ESPN moved the game to primetime with a first pitch scheduled for 7:05pm CDT.
The Cubs three-game series in Houston is now Friday, Sept. 9 (7:05pm CDT) on WGN-TV, Saturday, Sept. 10 (12:05pm CDT) on FOX and Sunday, Sept. 11 (7:05pm CDT) on ESPN.
Before the Dodgers lost to the Giants and came within an out of being no-hit by Matt Moore on Thursday night, the front office traded away one of the team’s clubhouse leaders and Clayton Kershaw’s personal catcher.
The Dodgers clubhouse was incredibly upset that Ellis had been traded and many in the game feel the front office has damaged what was the hottest team in the big leagues. Even Dan Haren spoke out on Twitter and said the deal made zero sense. The Dodgers’ current roster features more of the Phillies’ team that won the Series in 2008 than what is left in Philadelphia.
Ellis and Kershaw are very close. The two talked before Ellis had to pack up and leave. Ellis is “absolutely devastated” and Kershaw was “shocked.” The two long-time friends and teammates cried together before Ellis left.
Mark Gonzales with a national writer that told him the Dodgers just “lost their David Ross.”
The Cubs will have to deal with the Dodgers for the next three days.
Marc Rzepczynski is on the move again. The veteran left-handed reliever was traded from the A’s to the Nationals on Thursday for minor league infielder Max Schrock.
The Nationals are preparing for the postseason and need a left-hander in the pen Dusty Baker can turn to in order to shut down the lefties with the Cubs, Giants, Dodgers and Cardinals in the playoffs.
Rzepczynski appeared in 56 games for the A’s and was 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA, 1.72 WHIP and 3.62 FIP. In 36 innings, Rzepczynski allowed 14 runs, 12 earned, on 38 hits with 24 walks and 37 strikeouts. Left-handers have hit .296/.360/.395 against him this season with a .755 OPS.
Rzepczynski’s numbers point to a reverse splits guy that Baker will not know how to use anyway.
Myrtle Beach Pelicans athletic trainer Toby Williams was named Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society Trainer of the Year for the Carolina League, the PBATS office announced Tuesday.
This is Williams’ first season in Myrtle Beach and third as a member of the Cubs organization.
Born in Thailand, Williams spent a year in the Atlanta Braves’ organization in 2013 after earning his MEd in Kinesiology from Auburn University. The native of Richmond, Va. served as a graduate assistant at Auburn for three years after earning his B.S. in athletic training from Samford University (Ala.).
PBATS honors one trainer every year from each of the 16 leagues in Minor League Baseball. Williams and the other 15 winners are now eligible for the prestigious Minor League Athletic Trainer of the Year award, voted on by the full memberships of PBATS. That award will be given at the 2016 MLB Winter Meetings in Washington, D.C.
Thursday’s Cubs Headlines
For those that stepped away from baseball and the Cubs during Thursday’s off-day, here are the headlines to get you caught up on all the news you can use before the weekend …
- Eloy Jimenez Hits 14th Homer in South Bend Cubs Walk-Off Win over West Michigan [includes video]
- The Daily CCO: Dexter Fowler Keeps Getting On Base, Scoring Runs and Other Cubs News [includes Hector Rondon, Cubs-Cardinals, Justin Grimm]
- Addison Russell’s Five Dingers in Five Games [includes videos]
- South Bend Cubs Skipper Jimmy Gonzalez Named Midwest League Manager of the Year
- Myrtle Beach Pelicans Punch Ticket to Playoffs
- Willson Contreras’ Adjustments Producing Results [includes video]
News and Notes
• According to the Tribune, the Cubs are trying to cover all their bases as they prepare for the postseason.
• The Sun-Times ranked Kyle Hendricks the best starting pitcher on the Cubs’ staff.
• Kyle Hendricks has allowed fewer than four earned runs in 17 straight starts. ESPN explained how Kyle Hendricks continues to dominate on the mound.
• Comcast SportsNet posted impressions of Aroldis Chapman as the Cubs prepared for three games at Dodger Stadium. Chapman will likely face the team that decided not to trade for him after having a deal in place with the Reds during the Winter Meetings.
• Larry Bowa told Bruce Levine the Cubs should win the World Series this season.
• The Cubs have scored three or more runs in their last 23 games.
• According to the Tribune, Jake Arrieta throws a change-up for Cubs’ onesie trip.
• Jason Heyward is showing signs of life post-benching according to Larry Scott.
• Dexter Fowler is among the hitters doing the most to boost their free agent stock according to Jon Paul Morosi.
• Jon Heyman reported that Bruce Bochy is the highest paid manager in the game. Heyman recently learned the Giants will pay Bochy $6 million a season from 2017 through 2019 on the three-year extension he signed in April of 2015. Bochy’s current contract calls for a $4.5 million salary for this season.
• The Indians released RHP Tommy Hunter. The former Cubs’ reliever spent the first part of the season on the DL and posted a 2-2 record in 21 games with a 3.74 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 3.15 FIP for Cleveland this year.
And last, but certainly not least, for those on Twitter and not following Tim Souers is missing a lot of really great Cubs’ stuff … here’s his latest:
— Tim Souers (@CubbyBlueDotCom) August 25, 2016
This Day in Cubstory
2001 – Sammy Sosa hit homers No. 50 and 51 in a 6-1 victory over the Cardinals. Sosa joined Babe Ruth and Mark McGwire as the only three players in MLB history to hit 50 or more home runs in four seasons.
1999 – Sammy Sosa hit his 53rd homer of the season in an 11-10 win over the Giants.
1980 – Brendan Harris, born
1972 – Ron Santo collected the 2,000th hit of his career, a three-run home run, in a 10-9 victory over the Giants in 10 innings at Wrigley Field. The three-run shot also gave Santo 1,200 RBI for his career. Billy Williams went 5-for-6 with two home runs and four RBI.
1966 – Leo Durocher ripped the phone out of the Cubs dugout in Houston and tossed it onto the field after the Astrodome Message Board began harassing him in the ninth inning with various cartoon. Durocher received a bill for the damages and the Cubs lost the game 7-4.
1951 – Chuck Connors, later TV’s The Rifleman, hit his second and last Major League home run, a three-run shot in the top of the ninth off Sal Maglie. Connor’s home run tied the game at four but the Cubs lost in the bottom of the ninth on a walk-off homer.
1948 – A near riot erupted at Wrigley when umpire Jocko Conlan credited Phil Cavarretta with a ground rule double instead of an inside the park home run in the third inning of a doubleheader. Braves left fielder Jeff Heath pretended to lose the ball in the ivy when it was actually by his foot. Play was held up for 20 minutes as the field was showered with straw hats and beer bottles. Conlan got very upset with a Chicago policeman for not taking any action to stop fans from throwing things on the field. The Cubs won the game 5-2 after Andy Pafko walked and Peanuts Lowrey hit a three-run homer. Cubs won the first games, 5-1.
1941 – Cubs traded Augie Galan to the Dodgers for Mace Brown
1930 – Hack Wilson hit his 44th homer of the season and broke Chuck Klein’s National League record. Wilson drove in four runs in a 7-5 win over the Pirates
1894 – Catcher Billy Schriver, on the first try, caught a ball dropped 500 feet from atop of the Washington Monument.