The Cubs celebrated winning the NL Central Division on Friday afternoon following the incredible come from behind win in 10 innings over the Brewers. The Cubs and Brewers play game three of four on Saturday (3:05pm CDT) with Jake Arrieta opposing Zach Davies.
With checking off Division Champions from the regular season to-do list, the Cubs shifted the focus to securing the best record in the National League. The Cubs are 94-53 on the season, six games ahead of the Nationals. So a day after clinching the title and the Nationals beating the Braves 7-2, the Cubs have a new magic number. Any combination of 10 wins or Nationals losses and the Cubs will have home field advantage in the National League.
Joe Maddon said the Cubs “are not going to turn down the dimmer switch.” The goal is to win as many games as possible for the remainder of the regular season.
Miguel Montero had a very good day.
Montero stepped up Friday and provided the game winner in walk-off fashion, the Cubs second walk-off home run on the season, on a day he started on the bench. Montero replaced Jorge Soler in the batting order and Willson Contreras behind in the plate in the fourth inning. Contreras moved to left and spent the rest of game in the outfield.
Montero has played good ball of late. His swing is better than it has been all season. Montero has hit safely in five of his last six games with multi-hits in three of those games. Montero is 8-for-22 in his last eight games with three doubles and two home runs (.364/.440/.773/1.213). And over his last 29 games, Montero is batting .244/.359/.385 with five doubles, two home runs and a .743 OPS.
Montero is expected to be included on the Cubs’ playoff roster. When asked about the possibility of not being on the postseason roster, Montero admitted he thought he was going to be released earlier in the season.
Miguel Montero and Chris Coghlan have separated themselves from other bench options the Cubs could include on the postseason roster. Montero has caught a majority of Jake Arrieta’s starts over the last two seasons. If he’s able to hit and control a running game like he has of late there is no reason for Maddon not to have three catchers on his postseason roster as he’s had all season on his 25-man roster.
Pedro Strop completed a bullpen Thursday as he works his way back from arthroscopic knee surgery. The Cubs were “encouraged” on Friday by Strop’s progress according to a report from Carrie Muskat.
Strop is expected to throw another bullpen by Sunday.
Reports Thursday indicated Strop could be reinstated from the DL early in the week. Reports on Friday seemed to back off that vague timeframe. The Cubs would like to Strop to pitch “in a few regular season games” but will not rush him back.
Strop told Mark Grote, “My target is to be ready for the playoffs. I really want to pitch, but I’d rather be 100%.”
Jorge Soler left Friday’s game with tightness in his right side. The Cubs did not provide any further updates on Soler during or after the game. Soler may have tweaked his side during his first at bat of the game.
Willson Contreras moved to left field and Miguel Montero took over behind the plate, sliding into the third spot of Joe Maddon’s lineup for the injured Soler.
The Cubs are expected to address Soler’s status Saturday.
According to Carrie Muskat, the Cubs have not decided if Mike Montgomery will make another start before the end of the season or go ahead and make the move to the bullpen.
Joe Maddon and the coaching staff is scheduled to meet Saturday to discuss the pitching staff, rotation and plans for how players will be used over the next 15 games.
Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and the Bleachers
Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, Jason McLeod and several of the Cubs’ front office executives watched a majority of Friday’s game from the bleachers. Epstein sat in the bleachers for the first time since he was 24 years old and worked for the Padres. Epstein stayed until the eighth inning.
“We talked about it all year,” Epstein said. “We said that if we win the division, we will sit in the bleachers during a game.” Epstein pointed out they had “a blast” and that it “was awesome out there.”
Photos surfaced around the fourth inning that Epstein, Hoyer and McLeod, along with Jared Porter, were sitting in the bleachers and that Epstein was in a disguise that included a fake mustache and a ‘Try Not to Suck’ T-Shirt that would have made Bobby Valentine proud.
Epstein admitted he did not plan ahead with his disguise and it was a “half-assed attempt to go incognito.”
News and Notes
• Comcast SportsNet reported five breakthroughs that pushed the Cubs toward the NL Central title.
• Selflessness is key to Cubs’ success according to Bruce Levine.
• With the division clinched, the Cubs begin working backward from game one of NLDS according to Comcast SportsNet. The NL Central title is a mere stepping-stone for the Cubs according to Phil Rogers.
• FOX Sports reported five reasons the Chicago Cubs can win the World Series
• Ryne Sandberg praised Cubs’ incredible performance according to a report from Carrie Muskat.
• Albert Almora Jr. connected on the first homer of his career at Wrigley Field on Friday afternoon, a two-run homer that tied the game. Almora Jr. is 3-for-8 with a home run and four RBI in the two games he’s started since he was recalled a couple of weeks ago.
• Willson Contreras’ sixth inning double on Friday had an exit velocity of 113.7 mph, the third hardest hit ball by any Cubs’ player all season.
• Ernie Banks has the most home runs of any player that spent his entire career with the Cubs. Mr. Banks hit 512 during his Hall of Fame career. Kris Bryant (63) is second with Addison Russell (33), Jorge Soler (27) and Javier Baez (23) in the top eight.
• Friday was the first time neither Anthony Rizzo nor Kris Bryant appeared in a Cubs’ box score since Sept. 18, 2014. And Chris Coghlan was the first Cubs’ first baseman not named Rizzo to have a three-hit game since Mike Olt on Sept. 7, 2014.
• Addison Russell (9) has the most hits in baseball with the bases loaded this season … followed by Gregory Polanco (7), Yonder Alonso (7), Edwin Encarnacion (7) and Starlin Castro (7).
• The Cubs are 52-21 at Wrigley Field this season after winning 26 of last 33 home games. The Cubs are five victories shy of the most home wins in franchise history.
• According to Marc Topkin, veteran reliever Joel Peralta has decided to retire from baseball. Peralta will not make a formal announcement but he told Topkin in the Rays clubhouse on Friday that he’s “not going to play anymore.” Peralta said is arm is good but his knee is an issue. He’s proud of the fact he was able to pitch for 10 years in the majors.
• If you haven’t taken the time, click on this link for a must-listen to montage from 670 The Score’s Nick Shepkowski.
This Day in Cubstory
2015 – Chris Coghlan slid into Pirates’ Jung Ho Kang and broke his leg. Kang suffered a broken leg and torn ligaments in his knee. Kang missed the remainder of the season. This is one of the two plays that led to Major League Baseball changing the slide rules at second base prior to the 2016 season.
1980 – Dan Haren, born
1953 – Ernie Banks made his Major League debut and went 0-for-3 with a run scored and committed an error in a 16-4 loss to the Phillies at Wrigley Field. Banks went on to set an all-time record for most consecutive games played to start a career (424). Banks was the first African American to play for the Chicago Cubs.
1945 – Bill Nicholson made 10 putouts and set a record for right fielders in a 4-0 loss to the Dodgers at Wrigley Field.
1938 – Bill Lee surrendered 13 hits, but pitched the third straight shutout as the Cubs beat the Giants 4-0 in the Polo Grounds.
1938 – Ripper Collins hit the last of his 135 career home runs during his nine years with the Cubs. Collins remained the all-time home run leader among switch hitters until Mickey Mantle topped his mark in 1956.
1928 – Gabby Harnett hit a two-run homer and Kiki Cuyler, Hack Wilson and Charlie Grimm collected two doubles each in a 15-5 victory over the Braves in Boston. Pitcher Ray Boggs hit three batters (Woody English, Kiki Cuyler and Riggs Stephenson) and threw two wild pitches in the ninth inning.