The Cubs play their last home game of the regular season tonight (7:08pm CDT) with chance to have a say on which team they play in the NLDS.
The Mets (81-73) and Giants (82-73) are tied for the NL Wild Card and the Cardinals are a half-game back on the outside looking in. All three teams pose different challenges for the Cubs, but if Maddon’s team can beat the Cardinals it improves the chances they will not see the Redbirds again until Opening Day 2017.
Joe Maddon announced another round of changes to his starting rotation. The Cubs moved the planned bullpen day in Pittsburgh from Tuesday to Thursday. The Cubs unfortunately had an unplanned bullpen day Saturday against the Cardinals.
Kyle Hendricks is still starting Monday at PNC Park, which lines him up for Game 2 of the NLDS. John Lackey (Tuesday) and Jake Arrieta (Wednesday) are scheduled for the second and third games of the Pirates series. And the Cubs will go with the bullpen day on Thursday in the finale of the four-game series at PNC.
What was in question a month ago appears to be a forgone conclusion now. Miguel Montero has played his way onto the Cubs’ postseason roster. And based on multiple reports, Montero will have a very big role with the team over the next five-plus weeks.
The Cubs have not announced they will carry three catchers on the roster. All signs, and reports, point to Montero, David Ross and Willson Contreras being included on the 25-man NLDS roster.
Reports Friday afternoon indicated Montero will catch Jake Arrieta for the next five-plus weeks. As is the case with David Ross catching Jon Lester, Montero will be Arrieta’s catcher.
“Miggy’s been playing really well,” Maddon said. “I don’t want to discount anything. Nothing has been concluded. I want to keep throwing him out there. Miggy is playing at a high level and he’s done well with Jake in the past, so I wanted to see them together.”
At this point of the season it is solely about winning games. If Montero gives Arrieta the best chance to succeed then the Cubs should pair the two.
“Miggy and I have worked together for quite a bit of time now,” Arrieta said. “He knows the way my stuff works. He has little nuances, little mannerisms that he makes behind the plate that can help get me back on track.”
Bruce Miles reported it is “looking more and more like the Cubs will go with a veteran presence behind the plate in the postseason.”
Contreras will play in a role in the postseason as a catcher. There would be nothing wrong with Contreras being used as a relief catcher in the late innings to help control the run game on the days Montero starts.
Contreras is the Cubs catcher of the future. He just needs time, especially with Arrieta due to the amount of movement he gets every time he throws the baseball. Contreras will have time to practice with Arrieta in the spring. The games starting on Oct. 7 simply mean too much not to maximize Arrieta by having Montero catch him.
The Cubs received good news from Pedro Strop prior to Saturday’s game.
A day after making his first appearance in a game since Aug. 10, Strop reported to Wrigley and said he “felt great.” Strop walked the first batter he faced Friday before striking out Kolten Wong and inducing an inning ending double play
According to Mark Grote, the plan is for Pedro Strop to pitch in four more games before the end of the regular season. Strop also wants to make sure he appears in back-to-back games.
Cubs at Wrigley Field
The Cubs play their final home game of the regular season tonight. The Cubs will not be able to reach the team’s next goal, which is winning 100 games, but the Cubs have a chance to set a franchise mark.
The Cubs are 56-24 at home this season which ties Maddon’s team with the most wins in a single-season at Wrigley Field. The Cubs also won 56 games in 1933 and again in 1935 at Wrigley.
One more home ‘W’ in the regular season … and it could be a big one on several fronts for the Cubs.
News and Notes
• The Cubs are working to maximize home field advantage in playoffs according to Mark Gonzales. After locking up home field advantage, Comcast SportsNet reported Cubs flummoxed by the Cardinals in blowout loss. Bruce Levine reported Jason Hammel personifies Cubs’ championship goal. Jason Hammel was roughed up as Cubs fell to the Cardinals.
• The Cubs are 23-10 at Wrigley Field this season against the six playoff contenders in the NL according to Buster Olney. And six of those losses have come to the Cardinals.
• Jake Arrieta took a big step in the right direction with Friday’s start against the Cardinals according to Buster Olney. Arrieta induced 22 swings and misses on Friday, second most by him in a single start this season according to Daren Willman. Arrieta regained his touch in win over Cardinals according to the Sun-Times. Comcast SportsNet reported Jake Arrieta is rounding into form.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 23, 2016
• The Cubs ‘W’ flag has a long history beyond Wrigley Field according to a report from Lisa Fielding.
• ESPN posted the week in interesting and unusual Cubs stats.
• Joel Sherman explained the maddening need and reality of MLB starting pitchers.
• The Tribune reported as numbers of Latino players rise, Latino manager vanish.
• According to Len Kasper, Dexter Fowler has hit the most triples (72) in the majors since 2009.
• Jon Lester (18-4) and Jake Arrieta (18-7) are the first Cubs’ rotation mates to win 18 or more games in a single season since 1989 when Greg Maddux (19-12) and Mike Bielecki (18-7) won a combined 37 games for The Boys of Zimmer.
• Joe Maddon announced after Saturday’s game that the Cubs final road trip of the regular season will be a themed trip and the rookies will dress up for the flight to Pittsburgh. The Cubs will have a football-themed trip, well because it is football season, and the vets have football jerseys to wear. Two guesses on what the rookies will be dressed as.
• For those that may have missed the 3-5-4 double play the Cubs turned Friday … here’s a video of awesome play.
Always bunt. pic.twitter.com/WNScFgohTg
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 24, 2016
This Day in Cubstory
2003 – Sammy Sosa became the first player in NL history to drive in at least 100 runs (100 RBI) in nine straight seasons. Sosa joined Rafael Palmeiro and Jimmie Foxx as the only three players in Major League history to accomplish the feat in nine consecutive seasons.
1998 – Sammy Sosa hit home run No. 66, a 462-foot blast at the Astrodome. Sosa took the lead in the home run title chase against Mark McGwire. But Sosa did not hit another longball the rest of the season. McGwire tied Sosa less than an hour after Sosa hit his round tripper.
1997 – Game between the Cubs and Astros is included as part of the live episode of NBC’s “ER.”
1995 – Frank Castillo one-hit the Cardinals in a 7-0 win over St. Louis. The only hit, a triple by Bernard Gilkey. Castillo struck out 13 and issued two free passes.
1989 – Cubs clinch a tie for the NL East title with the Cardinals after dropping a 10-inning game in Montreal. Andre Dawson hit a pair of home runs, the second was an inside the park homer after Dave Martinez caught the ball but fell to the ground in pain after pulling a muscle.
1987 – Lars Anderson, born
1978 – Joel Pineiro, born
1969 – A Grand Slam in the ninth inning off the bat of Ron Santo gave the Cubs a 4-1 victory over the Dodgers at Wrigley.
1969 – Tony Womack, born
1969 – David Weathers, born
1966 – Ken Holtzman lost a no-hitter in the ninth inning, but still outpitched Sandy Koufax in a 2-1 victory over the Dodgers at Wrigley Field. Holtzman surrendered two hits.
1935 – Phil Cavarretta hit a home run that accounted for the only run in a 1-0 win over the Cardinals in St. Louis. The Cubs won its 19th straight game and moved into a tie for first place in the National League.
1934 – Phil Cavarretta went 4-for-5 with two triples, two runs scored and four RBI while Dewey Williams drove in four runs with two singles. Bill Nicholson drove in three runs with a double and a triple. And Lou Novikoff hit his final home run with the Cubs.
1885 – The Chicago National League Ball Club played a ‘home’ game in Milwaukee and beat Providence 21-3 behind 26 hits and 20 errors by the Providence club.
This Day in Baseball History
1974 – Dr. Frank Jobe repaired Tommy John’s ulnar collateral ligament by replacing the elbow tendon of the pitching arm with a tendon from the right wrist.
1989 – Jake Buchanan, born
1984 – The Cubs won the National League East with a 4-1 victory over the Pirates behind Rick Sutcliffe at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. The Cubs won the flag behind Sutcliffe’s 14th straight win.
1979 – Herman Franks resigns as manager of the Cubs and is replaced by Preston Gomez. Franks criticized a number of Cubs players on his way out the door including Barry Foote, Mike Vail, Bill Buckner and Ted Sizemore.
1976 – Bill Madlock suffered a concussion after being mugged in New York, Cubs lost that day’s game 4-3.
1975 – Joe Wallis broke up Tom Seaver’s bid for a no-hitter with a two-out single in the ninth. The Cubs won the game 1-0 in 10 innings
1971 – Milt Pappas struck out the side in the top of the fourth inning on nine pitches. Pappas struck out Greg Luzinski, Don Money and Mike Anderson in what is considered a perfect inning. Pappas lost the game to the Phillies.
1971 – Kevin Millar, born
1970 – Cubs kept pace with the Pirates in the NL East Pennant race with a 7-1 victory over the Cardinals behind Ken Holtzman. The win kept the Cubs within 2 ½ games of the Pirates. But two straight losses ended the season and gave the Pirates the flag three days later.
1964 – Rafael Palmeiro, born
1947 – Cubs released Stan Hack
1943 – In his big league debut, Andy Pafko drove in four runs with a double and a single in three at bats and led the Cubs to a 7-4 victory over the Phillies at Wrigley Field. Due to the weather, only 314 were in attendance for a game that was called after five innings.
1908 – The Cubs lost to the Giants 5-4 on the day after Merkle’s Boner. The two teams found out the controversial game would be declared a tie.