The Cubs return to the field this afternoon (1:20pm CDT) for the first of three with the Cardinals. It’s the final series of the regular season at Wrigley Field and the Cubs have two goals they would like to reach this weekend.
This season has been incredibly challenging for Jason Heyward. But he’s been squaring up the baseball over the last 10 days like he hasn’t for a majority of the year. Heyward has not performed as he or the Cubs thought he would this season. But with baseball’s second season just around the corner, if Heyward could just produce to his career averages, a very good Cubs lineup would be even better.
Heyward is riding a six-game hitting streak in which he is 9-for-21 with a home run, two doubles and four walks. Heyward has reached base safely in each of his last eight games. And Heyward has a .375/.483/.583 slash line in his last seven games.
Heyward is one of three players the Cubs could really use to produce at the plate when the tournament begins in order to lengthen and balance the lineup. Heyward and Ben Zobrist were brought in to provide contact to a lineup with a lot of swing and miss to it.
If Jason Heyward and Miguel Montero can stay hot and Ben Zobrist can get going over the next 10 games, the Cubs could have the lineup, for the most part, that Joe Maddon envisioned coming out of Spring Training during the extra month of the year.
Pedro Strop is expected to be reinstated from the 15-day DL before Friday’s game with the Cardinals. Strop and Joe Maddon said Wednesday that he would be activated from the disabled list and see his first game action in over six weeks on Friday. Strop would like to pitch in five of the last 10 games of the regular season. He feels that would give him enough time to be ready for the NLDS.
Strop has been on the disabled list since Aug. 11 after tearing the meniscus in his left knee.
Updated 11:30am CDT – Cubs Activate RHP Pedro Strop from 15-Day DL
Len Kasper and Cubs Radio
The Score made it official Thursday and announced Len Kasper will be part of the Cubs Radio broadcast during the postseason. Kasper did the same last year, joining Pat Hughes and Ron Coomer in the booth.
Kasper has been working on the radio side all season when the Cubs have been exclusively on national television and adds to what is already an excellent broadcast. Kasper will do play-by-play in the fifth inning and conduct on-field interviews.
Pat Hughes typically turns the play-by-play duties over to Ron Coomer in the fifth inning. Kasper will get that inning instead with Coomer providing the color commentary.
The Cubs and Cardinals begin round six of the season series on Friday afternoon (1:20pm CDT) at Wrigley. The Cubs and Cardinals have split the first 16 games (8-8) The Cardinals have to at least win this series in order to keep up with the Mets and Giants in the NL Wild Card race. With the Mets and Giants both winning Thursday night, the Cardinals will enter play at Wrigley a half-game behind both teams for the last two spots in the NL postseason tournament.
The Cardinals want to make a statement this weekend. Peter Gammons said there is nothing more the Cardinals want right now than to see the Cubs in the NLDS and knock them out of the playoffs.
It is imperative the Cubs win this series. The two teams may see one another for a second straight year in the NLDS, but the Cubs must do their part the next three days to make the last week of the season as uncomfortable as possible on the Cardinals.
The Cubs are running out Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel and Jon Lester for the series. Joe Maddon said the Cubs will not back off this weekend and will play these games to win. The Cubs offense will have to deal with the top two starters in the Cardinals rotation. Mike Matheny has Mike Leake, Alex Reyes and Carlos Martinez scheduled for the series.
Here are the probable pitching matchups:
- Friday, Sept. 23 (1:20pm CDT) – RHP Jake Arrieta vs. RHP Mike Leake
- Saturday, Sept. 24 (12:05pm CDT) – RHP Jason Hammel vs. RHP Alex Reyes
- Sunday, Sept. 25 (7:08pm CDT) – LHP Jon Lester vs. RHP Carlos Martinez
News and Notes
• Comcast SportsNet explained how the Cubs rotation could be aligning for World Series run against weakened National League contenders.
• FanGraphs: Weak Contact and the National League Cy Young Race
• Theo Epstein has a diabolical wish for the NL Wild Card Game according to FOX Sports. Hardball Talk explained what happens if the Mets, Cardinals and Giants finish in a three-way tie for the NL Wild Card.
• Jon Heyman detailed the seven moves that turned the Cubs into winners.
• According to Buster Olney, it is possible that David Ross “will assume a greater role in the playoffs than he had in the regular season.”
• The Cubs vs. Nationals … Cubs vs. Cardinals … Cubs vs. Red Sox … Cubs vs. Indians are among the October matchups Anthony Castrovince would love to see.
• Pressure? Cubs say bring it on according to the Associated Press.
• The Yankees sold Coke to the Pirates … as in former Cubs lefty reliever Phil Coke. The Yankees dealt him to the Pirates for cash on Thursday.
• The six managers that are on the hot seat according to Ken Rosenthal: Chip Hale (Diamondbacks), Robin Ventura (White Sox), Bryan Price (Reds), Walt Weiss (Rockies), Brian Snitker (Braves), John Gibbons (Blue Jays)
• According to Jerry Crasnick, Mets assistant GM John Ricco is no longer in the mix for Twins’ President of Baseball Operations job.
• Former Cubs’ top prospect Brett Jackson is one of Ginny Baker’s teammates on the Padres in the FOX series “Pitch.”
And last, but certainly not least, Tim Sheridan rocks … and so does his latest video.
This Day in Cubstory
2011 – Starlin Castro became the youngest player in Cubs history to collect 200 hits in a single season when he singled off Chris Carpenter leading off the game in St. Louis. The 21-year old shortstop accomplished the feat two years younger than Billy Herman (1932) and Augie Galan (1935). Both Herman and Galan were 23 years old.
2008 – Cubs claimed Brad Snyder off waivers from the Indians
2001 – Sammy Sosa set a Major League record with his third, three homer game of the season. Sosa hit home runs No. 56, 57 and 58 off Astros’ rookie Tim Redding. Sosa accomplished the feat against the Rockies on Aug. 9 and the Brewers on Aug. 22.
2000 – Mark Grace collected the 1000th RBI of his career in a 6-5 loss to the Cardinals at Wrigley Field.
1998 – The Brant Brown Game. With the Cubs up 7-5 in the bottom of the ninth inning, bases loaded and two out, Brant Brown dropped a routine fly ball off the bat of Geoff Jenkins. All three runners scored, the Cubs lost 8-7 and the game will forever be remembered by the way Ron Santo reacted on 720 WGN. Cubs’ manager Jim Riggleman had to console Santo in the Cubs’ clubhouse after the game.
1998 – Sammy Sosa hit home runs No. 64 and No. 65 in an 8-7 loss to the Brewers
1987 – Gonzalez Germen, born
1986 – Chris Volstad, born
1954 – Cubs signed amateur free agent Sammy Drake
1952 – Dennis Lamp, born
1930 – Rogers Hornsby replaced Joe McCarthy as the manager of the Cubs.
1913 – Cubs purchased George McConnell from the Yankees
1908 – The Merkle Boner. Fred Merkle of the Giants failed to touch second base as the apparent winning run crossed the plate in the ninth inning at the Polo Grounds. The game was declared a tie and rescheduled for Oct. 8.
1907 – The Cubs clinched the National League Pennant in a 4-1 victory over the Phillies in a rain-shortened, seven and a half inning game. Ed Reulbach, in relief of Mordecai Brown, won the game at West Side Grounds. The Cubs turned a triple play in the fifth inning, first baseman George Howard to shortstop Joe Tinker.