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Wednesday, September 05, 2018

The Final Push

24 games to go.  Cubs still have 8 games left on this 23 straight day stretch, but only 2 more real road trips - DC this weekend and and Phoenix in a couple of weeks; the only other road games are today in Milwaukee and 3 at The Cell.  A 3 game lead is far from comfortable, especially after the way the last 2 games played out, but a win today and leaving with a 4 game lead with 23 left is still quite the enviable position. 

The Cubs went 18-10 in September, and are 10-4 in their last 14, but 2 back to back tough losses make it seem worse.  Of course, how they lost echo the problems they’ve had throughout the year.  The offense looked helpless against a couple of guys they look like they should beat up; add that to a pathetic bullpen collapse and tons of walks allowed and it adds up to losses that seem more predictive than their recent wins.  The unexpected part of yesterday’s loss was the way the defense looked absolutely pathetic.  A lot of that was Russell, and to be fair to him he’s pretty rusty and probably still hurt.  Without a rehab assignment, his only chance to play is up here.  He hasn’t looked anywhere near ready in the field or at the plate, but I understand they have to get him PT because it’s not really an option to leave him off the playoff roster (unless he’s more hurt than they’re letting on). 

I complained a bit in the game chatter about Contreras’s catching yesterday.  I understand and completely agree this is a non-problem if we had robot umps, but since that isn’t happening yet it’s becoming a pretty big concern for me.  It’s not just that he’s bad on getting close balls called as strikes, it’s that he gets so many close strikes - clear strikes - called as balls.  I feel like he’s actually gotten worse as the season has gone on; I know this is something they talked about a lot during spring training and how much he works on it, but game after game it’s contributing to higher pitch counts for so many different pitchers.  Then last night he had multiple passed balls where he tried to backhand or scoop a ball instead of blocking it.  He’s also still in his extended slump - .202/.298/.275 since 8/1.  The Cubs don’t have another option (though I do find it interesting Caratini has been catching Hamels quite a bit lately; last 4 starts), but he needs to get straightened out soon. 

It might be about time to assume Morrow isn’t coming back.  It’s been almost a week since I’ve seen anything on him, and even that was him still just throwing from flat ground.  With him out, the bullpen doesn’t feel anything like a strength.  While Strop has been good, he still has his moments - and it’s worth noting he’s been pretty invisible in the playoff mix the last few years.  Edwards is still very much a mess, and was a total mess last postseason.  Wilson has been a lot better this year, but there’s still a ton of risk with him.  Cishek looks to be in a bad stretch, or maybe he’s just tired.  Chavez has been amazing with the Cubs - 25.2IP, 1.05ERA, 31k/2bb - but he has a long enough history that I’m weary to think something special is going on. 

All that being said, the rotation has been very good lately.  Hamels looks like a legit ace again, Hendricks has regained his form, and neither Lester or Quintana are the worst 3/4 starters you’ll find on a playoff team.  The offense still hasn’t had more than a couple of games with the main regulars healthy - none if you want to include Murphy is this group because Heyward went out right before Bryant came back - but is still incredibly deep and dangerous.  In spite of last night, the Cubs still have a great defense (though again, Murphy hurts that) and are a great baserunning team.  So, I guess, buckle up and enjoy the ride? 

Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 05, 2018 at 10:27 AM | 157 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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