Instead of the usual notes this morning, I’m going to tell you a 1969 story, since I’ve been telling many of those all year long on the 50th anniversary of that star-crossed team.
50 years ago today, September 2, 1969, the Cubs defeated the Reds 8-2 in Cincinnati. They got a home run from, of all people, Don Kessinger, who hit just four homers all year.
It was their fifth win in a row. That victory improved their record to 84-52, 32 games over .500. They led the Mets, who had lost four of six, by five games. Their magic number for clinching the N.L. East title was 24 — the same elimination number the Cubs face entering the action today, September 2, 2019.
Well, you know what happened next, or if you don’t: The Cubs followed that with an eight-game losing streak, falling out of first place, never to return that year. The Cubs franchise wouldn’t get back to 32 games over .500 until 1984.
Things look pretty bleak for the Cubs this morning, September 2, 2019, sitting three games behind the division-leading Cardinals and coming off two bad losses.
But what if we’re being set up for the September we never had in 1969?
Sure, I’m dreaming. It’s fun to dream, isn’t it?
Here are today’s particulars.
Kyle Hendricks, RHP vs. Justus Sheffield, LHP
Kyle Hendricks has a 1.79 ERA and 0.810 WHIP in 11 starts at Wrigley Field this year. It’s gotten this ridiculous:
August, two Wrigley starts: 13⅓ innings, four hits and two walks allowed (0.450 WHIP), two runs allowed (1.35 ERA), 12 strikeouts.
August, three road starts: 14⅓ innings, 23 hits and one walk allowed (1.674 WHIP), 14 runs allowed (8.79 ERA), six strikeouts — and that includes a road start in which he allowed just one run in seven innings. If not for that his August road ERA would be over 15.
If you can figure this out, let Joe Maddon and Tommy Hottovy know. It’s inexplicable. He was just about even home vs. road last year. This year he’s a Cy Young winner at home, a DFA candidate on the road.
Since this is a home game, it should go well. Should.
Justus Sheffield (no relation to former big leaguer Gary Sheffield) was acquired by the Mariners last winter in the deal that sent James Paxton to the Yankees. He was the Yankees’ No. 1 pick in 2014 (31st overall, three picks before Jack Flaherty.
He made three relief appearances for the Yankees in 2018 and has made three total appearances (two starts) for the Mariners this year. The results have not been good at the MLB level this year (7.94 ERA, 1.941 WHIP).
Per Fangraphs, he relies almost exclusively on a fastball and slider. Seems like a guy who might be destined for the bullpen eventually, but here he is, starting.
He has obviously never faced the Cubs or anyone on their roster, not even in the minor leagues. The Cubs often struggle against guys like this, but I think today’s a day the offense breaks out again.
Today’s game is on WGN.
SB Nation game preview
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The 2019 Game Thread procedure will be the same as the one used in previous years. Here’s how it works.
You’ll find the game preview posted separately on the front page, two hours before game time (90 minutes for some early day games following night games).
At the same time, a StoryStream containing the preview will also post on the front page. The First Pitch Thread and all the overflow threads will be published in that stream, as well as the recap. The recap will also live on the front page as a separate post, and at the time I write the recap I will rename the stream “Cubs vs. (Team) (Day of Week) Game Threads” so you can go back and find every thread related to that particular game.
You will also be able to find the preview, First Pitch Thread, all the overflow threads and recap in the box marked “Chicago Cubs Game Threads” at the bottom of the front page (you can also find them in this section link). They will also appear in the game’s StoryStream as noted above.
The First Pitch thread will post at five minutes before game time, then an overflow thread at one hour, two hours and 2:45 after the scheduled game time.
Discuss amongst yourselves.