Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Nicholas Castellanos and other Cubs are shut down for the season due to various injuries. Really, only one player who’s considered an everyday regular (Kyle Schwarber) started this game.
And yet the team blasted four home runs, including two by Ian Happ, and held on to defeat the Cardinals 8-6. Meaningless, perhaps, but beating the Cardinals is always satisfying and it does show that there’s some depth on this roster.
They wasted no time taking a 1-0 lead in the first inning. C’mon down, Kyle Schwarber! [VIDEO]
Cole Hamels, likely making his final appearance in a Cubs uniform, breezed through the first inning, allowing just a two-out single.
Yadier Molina led off the second. C’mon, Yadi, what are you thinking? [VIDEO]
That was absolutely not a purpose pitch. It appeared to barely graze Molina, yet he had words with Hamels and benches emptied. Molina looked pretty unhappy with the whole thing. Maybe he was just trying to fire up his team, I don’t know. Seemed pretty ridiculous to me.
Hamels retired the next three hitters, and then the Cubs brought out the home-run ball again in the third. Nico Hoerner led off with a single and one out later, it was Ian Happ’s turn to go deep [VIDEO].
That ball: Crushed!
That was Happ’s 10th of the year. Another franchise record fell:
Ian Happ is the 11th #Cubs player with 10+ HR this season. Franchise record, of course #2019— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) September 29, 2019
Hamels was lifted after four innings having allowed two hits, no walks, no runs and striking out eight. I suppose it’s possible the Cubs could bring him back for one more year (at a much lower salary), but odds are that was his swan song in a Cubs uniform. It seems likely Hamels came back too soon from his oblique injury and that helped lead to poor performance in the second half, at least up to this game which didn’t mean anything. Still, he created value as a Cub (5.6 bWAR in 39 total starts and 218 innings) and cost pretty much nothing in terms of prospects, and I’m glad he was here.
The Cubs blew the game open (or so it seemed at the time) in the fifth. Schwarber led off with a single and Happ did it again [VIDEO].
It’s now 5-0 and one out later, Victor Caratini made it 6-0 [VIDEO].
That ball: Also crushed!
Victor Caratini has had a really nice year for the Cubs, capably backing up Willson Contreras, becoming Yu Darvish’s trusted personal catcher and playing first base well in Rizzo’s absence. He’s become one of the best backup catchers in baseball and certainly, he is one of Theo Epstein’s best trade acquisitions. (In case you’ve forgotten, the Cubs got him from the Braves in 2014 for James Russell and Emilio Bonifacio.)
The three-run inning put the Cubs up 6-0. What could possibly...
You know the answer to that question before I even finish it. Kyle Ryan, who’s generally been reliable this year, served up a homer to Harrison Bader and issued two walks before being replaced by David Phelps. Tommy Edman tripled off Phelps, scoring two more runs, both charged to Ryan. It might have been more runs except for this spectacular catch by Tony Kemp [VIDEO].
Brad Wieck, who’s also been pretty effective this month, wasn’t Saturday night. He hit a batter and issued two walks, loading the bases. Steve Cishek relieved Wieck and allowed a two-run single by Edman. He did get Paul Goldschmidt to hit into a double play, but that scored another run to make it 6-5.
In case you’re counting, that’s four inherited runners scoring in this game, exactly what you do NOT want from your bullpen. This was almost certainly Cishek’s final game as a Cub.
The Cubs got two of those runs back in the eighth. Addison Russell singled and and David Bote walked. Albert Almora Jr. was sent up and everyone in the ballpark knew he was going to try to bunt the runners along. He bunted. It was popped up and caught.
The Cardinals brought in Andrew Miller to pitch to Kemp, who promptly gave the Cubs another run [VIDEO].
A three-run lead. Would it be enough with six outs to go? (That’s a legitimate question concerning the 2019 Cubs.)
Pedro Strop entered to throw the eighth, and after he struck out Matt Carpenter, it became a two-run lead when Paul DeJong hit his 30th homer of the season. But Pedro got out of the inning with the two-run lead intact.
The Cubs did not score in the ninth and on came Brandon Kintzler for a save opportunity. He had previously recorded two blown saves this year, one in the eighth inning May 21 at Wrigley Field against the Phillies (the Cubs came back to win that game) and one in that dreadful ninth inning August 16 in Pittsburgh.
He began the inning by hitting DeJong. (I can hear you thinking, “Not this again.” Right?)
But then Kintzler retired the next two hitters and the Cardinals’ last chance is represented by... Molina.
Kintzler retired him on an easy fly ball to center and it was in this manner that he recorded his first save as a Cub in what was likely his last game as a Cub.
Not long after this, the Rockies defeated the Brewers on a walkoff home run by Trevor Story. So the Cardinals lead the Brewers by one game going into the season’s final day. Personally, I am rooting for those two to wind up tied so they have to play a tiebreaker game Monday (it would be in St. Louis). If the Cubs can win Sunday and sweep the series, a Brewers win would force the tiebreaker. If nothing else, that would give everyone an extra baseball game to watch Monday:
In the event that a Tiebreaker Game between the @Cardinals and @Brewers is necessary to determine the NL Central title, then it will be played in St. Louis on Monday at 3:09 p.m (ET)/2:09 p.m. CT on @ESPN and @ESPNRadio. #MLB #Postseason— MLB Communications (@MLB_PR) September 28, 2019
If you think I have deliberately ignored the news that Joe Maddon and Theo Epstein were to meet after Saturday’s game to discuss Joe’s future, I really haven’t. My position on Joe hasn’t changed — I have maintained throughout this year that he should receive a contract extension; my latest on this was posted just 10 days ago.
If he’s not renewed, I’ll have thoughts on that when it happens. If he’s retained, then we all discuss what’s going to happen to the team going forward. We might learn the results today, or tomorrow, or later than that. When it happens, there will be an article, or more than one, here.
Statistical note: Saturday was the 11th time this season the Cubs hit at least four home runs in a game, and that gave them a total of 256 with one game to go. That shattered the previous franchise record (235 in 2004) and sounds great except when you notice that MLB as a whole smashed its home-run record by more than 600 (!) and the Cubs’ 256 ranks just sixth (one short of the Athletics, who are fifth). With one game to go, the Yankees lead with 305 and the Twins are second with 304.
The Cubs announced after the game that Derek Holland would start Sunday. Holland made seven starts for the Giants this year and wasn’t very good and was moved to the bullpen. He hasn’t thrown more than 24 pitches in any Cubs appearance and hasn’t thrown more than 38 in an outing since May, so I’d expect this to be a bullpen game for the Cubs.
Jack Flaherty will start for the Cardinals, which will be problematic for them if they lose and are forced into a tiebreaker game.
Game time Sunday is 2:15 p.m. CT (remember, all games on the last day of the season start in the same hour, the 2 p.m. CT hour), and TV coverage will be via ABC7 Chicago.