The Cubs’ 2003 pitching record for most strikeouts in a single season is safe for now.
The Brewers, however, entered its final regular season game just 9 strikeouts away from eclipsing the Cubs’ mark of 1,404 K’s.
Six Brewers pitchers combined for 6 strikeouts against the Padres Wednesday night, leaving the staff 3 punchouts shy of setting the new mark.
The biggest break for Chicago was the decision of Brewers’ manager Ron Roenicke’s to sit his ace pitcher, and strikeout master, Yovani Gallardo. The right-hander finished the season with 204 K’s, 6th most in the National League.
The Cubs’ 2003 pitching staff set the major league single-season strikeout record of 1,404 punchouts.
Starters Kerry Wood (266), Mark Prior (245), Matt Clement (171), Carlos Zambrano (168) & Shawn Estes (103) combined for 953 strikeouts.
Relievers Kyle Farnsworth (92), Mike Remlinger (83) & Juan Cruz (65) accounted for another 240….closer Joe Borowski added (66) strikeouts pushing the season total to 1,259…and various other hurlers for Chicago managed a combined 145 strikeouts helping achieve the new mark.
But as we’ve reached the final regular season game of 2012, the Milwaukee Brewers’ pitching staff has come within 9 strikeouts of breaking the Cubs’ 2003 record.
Our Cubs of yesteryear, however, have caught a huge break with Milwaukee choosing to sit its regularly scheduled starter, and staff ace, Yovani Gallardo (16-9, 3.66), in the final regular season game against San Diego.
Gallardo’s 204 punchouts are 5th best in the National League. Twice this season he’s struck out 10 or more batters in a game…and 7 times he’s recorded 8 or more strikeouts in a single outing.
In place of Gallardo the Brewers send right-hander Josh Stinson to the mound–to make his first major league start. In five relief appearances this season Stinson has struck out a grand total of 3 batters…a pretty good swing of fortune in the ’03 Cubs’ favor.
Meanwhile, the Padres have the 12th most strikeouts in the majors this year, two ahead of the Cubs’ (1,230) K’s. And given the Padres have accounted for 8 & 10 strikeouts over its past 2 games in Milwaukee…the Cubs’ high-water mark in K’s might just be the latest record ready to be broken.
The Cubs’ inability to win its weekend series against St. Louis effectively ended the National League wild card chase, which I found more frustrating than the club’s pursuit of avoiding a 100-loss season. Chicago still needs four more victories, by the way, to reach 63-wins.
So go ahead and pencil the Cardinals in as the second wild card team (Atlanta) now that both the Dodgers and Brewers find themselves 3.5 games back of St. Louis.
The Cards, meanwhile, began its season-ending stretch with another win against the pathetic Astros Monday night…and they’re certain to win at least one more game at Houston to wrap up the three-game series.
Although the NL East champion Nationals visit the Cardinals next, Davey Johnson says he’ll rest his starters before the postseason. And it’s likely the same will be said for Dusty Baker’s NL Central champion Reds, who follow Washington to St. Louis to finish out the 162-game schedule.
Even if St. Louis only manages to go .500 the rest of the way (4-4) they’ll finish with 87-wins, meaning Los Angeles and Milwaukee will need to win eight of its remaining nine-games just to tie the Cardinals…hard to believe that happens. Sigh…
So which teams roll-over against St. Louis this October? Nats, Reds, Giants, Braves…Rangers? I’d count on the Brewers and Phillies, but neither apparently wanted to wait as long as last year to disappoint.
The Cardinals have 10 walkoff losses this season and four have come courtesy the Cubs–all taking place at Wrigley Field.
Joe Mather delivered the first on April 23, a single in the bottom of the ninth scoring Bryan LaHair. Soriano had the game-winning hit the following night in the bottom of the tenth and Rizzo smashed his memorable walkoff home run on July 29. David DeJesus, of course, had the game-winning hit on Friday, scoring Brett Jackson in the bottom of the tenth.
MR. EVERYTHING: Darwin Barney is showing he’s more than just a Gold Glove second baseman–he’s an all-around winner. Darwin’s dramatic game-tying home run with two-strikes and two-outs yesterday is just the latest example.
This kid’s a terrific teammate, a real gamer with a strong work ethic and a passion for winning. The way he plays is how winning gets done–with effort, awareness and the ability to come through in crucial game situations.
I don’t see any reason the Cubs shouldn’t build around Barney the same way they plan to do with Castro. I sense Barney’s going to win the Gold Glove Award this year and come back an even better all-around player next season.
And I think it’s pretty exciting to imagine an infield of Rizzo, Barney & Castro for years to come. Shoring up those three spots brings the Cubs one step closer to being competitive.
NL MVP TALK: If the Brewers complete its late September charge with a playoff berth, Ryan Braun’s name is certain to come up in National League MVP talk.
If, in fact, Braun wins the award again, having already tested positive for PEDs use last season, then baseball might as well legalize performance enhancers.
With the knowledge Braun knowingly cheated the league, then beat baseball’s steroids testing system on a technicality and escape punishment while taking us all for fools, there’s no reason I’d even consider him for the award.
Sorry, I’m just not buying it. And if the baseball writers award this phony the MVP Award a second time it only means one thing–the writers don’t care about protecting the honor of the game as much as they say they do. So why even bother testing?
McCUTCHEN & POSEY: Andrew McCutchen has been a season-long favorite to win the NL MVP, and he still could theoretically. But it’s going to be awfully difficult to overlook his team’s demise from division leaders at the All Star break, to wild card contenders, to a sub .500 record to finish the season.
The Pirates are 1-12 over its last 13-games falling two-games below .500 (74-76). They’re realistically out of the playoff race and headed towards a 20th consecutive losing season.
That means if the season ended today my vote goes to Buster Posey. He’s been sensational in the season’s second half (.389, 13 HR, 53 RBI & 1.114 OPS) and has single-handedly carried the Giants since the departure of Melky Cabrera to his 50-game suspension for steroid use.
At that time the Giants were tied with the Dodgers atop the NL West. Now they lead Los Angeles by 10.0 games and have the third best record in baseball (88-63). Who thought that was possible with Cabrera out of the lineup?
WHAT’S BREWING: Thanks to the Cubs win against St. Louis on Friday afternoon, and an equally dramatic comeback for Milwaukee at Washington last night, the Brewers find themselves just 1.5 games behind the Cards for the final wild card spot.
The Brewers will certainly need at least one more win in its next three-games against a tough Nationals team to stay in the running. And if a four-game series against Washington wasn’t tough enough, Milwaukee immediately heads to Cincinnati for a three-game series.
But despite a tough schedule, the Brewers have been scorching hot winning 24 of its last 30-games. They do, however, hold one advantage compared to St. Louis—the Brewers have 12 remaining games this season vs. the Cardinals’ 11 remaining contests.
Either way, I’d just love to see the Cubs take one more from the Cardinals to send Milwaukee and St. Louis on a dead sprint to the wild card finish! May the best team win.
Remember the Cubs thrilling comeback win against Colorado in late May of 2008? I know many of you do and probably just immediately thought of Mark DeRosa’s dramatic 2-R HR.
For those of you with a foggy recollection, let me jog your memory a bit. The Cubs trailed 9-1 after five innings, but rallied for a 10-9 victory behind home runs from Henry Blanco, Kosuke Fukudome, Jim Edmonds, and the blast off DeRosa’s bat.
This wasn’t just a tremendous comeback in Cubs history, it was a staple win that legitimized the first place Cubs as the best team in the National League (Ah, now you remember!).
I bring this particular game up because it reminds me so much of the Cubs dramatic come-from-behind win on Thursday against Milwaukee; a game in which Chicago trailed 9-3, then tied the score 9-9 in the sixth only to enter the bottom of the ninth down 11-9 before scoring three runs to cap off a 12-11 victory.
The dramatics were eerily similar to 2008, with one exception being the Cubs scored all 12-runs Thursday without the benefit of a home run.
But as my good friend @jdgershbein (he’s as true-blue a Cubs fan as they come) reminded me, there’s one big difference between these two comeback games–the 2008 victory actually meant something.
WILL ANYONE REMEMBER?
Thursday’s win, as memorable as it should be, will most likely be forgotten in a season that’s on course to be remembered as one of the worst in franchise history.
I bet a significant portion of Cubs fans are still unaware this comeback even happened. Probably more don’t even care to know. But that’s the cost of doing business for a team playing 30-games below .500.
Thursday’s game was played in front of a crowd of less than 20,000 (and much fewer stayed to see Soriano’s walkoff hit 4:09 minutes after the first pitch) whereas the comeback win against the Rockies was finished out in front of a packed house at Wrigley Field.
That win four-years ago is exactly the kind of ‘memorable experience’ every baseball organization hopes for–the type that keeps its fans wanting more—and precisely what Thursday’s game was not.
DOES THURSDAY’S WIN MEAN ANYTHING?
The comeback against Colorado capped off an (18-11) month of May for the Cubs, gave them a five-game winning streak (which stretched to nine-games) and enthralled even the most fringe Cubs fans to pay attention to the team on a daily basis.
Thursday’s win, however, won’t share the same effect for the masses. But it does tell those of us sticking with the team through the bitter end a thing or two about the character of these young Cubs and their manager.
Most notably, the Cubs never gave-in despite playing out the string against another underperforming team, in front of another underwhelming home crowd.
Dale Sveum, to his credit, never threw-in the towel as evidence by his five pitching changes and substitution of what appeared to be a lackadaisical Bryan LaHair in favor of Alfonso Soriano.
The young guns of Castro, Rizzo, Vitters, Jackson, Valbuena and Castillo battled start-to-finish. Their young enthusiasm helped spark the play of veterans David DeJesus and Soriano.
”Those young guys don’t give up,” said Soriano.
While the effort is appreciated and does give the club something to hang its hat on this season, we can only be certain the Cubs will waste more ‘memorable games’ even with the most promising possibilities of the Cubs fielding a competitive team by 2015.
But when the Cubs do blossom from pretender to contender, and I’m confident they will, we’re sure to see many more unbelievable come-from-behind wins like Thursday’s. That, after all, is what good teams do–win crazy games and win a lot of them.
Only then, however, most Cubs fans will immediately think back to a late May game in 2008 when the Cubs rallied from down 9-1 to beat the Rockies.
Meanwhile, Thursday’s game will have already become a faint, if not forgotten, memory, just another meaningless win in a season filled with seemingly 100 unmemorable losses.
And to that I say, what a shame.
*Fun side note. The losing pitcher for the Rockies in the 2008 comeback win? Now current Cubs reliever, Manny Corpas
Aramis Ramirez currently leads all of baseball in extra base hits (59) and doubles (40). He’s on pace for 54 two-baggers this season, which would surpass the Brewers franchise record of 53 doubles set by Lyle Overbay in 2004.
Many Cubs fans thought the Brewers were insane for signing the 34-year-old Ramirez to a 3yr-$36M deal this offseason. How quickly they forget he won the Silver Slugger Award last season.
MORE HARWARE FOR ARAMIS?
Aramis hasn’t skipped a beat since joining Milwaukee. Following his typical slow start at the plate he’s hit .322 over his last 74 games raising his batting average from .218 to .288 to go along with 17 HR & 72 RBI all totaled.
At this rate he’ll challenge David Wright (.320, 16 HR, 75 RBI) during the next six weeks to defend his Silver Slugger title. And that’s not all.
Ramirez also has the highest fielding percentage (.973) and fewest number of errors (6) of any National League third baseman. A Silver Slugger and Gold Glove Award in the same season?
Who would’ve thunk it?
I’m not suggesting the Cubs were fools for not re-signing Ramirez. His nine seasons spent on the North Side were highly productive, if not under-valued, but his time was up.
Aramis had clearly soured professionally under Mike Quade, and at the tail end of his career he didn’t appear interested, or willing, to invest in the Cubs lengthy rebuilding process. Who could blame him?
I gave Ramirez the nickname ‘Mr. Clutch’ for obvious reasons; he delivered more big-hits than any other Cub I can remember since his first season with Chicago in 2003.
A-Ram’s long been one of my favorite players, and always one of my favorite Cubs. He was also arguably the best acquisition Jim Hendry ever made as the Cubs GM, and unquestionably, the MVP of both the Cubs last two division winning teams in 2007-08.
But even so, Ramirez spent the better part of his Cubs tenure quietly going about his business in the shadow of Sammy Sosa and Carlos Zambrano, among others. Few, if any, however, actually outperformed him.
It seems a new deal and a new team hasn’t changed a thing about Ramirez. He continues to tear up National League pitching, and quite honestly, there’s no reason any Cubs fans should be surprised.
All six games the Cubs have played this season have been decided by three or fewer runs, including Wednesday’s 2-1 loss against Milwaukee.
On one hand it speaks to the Cubs solid starting pitching. On the other, it’s remarkable games have stayed so close with Chicago’s bullpen ranked dead last in the National League.
But it unquestionably shines light on how punch-less the offense has been thus far. The Cubs have scored 19 total runs–right at three per game–with a .221 team batting average and .140 mark with RISP.
In fact, Milwaukee felt so confident they could outslug the Cubs this afternoon they rested three regulars–Ryan Braun, Corey Hart & Jonathan Lucroy. And it worked thanks to backup catcher George Kottaras’ messily two-run homer.
3B Ian Stewart (trade with Rockies)
RF David DeJesus (free agent from A’s)
LHP Travis Wood (trade with Reds) & OF Dave Sappelt (trade with Reds)
- Gone Fishing:
Sean Marshall (traded to Reds)
Tyler Colvin (traded to Rockies)
DJ LeMahieu (traded to Rockies)
Aramis Ramirez (free agent, signed with Brewers)
John Grabow (free agent, signed with Dodgers)
*Carlos Pena? (unsigned free agent)
*Kerry Wood? (unsigned free agent)
The postseason is suppose to be reserved for power-arms. But Randy Wolf, a soft-tossing lefty, dominated St. Louis in Game 4 to keep Milwaukee’s World Series hopes alive.
Honestly, I didn’t think Wolf had seven innings of two-run baseball in him. Not after surrendering seven earned runs to Arizona in the NLDS, which came on the heels of 10 runs allowed in 11.2 innings of his final two starts of the regular season.
But despite allowing two early solo home runs, Wolf settled down to retire 13 of his final 15 batters while keeping St. Louis hitless with RISP–The Cards finished the game 0-for-8 in that category and remain 0-for-15 after the first inning of Game 3.
For Milwaukee this October, it’s finally a starting performance that’s postseason worthy.
Game 5 starter, Zach Greinke, has allowed 16 hits and 10 runs for a 8.18 ERA over two starts. Shaun Marcum: 14 hits, 12 runs, and a 12.46 ERA in two outings.
Yovani Gallardo has been the most steady hand, but unimpressive for a staff ace: 18 hits in 19 IP, 8 walks, and 2 HR in three outings.
Even with the NLCS now a best-of-three series, the Brewers staff better find another Wolf-like performance in them. Otherwise, Randy’s gem could be the lasting highlight for a brilliant Brewers season.