Since Joe Maddon took over as manager of the Cubs in 2015, Chicago's northsiders have been perennial contenders. The days of the Cubs as hapless lovable losers are gone, rendering Steve Goodman's wonderful tribute obsolete and leaving one fewer item to go along with death and taxes on the list of life's certainties. Should they live up to preseason expectations, the Cubs will participate in their fifth consecutive postseason this fall.
It won't be a cakewalk, though—in the competitive National League Central division, the Cubs had 96 days in first place, and were leading the pack as recently as August 22nd but were then swept in a series with the Washington Nationals to put them behind the St. Louis Cardinals. Now three back of St. Louis, the Cubs still hold a Wild Card spot; if the season ended today, they would play those same Nationals for that entry to the rest of the postseason tournament.
This will be the second two-game set for the Mariners and Cubs this season; Chicago took both earlier games at the ballpark by Elliott Bay, one in a squeaker the other by blowout. The M's will be looking for a little payback as they take in historic Wrigley Field for just the third time (the Cubs hosted Seattle for three games in 2007 and again in 2016; the M's won one of three each time).
Leading the way for the Cubs is first baseman Anthony Rizzo. The 29-year-old former All-Star is having his best season yet, pushing the elusive .300/.400/.500 line and vying for his third Gold Glove award. Joining Rizzo recently has been Nick Castellanos, traded to the Cubs from Detroit on July 31st; Castellanos has taken well to his new digs, batting .400/.410/.767 at Wrigley Field and .348/.385/.713 overall as a Cub. The best supporting player behind them is 2016 NL MVP Kris Bryant; the third baseman is having another solid campaign with a .282/.379/.518 season line thus far.
The Cubs rank third in the National League in ERA, mainly on the strength of their bullpen, but each member of their starting rotation can be formidable. In this set, the Cubs will pitch Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester against Justus Sheffield and Felix Hernández. Hendricks leads the pack in ERA with a 3.47 mark and averages about six innings per start; the right-hander also leads Cub starters in WHIP at 1.122. Lester dominated the Mariners May 1st in Seattle, throwing seven innings of one-hit ball and striking out eight; it was an aberration for the lefty this year, though, as he's been smacked around hard as often as not—the A's torched him for 11 runs on ten hits last month in his worst game of 2019 to date. Hernández has started twice since his return from injury and done well enough to win in each but in typical fashion ended up with no-decisions. Sheffield has shown real promise, but has been overmatched by big-league hitters thus far in his brief time with the M's.
Who’s Hot & Not
Last 10 games
.400/.550/.833, 4 HR, 9 RBI
.375/.412/.688, 3 HR, 6 RBI
.219/.242/.406, 2 HR, 5 RBI
.111/.220/.139, 1 2B, 0 RBI
.118/.200/.118, 0 XBH, 1 RBI
Last 3 series vs. Seattle
|5/1/19||CHC 11, SEA 0|
|4/30/19||CHC 6, SEA 5|
|7/31/16||CHC 7, SEA 6|
|7/30/16||SEA 4, CHC 1|
|7/29/16||CHC 12, SEA 1|
|6/30/13||CHC 7, SEA 6|
|6/29/13||CHC 5, SEA 3|
|6/28/13||SEA 5, CHC 4|
|6/24/10||CHC 3, SEA 2|
|6/23/10||SEA 8, CHC 1|
|6/22/10||SEA 2, CHC 0|
Joe Maddon: Without question the best manager the Cubs have had in decades, Maddon does not know if this is his last year in Chicago or if the Cubs will offer to keep him on. The club has yet to offer an extension, which is curious; why would they not? But the job-insecurity isn't bothering him. "I am enjoying this possibly more than I have ever enjoyed doing this," he said of this year's experience with the Cubs. He may be enjoying it more because he's changed his approach; he's delegating fewer things to his coaches and initiating more conversations with his players. “The players wanted more feedback, so I’m giving them more of that. These guys seek that conversation. So I’m talking. I’m texting. I’m emailing. I’m like a pain in the butt right now.’’
Maddon has teamed his Respect 90 Foundation with Chicago-based nonprofit Rags of Honor 1, an organization devoted to helping homeless veterans, in creating a new beer, a German-style lager called "Try Not to Suck," which is the motto he's preached with the Cubs. Try Not to Suck beer is currently made by Haymarket Beer Company, but Rags of Honor 1 is establishing its own brewery, to be staffed by veterans, and will take over production when it's up and running. For now, Try Not to Suck is only available at two stores in the Chicago area.
Steve Cishek: The Mariners' closer for most of 2016, Cishek developed a bad reputation in Seattle that was not at all deserved. After a couple of consecutive bad outings that saw his ERA jump to 3.40, the relatively-soft-tossing right-hander lost the closer's job to fireballing rookie Edwin Díaz, but Cishek finished the '16 season with a 1.10 ERA as a setup man with a .167 bating average against. In 2017, the M's only gave him 20 innings of work before trading him to Tampa Bay, for whom he excelled setting up for Alex Colomé, delivering a 1.09 ERA for the Rays. Last year with the Cubs, Cishek continued his understated success with 701⁄3 innings of middle- and late-inning relief, good enough for a 2.18 ERA and 1.038 WHIP. This year hasn't been quite as kind to him, but he's still been plenty solid with seven saves and a 3.21 ERA in 60 games.
|Chicago Cubs||(1902 - present)|
|World Champions:||1907, 1908, 2016|
|League Champions:||1876, 1880-1882, 1885, 1886, 1906, 1908, 1910, 1918, 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938, 1945|
|Division Titles:||1984, 1989, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2017|