The Chicago Cubs took care of business in Pittsburgh to set up a huge series at Wrigley Field.
They carry momentum into a three-game set against the Milwaukee Brewers after winning three of four games against the Pirates. It’s a chance to chip away at the Brewers’ National League Central lead, beginning with Monday night’s series opener in what should be an electric atmosphere.
It was a week of change for the White Sox after firing executive vice president Ken Williams and general manager Rick Hahn on Tuesday. In the release announcing the news, the Sox said they will “begin a search for a single decision-maker to lead the baseball operations department” and anticipate having someone in place “by the end of the season.”
Every Monday throughout the season, Tribune baseball writers will provide an update on what happened — and what’s ahead for the Cubs and Sox.
Seiya Suzuki on a roll since mental reset
Sometimes watching the game from the bench can provide mental clarity and a different perspective that can jump-start a slumping hitter.
Seiya Suzuki has been locked in since being benched nearly three weeks ago. The well-timed turnaround comes as the Cubs try to make up ground in the division race. Suzuki extended his hitting streak to a career-high 10 games with a two-hit day in Sunday’s 10-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“I feel like I was able to think about the approach, getting into the game, even with things not affiliated with baseball,” Suzuki said Sunday through interpreter Toy Matsushita. “Just trying to reset my feelings, my mental state and I think that’s why I’m doing pretty well right now.”
In his last 16 games dating to his return to the lineup Aug. 9 in New York, Suzuki owns a .390/.431/.763 slash line while producing four home runs, six doubles, two triples, 11 RBIs and 15 runs scored. He’s also tallied five walks and struck out seven times.
“I don’t know if it’s confidence, but I just feel really good,” Suzuki said. “I think I’m being very aggressive in the box and taking good swings, so I just want to make sure I continue this.”
Suzuki’s confidence and aggressiveness at the plate have carried over to his base running. He has been finding opportunities to turn singles into doubles and seizing opportunities to take an extra base or score.
“If I can’t get a hit then I want to try to get on base for the walk,” Suzuki said. “I feel like as a team right now we can’t really lose any games and when I get on base I want to try to advance to the next base as much as I can. I’m trying to contribute to the team as much as I can.”
Recapping a week that won’t be forgotten at Guaranteed Rate Field
The Sox were settling in for the beginning of a seven-game homestand Monday as a report broke on the team considering a move from Guaranteed Rate Field when their lease expires six seasons from now.
It was just the start of a week that will not be forgotten.
According to the report, from Crain’s Chicago Business, no decision is imminent, but a new stadium in the city or suburbs and relocating to Nashville, Tenn., were among the possibilities.
“I focus on this game, I focus on us trying to get better and putting ourselves in a position to win this game, winning tomorrow, finish strong,” manager Pedro Grifol said before Tuesday’s game. “I don’t focus on things I don’t control. That’s out of my control.”
A couple of hours after Grifol met with reporters came the surprising newse from the team that Williams and Hahn were relieved of their duties, effective immediately.
“Not only did they give me an opportunity to let me fall flat on my face when I was a 23-year old kid, find my way in the big leagues, and find a place to call home for a very long time,” reliever Aaron Bummer said after Tuesday’s game. “Me and my family are forever thankful for the opportunities they gave us. We wish it would have ended differently.”
Wednesday came a report from USA Today’s Bob Nightengale listing current assistant general manager Chris Getz and former Kansas City Royals general manager Dayton Moore as options for front office openings.
“When I was in the minors we talked a lot when he was down there coming to the affiliates,” pitcher Michael Kopech said of Getz on Wednesday. “If he’s the one doing the job, I think he’ll do a great job.”
Friday the news went beyond baseball when two women were wounded by gunfire while sitting in the outfield stands at Guaranteed Rate Field.
“Well wishes to the two fans who were injured last night,” senior vice president of communications Scott Reifert said Saturday. “Continue to hope for their speedy recovery.”
What we’re reading this morning
Week ahead: Cubs
A big week against division rivals awaits the Cubs.
They return to Wrigley four games back of the division lead after a 5-2 trip to Detroit and Pittsburgh. The Cubs have an opportunity to make up ground on the first-place Brewers, who will be starting old friend Wade Miley (Monday) and their two best pitchers, Corbin Burnes (Tuesday) and Brandon Woodruff (Wednesday). The Cubs are countering with Jameson Taillon, Justin Steele and Kyle Hendricks.
On Friday, the Cubs can add one pitcher and one position player when rosters expand to 28 players. They currently have two spots open on their 40-man roster, adding flexibility to who they can bring up. To be eligible for a postseason roster, a player must be in the organization by Friday, however, they do not need to be added to the 40-man roster by that date because they can be brought up to replace someone on the injured list who has served the minimum IL time.
As the Cubs evaluate their September call-up options, they won’t completely dismiss future 40-man considerations to avoid offseason roster complications. It’s considered a secondary factor as the Cubs balance their choices.
Among the players the Cubs have discussed bringing up with expanded rosters: outfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong. The organization is weighing whether it is more beneficial for Crow-Armstrong to continue playing every day at Triple-A Iowa. Barring an injury or a prolonged slump by Mike Tauchman that creates playing time, their position player call-up Friday will likely be limited to mostly pinch running and defensive replacement opportunities.
That doesn’t mean Crow-Armstrong won’t be brought up Friday, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Cubs opt to let their top prospect gain more experience at Iowa, whose season ends Sept. 24, where he has logged only 99 career plate appearances. His elite defense, speed and base running ability can be an asset the Cubs look to utilize at some point over the final month.
Speaking generally about the impending expanded rosters, manager David Ross noted how roles right now are pretty set but there are a lot of possibilities which is “the sign of a good team down there, a lot of healthy players that are performing well.”
“We’ve even got guys on the bench that could really help us so that whoever it is has a skill set that can help us and there’s roster implications,” Ross said. “There’s a lot that goes into that pinch hitting and somebody’s probably not going to come up and start. There’s not a lot of playing time for whoever that is.
“The good thing about Triple A is it’s going all the way basically until we end so there’s still development opportunity for young players and all those things so we’ve talked through it. The one thing I know about this job is things change day to day and we may have a need that is different today than it will be Sept. 1.”
Monday: vs. Brewers, 7:05 p.m. Marquee
Tuesday: vs. Brewers, 7:05 p.m. Marquee
Wednesday: vs. Brewers, 1:20 p.m. Marquee
Friday: at Reds (doubleheader), 12:10 p.m./5:40 p.m. Marquee
Saturday: at Reds, 5:40 p.m. Marquee
Sunday: at Reds, 11:10 a.m. Marquee
Week ahead: White Sox
The Sox will continue to get a closer look at prospects like infielder Lenyn Sosa and catcher Korey Lee.
Sosa is slashing .273/.273/.545 with three homers and eight RBIs in 10 games since being recalled from Triple-A Charlotte on Aug. 18.
“Just trying to minimize the movement of my hands and put the barrel on the ball and put the ball in play,” Sosa said through an interpreter Friday.
The Sox promoted Lee from Charlotte on Thursday and caught the first three games of the four-game series against the Athletics.
“I’ve been really impressed with everything he’s done on the defensive end,” Grifol said of Lee Sunday. “Yesterday, we had a long pitcher’s meeting. I was impressed with his leadership capabilities and characteristics. Most rookies go in there and they just keep their mouth shut. They don’t say anything. That’s not his style. He communicated.”
Monday: at Orioles, 6:05 p.m., NBCSCH
Tuesday: at Orioles, 6:05 p.m., NBCSCH
Wednesday: at Orioles, 12:05 p.m., NBCSCH
Friday: vs. Tigers, 7:10 p.m., NBCSCH
Saturday: vs. Tigers, 6:10 p.m., NBCSCH
Sunday: vs. Tigers, 1:10 p.m., NBCSCH
This week in Chicago baseball
Aug. 28, 2005: Cubs retire Ryne Sandberg’s No. 23 jersey at Wrigley Field.
This was Sandberg’s day at Wrigley Field, and even though the Hall of Famer had already had his big day in Cooperstown, this smaller version was for the locals to see and touch. Sandberg’s number was retired, a flag in his honor raised up the right-field foul pole and a career was recognized.
With his family and 38,763 of his closest friends with him, he looked at ease. Andre Dawson, Bobby Dernier and Gary Matthews helped raise his No. 23 flag into the wind.
He won nine Gold Gloves at second base and was a 10-time All-Star. He’s a Hall of Famer, and now no other Cub will ever wear his number. His legacy? Not just in those numbers but also in his approach to the game.
“An outstanding dude” is how manager Dusty Baker put it.
On the same day in 1990, Sandberg became the first second baseman in history to have consecutive 30-homer seasons, leading the Cubs to a 5-2 victory over the Astros.
Aug. 29, 1918: Cubs, behind the pitching of Lefty Tyler, clinched the National League pennant with a 1-0 victory over the Reds.
Aug. 29, 1991: White Sox’s Carlton Fisk hit two homers to become the oldest player in the 20th century to accomplish the feat at age 43.
He’d top this mark by hitting two homers on Oct. 3.
Jack McDowell went the distance to beat Cleveland 7-2, snapping a 9-game losing streak.
“A long time since I congratulated the guys on the field,” manager Jeff Torborg said after the game.
“A big night for everybody,” Fisk said. “Maybe the monkey’s off now.”
Aug. 29, 2002: Mark Bellhorn became the first player in NL history to hit a home run in the same inning from both sides of the plate, in the fourth of the Cubs’ 13-10 win.
Bellhorn joined Cleveland’s Carlos Baerga — who did it against the Yankees on April 8, 1993, as the only ones to accomplish it.
“He really did have a sensational day,” Cubs manager Bruce Kimm said of Bellhorn, whose five RBIs in one inning tied Billy Williams’ team record set in 1964.
Bellhorn was scheduled for a day off until Sammy Sosa was scratched from the lineup. That prompted Kimm to move Angel Echevarria from first base to right field, clearing a spot for Bellhorn.
The low-key Bellhorn didn’t know he had entered the record books until after the game. He didn’t try to retrieve the home run balls.
“But if somebody wants to give them to me, I’ll keep them,” he said. “If not, oh well.”
Aug. 30, 2015: Cubs’ Jake Arrieta throws a no-hitter vs. the Dodgers.
Arrieta pitched the sixth no-hitter in the majors — and second against the Dodgers in 10 days — in the Cubs’ 2-0 win.
He struck out a season-high 12, one off his career high and walked one.
“It’s tough to put that into words, because you think about that all the time as a kid,” said Arrieta, who walked into a conference room to meet the media in onesie pajamas with a mustache theme as part of the Cubs’ road trip pajama party.
He was the first Cubs pitcher to throw a no-hitter since Carlos Zambrano in 2008. Arrieta is the 13th pitcher in team history to accomplish the feat.
Arrieta got the benefit of a close call for the official scorer in the third inning, when Kike Hernandez reached on a fielding error by second baseman Starlin Castro. Hernandez hit a one-hopper at Castro, who tried to play it on the short hop as the ball bounced off him. The play was ruled an error but probably could have gone either way.
It was the culmination of a career development that Cubs manager Joe Maddon could see coming.
“The thing with Jake, for the folks that have not seen enough of him, he has that stuff nightly,” Maddon said. “It’s really crazy. The ball looks like a Wiffle ball, even from the side. You could see the break on the slider, the curveball, the cutter. Right now he’s pitching at a different level.”
Arrieta became the first Cubs pitcher to win six straight starts since Carlos Silva in 2010. He is also the first Cubs pitcher with 14 straight quality starts since Greg Maddux in 1992.
Aug. 30, 2020: For the first time in MLB history, all three of a team’s starting outfielders hit two home runs in a game. Ian Happ, Kyle Schwarber and Justin Heyward starred in a Cubs’ 10-1 win over the Reds.
Aug. 31, 1935: Vern Kennedy of the White Sox pitched a no-hitter to beat Cleveland 5-0.
Kennedy also had a bases-loaded triple.
Aug. 31, 1998: Cubs’ Sammy Sosa ties Mark McGwire by hitting his 55th home run.
His 55th came on an 0-1 pitch from Reds pitcher Brett Tomko with Lance Johnson on first and one out in the third inning. It landed in the no-beer section in left field, leaving Sosa one shy of Hack Wilson’s National League and Cubs mark of 56 home runs.
Sosa had homered in 14 straight series and the two-run shot was his 13th of August, increasing his league-leading runs batted in total to 136 and putting him on pace to drive in 160 runs.
After the game, Sosa held up a bottle of Flintstones vitamins to the reporters, joking that his home run power comes from eating little, tiny Freds and Barneys, a reference to the controversial androstenedione pills that McGwire has taken this season.
Does Sosa ever stop and think about what he has accomplished?
“Maybe after the year is over and we go to the playoffs, I can say, ‘Wow, I did something unbelievable,’” he said.
“They believed in me and now I had to watch them walk out the building. That really hurt me. You go out there every day to give it your very best. And it just wasn’t good enough.” — Pedro Grifol on Ken Williams and Rick Hahn