john lackey cubsThe Cubs need win only one of the next two days to take this four-game series from the Nationals. That’s a pretty awesome feeling heading into the weekend.

  • John Lackey was really tremendous yesterday, especially when you consider the conditions. On a day when a first inning Anthony Rendon fly ball to left center just kept carrying and turned into a home run several rows up, it was clear immediately that it was not going to be a let-them-put-the-ball-in-play kind of day. And so a guy who, last time out, struck out just two Braves batters, wound up striking out 11 Nationals batters. That Braves game was played in terrible hitter conditions, and Lackey pitched well to it. Yesterday, he did the same thing in the opposite direction. It’s pretty impressive that he’s got that ability. The performance lowered his ERA to 4.02, but his FIP and xFIP are an even more impressive 3.20/3.21. That FIP is 34th best in baseball, just behind teammate Jon Lester (3.15).


  • Also among those 11 strikeouts for Lackey yesterday? His 2,000th career strikeout.
  • Michael already gave Ben Zobrist and his crazy hot streak some love yesterday before he socked another couple homers. After yesterday’s game, his line is up to .277/.398/.489 with a 135 wRC+. He has homered in three straight games (4 total in those games), and is hitting .357/.473/.762 over his last 12 games. And that’s just what he does on the field – off the field, in the clubhouse, Joe Maddon says Zobrist is like a “good virus,” infecting the other players with his positivity and the way he approaches the game (Cubs.com).
  • It was fun watching Anthony Rizzo’s monster homer from the right field bleachers yesterday. We had the perfect view to see that the ball passed on the foul side of the foul pole, but we also saw it smack the flag, and change direction from there – and it was impossible to tell whether the ball would have hit the foul pole if not for hitting the flag. In the end, that’s why it should have been, and was, upheld as a homer.


  • Joe Maddon discusses why Jorge Soler is not seeing much time, and how Javier Baez is settling into his role (ESPN). There’s no surprise from Maddon on the Soler stuff, saying essentially that it’s just about match-ups and trying to win that day’s game. I still question, though, whether it’s really true that Soler isn’t hitting well right now, as so many folks, including Maddon, suggest. And you say, “Brett, the dude is hitting .182/.282/.288, of course he’s not hitting well.” That’s true, but consider that his walk rate is way up, his strikeout rate is way down, his exit velocity is up, his soft contact is down. I’m really not sure that we’re looking at much more than a small sample size, and a .204 BABIP (from a guy who is probably closer to a .310+ true talent level BABIP). I can’t argue that it frequently seems correct, on a given day, that a lineup that does not feature Soler is the one that gives the Cubs the best chance to win. But I also think this guy needs a consistent chance.
  • Miguel Montero tells Carrie Muskat that he feels pretty good after hitting in the cage, and doesn’t feel like he’ll need a rehab assignment before rejoining the Cubs. The Cubs may ultimately decide a couple minor league games would be good for Montero to get back into facing live pitching, but we’ll see. Montero, who has been recovering from a sore/stiff back, is eligible to come off of the disabled list as soon as Tuesday. The rainouts and the way the Cubs were able to backdate his stay on DL because he’d already missed time has made it feel like this was a very short 15-day DL stint.
  • Tommy La Stella watch: .356/.420/.667.


  • Something Sahadev and I discussed on the last episode of Limited Range was whether the Cubs’ abuse of opposing teams’ pitching staffs would actually wind up benefiting the next team that plays the one the Cubs just beat up on (on the theory that the bullpen will be worn down, etc.). And, with a hat tip to Tim Bernier, there was some research done at Beyond the Box Score on that very question a few years ago, using the Red Sox as the basis – and, sure, enough, the way the Red Sox were grinding down opposing pitchers did seem to create a benefit for the next team to play that team. So, I guess you’re welcome teams that get to play the team that the Cubs just played!
  • Among Amazon’s deals of the day today, a big sale on patio furniture (because they’re taunting you about the weather still not yet quite perfectly cooperating with outdoor living), and also a big sale on KitchenAid mixers (in case you have to stay inside and bake things).
  • And if you missed it earlier, Luke’s Minor League Daily keeps you apprised of the goings on in the farm system.

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