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Lester Played Like a Champion, Bryant Heals, Heyward Hits, Juan Pierre Did It, and Other Bullets

Analysis and Commentary, Chicago Cubs News

It would be unrealistic to expect Jose Quintana to follow up his Cubs debut by once again throwing one of the best performances of his career. So maybe we should instead just expect … a home run.


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I tell you what, though: if Quintana does hit a home run, I’m going to donate $500 to Make-A-Wish for the BN Blogathon. If he gets any kind of hit at all, I’ll donate $100. Why not make the game a little extra fun for a good cause?

  • Jon Lester was wearing a special message on his cap yesterday, as you can see up there in the featured image: PLACT. It stands for ‘Play Like a Champion Today,’ the iconic message associated with Notre Dame. Why was Lester wearing that message? He did it in remembrance of his uncle, who’d passed away on Friday, and who had gone to Notre Dame (Cubs.com). The message and the performance made for a great tribute, as Lester carried a perfect game into the sixth inning, and ultimately finished eight strong innings:

  • On the day, Lester allowed just the two solo homers in the 8th inning, and struck out 10 while walking none. He got 14 whiffs on the day, and the stuff and command were just fantastic.

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(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
  • All’s well that ends well, and it takes nothing away from his start – for me – but here’s a fantastic shot of Lester and Anthony Rizzo reacting to the tie-breaking shot in the top of the 8th:

  • Cubs starters sure have been pitching well during this second half:

  • Kris Bryant was a surprise return yesterday, after Joe Maddon has guessed that Bryant would probably be out until Sunday at the earliest with his pinkie injury. Bryant said it was still not feeling good on Friday, though he was able to swing the bat (Cubs.com). Then, yesterday, he decided it was good to go – and sure enough, Bryant wound up with the game-tying hit, and then scoring the go-ahead run. Bryant is not 100%, but Maddon said there’s a difference between “pain” and “soreness” – guys can play through “soreness.” (CSN)
  • Sahadev Sharma talked to and about Jason Heyward’s season and recent hot month. In a great opening, Sharma wondered if Heyward was feeling a sense of pride that Cubs fans are finally seeing what he’s capable of … and … nope: “I don’t feel like I have to prove sh*t as far as what I can do. There are a lot of things I have done. As far as this season goes, I’m not thinking about any other season. It’s good to be on the field right now. That’s huge.” That response is fine by me, because it doesn’t really benefit Heyward’s performance for him to ever be thinking about what he is or isn’t showing the fans. Just do what you can to be the best you can, and that’s that. Heyward is hitting .269/.326/.417 on the year, which is a tremendous rebound from his 2016 campaign, but still not nearly where he was before coming to the Cubs. His 94 wRC+ puts him about 6% below the average bat, which is not what you want out of your right fielder – even one as defensively-adept as Heyward.

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  • As Sharma points out, Heyward – whose season was interrupted by two separate hand injuries – is hitting .318/.375/.500 in July, so hopefully he can keep that up.
  • Former Cubs outfielder Juan Pierre, who spent just one season with the club back in 2006, was at the game yesterday and said that he felt a small part of the team’s championship last year (CSN). And why not? If you were ever a Cub, you can be a part of it, as far as I’m concerned. But how about a more direct connection? When the Cubs lost Pierre to free agency after that season, they got a supplemental draft pick in 2007, which they used to select a catcher out of Auburn named Josh Donaldson (you may now know him as a star third baseman). Donaldson was then part of the trade to the A’s in 2008 for Rich Harden, who was fantastic down the stretch and helped push the Cubs into the postseason where they were swept by the Dodgers. Following that disappointment, Harden then underperformed in 2009 for a team with huge expectations, which started the downward trend that ultimately resulted in the new front office, the rebuild, and the championship. If the Cubs do well in 2009, do 2010 and 2011 play out like they do? If if the Cubs are just good enough during that stretch, does Tom Ricketts go above and beyond to bring in Theo Epstein? I’m not so sure. See? It was all Juan Pierre!
  • The Cardinals traded lefty Marco Gonzales to the Mariners for outfield prospect Tyler O’Neill, who has a ton of power, but also swing and miss in his game. The take from FanGraphs is that the Cardinals got the better long-term bet (a small chance of a very good player) in exchange for the short-term value of a possibly passable cost-controlled big league starter.
  • If you missed this morning’s latest from the rumor mill, the Rangers are scouting the Cubs at AAA.
  • A reminder: the MLB Shop still has its 15% off sale going, and Fanatics expanded its clearance section.
  • Also, big sale on a travel neck pillow at Amazon (who doesn’t need a travel neck pillow???).

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Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor of Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation.