The Cubs' Lead in the NL Central is Enormous and Other Bullets

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The Cubs’ Lead in the NL Central is Enormous and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs

cubs win standings flags scoreboardBoxing legend Muhammed Ali has died at age 74. He will be remembered as much for his transformative impact outside the ring as inside of it.

  • Each of the Pirates and Cardinals lost again yesterday, and, paired with the Cubs win, have seen their deficit in the NL Central grow to 9.5 games and 11.0 games, respectively. Remember how crazy hot the Cardinals were early last year, and how enormous their NL Central lead had grown over the Pirates and Cubs? So enormous that it became silly to realistically dream about the NL Central until the Cardinals swooned late and each of the Pirates and Cubs became blisteringly hot? Well, for comparison’s sake, as of June 3 last year, the Cardinals’ lead in the Central over the Pirates was just 6.0 games. Over the Cubs, it was just 7.0 games. And get this: the Cardinals never led by more than 9.0 games. And when the Cardinals had a 9.0-game lead on the Pirates in late-May (wow), it was partly because the Pirates were four games under .500. Presently, the Pirates are four games over .500. In other words, the Cubs are blowing out the NL Central right now by more than the Cardinals were blowing it out last year when it seemed like they had an absolutely crazy lead.
  • (Note, for what it’s worth: that lead shrunk to just 2.0 games over the Pirates and 3.0 games over the Cubs by the time the season ended in 2015. Nothing is guaranteed.)
  • Yesterday’s “screw the closer” bottom of the 8th for the Cubs was as much about the Diamondbacks’ failings as it was about the Cubs succeeding. It all started with two outs and a man on third. From there, the Cubs scored five runs on the strength of two doubles. That’s it. The rest came from Diamondbacks errors, intentional walks, and a hit by pitch.
  • Jason Hammel is today’s scheduled starter, his first since leaving Monday’s outing against the Dodgers after two innings. It was a hamstring cramp that wouldn’t clear up quickly enough for him to remain in the game, but he was feeling fine soon thereafter. Hopefully there are no lingering effects today, nor a repeat. People will be watching closely – maybe even too closely, since this team gives us precious little over which to unnervingly obsess.
  • Naturally, the game after I pointed out how absurdly low Javier Baez’s strikeout rate had sunk, he struck out three times. But he also ripped a two-run double deep to center field and scored on a wild throw thereafter, so it was still a decent game overall.
  • This was an interesting read from Paul Sullivan on the visitor’s clubhouse at Wrigley Field, which will not be fully renovated and ready until the 2019 season. A bummer for opposing players, who not only have to work and prepare themselves in a tiny, dated, not-very-useful space, but they have to do so now for a few years while the Cubs operate in the best facilities in baseball. Although it’s not an intentional competitive advantage in that regard, it certainly is one. Hopefully the Cubs use it.
  • As Luke noted this morning, Cubs brass reiterated that Willson Contreras’s time in the big leagues is not right now (ESPN), even as he’s laying waste to AAA pitching (.335/.426/.584 with nearly as many walks (25) as strikeouts (27)).
  • A deep discounting on this fire pit and patio heater at Amazon today, presumably to get you ready for those whoa-oh-oh those summer nights.
  • A little oopsie-fun between old friends from yesterday’s game (you’re following BN on Twitter, right? If not, click that follow button b):

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.