By Mark Grote–
(CBS) It’s over.
Jake Arrieta would be the people’s choice to pitch for the Cubs if they were to clinch a spot in the one-game, winner-takes-all, wild-card matchup. Jon Lester made a strong showing in this “bar room debate” (a phrase Cubs manager Joe Maddon adores) until Arrieta, with his brilliant pitching in the last two months, featuring a no-hitter against the Dodgers, made like Secretariat and left Lester in his tracks.
Now the question becomes this: What would the Cubs do beyond Arrieta and Lester in the playoffs? Only time will tell us that.
In the beginning of the season, Jason Hammel could have been considered the team’s most consistent pitcher, but he’s struggled lately, compiling a 4.88 ERA in August.
“Hammel is going to be fine,” Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio said. “He is showing positive signs in his past couple starts, and his stuff is crisper.”
Bosio also believes that Hammel was instrumental in helping the Cubs achieve their current position.
“This is a guy that avoided the disabled list with — I’m going to say — a pretty significant knee injury,” Bosio revealed. “Him contributing in that spot was huge for us, because at that time we didn’t have a lot of options down in Triple-A.”
Hammel exited his July 8 start against the St. Louis Cardinals after just one inning after experiencing leg tightness. With the All-Star break providing a chance to rest, he didn’t miss any start thereafter.
Fowler continues strong play
“You go, we go.”
That’s what Maddon tells center fielder Dexter Fowler before he goes up to the plate, and Fowler has gone. He led off Monday’s game against the Cardinals with a homer on a full count and followed that up with a two-run double, a microcosm of his stellar second half of the season.
“Anytime you have a leadoff hitter that is doing what he is doing right now, it kind of relaxes everybody else,” Maddon said. “You anticipate good to happen.”
Fowler has an on-base percentage of .430 since the All-Star break and is batting .300 during that span. He’s also been an expert at working deep into counts.
Bryant amazes again
Cubs rookie Kris Bryant’s masterpiece of a 495-foot home run that hit the video board at Wrigley Field on Sunday probably should have been a simple single off the Diamondbacks’ Rubby De La Rosa.
“It was a down-and-in pitch,” Bryant explained. “You should hit that on the ground every time, but I tend to hit it in the air. Maybe it’s all the golf that I play?”
Bryant with a driver in his hand? Look out below.
Rondon hits triple digits
For the first time in his baseball life, Cubs closer Hector Rondon was clocked at 100 mph on a pitch in a recent game against Cincinnati. Now 130-plus games into the season, that’s fairly remarkable.
“The adrenalin put me at that level,” Rondon said. “My arm feels really good right now too. For me, I like to pitch every day, because my arm feels stronger every time.”
Some of that extra energy may have come from the Reds closer Aroldis Chapman, who routinely throws between 100-103 mph and was watching from the visitor’s bullpen.
“Those kinds of guys who always throw over 100 have something special,” Rondon said. “I don’t think I’m going to get to that level. I’ll take my velocity right now.”
Not-so-smooth no-hitter follow-up
On April 22, 1993, Bosio threw a no-hitter while playing for the Seattle Mariners. In light of Jake Arrieta’s recent no-hitter against the Dodgers and successful follow-up against Arizona (eight shutout innings), I thought it would be crafty to ask Bosio how his next start went.
“I was pitching against Cleveland, and I had another five inning no- hitter going,” Bosio said. “And then there was a one-out double-play ball on which I was covering first. Jeff Treadway collided with me on that Kingdome turf, and I went down and snapped my collarbone in three places.”
Mark Grote is the Cubs pregame and postgame host on WBBM. Follow him on Twitter @markgrotesports.