The rotation didn't come through in the 2020 postseason. That needs to change in 2021.
Good morning, frents!
You might not feel confident in the Bears this weekend, but putting $300K on the Bengals +3? That's an entirely different level of doubt that one Caesar's bettor is planning to benefit from on Sunday.
Phillies 6, Cubs 5
Angels 3, Sox 2
DC United 3, Fire 0
Angels at Sox (1:10, NBCSCH)
Cubs at Phillies (5:05, Phillies)
Ready for the big test?
The magic number for the Sox stayed at 7 after Wednesday's 3-2 loss to the Angels and Cleveland's win over Minnesota. The playoffs start in roughly three weeks and the Sox would be opening up at Houston, who they currently trail by two games in the AL standings.
One of the big questions from now until then: Will the rotation be ready?
While a lack of quality starting pitching sunk last year's playoff appearance before it could even get going, the performance of the team's rotation in the first half suggested it wouldn't be an issue this fall.
That might still be the case, but the second half has created a few more questions than just "who gets the ball in Game 1?"
The only certainties, it seems, are that Dallas Keuchel will have Brandon McCarthy's premium left-off-the-roster seat from the 2005 run (albeit for different reasons) — and that Lonzo Ball should probably stick to basketball after Wednesday's first pitch. (Good velo, tho.)
Here's a quick reset on the other four starters as October approaches:
- Lance Lynn was the short-odds favorite at -178 to win the AL Cy Young on August 8, but he's fallen behind both New York's Gerrit Cole and Toronto's Robbie Ray to +445 since. Part of that is due to the surge of the other pitchers over the last four weeks, but Lynn's pitching and a stint on the IL for knee inflammation is also at fault. Poor starts against the Yankees and Cubs lowered his second-half ERA to 3.42 but his return to the mound on Sunday was a fruitful one. Nine strikeouts, two hits and no walks in five innings against the Red Sox. He's probably the Game 1 starter and the Sox need him to turn in the effort that Lucas Giolito did to open the playoffs in 2020.
- Carlos Rodon has only made seven starts since the All-Star break, posting a 2.57 ERA with 45 strikeouts and just six walks in 35 innings of work. He gave up one run and notched seven strikeouts in a win over Boston on Friday. But he's battled fatigue as he's passed the most innings pitched in his career and the Sox are engaged in a tricky dance between resting him and keeping him sharp. They'll clearly err on the side of caution: Scheduled starters have been announced through Sunday and Rodon's name isn't among them.
- Lucas Giolito hasn't been a Cy Young contender all season, but he might be key to the whole postseason operation. If Rodon falters, he'll be the second anchor of the rotation. If he doesn't, he's pitching the key third game of a playoff series. Giolito took a small IL break at the start of the month and returned Tuesday with a solid four-inning outing limited at 87 pitches. He owns a 3.42 ERA with a 56/11 K/BB ratio in the second half and has allowed nine homers in 10 starts (he's allowed 27 in 28 season starts).
- Dylan Cease is the boom-or-bust candidate. He's clearly fourth on this list, but has the potential to turn in five important innings when the Sox need them. He's hit double-digit strikeouts in four of his 11 second-half starts.
Do the Sox need all four starters on to go deep? Nope. 2005 is never going to happen again, even if the game was still the same.
But given the unpredictability of the Sox bullpen — Wednesday's game was decided by an eighth-inning homer off Michael Kopech — at least three need to return to their practice of churning out six tidy innings like they're nothing.
Next: Reynaldo Lopez (3-2, 2.05) vs. Alex Cobb (7-3, 3.82)
News and results
Lazor: Fields 'ready for whatever's thrown at him'
The Bears offensive coordinator apparently doesn't play Matt Nagy's word salad game. Perhaps its payback for getting his playcalling duties pulled? Whatever the case, Lazor's non-qualified praise of Fields threw the decision squarely on Nagy and further primed the pump for those of us who want Fields starting games sooner rather than later. NBC Sports Chicago's Adam Hoge writes that the Bears are officially out of excuses why Fields isn't QB1.
Cubs comebacks wiped out by passed ball
Robinson Chirinos tied the game with a homer in the eighth and Matt Duffy did the same in the ninth. But Chirinos couldn't stop Trevor Magill's knuckle-curve in the bottom of the inning, giving the sinking Phillies a 6-5 win they desperately needed. Cubs are 66-80 with 16 left to play.
Next: Kyle Hendricks (14-6, 4.54) vs. TBD
Fire lose on road (again)
DC United's 3-0 walk was the Fire's fourth loss on this five road-game road trip so far with one more jaunt to Montreal remaining. They're currently in 12th place in the Eastern Conference with a 6-13-5 record. Read Brian Sandalow on why the Fire should be prioritizing 2022 for the 10 remaining games.
"Hopefully they'll be loud."
— Andy Dalton on fans coming to Sunday's home opener (filing it under 'be careful what you wish for')
- Kevin Fishbain looks at the 50th anniversary of the Bears' first game at Soldier Field, a comeback win keyed by the defense. The Athletic
- The Bears are ensconced firmly in the bottom quarter of NFL teams in the latest round of national power rankings. BearsWire
- Here's Dennis Rodman headbutting Norm Macdonald on Weekend Update, followed by Norm telling the story of how it landed him in the hospital. Twitter
- The Sky's owner was fined for not having a lobbyist license while lobbying the mayor for a gambling license. Tribune
- Guns 'N Roses is playing the Friendly Confines tonight. Did you know the band spent a post-Appetite summer living in Wrigleyville while working on new material? DNA Info
Correction: Wednesday's email mistakenly implied that Mike Tomczak won a Super Bowl with the Steelers, when in fact Pittsburgh lost to the Cowboys. (On a related note, how great would it be if the Bears had been to so many Super Bowls it was difficult to keep track of which ones they won and lost?)