The Friday Six Pack: Winning Is In the Air!

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szczur 64It’s been a pretty exciting 24 hours, actually 21 hours. In that span of time, the Cubs took two from the Cardinals and three of the Cubs top minor league pitching prospects each pitched great games. To sum it up in one word would be “winning.” But it is more that, it is a sign of a healthy system. The major league club is now up 14 games over their arch rival. A system bereft of prospects 4 years ago now has produced several hitting prospects to the majors and is getting ready to produce a wave of pitching.

Here are six things I think about the past 21 hours.
1. The Cubs are never out of any game.
Coming back last night is an indication of that. It also shows they Cubs don’t have to hit home runs to do it, either. Using a combination of hits and walks, the Cubs can get back in games by being patient. They don’t have to try and slug their way back.

2. The Cubs can punish teams quickly.
Friday afternoon’s game was over after the second inning. Putting up two crooked numbers in the first and second innings put the game out of reach. In the sixth and innings, the Cubs added six more and crushed their opponent’s souls

3. The bullpen is still an issue.
Joe Smith did not exactly burn down the mission, but Justin Grimm and Mike Montgomery had good outings two days. The Cubs will likely check out several arms between now and October. Most, if not all, will be from within the system. I think the Cubs will fine without Pedro doing the rest of the regular season, but they need him come October.

4. Oscar de la Cruz throws a no-no!
The big righty threw a 5 inning no-hitter. He threw 76 pitches, 57 for strikes. He walked one, hit one, and struck out six. He threw his change quite a bit, which was average. His curve was not as sharp but it worked. Hitters rolled it over to hit weak grounders. His fastball was at 92 consistently, topping out at 94. Despite the pedestrian stuff, he pitched great moving the ball in and out and changing speeds.

morrison 65 2016 mb5. Preston Morrison is still shutting down the opposition!
He gave up a run. It came on a solo shot. That, in and of itself, is news. The right-hander did not have his best stuff but he gutted it out over 6 and ⅔ innings. He struck out 4, allowed 1 run in spite of walking 3 and giving up 5 hits. I missed the early innings while watching Oscar, but Preston looked very good grinding batters down and keeping them guessing in the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings.

6. Dylan Cease looking better and better!
There was no TV feed, radio only. Still, Cease had one of his better starts of the season and his best start since returning from a forearm strain. He went 3.1 IP while allowing 3 hits and 1 run. He struck out 6 and only walked one. For the night, he threw 58, 37 of them for strikes with two groundouts and he picked a runner off second. He was much more efficient early on. Later, the counts deepened, but he still did well keeping runners off base. This start was a positive step in the right direction. I am hoping his next start that he can get to 70 pitches which could take him into the fifth inning if he is efficient.
The weekend should be fun as the big league club hopes to expand their lead to 15 games tomorrow. The professor, Kyle Hendricks, takes on rookie Luke Weaver. On Sunday, in a 7 o’clock game, John Lackey tangles with Mike Leake.

In the minors, there are only three weeks left of the regular season after this weekend. It starting to look like South Bend, Eugene, and now Myrtle Beach will all make the postseason. The Pelicans’ magic number is down to 17 to clinch a wild card, 21 for a division title. South Bend and Eugene won first half titles.

I will be back Sunday with some weekly news and awards!

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