Cubs

Cubs: Joe Maddon embraces loss of September off day

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Cubs: Joe Maddon embraces loss of September off day

Thanks to Saturday’s brutal weather conditions in Chicago, the Cubs will be without an off day during the final week of the regular season.

But instead of lamenting the loss of the last day to rest during what could be a playoff push, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said he’s more than happy with playing Kansas City in a makeup game on Monday, Sept. 28 at Wrigley Field.

“I love it, actually,” Maddon said. “We already have one off on Thursday before that. I don’t like too many off days in September. I don’t like too many off days period.

“I like off days, but not when they happen too frequently like it does in the beginning of the season. I think also with a young ball club it’s better to keep them playing.

[MORE: Blackhawks or Lightning? Joe Maddon conflicted for Stanley Cup Final]

Maddon has the cachet to say that, having managed a young Rays team to the World Series in 2008 and taking other youth-laden clubs to the playoffs during his nine-year tenure in St. Petersburg. Having rosters expand to 40 Sept. 1 provides an added cushion, too, plus the Cubs still have three off days in the season’s final month — including, as Maddon said, the Thursday before the makeup game against Kansas City. 

For a team featuring plenty of pennant race greenhorns like Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Starlin Castro, Jorge Soler and Addison Russell, Maddon believes getting getting that extra day of rest isn’t necessary.

“When you get to August you’re going to be a little bit tired, you talk about the dog days, it’s true,” Maddon said. “But then you get your second wind, you get to the playoff run and you catch your second wind and you’re fine. You show up to the ballpark and you’re fine, the weather lightens up a bit, it’s a little bit cooler, there’s a lot of adrenaline in the ballpark on a daily basis. So all that stuff is covered. And I’d rather play than not play.”

This, of course, is contingent on the Cubs actually being in the National League Central/wild card hunt come late September. So far, the Cubs are hanging around the wild card race, though it’s probably too early to make any sweeping conclusions about that position.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Buy a Joe Maddon jersey]

Maddon, though, expects his side to be competing for a playoff spot when that makeup game against the defending American League champions rolls around in the fall.

“We don’t plan on watching anybody else in October,” Maddon said. “We want to be there ourselves. … We are eager to see how June unfolds because we have been able to get certain things together. Our players understand what we’re trying to do now and we understand the players better.

“So let’s see how June pans out and then we can make some determinations after that, but I’m not going to back off. I really believe we are a playoff-caliber team.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jon Lester struggles against the division-rival Cardinals

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jon Lester struggles against the division-rival Cardinals

It was a tough day for the North Siders.

The Cubs got obliterated by the Cardinals as Matt Carpenter had a three-homer, two-double day. Ben Finfer, Seth Gruen and Maggie Hendricks join David Kaplan on the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast to talk about the blowout.

Was Jon Lester due for this kind of terrible outing? And do the Cubs have enough to swing a big trade before the deadline?

Plus, the panel discusses Matt Nagy’s first training camp practice in the rain and Roquan Smith’s absence in Bourbonnais.

You can listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Jon Lester saw a start like this coming

Jon Lester saw a start like this coming

Jon Lester had easily his worst outing of the year, allowing the Cardinals to score eight runs on seven hits, the veteran All-Star only managed three innings before Joe Maddon turned to his bullpen. 

The Cardinals would take game two of the series by the score of 18 to 5, and while none of the Cubs pitchers could silence the Cardinal bats, Lester didn't shy away from his poor outing. 

"You know, I don't want to chalk this up as bad days happen," said Lester. "I think mechanically this has kinda been coming." 

Lester knew he was struggling to hit his spots, and while his ERA was a sparkling 2.58 coming into this start, his peripheral stats had him pegged as a potential regression candidate in the second half of the season.

His 4.35 FIP and 3.30 walks per nine innings show a pitcher who is relying heavily on his defense to get outs, which isn't surprising for a 33-year-old veteran but the walks are a concern. 

Cubs manager Joe Maddon was aware Lester had been working on his mechanics, but even he was surprised that Lester's start went downhill so quickly. 

"I thought he had good stuff to start the game, hitting [92-93 mph] and I'm thinking this might be a good day," said Maddon. "But you could just see from the beginning he was off just a little bit." 

Over Lester's last four starts his ERA has been an uncharacteristic 4.57, issuing 10 walks over those four starts, and only making it past the 6th inning once. At this point of Lester's career, he knows the best way for him to get outs isn't through strikeouts but by inducing soft contact and avoiding walks. 

And while both his hard contact rate and walks have increased this season, Lester's experience and high baseball I.Q. has allowed him to navigate his way through sticky situations. 

"I've been getting outs," Lester said candidly. "I just feel like when I've had that strikeout or I have a guy set up for that pitch I haven't been able to execute it." 

And while this outing was one to forget, it's at least a positive sign that Lester is aware of his issues on the mound. The veteran knows how to get outs and he knows what he needs to do to be successful in the latter part of his career. He just needs to get back to executing those pitches. 

Just don't expect Lester to dive head first into the analytics on how to fix his issues, he'll stick to hard work and baseball common sense. 

"I'm not too concerned with the analytic B.S., I'm worried about my mechanical fix for my next start."