Jon Lester won’t make his dramatic return to the Fenway Park mound after an April that has already seen the $155 million ace get the Opening Night assignment and start the game where the Cubs finally raised their World Series banner at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs are rearranging their rotation again for this upcoming three-city road trip so that Lester will face the Cincinnati Reds on Friday night, followed by Jake Arrieta on Saturday afternoon. This means Arrieta won’t be pitching on April 21, the one-year anniversary of his no-hitter at Great American Ball Park.
The Cubs wanted the Lester matchup next week against the Pittsburgh Pirates, a team with a .178 average and a .534 OPS versus left-handers so far this season. Instead of made-for-TV storylines, the Cubs are going with numbers and logically mapping out a schedule that will see at least five days off this month.
With this switch, Lester misses the chance to face the Boston Red Sox for the first time since getting traded to the Oakland A’s at the 2014 deadline, a move that would spark a free-agent bidding war among a few big-market franchises. The Red Sox originally drafted and developed Lester, watching him beat cancer and become a two-time World Series champion in Boston.
This also means that Arrieta will get another chance to perform on the Fenway Park stage, where on June 30, 2014 he finished four outs away from a no-hitter and got a standing ovation, flashing the dominance that would make him a Cy Young Award winner the next year and position him for his own megadeal after this season.
It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.
Sosa hit the 30-homer threshold on June 21, 1998 in only his 71st game of the season. For perspective, the 2018 Cubs leader in homers on June 21 is Javy Baez with 14 and Mike Trout leads all of baseball with only 23.
At this point, Mark McGwire was ahead of Sosa, but the Cubs slugger was pulling closer. McGwire had 33 dingers on June 21 while Ken Griffey Jr. had 28 and Greg Vaughn had 25.
Sosa' June 21 homer came off Tyler Green and was his 5th blast of the series against the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field that year. But the Cubs lost that series, despite Sosa's efforts.
Fun fact: Sosa drove in 10 runs in the three-game series with the Phillies that summer while the rest of his teammates combined for only 9 RBI.
The Cubs have been a different team the last six weeks, looking a lot more like the resilient bunch from 2016 than the sluggish 2017 squad that lacked energy. After some wacky circumstances Monday and a tough loss in Game 1 of Tuesday’s doubleheader, the Cubs came out and showed what they’re made of in the last two games of the series against the Dodgers, a team that knocked them out of postseason play last fall.
Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki sum up the longest short homestand (or shortest long homestand?), updating the status of Yu Darvish, Brandon Morrow, the Cubs pitching staff and how the team is rounding into form as the season’s halfway mark approaches.
Check out the entire podcast here: