Cubs

MLB Power Rankings: NL playoff picture coming into focus

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MLB Power Rankings: NL playoff picture coming into focus

The NL playoff race is coming into focus...at least with the teams we're talking about. The Cubs have long since looked like the team for that second wild card spot, but now it's even more likely as they enter play after the holiday weekend up 8.5 games on the Nationals and nine games on the Giants. The Giants also trail the Dodgers by a hefty margin and the Nationals have some work to do if they want to catch the Mets in the NL East, which looks like maybe the only way they can enter the postseason tournament. The biggest question in the NL right now is:  Can the Pirates hold on to home-field advantage in the wild card game?

With that comes another week of MLB Power Rankings from CSNChicago.com's Tony Andracki and JJ Stankevitz. Stay with us every Monday from here through October for a fresh set of rankings.

Stay tuned for updated rankings every Monday throughout the 2015 campaign. Here's where we're at so far: Preseason rankings | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11 | Week 12 | Week 13 | Week 14 | Week 15 | Week 16 | Week 17 | Week 18 | Week 19 | Week 20

Rank Team
Last Week Comment
1 1

At some point, all these injuries and losses will have to catch up with them. Is it happening now, losing 3 of 4 to inter-division teams?

2   2

Johnny Cueto’s gotta do better than his 4.86 ERA (in eight starts) once Kansas City gets into the playoffs.

3 3

Did well to take 2 of 3 in STL, but they are certainly looking over their shoulder at the Cubs bearing down full speed ahead.

4   5

They need to shore up their bullpen, but they wanted to make a statement in STL. Think a 9-0 win Monday did just that.

5 7

That 3-game sweep over the Giants will go down as the tide-turning point in their season, all but eliminating SF from postseason play and locking up the division.

6 4

Still have seven games against the Yankees left in their quest to make the playoffs/win the AL East for the first time since 1993.

7 6

At age 40, A-Rod’s only 17 home runs away from 700 and should blow past that mark with two more years left on his contract. 

8 9

Now Lucas Duda is back, too. Add him to David Wright, Yo Cespedes and that Mets lineup looks solid...regardless of whether Matt Harvey pitches or not.

9 8

Only two games up on Texas with a four-game series looming in Arlington next week.

10 11

They play Seattle, Oakland and Detroit 15 more times before the end of the year. 

11 13

Bryce Harper should be the NL MVP, but do the Nats have to make the playoffs for that to happen?

12 12

A team that’s not particularly good refuses to go away in the AL playoff race. Kudos to Paul Molitor for a fine managerial job this year. 

13 10

Thinking more and more that their season is ovah.

14 14

All of a sudden, they’re lurking at five back in the wild card race with an even run differential. Don’t count them out.

15 15

With the Astros dawdling and the wild card race defined by mediocrity, it’ll be a massive failure if this team misses the playoffs. 

16 16

Logan Forsythe from 2011-2014: 1.1 WAR. 2015: 4.0 WAR. 

17 22

Winners of seven of their last 10 but it’s too little, too late for one of this season’s biggest disappointments.

18 18

Joe Maddon loves this team and I do, too. Not for this year, obviously, but they have some nice young talent.

19 21

Out of nowhere rolled into Kansas City and swept the Royals, who’ve owned them since Day 1 this year, over the weekend. 

20 20

Small sample size alert, but Jackie Bradley Jr. has a .631 OPS in 49 games.

21 19

They’re 4-16 in their last 20 games, going from in the thick of playoff contention to tied for last place in the AL East. 

22 25 Matt Garza would pitch on the moon...but he won't be pitching on Earth any more this season.
23 17

4-game losing streak to the division basically a microcosm of this season's gone for them, I'd say.

24 24

Looks like they’re destined for last place in the AL Central. Can they rebound next year?

25 24

That season-long positive run differential has been whittled down to +1 entering Tuesday night. 

26 26

Joey Votto has a .576 OBP since the All-Star Break! .576! In 156 at-bats!

27 27

How 'bout Carlos Gonzalez? What a bounceback year from him.

28 29

Let's get Stanton and Fernandez back soon, please.

29 28

This team just continues to fall lower and lower...

30 30

Can they just give up yet and forfeit the rest of their games? Might as well.

What Brewers ace Brandon Woodruff's oblique strain means for Cubs, NL Central

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USA TODAY

What Brewers ace Brandon Woodruff's oblique strain means for Cubs, NL Central

The Brewers’ pursuit of second-straight NL Central championship suffered a devastating blow on Monday, as staff ace Brandon Woodruff landed on the injured list with a left oblique strain.

Woodruff, who exited Sunday’s game against the Diamondbacks in the fourth inning, is expected to be out for about six weeks. The 26-year-old is enjoying a breakout 2019 season in which he was named an All-Star for the first time. He ranks first among Brewers starting pitchers in wins (11), strikeouts (136) and innings (117 2/3) while ranking second in ERA (3.75) among pitchers with at least 10 starts.

The timing of Woodruff’s injury is unfortunate for the Brewers, who enter Monday two games behind the Cubs for first place in the NL Central at 53-48. Most teams aren’t equipped to lose their best starting pitcher for an extended period, especially in the thick of a pennant race. This is especially true for the Brewers, whose starting pitching has struggled in 2019.

Entering Monday, the Brewers starting pitchers rank 18th in MLB with a 4.73 ERA. This is a far cry from last season, when they ranked 11th with a 3.92 ERA. So, while Woodruff’s injury complicates matters, the Brewers already had a need for starting pitching.

The Brewers have a tough decision to make. They could swing a trade (or two) to give their rotation a much-needed boost. Potentially available pitchers include Madison Bumgarner of the Giants, Mike Minor of the Rangers, Matthew Boyd of the Tigers, Zack Greinke of the Diamondbacks and Marcus Stroman of the Blue Jays, among others.

Acquiring a single pitcher isn’t going to solve the team’s woes, however, which Matt Clapp from The Comeback pointed out.

As Clapp said, any trade will likely require some form of prospect capital, and teams would be unwise not to ask the Brewers for rookie phenom Keston Hiura in negotiations. Hiura, 22, is hitting .331/.387/.613 with nine home runs in 37 games, though, so it’s tough to imagine the Brewers parting with him in any deal.

Thus, the Brewers either must create an enticing enough package without Hiura or stand pat. If they were to do the latter, they risk losing ground in the NL Central standings to the Cubs and Cardinals amid a tough stretch in their schedule.

From July 15-Aug. 4, the Brewers will play 16 games out of 19 against teams with .500 or better records. Although they’re currently 5-2 in that stretch, Milwaukee went 9-17 from June 14-July 14, a stretch of 26-straight games against teams with losing records. Woodruff’s injury, therefore, comes at a point in the Brewers’ schedule where it’s make or break time.

The Cubs have come out of the All-Star break hot, going 7-2 to give themselves the slightest amount of breathing room in the NL Central standings. With how the Cubs are playing, the division could become out of reach for the Brewers if they can’t stay afloat during their current stretch – let alone until Woodruff returns. Not to mention the Cardinals, who are 7-3 since the break and sit just a half game behind the Brewers in the division standings.

Of course, the Brewers were five games back of the Cubs in the NL Central entering September last season, only to win the division in Game 163. Their current position is certainly not ideal, but the Cubs and Cardinals aren't out of the woods yet. There has been a great sense of urgency within the NL Central all season due to the compact standings. For the Brewers, that urgency certainly is higher than ever now.

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Cubs reportedly demote Carl Edwards Jr. to Triple-A Iowa, will call up Rowan Wick

Cubs reportedly demote Carl Edwards Jr. to Triple-A Iowa, will call up Rowan Wick

Carl Edward Jr.'s return to Chicago didn't last long. 

Three days -- and one appearance -- after being called up from Triple-A, Edwards is reportedly headed back to Iowa: 

His lone appearance over the weekend came in the last inning of Sunday's 5-1 loss to the Padres, facing four batters before getting the last out. He allowed one earned run on one hit, but both walked and hit a batter; the two runners he inherited would score as well.

It's been a rough season for righty, who's spent much of the year on the IL or in Iowa. Back in early June, he was placed on the 10-day injured list with a left thoracic strain. When healthy, he's pitched 15.1 innings to the tune of a 5.87 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. 

Up in his place is Rowan Wick, who himself has seen time in both Chicago and Iowa this season. Wick's latest stretch in Triple-A has been lights out: