Cubs

Cubs dealt another serious punch to the gut with Pedro Strop injury

Cubs dealt another serious punch to the gut with Pedro Strop injury

The Cubs may have won the battle Thursday in Washington D.C., but it came at a serious cost in their hopes of winning the "war" (aka another World Series).

Pedro Strop will miss at least a couple weeks after injuring his hamstring during Thursday's 4-3 Cubs win at Nationals Park.

Strop came into the game with one out in the eighth inning and then pitched the entire ninth. The Cubs took the lead in the top of the 10th and manager Joe Maddon opted to let Strop hit for himself with the bases loaded and one out, with an eye on at least facing the first batter in the bottom of the 10th.

Strop hit a groundball to Washington third baseman Anthony Rendon, who fired home to get the lead runner and catcher Matt Wieters relayed to first, where the Nationals got the Cubs pitcher by a hair. But Strop came up limping on the play, pointing to his left hamstring.

Randy Rosario came on to close out the victory and push the Cubs 1.5 games up in the division, but the reports on Strop were not good.

He'll be sidelined at least a couple weeks with the hamstring injury and will undergo an MRI Friday:

Strop has been a lifesaver for the Cubs this season, stepping in as closer with Brandon Morrow on the disabled list the entire second half of the season.

In that time, Strop has locked down the ninth inning, going 11-for-13 in save chances and he picked up his sixth win of the season Thursday.

The Cubs have already been against the ropes lately with an exhausted bullpen that has been short on reliable options for Maddon. Now they'll be without Strop for an indeterminate amount of time that very well could carry into the playoffs. The regular season ends two weeks from this Sunday.

Morrow is working toward a return, but even in a best case scenario, he wouldn't be back until next Friday (Sept. 21). There's also a question how effective he'll be as he is still not 100 percent after a bone bruise in his forearm.

Whenever Morrow returns, the Cubs will script his first few game appearances and have already said he will not regain the closer's role immediately.

As for who closes in Strop's place, Maddon said, "I have no idea. All of those guys are on fumes."

The Cubs do not have another off-day until next Thursday and have had to lean heavily on top relievers like Steve Cishek, Justin Wilson and Jesse Chavez lately as Carl Edwards Jr. tries to right the ship during a recent bout of struggles.

This is time of year where the bullpen becomes a central focus of every contending team as they battle down the stretch and into October.

If ever there was a time for the Cubs to put together some blowout wins to reduce the pressure and give guys a day or two of rest, it would be this weekend against the Reds at Wrigley Field.

David Bote puts his sweet swing to use, assists two Cubs fans in gender reveal

David Bote puts his sweet swing to use, assists two Cubs fans in gender reveal

David Bote put his sweet, sweet swing to special use on Tuesday.

Prior to the Cubs’ Cactus League game vs. the Rockies, a couple of Cubs fans asked Bote to partake in their gender reveal. The duo brought a powder-infused baseball, asking Bote to take a hack to reveal whether they’re having a boy or girl.

The father-to-be tossed the ball to Bote, who smashed it open to unleash a pink cloud of powder — signifying the couple will have a girl. The 26-year-old infielder — who has two daughters himself — threw his arms in the air to celebrate.

No matter how you feel about gender reveals, you’ve gotta love the uniqueness of this one and Bote partaking in the special moment. Here’s to a healthy life for the baby! 

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Cubs' Albert Almora Jr. is off to a hot start in spring training

Cubs' Albert Almora Jr. is off to a hot start in spring training

The Cubs have only played three spring training games, and it’s dangerous to use spring results to predict regular season successes and failures. Still, it’s okay to acknowledge Albert Almora Jr.’s hot start in camp.

In two games, Almora is 4-for-4 with a walk, double, home run, four RBIs and four runs scored. That line is essentially equivalent to a single game in the regular season and could be turned upside down by the end of the week. But it’s a start for the 25-year-old who has struggled immensely at the plate for the last season and a half.

In his last 177 games (dating back to the second half of 2018), Almora holds a .235/.270/.347 slash line. The advanced stats paint an uglier picture: 58 wRC+, .261 wOBA and 52.2 percent groundball rate.

Last season was the most challenging of Almora’s young career. He hit .236/.271/.381 in 130 games with a 64 wRC+, .271 wOBA, -0.7 fWAR (all career worsts). On top of that, he was involved in a heartbreaking moment early in the season; an Almora foul ball struck a young girl at Minute Maid Park during a Cubs-Astros game in May.

Almora refused to blame his 2019 offensive woes on that incident, though it obviously played a part. He did admit that he was in a bad place mentally and used this winter to decompress. Almora also used it to make some adjustments to his swing and the changes are clear as day:

Pre-2020:

2020:

As MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian notes, Almora is now more upright in the box and his stance is more closed. His leg kick is less defined and he’s rotating his front leg far less than previous seasons. In short, he’s more direct to his swing and has more time to react in the box because he cut out a lot of his pre-swing movements.

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Almora said Monday he’s far from where he wants to be, pointing out the MLB season is a 200-day marathon. It’s too early to tell whether his simplified approach leads to sustainable success.

Small sample size be damned, Almora’s made noticeable adjustments. That’s the first step in his mission to get back on track offensively.

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