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Fantasy Baseball: A fun night in Wrigley shows Cubs' offense has pop

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For the third time in four years, the Chicago Cubs aren’t going anywhere. They’re sitting on a 20-46 record. Fangraphs says their current playoff odds are a robust 0.1 percent. Memories of that 2016 title keep getting hazier and hazier.

Rub a dub dub, same old Cubs.

But that doesn’t mean Wrigley Field can’t be magical some days, or even, some evenings. And Thursday was one of those days.

The Cubs threw 15 runs and 23 hits at the Reds on Thursday evening, enough to outlast Cincinnati in a 15-7 keg tapper. Given how limited scoring has been for much of this season, I welcome these rare offensive explosions. Crooked numbers are good for the soul, even if they might wind up wrecking your scorecard. When the wind blows out, we're all winners.

Patrick Wisdom had the best of the box, knocking two homers, driving in six runs, even stealing a base. He’s a fascinating modern player. A .232/.315/.475 slash might not sound like much, and he has 100 strikeouts, most in the NL. But if you put his OPS through a park adjustment and the seasonal prism, it comes out to an OPS+ of 115 — 15 percent better than the average hitter. Recalibrate what it means to be a positive offensive factor in today’s game, Wisdom is that.

I have a soft spot for late bloomers who come into the game with low expectations and no pedigree. Wisdom was never a touted prospect. His 28-homer season last year, at age 29, came from thin air. I’m thrilled to see him backing up that breakout and performing at roughly the same level. He’s far from a perfect player, but he’s a useful one. He’s a hold on my fantasy rosters.

Jun 30, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Cubs third baseman Patrick Wisdom (16) is greeted by third base coach Willie Harris (33) after hitting a grand slam home run against the Cincinnati Reds during the second inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
High-flying Patrick Wisdom (right) hosted a party Thursday night, and all of Chicago was invited. (David Banks-USA TODAY Sports)

The Christopher Morel revival was also good for my soul. The other day I wondered — worried is more like it — if Morel was losing steam, battling a sea of strikeouts and dropping to ninth in the Chicago order. For one night, that wasn’t a problem. He threw five hits at the Reds, including a homer and double. He scored three runs, knocked in two. He’s back up to a playable .283/.342/.494 slash.

Last night’s romp underscores that the 2022 Cubs haven’t been sunk by their offense. It’s not the Bryant and Rizzo Cubs, but these guys can score. Chicago is above average in most of the key numbers — 14th in runs, 10th in average, fifth in OBP, 13th in slugging. It doesn’t make them the Yankees or the Dodgers, but these guys will put up some numbers. Yan Gomes was the only starter in Thursday’s lineup with an OPS+ under 100, the league average.

Admittedly, the lineup is easier on the eyes now that Jonathan Villar is gone. And no one is missing Jason Heyward’s ground ball tour, either. There are plenty of worthy sticks in the order, starting with Willson Contreras (fantasy’s best catcher), Ian Happ (so underrated, hit .327 in June with almost as many walks as strikeouts), Rafael Ortega (.292 June, getting some leadoff run).

Okay, then there’s the pitching. That’s the rub with the Cubs. Chicago stands 26th in ERA, 25th in WHIP. They’ve allowed 106 home runs, just two behind Washington’s meatball staff. If you want a souvenir baseball, grab a seat in the Wrigley bleachers. Other than closer David Robertson (nine saves, 1.86 ERA) and the occasional moments from Keegan Thompson and Justin Steele, this is a staff to avoid.

Cincinnati, here’s a kiss, we chose you to end this list. Although the Reds were never in Thursday's game — Chicago had a seven-run lead by the end of the fourth — Joey Votto still won the night. He engaged a young fan before one of his at-bats, then circled back to that fan after Votto crushed a mammoth home run in the sixth inning. Play this clip a few times, it’s good for your soul.

Chicago hosts Boston for the weekend, two name-brand franchises hooking up in Wrigley. I love matchups like this, two of my favorite cities. If this were a hockey game, you’d be getting two Original 6 teams.

Boston is a toss-up for the playoffs. Chicago won’t be there. Heck, their hockey clubs are both facing rebuilds, too. But I know where my TV will be locked for the next three days. Go where the fun is.

Maybe I'll keep a scorecard, too.