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The Thursday Takeaway
Arnold Schwarzenegger would have you believe that “If It bleeds, we can kill it.” Perhaps this is true, perhaps it isn’t. All we know at this moment is that the Cubs have lost four games in a row for the first time since last year’s NLCS.

The first three losses came at the hands of the rival Cardinals, and the fourth from the Marlins. The Cubs were without Anthony Rizzo, and have lost Dexter Fowler to injury. The lineup included Willson Contreras, Albert Almora, and David Ross, which might be the 4-5-6 hitters in an Atlanta lineup but don't scream "117 wins." Perhaps it shouldn't be a shock that Chicago lost 4-2 to Wei-Yin Chen and a rejuvenated-looking Giancarlo Stanton.

But the Cubs have bled. They have shown a crack in the armor, a small indication that they are, in fact, somewhat human. In their current vulnerable state, the Cubs almost feel pedestrian, like they’re just another team. A team with a record like theirs surely shouldn’t be able to do something so especially flawed as dropping four in a row. That’s for other teams, other people.

Except of course they should.

The Cubs, as superhuman and supernatural as they can seem at times, are still a baseball team. Baseball teams have losing streaks, and baseball teams have injuries. The Cubs still have the ability to pull a prospect out of their hats and let him run wild (Contreras hit in the cleanup spot!) but there’s only so many times that that particular trick can be pulled.

Bleeding is a sign of being alive. Yet Chicago will not be so easily dispatched. The loss to Miami was not the wail of a dying creature in the undergrowth, but a small scratch on the flank of a behemoth. Schwarzenegger still has his work cut out for him.

Quick Hits from Thursday
If the 2014 playoffs taught us one thing, it’s that speed kills. The world became intimately acquainted with the afterburners possessed by Jarrod Dyson and Terrance Gore. The words “That’s what speed do” of House Dyson became something of a national catchphrase for about five minutes.

Which brings us to Zack Greinke.

This little turn of baseball whiplash isn’t as dramatic as it seems. Greinke has always been the NL’s second biggest posterboy for the follies of the DH, behind Madison Bumgarner. He hits fairly well and isn’t afraid to do things on a baseball field besides play with the rosin bag. On Thursday, he got his uniform nice and dirty.

Watching one of the more expensive pitchers in baseball slide headfirst into second base while leading with his throwing hand may have caused Chip Hale’s life to flash before his eyes, but for everyone else, it’s pretty darn fun. Greinke caught the entire Rockies infield napping, and got himself a stolen base because of it.

Since 2000:

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The Mariners have now lost six games in a row. That’s the second-longest active losing streak in the big leagues at the moment. The most recent loss came in particularly bad fashion.

Seattle starter Adrian Sampson was pulled from the game before he even completed his warmup tosses, forcing Vidal Nuno to take the reins and leaving the Mariner bullpen a man short from the outset. A wild game filled with home runs ended with little more than an exasperated gasp.

A 36-37 record on June 24th doesn’t feel out of the ordinary for Seattle, but given how strongly they started the season, the return to horrible normalcy could not be more terrifying for the Mariner faithful. Injuries in the starting rotation and a seemingly slumbering offense are combining to form a vintage Mariner team that they had hoped to have left so very far behind.

There is plenty of baseball left. But there is no joy in Mudville right now.

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For the first time in his brief career with the White Sox, James Shields didn’t get blown up. It wasn’t exactly a Big Game by any stretch of the imagination, but Shields completed five innings, allowing three runs on five hits. He gave his team something resembling a chance to win. It was progress.

It didn’t matter.

The Red Sox are relentless. (Fun trivia: Their sox were once white as well, but they have become stained red with the blood of their enemies.) They lead baseball with 406 runs scored, 32 more than the Cardinals, and 51 more than the Mariners, who have the second most in the AL. David Ortiz may be the driving force in the offense, but Xander Boegarts, who here comes through with the walk-off hit, may be the best player on the team. He’s only 23. Mookie Betts, who scored the winning run, is 23.

They’re going to be a thorn in baseball’s side for a very, very long time.

Defensive Play of the Day
Javier Baez provided the defensive magic on Thursday, but didn’t even get an out with this play.

There may not have been an out, but Baez was awarded many style points. Dennis Eckersley also gets some extra credit for his play in Boston.

What to Watch on Friday
What will likely be the day’s best chance at a pitcher’s duel will begin at 7:10 EST when Danny Salazar takes on Jordan Zimmermann and the Tigers. Detroit sits four back from the Indians, and Salazar has been nothing short of brilliant this year (2.64 DRA, 2.5 WARP). As a reward, he gets to deal with Miguel Cabrera and his friends.

More young pitching talent will be on display in the South Side of Chicago at 8:10. The shockingly dominant Aaron Sanchez will lead the Blue Jays into battle against Carlos Rodon’s White Sox. Sanchez is still supposedly going to be moved to the bullpen at some point due to an innings limit, so catch him while you can. Rodon has no such limit, but he makes for good baseball viewing nonetheless. Plus, he’s being thrown at a bunch of right-handed power hitters (Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion, etc.) so it’ll be a fine battle for him.

Moving further west, the Mariners will attempt to stop their losing streak at 10:10. They’ll have to do it against Carlos Martinez and the Cardinals, and while giving Wade LeBlanc a spot start. Will their bats be up to the task? How long can LeBlanc last against a rampaging St. Louis offense? Tune in to find out!

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