Archive | Starlin Castro

Bryant Pulls Cubs Back from Brink with Walk-Off Home Run to Down Rockies

Posted on 28 July 2015 by Bob

Things looked pretty bleak heading into the bottom of the ninth Monday night as the Cubs had just turned a three run lead into a one run deficit after Jason Motte failed to record an out during his brief appearance and Rafael Soriano couldn’t clean up the mess he inherited allowing three runs to score, including another home run. It was 8 – 7 Rockies  and it appeared as if the Cubs were headed to their fourth straight defeat. It appeared there would be no celebrating these Cubs’ tenacity in fighting back from a four-run deficit to plate six men in the fourth inning. It appeared that this team’s slump-busting, offensive break-out would all be for naught; and as Kris Bryant stepped to the plate with one man on and two outs, it appeared that this game was basically over.

With one swing of the bat, #17 turned those appearances on their head.

Kris Bryant Walk-ff home run

Bryant launched the second pitch he saw into the left-center bleachers scoring Dexter Fowler, and collecting his first walk-off home run at Wrigley Field. More importantly, the Cubs picked up a big win at a time they desperately needed to do so to keep pace in the Wild Card chase.  Kyle Hendricks had another so-so outing going five innings while allowing seven hits and four runs, which still would have been enough for the win if the bullpen hadn’t collapsed.

Lost in the late-game theatrics was the fact that the Cubs bats finally returned, albeit for just one night, from the milk cartons they’ve currently been occupying. The Cubs were efficient, collecting nine runs on eleven hits, three of which came from the struggling Starlin Castro. The Cubs had a huge fourth inning as they batted around the order and chased Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa from the game. Fowler and Kyle Schwarber both drew walks and Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Jorge Soler, and Castro all singled to either push men across or into scoring position. Addison Russell had an RBI double to cap the Cubs scoring in the merry-go-round inning and put Chicago up 6 – 4.

Despite tacking on another run to make it 7 – 4, the Cubs closer-by-committee approach completely fell apart in the ninth, something that just cannot happen. Carlos Gonzalez hit his second homer of the game to take the lead off of Soriano, who has now given up two home runs in only four relief appearances.

“We have to nail down a three-point lead in the ninth,”  Joe Maddon said. “We have to get better there. … We’ve given some of those things away. We almost gave one again tonight. We grabbed it back. Move it along.”

Thank the baseball gods for Kris Bryant. Without him this season could have been headed for a tailspin but hopefully his ninth inning heroics rubs off on a club which is in dire need of some good fortune.

“It wakes us up a little bit,” Bryant said. “We were a little nonchalant the last couple of games. Myself included. The energy of a walk-off win is going to pay for us moving forward.”

Castro vs. Rockies

They will need every ounce of that energy as the deadline looms and the Cubs largely looking to stand pat. There are still lots of question marks after last night; one being who can handle the closer’s role on a regular basis? Does the answer lie outside the Cubs’ clubhouse? All is still quiet on the Cubs front as other teams dive head-first into blockbuster deals. Stay tuned.

 

Tonight it’s Dallas Beeler for the Cubs vs. Yohan Flande for the Rockies. Game time is 7:05PM CST.

 

Let’s Go Cubs!

 

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Teagarden the Unlikely Hero as Cubs Top Reds; Salvage Split

Posted on 23 July 2015 by Bob

This wasn’t exactly how you would draw it up but it sure does make a good story. After falling in an 0 – 5 hole in the 2nd inning, no one would have blamed you if you flipped the channel. These Cubs don’t score three or four runs very often, let alone five. But that’s precisely what they did in the next half inning! Starlin Castro and Chris Denorfia each had RBI doubles and Kris Bryant tied the game on a pinch-hit single, a mild relief from his recent slump.

Teagarden Game winner

The game would stay tight thereafter until the bottom of the eighth when Hector Rondon loaded the bases with one out but was able to work out of the jam. The Cubs threatened in the top of ninth, first with Anthony Rizzo’s single to left center that pushed Dexter Fowler to attempt to score from second. He was thrown out but Rizzo was able to advance to second on the throw which would prove critical. With Aroldis Chapman on the mound, the Reds intentionally walked Jorge Soler to get to pinch-hitter, Tyler Teagarden; He of .154 batting average. With two outs already and a huge opportunity, I’m sure many Cubs fans were thinking “Just don’t strike out!”. Their fears were unfounded as the improbable occurred. Teagarden hit a single right up the middle into shallow center off of an Aroldis Chapman 101 MPH pitch, driving in Rizzo and providing the winning margin, 6 – 5. Even typing that last sentence felt strange.

Add another highlight to this Cubs season as this train just keeps on rolling with August just around the corner.  While the pitching staff got battered this series giving up 23 runs in four games, there are still many positives to take from this series, namely Kyle Schwarber going 7 for 16 and leading the charge on offense. Battling back from several deficits throughout is a great sign as well; This team is showing it won’t quit. They still need pitching and hitting but we should know more on that front by this time next week. With an off day today, the Cubs can rest up for a three game series this weekend at Wrigley Field with the MLB-worst Philadelphia Phillies. If there was ever a gimme on the schedule, this should be it as these Phils have stunk up the joint en route to a 34 -63 record thus far, the worst record in baseball by a large margin.

Still, you have to go out and play the games and these Cubs haven’t been invincible by any means. Let’s hope they sharpen their focus as a big week could do wonders in the standings as the countdown to October begins. The Cubs at 51 – 43 are clinging to a half game lead for that second Wild Card spot.

Tomorrow it’s Jerome Williams for the Phils vs. Jon Lester for the Cubs. Game time is 3:05PM CST.

Let’s Go Cubs!

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Cubs Take 3 of 4 from Reds over Weekend; 2 Straight Walk-Offs by Castro

Posted on 15 June 2015 by Bob

The Cubs had a hell of a weekend after taking three of four from the visiting Cincinnati Reds with the last two wins coming on walk-off hits by Cubs Shortstop Starlin Castro as the team improved to a season-high seven games over .500.  Not shockingly, three out of the four games in the series were decided by one run as the Cubs continue to walk the tightrope but somehow find away to stay on top.

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 14:  Starlin Castro #13 of the Chicago Cubs celebrates after hitting a walkoff one run RBI single against the Cincinnati Reds during the eleventh inning at Wrigley Field on June 14, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Chicago Cubs won 2-1 in eleven innings.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)

Castro had an excellent two night stretch as he hit the game-winner on Saturday and followed it up with three more hits and yet another winner on Sunday to finish off the series. For a player who has struggled with expectations and performance throughout his Cubs career it is a huge boost to see him come through in the clutch with the game on the line.

Jon Lester had a pretty nice evening as well Sunday as he went seven innings and allowed only one run on five hits. More performances like that are what Cubs fans expect from the veteran as we near the mid-point of the season. The bullpen also did their part going four strong innings between four different pitchers and giving up only two hits, even though they did collectively walk four.

The Cubs were set to face the Indians this evening but the game has been postponed due to rain. The reschedule date is set for Monday August 24th.

Tomorrow night Jake Arrieta is scheduled to face the Indian’s Trevor Bauer in a 7:05PM start.

Let’s Go Cubs!

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Cubs Cruise behind Hammel’s Stellar Night

Posted on 02 June 2015 by Bob

Jason Hammel continued his incredible run this year powering the Cubs to victory with 11 strikeouts and only one earned run on Monday night vs. the Marlins in Miami. This stellar performance brought his season ERA to 2.82 as he’s recorded 69 strikeouts to just seven walks in the ten games he has pitched this season, a truly remarkable achievement when you stop to think about.

Hammel vs. Marlins

“When I’m missing, my misses are better,” Hammel said. “That’s about it. When I’ve made mistakes this year, it hasn’t hurt me.”

Hammel has been the Cubs most consistent and best pitcher date, outshining even the Cubs top two starters in Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta. His return to the Cubs, after last season’s deadline trade, has bolstered this Cubs rotation and enabled them to gain back half of what they gave up last year in acquiring Addison Russell, a player who should be a mainstay on the roster for years to come.

On offense the Cubs got production from their core group of young players as Rizzo, Soler, Russell, Bryant, and Starlin Castro all drove in runs as the Cubs cruised 5 – 1. Castro’s hit was by far the most memorable as he crushed the game’s only home run over 420 feet and took his time rounding the bags.  It was good to see this offense have a little spark after a tough performance on Sunday.

The Cubs look to string together three straight wins tonight as Kyle Hendricks gets the start against the Marlins’ Brad Hand, who has the worst record for a starter in the majors with 2o or more decisions. First pitch is 6:10pm CST as the Cubs hope to stay hot in Miami.

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Cubs Undone in Extras as D-Backs Take Fifth Straight

Posted on 23 May 2015 by Bob

The Cubs had their chances at Chase Field Friday night but failed to capitalize on a surging Diamondbacks squad and ended up taking an exhausting 13 inning loss as they begin their three game series in Arizona. Jon Lester pitched seven innings of five hit, two run ball which was enough to take the game to extras tied at two a piece. Once there, Bryant and Castro both singled in runs to give the Cubs a 4-2 lead that should have been enough, but with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the tenth inning, Diamondbacks first baseman  Paul Goldschmidt hit a two run home run to tie it up and keep the game alive.

Arizona Diamondbacks' Paul Goldschmidt watches his grand slam home run during the eighth inning of an MLB baseball game against the Chicago Cubs in Chicago, Saturday, June 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

Both teams loaded the bases in the twelfth and thirteenth innings respectively but couldn’t scratch one across until the Diamondbacks finally ended it on a pair of hits in the bottom of the thirteenth to win their fifth straight game. It was an exciting contest that kept Central Time Zone viewers awake well into the morning hours but not quite the result we had hoped for.

The top of the lineup was fantastic for the Cubs as spots one through six accounted for nine of their eleven hits.  Lets hope there is no hangover tonight as Jake Arrieta takes the mound vs. the D-Backs, Rubby De La Rosa. First pitch is 9:10 PM CST, so we are in for another late one!

Go Cubs Go!

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Cubs Waste Solid Effort from Hammel; Give Game Away on Errors

Posted on 20 May 2015 by Bob

Jason Hammel did his best to outduel Padres pitcher James Shields, pitching seven innings while allowing only three hits and striking out eight but he was undone by three costly errors, all of which led to runs and ultimately cost the Cubs the game.  Up 2-0 after solo home runs from Chris Coghlan and Dexter Fowler, Hammel appeared to be cruising entering the fifth inning until Kris Bryant overthrew Anthony Rizzo on Justin Upton’s hit to third base. Upton came around to score on the next at-bat.

Hammel at Petco

Then in the seventh, Castro failed to field a fairly easy ball hit right at him allowing Matt Kemp to reach safely. This ended up extending the inning that would allow the tying run to come across. The biggest and most costly error was saved for last, with Addison Russell dropping a pop-up just beyond the infield which enabled Derek Norris to double in two runs later in the inning. Despite another Coghlan homer in the ninth, the Cubs were sunk 4-3 with James Shields striking out eleven.

Russell at Petco

You really hope these kind of games don’t come back to haunt the Cubs later in the season. It’s one thing to have a team beat you but it’s another to beat yourself. This is precisely what the Cubs did Tuesday night and it’s a shame, especially for someone pitching as well as Jason Hammel. The errors by Bryant and Russell while unfortunate, can be reasoned away. Bryant is still a rookie despite what his stellar start would tell you and is bound to make a mistake from time to time. Russell is in the same boat while also still learning the ropes of a new position at second base. No doubt these were costly errors but they should disappear with time and experience.

Unfortunately, time and experience have not been kind to Castro in this department. The five year vet just can’t seem to make the routine play from time to time and it’s something that has to be taken into consideration when considering his future with the club, especially with Russell waiting on the other side of second base to claim his spot. Castro is still young but he’s been in the league long enough now to not be making these types of mistakes with such regularity. He has shown marked improvement but still these issues persist.  How it all shakes out is anyone’s guess but Castro needs to play near perfect the rest of the season for the Cubs to even consider him their long-term shortstop, let alone a long-term player on their team.

 

Next Up: Tsuyoshi Wada makes his Cubs debut this season coming up from Triple-A Iowa after recovering from a groin injury. He will face the Padres Tyson Ross. Game time is 9:10PM CST.

 

 

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Cubs Turn Weakness Into Strength Against Mets Monday Night

Posted on 12 May 2015 by Bob

It seems the Cubs have heard the grumblings lately; the whispers about their pitching, and their defense. It also seems they decided to do something about it. The Cubs got six relatively strong innings from Jon Lester, while Justin Grimm, Zac Rosscup, and Hector Rondon combined to post three shutout innings in relief as the Cubs held on to beat the Mets Monday night at Wrigley Field. The bullpen trio allowed only one hit over the final three frames and made Jon Lester’s lead stand up. It was a sight for sore eyes and one that Cubs fans and players needed badly.

Castro catch vs. Mets

Not to be outdone, the Cubs defense also came through big time behind Castro’s game-saving snag of Dilson Herrera’s line drive that had ‘hit’ written all over it. It kept the game tying run at first and emboldened the Cubs to finish off the win. Anthony Rizzo also contributed a nice catch for a double play the inning before. Last night the Cubs finally got the right bounces to go their way and made the most of their opportunities.

Kris Bryant Wrigley home run

The offense of course, made sure of that with Kris Bryant hitting his second home run of the year, and first at Wrigley Field, into the welcoming arms of the Bleacher Bums in left who were making their inaugural appearance of the 2015 season. Rizzo took the very next pitch the opposite way into the still-under-construction right field bleachers and the Cubs were in business. Addison Russell singled in another run which ended up being the difference.

Some positivity and signs of life from the bullpen were excellent to see last night helping the Cubs off to a good start against the pitching-deep Mets. Let’s hope for a repeat performance tonight as Jake Arrieta gets the start against the highly-touted Mets prospect Noah Syndergaard making  his MLB debut.

Game time is 7:05PM CST.

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Cubs Win in Walk-Off Fashion Saturday; Come Up Short on Sunday

Posted on 20 April 2015 by Bob

San Diego Padres v Chicago Cubs

The Cubs’ wild, roller-coaster of a young season continued this weekend with two games vs. the Padres. After falling in Kris Bryant’s debut on Friday the Cubs got hot Saturday as the game went on, notching six runs over three innings led by Miguel Montero’s pair of home runs. Staked to a 6-2  lead entering the ninth inning the Cubs bullpen collapsed as Phil Coke gave up hits to the only two batters he faced and then the usually dominant Rondon couldn’t work out of the jam giving up four hits himself as the Padres were able to tie the game and take it into extras.

From there Zac Rosscup shut things down allowing only a hit over two innings and the Cubs loaded the bases in the eleventh enabling Starlin Castro to play the hero with his single just past Will Middlebrook’s glove sending Anthony Rizzo home for a walk-off win. It shouldn’t have been this hard but the Cubs will take the “W” and the late-inning clutch hitting. Bryant, making his second big-league start, had an outstanding day at the plate taking three walks to pair with 2 hits and an RBI. This is the Bryant we expect to see more of.

Sunday provided more of the same with the Cubs staking Lester to an early 2-0 lead before he gave up a two-run shot to Middlebrooks to tie the game. Lester did have a heads-up, highlight-reel play however as a hard-hit ball up the middle got stuck in the webbing of his glove. Unable to free it in time to make a throw, he tossed his whole glove to first where Anthony Rizzo alertly had dropped his glove to enable him to receive Lester’s mitt. They recorded the out and the crowd went wild. Sadly, there was little to celebrate the rest of the way as the Padres roughed up the Cubs bullpen yet again on a cold, wet day at Wrigley. Through his first three games Lester is the first to tell you his game isn’t up to snuff but there are signs of progress even though that’s not what Cubs fans want to hear after the man cashed in to the tune of $155 million this past off-season.

Lester throws glove

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Cubs Opening Night Lineup Speculation; Maddon Keeps Us Guessing

Posted on 02 April 2015 by Bob

Just three days out from Opening Day and the suspense is killing us! To pass  the time until meaningful games commence let’s speculate on the Cubs Opening Day lineup vs. Adam Wainwright and the St. Louis Cardinals.

OUR PICKS

Dexter Fowler

1. CF Dexter Fowler: The lead-off position should be the easiest pick as Fowler was brought in specifically by the Cubs to get on base early and set the table for the power hitters in the 3 – 5 positions. Fowler enters 2015 with a career .366 On Base Percentage meaning the Cubs have upgraded at the position and he’s a switch-hitter to boot, giving the Cubs added flexibility at the top of the order.

2. RF Jorge Soler: While some sites project him in the cleanup spot, it’s hard to see Maddon starting a rookie there when early on he will be much more valuable in the 2-hole with his aggressive approach, getting on base so the Cubs proven All-Stars behind him can drive him in. By all accounts, Soler can play and some believe he will battle teammate Kris Bryant for  Rookie of the Year honors. If he gets hot early, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him move into the heart of the lineup but for now he starts at #2.

3. 1B Anthony Rizzo: He will be the glue that holds this thing together. As he matures, it’s not out of the question to see him put up even bigger numbers than his All-Star campaign last year. With formidable hitters in front of him expect to see his RBI’s increase from 78 a year ago and if he can duplicate his Top Ten performance in Home Runs in 2014, these Cubs could make some noise.

Starlin-Castro

4. SS Starlin Castro: Would love to see him continue on an upward trajectory from last year and with Addison Russell waiting in the wings it will be imperative for Starlin to have a big year not only for himself but for the team as well. After his first healthy spring in years, expect Castro to get off to a good start.

5. C Miguel Montero: Another Cubs’ off-season acquisition and another 2014 All-Star in the heart of the order. Montero provides an upgrade not only with his catching ability but his bat is also an upgrade over Wellington Castillo who may be moved early on this season. The catch is if David Ross, Opening Day Starter Jon Lester’s former battery mate in Boston, is called upon to catch the lefty Sunday night. If so, Ross, who has a much weaker bat, would be bumped further down the lineup.

Here’s where it gets tricky given the injuries and the versatility of Arismendy Alcantara and Maddon’s penchant for tinkering with batting order. Given his hot spring we’ll give the nod to:

6. LF Matt Szczcur: Batted .348 with 5 home runs and 9 RBI’s in 20 Cactus league games. With injuries to Chris Denorfia and Chris Coghlan, perhaps Maddon will ride the hot hand in giving Szczur a shot.

Mike Olt

7. 3B Mike Olt: What a difference a year makes as Olt enters Opening Day as the Cubs starting third basemen for the second straight year. He had an excellent spring and appears to have regained the confidence he lacked throughout last season. Many believe he is just a placeholder until Bryant is called up but if Olt can ride his warm spring into a hot summer perhaps all the time Bryant has spent in the outfield as of late will not be for naught.

8. P Jon Lester: Call it the Maddon Effect but it’s this line of thinking that got him hired in the first place. Maybe he holds off on this for Opening Day but my guess is you will see Jon Lester batting 8th enabling Maddon to squeeze the most out of the top of the order.

9. 2B Arismendy Alcantara: Some view Tommy La Stella as a viable option at second base but for now Alcantara seems like the safer choice for opening day given his versatility and the power he displayed last year slugging 10 home runs in 70 games. The fact that he could be moved around the infield or outfield tells me he will find his way on to this Opening Day roster and will be a vital cog in the Cubs machine as a jack of all trades this year.

So there you have it folks, our guess as to what you will likely see as the Cubs begin the season Sunday night. Agree or disagree, the Cubs have talent and options this year, two things that have been scarce in these parts for the last five years. It will be interesting to watch this take shape as the year unfolds. Here’s to hoping for some consistency, nice surprises, and a fun to watch team that can manufacture some runs.

CBmxPOaWIAATyCA

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Not the Way Theo & Co. Drew It Up…

Posted on 17 November 2014 by Lou

Theo_Epstein

Theo & Co. and the Cubs thought that maybe they had caught the rest of the league by surprise with a “big trade” late Sunday afternoon.  The Cubs dealt Arodys Vizcaino back to the Atlanta Braves (they had acquired him just a few months after Tommy John surgery during the 2012 trade deadline for Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson) for 2nd baseman Tommy La Stella.  I have my issues with this trade for a few reasons (see below), but was glad that they were being proactive before the “big moves” this winter.

I was still licking my chops for the big signings of Russell Martin and Jon Lester sometime this week and maybe even a bigger splash with a blockbuster trade for a Cole Hamels, Giancarlo Stanton or a Jason Heyward.

But then all hell broke loose on Monday.  The Braves announced that they had traded Heyward to our hated rivals — the St. Louis Cardinals.  The Cards had had to give up Shelby Miller for Heyward, but it was still like getting stabbed in the back.

Then the Toronto Blue Jays announced that they had enticed “our” catcher, Canadian Russell Martin up across the border with the promise of a 5th guaranteed year and a whopping $82 million. Ouch.  Guess that was too rich for our blood.

Now our big trade for uber-on-base guy La Stella isn’t even one of the Top 20 ESPN MLB stories anymore…

That leads me back to my issues with the La Stella trade.  Don’t we have enough middle infielders already — Starlin Castro, Javier Baez, Addison Russell and Arismendy Alcantara?  Why do we need another guy there?  Sure I love his on-base percentage numbers, but his numbers dipped big time after teams had time to really scout him.  In his 1st 46 games in the majors last season, La Stella hit .297 with a .747 OPS.  But check out what happened in his final 47 games of the season — .201 batting average with a .534 OPS.  Not good.

Couple that with giving up one of our “power arms” who really helped solidify our bullpen in 2014, this trade concerns me.  Theo & Co. have raved up Vizcaino and how good he looked in Triple-A in 2014 and how close he was to really contributing at the big league level.  You’re gonna give that up for a utility infielder who isn’t gonna play everyday?  No way.

This wreaks of a trade which leads to another trade.  Maybe Baez or Alcantara or both are going to be moved in order to acquire a Cole Hamels, a Jordan Zimmerman or a Zach Wheeler.  Having La Stella step in as your everyday 2nd baseman is a conservative, stable move, full well knowing that you’ll have Kris Bryant up pretty soon in April to bolster your offense.

Guess we’ll have to be patient and see what happens.  We’ll keep you posted as soon as anything breaks…

 

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