Archive | Starlin Castro

Cubs Stay Red Hot in Winning 11 of 12; Beat Brewers 6 – 3

Posted on 12 August 2015 by Bob

It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen a run like this from our beloved Cubbies so let’s all take a moment and appreciate what this team has accomplished these last twelve games.

Here are some numbers:

*The Cubs have won 11 or their last 12 games to improve to fifteen games over .500 with a 63 – 48 record.

*The Cubs have a 3.5 game lead for the second Wild Card spot and after the Pirates loss to the Cardinals last night, are only 2.5 games back from the first spot.

*In the last 12 games, opposing starting pitchers have lasted on average 4.8 innings in games and only one has reached the seventh inning. In the last 8 games, no opposing starter has pitched six innings.

*The reason for opposing starter’s lack of success against the Cubs? This red-hot lineup is seeing 3.98 pitches per plate appearance, good for tops in the N.L. as the league average is 3.78.

*The Cubs have scored 58 runs the last 12 games, which is almost a five run per game average (4.83), a far cry from the earlier offensive grind the team experienced putting up one to two runs a game.

Chicago Cubs starter Dan Haren delivers during the first inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

Yes, the Cubs are really putting it altogether of late, getting it done with pitching, hitting, and defense. They are getting production from rookies (Bryant, Schwarber, Soler, Russell) and veterans (Rizzo, Fowler). Even the Cubs weak spots are being converted into positives as Starlin Castro, resigned to the bench the last four games, returned as a late inning replacement at second base last night, and while he didn’t record a hit, he did impress fans and players alike with his hustle in attempting two rather difficult plays. He received a loud ovation for a difficult catch on an Elian Herrera foul pop out in the ninth. That had to feel good for the maligned veteran, struggling through the worst stretch of his still relatively young career.

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 11: Jorge Soler #68 of the Chicago Cubs is safe a s home as Jonathan Lucroy #20 of the Milwaukee Brewers makes a late tag during the second inning on August 11, 2015 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

Dan Haren was serviceable in his second start with the Cubs (exactly what they brought him in for), as he pitched 5.1 innings of five hit ball while allowing three runs, two of which came on an Adam Lind home run in the top of the sixth. Otherwise, Haren and the Cubs bullpen did a fine job of keeping Milwaukee from getting anything going. The Cubs offense did their part, chasing Brewers starter Taylor Jungmann after 2.2 innings and stretching that Milwaukee bullpen early in this series. Anthony Rizzo and Jorge Soler each drove in 2 RBI’s and the Cubs pretty much took control from the onset and never let up. The final score was Cubs 6, Brewers 3 despite the teams both posting seven hits. The Cubs simply did more with their opportunities, something they seem to be doing with great regularity these days.

The look for more of the same tonight as Jason Hammel is set to face Matt Garza. First pitch is 7:05PM CST.

Let’s Go Cubs!

 

 

 

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Cubs Rounding Into Form Behind Schwarber’s Hot Streak; Go for Series Win vs. Giants

Posted on 08 August 2015 by Bob

What do you do with a man who has 8 hits, 9 runs, 3 home runs, 8 RBI’s and a .421 batting average in 19 at-bats the last seven days?

You find a way to keep him in the lineup, that’s what.

It doesn’t matter if you have to play him out of position because you have two other catchers who bring their own talents to the position. It doesn’t matter if said move means bumping a veteran, three-time All-Star at shortstop to the bench in favor of the more-talented, hotter-hitting rookie to make room. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as it’s done with the macro, the big-picture, driving your reasoning. None of it matters so long as the Cubs win and lately they have been doing a lot of winning; for that, they have that man, Kyle Schwarber, to thank.

Schwarber stays

Schwarber had another excellent day on Friday collecting a double, an infield single, and a stolen base as the Cubs beat the Giants 7 – 3, increasing their Wild Card lead to 1.5 games and going a season high 12 games over .500 at 60 – 48. He is just on fire right now and providing a huge lift to a team all to dependent on Anthony Rizzo for much of the season. His vigor has been contagious as the Cubs have scored  4 or more runs the last eight games and getting just about everyone involved in the process; a sight for sore eyes coming from an offense that just a month or so ago was slogged down in a series of one and two run outputs for entire games.

It’s starting to feel different at Wrigley as the season enters it’s third act and the Cubs show little signs of waning, turning on the after-burners with a playoff spot in their grasp. Jon Lester is no stranger to this vibe having played on the World Champion Red Sox teams and his performance of late has reflected that. He was tough yesterday scattering six hits and two runs in seven innings of work while lowering his ERA to 3.22. He has now gone seven or more innings in seven consecutive starts becoming the workhorse leader this team signed him to be.

Castro sits

All the Cubs pieces are currently functioning at a high level as the bats are popping, the starting pitching has been going deep into games, and the bullpen has, for the most part, been shutting the door. Manager Joe Maddon has been pushing all the right buttons, none more important than realizing he must keep his young, hot hitters on the field regardless of position or reputation. This has come at the cost of sitting Starlin Castro to allow Schwarber to play left field when not catching, and moving Addison Russell to his natural position at shortstop, and bumping Chris Coghlan to second base. This can’t be easy for Castro but everyone watching knows that he is not producing at the rate of those given the nod ahead of him. It is necessary for the Cubs to put their best team on the field that gives them the greatest chance to win. So far, so good. It will be interesting to see how this plays out and affects Castro moving forward but you can’t argue with the results so far.

Today it’s Kyle Hendricks vs. Matt Cain in game three as the Cubs go for the series win. Game time is 3:05PM CST.

Let’s Go Cubs!

 

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Win Streak Ends But Cubs Don’t Go Down Without a Fight

Posted on 06 August 2015 by Bob

The Pirates jumped on the Cubs early Thursday night as Gregory Polanco went deep in the first at-bat for Pittsburgh against Cubs’ newcomer, Dan Haren. Pedro Alvarez added an RBI single in the first inning as well to give the Bucs and early 2 -0 lead. Andrew McCutchen homered to center in the third to make it 3 -0 before Anthony Rizzo finally put the Cubs on the board with an RBI-Sac fly in the top of the fourth. Haren was not at his best and is prone to give up the long ball but was able to go more than two innings so it’s progress in that department.

Schwarber slide

Even after getting down 4 – 1, the Cubs battled back behind Kyle Schwarber and Anthony Rizzo’s big bats. Each of the sluggers hit home runs in the sixth inning (Schwarber’s was a two-run shot), to tie up the game and show the Pirates that these Cubs are coming for them. Unfortunately, the Cubs bullpen let them down as Travis Wood, Pedro Strop, and Jason Motte all gave up a run in their respective appearances in the later half of the game, putting the Cubs in a three-run hole, 7 – 4.

The Cubs stuck with it though as the top of ninth saw Starlin Castro single and Matt Szczur double, to put men on second and third with only one out. Addison Russell then grounded out to the shortstop allowing Castro to score from third to tighten up the game, but Dexter Fowler came to the plate as the tying run and struck out swinging to end the threat and the game, 7 – 5. The Cubs win streak was snapped at six.

Dan haren

It’s hard to nitpick the Cubs, who battled fiercely in this one but came up short, especially since they just completed one of the most successful road trips they have had in years. They went 5 – 1 on their stops in Milwaukee and Pittsburgh to up their N.L. leading road record to 31 – 24. Now they need to apply the same tenacity on the road to their home contests as starting tonight the team will be in Chicago until August 23rd, with 13 homes games at Wrigley and 3 “road” contests on the South Side vs. the White Sox. Hopefully, this will lead to a more comfortable and relaxed squad, free from the toll that excessive travel can take on the body.  Throw in playing in front of the home crowd who are hungry for a winner and this could be a special opportunity for the Cubs to turn up the heat on their division rivals, something voiced by Jake Arrieta and Anthony Rizzo over the last few days.

“It’s definitely something you circled and highlighted,” Rizzo said. “I’ve been looking forward to it all year, really. It will be nice to be home for that long.”

It all starts tonight against a team the Cubs have been dancing with in the Wild Card Standings for what seems like all season. The defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants come to town for a four game set that could see one of these clubs open up a little breathing room in the standings that currently have the Giants a half game ahead of our Cubs. Tonight the Cubs trot out Jason Hammel to square off against the Giants’ Chris Heston. First pitch is 7:05PM CST.

Go Cubs Go!

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Cubs Train Keeps Rolling; Within 3 Games of Pirates For 1st Wild Card Spot

Posted on 05 August 2015 by Bob

A month ago Jake Arrieta was left off the All-Star roster. Now he is firmly entrenched in the Cy Young discussion. I would normally say”what a difference a month makes” or some other platitude here but that would be simplifying what Arrieta has done this season. He hasn’t just “come on strong” this last month and half; the guy has been doing this all year and in doing so has the Cubs in a playoff race for the first time in seven years.

Arrieta dominant again

One could make the argument that Arrieta has been the most consistent Cub this season; yes, even more so than Rizzo, who is putting up impressive numbers in the N.L. as well. Arrieta (12 – 6) is flat out dominating opponents, the latest being the Pirates who managed a measly two hits and three walks in Arrieta’s seven innings of work last night at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. He  now has a 2.50 ERA and Manager Joe Maddon seems to think there’s another gear in him.

“He’s an interesting pitcher. I will say it again, he’s not there yet,” Maddon said. “He’s still learning how to utilize all his weapons. There’s another level of Arrieta.”

A pretty scary thought given where the man is at right now. If the regular season ended today, are you sure it’s Jon Lester and not Arrieta you want on the mound for a one game playoff? I’m not so sure, and anyone who is, clearly would be banking their opinion on past performance, and not what is happening right now. Jon Lester is definitely rounding into the form we expected after his off-season signing but Arrieta’s presence has been a stabilizing influence on the club all year long and may be what the Cubs need in a pressure situation. Long way to go still, but this guy has been something else and is finally getting the credit and respect he deserves. He has earned it.

“Each win breeds more confidence throughout the ball club,” Arrieta said. “We need to keep it rolling as long as we can. It’s important to find your stride at this point in the season.”

With the defense posting a shutout, all the offense had to do was scratch one across. They got five, and the guys looked on-point last night. Jorge Soler took a nice walk to bring the first run in while Starlin Castro and David Ross doubled and singled in runs, respectively.  Castro added another RBI double in the fifth inning and Soler singled in the final run in the sixth.  The Cubs posted 14 hits, including three from Chris Denorfia. They still left quite a few men on base, but when your Ace is hanging zeros on the other team, five runs is good enough to get the job done as the 5-0 win made it six straight W’s for Chicago who moved to 11 games over .500 and within three games of the Pirates for the first Wild Card spot while maintaining a half game advantage for the second spot over San Francisco.

Dan Haren Cubs

These Cubs are hot right now and will need a big start from newcomer Dan Haren in the finale tonight vs. the Bucs’ Jeff Locke to send the Cubs home with a nice six-win road trip. Game time is 6:05PM CST.

Let’s Go Cubs!

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Cubs Sweep Brewers; Move to Ten Games over.500

Posted on 03 August 2015 by Bob

After a weekend series sweep in Milwaukee, the Cubs are rounding into playoff form and appear to be primed for a run the likes of which we haven’t seen this season. Chicago has now won five straight and moved to ten games over .500 for the first time in 2015, a feat they haven’t accomplished since 2008. In doing so they have vaulted themselves back into a tie with the Giants for the second Wild Card spot with the teams set to meet later this week At Wrigley Field for a four game series.

Clayton Richard

The Cubs got it done with pitching and hitting on Sunday as Clayton Richard pitched six innings while giving up five hits and just one run, a ground-out RBI by Hernan Perez in the third inning, to earn the win. Pretty much everyone got in on the action for the Cubs as Anthony Rizzo grounded into a fielder’s choice to score Dexter Fowler in the first inning; Addison Russell then homered to center field in the second to make it 2 – 0. After Perez added that run for the Brewers, Richard doubled in the fourth, to plate Jorge Soler and help his own cause tremendously. Kris Bryant then added an RBI single in the fifth to make it 4 – 1. Sliding hard into second on the play, Bryant appeared to hit his head and neck on Brewers shortstop Jean Segura. He left the game but should not miss anytime moving forward. Rizzo’s home run streak was snapped at four consecutive games.

It wasn’t over yet though as Milwaukee put two runners on with no outs in the ninth off of Hector Rondon, but he was able to work out of the jam despite giving up two runs and having to face an extra batter after Starlin Castro committed a huge error on a routine put-out that almost cost the Cubs dearly. Rondon picked up yet another save and the Cubs might have finally realized their potential as they took the contest 4 – 3 and upped their record to 57 – 47.

“I think this was a series we needed to take advantage of,” outfielder Chirs Coghlan said. “We did.”

So the Cubs finally did what they are supposed to do. Beat up on the bad teams and don’t let up. Chicago battled back from deficits quickly over the weekend and when they got on top, they kept swinging away to add runs and kept grinding on defense until the final out. It would have been nice to have this result a week ago but maybe this confidence boost will have a bigger impact with series against the Pirates and Giants this week, the two teams the Cubs are vying for a Wild Card spot against.

This is a big week for the Cubs as we are now into August and the homestretch will be here before you know it. They have nine games against the Pirates and seven against the Giants so the opportunities are there; it’s up to the Cubs, these young, ferocious Cubs, to make them count. They’ll get their chance to extend their win streak tonight as Jon Lester is set to pitch vs. Francisco Liriano with first pitch coming at 6:00PM CST.

Let’s Go Cubs!

 

 

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Rizzo Homers Again as Cubs Cruise Past Brew Crew

Posted on 01 August 2015 by Bob

Anthony Rizzo is on a roll, homering in each of the last three games as he led the Cubs past Milwaukee on Friday night at Miller Park. Jason Hammel gave up a solo-shot to Ryan Braun in the bottom of the first to make it 1-0 but Chicago got that run right back in the second inning when Starlin Castro singled in Kris Bryant. From there Hammel scattered five hits over the remainder of his almost six innings of work to pick up the W, his seventh straight decision vs. the Brewers.

RIZZO HR - 3 in  row

While Rizzo and Jorge Soler each had two hits a piece, it was the oft-maligned Castro who drove in two runs and looked rejuvenated after slogging through a rough year at the plate.

“He had three really good at-bats for us,” Maddon said. “(He) did a nice job at shortstop, but he’s capable of that. I mean, that’s who he is.”

Hector Rondon picked up another save, his 15th this year and the Cubs are now back to eight games over .500 at 55 – 47 and only one game game for the second Wild Card berth as San Francisco lost to Texas on Friday night. The Cubs also posted a 15 – 12 record for the month of July, and have now played .500 or better in every calendar month of this 2015 season.

Yes, things are looking up on the North Side and they get a chance to go nine games over .500 tonight as Kyle Hendricks takes the mound vs. former Cub Matt Garza with first pitch coming at 6:10PM CST.

Let’s Go Cubs!

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Lester K’s 14 as Cubs Top Rockies; Take 2 of 3

Posted on 30 July 2015 by Bob

This was the Jon Lester we have all been waiting for; the $155 million dollar man, the bona fide ace, the guy who puts a team on his back and carries them to victory. Sure, he had some help finally as Dexter Fowler provided some early run support with a lead-off home run and Anthony Rizzo followed suit in the third with a two-run shot of his own to stake Lester to a 3-0 lead. That would prove to be enough as Lester allowed only two runs on five hits in eight strong innings of work to beat the Rockies 3 – 2 on Wednesday afternoon at Wrigley Field.

Oh, and did I mention 14 strikeouts? 14 !?!?!

Jon Lester Ks 14

Lester became the first Cub to strike out at least 14 batters since Mark Prior in 2004, and the first Cubs left-hander to do so in over a century.  It was a sight to behold. Of course, it would have been just a foot note without that run support as Anthony Rizzo picked a great time to hit his first home run since July 7 that stayed just fair.

“It was nice to keep that one fair, for sure,” Rizzo said. “It turned out big for us.”

Big indeed as the Cubs were able to hold on to take the series 2 to 1, after falling 7 – 2 the evening before and leaving Cubs fans rolling their eyes at all the lost opportunities to make up ground in the wild card and division against sub-.500 teams. A series win will have to do after a putrid series against the Phillies; they completed the six game homestand with a 2-4 record, not exactly what you want to see from a team making a playoff run with just over two months left in the season.

The Cubs will get another stab at it as the travel to Milwaukee for a four game series vs. the 44- 58 Brewers, an excellent chance to get rolling and on the eve of the trade deadline, there is still hope that reinforcements may be on the way. With a flurry of deals the last 48 hours, most of the big name pitchers such as David Price and Cole Hamels have already been traded, and that’s fine as Cubs couldn’t offer to dismantle their farm systems for just one player, especially a rental. There are still a few interesting candidates out there and most of them play for the San Diego Padres.

Tyson Ross

The Cubs line up surprisingly well with the Padres as trade partners as San Diego looks to correct their offseason mistakes that didn’t pan out and replenish their farm system, while the Cubs have intriguing prospects and an excess of middle infielders (i.e. Starlin Castro) to offer in exchange for a reliable #4 or #5 pitcher. Ideally, the Cubs will land Tyson Ross or Andrew Cashner for the price of a Javy Baez or Starlin Castro and some lower level prospects to round out the deal. Adding Craig Kimbrel as a closer wouldn’t be a bad idea either if the price is right. The waiting will soon be over…

Tonight it’s Jake Arrieta on the bump vs. the Brewers Jimmy Nelson. Game time is 7:10 PM CST.

 

Let’s Go Cubs!

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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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