Bailey and Reds win again at Wrigley, 8-2

April, 20, 2014
Apr 20
5:33
PM CT
video

CHICAGO -- Homer Bailey pitched six scoreless innings at friendly Wrigley Field for his first win of the season and Jay Bruce homered and doubled as the Cincinnati Reds beat the Chicago Cubs 8-2 on Sunday.

Zack Cozart hit a two-run homer for Cincinnati, which took two of three this weekend from the Cubs and has won 17 of its last 19 games at Wrigley Field.

Bailey (1-1) struck out eight while allowing six hits and three walks.

The Reds have won 10 straight when Bailey faces the Cubs. He is 7-0 in his last 10 outings against Chicago and 5-0 in his past six at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs have lost six of their last seven.

Carlos Villanueva (1-4) was tagged for five runs and nine hits in 4 2/3 innings.


(Read full post)


Rapid Reaction: Reds 8, Cubs 2

April, 20, 2014
Apr 20
5:20
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
video
CHICAGO -- Here's a quick look at the Chicago Cubs' 8-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday:

How it happened: Cincinnati scored multiple runs in three innings to take the weekend series. They put up three on Cubs starter Carlos Villanueva in the fourth inning as two-out doubles by Devin Mesoraco and Zack Cozart along with an RBI single by pitcher Homer Bailey got the job done. The Reds scored two more in the fifth on a Todd Frazier RBI double and Ryan Ludwick single. Villanueva was pulled after 4 2/3 innings as he gave up nine hits and five runs. Three more runs crossed the plate in the seventh as Jose Veras still couldn't find success. He gave up two walks and two home runs -- to Jay Bruce and Cozart. Bailey kept the Cubs in check, throwing six shutout innings, before Ryan Sweeney and Nate Schierholtz had RBI singles off the bullpen in the seventh.

What it means: Villanueva isn't long for the starting staff as Jake Arrieta is due back soon. He looked good for a couple of innings, but as his pitch count rises, his stuff starts to falter. His ERA is now 10.93, which is another indication he can't be starting games in the major leagues. He's still valuable out of the pen but not for more than a three-inning stint. Until the final days of spring, Chris Rusin was the better starter, but the Cubs chose Villanueva to replace Arrieta. It may have been as wrong a choice as having Veras close games. He can't even get anyone out in nonsave situations. His curveball looked all right, but he gave up two home runs on two sinkers in one inning of work.

Series loss: The Cubs still haven't won a series this month as the Reds took two of three over the weekend. The last time they went the whole month of April without winning a series was 1997 when they started 0-14.

What's next: The Cubs continue their homestand with a visit from the Arizona Diamondbacks starting Monday night. Travis Wood faces Bronson Arroyo.

Another day, another new lineup for Renteria

April, 20, 2014
Apr 20
12:04
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs manager Rick Renteria continues to display an unorthodox way of doing business when it comes to his daily lineups. For example, on Sunday against right-handed starter Homer Bailey of the Cincinnati Reds, he has four lefties at the top of the Cubs order followed by four righties and then pitcher Carlos Villanueva.

Conventional thinking would have him splitting up the lefties and righties more in order to give the starting pitcher a different look and make it harder when the opposing manager goes to the bullpen.

“I don’t feel it puts me at too much of a disadvantage,” Renteria said before the game. “I’m trying to get as much advantage as I can early in the ballgame.”

So he wants his lefties batting as many times as possible against Bailey but what happens if Reds manager Bryan Price goes to a lefty reliever as the top of the order comes up?

“It depends who the lefties are on the other side of the bullpen,” Renteria explained. “How you feel that you can deal with those particular guys if they end up using them in particular situations.”

(Read full post)

Olt delivering on power potential

April, 19, 2014
Apr 19
6:47
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- Mike Olt hit his first home run this year off somebody not named Wandy Rodriguez, setting the tone on a cool Wrigley Field afternoon that did not seem inviting for long balls.

[+] EnlargeMike Olt
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhMike Olt homered in the second inning against the Reds, setting the tone for the Cubs' offense on Saturday.
Darwin Barney and Welington Castillo followed with their own home runs for the Cubs, who entered tied with the San Diego Padres for last in the National League with 10 long balls.

The Cubs parlayed all the power into an 8-4 victory, matching an April 6 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies for most runs scored in a game this year.

“It’s definitely what we need,” Olt said of an 11-hit afternoon that helped to end a five-game losing streak. “It only takes one game or one at-bat to really get a team going, so hopefully we come in tomorrow and stay focused, and I guess start back where we left off.”

The right-handed hitting Olt showed his power capabilities this spring with five home runs in 19 Cactus League games, a performance that helped him to earn a roster spot. Maintaining that type of production, though, was going to be tough while sharing time at third with the left-handed hitting Luis Valbuena.

Olt has started in just half of the team’s 16 games, and the stop-start playing time has shown up in a .212 batting average and .257 on-base percentage. But he has managed to deliver on power potential with three home runs in 33 at-bats. Everybody else with multiple home runs on the Cubs' roster has at least 46 at-bats.

A key component in last year’s trade that sent Matt Garza to the Texas Rangers, Olt continues to show that the deal has a chance to pay huge dividends. After all, C.J. Edwards and Justin Grimm came to the Cubs, as well.

For Olt, his season could depend on finding consistency in an inconsistent world that has him starting one day and pinch hitting the next.

He followed his productive spring with a home run off Rodriguez, the Pittsburgh Pirates left-hander, in the third game of the season. When the Pirates came to Chicago a week later, Olt did the same thing to Rodriguez. His home run Saturday came against Reds left-hander Tony Cingrani.

Right-handers have been more of an issue. When the Reds switched to right-hander Logan Ondrusek in the sixth inning, Olt struck out. It was his seventh strikeout against right-handers this season, compared with three against lefties.

Until results such as those change, the platoon will continue, regardless of how Valbuena performs. Shoring up defensive miscues will be key, as well. He booted a ground ball that allowed a run to score in the seventh inning and practically compounded the issue when he then threw wildly to first base. He was spared another error when first baseman Anthony Rizzo quickly tracked down the ball.

It cut the Cubs’ lead to just two runs at the time, but the offense rebounded with two more in the bottom of the seventh.

“I definitely shouldn't have thrown it, but that happens,” Olt said.

Miscues like that figured to be remedied with more experience at the big league level. Between his 16 games with the Rangers in 2012, his full year at Triple-A last year and his 14 games with the Cubs this season, he is starting to make more sense of things.

“What I have taken from the last couple of years is learning how to evaluate how other hitters are being approached by the pitcher and pick up certain tendencies,” he said. “I’m paying attention a lot more to the game and understanding it so it will definitely carry over.”

Back spasms end Rizzo's day early

April, 19, 2014
Apr 19
6:00
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO – Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo was pulled from Saturday’s game against the Cincinnati Reds with back spasms, but the issue isn’t believed to be serious.

Rizzo said his back tightened up on him after making a stretch for a high pickoff throw earlier in Saturday’s game.

Mike Olt moved from third base to first base to cover for Rizzo, and Luis Valbuena took over at third base.

Cubs manager Rick Renteria said he would wait until the morning to see if Rizzo will be able to play in Sunday’s series finale against the Reds.

“We’ll see,” Rizzo said. “I expect to wake up a little sore tomorrow, but nothing really (serious) to keep me out of the lineup.”

Cubs hit 3 HRs, break loose to beat Reds 8-4

April, 19, 2014
Apr 19
4:57
PM CT
video

CHICAGO -- Darwin Barney and Welington Castillo hit two-run homers and Mike Olt added a solo shot as the Chicago Cubs broke out of a weeklong offensive funk and beat the Cincinnati Reds 8-4 Saturday.

Since scoring four times last Sunday in St. Louis, the Cubs had managed just one run before beating the Reds. Cincinnati had won 16 of the last 17 at Wrigley Field.

Emilio Bonifacio had three hits and scored a pair of runs for the Cubs. Junior Lake, Starlin Castro and Justin Ruggiano each drove in a run.

Edwin Jackson (1-1) allowed two runs and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings.

Tony Cingrani (1-2) gave up three runs in five innings.

Jay Bruce went 3 for 3 with a walk for the Reds.


(Read full post)


Rapid Reaction: Cubs 8, Reds 4

April, 19, 2014
Apr 19
4:48
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
video

CHICAGO – The Chicago Cubs ended a five-game losing streak Saturday with an 8-4 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

How it happened: Justin Ruggiano, Mike Olt and Starlin Castro all delivered RBIs in the first three innings to get the Cubs started. Olt hit his third home run of the season in the second inning, a shot down the left-field line that stayed just inside the foul pole. Darwin Barney added a home run -- his first -- in the sixth inning, and Welington Castillo added his third in the seventh. Edwin Jackson gave up two runs on eight hits over 5 ⅔ innings as the Cubs won for the first time since April 11.

What it means: A better brand of baseball Saturday led to a much better result, although Olt threatened to undo things on defense in the seventh inning. The Cubs allowed two unearned runs in Friday’s 4-1 defeat to the Reds and were 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position. On Saturday, Olt booted a ground ball with two outs in the seventh, allowing a run to score, and then threw late and wild to first base. It could have been two errors on the same play, but first baseman Anthony Rizzo tracked down the errant throw and nailed Chris Heisey trying to advance to second.

Outside the box: In just six innings Saturday, Emilio Bonifacio delivered more hits than he had in his previous six games. His 19-for-38 start over his first eight games became but a memory when he went 2-for-24 in his six games before Saturday. But his 3-for-5 game Saturday could be the start of a new hot streak. His early hitting display still has his batting average up to a robust .358.

Off beat: Not always the most efficient pitcher around, Jackson couldn’t have been more economical in the third inning. The right-hander unleashed the rare three-pitch frame that actually included a Reds hit. Billy Hamilton led off the inning against Jackson with a first-pitch bunt single, but Joey Votto grounded into a nifty double play when Barney went up the middle from his spot at second base and flipped the ball to Castro at the bag to get it started. Brandon Phillips followed with a first-pitch comebacker to end the quickest of half innings.

Up next: The Cubs will send right-hander Carlos Villanueva (1-3, 11.57 ERA) to the mound Sunday against the Reds in the finale of a three-game series. Cincinnati will counter with right-hander Mike Leake (1-1, 2.45) in the 1:20 p.m. start from Wrigley Field.

Cubs to put some heat on Jake Arrieta

April, 19, 2014
Apr 19
3:16
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO – On second thought, Chicago Cubs rehabbing pitcher Jake Arrieta will be going to the much warmer Daytona, Fla., instead of Iowa for his next rehab start.

The right-hander, who was dealing with shoulder stiffness in spring training, was said to be going to the Cubs’ Triple-A affiliate for what was potentially his final rehab outing. Instead, he will make an appearance at the Single-A level.

“Get out there and get up to 100 pitches, kind of fine tune and refine some things and hopefully that will be the last stop,” Arrieta said Saturday morning in the Cubs’ locker room.

Arrieta has already made three rehab starts for Double-A Tennessee since the season started, working his way up to 82 pitches in his most recent outing. He could make his first big league start of the year on the Cubs' next road trip to Milwaukee and Cincinnati.

“I don’t think that I’ll be 100 percent until I get here, get in a game and kind of pitch at that intensity for the first time,” he said. “I’m right where I need to be right now.”

Arrietta, who was acquired in a July 2 trade from the Baltimore Orioles, went 4-2 with the Cubs in nine starts last season, posting a 3.66 ERA.

“He’s just continuing to move forward in the process of coming back, and he’s been doing well,” manager Rick Renteria said. “But warm weather (at Daytona) is definitely conducive to moving forward.”

Castro filling role of run producer -- for now

April, 19, 2014
Apr 19
12:58
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO – Just because Starlin Castro has been more productive hitting in lineup spots after the cleanup man doesn’t mean he has found a permanent lineup home.

Chicago Cubs manager Rick Renteria said Saturday that if he has to commit to anything, he would lean on Castro’s lineup versatility rather than make him a permanent fixture in the No. 5 or 6 holes. But for now, anyway, he’s going to ride out any productive streak he can get his hands on.

[+] EnlargeStarlin Castro
AP Photo/David DurochikStarlin Castro is 9-for-20 (.450) with two doubles, two home runs and seven RBIs in five games as a No. 6 hitter.
“Actually, he's done a nice job there,” Renteria said about RBI spots like the five- and six-holes. “I don’t know if it’s any different than what he would be doing in the two-hole, but he’s doing a nice job, so we’ll keep him in a place that seems to give him comfort. But he’s not apt to stay there the whole year.”

Castro was batting fifth against the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday, but it’s actually the No. 6 spot where he has flourished. In five games as a No. 6 hitter, Castro is 9-for-20 (.450) with two doubles, two home runs, seven RBIs and an .850 slugging percentage. His combined numbers as a No. 5 and No. 6 hitter: 12-for-35 (.343).

In four games as a No. 2 hitter, Castro is a solid 6-for-17 (.353), but his run-producing opportunities are diminished. He has just one RBI and hasn’t produced an extra-base hit from the No. 2 spot.

The plan in previous years to turn Castro into a more patient hitter clearly didn’t work and it’s possible his stints in the situational-hitting No. 2 spot could end up working against him. It could help to explain why he has taken such a liking to batting lower in the order.

“Hopefully they have an understanding of who they are as hitters, but it sure is nice to have him out there in case there are runners on base in the heart of the order able to drive in runs,” Renteria said.

As long as there are others who can handle the No. 2 hole, Castro’s days in run-producing spots in the order will continue.

(Read full post)

Renteria wants better focus from Cubs

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
8:12
PM CT
By Sahadev Sharma
Special to ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- When a team is on a losing streak and fails to score for two straight games, the last thing a manager wants to see is a lack of focus.

After the Chicago Cubs' 4-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Friday -- their fifth straight defeat -- Cubs manager Rick Renteria seemed less concerned with his team pressing at the plate than what he deemed a poor approach to the game.

[+] EnlargeCubs
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhWelington Castillo, center, agrees with manager Rick Renteria, not pictured, that the Cubs need better focus. Renteria says the team could learn from the approach of Jeff Samardzija, right.
"If our approaches are good, if we're really focused on what we're supposed to be doing, both at the plate and in the field, I'm good with it," a calm but clearly perturbed Renteria said. "Today, I think we were a little sloppy in general."

Renteria was then asked if there was anything he could do to rectify his team's apparent sloppiness.

"It's just a matter of focus," he said. "They know, I think our players know. It's a long season, but I think the reality is good clubs really do grind out every single game. That's what we want to become. I think it's a great lesson, because we're playing in a great division and we're gonna be competing against clubs that have been in the playoffs most recently. Hey, listen, nobody's going to give us anything, so we're going to go out there, and every single day, if we fall short in the way we're supposed to approach the game -- whatever it might be -- we'll talk about it if we have to and then we'll deal with it."

Renteria had no response when asked if he addressed the team about the lack of focus.

After going hitless in 13 opportunities with runners in scoring position in Wednesday's doubleheader against the New York Yankees, the Cubs didn't fare much better Friday, going 1-for-7 in those opportunities. The struggling outfield had a particularly poor day at the plate, with the trio of Ryan Sweeney, Junior Lake and Nate Schierholtz combining to go 0-for-12 with Lake striking out three times.

(Read full post)

Alfredo Simon leads Reds over reeling Cubs 4-1

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
5:03
PM CT

CHICAGO -- Alfredo Simon lowered his ERA to 0.86, and the Cincinnati Reds beat the Chicago Cubs 4-1 Friday for their 16th win in their last 17 games at Wrigley Field.

Making his third start, Simon (2-1) allowed an unearned run in six-plus innings and sent the Cubs to their fifth straight loss. Simon is in the rotation while Mat Latos recovers from elbow and knee injuries.

Jonathan Broxton pitched a hitless ninth for his second save in two tries, completing a six-hitter for the Reds, who stretched their winning streak to a season-best three.

Jeff Samardzija (0-2) gave up three runs -- one earned -- and six hits in seven innings with seven strikeouts and two walks. He is 0-4 despite a 3.86 ERA in 10 starts since winning at San Diego on Aug. 24.


(Read full post)


ICYMI: SweetSpot hits of the week

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
6:01
PM CT
Rosenberg By Jason Rosenberg
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
While driving home from work Thursday night, I was listening to the Rays' feed of the Yankees-Rays game when Derek Jeter made a "diving" play. The broadcasters chuckled at Jeter's lack of range and his natural succumbing to Father Time, saying something along the lines of "That's Jeter's range; however he can fall to his right and however he can fall to his left." An inning or so later, the maligned Yanks infield turned a triple play, so there you go. Without further ado, the best from around the SweetSpot Network, week 3:

Boston RedSox: FireBrand of the AL
A large cup of coffee: Jeff Polman catches up with former Red Sox starting pitcher Dana Kiecker. Who’s Dana Kiecker, you ask? He’s just the pitcher who followed Roger Clemens in the 1990 ALCS by starting Game 2. Follow on Twitter: @jpballnut.

Chicago Cubs: View From The Bleachers
Which pitchers have nasty stuff? If you missed the 10-strikeout performance put up on Wednesday afternoon by Masahiro Tanaka, it showed off his nasty stuff. Joe Aiello takes a look at what other pitchers have "nasty" stuff. Follow on Twitter: @vftb

Chicago White Sox: The Catbird Seat
The art of patience: Collin Whitchurch examines the White Sox offense's hot start as a product of a new organizational emphasis on plate discipline. Follow on Twitter: @cowhitchurch


Colorado Rockies: Rockies Zingers
What are the keys for pitching at Coors? and ¿Cuáles son la claves para lanzar en Coors Field? The debut of Sabermetrics in Spanish, Juan Pablo Zubillaga compares Rockies pitchers with non-Rockies pitchers and analyzes which metrics can indicate success for Rockies pitchers.

Milwaukee Brewers: Disciples of Uecker
The Brewers' line-driving frenzy: Jonathan Judge looks at the value and sustainability of the Brewers' high line-drive rate so far. Follow on Twitter: @bachlaw

New York Yankees: It's About The Money
How good could the 2015 infield really be? Matt Seybold wonders how the Yankees will go about filling the holes they will have in the 2015 infield. Follow on Twitter: @Sport_Hippeaux

How did the "pine tar" affect Pineda's performance? Michael Eder takes a look at what affects, if any, that mysterious blob of goo on Michael Pineda's hand had during his start against Boston. Follow on Twitter: @edermik

Philadelphia Phillies: Crashburn Alley
Phillies showing tremendous plate discipline: The Phillies are drawing plenty of walks, something they haven't done in a few years.

Some fun trivia on Cliff Lee's start against the Braves: Cliff Lee got the tough-luck loss on Wednesday but it made for some interesting trivia. Follow on Twitter: @CrashburnAlley

Tampa Bay Rays: The Process Report
Offense, Myers struggling: Jason Collette shows how 2014 looks a lot like 2011 in the early going for the Tampa Bay offense and why Wil Myers is struggling at the plate. Follow on Twitter: @processreport

Jason Rosenberg is the founder of It's About the Money, a proud charter member of the SweetSpot Network. IIATMS can be found on Twitter here and here as well as on Facebook.

Rapid Reaction: Reds 4, Cubs 1

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
4:37
PM CT
By Sahadev Sharma
Special to ESPNChicago.com
Archive


CHICAGO -- Here's a quick look at the Chicago Cubs' 4-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds:

How it happened: Cincinnati scratched across a run in the fifth to jump out to a 1-0 lead. Catcher Devin Mesoraco led off the inning with a single, stole second, advanced to third on Alfredo Simon's swinging bunt and scored when speedster Billy Hamilton blooped a double in between Junior Lake and Ryan Sweeney in shallow left-center field. The Reds added two unearned runs in the sixth when Jay Bruce and Ryan Ludwick scored when Emilio Bonifacio failed to turn a double play and his throw got past Anthony Rizzo. The Cubs ended 24-inning scoreless streak when Starlin Castro came around to score on Luis Valbuena's seventh-inning single. However, that was all the offense could muster, as another solid outing from Jeff Samardzija (seven innings, six hits, one earned run, seven strikeouts) was wasted.

What it means: Rizzo continues to hit (2-for-4) and Castro delivered a single, but not much else positive came from the offense. The outfield has been the biggest sore spot on the offense and that trend continued on Friday with Nate Schierholtz, Lake and Sweeney combining to go 0-for-12 with Lake striking out three times.

Outside the box: Jake Arrieta is expected to make his fourth rehab start of the year, this one at Triple-A Iowa on Monday. If all goes well, the hope is that Arrieta will rejoin the Cubs staff the next time through the rotation.

Up next: Edwin Jackson tries to get back on track after posting a 6.19 ERA in his first three starts of the season. He takes on the Reds and the fastball-heavy Tony Cingrani at 1:20 p.m. CT Saturday.

Brandon Phillips suffers back spasms

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
3:14
PM CT

CHICAGO -- Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips left Friday's game against the Chicago Cubs because of back spasms.

Phillips appeared to get hurt swinging and missing during in the first inning. After a visit from manager Bryan Price and a trainer, Phillips singled.

Phillips struck out in the third, and the Reds said they replaced him with Ramon Santiago in the bottom half as a precaution.


(Read full post)


Arrieta expected to make final rehab start

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
1:50
PM CT
By Sahadev Sharma
Special to ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta is expected to make his fourth rehab start of the season on Monday, this time with Triple-A Iowa.

Arrieta
"He's doing well," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said of Arrieta, who was at Wrigley Field on Friday. "He'll be here to throw a side and let (pitching coach Chris Bosio) put his eyes on him."

Arrieta had made his previous three rehab starts with Double-A Tennessee, slowly building up his pitch count along the way, getting up to 82 pitches in his last outing on Wednesday. If all goes well, the hope is that Monday will be Arrieta's last rehab start and he'll re-join the big-league club the next time through the rotation.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Emilio Bonifacio
BA HR RBI R
.366 0 2 12
OTHER LEADERS
HRW. Castillo 3
RBIS. Castro 9
RE. Bonifacio 12
OPSA. Rizzo .948
WJ. Hammel 2
ERAJ. Samardzija 1.29
SOJ. Samardzija 22