Wada earns first career win -- at age 33

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
Tsuyoshi WadaBrian Kersey/Getty ImagesLefty Tsuyoshi Wada went seven innings Monday, allowing one run on five hits with six strikeouts.

CHICAGO -- His age screams trade candidate, but his body of work is likely too small for the Chicago Cubs to move starter Tsuyoshi Wada by Thursday’s trade deadline. So the 33-year-old will have to settle for his first career win and move on from there.

“I’m just happy the Cubs used me again after that outing I had wasn’t very good,” the left-hander said through an interpreter Monday night after a 4-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies. “It was my second time pitching in Chicago. [I was] a little more relaxed.”

Last week, Wada got beaten up by the San Diego Padres after making a nice debut against the Cincinnati Reds. Everything looked better Monday, and the results showed.

“He had them taking some swings on some fastballs they seemed to be very late on,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. “So he was speeding them up and slowing them down pretty well.”

Wada lasted seven innings, giving up just one run on five hits. He walked his lone batter in his last inning. He was seemingly signed in the offseason for this exact role: to eat some innings after the predictable trades of Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. Renteria didn’t want to talk big picture regarding Wada, just the here and now.

“I’m just really happy he’s here with us,” he said. “Whether he was 20 or 33, he did a nice job today.”

The Cubs will probably still need the Wadas of the world going into next season. Their starting staff -- like the team as a whole -- is in transition. Jake Arrieta is the only pitcher assured of anything right now. Ineffectiveness (Edwin Jackson and Travis Wood) along with youth (Kyle Hendricks and Dallas Beeler) have left things uncertain moving forward. Wada might or might not stick around, but the Cubs will undoubtedly need to find more innings as they search for a contending staff.

“He seemed to agree with how I wanted to pitch the guys,” catcher John Baker said of Wada. “He was very comfortable with the pitches that were called.”

It means Wada gets to start again -- and probably for the rest of the season, unless things go terribly wrong. After that, it’s anyone’s guess -- with him and with the Cubs' entire starting five.

CHICAGO -- Tsuyoshi Wada earned his first big league win, pitching seven strong innings Monday night as the Chicago Cubs defeated the Colorado Rockies 4-1.

Anthony Rizzo drove in two runs to back Wada (1-1).

In only his third career start in the majors, Wada cut through the Colorado lineup, allowing one run and five hits. It was a far cry from his last outing, when he lasted four innings and gave up five runs in a loss to San Diego.

The sole blemish on Wada's performance came in the sixth when the Rockies got three hits, capped by Nolan Arenado's RBI single.

Pedro Strop worked out of a jam in the eighth inning and Hector Rondon worked a perfect ninth for his 13th save in 16 chances.

Yohan Flande (0-3) struck out eight in 6 2/3 innings.

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Rapid Reaction: Cubs 4, Rockies 1

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
CHICAGO – The Chicago Cubs beat the Colorado Rockies 4-1 on Monday night. Here’s a quick look at the game.

How it happened: The Cubs got on the board first, as a single by Emilio Bonifacio and a double by Arismendy Alcantara in the fourth inning were followed by an RBI groundout by Anthony Rizzo and a sacrifice fly by Justin Ruggiano. The Rockies cut the lead in half when Nolan Arenado drove in Charlie Blackmon with a single in the sixth, but Cubs starter Tsuyoshi Wada worked out of the jam without further damage. Wada mixed things up enough to keep the Rockies off balance, giving up just five hits while walking just one and striking out six over seven innings. The Cubs added two runs in the eighth, when an errant pickoff throw to first allowed John Baker to score from third and an RBI single by Rizzo brought home Bonifacio, who had doubled.

What it means: Trade candidate Bonifacio continued a nice run since coming back from injury, collecting two hits including a double. Alcantara, meanwhile, might have cooled after his hot start, but he continues to drive the ball in the form of extra-base hits. Of the 16 hits in his young career, eight have gone for more than one base. His batting average is just .258, but his slugging percentage is .468, second on the team among regular players.

It’s not clear what Wada’s future holds, but he’s been more than adequate in two of three career starts so far after a good season at Triple-A and a rough spring training before that. He earned his first career win Monday.

What's next: Game 2 of the series is set for 7:05 p.m. Tuesday, with Edwin Jackson (5-11, 5.76) to face Jorge De La Rosa (11-6, 4.19).

Junior Lake's chance is now

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
CHICAGO – Could this be Chicago Cubs outfielder Junior Lake's last real chance this season at showing he belongs in a platoon or as an everyday starter going into 2015? The right-handed-hitting Lake is scheduled to play a lot during the next couple of weeks as the Cubs take on the lefty-heavy Colorado Rockies twice, with the Los Angeles Dodgers mixed in between those series.

“He’s going to have a nice opportunity to get into a lot of ballgames,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said before his squad opened a four-game series with the visiting Rockies on Monday night. “We’re hoping he’ll have some good ballgames, something to build on, maybe build his confidence.”

Calling Lake’s season a mess right now might be an understatement. In no part of his game -- save possibly his defense -- has he built off a 2013 campaign in which he wowed fans with his power and athleticism. All his offensive numbers are down, while his strikeout rate is a whopping 34.3 percent. He entered Monday hitting .213.

[+] EnlargeJunior Lake
Brian D. Kersey/Getty ImagesWith the Cubs due to face five lefties this week, Junior Lake figures to see quite a bit of playing time.
“We know that he has skill,” Renteria said. “Maybe some of these matchups will allow him to go out there and have some good performances.”

The Cubs will face five consecutive left-handed starters this week, four with the Rockies and one Friday in Los Angeles. This is Lake’s chance to prove he might belong on the roster in some capacity next season. His numbers are better this year against lefties, though that’s not saying much. He's hitting .222 off them after hitting .377 last year. Renteria was asked if there was anything he wishes he could have done different with Lake, who has struck out 96 times in 280 plate appearances.

“I’m sure there are things we could have done better or differently,” Renteria responded. “Off the top of my head I can’t really tell you what those are. We’ve tried to concentrate more recently on him cleaning up his mechanics a little bit. On top of that, to make sure his mental approach is one that does not worry too much about the results. It’s a performance-based game, but you have to worry about the at-bat. The process of that at-bat. We’ve tried to hammer that a little bit more lately, especially since he hasn’t played very much.”

As with third baseman Mike Olt (now at Triple-A Iowa), Lake’s only argument with how he was handled was not getting enough regular at-bats at the beginning of the season. He played, but not every day. Renteria often talks about making sure young players don’t change their approach thinking they need to hit one day to play the next. The Cubs could have taken away that uncertainty by simply telling Lake he would play no matter what. But they chose not to. His season went into a tailspin, and playing even less hasn’t helped.

“Those things [the process] are key when you haven’t played very much because you have to slow the game down and not worry too much, ‘I have to hit to play tomorrow.’ Just have good at-bats,” Renteria said. “That’s what we’re focused on.”

Whether the Cubs made mistakes with Lake or not, he obviously hasn’t made the most of his opportunities. With September call-ups -- and potentially even less playing time -- not too far off, he’ll get one more good chance to prove himself.

The lefties await.

Series preview: Rockies at Cubs

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs open a four-game series with the Colorado Rockies on Monday night.

Monday: Tsuyoshi Wada (0-1, 5.00) vs. Yohan Flande (0-2, 7.20), 7:05 p.m.
Tuesday: Edwin Jackson (5-11, 5.68) vs. Jorge De La Rosa (11-6, 4.19), 7:05 p.m.
Wednesday: Travis Wood (7-9, 5.06) vs. Brett Anderson (1-3, 4.24), 7:05 p.m.
Thursday: Jake Arrieta (5-2, 2.18) vs. Jeff Locke (2-2, 3.54), 1:20 p.m.

Nothing but southpaws: The Cubs are scheduled to face four lefties in the series for the first time since August 1953, according to STATS, Inc. They're hitting 36 points higher (.265/.229) against lefties than righties.

Storylines: Most will surround the trade deadline which occurs at 3 p.m. CT Thursday. Both the Cubs and Rockies are sellers although the Cubs made their big in-season deal earlier this month when they traded Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Oakland Athletics. Emilio Bonifacio and the Cubs' lefty reliever combination of Wesley Wright and James Russell remain the best additional candidates to be moved, but the Cubs won't get any big haul for either player.

Who's hot/who's not: If scouts needed to know if Bonifacio is healthy and can get back to early-season form then they liked what they saw this past weekend. Coming off the disabled list, he's 8-for-24 (.333) on the homestand with two doubles and a stolen base. Junior Lake is hitless in his last four games and his batting average has dropped to .213.

Dodgers acquire Darwin Barney

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
[+] EnlargeDarwin Barney
AP Photo/Paul BeatySecond baseman Darwin Barney was traded by the Cubs to the Dodgers.

CHICAGO -- The Cubs have traded second baseman Darwin Barney and cash considerations to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a player to be named later.

Barney, 28, was designated for assignment last Tuesday when Emilio Bonifacio was activated from the disabled list. Barney lost his starting job early this year as Bonifacio got off to a hot start.

Barney was a 2012 Gold Glove winner and is considered one of the best defensive second basemen in the game.

"He was going to land on his feet," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said Monday afternoon. "It's tough in the moment when change occurs but we've been in this game a long time, he's been around a while and done well. He's found a new club. Hopefully it goes well for him.

When Bonifacio went down with an oblique strain last month, Barney started playing more and was hitting .385 in July. But a two-day paternity leave opened the door for rookie Arismendy Alcantara, who was called up in Barney's place.

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Maddux starts at head of Hall rotation

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
Padilla By Doug Padilla
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Just like he carved up opponents from 60 feet, 6 inches away, Greg Maddux moved through his Hall of Fame speech Sunday with deft precision.

There was family to thank, teammates and coaches he appreciated and a few people who were key to his development at a young age. He showed love and respect to his wife Kathy for holding down the fort at home. He explained why his Hall of Fame plaque won't have a logo on the cap since he was unable to choose between the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves.

[+] EnlargeGreg Maddux
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesGreg Maddux's Hall of Fame speech was short and sweet, done with precision, which was similiar to his approach to pitching during his career.
He even sprinkled his own deadpan humor into the proceedings, talking about flatulence, how he was mistaken for the batboy before his first major league game, and how he spent much of his time with the Braves watching John Smoltz's hairline recede.

Appropriately at the head of the rotation among Hall of Fame inductees, it took less than five minutes for Maddux to mix in a little potty humor during what he called the first speech of his life.

"My brother, Mike, led by example," he said about his sibling who is also the pitching coach of the Texas Rangers. "Everything I was about to do on and off the field, he had already done. I was very fortunate to have a brother that I could learn from. He even taught me a little bit about science. It has to do with a little methane and a lighter, and I still get a huge kick out of it today. That's funny, huh? OK."

In his more serious moments, Maddux expressed appreciation to the four franchises for which he pitched, focusing most on the Cubs and Braves, obviously. He ended his career with the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers.

"With the Cubs, I had the opportunity to play with Andre Dawson, Rick Sutcliffe, Ryne Sandberg and two fine catchers, Damon Berryhill and Joe Girardi," he said. "The city of Chicago and the Cub fans were awesome, maybe the best in baseball."

The comment managed to bring out some groans from a large contingent of Atlanta fans in the crowd estimated to be 48,000 strong. He made up for it seconds later when talking about his free-agent move from Chicago to Atlanta.

"I picked Atlanta because I finally wanted to get a World Series ring and start a family," he said. "All right, sorry, Chicago, but yeah."

Maddux eventually did get that ring in 1995, with his career bringing him back to Chicago in 2004.

"I love Chicago so much," Maddux said. "The first time I played there, that I was very grateful that Gary Hughes and Jim Hendry brought me back over to Chicago. That would give me a second chance to win there, and maybe retire where it all started, but I wouldn't be a Cub if I couldn't handle a little heartache and we missed the postseason by one game my first year back.

"I was thankful I got a chance to play for Dusty Baker and work with Larry Rothschild. I enjoyed throwing most of my games to Henry Blanco and Michael Barrett, and again, it was even funnier when they would get hit in the face [with foul tips]."

For a first speech, Maddux handled the moment with aplomb. He didn't have to explain why he will go in to the Hall of Fame without picking the Braves over the Cubs or the Cubs over the Braves. He did anyway.

"People ask me why I have no Hall of Fame plaque, no logo, or why my Hall of Fame plaque has no logo," he said. "I spent 12 years in Chicago, 11 in Atlanta and both places are very special to me. Without experiences in both cities, I would not be standing here today."

2014 Hall of Fame class inducted

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Frank Thomas choked back tears, Joe Torre apologized for leaving people out of his speech and Tony La Russa said he felt uneasy.

Being enshrined in the Hall of Fame can have those effects, even on the greats.

Thomas, pitchers Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, and managers Bobby Cox, Torre and La Russa were inducted into the baseball shrine Sunday, and all paid special tribute to their families before an adoring crowd of nearly 50,000.

"I'm speechless. Thanks for having me in your club," Thomas said, getting emotional as he remembered his late father. "Frank Sr., I know you're watching. Without you, I know 100 percent I wouldn't be here in Cooperstown today. You always preached to me, 'You can be someone special if you really work at it.' I took that to heart, Pop."

"Mom, I thank you for all the motherly love and support. I know it wasn't easy."

The 46-year old Thomas, the first player elected to the Hall who spent more than half of his time as a designated hitter, batted .301 with 521 home runs and 1,704 RBIs in a 19-year career mostly with the Chicago White Sox. He's the only player in major league history to log seven straight seasons with a .300 average, 20 homers, 100 RBIs and 100 walks.

Ever the diplomat as a manager, Torre somehow managed to assuage the most demanding of owners in George Steinbrenner, maintaining his coolness amid all the Bronx craziness while keeping all those egos in check after taking over in 1996. The result: 10 division titles, six AL pennants and four World Series triumphs in 12 years as he helped restore the luster to baseball's most successful franchise and resurrected his own career after three firings.

Torre, the only man to amass more than 2,000 hits (2,342) and win more than 2,000 games as a manager, was last to speak, and in closing delivered a familiar message.

"Baseball is a game of life. It's not perfect, but it feels like it is," said the 74-year-old Torre, who apologized afterward for forgetting to include the Steinbrenner family in his speech. "That's the magic of it. We are responsible for giving it the respect it deserves. Our sport is part of the American soul, and it's ours to borrow -- just for a while."

"If all of us who love baseball and are doing our jobs, then those who get the game from us will be as proud to be a part of it as we were. And we are. This game is a gift, and I am humbled, very humbled, to accept its greatest honor."

The day was a reunion of sorts for the city of Atlanta. Glavine, Maddux and Cox were part of a remarkable run of success by the Braves. They won an unprecedented 14 straight division titles and made 15 playoff appearances, winning the city's lone major professional sports title.

"I'm truly humbled to stand here before you," Cox said. "To Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, and I have to mention the third member of the big three -- John Smoltz

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CHICAGO -- Adam Wainwright pitched seven scoreless innings and Matt Holliday hit a solo homer to lead the St. Louis Cardinals to a 1-0 victory and a series win over the Chicago Cubs on Sunday.

The Cardinals won two of the three games at Wrigley Field in the weekend set. The Cubs have not won a home series since taking two of three from the Miami Marlins June 6-8.

Wainwright allowed five hits and walked three during his seven innings. It was a far cry from his previous outing when he allowed six runs (four earned) in 4 2/3 innings against the Tampa Bay Rays last Tuesday.

Kevin Siegrist worked the eighth and Trevor Rosenthal pitched the ninth for his 32nd save in 36 chances.

Cubs rookie Kyle Hendricks (1-1) allowed just one run on seven hits in 6 1/3 innings.

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Process is all that matters to Renteria

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
Rick RenteriaAP Photo/Andrew A. NellesRick Renteria is following the Cubs' long-term plan for improvement.
CHICAGO -- By now you should know Chicago Cubs manager Rick Renteria well enough to know that he’s not going to fall into any big-picture trap when answering questions about his team. His focus remains on the process. The results -- good or bad -- come from that process and that’s how he’ll look at the rest of the season, just as he has up until this point.

“The biggest thing we have to understand is the season is not going to stop simply where you’re at in terms of the standings,” Renteria said before Sunday’s series finale against the St. Louis Cardinals. “You have to still play the game.”

That’s a statement many a manager has made over the years, especially ones who have worn a Cubs uniform. There has to be meaning to a long season even if the team is out of the pennant race -- as the Cubs are again with a 42-60 record heading into Sunday’s game. But Renteria isn’t about to embrace the easy motivation of being a spoiler.

“The aspects of being a spoiler or things of that nature, those are results,” he said. “What you’re trying to do is just play good baseball. If you happen to become a spoiler in the process so be it.”

Those who don’t like that statement should consider this: Should the Cubs play the best lineup to win on a given day down the stretch, or the one that advances them towards next year and beyond? If you chose the former then you’re not seeing the big picture.

“The reality is you’re still playing for teammates, you’re still playing for the city, and you’re hopefully still trying to be professional,” Renteria said. “You’re still moving forward and where we stand in the standings shouldn’t be a factor we use one way or another.”

For example, if the Cubs really were concerned with the results in August and September reliever Neil Ramirez would not have been sent down to Triple-A Iowa on Saturday. You don’t baby an arm if you’re trying to win a pennant. Or at least you don’t do it most of the time. (See Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals). But what’s more important, being a spoiler or preserving a valuable arm? Do you really think the Cubs just randomly chose Ramirez as a guy to take it easy for a couple of weeks? They felt it was necessary for the longevity of his career.

In losing, or even tanking, there can be benefits and the Cubs have chosen to take full advantage of them. Whether it’s flipping a veteran, drafting high or resting an arm, it’s not about who the Cubs are today or next month, it's about next year or the one after. At least it’s not about 3-5 years anymore.

“Try to eliminate some of those aspects,” Renteria said. “Where are we in the season? What are we as a club? What are we competing for?”

It’s the smart strategy. Stressing wins right now is like asking his young players to play like seasoned veterans. It’s just not possible no matter how hard you try or even how hard they work. As Renteria said, it’s a process.

“Every game does matter in different ways,” Renteria said. “All these guys will perform to the best of their ability whether it’s August or September or July because I think they do know every game or play matters.”

Just not for this year.

Even in defeat, Arrieta shows maturity

July, 26, 2014
Jul 26
By Sahadev Sharma
Special to ESPNChicago.com
CHICAGO -- In nearly every outing this season, Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta shows a little bit more maturity, as he continues to grow into one of the better pitchers in the game.

Arrieta struggled early in Saturday's 6-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, as he allowed the first two batters he faced to reach base and then gave up a one-out, two-run double to the scorching-hot Matt Adams. Despite the rough start, Arrieta was able to bounce back and deliver six strong innings, in which he struck out six and walked only one while giving up only the two runs and five hits.

[+] EnlargeJake Arrieta
AP Photo/Andrew A. NellesJake Arrieta settled down after a rough start Saturday, but the Cubs let things slip away against the Cardinals.
His manager, Rick Renteria, was thrilled Arrieta was able to battle through and help save an overworked bullpen. Although Renteria couldn't pinpoint what was wrong early, he was pleased with the end result.

"I would just simply say, they don't always feel good at every outing," Renteria said. "Today was maybe not one of those where he felt his best. But he settled down [and] worked with what he had today, which is what a pitcher's supposed to do."

Arrieta has focused more on his mechanics this season and said he has been more aware of his body and thus able to adjust more quickly when things go askew. Early on, Arrieta said he was getting on top of his pitches too early, which led to them being too far down in the zone, particularly his slider.

"I came out kind of flat in the first," Arrieta said. "[I] really struggled with command of just about everything today. Didn't really have a pitch I could go to, necessarily, in some spots to induce contact or kind of make things a little less difficult on myself. [My] pitch count got up [and] it was just pretty much a battle, start to finish."

It was Adams who did damage early, but Arrieta was able to retire him the next two times he came to the plate. Reliever James Russell wasn't as lucky, as Adams drove a two-run triple into the right-center field gap to extend the Cardinals' lead to 5-2 in the seventh.

Arrieta pointed out that Adams, who has a .320/.335/.523 line on the season, has been a tough out for every pitcher this year.

"He's hitting just about any pitch in multiple parts of the strike zone. That creates a tough out for anybody," Arrieta said. "He's able to handle breaking balls down and in, he's able to handle the ball away with velocity, and he's able to get on top of the ball if you try and elevate on him. He's seeing it well, and he's doing some good things for that line up."

Despite the early blip on Saturday, for a rotation that recently dealt away two of its better performers, Arrieta continues to show he might be the anchor for which the organization has been searching. He has a 2.18 ERA with a 27.4 percent strikeout rate and 7.2 percent walk rate in 91 innings. Those are the type of numbers that make the Cubs believe Arrieta is their No. 1 not just for the rest of this season, but also the foreseeable future.

"That performance was probably indicative of how much he's grown," Renteria said. "What if that was a couple years ago, when maybe he was struggling a little bit and wasn't able to grind through and pitch through six innings with not his best command of stuff? Today he did. I thought he worked really well."

CHICAGO -- Matt Adams drove in four runs, A.J. Pierzynski had three hits in his St. Louis debut and the Cardinals beat the Chicago Cubs 6-3 on Saturday to stop a four-game skid.

Shelby Miller returned to the Cardinals' rotation and pitched effectively into the sixth inning. Adams hit a two-run double in the first and a two-run triple in a four-run seventh that was capped by Pierzynski's RBI single.

Randy Choate (2-2) got the last out of the sixth in relief of Miller. Trevor Rosenthal worked around two hits in a scoreless ninth, earning his 31st save in 35 tries.

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Rapid Reaction: Cardinals 6, Cubs 3

July, 26, 2014
Jul 26
By Sahadev Sharma
Special to ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO — The St. Louis Cardinals rallied Saturday against the Chicago Cubs' bullpen to score a 6-3 victory at Wrigley Field. A quick look:

How it happened: For the fourth game in a row, the Cubs found themselves trailing before their first at-bats. The Cardinals jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first on Matt Adams' two-run double with one out. Starter Jake Arrieta calmed down quickly, tossing six solid innings, striking out six and walking one while allowing just the two runs. After the Cubs cut the lead in half when Emilio Bonifacio scored on an Anthony Rizzo groundout in the fourth, Nate Schierholtz, pinch hitting for Arrieta, tied the game at 2 with a solo home run in the bottom of the sixth. The Cardinals took back the lead with four runs in the seventh, highlighted by a two-run triple by Adams, against the Cubs' weary bullpen.

What it means: With the Cubs bullpen being taxed over the previous few days, Arrieta's ability to bounce back from a rough first inning and go six strong was much needed. It wasn't, however, enough to cover up the fact that nearly every arm in the pen has been used more than manager Rick Renteria would like over the past week -- and the Cardinals certainly capitalized. The recently called-up Blake Parker certainly appeared fresh, tossing two perfect innings and striking out four of the six batters he faced. Look for more movement of bullpen arms between Triple-A Iowa and Wrigley in the coming weeks.

Outside the box: A.J. Pierzynski made his Cardinals debut Saturday and received a mixed welcome -- cheers from the large Cardinals contingent at Wrigley slightly outdone by the boos from the Cubs faithful. The former White Sox catcher had the last laugh, collecting three singles and an RBI in his four at-bats.

Up next: The Cubs wrap up their three-game set with the Cardinals as rookie Kyle Hendricks gets his first taste of the division rivalry, facing St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright in the 1:20 p.m. CT start.



Jason Hammel
8 2.98 104 108
BAA. Rizzo .283
HRA. Rizzo 25
RBIA. Rizzo 58
RA. Rizzo 71
OPSA. Rizzo .912
ERAJ. Samardzija 2.83
SOJ. Hammel 104