Chicago Cubs: Arizona Diamondbacks
The good: Jeff Samardzija wasn't a problem on the mound, as he finished his spring with a three-inning, one-run performance. Afterward he declared himself ready for the regular season, which might be his last as a Cub. He'll start Opening Day in Pittsburgh on Monday. Nate Schierholtz had a three-hit day.
The bad: Chris Rusin, vying for the fifth starting spot, got pounded to the tune of 10 hits and nine runs in just 2.2 innings. In fairness, Rusin came on in relief of Samardzija, and that's not his normal routine. It remains to be seen what effect it will have on the starters’ competition. Reliever Alberto Cabrera also got hit for the second outing in a row, giving up a two-run homer in his one inning of work.
Starlin Castro: Castro was scheduled to play six to seven innings in a minor league game on Wednesday. The Cubs will determine afterward if he's ready for a major league exhibition game before the start of the season. Otherwise, Castro will stick to getting time in with the minor leaguers. He's recovering from a hamstring strain suffered on March 2.
What's next: The Cubs continue their Cactus League schedule on Thursday with a 2 p.m. CT matchup with the White Sox. Travis Wood will start as the Cubs will remain in Arizona for two more exhibition games against the Diamondbacks at Chase Field on Friday and Saturday before leaving for Pittsburgh to play the Pirates.
The Cubs starter got off on the wrong foot against the D-backs, throwing 37 pitches in the first inning. He escaped allowing just one run. He also gave up a run in the fourth on back-to-back doubles by Wil Nieves and Cliff Pennington). Aaron Hill took Villanueva deep in the fifth. Villanueva got through only five innings. A taxed bullpen had to once again pitch beyond its limits. (In this four-game series, relievers pitched 12 2/3 innings.) Welington Castillo drove in the Cubs’ sole run with an RBI double in the seventh. Nate Schierholtz hit what appeared to be a leadoff home run in the ninth, but it was ruled fan interference and a ground-rule double.
What it means: The Cubs split the series with Arizona. Villanueva lost his seventh game of the season, against two victories. Everything around the team seemed up in the air with the Alfonso Soriano, whose trade to the New York Yankees remains in limbo. Cubs manager Dale Sveum was unsure which player would replace Soriano on the roster, should Major League Baseball approve Soriano's trade. Jeff Samardzija, Darwin Barney and James Russell would have the longest consecutive tenures in Chicago with Soriano moving on.
Outside of the box: The deal with New York has to be approved by league commissioner Bud Selig. Any salary exchange more than $1 million must get his blessing. Soriano’s no-trade waiver had to be signed and notarized by MLB before the deal could be announced. Junior Lake has cooled off, settling for one hit on Thursday evening. Lake is the first player to get a hit in seven straight games in a Cubs debut since Jerome Walton in 1989.
Up next: The Cubs conclude the last leg of their 10-game road trip with three games at the San Francisco Giants starting Friday at 9:15 p.m. CT, with RHP Edwin Jackson (6-11, 5.03) vs. RHP Matt Cain (6-6, 5.00).
The Chicago Cubs’ lone All-Star was only able to get through 5⅔ innings before leaving in the midst of a three-run rally by the Diamondbacks.
Travis Wood had 17 quality starts in his first 19 appearances. His last two have been different stories, as he has failed to get through the sixth inning on both occasions.
Wood had 17 quality starts in his first 19 appearances but has had two in a row during which he has failed to get through the sixth inning. He allowed three earned runs on 10 hits over 5 2/3 innings in a no-decision against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 14.
The Cubs pitcher did not use the long layoff as an excuse.
“I don’t feel like that is [the reason], but it will be nice to get back on a routine every five days,” he said.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum, who was ejected in the third inning for defending Cody Ransom in a dispute with home plate umpire Dana Demuth, felt Wood certainly was strong through five before unraveling.
“He did not use a lot of cutters inside,” Sveum said. “Using his four-seam [fastball] got him in trouble there.”
Wood and Jeff Samardzija must take on some of the leadership role left behind after Matt Garza was dealt to Texas.
“When you lose a piece like Garza, hopefully we can take over and do what we can,” Wood said. “We need to keep grinding. We just need to prove to ourselves and everybody else we are the pitchers we claim to be."
Wood fell to 6-7 with a 2.95 ERA.
CHICAGO -- Let's take a quick look at the Cubs' 7-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field, pushing their win streak to five games.
How it happened: Matt Garza won his first game of the season in his third start. Alfonso Soriano hit his sixth home run of the season with David DeJesus on base in the first inning. The fly ball got up into a jet stream and landed in the basket in left field. Diamondbacks starter Wade Miley was the third left-hander the Cubs had faced in four games. Scott Hairston hit the team's second grand slam in two days in the third inning. The last time the Cubs had back to back games with grand slams was July 27-28 1998. Both were hit by Sammy Sosa. Cody Ransom also hit a solo home run in the inning. Garza pitched five shutout innings before giving up two runs in the sixth. The Cubs starter pitched seven innings giving up two runs on six hits. The Cubs have their longest winning streak since August of 2011.
What it means: The Cubs starting staff continues to be a strength of the team.
Outside the box: The 24,645 was the smallest crowd at Wrigley in over a decade.
Up next: RHP Jeff Samardzija (3-6 2.85) will be opposed by Arizona RHP Ian Kennedy (2-3 4.70) in the second game of the series at 6:15 p.m. CT Saturday.
The Diamondbacks also hired Steve Berthiaume to handle play-by-play duties on Fox Sports Arizona.
They replaced analyst Mark Grace and play-by-play broadcaster Daron Sutton.
Grace left voluntarily in August after his second drunken driving arrest in 15 months. Sutton was suspended on June 30 for unspecified "philosophical differences."
The 58-year-old Brenly led Arizona to the 2001 World Series title. He was a broadcaster with the team from 1998-2000 and the manager from 2001-04. He spent the last eight seasons as a Cubs broadcaster.
Berthiaume is leaving ESPN, where he was a "Baseball Tonight" and "SportsCenter" host.
Greg Schulte is returning to his radio position after finishing the season on TV in place of Sutton.
HOW IT HAPPENED: Justin Upton's two-run home run in the fifth gave Arizona a 5-2 lead and essentially put the game out of reach. The Cubs couldn't convert on opportunities with runners in scoring position as the team limps toward the end of the season.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Cubs have to win four out of their last five games to avoid 100 losses.
OUTSIDE THE BOX: Darwin Barney committed a throwing error in the eighth, snapping his MBL-record-tying streak of games without an error for a second baseman at 141.
UP NEXT: The Cubs will send Justin Germano (2-6, 6.18 ERA) to the mound Saturday at Arizona. The Diamondbacks will counter with Trevor Cahill (12-12, 3.86 ERA)
in the 7:10 p.m. CST start from Chase Field.
CHICAGO -- Like his teammate Ryan Dempster, Chicago Cubs starter Matt Garza saved his best outing since April for some of baseball’s top talent evaluators to watch during Sunday’s 3-1 win over Arizona.
The Cubs have talented starting pitching to trade, and Garza, who can be had for the right group of prospects, certainly increased his value by throwing seven shutout innings against the Diamondbacks. The New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates all had scouts watching the righty.
What intrigues some teams about Garza is that he is under contract control through 2013. (Dempster, the team’s other frontline starter, is a free agent after 2012.) The Cubs are looking for young pitching in return for Garza and would love a third baseman they can develop for the future as well.
That’s not to say clubs aren’t going to voice concerns about Garza, who is on the trading block for, essentially, the third time in five years. In addition to that, Garza has had some major issues fielding from the pitchers’ mound.
Garza seems unfazed by the fact he has been the subject of trade talks.
“We can’t control that,” said Garza. “All that we can control is what we do between the lines and how we prepare. I have a wife that is due in 22 days, so the rumor mill can wait. That is the last thing on my mind, I got a wife who is ready to pop, so I really don’t care about where I am going to be because when she calls, I will be right their next to her.”
According to multiple major league sources, the Tigers have asked about both Garza and Dempster as well as second baseman Darwin Barney. Detroit’s interest in Barney began over a month ago.
“Being a Cub since I was drafted, you don’t want to hear those things,” Barney said. “It is nice to know people are interested, but I want to be here. Whatever happens, happens. It is a business and that is the way it works. You don’t look too deep into it until something happens and then you go from there.”
Garza is no shoe-in to be moved. He has one year of arbitration left before his free agency kicks in, and the Cubs have shown interest in exploring the possibility of keeping Garza in Chicago long term. The price will be steep, however. He will be seeking a long-term deal that most likely would have to average between $15-17 million a year.
“I said it before, and I will say it again, I love it here,” Garza said. “The kids love it here, so I am open to it. Like I said before, it is not my choice if stuff happens, so I will just get ready for the next (start).”
CHICAGO -- The Cubs won their sixth consecutive home game and pulled off a second consecutive sweep at Wrigley Field on Sunday with a 3-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
How it happened: Like Paul Maholm and Ryan Dempster before him, Matt Garza kept the Diamondbacks offense in check. The right-hander, who could end up being traded by the end of the month, didn’t give up a run over seven innings and had seven strikeouts. Darwin Barney hit a two-run home run in the second inning. Anthony Rizzo, continuing his solid play since being recalled June 26, drove home the first run of the day on a single in the first inning. The Cubs won for the 12th time in their last 16 games.
What it means: Garza’s 4.02 ERA and 5-7 record don’t suggest a dominating season, but it would be interesting to see what things would have looked like had he been given just a little run support. With three runs by the second inning Sunday, Garza already had more support than he had in 10 of his previous 16 outings this season. The run-support issue could help explain why he said earlier this season that he would pitch anywhere, even the moon, when asked if he wanted to be a part of the Cubs’ rebuilding process.
Outside the box: Barney’s home run was his first since May 30 against the San Diego Padres and gave him four this season in 85 games. Before this season, Barney had two career home runs and hit those in 173 games. He hit 11 home runs in 427 minor league games.
Off beat: The three Cubs starters in the series combined to give up one run over 20 innings. Paul Maholm gave up the lone score in Friday’s game. Dempster (six innings) and Garza (seven) had scoreless outings. The solid starting pitching helps not only to understand why the Cubs have undergone a resurgence of late, but also why they are fielding trade calls and will continue to do so until the non-waiver trade deadline at the end of the month.
Up next: After an off day Monday, the Cubs will open a three-game series against Miami on Tuesday with left-hander Travis Wood (4-3, 3.05 ERA) facing off against Marlins right-hander Anibal Sanchez (4-6, 4.12) in the 7:05 p.m. start from Wrigley Field.
Saunders, who last pitched June 16, had been shelved because of a strain in his left shoulder. The 31-year-old is 4-5 with a 3.44 ERA in 13 starts this season.
Read the entire story.
It’s not that Samardzija didn’t appreciate what all the hard winter work did for him. But as a starter now that could approach 200 innings by the time the season is done, he has reasoned that a throwing routine that starts in November might not be in his best interest.
“Obviously I felt I was in a good position to throw a lot this past offseason,” Samardzija said. “I thought my arm was in good shape from the previous year. But this year with throwing the innings we’re going to throw I’ll probably push it back a little bit.”
But because there is a camaraderie effect among the guys that do the early work, Samardzija will still embrace it.
Quade watched his highest-priced pitcher and outfielder contribute to a more conventional Cubs victory, 4-2 over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night.
Carlos Zambrano's six innings of two-run baseball was a welcome sight, as the veteran picked up his second quality start (at least six innings and allowing three or fewer runs) of the season -- only the seventh by the Cubs staff in 25 games. The starting staff ERA was 6.31 coming into Friday’s game, the worst in the National League.
Most of the Cubs offense came from the long ball, as Alfonso Soriano belted his eighth and ninth home runs of the season while catcher Geovany Soto hit his second.
Throughout the first 25 games of the season, Soriano has been the team’s only consistent home run and RBI producer. Soriano is second in the NL with nine home runs, trailing only Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun (10). Soriano’s 16 RBIs are 15 percent of the team’s RBI production. Of the Cubs’ 20 home runs this year, Soriano has nearly half.
Kerry Wood, Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol were used in order to save the win.
When Quade wakes up on Saturday morning, he may still think he’s in Mesa, Ariz. rather than 10 miles west in downtown Phoenix with a 11-14 record.
Anyone thinking that getting away from Wrigley Field would solve Ryan Dempster’s early-season troubles was left searching for answers yet again after another dismal outing from the Cubs’ Opening Day starter. Dempster lasted only 1/3 of an inning, giving up seven runs on four hits, four walks, a hit batsman, and a home run in Thursday's 11-2 loss.
Cubs manager Mike Quade was perplexed as to why Dempster once again failed to deliver, saying he’d seen glimpses of the good Dempster in previous starts, but there was none of that on Thursday.
“[He’s] got a lot of work to do in the next four day [before his next start],” Quade said. “He really looked out of sync. … He was off his game big-time tonight.”
: Off his game would be putting it kindly. With Thursday's loss, Dempster’s ERA jumped to an ugly 9.58. Moreover, he’s allowing a crazy 2.61 homers per nine innings -- good for second on the Cubs' pitching staff behind James Russell’s 4.15. That stat emphasizes just how much the Cubs’ starting pitching has struggled so far this season. The ugly numbers continue to mount as Cubs’ starters’ ERA, already last in the NL entering Thursday night’s game, fell to further depths, now sitting at 6.39.
Dempster was roughed up from the get-go. He followed up a leadoff double to Chris Young by walking Kelly Johnson and hitting Justin Upton. He got ahead of shortstop Stephen Drew 0-2, but Drew pulled Dempster’s third pitch over the right-field fence for a grand slam and staked the Diamondbacks out to an early 4-0 lead. Dempster never recovered from that initial blow.
“Didn’t really start out how I dreamt it up last night,” Dempster said. “Just gotta continue to make pitches and go from there.”
After a loss like this, searching for something to be pleased about can be an exercise in futility, but Quade did find one positive spin.
“[Justin Berg] did a great job protecting our pen, so we’re in decent shape tomorrow, which is huge,” Quade said. “And he also protected our starter for Sunday.”
Berg was far from perfect (3 2/3 IP, 3 ER, 4 H, 3 BB), but he kept Quade from using Casey Coleman, who is scheduled to start on Sunday. Quade has yet to name a starter for Monday’s game, both Berg and Marcos Mateo were mentioned for the role, but didn’t seem to be likely choices (Berg’s may be completely eliminated due to throwing 54 pitches on Thursday). It’s also possible that Dempster could be brought back on short rest due to his short outing.
Kosuke Fukudome provided the lone bright spot for the Cubs going 1-for-2 with two walks in the lead-off spot, bringing his OBP on the season to .556.
Here's a quick look at the Cubs' blowout loss Thursday night.
The good: Not much went right for the Cubs Thursday night. However, Kosuke Fukudome continued to get on base. He went 1-for-2 with two walks, bringing his OBP to a gaudy .556
The bad: Ryan Dempster's early-season struggles continued. He lasted only 1/3 of an inning, giving up seven earned runs on four hits, four walks, one hit batter, and one home run.
Outside the box: In James Russell (4.15) and Ryan Dempster (2.61), the Cubs have the one and three pitchers when it comes to homers allowed per 9 innings in the National League (minimum three starts).