Chicago Cubs: San Francisco Giants

Barney settles in after whirlwind move

August, 11, 2014
Aug 11
3:16
PM CT
Saxon By Mark Saxon
ESPNChicago.com
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ATLANTA -- The Dodgers traded a minor-league pitcher named Jonathan Martinez to acquire Darwin Barney from the Chicago Cubs on July 28, three days after the San Francisco Giants put their everyday second baseman, Marco Scutaro, on the 15-day disabled list with a bad back.

This is probably not a coincidence.

The Dodgers were blocking their division rivals, it seems, especially when you consider that, at the time, they didn’t need a backup middle infielder. They were happy with what they had been getting from Miguel Rojas. Second base and shortstop were locked down every day by Dee Gordon and Hanley Ramirez, respectively.

[+] EnlargeDarwin Barney
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesDarwin Barney won a Gold Glove with the Cubs in 2012.
It took an injury to Ramirez for Barney even to get a call-up from Triple-A Albuquerque, but he’s here now and happy to be on a West Coast team -- his home is in Beaverton, Ore. -- with World Series aspirations.

Barney was the Cubs’ everyday second baseman from 2011-2013, winning a Gold Glove in 2012. The Cubs designated him for assignment to activate Emilio Bonifacio five days before they traded him to the Dodgers. It was a whirlwind week for Barney. He and his wife have three daughters, the youngest of whom was just two weeks old at the time of the DFA.

They packed their Chicago apartment in a day-and-a-half and moved back home to Oregon. Then he got a call from his agent that he was headed to the Dodgers.

“When I found out I was traded to the Dodgers, a West Coast team in first place, I couldn’t have been happier,” Barney said. “From there, there were a lot of unknowns. They’re pretty steady in the middle infield and they have a good thing going, so they don’t necessarily need me to play my position of second base that I’ve ended up being pretty good at. I look at it as an opportunity to play for a winning organization.”

Barney said he has no ill will toward the Cubs’ front office. He said the Cubs told him they were in the process of bringing younger players to the majors and that they didn’t want to have him spend most of the remaining games on the bench. They told him they thought it was in his best interests to be made available to other teams looking for a final piece or two for a pennant drive.

He and Starlin Castro were viewed within the clubhouse as the veteran Cubs, Barney said. Now, he said he’s enjoying being one of the younger players in the clubhouse and being around an organization with championship aspirations.

“We’re not working to get better here. We’re working to win every single game,” Barney said. “Over there, it seemed like it was more about if something went wrong, ‘OK, now how do we fix it.’ When you go out to win a ballgame every single day, it’s kind of fun.”

The Dodgers will use Barney as a backup to Gordon at second and Rojas at shortstop. After playing just three games at third base at Triple-A, he told manager Don Mattingly he wasn’t entirely confident playing third yet.

“I feel like I’m a little OCD on defense,” Barney said. “I’d become a machine at second base in terms of automatically reacting and making plays instead of having to think. At third, the wheels started turning a little bit and I felt a little rushed.”

Rapid Reaction: Giants 5, Cubs 0

May, 28, 2014
May 28
6:20
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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SAN FRANCISCO -- The Chicago Cubs lost 5-0 to the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday, as the home team took two of three in the series. Here’s a quick look at the game:

How it happened: The Cubs were hitless for 6 1/3 innings while the Giants pecked away at starter Edwin Jackson and then the bullpen. San Francisco third baseman Pablo Sandoval broke a scoreless tie in the sixth with an RBI single, followed by a Tyler Colvin RBI double. The Giants broke the game open the next inning, when Cubs third baseman Mike Olt committed a two-out error that allowed a run to score, then Hector Sanchez doubled home two more off reliever Justin Grimm.

The Cubs did little at the plate despite walking five times. Tim Lincecum was effective through five hitless innings, and four relievers held Chicago to just two hits. Jackson struck out nine in 5 1/3 innings while giving up four hits and two runs.

What it means: The Cubs were scoreless over the final 19 innings in San Francisco this week, getting shut out in back-to-back games for the second time this season. Their bottom four batters came into the game hitting .210, .174, .148 and .128, and that’s before the pitcher’s spot in the order. The Cubs are prime no-hit candidates with half the lineup sporting those kinds of numbers, and they almost accommodated the Giants. This can’t come as a surprise to Cubs brass, as they knew what kind of roster they were putting together from day one. For the most part this season, they’ve lived up to their meager offensive expectations.

Injury updates: Cubs pitcher Pedro Strop is getting closer to a rehabilitation stint as he recovers from a groin injury.

“We might send him out [for rehab assignment] here soon,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said before the game.

Renteria added that outfielder Ryan Sweeney is “75 to 80 percent” in his recovery from a hamstring injury. He’s been running without any tightness or soreness while taking some batting practice.

What’s next: The Cubs get Thursday off before starting a three-game series at the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday. Travis Wood (5-4, 4.35) takes on Marco Estrada (4-2, 3.98) in the opener.

Samardzija, Giants might be a good fit

May, 27, 2014
May 27
5:12
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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SAN FRANCISCO -- On a recent Baseball Tonight podcast, ESPN reporter Buster Olney and prospects guru Keith Law discussed the possibility of Chicago Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija ending up with the San Francisco Giants this season.

While there’s no real information the Giants have interest just yet, the idea makes sense on several levels. First off, San Francisco is in the pennant race this season, which wasn’t the case a year ago when they finished 76-86 in the National League West. It’s probably why you never heard the Giants inquiring about Samardzija last season as other teams like Arizona did. But their success dictates them adding before the trade deadline.

Unlike the New York Yankees, the Giants might make a good trade partner. Their top prospect is right-handed pitcher Kyle Crick, 21, who’s 2-1 with a 4.08 ERA in Double-A right now. Crick is ranked 69th in Law’s top 100 prospects and fills a need the Cubs have: young starting pitching. Cubs Double-A starter CJ Edwards ranks 67th on Law’s list so the two could move up the ladder together.

The Giants don’t have another prospect in Law’s top 100 -- though most of their top guys are pitchers -- and Crick shouldn’t be enough to pry Samardzija away so the deal will need some maneuvering but Crick could be the centerpiece. He was a first round pick in 2011 and had a 1.57 ERA at High-A ball last season.

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Rapid Reaction: Cubs 8, Giants 4

May, 26, 2014
May 26
6:34
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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SAN FRANCISCO -- The Chicago Cubs beat the San Francisco Giants 8-4 on Monday afternoon to take Game 1 of their three-game series. Here’s a quick look:

How it happened: Run support wasn’t an issue as the Cubs erased a 3-1 deficit to finally give Jeff Samardzija his first win of the season. Darwin Barney made it 3-2 in the fifth inning on a sacrifice fly. Afterward, two-out hits by Samardzija and Emilio Bonifacio plated the tying and lead runs before the Cubs added four more scores in the sixth and seventh innings. First, they got RBI singles from Nate Schierholtz and Barney to push the lead to 6-3 in the sixth. Then Anthony Rizzo added an RBI double in the seventh as the Giants committed two errors helping two runs cross the plate. Earlier, Schierholtz hit his first home run of the season to put the Cubs on the board in the third inning after Pablo Sandoval gave the Giants a first-inning lead with an RBI single. Samardzija committed an error on the leadoff man Angel Pagan allowing that unearned run. Sandoval homered in the fourth inning to put the Giants in front again, but the lead didn’t last long. The Giants got one back in the seventh on a Brandon Crawford RBI.

What it means: The streak is over. Samardzija won a game for the first time since Aug. 24. Sandoval got to him a couple of times, but other than that he was very good. Samardzija gave up just six hits and no walks while striking out a season high 10 batters in seven-plus innings. His ERA rose to just 1.68. And the Cubs finally scored for him.

Schierholtz has been knocking on the door of coming out of a season long slump, and he finally did it against his old team. Forget season numbers; if he heats up at the right time, he becomes trade bait as there are always teams in need of left-handed hitting, especially if the home runs start to come. Rizzo struck out twice against Giants righty starter Yusmeiro Petit but had two hits off the lefty reliever David Huff.

Now that’s a slider: Samardzija struck out 10 batters in a game for the sixth time in his career while six of the strikeouts ended on his slider. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, that’s the most he’s struck out with his slider in any one game of his career.

What’s next: Game 2 of the series takes place on Tuesday night at 9:15 CT. Jake Arrieta (1-0, 2.33) takes on Tim Hudson (4-2, 2.13)

Rapid Reaction: Giants 10, Cubs 7 (10)

April, 14, 2013
4/14/13
5:40
PM CT
By Sahadev Sharma
ESPNChicago.com
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Let's take a quick look at the Cubs' 10-7 loss to the Giants on Sunday at Wrigley Field.

How it Happened: The Cubs quickly jumped out to a lead, putting a four spot up in the bottom of the first inning on a pair of two-run homers by Starlin Castro and Nate Schierholtz off Giants starter Tim Lincecum. An ugly sixth inning for the Cubs saw Edwin Jackson and reliever Michael Bowden combine for four walks and five wild pitches (the latter a regular season record for an inning, according to ESPN Stats & Info) as the Giants plated four in the frame. The Cubs fought back to take a 7-6 lead in the eighth, only to see Camp blow his first save attempt of the season, giving up a solo home run to Hunter Pence. Camp gave up three more in the 10th, one via a balk, as the Giants went on to win 10-7.

What it Means: Jackson looked brilliant through five with eight strikeouts and only one walk. But the inconsistent righty seemed to lose his command in the sixth, walking two and tossing two wild pitches in the inning. Jackson has moments of brilliance, but it's those types of innings that have frustrated numerous teams during his time in the big leagues.

Under the Radar: Starlin Castro slugged his second home run of the season in the first inning, a feat he didn't accomplish until May 17th last season. While the young shortstop has yet to draw a walk this season, the increase in power (.519 slugging percentage) is definitely a positive sign. Castro has hits in 10 of the Cubs 12 games, six of them being multi-hit games.

What's Next: The Cubs start a three game set with the Texas Rangers on Tuesday. A pair of lefties take the mound as Travis Wood faces Derek Holland at 7:05 pm at Wrigley Field.

Cubs fail against a lefty, again

April, 13, 2013
4/13/13
4:38
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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It’s becoming a trend for the Chicago Cubs. A left-handed starter takes the mound against them, and they produce little on offense.

This time, it was San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner who shut them down for six innings before finally giving in to pinch-hitter Dioner Navarro in the Cubs' 3-2 defeat on Saturday.

Navarro homered, but it’s the starting nine that needs help. It’s the third time this season the Cubs have been nearly shut out by a southpaw. The starting group -- consisting of at least seven right-handed hitters -- has produced exactly one run in those three games.

“You also have to look at who we faced,” Scott Hairston said after the game. “Those guys are known to have really good stuff.”

Wandy Rodriguez of Pittsburgh, Mike Minor of Atlanta and now Bumgarner do have good stuff, but one run combined against them? In three games?

Maybe manager Dale Sveum needs to stay with his regular core instead of loading up on the righties.

“These guys are on the team for a reason,” Sveum said of Scott Hairston and others. “Everybody has their role, and right now, Hairston is going to play against lefties, [Dave] Sappelt is going to play against lefties. We’re going to put the best lineup out there to be able to slug and do things.”

Add Brent Lillibridge to the list that starts against left-handers as well. The Cubs are hitting .200 against them, with an on-base percentage of .259, which rank 11th and 12th in the National League, respectively.

Sveum often mentions slugging percentage in explaining why he sits the lefties against lefty pitchers. Sappelt and Hairston, in particular, do have better percentages than those they play in favor of.

But is it the right move to sit the second-leading hitter -- Nate Schierholtz -- on a weak hitting team or a hot hitter in David DeJesus? DeJesus homered and had three hits just the day before.

“These [lefty pitchers] are the type of guys you have to pop a three run home run to beat them,” Sveum said in explaining his righty lineup. “It makes the pitcher work that much harder when runners are in scoring position.”

But only if those righties do something with their chances. It’s a small sample size, but Sappelt is hitting .071, Hairston .100 and Lillibridge .042.

“Everybody tries to do an adjustment, especially with a lefty,” Starlin Castro said. “Every right-hander [thinks] it’s easy to hit left-handers, but it’s not.”

Sveum lamented the chances the righties had early in the game.

“We have a chance to take the lead a couple times before they scored, which changes the game around,” he said. “We didn’t put the ball in play when guys were in scoring position.”

Yet Sveum vows to stick with his right-handed lineup against the southpaws. He might need to re-think that strategy.

Quotable:

“Major league players need to make those plays. That’s the bottom line.”
-Sveum, on recent defensive miscues

“That’s two games in a row. That’s unacceptable. That’s on me.”
-Jeff Samardzija, on walking the opposing pitcher in each of his past two starts.

Clevenger to have MRI on left side

April, 13, 2013
4/13/13
4:23
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Cubs catcher-infielder Steve Clevenger was sent for an MRI on his left side after being injured on a strikeout swing to end Saturday's 3-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants.

Clevenger was pinch hitting for pitcher James Russell when he took an awkward swing at Giants closer Santiago Casilla's last pitch. Clevenger fell down and writhed in pain as teammates and training staff came to his aid.

A source said that the first diagnosis by team doctors indicated Clevenger sustained a left oblique injury. The 27-year-old utility man was the team’s third catcher and had added first- and third-base duties to his résumé during spring training. Clevenger started his first major league game at third base Friday and handled three chances flawlessly.

The Cubs will most likely play with 24 players in Sunday's finale with the Giants. The team has an off day on Monday. Second baseman Darwin Barney is scheduled to return from the disabled list Tuesday. Barney is on a rehab assignment at Triple-A Iowa. He has been on the DL since Opening Day with a left knee laceration.

Rapid Reaction: Giants 3, Cubs 2

April, 13, 2013
4/13/13
3:13
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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Here’s a quick look at the Chicago Cubs' 3-2 defeat by the San Francisco Giants on Saturday:

How it happened: Wrigley Field produced another pitching duel, this time between Jeff Samardzija and Madison Bumgarner, as neither team scored until the fifth inning. The Giants tallied once each in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings while the Cubs finally got on the board on a pinch-hit two-run home run by Dioner Navarro in the bottom of the seventh.

Navarro’s streak: The Cubs' backup catcher has pinch hit home runs on consecutive days from either side of the plate, a feat that, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, hasn't been accomplished since Todd Benzinger did it for the Dodgers in 1992. On Friday, he hit a game-tying blast in the ninth inning from the left side and pulled the Cubs within one Saturday with a long ball from the right side. They're the first two pinch-hit home runs of his career.

What it means: The Cubs battled to the end, but the lack of offense against lefties this season has been striking. In three games, Cubs starters have managed one run combined against left-handers. Manager Dale Sveum says he is sticking with righties Dave Sappelt and Scott Hairston when a lefty is on the mound, which means sitting David DeJesus and .355 hitter Nate Schierholtz. DeJesus had three hits Friday, including a home run, but was on the bench Saturday.

Defensively, the Cubs continue to be sloppy. They left several double plays on the field, and right fielder Hairston made an errant throw as Bumgarner crossed the plate with the eventual winning run in the seventh.

What’s next: The 4-7 Cubs will try to salvage a split of the series when Edwin Jackson takes the mound Sunday.

Rapid Reaction: Cubs 4, Giants 3

April, 12, 2013
4/12/13
4:29
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Here's a quick look at the Cubs' 4-3 win over the San Francisco Giants on Friday:

How it Happened: After a stellar 7.1 innings by Carlos Villanueva, the Cubs looked poised to even the series. But once again, the Cubs' bullpen blew it, and Carlos Marmol wasn't to blame this time. Kyuji Fujikawa inherited a 2-0 lead to start the ninth, and he proceeded to yield three hits and three runs. But Starlin Castro, who homered earlier in the game, lifted an RBI hit in the bottom of the ninth to drive in David DeJesus with the winning run. DeJesus is 7-15 in his last three games, with three doubles and one homer.

What it Means: In lowering his ERA to 0.64 Villanueva is showing he belongs in the rotation. He got 11 ground outs by keeping the ball down on a day where the wind was blowing straight out. It's early but Villanueva is proving to be a nice pick up.

Under the Radar: Steve Clevenger made the first start of his career at third base but didn't touch the ball until the sixth inning, then he made three plays in a row including one on a slow roller by Buster Posey. Anthony Rizzo struck out his first three times up and fourth in a row overall going back to Thursday's ninth inning, before he lined out in the 7th inning on Friday.

What's Next: The four-game series continues on Saturday with Jeff Samardzija on the mound for the Cubs. Game time is 12 CT.

Rapid Reaction: Giants 7, Cubs 6

April, 11, 2013
4/11/13
5:16
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Here's a quick look at the Chicago Cubs' 7-6 loss to the defending world champion San Francisco Giants:

How it happened: Starlin Castro's two-out error in the fourth inning opened the floodgates for the Giants as they scored four times after the ground ball got by him. The big blow was a two-run bases loaded double by Pablo Sandoval. It came with the Cubs leading 5-0 as Brent Lillibridge had his first hit as a Cub, a two-out bases-loaded single in the third. After pulling within one in the fourth, the Giants took the lead for good in the fifth as reliever Hisanori Takahashi walked pitcher Ryan Vogelsong with the bases loaded and then gave up a sacrifice fly and two-run single to Ben Crawford. Anthony Rizzo homered for the third time this season but the Cubs managed just one run the rest of the way on a double-play grounder by Welington Castillo in the eighth.

What it means: Starter Scott Feldman didn't pitch great but it's hard to fully judge him -- as a pitcher -- when errors or mental lapses are made behind him or by him. In the same inning Castro made his error Lillibridge decided not to throw a ball to Feldman as he covered first on a ground ball which went wide of Anthony Rizzo. Feldman has been involved in three such issues covering first base this season already, although on that play Lillibridge made the mistake. Infield defense was supposed to be a strength of the Cubs this year -- it's been anything but. The Cubs are now 3-6 on the season.

Key stats: The Cubs have committed the most errors in the majors this season with 10. Castro has three … Nate Schierholtz was 3-4 with a stolen base against his former team, raising his average to .370 … Rizzo has just six hits this season but three have left the park.

What's next: The four-game series with the Giants continues as Carlos Villanueva takes the mound at 1:20 p.m. CT Friday.

Giants dispute Soriano's weather claim

August, 31, 2012
8/31/12
2:00
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Alfonso Soriano could have been playing this weekend’s series at Wrigley Field in the black and orange of the San Francisco Giants if it were not for his apparent aversion to Bay Area weather.

[+] EnlargeAlfonso Soriano
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesAlfonso Soriano isn't a fan of the weather in San Francisco.
That was at least the reason Soriano gave earlier this season when talking about rumors that the Giants were interested in acquiring him to fill the void left when Melky Cabrera was suspended for a violation of the league’s drug policy.

Soriano, who has trade veto rights, was first reported to have rejected San Francisco as a potential landing spot before the non-waiver trade deadline.

After the deadline, when Cabrera’s suspension was announced, he went on the record to say his issue with San Francisco and its cool evenings would probably prompt him to reject a deal during the waiver period. With that waiver period ending Friday, Soriano is still a member of the Cubs.

Giants players said Friday, though, that the cool temperatures and evening breezes along the San Francisco Bay are actually a benefit to playing with the club.

(Read full post)

Yesterday's journeymen become 2012 stars

June, 9, 2012
6/09/12
7:48
PM CT
By Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com
ESPNChicago.com
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Bryan LaHair Benny Sieu/US PresswireBryan LaHair, 29, is in the top five in the National League in slugging, OBP and OPS.


At 28 years old and after spending much of the previous five seasons in Triple-A, Bryan LaHair was a purportedly “known” quantity -- Quadruple-A bat, perhaps a fill-in first baseman. In his one brief shot at The Show in Seattle in 2008, he split time at first base with utilityman Miguel Cairo and Jose Lopez. He didn't shine, and it was back to Tacoma the next year. In short, he seemed a man doomed to a dim star on an obscure walk of fame to be named later, perhaps in Tacoma, maybe in Iowa.

He changed that in his sixth campaign in the Pacific Coast League, changing the minds of scouts and analysts alike with 28 homers and a 1.070 OPS. And this year, taken seriously for the first time, he's a 29-year-old getting his first real shot at everyday play in the major leagues ... and blowing the league away. He's third in the National League in slugging, fourth in OBP, and fourth in OPS. And all it took to bring him to Wrigleyville was a minor-league contract, after the Mariners let him slip away as a minor league free agent.

By simultaneously shredding expectations and opposing pitchers, LaHair is providing a fine example that players' career paths aren't simply a matter of forecasting off past performance. That works on the macro level, for most players. But whether as a matter of changing their game or finally getting opportunities they'd long deserved, a few past-prime players are making the most of their opportunities this season.

You can't quite come up with a full lineup's worth of these guys, but beyond LaHair, here's my off-the-cuff list of this season's other “surprise stars,” some of whom will belong in Kansas City as full-fledged All-Stars in a month's time.

C A.J. Ellis, Dodgers: Say what you will about catching always being in short supply -- and it isn't -- Ellis had to wait until this year to get a clean shot at a catching job. Now 31, he's pretty much the perfect example of an organizational soldier: He spent his first two full seasons after getting picked in the 18th round out of Austin Peay as a backup at High-A, caddying for Russell Martin and then Edwin Bellorin (once upon a time a well-regarded Venezuelan prospect).

Ellis finally became a regular in Double-A in 2006. From the start, he showed tremendous ability to get on base, but the Dodgers kept him at the same slow pace, as he spent two years in the Southern League and two years in the PCL before graduating to two years as a big-league backup. That sort of long-form apprenticeship that seemed certain to lock him into little more than membership in the International Brotherhood of Backup Backstops.

Perhaps only taken seriously as a starter as a matter of grudging last resort this past winter, when the market offered slim pickings as far as catching help, Ellis is second only to Yadier Molina among NL catchers in his production at the plate while throwing out 41 percent of opponents' steal attempts. Ellis might be this group's best bet beyond LaHair to be headed to Kansas City for the All-Star Game.

SS Mike Aviles, Red Sox: It has been a bumpy road for Aviles since his old-rookie debut as a 27-year-old with the Royals in 2008. In K.C., he had to contend with injuries and the idea that he wasn't really a shortstop. This year, shortstops are putting up the collectively lowest OPS (.678) or OPS+ (88), so Aviles' .711 OPS/90 OPS+ clip is just a wee bit above average, not shabby considering he's also doing fine at short according to advanced fielding metrics. Beyond buying time for Jose Iglesias, this has proven a relatively high-yield, low-expense gamble for the Sox: League-average shortstops usually cost millions on the market, but Boston got him for an organizational arm (Kendal Volz) and Yamaico Navarro, a utility player so interesting that K.C. flipped him to the Pirates, who have already ditched him in Indianapolis.

CF Alejandro De Aza, White Sox: If LaHair is the slugging surprise of the season, De Aza is the out-of-nowhere leadoff solution most teams need. Back in 2007, he got an opportunity with the Marlins, leading off on Opening Day, but injuries to first one ankle and then the other derailed that season and the next. In 2009, he gave the first indication that he wasn't just going to be a speed guy, slugging .506 for New Orleans; the Marlins were so impressed they let him slip away on a waiver claim by the White Sox. Finally getting a shot at everyday play as a 28-year-old in the one-hole, he's hitting .299/.381/.425 and he's holding his own in center. Juan Pierre never looked this good, but a crowd of quality center fielders in the American League will keep De Aza from All-Star status.

OF Gregor Blanco, Giants: Melky Cabrera isn't the only Giants outfielder having a season well beyond anything he's done before. A Braves prospect they lost interest in, he was dealt to the Royals, who dealt him to D.C. before the Nationals ditched him. All he's ever done is get on base; he just needed an opportunity. He got one when general manager Brian Sabean fished him off the discard pile this past winter. Pushing his way past Nate Schierholtz, Blanco has hit his way into everyday play in right field and the leadoff job with a .387 OBP as a 28-year-old journeyman. Blanco may rival Sabean's “discovery” of Andres Torres in 2009 before all's said and done.

RF Justin Maxwell, Astros: Nobody has doubted Maxwell's power or talent, but his ability to stay healthy has been an annual concern. The Nats decided they had better uses for his spot on the 40-man and traded him to the Yankees, but he spent more time on the disabled list in 2011 with a bum shoulder than he did in pinstripes. The talent-hungry Astros snagged the 28-year-old off waivers this spring, and he's been a free-talent find as a fourth outfielder, providing power against lefties and strong-armed defense.

SP Jerome Williams, Angels: Back in the day, Williams was a top prospect in the Giants organization, ranking in Baseball America's top 20 for all baseball. That all seemed merited after a fine 2003 rookie season in which he drew an NL Division Series start for them against the Marlins. It was almost unrelentingly downhill from there; he needed elbow surgery in 2004, got dealt to the Cubs in 2005, and then bouncing through the Nationals, Twins, A's (twice) and Dodgers organizations, as well as a stint in the independent leagues. After making a nice impression on the Angels down the stretch last season, the 30-year-old Williams is getting regular rotation work in the majors for the first time in seven years as their fifth starter. More of a finesse righty these days, he's been an exceptional salvage-project success, putting up eight quality starts in 10 turns, far better work than most teams reasonably expect from a No. 5.

Quite simply, what these guys reflect is that not all replacements are “replacement level.” Just when you think you know what a player is capable of, a happy few beyond their expected peak age of 27 have demonstrated the delightful capacity to surprise and exceed the modest expectations even their fans harbored for them. I don't know about you, but I like these kinds of surprises -- here's hoping we see more of the same from all of them.

Rapid Reaction: Giants 2, Cubs 0

June, 3, 2012
6/03/12
5:52
PM CT
By ESPNChicago.com
ESPNChicago.com


A quick look at the Chicago Cubs' 2-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants on Sunday at AT&T Park.

How it happened: Travis Wood allowed just one run on three hits in seven innings, but the Cubs offense stalled again. Ian Stewart and Reed Johnson each had two hits, but that was all the Cubs could muster against Giants starter Barry Zito.

What it means: The Cubs lost their 10th consecutive road game for the first time since Sept. 13-30, 2000.

Outside the box: The Cubs fell to 2-11 this season against lefty starters.

Up next: The Cubs send Jeff Samardzija (5-3, 3.09 ERA) to the mound in the series finale on Monday at 2:45 CT. The Giants will counter with Ryan Vogelsong (3-2, 2.36 ERA).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Rapid Reaction: Giants 2, Cubs 1

June, 2, 2012
6/02/12
9:03
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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The Cubs lost for the ninth consecutive time on the road after a 2-1 defeat Saturday to the San Francisco Giants.

How it happened: Matt Garza was much improved over his previous two starts yet he still remained winless since April 29. Garza gave up two runs on five hits with six strikeouts over six innings. In his previous two starts he gave up a combined 13 runs and lost both. The Cubs’ only run came in the fourth inning on a home run from David DeJesus. The Giants scored in the sixth inning on Aubrey Huff’s walk with the bases loaded and a fielder’s choice from Joaquin Arias. Giants starters went at least eight innings in each of the first two games of the series.

What it means: When the offense is in a slumber, everything else gets magnified. Take the Giants’ two-run sixth inning. Alfonso Soriano couldn’t make a running catch in shallow left field. Joe Mather couldn’t make the play at third base on a slow grounder and Darwin Barney couldn’t make the turn on a double play. That Garza only allowed the Giants to score two runs despite all of it was a feat in itself.

Outside the box: DeJesus’ home run was just the third for the Cubs from the No. 3 spot in the lineup. They entered tied with the Washington Nationals for fewest home runs in the National League from the three hitter. DeJesus’ 400-plus foot blast was just his second home run of the season. He hit 10 last season with the Oakland Athletics.

Off beat: The Cubs and Giants both wore throwback uniforms from the 1912 season. For the Cubs that meant navy blue pants and tops that looked more like long underwear. They also wore a navy cap with an all-white “C” above the bill. The Cubs don’t wear the old-time uniforms as much as some teams, but they were 5-0 entering play Saturday when wearing the classic duds. Not even that streak could survive in these hard times.

Up next: The Cubs will send left-hander Travis Wood (0-1, 5.94 ERA) to the mound Sunday in the third game of the four-game series. The Giants will go with left-hander Barry Zito (4-2, 3.41) in the 3:05 p.m. CST start from AT&T Park.

W2W4: Cubs-Giants

June, 2, 2012
6/02/12
2:33
PM CT



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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Jake Arrieta
WINS ERA SO IP
10 2.53 167 156
OTHER LEADERS
BAS. Castro .292
HRA. Rizzo 32
RBIA. Rizzo 78
RA. Rizzo 89
OPSA. Rizzo .913
ERAT. Wood 5.03
SOJ. Arrieta 167