The Cubs have been busy so far today, mostly off the field. The club has announced that Brian Schlitter, Junior Lake, and Zac Rosscup have all been optioned to Iowa. The news was expected for the most part as all three guys have options left, but there was an outside chance that Lake would make the team. What this does mean is that Matt Szczur is all but a lock for the opening night roster, as Cubs beat writers pointed out on twitter, it’s down to three guys for two spots (Szczur, Sweeney, and Herrera). I think Szczur and Jonathan Herrera have the edge right now, Szczur can play all over the outfield with a tremendous glove, and Hererra would be only the second guy off the bench that can play the infield. This leaves Sweeney as the odd man out, the only thing that he really brings to the table is the left handed bat, but I don’t think that is enough to keep him around. The Cubs also made it clear today that they will be starting the season with three catchers, so Miguel Montero, David Ross, and Welington Castillo will all be in Chicago.
The bullpen is also starting to come together, but the question of what do with Edwin Jackson remains. Jackson will not be a member of the five man staff, and will not act in some sort of piggyback role with Travis Wood, so what to do? The Cubs have already made a huge financial commitment to Jackson so cutting him doesn’t seem to be an option, but the Cubs could admit the mistake and move on. If I had to guess, I think that Drake Britton will be waived, and the bullpen will have Jackson as a long guy which means the Cubs will carry only one left-handed arm in the pen, Phil Coke. Still a lot to figure out as we are now only four days from the start of the season.
Per Danny Knobler, David DeJesus has been traded to the Nationals for a player to be named later. The Nationals are in town for a four game series, guess David will just walk across the infield and into their dugout, no word yet on the PTBNL. Wishing you the best Dave, and Kim. The Nationals actually claimed DeJesus off of waivers then the two teams came to terms on a deal. The Cubs are going to save roughly $2.5 million in this deal ($1 million in salary, $1.5 million in buyout), and Ryan Sweeney is close to coming off the DL. Brian Bogusevic is coming off the DL today, and he will be taking the roster spot vacated by DeJesus.
Tale of two games in this one for the Cubs as they fell behind 4-1 in the fourth inning then went to work. Cody Ransom just barely snuck a three-run homer inside the left field foul pole to tie the game at four in the fifth. The Cubs jumped ahead in the sixth inning as Ryan Sweeney came through with a big RBI single. The Cubs hung onto that one run lead until the eighth inning when Mark Trumbo took James Russell deep to tie things up. It stayed that way until the tenth inning when the Cubs loaded the bases with two out for Anthony Rizzo. Up until that at bat Rizzo was scuffling, but that’s the great thing about baseball, always a chance to turn the day around. That’s exactly what Rizzo did as he laced a two-out bases clearing double to give the Cubs an 8-5 lead, and they held off the Angels in the bottom half to take this one 8-6.
PICTURE OF THE GAME
Maybe it was because it was getaway day, maybe it was the hour and forty-seven minute rain delay, but the Cubs were seemingly ready to get out of Pittsburgh as fast as possible in this one. The Pirates jumped all over Edwin Jackson early as they scored twice in each of the first two innings, and that was plenty to silence the already quiet Cubs. To the Cubs credit, they shut the Pirates down the rest of the way but once again couldn’t find enough offense. The Cubs were able to score once in the fourth and once in the seventh, but they couldn’t string together a rally, not even a fake one. For the series, the Cubs only scored six times and walk away with three straight losses. Not a great start to an eight game road trip as the Cubs now head to Cincinnati for a three game weekend series, this trip could end up disastrous.
At The Plate – The Cubs could only manage seven hits in this one, and were 2-for-6 with runners in scoring position, so not a lot of chances all day. David DeJesus was back in the starting lineup and was 1-for-4 with a double, his thirteenth of the season. Starlin Castro was 2-for-4 with two singles in the loss to get his average back up to .270 on the season. Alfonso Soriano, Darwin Barney were the only other Cubs in the starting lineup to get hits, Scott Hairston and Ryan Sweeney added hits off the bench.
On The Mound – Edwin Jackson had a rough go of it, then the rains game to end is day. Jackson worked three innings giving up four runs on six hits while walking one and striking out six, his record fell to 1-7 on the season. The Cubs pen was outstanding in this one, go figure. They worked a combined five scoreless innings giving up three hits while walking two and striking out five. Rafael Dolis, Carlos Villanueva, Carlos Marmol, and Kyuji Fujikawa were the ones that did the stellar work.
Up Next – The Cubs travel to Cincinnati to take on the Reds this weekend, another stiff test. Series preview coming up shortly.
Another frustrating loss, as I mentioned in the series preview the Cubs had an opportunity to take another step forward with a series win, instead they take a step back, as they have all year. Travis Wood was brilliant again, but the Cubs wasted multiple opportunities until the fifth inning when Wood took things into his own hands. With the game scoreless and the Cubs threatening to waste another lead-off double Travis Wood launched a two run homer out on to Waveland to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead. After the Mets got one run back in the sixth the Cubs answered right back in the bottom half to regain their two run lead. That’s when things unraveled as Wood gave up a two-out, two-run homer to Juan Lagares, yeah, the noted home run hitter, Juan Lagares. It was Lagares first home run of his career and it tied the game at three and seemingly took all the fight out of the Cubs. Kyuji Fujikawa quickly gave the Mets the lead in the eight giving up a lead-off homer to Daniel Murphy and just like that a series win turned into a series loss. If this loss doesn’t sum up 2013 I don’t know what does, a quality start wasted, a bunch of wasted opportunities offensively, and the bullpen took the loss, yep, your 2013 Chicago Cubs, so frustrating.
At The Plate – The Cubs problems with runners in scoring position came back to bite them again in this one as they were 1-for-10, yuck. David DeJesus was 2-for-4 from the lead-off spot with a double, he’s now hitting .294 on the season. Ryan Sweeney got the start in left for Soriano and produced just about as well as Soriano has. Sweeney was 2-for-3 with a double, his first home run of the season, a walk, an RBI, and a run scored. Welington Castillo was 2-for-4 with his tenth double of the season and a run scored. Travis Wood did all he could to get the win today, he was 1-for-2 with his first home run of the season with two RBI’s and a run scored.
On The Mound – Travis Wood delivered with his ninth straight quality start, and didn’t factor in the decision, again. Wood worked seven innings giving up three runs on five hits while walking two and striking out three. Kyuji Fujikawa didn’t take long to record his first loss of the season, he worked one inning giving up one run on a solo shot to lead off the inning while striking out two. Carlos Marmol worked a scoreless ninth because it wasn’t a save situation giving up one hit while striking out two.
Up Next – The Cubs are off tomorrow then they open an eight game road trip starting with a three game set in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. Matt Garza will make his first start in ten months for the Cubs, I’m sure he will be more than ready to go.
The Cubs are usually on the other end of these games, I like winning these games WAY more than losing them. The Cubs had nothing going all day as they were being no hit through five innings, then they started to chip away at Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez. The Cubs loaded the bases in the sixth only to come up empty, but it signaled that the Cubs might be ready to make things difficult for the Nats. Gonzalez rebounded nicely in the seventh inning, but Nats manager Davey Johnson decided to pull Gio after only 86 pitches on the day, the Cubs thank you Davey. The Cubs went to work in the eighth as they played some small ball. Navarro singled to lead off the eighth, he was then moved to second on a sac bunt by Barney. Travis Wood pinch ran for Navarro and made a great base running play to tag up on a foul ball behind first base to make it to third with two outs. Starlin Castro delivered as he took a Drew Storen pitch back up the middle for game tying base hit. The Cubs used some aggressiveness in the ninth to take the lead an ultimately win the game. They put the first two guys on in the ninth then Ryan Sweeney struck out, I know I’m not the only Cubs fan to think here we go again. But on the very next pitch Soriano and Borbon executed a double steal and the Cubs finally got a break. Kurt Suzuki‘s throw to third hit Welington Castillo‘s bat and went down the third base line allowing Soriano to score the game winning run. Kevin Gregg was perfect in the ninth to secure the Cubs win, and the series win over the Nats.
At The Plate – As I mentioned the Cubs had nothing going all day long, but woke up just in time. Starlin Castro was 1-for-3 with a walk, and a game tying RBI from the lead-off spot. Cody Ransom had a solid day from the two spot going 2-for-4 with two singles. Dioner Navarro was one of the few guys who were locked in at the plate, he was 2-for-3 in the win.
On The Mound – Another really solid start for Scott Feldman, he had to settle for a no decision but that was better than an undeserved loss. Feldman went six innings giving up one run on five hits while walking three and striking out six. Kyuji Fujikawa was solid, and healthy for the second time this series. Fujikawa worked a scoreless inning while striking out one, very encouraging to see his velocity up near 93-94 MPH. James Russell worked a scoreless eighth inning while walking one to earn his first win of the season. Kevin Gregg was lights out yet again, what else would you expect? Gregg worked a scoreless ninth while striking out two earning his sixth save of the season.
The same old things keep plaguing the Cubs, not hitting with runners in scoring position, pitchers making errors, unearned runs, wasted doubles, all were present and accounted for in this one. Samardzija has no one to thank but himself for the Nationals taking a 2-1 lead in the second as he botched a ball right back at him then gave up a two out double. Then Samardzija just lost the feeling for everything in the fourth and fifth innings as the Nationals scored twice in the fourth and three times in the fifth to put this one to bed. For a game that featured ten total runs on nineteen total hits it was played at a breakneck pace, ending in just over two and a half hours. More on the Cubs misery with runners in scoring position below, they definitely had plenty of chances to keep this one close. I mentioned in the series preview that the Cubs would have to play mistake free baseball and capitalize on chances when they present themselves to win, the Cubs proved that true tonight.
At The Plate – The Cubs pounded out ten hits, one more than the Nats, but were only able to score three times. Of those ten hits seven were doubles, think about that for a second, and the Cubs only scored three times. Starlin Castro was given a chance to lead off for the first time this year and had a solid game going 2-for-5 with two doubles, an RBI, and a run scored. Anthony Rizzo turned in another solid performance going 2-for-4 with an RBI, he’s now hitting .276 on the season. Ryan Sweeney had a solid day getting the start in center, he went 2-for-3 with a double, a walk, and a run scored.
On The Mound – Jeff Samardzija needs to find a way to get through the fifth inning, or at least avoid the mind numbing innings that make his pitch count explode. Samardzija’s record fell to 1-5 with the loss, he went five innings giving up seven runs, five earned, on eight hits while walking two and striking out five. Hector Rondon, Kyuji Fujikawa, and Shawn Camp each worked a scoreless inning in relief to keep the deficit somewhat respectable.
Up Next – Game two of the series as Edwin Jackson takes the ball for the Cubs to face one of his former teams. Jackson needs a good outing, I’m not saying his spot in the rotation is in jeopardy, yet, but a good performance could go a long way. Stephen Strasburg will oppose Jackson and the Cubs at 3:05 PM CST.