There’s hot, and then there is what Alfonso Soriano is doing. Soriano is unconscious at the plate right now, his latest reminder to the rest of baseball that he can play was a two home run performance last night as the Cubs pounded the Angels 7-2 for their fourth straight win. In his last eleven games Soriano is hitting .400 with eight home runs, and seventeen RBI’s, wow. Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, and Darwin Barney also got in on the long ball fun to pace the Cubs attack. On a night where every fly ball was dangerous Travis Wood carved up a dangerous Angels lineup. Wood worked 6.2 innings giving up two runs on four hits while walking two and striking out five to pick up his sixth win of the season. The Cubs are now eight games under .500 and nine games out of a wild card spot, just pointing that out, not insinuating anything, yet.
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.
It’s really quite disappointing that the Cubs come into the series on the heels of just losing one at home to the Mets. That was the whole step back thing I was talking about before that series even started, and the Cubs went out and did just that as they fell back into bad habits, or trends, and lost the series. The Cubs get a chance at redemption and to start another series winning streak starting tonight in Pittsburgh, and it’s a very important series. Why, you ask. I’ll tell you, my inquisitive friend, this marks the beginning of an eight game road trip, and I really think if they can get through this no worse than .500 they will be seeing .500 on the season sooner than later. Tonight also marks the return of Mr. Pie to the face, Matt Garza. All kidding aside this is huge for the Cubs and Garza for so many reasons, one of those reasons is contract status, the other is trade value. The Pirates come into this series with the pedal to the metal as they find themselves just two games out of first in the Central. They also pose a challenge in their home ballpark where they are 15-9 on the season. Both the Pirates and Cubs come into this series as equals as far as scoring runs is concerned, the Pirates have scored 176, the Cubs have scored 173. Wait, so why do the Pirates have a better record, well, they have better pitching then the Cubs, specifically in the pen. The Buccos boast the third best team ERA (3.33)in all of baseball, and their bullpen is a huge reason why as they have a bullpen ERA of 2.81, which is second best in the Majors. The Cubs currently sit twenty-third in the Majors with a 4.11 bullpen ERA, and that boys and girls is why the Pirates are eight games over .500 and the Cubs are seven games under.
The Cubs lost two out of three to the Mets at Wrigley, and of course could have, and maybe should have won all three, which seems to happen a lot this year.
The Pirates won two out of three from the Astros in Pittsburgh over the weekend, and have won eight of their last ten games.
Game Times and Broadcast Information:
- Tuesday, May 21, 2013 – 6:05 PM CST on CSN Chicago
- Wednesday, May 22, 2013 – 6:05 PM CST on WGN
- Thursday, May 23, 2013 – 11:35 AM CST on CSN Chicago
Starting Pitchers Scheduled:
Game One – Matt Garza (0-0, -.–)
– Career vs. Pirates (3 GS) (1-1, 3.79)
Game Two – Jeff Samardzija (2-5, 3.59)
– Career vs. Pirates (14 appearances, 3 GS) (4-0, 0.92)
Game Three – Edwin Jackson (1-6, 5.76)
– Career vs. Pirates (7 GS) (4-1, 3.09)
Game One – Wandy Rodriguez (4-2, 3.25)
– Career vs. Cubs (23 GS) (8-7, 3.56)
Game Two – Francisco Liriano (2-0, 1.64)
– Career vs. Cubs (1 GS) (0-1, 6.35)
Game Three – Jeanmar Gómez (2-0, 2.78)
– Career vs. Cubs (first appearance)
This will be the first time all season that the Cubs will trot out their number one, two and three starters. Okay, Jackson is not quite performing like a number three yet, and Wood and Feldman have been much better, but on paper going into this year it was Garza, Samardzija, Jackson. Garza’s return to the rotation should only make the pitching staff, bullpen included, better. With that said, I think the Cubs lose two out of three to the Pirates. I think Garza will be way too amped up to make his first start so I forsee command issues and a loss tonight. Now if Garza can harness that emotion the Cubs have a great shot to win the series, but given how hot the Pirates are, and Garza “easing” back into things I think the Buccos get the best of the him tonight, and then the Cubs splitting the next two.
Cub to Watch:
I expect a big series from Starlin Castro. Castro has had his ups and downs this year, but not too high or too low. He has hovered around .280 for the better part of a month, I think this series is the jumping off point to a really hot stretch.
Another frustrating one run loss for the Cubs, just when you thought they might be starting to win these close games today happens. It was a stiff test as the Cubs were facing off against all everything Matt Harvey, and he was as good as advertised, well, after the first inning. After falling behind 1-0 on a David Wright home run in the first the Cubs answered right back with two runs in the bottom half to take a 2-1 lead. Edwin Jackson pitched right with Harvey for the whole game until Harvey got in his way, with the bat. That’s right, not only did Harvey get the win on the mound, but he got the game winning hit in the seventh inning. The Cubs still had a chance in this one, but a questionable send by third base coach David Bell took the Cubs out of the eighth inning. Bell has been fine all year, so I’m not going to pin this on him, but it hurts to have the game tying run cut down at the plate for the second out of the inning when it could have been first and third with one out with Castro and Rizzo coming to the plate.
At The Plate – The Cubs didn’t have much going against Harvey, but did have a very good first inning, and threatened late. The Cubs could only manage six hits on the day, but were 2-for-3 with runners in scoring position. Starlin Castro had a solid day going 2-for-4 with a run scored, he’s now hitting .287 on the season. Anthony Rizzo was 1-for-4 with a double, his twelfth of the season, and a run scored. Alfonso Soriano, David DeJesus, and Darwin Barney recorded the other hits in the game.
On The Mound – Edwin Jackson was solid, but ended up registering his sixth loss of the season. Jackson worked 6.2 innings giving up three runs on seven hits while walking one and striking out four. James Russell was solid out of the pen going 1.1 scoreless innings giving up one hit while striking out two. Kyuji Fujikawa was continues to string together good outings going one scoreless inning while striking out two.
I know it sounds funny given the Cubs struggles, but they are playing their best baseball of the year right now. They have played well for the majority of games earlier this year, but now they are putting together more complete efforts and the result is more wins. With the win the Cubs take the series from the Rockies, this is the Cubs second straight series victory, both over winning ball clubs. The Cubs jumped on the Rockies right away as David DeJesus led the game off with a solo home run. After the Rockies got that run back in the second Jeff Samardzija helped his own cause in the third by launching a two run homer to give the Cubs a 3-1 lead. The Rockies pulled to within one run in the sixth but the Cubs broke it open with a three run seventh inning en route to a 6-3 victory. Samardzija earned his second win of the season, his first since opening day, hopefully he can build on that, what was most important for him was finally being able to work deep into a game and control the outcome instead of handing it over to the pen in the fifth or sixth inning.
At The Plate – The Cubs made the most of their hits as they pounded out nine while scoring six times. The top of the order did most of the damage as the Cubs one, two, three hitters were a combined 6-for-10 with three RBI’s, and three runs scored. David DeJesus was 2-for-3 with his fifth home run of the season, an RBI, and two runs scored. Starlin Castro was 2-for-4 with an RBI, and a run scored, he’s now hitting .282 on the season. Anthony Rizzo continues to produce, he was 2-for-3 with a walk, a double, and an RBI, he now has twenty-nine RBI’s on the season. Darwin Barney is starting to find a groove at the plate he was 1-for-3 with a walk, a stolen base, and two runs scored. Jeff Samardzija had a great day all around, he was 1-for-2 with his first home run of the season, two RBI’s, and a run scored.
On The Mound – Really nice to see Samardzija pitch instead of just throw and try to miss bats. He has the stuff to miss bats but also get quick outs, and that’s what he did today. Shark went eight innings giving up two runs on five hits while walking two and striking out seven to earn his second win of the season. James Russell worked just one-third of an inning striking out the only hitter he faced. Kevin Gregg took it from there, things got sketchy, but he was able to get out of the ninth to preserve the win. Gregg worked two-thirds of an inning giving up one run, unearned (on a Gregg error), on two hits.
Up Next – The Cubs welcome the Mets to Wrigley Field for a three game weekend set starting Friday. The Cubs are off tomorrow, their second straight Thursday without a game.
Samardzija goes deep
Samardzija’s strong outing
DeJesus with a sweet grab to end the game
Castro scores in the seventh
Rizzo’s RBI single
Castro with a big insurance RBI
Great defense from the Cubs
DeJesus’ lead-off homer
As I mentioned in the series preview the Cubs look to be finding a groove and riding the momentum of some nice wins lately. Tonight was pure domination from beginning to end as the Cubs had a 5-0 lead after two innings en route to a 9-1 victory, their third straight win. These wins are coming against good teams as well, and they held their own in their most recent losses against the Reds, and Cardinals. I’m not saying the Cubs are going to be contenders next week, but they are playing some of the best baseball they have played in the last three years. Okay, I know, that really doesn’t take much, but watching this team every night I can see the change. Lost in the offensive awesomeness, say that five times fast, was the performance of Travis Wood. He was brilliant again, and is pitching like a true number one, this is the Travis Wood the Cubs’ brass was hoping they got when they traded Sean Marshall to the Reds. Actually this is probably more than what they expected this soon, just outstanding.
At The Plate – The best offensive night for the Cubs this year, they pounded out fourteen hits and scored nine runs. They were an impressive 6-for-18 with runners in scoring position and had eight extra base hits, six doubles, a triple, and a home run. David DeJesus was 2-for-4 with a walk, a double, two RBI’s, and two runs scored. Starlin Castro was on base all night going 2-for-3 with a walk, a double, two RBI’s, and a run scored. Alfonso Soriano padded his slugging numbers in this one going 2-for-4 with his fourth home run of the season, a double, two RBI’s and a run scored. Nate Schierholtz was 2-for-4 with a triple, and two RBI’s, he is now hitting .299 on the season. Welington Castillo and Travis Wood also had two hits in the victory, both of Castillo’s hits were doubles, what else is new, the Cubs lead the Majors in doubles.
On The Mound – Travis Wood was brilliant, what else can be said, he has been all year. Wood worked seven scoreless innings giving up two hits while walking three and striking out two. This was his eighth straight quality start to begin the season, he improved his record to 4-2, and lowered his ERA to 2.03 as well. Kyuji Fujikawa had another solid performance out of the pen tossing a scoreless inning while striking out two. Carlos Marmol worked the ninth inning giving up one run on one hit while striking out three.
Up Next – The Cubs go for their fourth straight win as Carlos Villanueva looks to get things back on track. The Rockies counter with Jeff Francis, first pitch scheduled for 7:05 PM CST, and the weather is supposed to be very summer like.
Wood’s scoreless outing
DeJesus two-run single
Schierholtz two-run triple
Cubs turn two to end the fifth
Castro turns two
Castro’s two run double
Travis Wood helps himself with a double
Alfonso Soriano launches one out onto Waveland
This is awesome news. Per Ken Rosenthal, the Cubs have agreed to a long term extension with Anthony Rizzo to the tune of 7 years $41 million. STEAL! The Cubs now control Rizzo, Starlin Castro, and Jorge Soler for the better part of the next decade. Much more shortly..
(UPDATE) A few sources confirm that this deal has two club options that could result in this deal going for nine years, and $68 million. This is such huge news for the Cubs, they are paying Castro and Rizzo to be here for the next 7 years together for $101 million, that’s remarkable. That should give the Cubs financial flexibility when they need to get get a free agent when they are contending, good news all around tonight.