* The Cubs have set the rotation for the upcoming series against the Cardinals, which opens Monday at Wrigley Field, and is the last home series of the season. Travis Wood will start Monday night in what will be his last start of this year. He’ll be followed by Kyle Hendricks on Tuesday and Jake Arrieta on Wednesday. Hendricks also will start the season finale Sept. 28 at Milwaukee. No word from Cubs camp about whether Edwin Jackson will make another start.
* Welington Castillo, who had to leave Friday’s game with a rib contusion, was available Saturday but the Cubs wanted to give him at least one more day to heal. John Baker got the start.
* On this day in Cubs history, Ernie Banks hit his first career home run in 1953 off St. Louis’ Gerry Staley. Thanks for Christopher Kamka for the post.
The Cubs face the Dodgers Saturday at Wrigley Field. First pitch will be 12:05 p.m. CT to accomodate FOX TV. Here’s the lineup;
The Cubs agreed with Eugene, Ore., on a new player development contract to be the host for the Class A Northwest League affiliate. The contract runs through the 2016 season and reunites the two organizations, as Eugene was previously a Cubs affiliate in 1999-2000.
The Eugene Emeralds were most recently an affiliate of the Padres, beginning in 2001. The club began play as an independent team in the inaugural Northwest League in 1955, and has since partnered with nine Major League organizations in its 60-year history. A three-time Northwest League champion, the Emeralds moved into their current ballpark, PK Park, in 2010.
So, the Cubs now have completed their Minor League assignments:
High Class A Myrtle Beach
Class A South Bend
Arismendy Alcantara is back, Edwin Jackson is on the mound, and manager Rick Renteria has loaded up the lineup with right-handed hitters against Clayton Kershaw, who aims for his 20th win Friday. It’s Cubs vs. Dodgers. Here’s the lineup:
Cubs manager Rick Renteria said it was going to be a challenge to face the National League West-leading Dodgers, and it was. The Dodgers took advantage of an error by rookie Logan Watkins to score five runs in the seventh and post an 8-4 come-from-behind victory Thursday night over the Cubs at Wrigley Field, inching closer to securing a playoff berth. Los Angeles increased its lead over San Francisco to 2 1/2 games.
“They hit a couple balls hard, for sure,” Renteria said of the Dodgers, “but there were a couple plays we could’ve made.”
The Cubs had a 4-1 lead after six innings, but in the seventh, Los Angeles had two on and one out against Neil Ramirez and tallied on an error by Watkins, who couldn’t get a glove on Juan Uribe’s potential double-play ball. The miscue was costly. Pinch-hitter Andre Ethier followed with an RBI double, and another run scored on a ground out by pinch-hitter Justin Turner to tie the game at 4.
Dee Gordon then smacked an RBI double and scored on Yasiel Puig’s single to chase Ramirez for a 6-4 lead. Of the five runs off Ramirez that inning, only one was earned.
“Uribe hit a pretty hard ball, right up the middle and the first instinct was to knock it down and keep it in front of me and it kicked to the left,” Watkins said.
Watkins also was charged with an error on a throw in the ninth that led to another Dodgers run.
“I can honestly look back and say I wouldn’t have done anything different on both balls,” Watkins said. “That one there [in the seventh], I didn’t want it to go to the outfield. The other one, a diving play, just try to get it to first as fast as possible.
“It’s baseball,” he said. “I’ll make more. It did [stink] because I wanted to get Neil out of that inning right there because it was a possible double play. I wouldn’t have done anything different. … It always seems like that — you make an error and the wheels come off.”
The win snapped the Dodgers’ two-game losing streak, and was a rarity. Los Angeles now is 2-54 when trailing after six.
“All things being equal, we haven’t had a lot of games like that,” Renteria said. “The guys have been pretty good. This one just got away. It’s just baseball.”
While the Dodgers are preparing for postseason play, Chicago’s Tsuyoshi Wada made his last start. The Cubs want to get a look at rookie Eric Jokisch in one of their final nine games. Wada, 33, who was told Thursday was his final outing, struck out five and gave up five hits over five innings. The left-hander said his hamstring has been tender, and may have been a factor Thursday. He was grateful to the Cubs for the opportunity.
“If I look back personally, I feel it was a very good year in regards that the Cubs picked me up without me having any Major League numbers and gave me the opportunity to start in this big league atmosphere,” Wada said through interpreter Ryo Shinkawa. “When I look back, it was a very good year.”
– Carrie Muskat
* Outfielder Arismendy Alcantara, who suffered a mild right wrist sprain on Monday, was able to hit off a batting tee and took batting practice Thursday, and could return to the Cubs lineup soon. Alcantara was injured when he ran into the brick outfield wall.
* Anthony Rizzo did not start Thursday, part of the Cubs plan to ease him back into game action after missing three weeks with a low back strain. The first baseman was expected in the lineup on Friday.
* Pitching coach Chris Bosio asked Cubs reliever Carlos Villanueva to sub for bullpen coach Lester Strode, who had to attend to a family matter. Villanueva made his debut Wednesday, and closer Hector Rondon complimented the veteran.
“I didn’t want to mess up,” Villanueva said. “My job depends on how those guys do. I’m glad to help. I feel good that they trust me. It was definitely a first.”
– Carrie Muskat
The Cubs announced a partnership with South Bend to host their Class A Midwest League affiliate, leaving Kane County after two seasons. The deal with South Bend runs through the 2018 season.
“It’s tough to disappoint those people [in Kane County] and leave but I wouldn’t be doing my job if we weren’t doing the right thing for our players,” Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Thursday. “One area we don’t mess around with is player development. Our success will be impacted in large part by how we develop our young players and get them ready for the big league level.”
South Bend had been the Diamondbacks affiliate from 2007 through this season.
The Cubs had moved to Kane County because of its proximity to Chicago, and even though the Cougars ownership had promised to make changes that met the Chicago team’s specifications, it wasn’t enough to stay. Epstein knows the news wasn’t well received in Kane County.
“I don’t think in this industry you can avoid looking like ‘bad guys’ and just have to roll with it and make sure you’re making decisions for the right reasons and in this case, we have to do what’s best for our prospects and the organization moving forward,” he said.
South Bend will announce new names, logos and uniforms on Sept. 25, as well as some renovations planned for the facility. The South Bend Silver Hawks won five Midwest League titles and 12 division titles in 26 seasons as an affiliate of the D-backs and the White Sox. The Cubs Kane County team won a franchise record 91 games this year, and went unbeaten in the playoffs to win the Midwest League championship.
Epstein complimented the ownership and staff at Kane County, saying they did a “first class job.”
“The South Bend renovation offers a facility that we feel will make a profound difference for our prospects and that was the key factor in the end,” Epstein said.
– Carrie Muskat
Darwin Barney was back at Wrigley Field, but wearing a Dodgers uniform. The infielder, who was designated for assignment in July, and then signed with the Dodgers, had only known one team until he joined L.A. Was it strange being back at Wrigley on the visitor’s side?
“It’s not as weird as you would expect,” Barney said. “Wrigley is Wrigley. The visiting clubhouse feels a lot like the home side. The mentality is different [with the Dodgers]. We’re here to take four [games]. That’s our goal, to win every single day. That’s the way we play here.”
He did go from last place to first place.
“It was weird at first,” Barney said, “but it’s just a different atmosphere. We expect to win, and if we don’t, we don’t cry about it, and get up the next day and try to win that day.”
At this time of year, most players are counting the days until the season ends. Not the guys on teams headed to the postseason.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Barney said. “We’re right there. I think this team is a really good team. I couldn’t believe how good we were when I got here. It’s win, or go home for us. Every day we expect to win, whether we’re up or down in the game. [Clayton] Kershaw is the best pitcher I’ve ever seen.”
Kershaw, by the way, starts Friday against the Cubs and will be going for his 20th win.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in my life,” Barney said of the left-hander. “The way he goes about his business, the stuff he has — I ask him about his repertoire all the time to gain information. He’s a stand-up guy, he’s one of our leaders and he’s obviously making history. It’s been a long time since someone has had a sub 2.00 ERA two years in a row, and he might be around 1.60. It’s pretty amazing.”
Barney said he has no hard feelings toward the Cubs.
“They’re doing what’s best for this team, and if I was in their position, I might have done the same thing with me at that point,” he said. “They made the move early enough so I could go to a contender, so I’m sitting in a pretty good spot now.”
He does follow his friends on the team.
“I miss those guys,” Barney said. “When you hear that guys like [Anthony] Rizzo is missing time because he’s hurt, you worry and you wonder. With [Starlin] Castro, it’s the same thing. I care about these guys and their lives and their families and not just baseball. It makes me happy when I get to see guys like Rizzo and Castro.”
– Carrie Muskat
Anthony Rizzo is not starting Thursday, part of the Cubs plan to ease him back into game action. Here’s the lineup for Game 1 vs. the Dodgers and Zack Greinke:
Anthony Rizzo has been named the winner of the 2014 Branch Rickey Award. He is the youngest to receive the award. The announcement was made in Denver Thursday.
Rizzo, 25, will be inducted as the 23rd member of the Baseball Humanitarians Hall of Fame on Nov. 14 at the McNichols Civic Center in Denver. Two days later, on Nov. 16 in Parkland, Fla., Rizzo and his foundation will host his third “Walk-Off for Cancer” 5K walk.
Created by the Rotary Club of Denver in 1991, the Branch Rickey Award honors individuals in baseball who contribute unselfishly to their communities and who are strong role models for young people. Each year, MLB teams are asked to nominate one team member for the award.
Rizzo was chosen by a national selection committee comprised of 400 members of the sports media, baseball executives, past award winners and Rotary district governors. Fans also were given a chance to vote online, and more than 30,000 votes were received. Rizzo won the fan voting by an impressive margin.
Rizzo has overcome Hodgkins Lymphoma, which he was diagnosed with while a Minor League with the Red Sox in 2008. His foundation’s goal is to help families affected by cancer. Besides his fund-raising walk in his hometown, Rizzo has hosted two “Cook-offs for Cancer” in Chicago. So far, he’s raised more than $500,000. The first baseman also is a regular visitor to pediatric cancer patients in Chicago and Hollywood, Fla.
Rickey was known to many as “Mr. Baseball” and is credited with breaking the color barrier in the Major Leagues in 1945 when he signed Jackie Robinson.
Previous recipients of this award include Dave Winfield, Kirby Puckett, Ozzie Smith, Paul Molitor, Torii Hnter, Tommy Lasorda, Roland Hemond, and Clayton Kershaw.
– Carrie Muskat