The Cubs ended two streaks on Saturday but, unfortunately, kept another going as they lost their sixth in a row. Todd Frazier drove in two runs, including a game-tying RBI single in a four-run sixth, and Brandon Phillips scored the go-ahead run on a squeeze to spark the Reds to a 5-2 victory over the Cubs, who set a season high in consecutive losses. Chicago is now a season-low 12 games under .500.
Travis Wood took the loss, and his streak of quality starts ended at nine. He was vying to become the first Cubs pitcher to open the season with 10 straight quality starts since Mordecai Brown did so in 11 consecutive games at the beginning of the 1908 season. Wood was pulled after giving up five runs on seven hits over 5 2/3 innings, and throwing a season-high 115 pitches. He’s also winless in four starts against his former team, including two games this season. He was traded to the Cubs in December 2011 in a four-player deal that sent reliever Sean Marshall to Cincinnati.
The good news for the Cubs is Anthony Rizzo’s hitless streak is over. Rizzo, who was in an 0-for-23 funk, nearly did not play Saturday. Cubs manager Dale Sveum admitted he was thinking about giving the first baseman a day off. Rizzo went 3-for-3 and drew a walk.
In the third inning, Rizzo ended his skid with a two-out, RBI double off Homer Bailey, driving in David DeJesus, who had walked. Alfonso Soriano followed with a RBI single to go ahead, 2-0. But that was all the offense for the Cubs, who have scored 12 runs in their last five games and were batting .220 on the road. Frazier hit a sacrifice fly in the Reds’ fourth to make it 2-1.
Cincinnati then took the lead in the sixth. Joey Votto led off with a walk and Brandon Phillips singled. One out later, Frazier hit a RBI single to tie the game. Phillips then scored the go-ahead run on a squeeze by Derrick Robinson, and Ryan Hanigan followed with a RBI double. Pinch-hitter Cesar Izturis added a RBI single to chase Wood.
– Carrie Muskat
Anthony Rizzo ended his 0-for-23 skid with a RBI double in the third inning Saturday. Rizzo then scored on Alfonso Soriano’s single. Dale Sveum had been asked pre game if he thought about giving Rizzo a day off.
“About the time you start thinking about it, the guy gets hot,” Sveum said. “These are your core players who have to understand and deal with adversity. ABout the time you start thinking about [a day off], there goes two home runs. They are still threats in the lineup whether they’re hitting sometimes or not. They’re doing other things to help you win a ballgame.”
– Carrie Muskat
* Anthony Rizzo isn’t the only Cubs player who is struggling at the plate. Starlin Castro is 4-for-17 in the last four games, and his slugging percentage in May is .318.
“There’s not a lot of hard contact going on right now,” manager Dale Sveum said of the shortstop’s at-bats. “Getting to two strikes, he’s really expanding, and he’s got to make some adjustments, too. The league adjusts to him because of the way he approaches hitting.”
Castro entered Saturday’s game batting .270. Compare that to previous years. Castro was batting .328 on May 25, 2010; .330 on May 25, 2011; and .315 on May 25 last year.
* The leash comes off Matt Garza when he makes his second start since coming off the disabled list. Garza will start the series finale against the Reds on Sunday. He’ll be allowed to throw up to 110 pitches, depending on the situation and whether he has any stressful innings.
* Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood and Scott Feldman have all homered this month, and, according to Elias, this is the first time three Cubs pitchers have done so in the same calendar month since Aug 1961 when Jack Curtis, Bob Anderson and Don Cardwell all went deep.
Cubs pitchers have 15 RBIs in May. Sveum joked that Feldman could bat third if he gives Anthony Rizzo a day off. What about using one of the pitchers in the Interleague games as the designated hitter against the White Sox?
“Don’t think I haven’t thought of that one,” Sveum said, laughing.
– Carrie Muskat
Manager Dale Sveum considered giving Anthony Rizzo a day off Saturday. The Cubs first baseman entered the game 0-for-22 in his last five games.
“Not yet,” Sveum said. “Obviously, it’s a thought but I don’t think we’re quite there yet.”
Rizzo showed his frustration in the seventh Friday after he flew out to right to end the inning and stranded a runner at first. He slammed his helmet to the ground.
“It’s frustrating because it was a 3-0 pitch, and I felt they were good takes and I felt good in the box, and I get that 3-0 pitch and I hit it off the end of the bat,” Rizzo said. “That was the frustrating part — 3-0, I want to barrel that up. Whether I hit it out or not, I want to barrel it up.”
Sveum doesn’t think the problem is pitchers adjusting to Rizzo.
“I think it’s too much of [him] adjusting to the pitchers instead of just getting a good pitch to hit and being ready to hit it all the time,” Sveum said. “Sometimes we get scouting reports, and [you think], ‘I know what this guy is going to try to do’ and sometimes you get caught worrying about it and the next organization is pitching you completely different. The bottom line is dictating the at-bat yourself.”
Sveum mentioned Rizzo’s swing had too much movement lately.
“Everything spirals when you try to do too much,” Rizzo said. “That’s what I always say is try not to do too much, which is hard to do. It’s part of a season. This is one of the worst [streaks] I’ve ever gone through. You have to keep working and keep battling.
“It’s the beauty of this game,” he said. “There’s nothing you can do except keep going.”
So far, Rizzo has appeared to be a streaky hitter.
“I think young guys will be that way, especially someone with his personality who thinks himself out of so many at-bats,” Sveum said. “You watch the consistent, really good hitters, and they’re not letting the pitcher dictate the at-bat. That comes with some maturity, too.”
Rizzo was batting .143 since signing a seven-year, $41 million contract extension. Is that the problem?
“You think this game would be a lot easier when you get that financial security but your instincts stay the same and you still get mad when you get outs because everyone in here is a competitor, whether you’re making $10 an hour or $5 an hour,” Rizzo said. “You get mad when you lose, you get mad when you fail.”
If Rizzo did sit, who would bat third for the Cubs?
“[Scott] Feldman,” Sveum said laughing.
– Carrie Muskat
Travis Wood starts Saturday night for the Cubs. The lefty has posted nine-straight quality starts, a feat previously accomplished by Mordecai Brown, who had 11-straight quality starts -– all complete games -– to open the 1908 season. Wood is the first Cubs pitcher to record nine-straight quality starts at any point in a season since Steve Trachsel, who spun off 11 in a row from June 5-Aug. 9, 1994. Wood’s nine quality starts this season are tied for the Major League lead with five others including three from the NL: the Diamondbacks’ Patrick Corbin, the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright and the Nationals’ Jordan Zimmermann.
Josh Vitters hit a solo home run and Nick Struck gave up three runs over 5 1/3 innings in Iowa’s 5-4 win over Oklahoma City. J.C. Boscan drove in two runs. Zach Putnam picked up his third save.
Rubi Silva hit his eighth home run but it wasn’t enough as Tennessee lost, 6-2, to Huntsville. Yeiper Castillo struck out seven over six innings in his Smokies debut.
Ben Wells gave up one earned run over five innings in Daytona’s 7-3 loss to Lakeland. John Andreoli had his third straight three-hit game, and Jorge Soler extended his hitting streak to five games and stole a base. Soler is batting .333 during his streak, and .301 overall. Javier Baez had two hits to extend his hitting streak to 10 games.
Pierce Johnson gave up one run on six hits over 6 2/3 innings in Kane County’s 8-1 win over Peoria. Alberto Almora got a hit and walked twice. David Bote drove in two runs.
The Cubs will try to end a five-game losing streak on Saturday when they face the Reds in the second game of a three-game series at Great American Ball Park. No changes in the lineup:
T. Wood P
Scott Feldman hit his first career home run, a two-run shot, but he also served up a pair of homers as the Reds posted a 7-4 victory Friday night over the Cubs, who lost their fifth in a row. Joey Votto hit a solo home run with one out in a five-run fourth, which included a three-run homer by Ryan Hanigan on a pitch Feldman would like to have back.
The Reds trailed 3-0 heading into the fourth when Votto, a more experienced home run hitter than Feldman, collected his eighth of the season. Brandon Phillips then singled, and moved up on a wild pitch and errant throw by Dioner Navarro. Todd Frazier walked, although Feldman thought he had struck him out on a 3-2 pitch, and Xavier Paul followed with a RBI single. Hanigan then hit a three-run home run to go ahead, 5-3.
“[Feldman] was one pitch away from another good outing,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “A 3-2 hanging curveball [to Hanigan] — that seems to be our motto lately is one hanging off-speed pitch in situations where we can do anything with a baseball with the pitcher coming up. We’re making bad mistakes at the wrong time in situations where we don’t have to even throw a strike.”
Reds starter Bronson Arroyo followed Hanigan in the lineup, and Feldman got him to fly out to right but the damage was done.
“It really was a bone-head pitch there,” Feldman said of the curve to Hanigan. “We had the pitcher on deck and the one thing that could hurt us right there was giving up a home run. That one stings a little bit. It did come down to that one pitch, and I wish I had it back.”
Anthony Rizzo went 0-for-5, and now is 0-for-22 in his last five games. Since he signed the seven-year, $41 million contract extension on May 13, Rizzo was batting .143 (6-for-42) with one home run and three RBIs.
“I guess you can call it different things,” Sveum said of Rizzo’s funk, “but he’s not taking his walks, he’s just kind of swinging, guessing. There’s a lot more movement than he normally has at the plate.”
Could Rizzo benefit from a day off?
“I guess a lot of people could do that right now,” Sveum said.
The Cubs have had their patience tested. They’ve had 41 of their 47 contests decided by four runs or less.
– Carrie Muskat
The Cubs pitchers take hitting very seriously, and Scott Feldman added to their numbers on Friday. Feldman hit his first career home run in the second inning against the Reds to open a 3-0 lead. Luis Valbuena doubled with one out in the second, moved up on Dioner Navarro’s single, and scored on Darwin Barney’s sacrifice fly. Feldman followed with his home run off a 3-2 pitch from Bronson Arroyo.
The Cubs pitcher entered the game with six hits in 38 at-bats, and half of those have come this season. The blast also ended a string of six homer-less road games for the Cubs.
Cubs pitchers now have 15 RBIs in May, the most by Cubs pitchers since the August 1937 staff drove in 15. Since 1921, the most RBIs in a month by Cubs pitchers was 16 in July 1925.
Feldman’s blast was the third by a Cubs pitcher this month, joining Travis Wood and Jeff Samardzija.
– Carrie Muskat
* Alfonso Soriano did not start Friday, getting a breather in the Cubs’ first game of a three-game series against the Reds. Manager Dale Sveum said Soriano, 37, will definitely be in the lineup for next week’s Interleague series against the White Sox, which starts Monday. Soriano is one option as the designated hitter, and Sveum said he’s also considering Dioner Navarro and Welington Castillo.
The Cubs were expected to face lefties Jose Quintana and Chris Sale in the first two games against the White Sox. Sveum has hinted he’ll tweak the lineup he’s used so far against southpaw starters and include some of the left-handed hitters. Any hints?
“I don’t know,” Sveum said. “Wait and see.”
* Starlin Castro, who appeared to injure his right ankle sliding into second base on Thursday, was in the lineup on Friday. The shortstop now has appeared in 243 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the National League, and second longest in baseball. Prince Fielder has appeared in 389 games in a row.
“I’m good to go,” Castro said.
* The Cubs have not hit a home run on the road since April 28 in Miami.
– Carrie Muskat