July 2011

7/25 Minor League report

Nick Struck gave up one run on seven hits over seven innings to help Iowa snap a six-game losing streak and beat Nashville, 3-1, on Sunday. Welington Castillo hit his 15th homer and Brett Jackson hit his first since being called up to the Triple-A team. John Gaub converted his fifth save of the season. Jackson is now 7-for-40 (.175) in 11 games at Iowa with three doubles, one triple, one homer and two RBIs.

Austin Bibens-Dirkx gave up two runs on three hits over five innings in Tennessee’s 8-3 win over Carolina. Jim Adduci had four hits and a stolen base and Josh Vitters drove in two runs. Blake Lalli went 4-for-4 with three doubles and two RBIs.

Jeff Lorick gave up two runs on five hits over six innings and struck out seven as Daytona snapped a two-game losing streak with an 8-2 win over Palm Beach. Rafael Valdes hit two homers and a double and drove in three runs, and Justin Bour hit his 20th home run.

Peoria committed three errors in a 5-2 loss to Bowling Green. Matt Loosen gave up two runs on five hits over six innings and took the loss. Anthony Giansanti had two hits and an RBI.

Yao-Lin Wang gave up two runs on four hits and struck out five over five innings in Boise’s 13-5 win over Spokane. Paul Hoilman hit his eighth home run and Blair Springfield hit his first and drove in three runs. Jose Rosario picked up the save, pitching four innings in relief.

James Pugliese gave up four runs on five hits over two innings in Mesa’s 10-2 loss to the Indians. Catcher Taylor Davis made his pro debut, with a hit and an RBI.

— Carrie Muskat

7/24 Extra bases – post-game edition

Finally. The Cubs finally posted a three-game win streak with a 5-4, 10-inning win Sunday over the Astros to sweep the series. It’s their first

“What a way to do it,” Mike Quade said. “You knew it wasn’t going to be easy.”

Marlon Byrd tripled and scored on pinch-hitter Jeff Baker’s single with one out for the game-winner. Matt Garza deserved the win, but didn’t get it. He gave up two runs on five hits and departed after seven innings with a 3-2 lead. This was the sixth time he’s left a game with the lead but did not factor in the decision.

“We won a ballgame because he gave us seven great innings,” Quade said.

“Every time you contribute it’s a plus,” Garza said.

Cubs starters posted seven quality starts in the 10-game homestand, and a 1.32 ERA in those games.

The reason Garza didn’t get the decision was Carlos Lee’s two-run homer in the eighth off Jeff Samardzija. The home run didn’t bother Samardzija as much as the walk to Hunter Pence to set up Lee’s blast.

“What Lee did is what he gets paid to do, hit home runs, but Pence, you have to make him put the ball in play, and that way if Lee does hit one, it’s just a one-run home run,” Samardzija said.

Samardijza had not given up a run in 12 straight outings prior to Sunday.

“You’re asking a guy to pitch three days in a row and it’s a lot,” Quade said of Samardzija.

* The Cubs were a little short-handed. Koyie Hill and Reed Johnson weren’t available; neither was feeling well. Both Sean Marshall and Kerry Wood were not available either but both did volunteer to pitch if needed. Wood had warmed up a few times in the last few days.

“News flash. Sometimes guys need a day here and there,” Wood said. “Nothing new. I pitched a lot in the pen.”

* The Cubs notched the three-game win streak in their 102nd game of the year. Only once in team history has it gone longer into a season without winning three in a row. In 1966, the Cubs picked up their first three-game win streak Aug. 4-6 in games No. 106-108. Six previous times that year, the Cubs had won two straight only to lose the third.

The only other time the Cubs ended the month of July without a three-game win streak was in 1960. That year, the Cubs won three in a row for the first time July 30-Aug. 2 in games No. 95-97. Thanks to Cubs historian Ed Hartig for the info.

“It took a while but we finally got it done,” Byrd said of the three-game streak.

* Byrd was playing in his 1,000th game, and went 4-for-5 with three runs, a double and a triple. He’s hitting .359 with three walks, 10 runs, four doubles, a triple, two homers and four RBIs in 17 games since July 4. The four hits were a season high, and the first time he’s done that since July 9, 2010, against the Dodgers.

* The Cubs are 6-3 in extra-inning games, including a 5-0 mark at home.

— Carrie Muskat


7/24 Minor League report

Alberto Cabrera gave up four runs on seven hits over six innings in Iowa’s 4-1 loss to Nashville on Saturday. The I-Cubs have dropped 10 straight road games and six in a row overall.

Trey McNutt gave up one run on six hits over five innings in Tennessee’s 6-2 win over Carolina. McNutt, who has battled injuries this year, did not walk a batter and struck out four. Rebel Ridling had two hits, including his 14th home run, and three RBIs. He’s batting .293.

Jeffry Antigua gave up one run on six hits over 7 1/3 innings in Daytona’s 3-2, 10-inning loss to Palm Beach. Matt Szczur hit a triple and had three RBIs.

Luis Liria picked up the win in relief in Peoria’s 2-1 victory over Bowling Green. He gave up one hit and walked two over four scoreless innings.

Ben Wells gave up three runs on five hits over four innings in Boise’s 4-1 loss to Yakima. Pin-Chieh Chen had two hits, including a triple.

— Carrie Muskat

7/24 Extra bases

The Cubs will be vying for their first three-game win streak on Sunday.

“I’d like to get 12 [wins in a row],” Mike Quade said. “I’d like to see [Matt Garza] pitch well and win. If we get three, don’t think we won’t be hungry for four. It’s still a part of playing well and doing stuff consistently, whether it’s getting consistent starting pitching or driving in runs or finding a way to finish games. Three in a row doesn’t happen unless those things happen.”

* The trade deadline is one week away but Quade doesn’t think any of his players should be distracted by it.

“Show up every day and focus on who we’re playing,” Quade said Sunday about what their approach should be. “Everybody deals with stuff differently, whether it’s speculation or reality. I do think that when I look at the veterans who are here, this is not their first rodeo and this is not stuff they haven’t experienced before, whether it’s them personally or a teammate. I suppose [the rumors are] out there but I would expect them not to be distracted at all.”

* The Cubs have a tough road trip ahead, facing the three top teams in the Central Division in the Brewers, Cardinals and Pirates. The rotation against Milwaukee will be Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano and Randy Wells, and Garza will open the series in St. Louis on Friday, followed by Rodrigo Lopez. Lopez remains in the bullpen for now.

“He’d be available even through the second game in Milwaukee,” Quade said. “He’s been pretty resilient. His experience is important.”

* Garza, who started Sunday, has not let the lack of run support bother him.

“To his credit, he just keeps pitching,” Quade said. “He’s something. He shows up and he’s ready to go every day. I don’t notice any wear or tear because he’s not getting the breaks. He comes back to pitch and wants to pitch well for his club.”

— Carrie Muskat

7/24 Cubs lineup

The Cubs will try to sweep the series against the Astros and win their third straight on Sunday. Matt Garza gets the start. He’s 3-1 with a 2.40 ERA in his last six home starts, including a 0.78 ERA in his last three. Here’s the lineup:

RF Fukudome

SS Castro

3B Ramirez

1B Pena

CF Byrd

C Soto

LF Soriano

2B Barney

P Garza

— Carrie Muskat

7/23 Gillick says rumors “untrue”

Pat Gillick denied a Chicago radio report that he has talked to Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts about possibly joining the team as the GM, saying “it’s entirely not true.” Gillick, who was being inducted into the Hall of Fame this weekend in Cooperstown, said he’s never met the Cubs owner.

“I don’t know Mr. Ricketts,” Gillick told reporters on Saturday. “I’ve never even met him.”

Gillick, 73, currently employed by the Phillies, said he thinks current Cubs GM Jim Hendry is doing a good job.

“They’ve had a lot of injuries,” Gillick said. “I’ve always found Jim to be very forthright.”

— Carrie Muskat

7/23 Minor League report

Dave Bush gave up five runs on seven hits over 3 1/3 innings as Iowa lost its fifth straight game, a 5-2 decision to Nashville. Welington Castillo hit his 14th homer and Brett Jackson ended a five-game hitless streak by going 1-for-4.

Jae-Hoon Ha and Ty Wright each homered to help Tennessee beat Carolina, 6-5, in 10 innings. Wright was 4-for-5 with two doubles, a homer and two RBIs. Rafael Dolis picked up the win in relief.

Dae-Eun Rhee gave up five runs on nine hits over four innings in Daytona’s 8-3 loss to Palm Beach. Michael Burgess hit his 13th homer and Justin Bour had three hits.

Eric Jokisch gave up two runs on six hits over five innings in Peoria’s 2-0 loss to Dayton. Dustin Geiger had two hits.

Willengton Cruz gave up one run on six hits over six innings but did not get a decision in Boise’s 3-2, 10-inning win over Yakima. Zeke DeVoss extended his hitting streak to four games, going 2-for-4.

— Carrie Muskat


7/23 Extra bases

Alfonso Soriano just needed a day to clear his head. He hit his first home run since June 19 on Friday, and said part of the problem was that he was thinking too much about the team’s struggles.

“The way we lose, the way we play, sometimes I think about the team instead of thinking about me first,” Soriano said. “Sometimes those things affect me mentally. The day off [Thursday], I said, ‘I have to control my situation. I cannot control the whole situation.’

“Sometimes you try to control the whole situation and mentally I get tired,” he said. “Now, I just think about me and see the team and how it plays but I have to think about what I can do to help the team win.”

His homer snapped an 0-for-18 skid. Soriano hit .265 in June but was batting .186 (11-for-59) so far in July.

“Sometimes it’s very hard, the way we play, to keep your mind strong,” he said. “That’s the difficult part of this game, the mental part.”

* Aramis Ramirez has held the cleanup spot in the Cubs’ lineup most of his career but was bumped up to the No. 3 spot and is producing. In 19 games batting third, he was hitting .324 with eight homers and 19 RBIs. In 65 games batting fourth, he hit .291 with eight homers and 32 RBIs.

“Knock on wood, day in, day out, it’s not like he takes three games off,” Mike Quade said of his third baseman. “He’s been not just good but consistently good and hitting in big situations. He’s what you need in the three-, four-hole and especially if you’re not producing a lot of runs, whatever he can give you is good.”

Ramirez has been hot, batting .358 this month with eight homers and 20 RBIs. The Cubs have been a litte sluggish in eight games since the All-Star break, batting .242 with seven homers and 23 RBIs.

* Carlos Marmol struck out two batters in the eighth inning, which was a good sign.

“That was the guy I know,” Quade said Saturday.

Expect Marmol to be used in a save situation next time.

* The Cubs want to see if they need Rodrigo Lopez this weekend before announcing the starting rotation for the upcoming series against the Brewers, which starts Tuesday. Because of off days on Thursday and Monday, the Cubs didn’t need a fifth starter and Lopez was assigned to the bullpen. One pitcher who will face the Brewers will be Ryan Dempster, who has a 15-3 career record against them.

— Carrie Muskat

7/23 Cubs lineup

Reed Johnson and Jeff Baker are in the Cubs lineup against Astros lefty Wandy Rodriguez on Saturday. Here’s the lineup:

RF Johnson

SS Castro

3B Ramirez

1B Baker

C Soto

CF Byrd

LF Soriano

2B Barney

P Wells

— Carrie Muskat

7/22 Extra bases

With Friday’s win over the Astros, Carlos Zambrano now is 5-0 with a 1.62 ERA in his last eight starts against Houston at Wrigley. He has 16 wins against the Astros.

* Aramis Ramirez is batting .378 with 25 runs, eight doubles, 13 homers and 27 RBIs in his last 26 games since June 24. He has 247 doubles, seven shy of tying Wildfire Schulte for 14th on the team’s all-time list. He also hit his 231st homer, and now is tied for sixth on the team’s all-time list with Gabby Hartnett.

* Alfonso Soriano’s homer was his 15th and ended a 0-for-18 skid. It was his first since June 19. Has he been pressing?

“Not really,” Soriano said. “I’ve been thinking too much about the situation. We expected to play better and I think I was playing with a little frustration. It’s good we had a day off yesterday and I tried to not think about the situation and tried to do my job.”

* The Cubs should top 2 million fans on Saturday. They have drawn 1,993,067 so far to Wrigley Field in 54 home dates.

— Carrie Muskat