June 2012

6/19 Cubs lineup

Bryan LaHair is in right field again and David DeJesus in center in Tuesday’s second game against the White Sox. Travis Wood is pitching. Here’s the lineup:

DeJesus CF

Castro SS

LaHair RF

Soriano DH

Clevenger 1B

Barney 2B

Valbuena 3B

Soto C

Campana LF

– Carrie Muskat

6/18 Extra bases

The Cubs set season highs in runs (12), hits (15) and home runs (five) in Monday’s 12-3 win over the White Sox. They also tied a season high with six runs in the seventh. They also hit five home runs against the White Sox on July 2, 2006.

“That was obviously, no doubt, our best offensive production of the year — slugging percentage, quality at-bats, hitting the fastball, taking advantage of all the mistakes they made throughout the whole lineup,” Dale Sveum said. “I think everybody had a pretty good day today, one way or another.”

* Bryan LaHair was hitting .323 with nine home runs and 18 RBIs on the road. LaHair made his first start in the outfield, starting in right. He was tested almost immediately. Gordon Beckham lined a ball to right in the first and LaHair grabbed it on the run.

“I kind of had a feeling I was going to get a ball early in the game,” LaHair said. “It always works that way. I got a good read and got a good jump and took a good angle and was able to make the play.”

* Alfonso Soriano has four home runs and 10 RBIs as the Cubs designated hitter, which are highs for the franchise. It’s a shame they couldn’t play the Tigers in Detroit and the Red Sox in Boston. He’s hitting .363 with five homers and 10 RBIs in an eight-game hitting streak.

* Starlin Castro tied a season high with three hits, and recorded back to back three-hit games for the second time in his career. The shortstop had been in a little funk at the start of the month. What changed?

“Probably his average dropping under .300,” Sveum said. “I’ve noticed a lot of good hitters, when that average gets below .300, I think they start turning it up a notch.”

– Carrie Muskat

6/18 Soto activated

Geovany Soto was activated from the 15-day disabled list Monday and Welington Castillo optioned to Triple-A Iowa. Soto has been sidelined since mid May after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.

“I had a good week down there and was in plenty of games,” said Soto, who was 3-for-16 (.188) in five games with two doubles.

Soto was batting .161 when he was sidelined with the knee injury, which he felt May 16.

“I had a lot of at-bats [in Iowa] and tried to find myself and I think we’re on the right track,” Soto said.

The Cubs had talked about keeping three catchers, but decided Castillo needs regular at-bats to develop. Steve Clevenger is the backup catcher, although he started at first base on Monday.

– Carrie Muskat

6/18 Cubs making room for Rizzo

Dale Sveum called Bryan LaHair Monday morning to give him a heads up. LaHair was going to start in right field for the first time this season, which means first baseman Anthony Rizzo’s arrival may be soon. Rizzo was batting .364 and leading the Pacific Coast League with 23 home runs at Triple-A Iowa, hitting a two-run shot in the seventh inning on Sunday. The Cubs have said they don’t want to rush Rizzo and they are sticking to a plan but Sveum keeps checking his email to get daily updates on the young first baseman.

“Obviously, LaHair playing right field is something that might eventually happen,” Sveum said. “There’s a day when Rizzo is going to be here so this is getting him acclimated to the outfield, too.”

When? Neither Sveum nor Theo Epstein will say. Last year, Rizzo was batting .365 with 16 home runs at Triple-A Tucson when he was promoted to the Padres, and he struggled, batting .143. He’s made some adjustments this year, which include lowering his hands, and has wowed anyone who sees him. Epstein wants to make sure the timing is right.

“You have to look at what happened last year,” Epstein said Monday. “He had great numbers and was rushed a little bit and came up and struggled so its important to put players in position to succeed, and always put your Major League club in position to succeed. You see with the lineup tonight we might be taking a look at players in different positions to allow the team to be in a position to succeed when we do potentially make a move. Those things you don’t want to rush into, there’s more to development than numbers.”

– Carrie Muskat

6/18 Dempster to DL

Ryan Dempster was placed on the 15-day disabled on Monday with right lat tightness. The Cubs have decided to take a conservative approach. Dempster is riding a 22 scoreless inning streak.

– Carrie Muskat

6/18 Cubs lineup

Bryan LaHair gets his first outfield start. Here’s the lineup vs. White Sox:

DeJesus CF

Castro SS

LaHair RF

Soriano DH

Clevenger 1B

Barney 2B

Valbuena 3B

Soto C

Campana LF

– Carrie Muskat

6/18 Minor League report

Anthony Rizzo hit a two-run homer in the seventh to lift Iowa to a 3-2 win over Albuquerque on Sunday. Rizzo is batting .364. Chris Volstad started and gave up two runs on seven hits over six innings, while striking out six. He’s now 2-1 with a 4.78 ERA.

Trey McNutt gave up five runs on nine hits over 5 2/3 innings in Tennessee’s 5-3 loss to Birmingham. Junior Lake and Elliot Soto each had three hits.

Daytona returns to action Monday, facing Tampa. Robert Whitenack was scheduled to start.

Michael Jensen gave up two runs on six hits over six innings in Peoria’s 10-5 win over Clinton. Paul Hoilman hit his sixth home run and had four RBIs.

South African pitcher Tayler Scott threw five shutout innings in his first pro start but it wasn’t enough as Boise lost 4-3 to Salem-Keizer. Scott struck out four and gave up three hits. Shawon Dunston Jr. had two hits, the first two of his pro career.

– Carrie Muskat

6/17 Sunday night baseball

* The Cubs did rally in the ninth, but came up short Sunday night in a 7-4 loss to the Red Sox.

“The thing that’s going on all year long is we get into close ballgames and something breaks down,” Dale Sveum said. “We can’t score if it’s close or we just can’t make a pitch when it’s close to hold them or shut them down to get the game into extra innings. We’ve got to be better at those things — somebody stepping up and getting a big hit when it counts, not when we’re four or five runs down.”

* Paul Maholm is 0-3 with a 5.59 ERA in his last seven starts. He gave up two runs in the first, and now has an 8.31 ERA in the first inning this season.

* Reed Johnson is batting .366 in his last 28 games dating to May 11.

* Now, the Cubs head eight miles south to U.S. Cellular Field to renew their intracity Interleague series against the White Sox.

“It’ll be loud and rowdy,” Johnson said. “That’s the atmosphere you want, especially now when you’re struggling as a team. You go into a place and know there will be a packed house and it makes it easier to concentrate than when you’re playing in an empty stadium. It’ll be a good series and I think we’re playing good baseball. It seems like we can’t do those little things to finish off a ballgame. We need to get better doing those things and those ballgames will start falling our way.”

–  Carrie Muskat

6/17 Minor League report – Saturday’s games

Josh Vitters was 4-for-4 and Brett Jackson hit a RBI double in Iowa’s 9-1 loss to Albuquerque on Saturday. Chris Rusin took the loss, giving up eight runs on nine hits over 3 1/3 innings. Jackson is batting .264, while Vitters is batting .277.

Rebel Ridling hit his eighth homer in Tennessee’s 2-1 win over Birmingham. Eric Jokisch did not get a decision, giving up one run on four hits over six innings.

Daytona’s Austin Kirk threw one scoreless inning and Nelson Perez hit a RBI double for the North All-Stars but it wasn’t enough as the South team won, 6-3, in the Florida State League All-Star Game.

Peoria’s game against Clinton was suspended and later canceled Saturday. The two teams played a doubleheader Sunday.

Roderick “Rock” Shoulders hit his first pro homer and Wilson Contreras also connected for Class A Boise in a 7-4 loss to Salem-Keizer. James Pugliese gave up three runs on six hits over five innings.

– Carrie Muskat

6/17 Feeling left out

The Cubs will see three right-handed pitchers in the upcoming Interleague series against the White Sox, which is a good thing. They are having a tough time against lefties. Chicago entered Sunday’s game 3-14 against left-handed starters and batting .224 against southpaws, third lowest in the National League.

“It’s almost a fluke,” Dale Sveum said. “Coming into the season, I thought that would be one of our strong points.”

He thought that because of players like Jeff Baker, who batted .314 against lefties last season but is hitting .244 this year.

“It’s not that they’re doing horrible but we’re not getting the slugging percentage at all against left-handed pitching which is holding us back from scoring multiple runs in an inning,” Sveum said.

On Saturday against Boston lefty Jon Lester, the only player to do damage was the only lefty in the lineup, Luis Valbuena, who hit a three-run homer.

– Carrie Muskat

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