April 2013

4/23 Cubs lineup

Cody Ransom gets his first start of the season on Tuesday when the Cubs face the Reds and lefty Tony Cingrani at Great American Ball Park. Here’s the lineup:

Sappelt CF
Castro SS
Rizzo 1B
Soriano LF
Castillo C
Hairston RF
Ransom 3B
Barney 2B
Villanueva P

4/23 Extra bases

* David DeJesus’ leadoff home run Monday was the 13th of his career.

* Starlin Castro singled in the third to extend his hitting streak to 14 games, tops in the Major Leagues and matching his career high.

* Carlos Marmol threw two scoreless innings, and now has six straight scoreless outings dating to April 8.

* Luis Valbuena has hit safely in nine of his last 13 games.

* Cubs starting pitchers rank third in the NL with a 3.11 ERA, but they have a 3-10 record. The relievers rank 12th in the NL with a 4.86 ERA. The team is batting .147 with runners in scoring position.

* Matt Garza will make a Minor League rehab start Wednesday for Double-A Tennessee, weather permitting.

* Ian Stewart was 1-for-3 with two RBIs Monday for Triple-A Iowa, and now is 2-for-20 in six games.

* On Tuesday, Carlos Villanueva faces Tony Cingrani at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.

— Carrie Muskat

4/22 Reds 5, Cubs 4

Every loss is tough to take, but Monday hurt a little more for the Cubs because they did nearly everything right. Cesar Izturis hit a walkoff RBI single with two outs in the 13th to spark the Reds to a 5-4 come from behind victory over the Cubs, who had taken a two-run lead in the top of the inning on Luis Valbuena’s two-run home run.

“We battled all game,” Travis Wood said. “They’re a good ballclub over there and their guys did what they needed to do to pull out a win.”

Valbuena connected off Alfredo Simon in the 13th, scoring Welington Castillo, who had reached second on an error by third baseman Todd Frazier. For once, it looked as if the Cubs’ could capitalize on another team’s mistakes.

But Xavier Paul singled to lead off the Reds’ 13th against Michael Bowden, and advanced to third on a double by Brandon Phillips that right fielder Dave Sappelt missed.

“In my mind, I knew I had to make a web gem to win the game,” Sappelt said. “I came up short.”

Paul and Phillips both scored on Jay Bruce’s double into the gap in right center. Did Cubs manager Dale Sveum consider walking Bruce?

“I did,” Sveum said. “I didn’t want to put the winning run on the base and he hadn’t been swinging that good anyway.”

One out later, Izturis lined a single over shortstop Starlin Castro for the game-winner.

“I’m proud of the way they played today,” Sveum said. “They had good at-bats all night long, played good defense, pitched, and came up short. [The Reds] hit the ball hard the last inning. Besides the one blooper that fell in and changed things, other than that, they swung the bats there. No walks — they swung the bats to beat us.”

The Cubs had opportunities, stranding 12 runners in the game.

“It’s hard to be down,” Wood said about the loss. “It’s easy to be down, but also hard to be down. It’s not like we’re getting blown out every game. We’re right there. We just have to come together as a team and figure out how to pull them out.”

Fifteen of the Cubs’ 18 games now have been decided by three runs or less, and the Cubs are 4-11 in those close games.

“They are tough just because you know you’re doing everything you can and for some reason the ball isn’t going our way,” Wood said. “You just have to hang in there and ride it out. Tides will turn.”

— Carrie Muskat

4/22 Sveum: We’re all accountable

The Cubs’ slow start certainly bothers manager Dale Sveum. Does he think about his job security?

“I’d be lying if I didn’t think about [myself] through some of this stuff,” Sveum said Monday. “That’s stuff you don’t have control over. I have control over my job and my coaching staff to prepare everybody every day, and that’s all I can do.”

In his second season at the helm, Sveum said he has full support from GM Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein, president of baseball operations.

On Sunday, Sveum said no one on the team was “invincible” and that the Cubs would find “options” if needed. On Monday, he said he wasn’t charging Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo with responsibility for all the mistakes.

“You guys asked me,” he said of the media’s questions. “Those guys couldn’t get sent down, and I said nobody’s exempt. They’re not the only ones [making mistakes].”

And everyone has had a part in the 5-12 start.

“Like I said, nobody’s exempt,” Sveum said. “Pointing [Castro and Rizzo] out, it doesn’t mean they’re it. … I’m not pointing fingers at them or anything, I’m just saying, hey, we’re all [accountable] in this. I’m [not] exempt [from] being fired, so is my coaching staff. We’re all in this together as a team. As coaches, manager, we try to get people better on the team.”

— Carrie Muskat

4/22 Cubs lineup

Here’s the lineup for Monday’s Cubs vs. Reds game:

DeJesus CF
Castro SS
Rizzo 1B
Soriano LF
Schierholtz RF
Castillo C
Valbuena 3B
Barney 2B
T. Wood P

4/22 Cubs vs. Reds

* On Monday, the Cubs open a three-game series against the Reds, and it will be the first head to head match up between reigning Gold Glove second baseman Darwin Barney and Cincinnati’s Brandon Phillips. Barney leads the Majors in nearly every defensive category at second base since the start of the 2012 season. He tops all ML second basemen with a .997 fielding percentage, an .852 ultimate zone rating, a 5.20 range factor per nine innings, 5.21 total chances per nine innings and 321 putouts in that span. Last season, Barney tied a ML record with 141-consecutive games at second base without making an error.

* Barney’s teammates haven’t been as successful. The Cubs rank second in the Majors with 17 errors this season, trailing only the Nationals (18). Those miscues have led to 14 unearned runs, tied with the Astros for the most in the Majors. All of the unearned runs have occurred behind the starting pitchers.

* The Cubs went 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position in three games vs. the Brewers, and now are batting .140 (17-for-127) with RISP, lowest in the Majors.

* Looking ahead, here are the pitching matchups:

Monday: LHP Travis (1-1, 1.83) vs. RHP Mike Leake (1-0, 4.26)
Tuesday: RHP Carlos Villanueva (1-0, 1.29) vs. LHP Tony Cingrani (1-0, 1.80)
Wednesday: RHP Jeff Samardzija (1-3, 3.38) vs. RHP Mat Latos (0-0, 2.73)

— Carrie Muskat

4/22 Minor matters

Brian Bogusevic extended his hitting streak to seven games, but it wasn’t enough as Iowa lost, 1-0, to Memphis on Sunday. Drew Carpenter started and did not get a decision, throwing 5 2/3 scoreless innings. He struck out six. Ian Stewart went 0-for-4, and now is 1-for-17 in five games.

Matt Szczur drove in two runs in Tennessee’s 9-6, 11-inning loss to Montgomery. Anthony Giansanti was 2-for-2 and Rubi Silva had two hits and one RBIs. Trey McNutt struck out one in two perfect innings in relief. He has held opponents scoreless in five of his six appearances.

Ryan Searle gave up five runs over four innings in Daytona’s 9-1 loss to Dunedin. Jorge Soler extended his hitting streak to 10 games, and was batting .378 overall.

Trey Martin had three hits, including a double, and drove in a run in Kane County’s 7-6 win over Peoria. Rock Shoulders had two hits, including a double, and Dan Vogelbach walked, stole a base and scored a run.

* On Wednesday, Cubs pitcher Matt Garza was scheduled to make a rehab start with Double-A Tennessee. He’s coming back from a strained left lat injured Feb. 17 during a live BP session in Spring Training.

— Carrie Muskat

4/21 Brewers 4, Cubs 2

The errors and the losses keep adding up for the Cubs, and may lead to some changes on the roster. Ryan Braun smacked a three-run home run to lift the Brewers to a 4-2 victory Sunday and complete a sweep over the mistake-prone Cubs, who committed two more miscues.

“You out-hit a team every day and you lose,” Dale Sveum said. “It doesn’t happen very often.”

The Cubs did just that, out-hitting the Brewers, 22-16, in the series, including a two-run homer by Anthony Rizzo in the third to back Scott Feldman. But Feldman also made a critical error, which led to Braun’s home run. The Cubs rank second in the Major Leagues with 17 errors, trailing the Nationals, who have committed 18.

“We keep shooting ourselves in the foot and that’s something we can’t do — I don’t think we’re good enough to be doing that,” Rizzo said of the poor defensive play. “We need to play good baseball. That’s the game of baseball, though — guys are going to make errors, and it’s not going to be the last error we make today, we’re going to make plenty more but we’re going to make plenty more good plays, too.”

In the Milwaukee fifth, Yuniesky Betancourt doubled off David DeJesus’ glove as he tried to make a leaping catch at the center-field wall. Two outs later, Jean Segura hit a comebacker to Feldman, who couldn’t get his glove on the ball for an error. Braun then followed with his home run.

“This is one of those games that falls squarely on me,” Feldman said. “If I make that play [on Segura], we’re up 2-1, and my pitch count is down. It’s just a shame I didn’t make the play. … It’s like a Little League play.”

Unfortunately, it’s not the first time the Cubs have made an error that led to a run and a loss. The Cubs were 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position, charged with six errors in the series, and now have given up 14 unearned runs over 17 games.

“Going into a season, I don’t care if you’re the best team in baseball, you’re going to have a week to 10 days that you play [sloppy] baseball,” Sveum said. “That’s a given going in. Obviously, good teams have really good streaks and long streaks. Hopefully, we’re getting this out of our system. We know this team is a lot better than we’ve played.”

The mistakes have forced Cubs starters to work even harder, dealing with the extra outs. Chicago starters have ranked among the top in the National League this season, and their combined ERA actually dropped to 3.13 after Feldman’s outing. He has failed to post a quality start in his three outings.

Before the game, Sveum said the Cubs would look for other options if play didn’t improve. It would seem that players like Castro and Rizzo were set, but Sveum didn’t exclude them.

“You have to perform,” Sveum said. “The bottom line is you have to perform.”

“You can’t think about that,” Rizzo said about the possibility of being sent down. “Everyone in here is in the big leagues and everyone wants to be in the big leagues, no one wants to go to the Minor Leagues. Whatever happens, happens.

“This team is going to have a lot more transactions throughout the year,” Rizzo said. “Guys are going to come and go, that’s part of the game. You can’t worry about getting sent down — I’ve done it before and it never works out when you think about that. You just have to go out and play.”

Castro, whose error in the fifth Saturday led to two Brewers runs, did talk to Sveum in Chicago.

“I feel bad,” Castro said of his mistakes. “Those errors make the team lose. That’s why the team is losing now because of the errors. We have to keep it together, work hard and it’s going to be all right.

“The talent is here,” Castro said. “The only thing is the whole team is trying to do too much because everybody feels bad about the way the team is playing now. That’s why everybody is trying to do too much.”

Players aren’t hiding from the mistakes.

“It’s frustrating,” Rizzo said, “but everyone is competitive and that’s why I think it’s so frustrating. We’re young and we want to win and we’re hungry to win and we just have to keep fighting and keep believing in ourselves and each other and keep the line moving when we’re at the plate and don’t try to hit a five-run home run when you just have to get the next guy up.”

— Carrie Muskat

4/21 Castro extends hit streak to 13 Gs

The hits keep coming for shortstop Starlin Castro, who singled to center with two outs in the third inning Sunday to extend his hitting streak to 13 games, the longest active streak in the National League. Castro now has eight hitting streaks of 10 or more games since the start of the 2011 season, tied with the Yankees’ Robinson Cano for the most during that stretch.

— Carrie Muskat

4/21 Sveum: “You have to perform”

Manager Dale Sveum is losing patience with the way the Cubs have played recently, and the players can understand that.

“I think everyone is losing a little patience,” Anthony Rizzo said Sunday. “Everyone needs to have fun. That’s the main thing — have fun and everything will take care of itself.”

The Cubs headed into Sunday’s series finale against the Brewers having won three of the last 13 games. They are among the Major League leaders in errors, adding three more Saturday in a 5-1 loss, and also have the lowest batting average in the Majors with runners in scoring position. They’re wasting solid starting pitching. Chicago’s starters have a 3.19 ERA, fifth-lowest in the National League.

The errors are both physical and mental, and are a surprise after how well the Cubs played in Spring Training, Sveum said.

“Some of these errors, they look physical but they’re maybe a lack of awareness at the time or the situation at hand or they’re trying to be too quick, or sometimes we don’t have enough aggressiveness on balls or whatever it is,” said Sveum, whose voice was hoarse after his argument with an umpire Friday that resulted in being ejected. “Sometimes defense is a rhythm and we’re obviously not in any kind of defensive rhythm. Just like offense can be contagious, defense can, too.

“From top to bottom, we did outstanding in Spring Training, so to start out like this is obviously disappointing,” Sveum said. “The bad thing is we’re not picking each other up after these things happen.”

“We’re not overcoming our mistakes,” Sveum said. “Good teams overcome those mistakes. A guy gets a ground ball double play and nobody thinks about what just happened.”

Rizzo was charged with an error Friday and bobbled a ball on Saturday.

“We’ve got to make those plays and I think people are maybe putting too much pressure on themselves to make the plays,” Rizzo said. “It’s a long season and we need to start having more fun. Everyone says we’re young — let’s play and have fun like we’re young, too. Take it one pitch at a time.”

Sveum said they can make changes if players don’t perform.

“You find options,” he said. “If people keep playing like that, you have to find options and give people playing time in Triple-A to figure this stuff out.”

He’s looking for more consistency, game-changing plays, and better performance on the field.

“You have to perform,” Sveum said. “The bottom line is you have to perform. Whether they need more development, you decide all those kind of things.”

And no one, he said, is invincible.

“It’s not about what we think can happen in three, four years from now,” Sveum said. “Guys who have played a lot of baseball, it’s time to perform on a consistent basis. Not a good game, and then three bad ones, that’s not what we want. That’s why there is player development. Guys are rushed to the big leagues, and sometimes you see a lot of this stuff happen. That’s why it’s very important to play 500 Minor League games.”

— Carrie Muskat