May 2013

5/26 DeJesus: We have to keep working

Cubs players gave each other a little pep talk during a recent team meeting on this road trip. The topic? Be patient at the plate, work the count, have good at-bats.

“The team came together and we had a little meeting about our approaches at the plate,” David DeJesus said. “We just have to stay with [the approach] and trust it. If one at-bat goes bad, don’t just throw it away — just keep going. It’s going to work in your favor. Just keep trusting it.”

The season hasn’t gone the way the Cubs expected, and the players talked about that, too.

“We’re saying, ‘It’s a long year, we have plenty of games left, but we have to keep battling and can’t give up just because we have a couple bad outcomes,'” DeJesus said. “We can’t throw away what we’ve worked on since Spring Training. You have to go up there and have the same approach every at-bat,” he said. “You can’t just go up there swinging. We have to keep working and keep understanding.”

— Carrie Muskat

5/26 Cubs lineup

No changes in the lineup for Sunday’s series finale in Cincinnati. Matt Garza takes the mound for the second time since coming off the DL.

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

5/26 Minor matters

Brooks Raley struck out six and gave up two earned runs over 6 1/3 innings in Iowa’s 7-3 win over Oklahoma City. Edwin Maysonet hit a two-run homer and Brian Bogusevic had three hits. Casey Coleman converted his first save, throwing 2 2/3 scoreless innings.

Arismendy Alcantara hit his seventh home run but it wasn’t enough as Tennessee lost, 7-2, to Huntsville. Alberto Cabrera took the loss.

Kyler Burke gave up one hit over five scoreless innings in Daytona’s 5-4 win over Lakeland. Tim Saunders had two hits, including his first home run.

Albert Almora had three hits in Kane County’s 4-3 win over Beloit in the first game of a doubleheader. Rock Shoulders hit two home runs in the second game, a 7-4 win. Shoulders is batting .289. Dan Vogelbach had two hits and is batting .291.

5/26 Cubs vs. White Sox

The Cubs return to Interleague action on Monday when they face their intracity rivals, the White Sox, at U.S. Cellular Field. This year, the Cubs and White Sox will play a four-game, home-and-away series back to back rather than six games. The Cubs are 2-1 in three games against the AL so far, with 14 Interleague games remaining, including 10 against AL West opponents.

* The Cubs own a 109-128 (.460) all-time record in Interleague play, dating to 1997.

* Here are the pitching matchups for Cubs vs. White Sox:

Monday: RHP Jeff Samardzija (2-6, 3.25) vs. LHP Jose Quintana (3-1, 3.48)
Tuesday: RHP Edwin Jackson (1-7, 6.11) vs. LHP Chris Sale (5-2, 2.53)
Wednesday: RHP Scott Feldman (4-4, 2.80) vs. LHP John Danks (0-0, 4.50)
Thursday: LHP Travis Wood (4-3, 2.73) vs. RHP Jake Peavy (6-2, 2.97)

* The Cubs will play Tuesday at U.S. Cellular Field and Wednesday at Wrigley Field, marking the first time they’ll play the same team in different ballparks on consecutive days since April 1990. In that year, the Cubs and Mets played at Wrigley Field, April 16, followed by a game at Shea Stadium the next day. The game played at Wrigley was a make-up game because of the lockout of 1990.

— Carrie Muskat

5/25 Reds 5, Cubs 2

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

5/25 Anthony Rizzo UPDATE

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

5/25 Extra bases

* 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

5/25 Rizzo working through hitting funk

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

5/25 Travis Wood

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.

5/25 Minor matters

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.