May 2013

5/25 Cubs lineup

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:

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

5/24 Reds 7, Cubs 4

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

5/24 Feldman hits 1st home run

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

5/24 Extra bases

* 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

5/24 Jackson needs to throw with conviction

Edwin Jackson never imagined he’d go 1-7 with a 6.11 ERA in his first 10 starts with the Cubs. Manager Dale Sveum wants to see Jackson throw with more conviction, and be full velocity, full game mode from the first pitch. That seemed to be part of the problem on Thursday against the Pirates. Jackson has said he’s not pressing because of his contract, his first long-term deal with a team.

“You’ve got a commitment there, you’ve got to stick with the commitment and coach them and teach,” Sveum said of Jackson, who signed a four-year, $52 million deal this offseason. “It’s not like he’s a kid. He’s a veteran player. Sometimes you just have to do it yourself. People play in the big leagues a long time. Sometimes you just have to do the things to get better yourself.”

It’s up to Jackson to make the changes.

“We can coach and do a lot of things but it still comes down to the individual making these adjustments to get over a hump and get through a slump,” Sveum said.

There has been no talk about taking Jackson out of the rotation.

“It’s a long season,” Sveum said. “There’s still another 20 plus starts there to fix this and get it going.”

Is it puzzling to see Jackson struggle?

“You could look at some other big time starters in baseball — the [Mark] Buehrles in the world — there are some big boys out there struggling,” Sveum said. “That’s why, in the long run, at the end of the year, hopefully that media guide doesn’t lie.”

— Carrie Muskat

5/24 Cubs lineup

Alfonso Soriano will get Friday off with Ryan Sweeney in the lineup and starting in left for the Cubs as they open a three-game series against the Reds at Great American Ball Park. Here’s the lineup:

DeJesus CF
Castro SS
Rizzo 1B
Sweeney LF
Schierholtz RF
Valbuena 3B
Navarro C
Barney 2B
Feldman p

* Feldman is 4-0 with a 1.27 ERA in his last five starts, holding the opponent to a .192 batting average. Prior to this five-start stretch, Feldman was 0-3 with a 4.50 ERA in three outings with opponents batting .263 (15-for-57). Since April 26, Feldman’s 1.27 ERA ranks fourth in the NL behind only the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw (0.68), the Nationals’ Jordan Zimmermann (0.91) and Diamondbacks’ Patrick Corbin (1.25). Feldman’s seven unearned runs allowed this season rank tied for third-most in the Majors. The Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg has surrendered a Major-League high nine unearned runs.

5/24 Minor matters

Chris Rusin threw six shutout innings, striking out four and scattering six hits, in Iowa’s 4-0 win over Las Vegas. Logan Watkins hit his fourth home run, a two-run shot, and Josh Vitters had two hits.

Arismendy Alcantara hit his sixth home run to help Tennessee beat Huntsville, 2-0. Kyle Hendricks got the win, throwing seven shutout innings. He struck out seven and gave up three hits.

Zach Cates served up four runs on eight hits over five innings in Daytona’s 8-4 loss to Jupiter. John Andreoli had three hits and scored two runs, and Dustin Geiger notched his eighth multi-hit game of the season as well as his 40th RBIs.

Dillon Maples gave up eight runs (five earned) on six hits over 3 2/3 innings in Kane County’s 9-8, 14-inning loss to Peoria. The Cougars led 8-4 in the fourth. Albert Almora went 4-for-7 with two doubles and scored a run in his second game. Jeimer Candelario had two hits and four RBIs.

5/23 Pirates 4, Cubs 2

Edwin Jackson needed the rain to come a little earlier on Thursday. Jackson was limited to three innings before nature intervened and delayed the Cubs’ game against the Pirates nearly two hours. Pittsburgh had scored all it needed by then as Andrew McCutchen hit a pair of RBI singles to post a 4-2 victory over Chicago.

With the win, the Pirates completed the sweep and improved to 14-6 in May. The Cubs, on the other hand, have lost five of their last six games.

Jackson had struggled with one bad inning in previous starts, and the Pirates got to him quickly. Starling Marte led off with an infield single that Starlin Castro knocked down, then stole second and scored on Andrew McCutchen’s single. McCutchen swiped second as Garrett Jones struck out, and Neil Walker walked to set up Michael McKenry’s RBI single.

With two outs in the Pirates second, Marte reached on another infield single that deflected off Jackson, then scored on Travis Snider’s triple. McCutchen made it 4-0 with an RBI single.

David DeJesus doubled to open the Cubs fourth against Jeanmar Gomez, moved up on Castro’s single and scored when Anthony Rizzo hit into a fielder’s choice. One out later, Nate Schierholtz was safe on a fielding error by Jones, and then the rain halted play for 1 hour 47 minutes. Pinch-hitter Ryan Sweeney added a two-out, RBI single in the Chicago seventh.

The Cubs are used to close games; they’ve now had 40 of their 46 games decided by four runs or less.

— Carrie Muskat

5/23 Cubs help tornado victims

* Double-A Tennessee will join outfielder Ty Wright in his efforts to raise funds for the victims. The Smokies will hold several events throughout the current homestand with proceeds going to the American Red Cross relief efforts for the Oklahoma tornado victims.

“After watching the coverage of the tornado, it was tragic to see,” Wright said. “I played baseball for Oklahoma State for four years and Oklahoma is like a second home to me.”

The Smokies will donate $10 for every hit they collect during their current five-game series. On Saturday, the Smokies will hold a memorabilia auction on the concourse, featuring signed memorabilia from the team, the Cubs, and other Minor and Major League teams with 100 percent of those proceeds going to disaster relief and the Red Cross. Former Smokies Darwin Barney, Andrew Cashner and Tyler Colvin have all pledged to donate items to the auction.

The Smokies will present the American Red Cross a check, on Wright’s behalf, prior to Monday’s game.

* Cubs outfielder David DeJesus announced a “mystery ball” event on Wednesday at Wrigley Field to raise money for victims of the Oklahoma tornadoes. Tickets are $40 per ball, and all proceeds will go to the families affected by the deadly storm. The Cubs play host to the White Sox in an Interleague game that day.

* Triple-A Iowa also is chipping in. The Iowa Cubs front office and a group of the players’ wives and girlfriends will hold a memorabilia auction on Friday during the game against the Oklahoma City RedHawks, and all proceeds will be donated to the Oklahoma City Red Cross.Fans will have a chance to bid on autographed jerseys, baseballs, bats, and various other equipment in the concourse at Principal Park in Des Moines. The silent auction will start when the gates open at 5:35 p.m. CT, and run into the middle of Friday’s game.

— Carrie Muskat

5/23 Cubs vs. Reds

The Cubs open a three-game series against the Reds on Friday. Here are the pitching matchups:

Friday: RHP Scott Feldman (4-3, 2.19) vs. RHP Bronson Arroyo (4-4, 3.28)
Saturday: LHP Travis Wood (4-2, 2.24) vs. RHP Homer Bailey (2-3, 3.09)
Sunday: RHP Matt Garza (0-0, 0.00) vs. RHP Johnny Cueto (2-0, 3.22)

* If you’re looking ahead to the Cubs vs. White Sox Interleague series, Chicago will go with Jeff Samardzija on Monday, Edwin Jackson on Tuesday, Feldman on Wednesday and Wood on Thursday.