June 2013

6/23 Cubs vs. Brewers

After an off day Monday, the Cubs begin a nine-game road trip Tuesday in Milwaukee. The trip will include Interleague games in Seattle and Oakland. Here are the pitching matchups against the Brewers:

Tuesday: RHP Edwin Jackson (3-9, 5.49) vs. RHP Kyle Lohse (2-6, 3.68)
Wednesday: RHP Scott Feldman (6-6, 3.39) vs. RHP Yovani Gallardo (6-6, 4.09)
Thursday: RHP Matt Garza (2-1, 4.25) vs. RHP Wily Peralta (5-8, 5.59)

6/23 Cubs lineup

The Cubs will close their brief homestand Sunday against the Astros. A win would give the Cubs their first series victory at home since taking both games of a two-game set against the White Sox, May 29-30. The Cubs are 0-3 in their last three home series after going 3-1-1 in five series at Wrigley Field from May 6-30
Here’s the lineup:

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

6/22 Stewart’s back; Clevenger, Jackson hurt

Third baseman Ian Stewart was reinstated from the suspended list, and rejoined the Cubs’ Triple-A Iowa on Saturday. The Minor League team also placed outfielder Brett Jackson on the disabled list with a right calf strain, and outfielder Jae-Hoon Ha was promoted from Double-A Tennessee.

On Friday, the Cubs traded infielder Brent Lillibridge to the Yankees for a player to be named later or cash considerations, and on Saturday, left-handed reliever Hisanori Takahashi was dealt to the Rockies for a player to be named later or cash considerations. Both began the season with the Major League team.

Stewart was suspended 10 games for violating the loyalty clause in his contract after he made disparaging comments about the Cubs and manager Dale Sveum on Twitter. He last played June 11 at Oklahoma City, and was batting .168 (19-for-113) with six doubles, five home runs, and 20 RBIs in 40 games before he was suspended.

Jackson was batting .223 with seven doubles, three homers, and 23 RBIs in 61 games. He had an earlier stint on the DL with turf toe.

Ha joins Iowa after batting .284 with one homer, 14 RBIs, and eight stolen bases in 28 games with the Smokies.

The Cubs also announced that catcher Steve Clevenger, whose Minor League rehab assignment was to end Saturday, was experiencing some tightness in his oblique area. Clevenger will rest, and then be re-evaluated by the Cubs’ medical staff. In 15 games, he batted .327 with five doubles, three home runs, and 11 RBIs.

– Carrie Muskat

6/22 Astros 4, Cubs 3

Before Saturday’s game, Cubs manager Dale Sveum joked that if he didn’t have to meet with the media post-game, he might have a chance to see the Blackhawks play in the Stanley Cup Final. As it turns out, the team could’ve spared him, and replayed quotes from past losses. Once again, the Cubs wasted a solid effort by one of their starting pitchers and missed scoring opportunities in a 4-3 loss to the Astros. J.D. Martinez hit a game-tying three-run homer in the sixth and Justin Maxwell scored the go-ahead run on a squeeze in the ninth inning to even the Interleague series in front of 38,870 at Wrigley Field.

“It’s a broken record,” Sveum said. “We can’t seem to get that hit to bust the game open in those situations. We get guys on and we just can’t get them in.”

With the game tied at 3 in the ninth against Kevin Gregg, Maxwell doubled to lead off and moved up on Matt Dominguez’s sacrifice. Ronny Cedeno then bunted toward first, and Maxwell sprinted home with the game-winning run. It was only the fourth time in 25 games that Gregg has given up a run.

The Cubs had a chance in the eighth. With one out, Alfonso Soriano doubled and Anthony Rizzo was intentionally walked. Soriano was then picked off at second on a close play, although it appeared that he got his hand on the base before the tag. Second base umpire David Rackley called Soriano out. The Cubs didn’t agree.

“I know it’s not an easy job they have, but when I get mad at something they call, it’s because I’m 100 percent [sure] I have the right call,” Soriano said. “I knew I was safe. It’s part of the game. I have a lot of respect for the umpires. He called me out and I got mad because I knew I was safe.”

The Cubs then loaded the bases, and Darwin Barney thought he had drawn a walk on a 3-1 pitch but instead home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi called a strike. Jose Cisnero then got Barney to fly out to center to end the inning.

“Soriano is safe at second so there’s a run, and the guy’s throwing the ball all over the place and Barney takes a 3-1 pitch and it’s eight inches inside, and instead it’s a pop up and an out,” Sveum said. “It’s a shame.”

Nate Schierholtz set a career high with his 10th home run and Luis Valbuena hit a two-run single for the Cubs, now 7-3 against American League teams this year. Travis Wood picked up his 14th quality start, most in the Major Leagues, but the lefty couldn’t snap a personal three-game losing streak.

Cubs starters now have posted quality starts in seven of the last nine games, and have won five of those nine games. The team also is 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position over the last four games, and batting .167 with RISP in the last 15.

“The whole year has been like that,” Soriano said. “We don’t get the big hit when we need it. It’s a little frustrating but we have to forget this game today and come back tomorrow and win the series tomorrow.”

– Carrie Muskat

6/22 Minor matters

Friday’s games

Logan Watkins, Junior Lake and Brad Nelson each homered to help Iowa beat Nashville, 5-4, in the first game of a doubleheader. Guillermo Moscoso gave up four runs on seven hits over six innings for the win. In the second game, Watkins and Lake homered again, as did Donnie Murphy and Brian Bogusevic in a 8-6 win. Steve Clevenger was behind the plate, and went 0-for-2 in the 15th game of his rehab assignment. He’s batting .327. Casey Coleman converted his third save.

Arismendy Alcantara hit his 10th home run to help Tennessee beat Chattanooga, 8-7. Matt Szczur had two hits and Anthony Giansanti drove in two runs.

Dustin Geiger hit a RBI double but it wasn’t enough as Daytona lost, 3-1, to Dunedin.

Tayler Scott gave up two runs on 11 hits over five innings in Kane County’s 4-2 loss to Quad Cities. Gioskar Amaya and Carlos Escobar each had two hits.

Yasiel Balaguert hit a three-run homer and Kevin Encarnacion added a solo shot in Boise’s 4-1 win over Spokane. Paul Blackburn gave up one unearned run over five innings, but did not get a decision. He has not given up an earned run in 10 innings.

Mesa opened its season with a win over the Diamondbacks, 6-4. Erick Castillo, Guiseppe Papaccio and Zak Blair each had two hits. Castillo drove in two runs.

6/22 Extra bases

* David DeJesus says he’s making progress in his rehab from a sprained shoulder suffered in a crash into the outfield wall at Citi Field. He collided with the center field wall June 14 trying to catch a ball, but ended up with a sprained right shoulder, and was placed on the disabled list the next day. He’s replayed the video of his crash a few times. He also was happy to not need surgery after the freak accident.

“It’s going to take it’s time to heal,” DeJesus said. “When it starts getting better, we’ll move into baseball stuff. Right now, we’re getting more movement and it’s a positive thing. It’s progressing the right way.”

Could he return before the All-Star break?

“We’re not putting a timetable on anything,” DeJesus said. “We’ll see how it goes. It’s tough just sitting here watching the games. I understand it’s a process and I don’t want to go out there and get back on the [disabled list] again. I want it to be healthy enough to go hard and get back out there and grind the rest of the season out with the guys.”

* The Cubs will likely make a roster move prior to the start of a six-game road stretch against American League teams. Chicago will play in Seattle and in Oakland, starting Tuesday. The Cubs are currently carrying eight relievers, and were expected to add another position player before the trip west.

* Kevin Gregg has 11 straight successful save chances to begin the season, the second-longest for a Cubs reliever, surpassed only by Randy Myers, who saved his first 13 chances to open the 1993 campaign.

* A group of 24 kids, ages 7-14, will participate Sunday in the Chicago Cubs championship of the 2013 MLB Pitch, Hit and Run (PHR) program presented by Scotts, at Wrigley Field. The top three scores in each age and gender group out of all 30 MLB Team Championships will advance to the PHR National Finals held at Citi Field in New York City during MLB All-Star Week. Pitch, Hit and Run provides youth with the chance to demonstrate their skills and advance through four levels of competition, beginning at the local level.

– Carrie Muskat

6/22 Garza and Navarro

In his last two starts, Matt Garza has given up one earned run over 15 innings. Dioner Navarro was his catcher both games, but Cubs manager Dale Sveum doesn’t want to play favorites. In Garza’s five previous starts, Welington Castillo was behind the plate, and the pitcher was 1-1 with a 6.26 ERA. The right-hander was roughed up in his last outing with Castillo on June 11, giving up nine runs over five innings.

“I’m not going to sit here and say [Navarro] is his personal catcher,” Sveum said Saturday. “It worked out that way. I really wanted ‘Welly’ to catch all four games in St. Louis to kind of just be involved with [Yadier Molina], the best catcher in baseball, to see the similarities, to compete against the best guy in baseball because we want ‘Welly’ to get to that level, or somewhat near it. I really wanted him to play those four games against the Cardinals, so the schedule panned out to where Navarro would get [Garza].”

Sveum said he can tell Garza is comfortable with Navarro. The two were teammates in Tampa from 2008-10. But Sveum doesn’t like the idea of a personal catcher because it sends a bad message to Castillo, who the Cubs consider their No. 1 guy. The Cubs also want Garza to perform at his best.

“When a guy’s on the mound, no matter what, it’s still whatever you want to call it, it’s his game,” Sveum said. “That’s why starting pitching is where everything starts at and you still want those guys to be comfortable.”

If Castillo continues to work four days on, one off, it seems that Navarro will be matched up again with Garza for his next start in Milwaukee.

“I’m not going to lie to you and say it’s not a thought [to pair them together], but only if it works out,” Sveum said. “I’m not going to put [Navarro] in there for that reason.”

Garza can work with other catchers. When he threw his no-hitter July 26, 2010, for the Rays against the Tigers, Kelly Shoppach was the catcher.

– Carrie Muskat

6/22 Did you know …

Friday’s game was the first time in the Cubs’ 98 seasons at Wrigley Field in which both teams combined to score at least four runs and all the runs were on solo home runs. That’s according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The Cubs had solo homers by Anthony Rizzo, Darwin Barney and Scott Hairston, and Chris Carter hit a solo shot for the Astros.

6/22 Cubs lineup

Travis Wood has been the most consistent of all the Cubs starters, and he’ll be on the mound today when the team plays host to the Astros at Wrigley Field. Here’s the lineup vs. Houston right-hander Bud Norris:

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

6/21 Cubs 3, Astros 1

Matt Garza’s Spring Training is finally over. The Cubs right-hander, who began the year on the disabled list and didn’t make his first start until May 21, held the Astros to one run over eight plus innings in a 3-1 rain-delayed Interleague victory Friday.

Anthony Rizzo belted a monster leadoff home run in the fourth, Darwin Barney had three hits and needed a triple to complete the cycle, and Scott Hairston added a solo shot in the sixth to power the Cubs, now 7-2 against American League teams this year.

Garza set season highs in innings pitched and strikeouts, and posted his third quality start and second ina row. Among the four hits off the right-hander was a leadoff home run by Chris Carter in the seventh.

“His fastball had life and [he had] command of it, down and away, and in,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “He got his ground balls. His slider got better as the game went on. He did a great job.”

Garza may have done too well. In his last two starts, he’s given up one earned run over 15 innings. There were plenty of scouts who waited out the three hour, 18 minute rain delay at the start of the game to see the Cubs pitcher in person. The Trade Deadline isn’t that far away.

“You don’t want to lose a guy who can give up one run in his last 15 innings,” Sveum said. “Obviously, it’s a business, and that’s not part of my business.”

Garza has been rumored to be dealt his entire career. This year is no different.

“I’m looking forward to the next five days,” Garza said, staying focused on the task at hand. “I think I face Milwaukee in Milwaukee and I’ll be ready.”

He was matched up for the second straight game with catcher Dioner Navarro, who was his teammate in Tampa, rather than Welington Castillo.

“[Garza] better listen to me,” Navarro said, laughing.

Navarro then complemented Castillo for the job he’s done. Bottom line, Garza is the one on the mound.

“I’ve got nothing to do with it — he’s the one pitching and he’s the one throwing the ball,” Navarro said.

Garza missed a chance for a complete game after he walked Jose Altuve to open the ninth. Kevin Gregg took over, and closed things out for his 11th save in as many opportunities.

– Carrie Muskat

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