7/3 Extra bases
* The Cubs have reached the halfway point in the season, posting a 35-46 record in the first 81 games, a slight improvement over last year’s 31-50 record at the midpoint. They have hit 20 more home runs at this point compared to last year (87 vs. 67) and have scored 39 more runs (337 to 298). The team ERA of 3.97 is nearly a half run lower than last year’s 4.37 ERA through 81 games. Cubs starting pitchers have a 3.82 ERA through 81 games this season after posting a 4.32 ERA at this point last year, while the bullpen has a 4.32 ERA through 81 games this year, lower than the 4.47 ERA through 81 games last year.
How does manager Dale Sveum assess the team at the midway point?
“The two areas most glaring are obviously, the bullpen and closing games out after having all these leads fater the sixth, seventh, eighth innings,” Sveum said. “We’ve got to clean that up somehow and win those ballgames that we put ourselves in a position to win.
“The offense is coming around a little bit and we’re getting a little better with men in scoring position,” he said. “Our two biggest problems have been men in scoring position and closing things with the bullpen.”
The Cubs are tied for third lowest batting average in the Major Leagues with runners in scoring position.
* Carlos Villanueva began the season in the Cubs rotation and could find himself back there by the All-Star break. The right-hander pitched 2 2/3 innings on Tuesday, and will continue to be stretched out. The Cubs do not have a starter set for Sunday against the Pirates, and could have Villanueva start and then get support from the bullpen. If the Cubs need Villanueva before Sunday, then they’ll likely have to make a roster move and call someone up from the Minor Leagues. Villanueva, whose last start was May 14, has posted a 2.04 ERA in 16 games in relief.
* Wednesday was a tough day for Sveum who had to tell Shawn Camp that he was designated for assignment. Sveum called the right-hander the MVP of the first half last year when Camp compiled a 2.80 ERA in 43 games.
“Unfortunately, we had to outright Camp, which obviously wasn’t my finest day as a manager,” Sveum said. “It was tough because Camp did so much for me my first year as manager and God knows where we would’ve been last year without him. Those days are tough when a guy’s a great guy and obviously done a lot for you. He did a lot for me when I was managing in Double-A. We go way back. It was a tough day today.”
— Carrie Muskat