August 2013

8/27 No Rizzo vs. Kershaw

Anthony Rizzo is looking much better at the plate, which is why Dale Sveum didn’t want the first baseman to get out of whack against Clayton Kershaw.

“It’s just a good day,” Sveum said about giving Rizzo a breather Tuesday. “He’s swinging the bat much better now. I want to give him a few days off here and there, and this was a good one to give him off.”

Kershaw is holding left-handed hitters to a .148 batting average.

“He’s the best in the game,” Rizzo said of the Dodgers lefty. “It’d be kind of fun to face him. It’s a good day to take off. I get the day off today, play [Wednesday] and a day off the next day, so it’s a little blow.”

Right-handers aren’t having much luck against Kershaw either. They’re batting .191 this season.

“He’s the best in the game, he’s the best left-hander pitching in the game,” Rizzo said. “It’s someone I’d like to face. I’ve faced him before. I’ll just watch how he pitches, and one day I’m going to be facing him and I’ll be ready for it.”

– Carrie Muskat

8/27 Cubs lineup

If the Cubs thought Zack Greinke was tough, on Tuesday, it’ll be even tougher as they face lefty Clayton Kershaw. No Anthony Rizzo on Tuesday. The game does mark the first time in 50 seasons that a Cubs left-handed All-Star pitcher squares off against a fellow left-handed All-Star pitcher from that same season, and the first time ever after the All-Star Game took place. In 1964, Cubs lefty Dick Ellsworth twice faced fellow southpaw All-Stars: on May 14, Ellsworth faced off against the Dodgers’ Sandy Koufax and endured a 6-4, 10-inning setback at Wrigley Field. On June 23, Ellsworth tossed a complete-game, 2-0 shutout against Philadelphia’s Chris Short, also at Wrigley Field.

Here’s the lineup:

Castro SS
Barney 2B
Navarro C
Murphy 3B
Lake CF
Ransom 1B
McDonald LF
Gillespie RF
T. Wood P

8/27 Smokies in playoffs

Double-A Tennessee is headed to the playoffs for the fourth time in the last five years. The Smokies, who won the North Division in the second half, will start postseason play on Sept. 5. The best-of-five North Division Championship Series will see the Smokies face the Birmingham Barons, who won the division in the first half. The first two games of the NDCS will be held in Regions Field in Birmingham, Ala., with the final three being held at Smokies Park.

Here’s the schedule:

Game 1: Thursday, Sept. 5 at Regions Field, 8:05 p.m. ET
Game 2: Friday, Sept. 6 at Regions Field, 8:05 p.m. ET

Game 3: Saturday, Sept. 7 at Smokies Park, 6:15 p.m. ET

Game 4: (if necessary) Sunday, Sept. 8 at Smokies Park, 3:00 p.m. ET
Game 5: (if necessary) Monday, Sept. 9 at Smokies Park, 7:15 p.m. ET

8/27 Top Cubs prospects in AFL

Fans who can’t wait to see Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler play for the Cubs will have their chance in October.

Baez, Almora and Bryant, the Cubs’ first-round picks in the last three First-Year Player Drafts, will join Soler on the Mesa Solar Sox roster and participate in the Arizona Fall League, which begins play Oct. 8. Almora, limited to 61 games with Class A Kane County because of injuries, will be on Mesa’s taxi squad, and play Wednesdays and Sundays.

Other Cubs on the Mesa AFL roster include pitchers Dallas Beeler, Matt Loosen, Armando Rivero and Arodys Vizcaino. Beeler, Loosen and Rivero were pitching for Double-A Tennessee, while Vizcaino, acquired from the Braves in July 2012 in the Paul Maholm deal, has been rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.

It’s been a whirlwind summer for Bryant, the second pick overall in the June Draft. The third baseman, who led the country with 31 home runs at San Diego, began the season at short-season Boise, and batted .354 in 18 games with four home runs, eight doubles and 14 RBIs, and was promoted to Class A Daytona, where he was batting .368 in 10 games with three home runs, three doubles and nine RBIs.

“I’m very excited,” Bryant said. “I don’t much about [the AFL]. I’m new to this whole process, but I know there are lot of good players who have gone to the Fall League. I’m excited I get to continue playing baseball. The games will only help me in my development against some very good competition.”

The Cubs project Bryant, Almora, Baez and Soler to be key pieces in the team’s future. Now, they’ll be teammates.

“That’s huge,” Bryant said about being with the other prospects. “To get to play 30 plus games with these guys, it’ll only help us in the future. Hopefully, we can develop chemistry so heading into next year, we can make things easier for ourselves.”

* This will be Baez’s second turn in the AFL. Last year ended early because of a thumb injury that limited him to 14 AFL games. This season, the 20-year-old shortstop has been on fire. He batted .274 in 76 games with 17 home runs, 19 doubles and 57 RBIs at Class A Daytona, and was batting .308 with 18 home runs, 14 doubles and 48 RBIs in 48 games with Double-A Tennessee.

* Almora, 19, an outfielder, was batting .329 in 61 games with Kane County before being sidelined with a groin injury. Soler, 21, the Cuban outfielder who signed a nine-year, $30 million deal in June 2012, was limited to 55 games because of a stress fracture in his left tibia. He batted .281 with eight home runs and 13 doubles with Daytona before he was hurt.

* Beeler made nine starts at Tennessee before being sidelined in late May when he tore a tendon in the middle finger of his pitching hand.

* Loosen was 5-2 with a 1.83 ERA in nine starts with Daytona, and 2-3 with a 6.53 ERA in 15 games (13 starts) with Tennessee. On Monday, he gave up three hits over seven shutout innings in a win over Mobile.

* Rivero has pitched in relief, appearing in 18 games at Kane County, Daytona and Tennessee combined. The Cuban right-hander has given up 13 earned runs over 27 2/3 innings and struck out 43.

“We’re taking pride in what we’ve done,” said player development and scouting director Jason McLeod. “There’s a lot to be excited about, though it’s in Daytona and in Double-A. But we have the opportunity to get some [impact players] to the big leagues, guys with stuff and tools.”

– Carrie Muskat

8/27 Baez, Almora, Bryant to play in AFL

Javier Baez, Albert Almora and Kris Bryant, the Cubs’ first-round picks in the last three First-Year Player Drafts, will both participate in the Arizona Fall League, which begins play Oct. 8. Almora will be on Mesa’s taxi squad, and play Wednesdays and Sundays. Other Cubs on the Mesa AFL roster include pitchers Dallas Beeler, Matt Loosen, Armando Rivero and Arodys Vizcaino.

“It’s really exciting for us,” said Jason McLeod, Cubs senior vice president of scouting and player development. “Javier has had a great year, and he didn’t get to play as much last year in the AFL because of the injury. Kris is ready to be pushed. Soler was going to go [to make up for lost time]. Albert missed time, so he’ll go to instructs and then the taxi squad, which will be good for him.”

This will be Baez’s second turn in the AFL. Last year ended early because of an injury. This season, the shortstop batted .274 in 76 games with 17 home runs, 19 doubles and 57 RBIs at Class A Daytona, and was batting .308 with 18 home runs, 14 doubles and 48 RBIs in 48 games with Double-A Tennessee.

8/27 Minor matters

Yoanner Negrin threw his first complete game, giving up one run on six hits and striking out six to help Iowa beat Omaha, 2-1. Ty Wright had three hits, including two doubles, and one RBI.

Matt Loosen threw seven shutout innings and Javier Baez hit his 18th home run to help Tennessee beat Mobile, 6-0, and clinch the Southern League second-half title. The Smokies are headed to the playoffs for the fourth time in five years. Baez homered for the fourth time in his last six games, and finished with four RBIs. He’s batting .390 this month. Matt Szczur scored two runs.

Daytona’s game against Dunedin was suspended in the top of the fourth. The game was to be completed Tuesday.

James Pugliese gave up three runs over six innings in Kane County’s 4-2 loss to Wisconsin. Wilson Contreras had three hits and a stolen base. With the loss, the Cougars (52-76) have tied a franchise record for losses in a season set by the 1992 team that finished 61-76.

Boise moved into a three-way tie in the Northwest League South Division with a 4-3 win over Hillsboro. Kevin Encarnacion hit a solo home run, his sixth. Shawon Dunston and Dan Lockhart each drove in a run.

Mesa’s game against the Giants was cancelled because of rain.

8/27 Making progress in Mesa

Mesa0827

Mesa Mayor Scott Smith shared this photo of the Cubs’ new Spring Training facility.

8/26 AFL rosters

The Arizona Fall League will release the rosters for the 2013 season, and the Cubs will have some star players on the Mesa squad. Jorge Soler, Albert Almora and Kris Bryant are all expected to participate in the AFL, which begins Oct. 8. Soler and Almora have missed time this season because of injuries, so the extra at-bats will benefit them.

8/26 Dodgers 6, Cubs 2

The Cubs couldn’t skip Zack Greinke on Monday. Greinke hit a RBI single in the fourth and held the Cubs to five hits over 8 2/3 innings, and Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig each hit solo home runs to lead the Dodgers to a 6-2 victory for their 47th win in the last 59 games. The Cubs have now lost eight straight to the Dodgers. How good is Greinke? He struck out nine, and improved to 5-0 in five starts this month.

Jake Arrieta took the loss in his fourth start for the Cubs. The right-hander had faced the Dodgers April 21 in Baltimore while with the Orioles, giving up five runs on two hits and five walks over four innings. That was a different Dodger lineup, without Puig, who joined the team in June, or Ramirez, who was injured. Puig wasn’t the problem Monday for Arrieta; walks were. With one out in the Dodgers’ fourth, A.J. Ellis walked on four pitches, and one out later, Nick Punto walked on five to set up Greinke’s RBI single. Carl Crawford followed with a ground-rule double that bounced over the left field fence to open a 2-0 lead.

Arrieta walked Mark Ellis to open the sixth and he scored on Punto’s double. Arrieta was pulled, and Punto moved up on Greinke’s sacrifice against Carlos Villanueva and scored on Crawford’s sacrifice fly.

Ramirez connected on his 14th homer with one out in the seventh against Villanueva, and Puig added his 13th with two outs in the eighth off Michael Bowden.

Rizzo doubled with two outs in the ninth, Greinke hit Nate Schierholtz with a pitch, and Brian Bogusevic then drove both in with a double to chase the Dodgers starter.

– Carrie Muskat

8/26 Smokies win

Javier Baez hit his 18th home run and drove in four runs to back Matt Loosen and help Tennessee beat Mobile, 6-0, on Monday to clinch the second half North Division and a spot in the Southern League playoffs. Loosen gave up three hits and walked three over seven innings, striking out six.

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