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9/18 Dodgers 8, Cubs 4

Cubs manager Rick Renteria said it was going to be a challenge to face the National League West-leading Dodgers, and it was. The Dodgers took advantage of an error by rookie Logan Watkins to score five runs in the seventh and post an 8-4 come-from-behind victory Thursday night over the Cubs at Wrigley Field, inching closer to securing a playoff berth. Los Angeles increased its lead over San Francisco to 2 1/2 games.

“They hit a couple balls hard, for sure,” Renteria said of the Dodgers, “but there were a couple plays we could’ve made.”

The Cubs had a 4-1 lead after six innings, but in the seventh, Los Angeles had two on and one out against Neil Ramirez and tallied on an error by Watkins, who couldn’t get a glove on Juan Uribe’s potential double-play ball. The miscue was costly. Pinch-hitter Andre Ethier followed with an RBI double, and another run scored on a ground out by pinch-hitter Justin Turner to tie the game at 4.

Dee Gordon then smacked an RBI double and scored on Yasiel Puig’s single to chase Ramirez for a 6-4 lead. Of the five runs off Ramirez that inning, only one was earned.

“Uribe hit a pretty hard ball, right up the middle and the first instinct was to knock it down and keep it in front of me and it kicked to the left,” Watkins said.

Watkins also was charged with an error on a throw in the ninth that led to another Dodgers run.

“I can honestly look back and say I wouldn’t have done anything different on both balls,” Watkins said. “That one there [in the seventh], I didn’t want it to go to the outfield. The other one, a diving play, just try to get it to first as fast as possible.

“It’s baseball,” he said. “I’ll make more. It did [stink] because I wanted to get Neil out of that inning right there because it was a possible double play. I wouldn’t have done anything different. … It always seems like that — you make an error and the wheels come off.”

The win snapped the Dodgers’ two-game losing streak, and was a rarity. Los Angeles now is 2-54 when trailing after six.

“All things being equal, we haven’t had a lot of games like that,” Renteria said. “The guys have been pretty good. This one just got away. It’s just baseball.”

While the Dodgers are preparing for postseason play, Chicago’s Tsuyoshi Wada made his last start. The Cubs want to get a look at rookie Eric Jokisch in one of their final nine games. Wada, 33, who was told Thursday was his final outing, struck out five and gave up five hits over five innings. The left-hander said his hamstring has been tender, and may have been a factor Thursday. He was grateful to the Cubs for the opportunity.

“If I look back personally, I feel it was a very good year in regards that the Cubs picked me up without me having any Major League numbers and gave me the opportunity to start in this big league atmosphere,” Wada said through interpreter Ryo Shinkawa. “When I look back, it was a very good year.”

– Carrie Muskat

9/18 Extra bases

* Outfielder Arismendy Alcantara, who suffered a mild right wrist sprain on Monday, was able to hit off a batting tee and took batting practice Thursday, and could return to the Cubs lineup soon. Alcantara was injured when he ran into the brick outfield wall.

* Anthony Rizzo did not start Thursday, part of the Cubs plan to ease him back into game action after missing three weeks with a low back strain. The first baseman was expected in the lineup on Friday.

* Pitching coach Chris Bosio asked Cubs reliever Carlos Villanueva to sub for bullpen coach Lester Strode, who had to attend to a family matter. Villanueva made his debut Wednesday, and closer Hector Rondon complimented the veteran.

“I didn’t want to mess up,” Villanueva said. “My job depends on how those guys do. I’m glad to help. I feel good that they trust me. It was definitely a first.”

– Carrie Muskat

9/18 Cubs move to South Bend

The Cubs announced a partnership with South Bend to host their Class A Midwest League affiliate, leaving Kane County after two seasons. The deal with South Bend runs through the 2018 season.

“It’s tough to disappoint those people [in Kane County] and leave but I wouldn’t be doing my job if we weren’t doing the right thing for our players,” Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Thursday. “One area we don’t mess around with is player development. Our success will be impacted in large part by how we develop our young players and get them ready for the big league level.”

South Bend had been the Diamondbacks affiliate from 2007 through this season.

The Cubs had moved to Kane County because of its proximity to Chicago, and even though the Cougars ownership had promised to make changes that met the Chicago team’s specifications, it wasn’t enough to stay. Epstein knows the news wasn’t well received in Kane County.

“I don’t think in this industry you can avoid looking like ‘bad guys’ and just have to roll with it and make sure you’re making decisions for the right reasons and in this case, we have to do what’s best for our prospects and the organization moving forward,” he said.

South Bend will announce new names, logos and uniforms on Sept. 25, as well as some renovations planned for the facility. The South Bend Silver Hawks won five Midwest League titles and 12 division titles in 26 seasons as an affiliate of the D-backs and the White Sox. The Cubs Kane County team won a franchise record 91 games this year, and went unbeaten in the playoffs to win the Midwest League championship.

Epstein complimented the ownership and staff at Kane County, saying they did a “first class job.”

“The South Bend renovation offers a facility that we feel will make a profound difference for our prospects and that was the key factor in the end,” Epstein said.

– Carrie Muskat

9/18 Barney on LA: “We have work to do”

Darwin Barney was back at Wrigley Field, but wearing a Dodgers uniform. The infielder, who was designated for assignment in July, and then signed with the Dodgers, had only known one team until he joined L.A. Was it strange being back at Wrigley on the visitor’s side?

“It’s not as weird as you would expect,” Barney said. “Wrigley is Wrigley. The visiting clubhouse feels a lot like the home side. The mentality is different [with the Dodgers]. We’re here to take four [games]. That’s our goal, to win every single day. That’s the way we play here.”

He did go from last place to first place.

“It was weird at first,” Barney said, “but it’s just a different atmosphere. We expect to win, and if we don’t, we don’t cry about it, and get up the next day and try to win that day.”

At this time of year, most players are counting the days until the season ends. Not the guys on teams headed to the postseason.

“We have a lot of work to do,” Barney said. “We’re right there. I think this team is a really good team. I couldn’t believe how good we were when I got here. It’s win, or go home for us. Every day we expect to win, whether we’re up or down in the game. [Clayton] Kershaw is the best pitcher I’ve ever seen.”

Kershaw, by the way, starts Friday against the Cubs and will be going for his 20th win.

“I’ve never seen anything like it in my life,” Barney said of the left-hander. “The way he goes about his business, the stuff he has — I ask him about his repertoire all the time to gain information. He’s a stand-up guy, he’s one of our leaders and he’s obviously making history. It’s been a long time since someone has had a sub 2.00 ERA two years in a row, and he might be around 1.60. It’s pretty amazing.”

Barney said he has no hard feelings toward the Cubs.

“They’re doing what’s best for this team, and if I was in their position, I might have done the same thing with me at that point,” he said. “They made the move early enough so I could go to a contender, so I’m sitting in a pretty good spot now.”

He does follow his friends on the team.

“I miss those guys,” Barney said. “When you hear that guys like [Anthony] Rizzo is missing time because he’s hurt, you worry and you wonder. With [Starlin] Castro, it’s the same thing. I care about these guys and their lives and their families and not just baseball. It makes me happy when I get to see guys like Rizzo and Castro.”

– Carrie Muskat

9/18 Cubs lineup

Anthony Rizzo is not starting Thursday, part of the Cubs plan to ease him back into game action. Here’s the lineup for Game 1 vs. the Dodgers and Zack Greinke:

Coghlan LF
Baez SS
Valbuena 3B
Soler RF
Kalish CF
Olt 1B
Watkins 2B
Baker C
Wada P

9/18 Rizzo named Branch Rickey winner

Anthony Rizzo has been named the winner of the 2014 Branch Rickey Award. He is the youngest to receive the award. The announcement was made in Denver Thursday.

Rizzo, 25, will be inducted as the 23rd member of the Baseball Humanitarians Hall of Fame on Nov. 14 at the McNichols Civic Center in Denver. Two days later, on Nov. 16 in Parkland, Fla., Rizzo and his foundation will host his third “Walk-Off for Cancer” 5K walk.

Created by the Rotary Club of Denver in 1991, the Branch Rickey Award honors individuals in baseball who contribute unselfishly to their communities and who are strong role models for young people. Each year, MLB teams are asked to nominate one team member for the award.

Rizzo was chosen by a national selection committee comprised of 400 members of the sports media, baseball executives, past award winners and Rotary district governors. Fans also were given a chance to vote online, and more than 30,000 votes were received. Rizzo won the fan voting by an impressive margin.

Rizzo has overcome Hodgkins Lymphoma, which he was diagnosed with while a Minor League with the Red Sox in 2008. His foundation’s goal is to help families affected by cancer. Besides his fund-raising walk in his hometown, Rizzo has hosted two “Cook-offs for Cancer” in Chicago. So far, he’s raised more than $500,000. The first baseman also is a regular visitor to pediatric cancer patients in Chicago and Hollywood, Fla.

Rickey was known to many as “Mr. Baseball” and is credited with breaking the color barrier in the Major Leagues in 1945 when he signed Jackie Robinson.

Previous recipients of this award include Dave Winfield, Kirby Puckett, Ozzie Smith, Paul Molitor, Torii Hnter, Tommy Lasorda, Roland Hemond, and Clayton Kershaw.

– Carrie Muskat

9/18 Cubs switch to South Bend

The Cubs are coming to South Bend. The team announced a partnership with South Bend to host its Class A Midwest League affiliate, a deal that will run through the 2018 season. The Cubs had been in Kane County for the last two years. South Bend was a Diamondbacks affiliate from 2007 until this year.

South Bend will announce new names, logos and uniforms on Sept. 25, and the new team will be hard pressed to match the old one’s success. The South Bend Silver Hawks won five Midwest League titles and 12 division titles in 26 seasons as an affiliate of the D-backs and the White Sox. The Cubs, though, won the Midwest League championship this year with the Kane County team.

– Carrie Muskat

9/18 Where are they now?

Darwin Barney is back in Chicago with the Dodgers for a four-game series at Wrigley Field, which opens Thursday. It’s time to update where some former Cubs players are now:

* Jeff Samardzija
Cubs: 2-7, 2.83 ERA in 17 starts
A’s: 4-5, 3.13 ERA in 14 starts

Samardzija has 10 quality starts in his 14 outings with the A’s, and he has not given up a run over 15 innings in his last two starts, but did not get a decision in either. On Wednesday, he struck out 10 and held the Rangers to four hits over eight scoreless innings, but the A’s lost, 6-1. If the season ended today, Samardzija and the A’s are in the playoffs.

* Jason Hammel
Cubs: 8-5, 2.98 ERA in 17 starts
A’s: 2-6, 4.76 ERA in 11 starts

Hammel hasn’t had the same success as Samardzija, and struggled in July (1-4, 7.83 ERA). His only win in July came with the Cubs on the day he was traded — a 7-2 victory over the Nationals when he gave up two runs over six innings. Hammel recently left the team to be with his wife for the birth of their second child. In case you forgot, Samardzija and Hammel were dealt to the A’s for Addison Russell, Billy McKinney, Dan Straily and a player to be named later.

* Darwin Barney
Cubs: .230/.265/.328, 2 HR, 16 RBIs in 72 games
Dodgers: .273/.448/.455, 1 HR, 5 RBIs in 15 games

Barney hit a two-run homer on Wednesday for the Dodgers. Traded on July 28 for right-handed pitcher Jonathan Martinez, Barney was not promoted to the Dodgers until Aug. 10.

* Nate Schierholtz
Cubs: .192/.240/.300, 6 HRs, 33 RBIs in 99 games
Nationals: .179/.207/.286, 1 HR, 2 RBIs in 15 games

Schierholtz was released on Aug. 13, and signed with the Nats five days later. His team is headed to the playoffs.

* James Russell
Cubs: 0-2, 3.51 ERA, 44 games
Braves: 0-0, 3.38 ERA in 18 games

Left-handed hitters have apparently figured Russell out, batting .291 against the southpaw this year. He’s held right-handers to a .160 batting average. In 2013, those numbers were reversed as Russell held lefties to a .183 average, and right-handers hit .321 off him.

* Emilio Bonifacio
Cubs: .279/.318/.373, 2 HRs, 18 RBIs in 69 games
Braves: .236/.277/.281, 0 HR, 2 RBIs in 32 games

Bonifacio was traded July 31 to the Braves along with James Russell for Victor Caratini, who batted .264 in 14 games with Class A Kane County after hitting .279 in 87 games at Class A Rome. For the year, Caratini hit .277 in 101 games with five homers, 22 doubles and 55 RBIs.

* Jose Veras
Cubs: 0-1, 8.10 ERA, 0-for-2 in save opportunities, 12 games
Astros: 4-0, 2.25 ERA, 1-for-4 in save opportunities in 30 games

Veras, expected to be the Cubs closer, was sidelined with a strained left oblique until May 14, then released on June 10. He signed a Minor League contract with the Astros five days later, and has thrived.

9/17 Cubs 3, Reds 1

In his first start against the Reds since his Major League debut in Cincinnati on July 10, Kyle Hendricks notched his eighth quality start in 12 outings this season. The Cubs are 10-2 in those 12 starts. This was his sixth start of at least seven innings and his fourth in which he has allowed one or fewer runs in seven plus innings. Hendricks is 4-1 with a 1.53 ERA (6 ER/35 1/3 IP) in six starts at Wrigley Field.

* Luis Valbuena has hit safely in seven of his last eight games at home, and delivered an RBI single in the eighth.

* Hector Rondon has converted 11 straight save opportunities.

* The Cubs swept the Reds in a three-game set at Wrigley for the first time since July 24-26, 2009. It’s the Cubs third three-game sweep since Aug. 22 (Baltimore and Milwaukee) and their fifth of the season.

* Jorge Soler (0-for-2, 2 BB, R) has collected a run or RBI in 12 of his 15 games. He went hitless for just the second time in his career, but drew two walks for the first time.

* Anthony Rizzo (0-for-2, 2 BB, R) has reached base in nine of his last 10 games and has scored a run in three-consecutive games.

* The Cubs are 38-36 in 74 games at Wrigley Field this season compared to a 29-45 home mark though 74 contests last season.

9/17 Kris Bryant


Top prospect Kris Bryant meets with the media Wednesday at Wrigley Field prior to being honored as the Cubs’ Minor League Player of the Year.


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