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9/14 Cubs lineup

Jacob Turner gets the start Sunday for the Cubs in the series finale against the Pirates. Here’s the lineup:

Alcantara CF
Baez SS
Coghlan LF
Valbuena 3B
Valaika 2B
Olt 1B
Szczur RF
Baker C
Turner P

9/14 Szczur perfect home run

Matt Szczur timed his first big league home run perfectly. The rookie outfielder led off the eighth inning Saturday night with his first blast in the Cubs’ 6-4 victory over the Pirates, and had his family, his fiance and her family, and lots of friends from Villanova in the crowd of 38,024 at PNC Park.

It was almost harder to get the ball than it was to hit it. Szczur’s homer sailed into the left field seats, and a young fan ended up with it. The Cubs coaches got word to third base umpire Paul Schrieber about the importance of the home run, and he intervened, going over to the stands to ask the young man for the ball.

“There were a lot of people involved trying to get that baseball,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said.

“After the inning, [Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio] came up to me and said ‘Hey, Szczur, we got the ball for you. We had a hard time getting it, but we got it,'” Szczur said. “I was like, ‘Did you make sure you signed it?’ He sure did — he signed it for me.”

Bosio autographs each ball with the date, the location and the pitcher — which is how the Cubs authenticate the souvenirs.

The Cubs rookies have provided plenty of pop this season with Javier Baez hitting his ninth homer Saturday. Mike Olt has 12, Arismendy Alcantara has nine and Jorge Soler has four.

“I don’t know about [joining the] rookie home run derby — that’s my second of the year,” Szczur said. “It’s good to be here [in the big leagues]. It’s really exciting. Hopefully this ignites some wins and we finish the season strong.”

He hit his only other home run April 13.

“I thought I was going to have about 20, and I ended up having one,” Szczur said. “That’s what I get for thinking.”

– Carrie Muskat

9/14 Renteria: “I don’t worry about my job”

Rick Renteria is wrapping up his first season as manager, and was eager to build on what the Cubs did this season. Last week, Theo Epstein complimented Renteria, saying the challenge for the rookie manager was to “provide an environment for the young players to develop and thrive at the big league level.” Renteria did just that.

Is Renteria comfortable in his job?

“Fortunately for me, the players, [the media], the front office, everybody has made it an easier transition than I would have imagined,” Renteria said. “I think everybody’s been very supportive. Everybody has a sense of what the organization is trying to do, so maybe that’s made it easier for me in my transition to manager as opposed to being a coach.”

He admitted that sometimes he’s done things that may seem a little odd, such as batting Javier Baez second — he’s more of a middle of the order hitter — and carrying an extra reliever in the ‘pen.

“There are things you do to make sure guys are gaining experience and knowledge in key situations that they need to develop those roles that they’ve fallen into,” he said.

But the Cubs development phase may be ending soon. Does Renteria expect more pressure next year?

“I don’t think it’s pressure,” he said Saturday. “It’s what you expect to do. Any club at any Major League sport is expected to win. I’ve been the first one to say it and I won’t be the last, I place expectations on myself to lead men and hopefully not get in the way and allow them to perform and win ballgames. The results are truly their process of how they play the game and giving yourself a chance. In the end if I don’t do what I was brought here to do, change is inevitable. My hope is I’m able to do a good enough job and our staff is able to do a good enough job to continue to move us forward and ultimately win.”

He isn’t losing sleep over the season.

“I’ve always said I’ll do my job and in the end, I’m always hopeful that what I do is good enough to take care of me and where I’m supposed to be,” he said. “I don’t worry about my job, never have. I’ve never done it as a Minor League coach, big league coach. I focus on my job. I think there are a lot of good things in place here. I think the organization is moving in the right direction here. I sincerely believe that. I sincerely believed that when I first interviewed for this job. It’s legitimate.”

Look at Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. Both have bounced back from disappointing 2013 seasons.

“We’re all individuals and we all do what we think is best and we all have to feel comfortable in our own skins, and I think at the end of the day, when I look in the mirror, good day or bad day, I want to make sure I did everything I could,” Renteria said. “If it didn’t work out, I have to put it to rest. If it did, I put it to rest, and then I go to bed. That’s the way it is, that’s the way I live my life. It’s not going to change.”

– Carrie Muskat

9/13 Kane County wins MWL championship

Jacob Rogers smacked a two-run home run and finished with three RBIs to lead Class A Kane County to a 7-2 win over Lake County and clinch the Midwest League championship.

The Cougars went unbeaten in the postseason. They were 3-0 in the best-of-five championship series to win their first league title since 2001. Kane County also swept Wisconsin in the quarterfinal round and Cedar Rapids in the division championship round.

Daury Torrez held Lake County to one run on five hits over five innings for the win.

Carlos Penalver hit an RBI double in the second to tie the game at 1, and Kane County took a 3-1 lead on Rogers’ homer in the third. Rogers added an RBI single in the fifth. Rogers and Jeimer Candelario collected three hits each.

9/13 Cubs lineup

Felix Doubront starts Saturday night for the Cubs in Game 2 of their three-game series against the Pirates. Here’s the lineup:

Alcantara CF
Baez SS
Valbuena 3B
Castillo C
Valaika 2B
Olt 1B
Lake LF
Szczur RF
Doubront P

9/13 Minor matters

Will the Cubs keep their affiliation in Daytona? What about Boise? Kane County? Major League teams are in a two-week period in which they are free to explore possible moves for their Minor League properties, which are owned independently but are part of a business relationship with the big league team.

The Cubs did not renew their agreement with Boise. Hawks GM Todd Rahr said Friday the Cubs had until 10 p.m. MT Thursday to do so. Rahr said: “We’re technically free agents right now.”

The Cubs also may be ending their relationship with Daytona.

“It’s clear that the Cubs are looking at other options,” Daytona team owner Andy Rayburn told the Daytona News-Journal on Friday.

The Daytona Cubs have been part of the 12-team Florida State League for the past 22 seasons.

The Cubs also have not renewed their contract with Kane County.

The Cubs do have a contract with Iowa, home for their Triple-A team, that runs through the 2016 season, and the Cubs and Double-A Tennessee announced a four-year extension that runs through 2018.

– Carrie Muskat

9/12 Castro, Rizzo making progress

Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro was allowed to walk without a supportive walking boot on his left ankle Friday, and predicts he’ll be back before the season ends. Meanwhile, Anthony Rizzo continued to make progress in his rehab from a lower back strain, and was able to run the bases for the first time on Friday.

Castro, who suffered a high ankle sprain on Sept. 2 in an awkward slide at home, said it’s important for him to get some at-bats in the final two weeks.

“This is a great season for me,” said Castro, who was batting .292. “I think I can improve more than what I’ve done. I want to be healthy, I don’t want to go into the offseason not playing. I want to play — if it’s three games, I’ll play three games.”

Rizzo has not played since he left the Aug. 26 game in Cincinnati when his back tightened up. Manager Rick Renteria said the first baseman most likely will not return until Monday when the team returns home to face the Reds.

“Obviously, we’re taking it very slow,” Rizzo said Friday. “We want it to be 100 percent going forward. We don’t want any setbacks.”

Rizzo did take batting practice for the second day, but running was a new part of his rehab.

“It was nice to throw cleats on and sweat like that,” he said.

– Carrie Muskat

9/12 Cubs lineup

Jorge Soler will not be with the Cubs this weekend in Pittsburgh. He returned to Miami for the birth of his first child. Here is the lineup for Friday’s game against the Pirates:

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

9/12 Kane County 2-0 in MWL series

Class A Kane County pitchers Duane Underwood and Tyler Ihrig combined for a two-hit shutout Thursday to defeat Lake County, 6-0, in Game 2 of the best of five Midwest League championship series. The Cougars are one win away from clinching the series and winning their first league title since 2001.

Underwood, the Cubs’ second round pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, struck out eight and walked five in six hitless innings before Ihrig relieved him to start the seventh. Ihrig extended the no-hit bid for another inning, before Lake County catcher Richard Stock and third baseman Grant Stock opened the eighth with back-to-back singles. But the Captains would do no more damage, and Ihirg finished the game for his second save of the playoffs.

Underwood earned the victory in his second playoff start. The right-hander has a 2.79 ERA and has struck out 11 batters and walked eight in 9 2/3 innings. During the regular season, he went 6-4 with a 2.50 ERA. He struck out 84 batters and walked 36 in 100 2/3 innings.

Designated hitter Mark Zagunis, the Cubs’ third round pick in June’s Draft, went 3-for-5 with a double and a run to lead Kane County’s offense Thursday. Left fielder Shawon Dunston added two hits and three runs.

After a travel day, the championship series moves to Lake County on Saturday for Game 3. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT.

9/11 Last 2014 homestand at Wrigley

The last homestand of the season at Wrigley Field begins Monday when the Cubs play host to the Reds. On Sept. 24, before the last regular season game, players will give away autographed baseballs in the stands. There will be fan appreciation giveaways on Cubs social media throughout the week as well. Tickets are available for the upcoming 10-game homestand at http://www.cubs.com or 800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827).

* Security: Please note that beginning this homestand, the Cubs will begin metal detector screenings of fans entering Wrigley Field as part of a league-wide initiative to standardize security procedures at each Major League ballpark. These security screenings are in addition to the current bag checks in place and will be uniform throughout the league during the 2015 season.

* WGN Radio: On Sept. 19, the Cubs will pay tribute to longstanding radio partner WGN Radio before the game and during the seventh inning stretch. WGN Radio aired Chicago’s first professional game Oct. 1, 1924, when the Cubs and White Sox played the post-season City Series at then-Cubs Park.

On April 14, 1925, WGN broadcast its first regular season Cubs game when Chicago beat Pittsburgh by an 8-2 margin. WGN carried the Cubs from 1924-1943, then served as the exclusive radio home for the team from 1958-2014. The Cubs announced earlier this season that WBBM 780-AM will be the team’s new flagship radio station beginning with the 2015 season. WBBM Radio had previously covered Cubs games at Wrigley Field from 1929-1940.

* Time change: Fans with tickets to Cubs vs. Dodgers Sept. 20 game should note FOX TV has selected the game for their FOX Saturday Baseball “Game of the Week” broadcast. As a result, the game time has been moved from 3:05 p.m. CT to 12:05 p.m. CT. Gates will open two hours prior to first pitch.

* Donations needed: On Sept. 21, the Cubs and Baseball Tomorrow Fund encourage fans to donate new and gently used baseball and softball equipment for the 10th annual equipment day collection benefiting The Neighborhood Boys & Girls Club. To date, more than 100,000 pieces of equipment and approximately $1.6 million in total monetary donations from this league-wide program have benefited organizations in need. Fans can bring their equipment to Gate D at Wrigley Field beginning at 11 a.m. CT.

* Salute: On Sept. 18, recipients of more than $330,000 in Cubs Charities Diamond Project grants will be recognized pregame for their commitments to improving the quality and safety of local baseball fields throughout the Chicago area. These grants were announced last week in partnership with Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Chicago.

* Salute Part II: Cubs Charities and Bank of America will host a group of military members and their families for a pregame batting practice experience, player meet-and-greet and private dinner during the team’s final home game Sept. 24. Fans can help salute these troops during a Military Take the Field pregame ceremony that evening.

* Promotional Giveaways:
On Sept. 19, the first 10,000 fans will receive a Cubs Travel Blanket, presented by United Airlines. On Sept. 20, the first 10,000 fans can collect a Cubs Tumbler presented by Pepsi. On Sept. 21, the first 5,000 children 13-and-under will receive a Lunch Tote presented by Jewel-Osco. The first 1,000 kids can run the bases postgame as well, weather permitting.

* Big Ten:
Big Ten Rivalry Week kicks off Sept. 15, and matches heated rivals against each other for bragging rights and access to a ceremonial first pitch. Attendees will receive a Cubs shirt in the colors of their favorite Big Ten team. The lineup of Big Ten Rivalry Week matchups follows:

9/15: Indiana vs. Purdue
9/16: Minnesota vs. Wisconsin
9/17: Michigan vs. Ohio State
9/21: Maryland vs. Rutgers
9/22: Michigan State vs. Penn State
9/23: Iowa vs. Nebraska
9/24: Illinois vs. Northwestern

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