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7/18 Minor matters – Thursday’s games

Dallas Beeler threw seven shutout innings, and Kris Bryant and Javier Baez each homered to lead Iowa to a 7-0 win over Round Rock. Baez, playing second base, went 2-for-4 with three RBIs and Bryant was 3-for-5 with a solo homer. Beeler struck out four and walked two.

Tennessee held Huntsville to four hits in a 4-1 win. Corey Black gave up one run over six innings and struck out eight. Jorge Soler hit his sixth home run, Addison Russell hit his first, and Christian Villanueva hit his third.

Daytona lost, 7-5, to Fort Myers. Dan Vogelbach hit his ninth home run, a two-run shot, and Kyle Schwarber, starting in left field, had two hits. Nathan Dorris gave up five runs over 4 2/3 innings.

Jacob Rogers drove in two runs in the 10th to help Kane County beat Lansing, 3-0. Duane Underwood threw six shutout innings, giving up three hits.

Boise lost, 12-5, to Spokane. Jeffrey Baez extended his hitting streak to 20 games. Mark Zagunis, Jesse Hodges and Justin Marra each had two hits.

Eloy Jimenez had two hits in Mesa’s 3-2 loss to the D-Backs. Justin Steele started, and walked one.

7/18 Cubs vs D-Backs

Here are the pitching match-ups for the three-game series vs. the Diamondbacks at Chase Field in Phoenix:

Friday: RHP Edwin Jackson (5-10, 5.64) vs. RHP Trevor Cahill (1-6, 5.66)
Saturday: LHP Travis Wood (7-8, 4.96) vs. LHP Wade Miley (5-6, 4.18)
Sunday: RHP Jake Arrieta (5-1, 1.95) vs. RHP Josh Collmenter (7-5 3.80)

* Chris Coghlan has hit safely in 13 of his last 14 games dating to June 30. He is batting .420 (21-for-50) with eight doubles, three homers and 12 RBI in this stretch, walking seven times with seven strikeouts.

* Justin Ruggiano is batting .397 (25-for-63) with seven doubles, two homers and 12 RBI in his last 17 games since June 25.

* John Baker is batting .526 (10-for-19) with two doubles and six RBI in his last seven games since June 27.

* The Cubs’ bullpen enters the second half of the season with a 3.58 ERA (117 ER/294 IP), nearly a run lower than its 4.35 ERA in last season’s first half.

7/18 Time for the second half …

As we begin the second half, it’s a good time to post some guidelines re: commenting on the blog. I’ve borrowed this from MLBTradeRumors.com:

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7/18 Roster moves/rehab assignments

In case you missed it, the Cubs made some roster moves:

* Emilio Bonifacio has joined Double-A Tennessee on a rehab assignment. Bonifacio, 29, was batting .261 with 10 doubles, three triples, one homer and 17 RBIs in 61 games before he suffered a strained oblique.

* Kyle Schwarber was promoted from Class A Kane County to high A Daytona. Schwarber hit safely in 15 of the 23 games he played with the Cougars, batting .361 with four home runs and 15 RBIs. He was a catcher, played left and was the designated hitter.

* Kyuji Fujikawa has joined Class A Kane County on a rehab assignment. He’s been rehabbing in Mesa since undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in June 2013.

7/18 Minor League highlights

Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Addison Russell, three of the Cubs’ top prospects, all homered Thursday. Bryant and Baez went deep in Triple-A Iowa’s 7-0 victory at Round Rock, while Russell’s home run helped Double-A Tennessee defeat Huntsville, 4-1.

Baez and Bryant were playing their first game for Iowa in nearly a week after playing against each other in Sunday’s All-Star Futures Game and then getting a few days off for the Triple-A All-Star break. The rest didn’t seem to faze them. Baez, ranked No. 6 on MLBPipeline.com’s Top 100 Prospects list, went 2-for-4 with a home run, a double and three RBIs. He extended his hitting streak to 10 games. And he was playing second base, and Iowa manager Marty Pevey said Baez “looked like an All-Star.”

Bryant, No. 8 on the Top 100, finished the game 3-for-5 with a home run, a double and two runs. His home run was his 32nd of the season between Tennessee and Iowa, giving him sole possession of first place on the Minor League leaderboard. He had been tied at 31 with Rangers’ No. 2 prospect Joey Gallo.

Russell, No. 11 on the Top 100, went 2-for-4 with a home run, two runs and an RBI. It was his second home run of the season and first since he was traded to the Cubs as part of the deal that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the A’s.

Baez, Bryant and Russell weren’t the only prominent Cubs prospects to homer Thursday. Tennessee outfielder Jorge Soler (No. 6), Class A Advanced Daytona first baseman Dan Vogelbach (No. 12) and Tennessee third baseman Christian Villanueva (No. 13) all hit long balls as well.

7/16 Minor matters – Tuesday’s games

The Pacific Coast League All-Stars face the International League stars Wednesday in the Triple-A All-Star game. The Cubs will be represented by pitchers Blake Parker, Kyle Hendricks and Tsuyoshi Wada. Arismendy Alcantara also was named to the team but will not play.

Tennessee had Tuesday off and resumes play Wednesday against Huntsville. Matt Loosen is scheduled to start

Daytona had Tuesday off and resumes play Wednesday against Fort Myers. Jose Rosario is slated to start.

Kane County had Tuesday off and resumes play Wednesday against Lansing. Juan Paniagua is scheduled to start.

Jeffrey Baez hit a walk-off RBI single in the ninth to lead Boise to a 4-3 win over Spokane. Baez had three hits, and was batting .377. Sam Wilson blew a save, but picked up the win in relief.

Mesa had Tuesday off and resumes play Thursday against the D-Backs.

7/16 The second half

The Cubs open the second half of the season on Friday against the Diamondbacks in Phoenix. Here are some comments from manager Rick Renteria about the first half, which he made Sunday in Chicago to reporters:

Q: What did the team accomplish in the first half?

Renteria: “I would just say more than anything they’re building their confidence. They’re playing as a team – not giving up, continuing to chip away, maintaining an attitude that grinds and doesn’t take any deficit or any part of the game [and] allow it to affect them to an extent where you see them start to fall into a low. I think they’ve been playing hard all season. That’s one of the things we were hoping to get done and I think they’re doing that.”

Q: Could you sum up the first half?

Renteria: “We’ve done well as a club. They’ve chipped away. Obviously, early, we had certain things, little things, in the game that we probably weren’t doing as well as we would like. The ‘pen was a little erratic at times. Our starting pitching was good the whole season. We’ve continued to adjust to play the game, so to speak. There have been times where we’ve had some hiccups. But all in all, I think there have been very few games where you look at our club and think ‘God, this is terrible.’ They’ve plugged away, they’ve played. We’ve been in almost every game this season.”

Q: It’s been six months since you took over as manager. How do you feel about yourself and the team?

Renteria: “I feel good about where I’m at just simply because you get to know your personnel. Coming in, you have an understanding based on reports and information you’ve had and some of the contact you’ve had with some of the players. But there’s nothing like being with them on a daily basis to get a really good feel about who they are, what they’re about. Hopefully they’re taking on some of the personality of the coaches and myself as a manager. But, all in all, you have to continue to give players credit for what they do because they’re the ones out there between the lines and playing the game.”

Q: What can Cubs fans look forward to in the second half?

Renteria: “There are more opportunities before us. We have a chance to continue to grind, play the game. We need to understand that we’re not playing for August or September. The mentality is to keep playing so you feel you want to keep playing beyond August and September. As long as they continue to play the game and give themselves a chance to win every ballgame and play collectively as they should, we’ll hopefully be competitive and come out with some victories.”

Q: After the Cubs traded Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, Theo Epstein said he saw a light at the end of the tunnel for the organization. Do you see that?

Renteria: “Honestly, I thought I could see it prior to even being hired after studying all the players that were in the system and the guys that were here. I’ve always believed, even for the last four or five months, that, based on everything we’ve seen and how these guys have been playing, quite frankly, yeah, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. There’s a lot of talent in the system and I think there’s some talent on the big league field. With attitude and work, we can continue to move forward.”

7/15 Minor matters – Monday’s games

Two Cubs prospects hit for the cycle on Monday: Albert Almora and Mark Zagunis

The Iowa Cubs have Monday and Tuesday off as part of the PCL All-Star break. Blake Parker, Kyle Hendricks and Tsuyoshi Wada will represent the I-Cubs. Arismendy Alcantara also was named to the team, but is now on the Cubs’ big league roster and will not participate.

Charles Cutler hit an inside the park, two-run home run in the fifth to tie the game but it wasn’t enough as Tennessee lost, 6-5, to Jacksonville on Monday. It was Cutler’s third homer of the season.

Albert Almora hit for the cycle, completing it with a triple in the 13th, to help Daytona beat Jupiter, 13-8. Almora is the first Daytona player to hit for the cycle since Brett Jackson did so on June 14, 2010. Almora went 5-for-7 with five RBIs and hit a home run to lead off the game. Marco Hernandez and Bijan Rademacher also homered. Dan Vogelbach and Jordan Hankins each had three hits.

Beloit scored two runs in the ninth to beat Kane County, 3-2. The Cougars totaled four hits, including a two-run double by David Bote. Before the game, Kyle Schwarber, the Cubs’ first-round pick in the June Draft, was promoted to Daytona.

Mark Zagunis hit for the cycle to help Boise beat Spokane, 11-6. Zagunis hit his first home run in the fourth, and finished 4-for-5 with three runs and four RBIs. Tyler Ihrig picked up the win. Jeffrey Baez extended his hitting streak to 17 games with two hits.

Alberto Mineo hit his first home run to help Mesa beat the Giants, 5-1. Dillon Maples threw three scoreless innings. Carson Sands struck out two in a scoreless sixth for the win.

7/14 Minor matters – Sunday’s games

Tsuyoshi Wada gave up four runs on nine hits over six innings in Iowa’s 5-2 loss to Oklahoma City. Iowa totaled three hits. Iowa has Monday off.

Jorge Soler hit two home runs to help Tennessee beat Jacksonville, 14-8. The Smokies scored seven runs in the fifth. For Soler, it was his first career multi-homer game. He went 3-for-5 and drove in five runs. Stephen Bruno had three hits and three RBIs. Tennessee faces Jacksonville Monday.

Tayler Scott threw six shutout innings in Daytona’s 6-2 win over Jupiter. Scott walked two and struck out one, scattering five hits. Billy McKinney hit his first home run with the Cubs and drove in a four runs. Chadd Krist had two hits, including a two-run homer in the second. Daytona plays Jupiter Monday.

Jen-Ho Tseng gave up one run over seven innings in Kane County’s 3-1 win over Beloit in the first game of a doubleheader. Tseng struck out seven. Kyle Schwarber and Jacob Rogers each had two hits. In the second game, Jeimer Candelario hit two home runs to lead Kane County to a 6-5 win. Candelario drove in four runs, and is now batting .267.

Ben Wells gave up one run over six innings in Boise’s 6-2 win over Eugene. Jesse Hodges and Alex Tomasovich each had two hits. Tyler Ihrig was scheduled to start Monday vs. Spokane.

Mesa’s game vs. the White Sox was postponed because of rain. The Cubs will play the Giants on Monday.

* NOTE: Tennessee’s Jorge Soler was named Player of the Week in the Southern League on Monday and Kane County’s Jeimer Candelario named Player of the week in the Midwest League.

7/14 All-Star break stats

It’s the All-Star break, and time to check the Cubs’ first-half stats:

2013 (42-51, fourth in NL Central)
93 games: .243/.302/409; 103 HR, 366 RBIs, 667 strikeouts, 51 stolen bases

2014 (40-54, fifth in NL Central)
94 games: .237/.298/.380; 84 HR, 353 RBIs, 809 strikeouts, 40 stolen bases

First Half Leaders

Batting average
Starlin Castro .276
Anthony Rizzo .275
Luis Valbuena .250
Nate Schierholtz .204
NL leader: Rockies’ Troy Tulowitzki .345

Home runs
Anthony Rizzo 20
Mike Olt 12
Starlin Castro 11
Junior Lake 9
NL leader: Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton and Rockies’ Troy Tulowitzki 21 each

RBIs
Starlin Castro 52
Anthony Rizzo 49
Nate Schierholtz 31
Mike Olt 29
NL leader: Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton 63

Pitching
Wins
Jason Hammel 8-5
Travis Wood 7-8
Jake Arrieta 5-1
Edwin Jackson 5-10
NL leader: Reds’ Alfredo Simon and Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright, 12 each

ERA
Jeff Samardzija 2.83
Jason Hammel 2.98
Travis Wood 4.96
Edwin Jackson 5.64
NL leader: Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright, 1.83

Strikeouts
Jason Hammel 104
Jeff Samardzija 103
Edwin Jackson 97
Travis Wood 89
NL leader: Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg, 149

Saves
Hector Rondon 11-for-14
Neil Ramirez 3-for-3
Pedro Strop 2-for-4
James Russell 1-for-3
NL leader: Braves’ Craig Kimbrel, 29

Appearances (relievers)
Justin Grimm 44 games (41 1/3 innings)
Brian Schlitter 43 games (42 1/3 innings)
James Russell 37 games (37 innings)
Hector Rondon/Pedro Strop 35 games
NL leader: Brewers’ Will Smith and D-Backs’ Brad Ziegler, 49 each

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