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9/23 Cubs trivia

First it was Clayton Kershaw, then Adam Wainwright who picked up their 20th wins against the Cubs in a four-day span. According to Elias, the last time one team was on the losing side of two 20-game winners was 2003 when the Blue Jays’ Roy Halladay and the Yankees’ Andy Pettitte won their 20th games against the Rays on Sept. 11 and Sept. 20, respectively.

9/22 Cardinals 8, Cubs 0

The Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw became the Major League’s first 20-game winner Friday with a victory over the Cubs. On Monday, it was Adam Wainwright’s turn.
Wainwright struck out eight over seven scoreless innings and Jon Jay drove in three runs to lead the Cardinals to an 8-0 victory over the Cubs, and move another step closer to claiming the National League Central title for the second year in a row.

The Cardinals spoiled Travis Wood’s final start of the year. The lefty served up seven runs — six earned — over five innings, and finished the season with a 5.03 ERA in his 31 starts. Wood totaled 200 innings last year, and came up short this year with 173 2/3. He posted 24 quality starts in 2013, but just 13 this season.

“I did feel better about it than the numbers [show],” Wood said of his outing. “I made some good pitches tonight and pitches were sharp but they got the hits when they needed them and dropped a couple in, perfectly placed, and that’s how it’s been going. We have to take it into the offseason and figure out how to keep that from happening, and not let the big innings happen.”

Wood looked like the 2013 version over the first three innings when he held the Cardinals to one hit and struck out five. But St. Louis sent eight batters to the plate in the fourth, and tallied on an RBI double by Jhonny Peralta, RBI single by Yadier Molina and two-run single by Jon Jay. A telling stat is that hitters are batting .247 against Wood the first time through the lineup and .274 the second time.

While Wainwright can prep for the postseason — St. Louis has secured a playoff berth — Wood will have a long winter to try to figure out what did go wrong.

“It wasn’t a good year for me overall,” Wood said. “With that being said, it showed me a lot of the stuff I need to take into the offseason to work on. You learn a lot more about yourself as a pitcher when things aren’t going good as opposed to when things are. That’s what we’ll take into the offseason and work at it.”

Before the game, Renteria said Wood’s fastball command had been a problem this season. Wood, who matched his career high with his 13th loss, agreed.

“For the most part of the year, it was [a problem],” said the lefty, who lost eight of his last nine decisions. “It’s not like we were missing bad, just off.”

Wainwright now has won 20 games for the second time in his career, and first time since 2010, when he did so at Wrigley Field on Sept. 24. The right-hander is on a roll, and has given up two earned runs over 33 innings in his last four starts while striking out 26.

“It’s just a place I’ve had success and a place I love to come to,” Wainwright said of Wrigley Field. “I love to pitch here. I love the feel of the ballpark. I love the vibe of being out there at Wrigley and stepping on the field of some place I watched growing up as a kid. It’s pretty special. Both times I’ve got 20 wins, I’ve done it here at Wrigley. It’s just a cool place to do it.”

With the loss, the Cubs dropped to 39-40 at Wrigley Field with two home games remaining. Chicago has not had a winning record at home since 2009.

– Carrie Muskat

9/22 Russell gets look at Wrigley

It’s been a crazy season for Addison Russell, who was at Wrigley Field on Monday to get a look at his future home ballpark. Russell, 20, was one of three players the Cubs acquired on July 4 from the Athletics in the deal for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. The shortstop, ranked No. 5 on MLB.com’s list of top 100 prospects, said he was with Double-A Midland, but not playing when he went into the clubhouse for something to eat. Some of the pitchers told him about the trade.

“This year kind of threw me for a curveball,” Russell said. “I wasn’t expecting any of this to happen. Go back nine weeks, and once I started getting a feel for it back in Double-A with the Texas League teams, then I get traded. It’s all about overcoming the boundaries and that’s what I’ve been doing.”

Russell was slowed at the start of the season with a right hamstring injury, but recovered to bat .333 in 13 games with Midland before he was dealt. In 50 games at Double-A Tennessee with the Cubs, ht batted .294 with 12 home runs, 11 doubles and 36 RBIs. His new Tennessee teammates helped him make the transition.

“They told me to relax,” Russell said. “It was my first time traded. I was trying to take it all in, and they told me to relax.”

Russell already knows some of the Cubs top prospects. He was on the same Arizona Fall League team as Kris Bryant, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler last fall, and will play for the Mesa Solar Sox again when the season begins Oct. 7. Almora sent Russell a text message congratulating him on joining the Cubs after the trade was completed, and Bryant welcomed him on Twitter.

“Once I figured out I was going to be on the Cubs, it was awesome because I could be part of something very special,” Russell said.

He does play shortstop. So does Starlin Castro and Javier Baez, which creates a logjam for the Cubs. Russell said he’ll play wherever the Cubs need him to.

“I’m a person that if you put me in a new environment, I’m going to learn about it,” he said. “They haven’t said anything about me moving, but if that’s the case, so be it.”

Cubs prospects in the Arizona Fall League

Pitchers: Zach Cates, Gerardo Concepcion, C.J. Edwards, Ivan Pineyro
Infielders: Addison Russell, Dan Vogelbach
Outfielders: Jacob Hannemann, Bijan Rademacher

– Carrie Muskat

9/22 Cubs lineup

Jorge Soler is back in the lineup as the Cubs face the Cardinals at Wrigley Field for the final home series of the regular season. Travis Wood will make his last start. Here’s the lineup against 19-game winner Adam Wainwright:

Coghlan LF
Baez SS
Rizzo 1B
Soler RF
Valbuena 3B
Castillo C
Alcantara 2B
Kalish CF
T. Wood P

9/22 Hendricks says hello

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Here’s another photo from Kyle Hendricks’ visit Monday with patients at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville. He signed autographs, took photos, handed out hats, Wrigley Field tumblers and Cubs blankets. The day care children presented Hendricks with a story they wrote and illustrated about him.

9/22 Good guy

KHACM922

Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks took time Monday to visit patients at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville. He signed autographs, took photos, handed out hats, Wrigley Field tumblers and Cubs blankets. The day care children presented Hendricks with a story they wrote and illustrated about him.

9/22 Last day game at Wrigley Field

0921Wrigley

Sunday was the last day game at Wrigley Field for 2014. The ballpark won’t look the same next year as the Cubs add a video scoreboard and other signs in the outfield and reconfigure the seating and bullpens. Here’s a last look from Sunday’s game.

9/22 Instructional League

The regular season may be winding down, but for 60 plus players, there’s more work to do as the Cubs three-week instructional league gets underway on Monday in Mesa, Ariz. The Cubs are changing the format this year, and will spend more time on drills and instruction than games, which won’t begin until Oct. 6. Camp ends Oct. 11. Among the players participating are first-round Draft pick Kyle Schwarber; catcher Victor Caratini, acquired from the Braves in the Bonifacio/Russell deal; Billy McKinney, acquired from the A’s in the Samardzija/Hammel deal; and Jonathan Martinez, acquired in the Darwin Barney trade.

Besides Schwarber, here are the other Cubs Draft picks scheduled to participate:

Jake Stinnett
Mark Zagunis
Carson Sands
Justin Steele
James Norwood
Tommy Thorpe
James Farris
Ryan Williams
Tanner Griggs
Kevonte Mitchell
Chesny Young
Jeremy Null
Jason Voster
Michael Knighton
Austyn Willis
Charles White
Zach Hedges
Jordan Minch

9/21 Dodgers 8, Cubs 5

Matt Kemp hit a two-run homer and a pair of RBI singles and Adrian Gonzalez raised his Major League leading RBI total to 112 with an RBI double to lift the Dodgers to an 8-5 victory over the Cubs Sunday in the last home day game at Wrigley Field. The Dodgers outscored the Cubs, 37-22, in the four games and collected 53 hits. Jacob Turner took the loss, giving up four earned runs over five innings. Welington Castillo hit his 12th home run of the season leading off the eighth.

“They’re trying to clinch a division, and we’re trying to show everybody who we are,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. “I think all things being equal, we fell behind early in a few games and we kept coming back and fighting. I think our guys are showing a little bit of heart and just fell short.”

The Cubs had two on and nobody out in the ninth against Kenley Jansen but he struck out Javier Baez, got Anthony Rizzo to ground out, and then struck out Luis Valbuena to end the game.

– Carrie Muskat

9/21 Extra bases

* Jorge Soler did not start Sunday, but that was part of the Cubs’ plan to help the rookie outfielder stay healthy in his return from leg injuries. Soler was pulled from Saturday’s game after five innings because rain had made the playing field slippery and the Cubs didn’t want to risk injury.

“The guys were talking about how it was getting a little softer,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said Sunday about the outfield. “For us, it was the right thing to do at that time [to pull Soler]. We have three [games] more against St. Louis, then a day off Thursday, and three more in Milwaukee, and he’ll finish off playing.”

Soler has played four, five days in a row, then gotten a breather in his comeback. He began the season with Double-A Tennessee, but suffered a leg injury after his first hit in his first game April 3. He went on the disabled list and returned in May, but needed to go on the DL again. After rehabbing in Mesa, he rejoined the Smokies in July, and batted .463 in 15 games before he was promoted to Triple-A.

* Renteria and GM Jed Hoyer are conducting exit interviews with players, and the discussion has turned to what the Cubs need for 2015. What’s on Renteria’s wish list?

“What we’d really like is to have a bunch of really good baserunners,” Renteria said Sunday. “One of the things we’re talking about is going into Spring Training and get some skill work done and a better of sense what we need to add.”

Isn’t base running instinctual?

“I’ve always thought that instincts are learned,” Renteria said. “If you take advantage of experiences, it teaches you something.”

* The Cubs have yet to finalize the rotation for the last series of the regular season next weekend in Milwaukee. Kyle Hendricks will start the season finale on Sept. 28. One of the options is to have Eric Jokisch start a game. He was 9-10 with a 3.58 ERA in 26 starts at Triple-A Iowa this season.

Looking ahead, the rotation for the three-game series against the Cardinals will be:

Monday: Travis Wood vs Adam Wainwright
Tuesday: Kyle Hendricks vs Shelby Miller
Wednesday: Jake Arrieta vs John Lackey

Wood and Arrieta will be making their final starts of the season.

– Carrie Muskat

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