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9/8 Cubs lineup

Luis Valbuena will be the DH tonight for the Cubs as they open a three-game Interleague series against the Blue Jays in Toronto. Here’s the lineup:

Coghlan LF
Baez SS
Valbuena DH
Soler RF
Castillo C
Olt 1B
Alcantara CF
Watkins 2B
Valaika 3B

Turner P

9/8 Cubs 2015 schedule

The Cubs announced the tentative 2015 regular season schedule. They will open at home on April 6 against the Cardinals to kick off the 100th season of Cubs baseball at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs will open at home for the first time since 2012 and for the fourth time in the last 14 seasons. The Cubs play the Cardinals in their season opener for the first time since 1991, as the first homestand features three games against St. Louis before the club leaves for a three-game road trip to Denver.

The 2015 schedule features eight Interleague series against the AL Central, including the annual home-and-home sets against the White Sox. The Cubs and White Sox will play a total of six games, with the first three games taking place at Wrigley Field leading up to the All Star Break from July 10-12 followed by three games at U.S. Cellular Field on Aug. 14-16, 2015.

In addition to the White Sox, the Cubs welcome three additional AL Central opponents: the Royals (three games, May 29-31), the Indians (two games, June 15-16) and the Tigers (two games, August 18-19). The Cubs travel to play at Detroit (two games, June 9-10), at Cleveland (two games, June 17-18) and at Minnesota (three games, June 19-21). The Cubs visit Cleveland for the first time since 2006.

The Cubs 2015 tentative schedule features only two three-series home stands and two three-city road trips (after four three-city road trips in 2014 and five three-city road trips in 2013).

The Cubs are scheduled to host two holiday games in 2015: Memorial Day Monday, May 25, vs. the Nationals and the Fourth of July vs. Miami. The Cubs will be on the road for three holidays this season: May 10 in Milwaukee for Mother’s Day, June 21 in Minnesota on Father’s Day and Labor Day Monday, Sept. 7 in St. Louis.

9/8 Rookie hazing day

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Imagine going through customs in Toronto dressed like Batman. That’s what Mike Olt had to do Sunday night. Cubs rookies had to pose outside Wrigley Field in the unique outfits. Matt Szczur seemed to enjoy his Spiderman get-up. Superman seemed appropriate for Jorge Soler. It’s all in good fun.

9/8 Kane County reaches MWL championship

Class A Kane County advanced to the Midwest League Championship Series after beating Cedar Rapids, 4-2, in the Western Division championship series. Tyler Ihrig picked up the win in relief. Jacob Rogers hit a solo home run in the sixth but Cedar Rapids answered in the seventh with a two-run home run by Chad Christensen. Carlos Penalver put the Cougars ahead with a two-run homer in the seventh. In the eighth, Jeffrey Baez singled, and stole second, then third before scoring on Chesny Young’s single.

The Cougars now will face Lake County, which defeated Fort Wayne. This is Kane County’s first trip to the league championship series since 2006. The Cougars last won the league championship in 2001 when Miguel Cabrera and Adrian Gonzalez were on the team. The best-of-five series opens Wednesday at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark.

Midwest League Championship Round (Best-of-5 series)
Wednesday: Lake County at Kane County, 6 PM CT
Thursday: Lake County at Kane County, 6 PM CT
Saturday: Kane County at Lake County, 6 PM CT
Sunday: Kane County at Lake County, 6 PM CT
Sept. 15: Kane County at Lake County, 6 PM CT

9/7 Pirates 10, Cubs 4

* Travis Wood took the loss, his 12. He gave up seven runs on nine hits while issuing one walk and striking out one over 1 2/3 innings. He served up a season-high three home runs. The outing was his shortest since Sept. 27 last year at St. Louis (1 IP), but that was a planned short start. In 12 starts against the NL Central this season, Wood is 5-5 with a 5.66 ERA (43 ER/68 1/3 IP) and 13 home runs allowed.

“If I missed a pitch, they hit it out of the park, and if I executed one, they hit it in the hole,” said Wood, who served up three home runs, including back to back blasts by Jordy Mercer and Andrew McCutchen in the second. “It just wasn’t my day. They have a good team over there.”

* Mike Olt set a career high with three hits, including an RBI single. He drove in his first run since July 19 at Arizona.

* Chris Coghlan had two hits, his 23rd multi-hit game.

* Luis Valbuena extended his hitting streak to seven games (.333/10-for-30) with a fourth-inning single to right.

* Matt Szczur registered his first-career RBI with a two-run single to right in the seventh inning.

* Welington Castillo extended his hitting streak to five games (.389/7-for-18) with a double in the sixth inning.

* The bright spot for the Cubs was Eric Jokisch, who made his Major League debut, and gave up one run on six hits while striking out four over 4 1/3 innings of relief.

* Cubs pitchers gave up 19 hits, which matched the season high, previously done, July 5 at Washington.

9/7 Here’s Lauren and family

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Left to right, it’s Brynne, mom Tonja, dad MIke and Lauren. Welcome back to Wrigley Field.

(photo by Brian Corbin)

9/7 Welcome back to Wrigley, Lauren

On Sunday, Lauren Pokuta, 20, was sitting in Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts’ seats in the front row at Wrigley Field, near the dugout. Three years ago after a near fatal car accident, her family thought she’d never come to a ballgame again, but thanks to the Cubs, she was motivated.

A cousin, Matt Hummel, contacted the Cubs after Lauren’s accident on Aug. 2, 2011, and asked for help with their fund raising efforts to offset the medical expenses. And the Cubs came through.

The team sent items to be auctioned. They didn’t stop there. The Cubs also put together a video with messages from some of the players, including Andrew Cashner, Randy Wells, Tyler Colvin and Sean Marshall, who are now no longer with the team. Ricketts also was featured, telling Lauren they were saving her a seat at the ballpark.

On Sunday, she in that seat.

“That video came when we were in the darkest time of our lives,” Lauren’s father Mike said Sunday. “It lifted our spirits as a family.”

Lauren suffered a traumatic brain injury along with a broken clavicle, cheek bone, pelvis and a collapsed lung, and was on life support and in a coma for four weeks and a feeding tube for nine months.

“[Her rehab] is going real well,” Mike said of his daughter. “We’ve truly been blessed. Three years ago, on Aug. 2, was her accident. We said last rites for her twice. She wasn’t supposed to make it. For us to be here today, is truly a blessing.”

Mike, his wife Tonja, and their other daughter, Brynne, 21, were at Wrigley Field Sunday with Lauren. Mike’s love of the Cubs began when he lived in Portage Park, and he would watch games on TV with his daughters. They went to three or four games together when the girls were younger.

“We haven’t been to a game as a family since the accident,” Mike said.

Mike had stayed in touch with the Cubs since the accident, and had tickets to a game this year. Mike told Jahaan Blake, director of fan experiences, that the seats were in the upper deck in right field. Those aren’t real conducive to someone in a wheelchair. Blake said Ricketts wanted to host the family.

“Who am I to argue?” Mike said.

On Sunday, they were able to have a hot dog in the sun, and see the Cubs against the Pirates, and forget about all the rehab and the life-threatening moments.

Lauren hopes to begin online college courses in the spring. Who’s her favorite player?

“She says, ‘I like all of them,'” Mike said.

– Carrie Muskat

9/7 Looking ahead …

The Cubs travel to Toronto for a three-game Interleague series, starting Monday. Here are the pitching matchups:

Monday: RHP Jacob Turner (5-8, 5.54) vs. RHP Marcus Stroman (9-5, 3.83)
Tuesday: RHP Jake Arrieta (8-5, 2.81) vs. LHP Mark Buehrle (11-9, 3.34)
Wednesday: RHP Kyle Hendricks (6-1, 2.02) vs. RHP Drew Hutchison (9-11, 4.47)

9/7 Minor matters – Saturday’s games

Daytona scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth on Wilson Contreras’ home run to beat Fort Myers, 8-7, in Game 3 of the FSL championship. Fort Myers leads the best of five series, 2-1. Contreras was 3-for-3 with a double as well as his home run. Ben Carhart and Billy McKinney each had two hits.

Kane County scored four runs in the final three innings to beat Cedar Rapids, 5-2. The Cougars are one win away from advancing to the Midwest League championship, and play host to Cedar Rapids today. Mark Zagunis had two hits, including a solo home run in the ninth. Michael Heesch picked up the win in relief.

9/7 Cubs lineup

Jorge Soler gets Sunday off in the Cubs series finale against the Pirates at Wrigley Field. Travis Wood makes the start. Here’s the lineup:

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

* Manager Rick Renteria doesn’t think Javier Baez should get a breather. Baez struck out three times on Saturday, marking the ninth time in 32 games that the rookie infielder has whiffed three times or more. Baez is batting .174.

“I don’t see him pressing,” Renteria said of the highly regarded prospect. “I think he’s getting away from his middle-away approach. That’s one of the things he was working on down in the Minor Leagues. When he finally settled in and was swinging the bat well, one of the things he was doing was hitting the ball more to the middle to right center field, which allowed him to see the ball and track the ball a little better.

“I just think he’s away from the approach that gives him a chance to have some success,” Renteria said.

Baez has played every game since his call-up on Aug. 5, and now is pressed into every day duty with Starlin Castro sidelined with a high ankle sprain. Could Baez use a day off?

“I think it’s the opposite,” Renteria said. “You need to keep him in there and see if we can get him to trust what he was doing before he got here. The reality is, his approach to the other side of the field is one of the things that will help him.”

– Carrie Muskat

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