Results tagged ‘ Carlos Villanueva ’
* The Cubs have reached the halfway point in the season, posting a 35-46 record in the first 81 games, a slight improvement over last year’s 31-50 record at the midpoint. They have hit 20 more home runs at this point compared to last year (87 vs. 67) and have scored 39 more runs (337 to 298). The team ERA of 3.97 is nearly a half run lower than last year’s 4.37 ERA through 81 games. Cubs starting pitchers have a 3.82 ERA through 81 games this season after posting a 4.32 ERA at this point last year, while the bullpen has a 4.32 ERA through 81 games this year, lower than the 4.47 ERA through 81 games last year.
How does manager Dale Sveum assess the team at the midway point?
“The two areas most glaring are obviously, the bullpen and closing games out after having all these leads fater the sixth, seventh, eighth innings,” Sveum said. “We’ve got to clean that up somehow and win those ballgames that we put ourselves in a position to win.
“The offense is coming around a little bit and we’re getting a little better with men in scoring position,” he said. “Our two biggest problems have been men in scoring position and closing things with the bullpen.”
The Cubs are tied for third lowest batting average in the Major Leagues with runners in scoring position.
* Carlos Villanueva began the season in the Cubs rotation and could find himself back there by the All-Star break. The right-hander pitched 2 2/3 innings on Tuesday, and will continue to be stretched out. The Cubs do not have a starter set for Sunday against the Pirates, and could have Villanueva start and then get support from the bullpen. If the Cubs need Villanueva before Sunday, then they’ll likely have to make a roster move and call someone up from the Minor Leagues. Villanueva, whose last start was May 14, has posted a 2.04 ERA in 16 games in relief.
* Wednesday was a tough day for Sveum who had to tell Shawn Camp that he was designated for assignment. Sveum called the right-hander the MVP of the first half last year when Camp compiled a 2.80 ERA in 43 games.
“Unfortunately, we had to outright Camp, which obviously wasn’t my finest day as a manager,” Sveum said. “It was tough because Camp did so much for me my first year as manager and God knows where we would’ve been last year without him. Those days are tough when a guy’s a great guy and obviously done a lot for you. He did a lot for me when I was managing in Double-A. We go way back. It was a tough day today.”
– Carrie Muskat
* With Scott Feldman gone via trade, Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Carlos Villanueva will be stretched out to get back in the rotation. Feldman was scheduled to start on Tuesday but lefty Chris Rusin was called up from Triple-A Iowa to take his spot. Villanueva began the season in the rotation and made eight starts before he was moved to the bullpen to make room for Matt Garza. Villanueva was 1-3 with a 3.93 ERA in eight starts, and has a 2.40 ERA in 15 relief appearances. Villanueva will need time to get stretched out, and most likely won’t be ready to start until mid July, Sveum said. Feldman, by the way, will make his first start for the Orioles on Wednesday against the White Sox.
* GM Jed Hoyer was asked about whether the trades on Tuesday tell the players the season is over.
“Unfortunately, we’re 10 games under .500 at this stage in the season,” Hoyer said. “We have three teams in our division with the three best records in the National League, or close to it. I think realistically, our chances of playing in October are small. We need to add a lot of talent to get better for the future. Players should be trying to win every single game, that’s the nature of their job. I would expect the players to look at it that way.”
Is Sveum worried about a change in attitude?
“I’m not concerned about that,” Sveum said. “We’re still viable and able to fill those roles now. If you start getting more thinner, then things change. I’m not worried — they’re professional players and they have to go out and perform.”
* Starlin Castro batted .167 in June, the worst month of his young career. The shortstop has gotten into some bad habits, Sveum said.
“He’s just got to slow things down and get in a better position to hit like he did when he first got here,” Sveum said.
* Rusin was named to the Pacific Coast League All-Star team on Tuesday. The game will be played July 17 in Reno. The lefty compiled a 7-7 record and 3.27 ERA in 17 games (16 starts), and leads the PCL in innings pitched.
– Carrie Muskat
The Cubs have watched Albert Pujols hit home runs over 11 seasons with the Cardinals. He came back to haunt them Tuesday night. Pujols launched a two-run homer with one out in the eighth inning to lift the Angels to a 4-3 Interleague victory over the Cubs, who have had games end this way too many times this season.
The slugger began the night with more home runs against the Cubs than any other opponent, and notched No. 54 in the eighth. The Angels trailed 3-2 when Erick Aybar singled to lead off against Carlos Villanueva, and one out later, Pujols drove the first pitch — an 89 mph fastball — into the left-field seats.
“It got too much plate, it’s as simple as that,” Villanueva said. “Pujols is a great hitter — I don’t really have to say that. If I make a better pitch there, maybe it’s different results. With a hitter like that, you can’t miss over the plate that much. He did what he’s supposed to do, put it in the seats.”
It was Pujols’ ninth home run of the season, and first since May 23. It was his first go-ahead homer in the sixth inning or later since joining the Angels. He had 41 with the Cardinals, and a few of those were against the Cubs as well.
“Sometimes [pitchers] let go of the ball and that’s what happens,” Pujols said. “Sometimes we put good swings and don’t get the success that we want, but it goes the same way for [pitchers]. I’m pretty sure he wanted to paint it inside, or I don’t know where he was going, but he left it up in the middle, and I was able to just be aggressive and put a good swing.”
Villanueva said he wanted to throw a fastball in, but the pitch caught too much of the plate and it was a little flat.
“It was a perfect pitch for him to hit, pull down left field, and it was probably exactly what he was looking for,” Villanueva said. “If I throw the pitch and it does what it’s supposed to do, maybe he hits a foul ball. It got too much of the plate and he hit it hard.”
This was Villanueva’s sixth relief appearance after eight starts, but the right-hander didn’t use that as an excuse.
“I was ready to go,” he said. “I actually felt pretty good.”
The trouble is, Villanueva’s pitch was not what the Cubs scouting report called for.
“We were not supposed to even come close to calling or throwing that pitch in that situation,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “It’s the human factor. Somewhere along the line, we lose the scouting report from the bullpen to the mound.”
This isn’t the first time the Cubs have had a late lead and blown it. Unfortunately, it’s the 19th game they’ve lost in which they’ve had a lead, most in the National League.
“We seem to beat a lot of people through seven innings,” Sveum said. “It tends to be a broken record. Our starters have been great all year.”
How do you fix it?
“That’s the million dollar question,” Sveum said. “Obviously, we’re having trouble fixing it.”
Sveum didn’t consider walking Pujols in that situation.
“[Mark] Trumbo could’ve done the same thing with the same pitch,” Sveum said of the Angels’ No. 4 hitter who followed Pujols in the lineup. “He’s been a little bit hotter than Pujols has been.”
Nate Schierholtz, Alfonso Soriano and Ryan Sweeney each hit RBI singles for the Cubs, who were in line for their sixth straight Interleague win.
– Carrie Muskat
Matt Garza’s next rehab start is Thursday, and it could be his last, which will create a problem for the Cubs who have a pretty good rotation right now. Chicago’s starters rank third in the National League with a 3.40 ERA behind the Cardinals and Nationals, and they have posted 23 quality starts with a 1.90 ERA in those games. Garza, on the disabled list because of a strained left lat suffered in a Spring Training workout Feb. 17, will make his fourth Minor League rehab start Thursday for Triple-A Iowa.
“I’m just going for the next one,” Garza said Tuesday. I’m looking forward to Thursday and after Thursday, we’ll make a decision. They want me to get stretched out and get deeper into games, and I guess that’s what I have to do now.”
He threw 66 pitches in his last outing for Double-A Tennessee but it was over 3 1/3 innings. The Cubs want him to go deeper in the game.
“I’ve been throwing strikes, I’ve been working on things I need to work on,” Garza said. “It’s all piecing together. I feel fine and am excited about Thursday.”
But who gets bumped when Garza is ready? Over the weekend, Cubs manager Dale Sveum said they weren’t considering a six-man rotation but on Monday, he said it could be a possibility.
“It’s a tough decision because everybody has pitched pretty well,” Sveum said. “It’s going to be one of those things that will be unfortunate for somebody but it’s a reality and it’s going to happen.”
Carlos Villanueva, who started Tuesday, has the most experience as a swingman.
“It might lean to who we’re playing that series, the matchups,” Sveum said. “Maybe you go to a six-man rotation for a week because of matchups. You never know what the bullpen is like. A lot of things come into play. We’ll make that decision — and I know you guys are going to keep asking this question every day. It’s not going to change.”
Travis Wood posted his eighth straight quality start on Monday, and has a 2.03 ERA. Scott Feldman has a 2.53 ERA in his seven starts, which include a complete game win.
“I guess that’s the best problem to have,” Garza said about everyone doing well. “I want to pitch. I’m not getting ready for no reason. The guys are doing great. I’ve got to really step into it and gear up for it. I’m excited to come back and chomping. I’m not looking forward to anything past Thursday.”
– Carrie Muskat
Carlos Villanueva takes the mound Tuesday in the second game of the Cubs’ three-game series against the Rockies. Here’s the lineup:
Another day, another close game for the Cubs.
“Another one-run game — it [stinks],” Carlos Villanueva said. “We’re close, right there.”
Carlos Beltran hit a pair of RBI singles and Jon Jay drove in two runs, including a go-ahead RBI single in the eighth, to lift the Cardinals to a 5-4 victory on Wednesday over the Cubs, who hit into four double plays, and split the two-game series.
The Cubs now have had 28 of their 34 games decided by three runs or fewer, and the team is 10-18 in those games. Chicago is 5-8 in one-run games.
“It kind of speaks well for our team,” James Russell said of the tight games. “We don’t give up and we’re always in the game. If breaks fall our way, then we win a lot more games then we have right now.”
The loss wasted the fifth quality start by Villanueva. This was the 21st quality start by a Cubs pitcher, and they have compiled a 2.01 ERA but have won only eight of the games. Only the Cardinals (24) and Phillies (22) have more quality starts, and St. Louis has 15 wins and Philadelphia has 11.
“[Villanueva] did a nice job and got out of some jams and made the pitches when he had to,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “He got the outs when he had to and left it up to [Russell] who has been the most reliable guy for two years to get a left-hander out.”
Russell ran into trouble in the seventh. St. Louis trailed 4-3 when Matt Carpenter doubled off Russell and reached third on an error by Nate Schierholtz, who had trouble picking up Carpenter’s ball. Then Beltran delivered the game-tying RBI single.
“If I make a better pitch to Carpenter, I’m not in that situation,” Russell said. “I hung a curveball to him and he hit my mistake and that’s what good hitters do. He made me pay for it.”
Beltran’s hit snapped Russell’s season-opening scoreless streak at 13 innings, spanning 17 games.
“For some reason, the lefties they have over there, they hit left-handers pretty well,” Russell said of the Cardinals. “I’ve just got to find some different things to do against them.
“You’ll have those days when broken bat hits fall in and you’ll have days when guys will smoke balls and they’re hit right at somebody,” he said. “Right now, I was on the other end of it, but it is what it is.”
In the St. Louis eighth against Michael Bowden, Yadier Molina singled and moved up on a wild pitch before scoring on Jay’s single to center. Chicago now has lost 10 games in which it had a lead, tied with the Diamondbacks for the most in the National League.
The Cubs seem to have their starting pitching figured out and have settled on Kevin Gregg as the closer. It’s those middle innings that are a little tricky.
“We just can’t seem to shut anybody down in that sixth, seventh inning right now,” Sveum said. “We’re getting two strikes on people. We just can’t make a pitch when we have to.”
– Carrie Muskat
The Cubs close their quick two-game series against the Cardinals on Wednesday, sending Carlos Villanueva to the mound against Jake Westbrook. Villanueva will be making his eventh start. In his last outing, he gave up four runs on a season-high seven hits over 5 2/3 innings. He is 5-3 with a 3.10 ERA in 25 games (seven starts) against the Cardinals. Alfonso Soriano and Darwin Barney both get a day off. Here’s the lineup:
* The Cubs begin a stretch in which they host three teams in a three-day span at Wrigley Field for the first time in nearly 53 years. Sunday, they wrap up a three-game series against the Reds, then host the Rangers on Monday, and face the Cardinals on Tuesday. The Cubs last hosted three teams in three days at Wrigley Field, Aug. 21-23, 1960, when they played a doubleheader vs. the Giants on Aug. 21, then hosted the Reds on Aug. 22 before starting a series vs. Pittsburgh, Aug. 23.
* In 18 quality starts this season, Cubs pitchers have recorded a 2.05 ERA (28 ER/122.2 IP) yet have just six victories. Only three NL teams have more quality starts than the Cubs: the Cardinals (22), the Reds (20) and the Phillies (20). Cubs starting pitchers rank third in the NL with 169 strikeouts. The Cardinals lead with 171 strikeouts.
* Jeff Samardzija’s 52 strikeouts are tied for second-most in the NL with the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw. The Pirates’ A.J. Burnett leads with 57. Samardzija has a 3.09 ERA in seven starts, yet is 1-4. He and Carlos Villanueva (1-2, 2.85 in 6 GS) are two of five starting pitchers with a sub-3.09 ERA and one or no wins on the season.
– Carrie Muskat
The Cubs play a makeup game Monday night against the Rangers, then play host to the Cardinals for two games Tuesday and Wednesday. Here are the pitching matchups:
Monday vs. Rangers: RHP Scott Feldman (2-3, 3.34) vs. RHP Nick Tepesch (2-2, 3.54)
Tuesday vs. Cardinals: LHP Travis Wood (2-2, 2.50) vs. RHP Lance Lynn (5-0, 2.75)
Wednesday vs. Cardinals: RHP Carlos Villanueva (1-2, 2.85) vs. RHP Jake Westbrook (2-1, 1.07)
The Cubs rebounded from Thursday’s tough loss but it took until the ninth inning Friday to do so. The Cubs rallied for three runs in the ninth against Aroldis Chapman but came up short, 6-5, against the Reds. Manager Dale Sveum wasn’t sure what to expect after a heartbreaking 4-2 loss to the Padres on Thursday when Travis Wood threw seven shutout innings, but was hurt by two defensive lapses in the eighth.
“That was one of the tougher ones, if not the toughest loss we’ve had this year because it was kind of in our control,” Sveum said of Thursday’s game.
Chapman was 6-for-6 in save opportunities, but when he took over in the ninth with a 6-2 lead, it wasn’t a save situation. The Cubs loaded the bases on pinch-hit singles by Dioner Navarro and Dave Sappelt as well another base hit by Starlin Castro. Chapman struck out Anthony Rizzo and got Alfonso Soriano to fly out. Pinch-hitter Scott Hairston then drew a walk to force in a run, and Welington Castillo smacked a two-run single to center to close to 6-5. Pinch-hitter Cody Ransom walked to load the bases and chase Chapman, and J.J. Hoover struck out Darwin Barney to end the game.
“Those were some great at-bats today off the best closer in the game,” Sveum said of the ninth. “Hopefully, we can learn from that, too. Instead of waiting until a guy throws 98 [mph], we need to make those adjustments when a guy is throwing 94.”
What were the Cubs doing against Chapman?
“Be more patient,” Castro said. “The guy can throw strikes. If you take some pitches, he has to throw every pitch for a strike.”
“Sometimes you get hit,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “It’s not a control thing. Sometimes you have to give hitters credit. They did some good hitting against Chapman.”
The Cubs did collect a season high 15 hits but also stranded 12.
“Everybody tried to do something because it was a tough game to lose yesterday,” Castro said. “Everybody was ready in the ninth inning.”
It was just too late.
“We’ve lost so many games by one run,” Carlos Villanueva said. “Really good teams, teams that are in the playoffs every year, the record is the other way and in one-run games, you come out on top. For us, we have to get it done when it counts. If it’s making a better pitch, having a better approach at the dish, we have to do whatever it takes to improve on that.”
– Carrie Muskat