Individuals came up big, but it was a rough day for Cubs minor league teams Thursday, with only Iowa grabbing a win. Tennessee, Daytona, Kane County and Boise all lost, while Mesa had a scheduled day off. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s minor league Cubs action:
Iowa Cubs (60-54)
1st Place (+1.5)
Iowa topped host New Orleans for their third-straight win following a six-game losing streak. RHP Dan Straily spun six scoreless innings as the I-Cubs shut out the Zephyrs, 4-0.
- Straily struck out five and walked one, giving up just four hits to pick up the win.
- 2B Javier Baez (.259) hit his second homer in as many games as part of a three-hit effort. He scored once and drove in two. His 78 RBI rank second in the PCL, two behind Fresno’s Adam Duvall.
- 1B Mike Olt (.351) recorded his fourth two-hit game in his last five contests, and hit his first Iowa homer. Olt also added his first stolen base of 2014 at any level.
- 3B Kris Bryant (.310) launched his 13th homer with Iowa, and 35th of the season, ranking second in the minor leagues (behind Joey Gallo’s 37).
Tennessee Smokies (20-21)
2nd Place (-2.5)
The Smokies opened a five-game home series with Pensacola with a 6-4 loss, their third-straight setback.
- Six Daytona hitters recorded one hit each.
- 1B Dustin Geiger (.225) hit his 23rd double, the Cubs lone extra-base hit, and knocked in two runs (42).
- RHP Matt Loosen (5.57), LHP Andrew McKirahan (3.00) and RHP P.J. Francescon (4.03) combined for five innings of relief, allowing one run on one hit.
Daytona Cubs (25-14)
1st Place (+4.5)
The Daytona Cubs were shut out at home by Bradenton, 8-0, managing just four singles.
- RHP Tayler Scott gave up one earned run over five innings, striking out four.
- C Wilson Contreras (.241) walked four times. It was his first multiwalk game since August 31 of last year with Kane County.
- In the second inning, Daytona committed two fielding errors and uncorked one wild pitch, allowing five unearned runs.
- The Cubs were 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position, stranding 14 runners.
Kane County Cougars (22-17)
Kane County allowed four runs in the bottom of the eighth to fall, 7-3, at Wisconsin. It was their sixth-straight loss.
- RF Jeffrey Baez (.167) recorded two doubles (3) and scored once. It marked his first game with multiple doubles since Aug. 14 of last year with Mesa.
- C Cael Brockmeyer (.299) added a double of his own, knocking in his 30th RBI and first since July 20 at Great Lakes.
- RHP Zak Hermans (2-3, 3.94) allowed four runs, three earned, in the eighth inning to suffer his third loss of the year.
Boise Hawks (4-6)
4th Place (-3.0)
Boise plated the first run of the game in the bottom of the first, but ultimately fell 2-1 to visiting Vancouver.
- 1B Danny Canela (.307, 12 2B) and 2B David Bote (.327, 5 2B) each finished 2-for-4 with a double. Bote knocked in the lone Boise run (7).
- RHP Ryan Williams (1.50) provided four frames of scoreless relief, striking out two. He was followed by RHPs Daniel Lewis (0.00) and James Farris (0.00), who each threw an additional scoreless inning.
Reliever James Russell has been sent to Atlanta in a deadline deal. (Photo by Stephen Green)
The Cubs acquired catching prospect Victor Caratini from the Braves for infielder/outfielder Emilio Bonifacio, left-handed pitcher James Russell and a cash consideration Thursday.
The 20-year-old Caratini, a second-round selection in the 2013 draft (65th overall) entered this season ranked by Baseball America as the eighth-best prospect in the Atlanta farm system. Baseball America named Caratini the best pure hitter in Atlanta’s 2013 draft class as well as its best power hitter.
In 2013, Caratini was named rookie-level Danville’s Player of the Year after hitting .290/.415/.430 (58-for-200) with 23 doubles, one homer and 25 RBI. He drew 19 walks versus 17 strikeouts, earning the organization’s Player of the Month honor for August.
Caratini has spent all of 2014 with Single-A Rome, where he was named a South Atlantic League midseason All-Star. He hit .279 (90-for-323) with 18 doubles, four triples, five home runs and 42 RBI in 87 games this season. According to GM Jed Hoyer, Caratini will report to the Cubs Single-A Kane County affiliate.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder is a native of Puerto Rico and attended Miami Dade Community College.
Russell, 28, was originally selected by the Cubs in the 14th round of the 2007 draft. He departs after going 10-16 with three saves and a 3.87 ERA (117 ER/272.0 IP) in 316 big league appearances, all but five in relief, since the start of the 2010 season. The lefty was 0-2 with one save and a 3.51 ERA (13 ER/33.1 IP) in 44 relief outings this season.
Bonifacio, 29, batted .279 (77-for-276) with 14 doubles, three triples, two home runs and 18 RBI in 69 games with the Cubs this year. He signed a minor league contract with the Cubs in February after being designated for assignment by the Kansas City Royals on February 2.
Iowa claimed a doubleheader sweep, and Boise shut out Vancouver Wednesday. However, Tennessee, Daytona, Kane County and Mesa all lost their matchups. Here are the highlights from yesterday’s minor league action.
Iowa Cubs (59-54)
1st Place (+0.5)
GAME 1: Iowa took the first game of the doubleheader at New Orleans, backing a seven-inning, complete-game shutout from LHP Eric Jokisch to win 9-0.
- Jokisch recorded his 12th quality start of the season and his second career shutout.
- 1B Mike Olt (.345) recorded his third-straight two-hit game, ripping his fourth double and knocking in his fourth run.
- 2B Javier Baez (.254) launched a three-run homer in the fourth for his team-leading 20th blast of the year.
- RF Jorge Soler (.316) belted a two-run shot to knock in his third and fourth runs since joining Iowa.
GAME 2: Iowa completed the doubleheader sweep with a 2-1 win at New Orleans, despite being outhit, 6-5.
- RHP Yoanner Negrin fanned five over five innings, giving up one earned run.
- 3B Kris Bryant (.312) singled in both games of the doubleheader, swiping his fifth bag in Game 2.
- RF Jorge Soler (.316) added a double (2) and a walk in three plate appearances. He has hit safely in five of his six starts for the I-Cubs (.353/6-for-17).
- RHP Kyuji Fujikawa (1.80) continued his rehab assignment and earned a hold with a scoreless sixth.
- RHP Armando Rivero (1.02) recorded his first save, finishing the seventh.
Tennessee Smokies (20-20)
2nd Place (-1.5)
Tennessee scored first, but could not hold the lead at Birmingham, as the Barons prevailed, 7-3.
- CF Albert Almora (.226) launched his first home run in seven games with the Smokies, and his eighth on the year, as part of a two-hit effort. His 2-for-4 line gives him six hits in his last three games.
- DH Charles Cutler (.319) hit a two-run homer in the ninth. All five of his homers have come with runners on base.
- 2B Stephen Bruno (.281) finished 2-for-4 with his team-leading 23rd double.
- 1B Lars Anderson (.409) and SS Addison Russell (.313) each singled twice. Anderson is 9-for-22 with seven walks in seven games with Tennessee, good for a .533 OBP.
Daytona Cubs (25-13)
1st Place (+4.5)
Daytona pitching allowed five runs in the eighth inning to fall to visiting Bradenton, 9-7.
- CF Jacob Hannemann (.370) hit his first home run in seven games with Daytona, and his seventh on the year. He finished 3-for-5 with two runs and his third RBI.
- SS Marco Hernandez (.298) followed Hannemann with a 3-for-4 game, scoring twice, knocking in one (44) and drawing a walk.
- RF Billy McKinney (.301) knocked in two runs. He now has 22 RBI in just 24 games with Daytona, and 55 on the year between Stockton and the Cubs.
- RHP Michael Jensen (3.06) recorded his second hold, allowing three runs while retiring just one Marauder to begin the eighth.
- RHP Zack Godley (3-2, 4.40) suffered the blown save (2) and his second loss, allowing two runs in 1.2 innings.
Kane County Cougars (22-16)
T-1st Place (–)
Kane County’s losing streak grew to a season-long five games as they were shut out in Wisconsin, 2-0.
- RHP Jen-Ho Tseng gave up one earned run over seven innings, striking out three and walking none. He’s allowed more than two runs just three times in 15 games (14 starts).
- 2B Chesny Young (.333) recorded the Cougars’ lone multihit effort, singling twice. He has six hits in five games since being promoted to Kane County.
- RF Jeffrey Baez (.100) doubled for his first extra-base hit in 10 games as a Cougar.
Boise Hawks (4-5)
T-3rd Place (-3.0)
Boise came back from a 7-0 deficit to beat Vancouver at home, 8-7, on a walk-off error from Canadians 2B Tim Locastro.
- 3B Jesse Hodges (.260) finished 3-for-5 with a double (5) and scored the game-winning run on Locastro’s error. Hodges has recorded four three-hit games this month.
- C Mark Malave (.284, 3 2B), SS Bryant Flete (.296, 1 2B) and RF Charcer Burks (.367, 3 2B) all doubled in the game.
- Boise was 6-for-17 with runners in scoring position, a .353 mark.
- RHP Trey Lang (1-0, 1.59) tossed two perfect innings of relief and struck out five to earn his first career win.
Mesa Cubs (1-3)
T-3rd Place (-3.0)
After falling to the AZL Angels at home on Tuesday, Mesa dropped an away contest at the Angels, 5-4.
- DH Alberto Mineo (.287) and 2B Andrew Ely (.366) both recorded triples. Mineo knocked in two (17), finishing 2-for-4.
- Mesa stole four bases—one each from CF Kevonte Mitchell (.306, 7 SB) and 3B Varonex Cuevas (.323, 1 SB), and two from SS Gleyber Torres (.280, 5 SB).
(Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
The Cubs acquired left-handed pitcher Felix Doubront from the Red Sox Wednesday in exchange for a player to be named later.
The 26-year-old southpaw is 26-22 in his major league career with a 4.82 ERA in 98 appearances, including 69 starts over five years. Doubront made at least 27 starts and won 11 games in each of the last two seasons. After beginning the 2014 season as a starter, the left-hander has shifted to the bullpen.
He was the Red Sox’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2010, the same season he made his big league debut at age 22. He originally signed with Boston as a non-drafted free agent in 2004.
Daytona captured a win on a walk-off blast, and Boise racked up 20 hits en route to a victory Tuesday. Here are some highlights from yesterday minor league action:
Iowa Cubs (57-54)
T-1st Place (–)
Iowa fell to New Orleans, 2-1, as the Zephyrs scored runs in the ninth and 10th innings to record the win. The I-Cubs dropped their sixth-straight game.
- RHP Dae-Eun Rhee tossed six scoreless frames, fanning five in the no-decision.
- 3B Kris Bryant (.309) was 2-for-4 with a solo homer, RBI, walk and run scored. He had hit .194 (7-for-36) in his previous 11 contests.
- 1B Mike Olt (.320) was 2-for-4 with a walk, and has three multihit efforts in his first seven games with the I-Cubs.
- RHP Marcos Mateo (3.49) threw two shutout innings in relief of Rhee.
- LHP Zac Rosscup (2.66) suffered a blown save and allowed a run in the ninth on four walks.
Tennessee Smokies (20-19)
2nd Place (-0.5)
Tennessee tied the game at 2-2 with a run in the top of the ninth before Birmingham won, 3-2, in the bottom of the frame.
- RHP Pierce Johnson fanned eight over six innings, surrendering two earned runs in the no-decision.
- RF Jae-Hoon Ha (.226) was 2-for-5 with a double, an RBI and a run scored. His ninth-inning infield single plated PR Pin-Chieh Chen to tie the game at 2-2.
- LF Lars Anderson (.389) drew three walks, going 0-for-1.
- LHP Jeff Lorick (4.35) spun 1.2 shutout innings in relief of Johnson.
- RHP P.J. Francescon (4.11) retired the final batter in the eighth, but allowed the game-winning run in the ninth.
Daytona Cubs (25-12)
1st Place (+4.5)
Daytona won its seventh-straight game as C Kyle Schwarber hit a walk-off, two-run homer in the 10th to give the Cubs a 6-4 win.
- Including the walk-off homer, Schwarber (.265) finished 2-for-4 with a double, two RBI and two runs scored.
- 3B Wes Darvill (.285) was 2-for-4 with a double, run and an RBI. He has five RBI in his last four games.
- 2B Gioskar Amaya (.294) had three hits on the night and has hit safely in 11 straight games. He is hitting .419 (18-for-43) during the run.
- RHP Yao-Lin Wang (5.54) tossed 2.1 shutout frames in relief of LHP Rob Zastryzny, while RHP Stephen Perakslis (4.73) earned the win with two scoreless innings to close out the game.
Kane County Cougars (22-15)
1st Place (+1.0)
Kane County dropped its fourth-straight game, losing the series opener in Wisconsin, 3-2.
- 1B Jacob Rogers (.269) paced the Cougars with solo home runs in the sixth and eighth innings. He finished 2-for-3 with two runs, the two homers, two RBI and a walk. He has nine RBI in his last 10 games.
- The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for RHP Duane Underwood (5 IP, 2 ER, 6 K). He still has allowed two or fewer earned runs in each of his last six starts dating to June 28 (1.91 ERA).
Boise Hawks (3-5)
4th Place (-3.0)
Boise used 20 hits to defeat Hillsboro, 11-2. Hawks pitching surrendered just three hits.
- 2B Danny Lockhart (.625) was 4-for-4 with three runs, two doubles and two RBI.
- C Mark Zagunis (.330) finished 3-for-6 with two runs, a double and two RBI.
- 1B Danny Canela (.293) was 3-for-4 with a run and three RBI.
- SS Bryant Flete (.240) was 3-for-5 with a run.
- LF David Bote (.319) and DH Justin Marra (.295) had two hits apiece.
- Following RHP Josh Conway’s three shutout innings, LHP Sam Wilson (3.93) earned the win, allowing two runs in three innings.
- RHP Francisco Carrillo (2.42) picked up his first save with three shutout innings to finish the game.
Mesa Cubs (1-2)
T-3rd Place (-2.0)
The AZL Angels scored five runs—just one earned—in the first to jump ahead of Mesa, besting their host by a final score of 11-4. Mesa committed five errors, allowing eight unearned runs.
- 2B Andrew Ely (.378) knocked three singles for his third three-hit game in 11 tries this season.
- SS Gleyber Torres (.281) ripped his third triple and knocked in two (17). He has reached safely in his last nine games (.429/12-for-28, 9 BB).
- After RHP Scott Frazier allowed five runs (one earned) on no hits and five walks, retiring just one batter, LHP Jose Paulino (6.56) provided 5.2 innings of relief, allowing three runs (two earned) on six hits and striking out three.
(Images by Brian Kersey/Getty Images)
Cubs catcher John Baker picked up his first career win, coming in as an emergency reliever in the top of the 16th inning of the Cubs’ 4-3 marathon win over Colorado. Then in the bottom half of the inning, Baker walked and scored the game-winning run on a Starlin Castro sacrifice fly to right field. The six-hour, 27-minute game was the longest in team history.
The Cubs traded Darwin Barney to the Dodgers Monday. (Photo by Stephen Green)
The Cubs sent second baseman Darwin Barney and cash consideration to the Dodgers for a player to be named later on Monday.
The 28-year-old Barney was designated for assignment on July 22 after hitting .230 with two homers and 10 doubles in 72 games this season. Since his Cubs debut in 2010, he has hit .244 with 18 homers in 542 games.
Barney earned a Gold Glove in 2012 after tying a major league single-season record with 141 consecutive errorless games at second.
In a very full slate of games Sunday, Daytona completed a doubleheader sweep, and Mesa cruised to a win. But Iowa, Tennessee, Kane County and Boise all fell short. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s minor league action:
Iowa Cubs (57-53)
1st Place (+0.5)
GAME 1: Iowa dropped its fourth-straight game in the first half of its second consecutive doubleheader with Memphis, falling at home by a final score of 4-2.
- RF Jorge Soler (.333) hit his first Triple-A homer, a two run shot in the sixth inning.
- C Eli Whiteside (.182) recorded the lone multihit game for the I-Cubs, knocking two singles.
- Iowa failed to record a hit with runners in scoring position, finishing 0-for-4.
GAME 2: Memphis completed its second doubleheader sweep of Iowa in as many days and a five-game series sweep. The Redbirds shut the I-Cubs out 2-0.
- 1B Mike Olt (.286) recorded two of Iowa’s seven hits, including his third double of the year.
- Josh Vitters (.205) was used as a pinch hitter for the third time in the last six games, singling in place of RHP Marcus Hatley. He is 2-for-7 (.286) with a homer and two RBI as a pinch hitter this season.
- CF Matt Szczur (.254) recorded a single and a stolen base (20) in each of yesterday’s games.
- Hatley (3.26), RHP Kyuji Fujikawa (2.25) and RHP Armando Rivero (1.08) combined for three scoreless innings of relief and three strikeouts.
Tennessee Smokies (19-18)
2nd Place (-0.5)
Tennessee entered the bottom of the eighth with a 5-1 lead, but allowed four runs to come across in the eighth and one in the ninth to lose to Birmingham, 6-5, on a walk-off fielding error by 2B Jonathan Mota (4).
- RHP Corey Black gave up one earned run over six innings.
- RF Jae-Hoon Ha (.221) finished 2-for-5 from the leadoff spot with a solo shot to drive in his 38th run.
- 1B Lars Anderson (.429, 2 2B) and 3B Christian Villanueva (.283, 10 2B) each singled and doubled. Villanueva knocked in two runs (18).
- Mota (.255) hit his first triple of the season as part of a two-hit day. It was his 11th game with multiple hits.
- LHP Hunter Cervenka (3.57) earned his 10th hold despite allowing two runs over one frame.
- RHP Lendy Castillo (3.67) blew his second save, allowing two runs in the eighth to tie the game.
- LHP Andrew McKirahan (0-2, 2.77) allowed the game-winning unearned run for his second loss of the year.
Daytona Cubs (23-12)
1st Place (+3.0)
GAME 1: Daytona surrendered a three-run lead but prevailed 4-3 over visiting St. Lucie in the first half of the club’s second-straight doubleheader.
- Daytona managed four RBI on just three total bases. 1B Dan Vogelbach (.279, 56 RBI) had an RBI single in the first inning. Later in the frame, 2B Wes Darvill (.276, 12 RBI) knocked a two-run single.
- LF Kyle Schwarber (.282, 7 RBI) helped the team regain the lead with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fifth.
- RHP Michael Jensen (6-4, 2.51) earned the win in relief, retiring three Mets without allowing a run.
- RHP Zack Godley (4.03) earned his third save, allowing one hit over 1.2 innings of work.
GAME 2: Daytona completed its second-consecutive doubleheader sweep over visiting St. Lucie with a comeback 6-5 win.
- 1B Dan Vogelbach (.279) extended his hitting streak to eight games with a two-run shot in the fifth inning, giving Daytona the 6-5 lead.
- SS Marco Hernandez (.294) tallied two singles in his 28th multihit game of the year.
- 3B Wes Darvill (.279, 17 RBI) picked up his third and fourth RBI of the day with a double. He also stole a base (4).
- RHP Starling Peralta (6-3, 3.59) earned the win in relief, providing 2.1 scoreless innings of work.
Kane County Cougars (22-13)
1st Place (+2.0)
Kane County’s ninth-inning rally fell short, as the Cougars lost at home to West Michigan, 2-1.
- All of Kane County’s offense came from the first three hitters. LF Shawon Dunston (.284) went 2-for-4 with two singles while SS Carlos Penalver (.217) and 3B Jeimer Candelario (.248) each tallied their 13th doubles of the season.
- RHP Tyler Skulina suffered the loss in his sixth quality start of the season, going seven innings and giving up one earned run while fanning seven.
Boise Hawks (2-4)
4th Place (-3.0)
After jumping ahead 3-2 in the top of the 10th inning, the Hawks lost to the Hillsboro Hops, 4-3, on a walk-off homer from Hops 2B Pedro Ruiz.
- CF Charcer Burks (.529) finished 3-for-4 with a run and an RBI (3). He has hit in each of his five games with Boise (9-for-17), including multiple hits in each of his last three games (.636/7-for-11).
- RF Mark Zagunis (.333) singled twice for the Hawks and walked. He has multiple hits in nine of his 27 games with Boise.
- RHP Trey Lang (1.74) threw three scoreless frames of relief before RHP Francisco Carrillo (1-2, 2.74) surrendered the two-run shot, suffering his first blown save and second loss.
Mesa Cubs (1-0)
T-2nd Place (-0.5)
Mesa routed the host AZL D-backs, 12-2, on 20 hits.
- Every Mesa hitter recorded a hit, while seven of the nine recorded multiple knocks.
- SS Gleyber Torres (.261) was a perfect 4-for-4 with three runs, two doubles (3), two RBI (13) and a stolen base (3).
- 2B Andrew Ely (.333) homered and finished 3-for-5, with two runs and an RBI (4).
- 1B Roney Alcala (.255) also went 3-for-5 with two runs and an RBI (3).
- LHP Andin Diaz (2-1, 1.38) tossed 1.1 scoreless frames in relief and struck out two to earn his second win of the season.
Iowa earned a big win, pitching powered Tennessee, Kane County took the series, and Boise cruised to victory Thursday. Only Mesa lost, while Daytona was rained out. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s minor league action:
Iowa Cubs (57-48)
1st Place (+2.5)
Iowa routed New Orleans at home by a final score of 11-2 despite being outhit 14-12 by the Zephyrs.
- LHP Eric Jokisch gave up two earned runs over 5.1 innings, fanning five in the win.
- 2B Javier Baez (.255) finished 2-for-5 with a run, a solo homer and three RBI (66).
- PH Josh Vitters (.205) tallied his eighth homer of the season in his only at-bat.
- 1B Mike Olt (.400) also notched two hits, including a double (1), and knocked in three (3) in his first game since being sent to Iowa from the Chicago Cubs.
Tennessee Smokies (18-16)
1st Place (+0.5)
RHP Pierce Johnson spun six shutout frames for the Smokies en route to a 4-2 home win over the Braves to take over first place in the division.
- In his first game with the Smokies, 1B Lars Anderson (.500) went 2-for-4 with a run, a double (1) and an RBI (1).
- SS Addison Russell (.236) contributed the other Tennessee multihit game—his fifth such contest in 15 games since joining the Cubs organization.
- Johnson’s effort was his second consecutive outing without allowing an earned run (11.0 IP). He managed a season-high-tying eight punch-outs over six innings, giving up no earned runs.
- RHP Jeff Lorick (4.53) recorded the first two outs of the eighth for his ninth hold.
- RHP Frank Batista (0.83) completed the game, earning his sixth save.
Kane County Cougars (21-11)
1st Place (+3.0)
Kane County clinched the home series win over South Bend by taking the middle game, 5-3.
- 1B Jacob Rogers (.270) paced the offense with three hits, including a solo homer, and two RBI (44).
- LF Shawon Dunston (.265), 2B Ben Carhart (.282) and CF Trey Martin (.245) tallied two singles apiece. Dunston knocked in one (26) and stole a base (13), while Carhart plated two (37).
- LHP Michael Heesh (2.42) threw two scoreless innings for his second hold.
- RHP James Pugliese (1.54) earned his third save with 1.1 scoreless innings.
Boise Hawks (1-1)
4th Place (-1.5)
The Hawks earned their first win of the second half, topping host Everett by a final score of 7-3.
- 1B Danny Canela (.293) put Boise ahead with a two-run shot in the first (4 HR, 25 RBI).
- C Justin Marra (.305) provided insurance with a two-run homer of his own in the eighth (6 HR, 26 RBI).
- 2B David Bote (.375) recorded the lone multihit game for the Hawks, going 2-for-4 with a run.
- LHP Sam Wilson (3-0, 3.52) offered two scoreless innings of relief for his third win of the year.
Mesa Cubs (13-12)
3rd Place (-3.0)
Mesa surrendered a 5-1 lead on the road, losing 7-6 on a walk-off single from the AZL Athletics’ Robert Martinez.
- CF Kevonte Mitchell (.313) finished 2-for-3 with a run, a walk, a triple (1) and an RBI (3).
- RF Shamil Ubiera (.250) knocked in two (11), finishing 1-for-3 with a walk.
- Five Mesa errors contributed to three unearned runs.
- RHP Jesus Castillo (3.52) earned his first hold despite allowing four runs (two earned) in 1.1 innings pitched.
- LHP Andin Diaz (1-1, 1.54) suffered his first loss and first blown save, allowing two runs (one earned) in 0.2 frames.
Matt Adams has been the lone consistent bat for St. Louis this season. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
St. Louis got off to a slow start this season, but as every Cubs fan knows, you can’t count out the Cards just because of a few rough weeks. The Cubs’ closest NL Central foe put a .500 April behind them thanks to some dominant starting pitching and a resurgent offense that is climbing the ranks after an uncharacteristically sluggish start. First baseman Matt Adams has poured it on, and Jhonny Peralta has added some much-needed pop to a relatively low-power offense. The team suffered a major blow when cornerstone catcher Yadier Molina was put on the DL, potentially for the remainder of the season, after thumb surgery. Third-year manager Mike Matheny often gets criticized for his odd decisions, particularly his bullpen usage. But despite his alleged missteps, the Cardinals never seem to miss a beat, proving once again to be one of the stronger clubs in the game.
(3.6 RA/G, 4TH IN NL)
Outside of a pair of rough starts against the Cubs, Adam Wainwright has been downright unhittable this season. The Cardinals ace and projected Sunday starter has been as impressive as any arm in baseball and anchors a very strong rotation. Friday’s starter Joe Kelly has been tough in limited action, but he’s dealt with hamstring issues. Lance Lynn has been solid as well. Though inconsistent, Shelby Miller, who will start Saturday, has displayed flashes of the talent that made him one of the game’s top prospects. Michael Wacha was continuing to build upon his late-season breakout in 2013, but a stress reaction in his shoulder will keep him sidelined until at least September. The Cardinals do run into some issues in the bullpen, especially in the base on balls department. Trevor Rosenthal is racking up saves, but his walk rate is approaching uncomfortable levels for a closer. However, right-hander Pat Neshek has been one of the better stories of 2014, posting a 0.68 ERA over 40 innings and a 9.0 K/9 ratio in his first All-Star season. If Jason Motte can return to his 2012 form and fellow fireballer Carlos Martinez can lower his walk total, St. Louis has the arms to end games quickly.
(3.7 RS/G, 14TH IN NL)
With Molina potentially out for the year, the offense lacks the consistent bat that has driven the Cards for years. Adams is doing what he can offensively, and the always-producing and under-the-radar Matt Holliday has also bounced back from a slow start and is providing some power. But his season totals are hardly what’s to be expected from the six-time All Star. Peralta leads the team with 14 home runs, but is hitting just .256 (only he and Adams have double-digit home run totals). Prospect Oscar Taveras and offseason acquisition Peter Bourjos haven’t lived up to their hype this season, while second baseman Kolten Wong has also struggled to find his footing in the major leagues. It wouldn’t be a shock to see St. Louis add a much-needed bat before the trade deadline to continue their playoff push.