(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
Jeff Samardzija brought his “A” game to the South Side in a 7-0 win against the White Sox Monday night. In the series opener, the Cubs’ ace pitched a two-hitter, earning the 28-year-old his first career shutout. He threw 108 pitches, allowing only two hits—both singles—while fanning eight and walking two.
Though last night’s victory is only the third win for the second-year starter, Samardzija has pitched well all season, owning a 2.85 ERA through 11 starts. The Shark’s Memorial Day win makes him the first Cubs pitcher to throw a complete-game shutout game in almost two years; the last North Sider to do so was Randy Wells on August 29, 2011. The Cubs play three more games against their intracity rivals before either team can claim bragging rights for capturing the Crosstown Classic.
The Cubs will see Reds ace Johnny Cueto on Sunday. (Photo by Andy Marlin/Getty Images)
The Cubs go from pitcher’s environment to hitter’s paradise as they head to Cincinnati for a three-game set. GM Walt Jocketty finally addressed an area this offseason that has plagued the Reds for years: the leadoff spot. And, boy, did he ever. Center fielder Shin-Soo Choo has put up a monstrous .300/.449/.535 (AVG/OBP/SLG) slash line with nine home runs in 45 games. That’s a far cry from the sub-.300 on-base percentage days of Corey Patterson, Willy Taveras and Drew Stubbs—even if Choo is better suited to a corner outfield spot. He is exactly the type of player the Reds need as they look to capture their third division title in four years.
HITTING 4.8 RS/G, 2nd in NL
It’s true that only Choo and other-worldly first baseman Joey Votto get on base with any consistency, but it’s been at such a great rate (roughly 47 percent of plate appearances combined) it’s allowed the team’s power to have maximum effect. Votto, of course, supplies plenty of pop, but so do second baseman Brandon Phillips, third baseman Todd Frazier and right fielder Jay Bruce—though impressively, it’s Choo who leads the team in home runs. On the defensive end, young shortstop Zack Cozart pairs up with Phillips to form one of the game’s best double-play tandems. And Votto has worked hard to become a good fielder at first. In the end, this is a lineup that does it all besides steal bases. It will be vital for Cubs pitchers to limit baserunners in order to mitigate any damage from home runs in Great American Ball Park.
PITCHING 3.6 RA/G, 5th in NL
The lineup gets the plaudits, but the pitching at least deserves a, “You’re not looking so bad yourself.” Every starting pitcher has an ERA below 3.50, from veteran Bronson Arroyo—who throws tonight—to the other four arms (all ages 27 and below). Some of the across-the-board improvements in the last few years could be credited to the defense, but there’s more to it than that. The Cubs will also see ace Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey this weekend. Owner of a corkscrew windup and one of the game’s most deceptive change-ups, Cueto has continually refined his command to become a truly outstanding starting pitcher. The improved control has paid off in reduced walks and home runs, though he didn’t look his finest in last week’s return from oblique and back issues. Interestingly, he’s even spoken about reducing the twist in his motion if it would prevent future injuries. Once seen as a disappointment after being heralded as a top prospect, Bailey is another member of the pitching staff who has seen a downward trend in his walks—and he not only earned a no-hitter last year but also posted a career-best ERA. Flame-throwing lefty Aroldis Chapman is the closer, but rookie J.J. Hoover has also picked up a save or two.
As Memorial Day weekend approaches, let’s take a moment to thank our troops for all they do—and all they have done—for our country. Prior to joining the North Siders in 1953, “Mr. Cub,” Ernie Banks, spent two years in the United States Army during the Korean War. Former Cubs pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander also served in the Army during World War I.
Lendy Castillo fanned a season-high nine batters in 5.1 innings of relief. (Photo by Stephen Green)
Iowa and Tennessee both captured a win with shutout performances Thursday while Daytona fell despite offensive power and Kane County dropped an early lead. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s action:
Iowa Cubs (19-25)
Iowa plated two, first-inning runs, blanking visiting Las Vegas 4-0. The I-Cubs have won four of their last five games.
- 2B Logan Watkins (.233) went 2-for-4 with a homer, a run scored and a team-high two RBI (10).
- LF Dave Sappelt (.308) extended his hitting streak to five games (.563/9-for-16), going 2-for-3 with a walk and a RBI (10).
- 3B Josh Vitters (.262) reached base three times, going 2-for-3 with a walk and a run scored.
Tennessee Smokies (24-21)
Tennessee plated two, fourth-inning runs, blanking Hunstville 2-0.
- SS Arismendy Alcantara (.271) reached base three times, going 1-for-2 with two walks, a homer, a run scored, a RBI (23) and a stolen base (14).
- RF Tim Torres (.283) went 1-for-3 with a double (5) and a RBI (4).
- C Rafael Lopez (.266) was 1-for-3 with a run scored.
- RHP Marcus Hatley (3.00) converted his second save, allowing a hit and a walk while fanning one in a scoreless ninth frame.
Daytona Cubs (23-22)
Despite collecting 12 hits, Daytona dropped an 8-4 decision at Jupiter.
- CF John Andreoli (.305) went 3-for-5 with a triple (6) and a team-high two runs scored.
- 1B Dustin Geiger (.325) recorded his eighth multi-hit game of the month, going 2-for-3 with a sacrifice fly RBI, his team-leading 40th RBI of the season.
- SS Tim Saunders (.179) went 2-for-4 with a stolen base (13).
Kane County Cougars (20-23)
Kane County squandered an 8-4, fourth inning lead, dropping a 9-8, 14-inning marathon at Peoria.
- CF Albert Almora (.636) went 4-for-7 with two doubles (3), a run scored and a RBI (2) in his second game with the Cougars.
- 3B Jeimer Candelario (.267) extended his hitting streak to eight games (.417/15-for-36), going 2-for-7 with a double (16) and a team-high four RBI (16).
- LF Pin-Chieh Chen (.231) reached base three times, going 1-for-5 with two walks, a team-high three runs scored and two RBI (11).
- RHP Lendy Castillo (6.93) scattered five hits and two walks while fanning a season-high nine in 5.1 scoreless innings of relief.
- LHP Jeff Antigua (2.91) fanned four in two perfect innings of relief.
Edwin Maysonet was one of three I-Cubs players to blast a homer Wednesday. (Photo by Stephen Green)
Iowa and Kane County were unable to recover from sizable deficits Wednesday while Daytona secured its sixth win in its last seven outings. Tennessee had the day off but will take the field tonight, hosting Huntsville. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s action:
Iowa Cubs (18-25)
Las Vegas hit three home runs in the first four innings, defeating Iowa 9-4, snapping the Cubs three-game winning streak.
- CF Brian Bogusevic (.370) homered for the third straight game, extending his hitting streak to four games (.455/5-for-11).
- 2B Edwin Maysonet (.253) went 2-for-5 with a home run, a run scored and a RBI (13).
- LF Dave Sappelt (.286) extended his hitting streak to four games (.538/7-for-13), going 2-for-3 with a walk.
- RHP Casey Coleman (3 IP, 2 H, BB, 2 K) pitched a season-high three innings, allowing no runs.
Daytona Cubs (23-21)
Daytona led 6-1 after three innings, cruising to an 8-4 victory at Jupiter, the Cubs’ sixth win in their last seven games.
- LF John Andreoli (.296) went 3-for-5 with two runs scored. He has collected at least three hits in five games this season.
- SS Javier Baez (.266) extended his hitting streak to nine games (.368/14-for-38), going 1-for-5 with a double (12), two runs scored and a RBI (25).
- 1B Dustin Geiger (.319) recorded his seventh multi-hit game of the month, going 2-for-5 with two RBI (39). He leads the Florida State League with 39 RBI.
- Austin Kirk earned his fifth win of the season, tops in the Cubs organization.
Kane County Cougars (20-23)
Kane County collected 10 hits, but mustered only two runs in a 9-2 setback at Peoria.
- CF Albert Almora (.750) went 3-for-4 with a double (1), a run scored and a RBI (1) in his first game of the season.
- 3B Jeimer Candelario (.266) extended his hitting streak to seven games (.448/13-for-29), going 1-for-4.
- 2B Gioskar Amaya (.259) went 1-for-4 with a triple (4) and a run scored.
- 1B Dan Vogelbach (.285) doubled and knocked in a run in four at-bats.
Brian Bogusevic collected two homers in a doubleheader set Tuesday. (Photo by Stephen Green)
Iowa swept a doubleheader, Daytona’s late offensive outburst led to victory and Tennessee fell in a narrow 11-inning loss Tuesday. Kane County had the day off, but the Cougars return to the field tonight at Peoria. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s action.
Iowa Cubs (18-24)
Game 1: Iowa scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to walk off with a 2-1 victory over Las Vegas in the first game of a doubleheader.
- RF Brian Bogusevic (1-for-3, HR, R, RBI) hit a game-tying home run, leading off the bottom of the seventh.
- SS Donnie Murphy (.286) went 1-for-3, driving in the game-winning run with a two-out RBI-single.
- RHP Esmailin Caridad (3 IP, H, BB, 2 K) tossed a season-high, 3.0-scoreless frames.
- RHP Rafael Dolis (IP, BB, 3 K) earned his first win, striking out three in a scoreless seventh frame.
Game 2: Las Vegas scored five runs in the sixth inning to tie the game, but Iowa answered with a run in the bottom of the frame, winning 6-5 and sweeping the doubleheader.
- CF Brian Bogusevic (.368) homered in both games of the doubleheader, including a go-ahead blast in the bottom of the sixth inning. He finished 2-for-3 with a walk, two runs and a RBI (17), extending his hitting streak to three games (.444/4-for-9).
- LF Darnell McDonald (.221) collected two doubles (5) and two RBI (10) in four at-bats.
- RF Dave Sappelt (.261) extended his hitting streak to three games (.500/5-for-10), going 2-for-3 with two runs scored and two RBI (9).
- RHP Zach Putnam (IP, BB, K) converted his sixth save of the season.
Tennessee Smokies (23-21)
Chattanooga walked-off with a 5-4, 11-inning victory over Tennessee.
- CF Rubi Silva (.265) went 2-for-5 with a triple (5) and two RBI. He has reached base five times in his last 10 plate appearances.
- LF Tim Torres (.280) collected his third multi-hit game this month, going 2-for-5 with a double (4) and a run.
- SS Elliot Soto (.143) collected his first multi-hit game of the season, going 2-for-5 with a run scored.
- 3B Christian Villanueva (.265) extended his hitting streak to five games (.400/8-for-20) with a first-inning double.
Daytona Cubs (22-21)
Daytona scored five runs in the 10th inning, pulling away from Jupiter, 7-2.
- SS Javier Baez (.268) extended his hitting streak to eight games (.394/13-for-33), going 2-for-4 with two runs scored and a stolen base (4).
- 3B Ben Carhart (.272) went 3-for-5 with a double (11) and a run scored.
- RF Jorge Soler (.299) went 2-for-4 with two RBI (20). He is hitting .462 (12-for-26) with five runs and four RBI over his last six games.
- C Chad Noble (.231) and DH Chadd Krist (.345) each went 2-for-4.
Russell Martin has played a big role in the Pirates’ early-season success. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
The Cubs head to Pittsburgh, where the Pirates have established themselves as one of the NL Central’s top three teams. Winners of eight of their last 10 games, the Bucs sit at 26-18—just two games back of the division-leading Cardinals. PNC Park generally plays as a pitcher-friendly stadium. With the Pirates’ deep pitching staff, runs could be at a premium in the next few days.
4.0 RS/G 11th in NL
At the plate, the Pirates have been somewhat of a stars-and-scrubs affair thus far. Center fielder Andrew McCutchen and left fielder Starling Marte form an outstanding one-two punch that will be in Pittsburgh for years to come. Both can hit, hit for power, steal bases and play the field. Marte does have nine walks to 45 strikeouts in 197 plate appearances, however, so he’ll be challenged to harness his free-swinging ways as pitchers adjust to him. Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez are a very good left-right tandem at first base—expect Jones to start against the Cubs’ three right-handers scheduled to pitch, while Sanchez will offer protection against lefty James Russell. Catcher Russell Martin is looking like a steal at two years and $17 million. The 30-year-old has a great reputation for calling a game, and he’s the team’s most productive hitter through 44 games. But the rest of the infield has struggled offensively. Second baseman Neil Walker, shortstop Clint Barmes and third baseman Pedro Alvarez are each hitting in the low .200s. Barmes offers great defense, but Walker and Alvarez don’t.
3.6 RA/G, 4th in NL
The Cubs will miss resurgent 36-year-old A.J. Burnett, as well as breakout left-hander Jeff Locke. But there has been little drop off between them and veteran lefty Wandy Rodriguez, who toes the rubber Tuesday. Cubs fans have seen him for years in a Houston uniform. He brings a big, sweeping curve that will get lefties flailing and tie up righties. His control is much improved from his earlier days, though the increased use of his two-seam fastball has cost him some strikeouts. Francisco Liriano and Jeanmar Gomez follow, having stepped into the rotation due to injuries and attrition. Liriano is back to sitting in the 93-mph range and has been effective through two starts, despite his usual free passes. Lefties will have to watch for his four-seam fastball and slider combo, while righties will also see a two-seamer and change-up. Gomez was a minor offseason acquisition from the Indians, and he’s made great use of his heavy sinker in starts and relief so far. After getting a great deal of attention from GM Neal Huntington, the back end of the bullpen has been a revelation for the Pirates. Jason Grilli was bumped from setup duty to the ninth inning, and he boasts a 0.92 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 19.2 innings. Justin Wilson, who has a big fastball from the left side and mixes in a nasty cutter that plays against both hands, pairs with new addition Mark Melancon as the squad’s late-inning setup men.
Christian Villanueva continued his hit streak Monday. (Photo by Stephen Green)
Tennessee split a doubleheader while Daytona and Kane County were on the losing end of their games Monday. Iowa’s game was rained out and will be made up Tuesday as part of a doubleheader. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s action:
Tennessee Smokies (23-20)
Game 1: Tennessee won its fourth straight game, defeating Chattanooga 9-2 in the first game of a doubleheader.
- SS Arismendy Alcantara (.270) collected his second consecutive three-hit game, going 3-for-4 with two doubles (10), two runs scored and two RBI (22).
- C Rafael Lopez (.275) went 2-for-4 with a run scored, extending his hitting streak to six games (.360/9-for-25).
- RF Rubi Silva (.260) went 2-for-4 with a run scored and a RBI (21).
- RHP Alberto Cabrera earned his fourth win, tossing a seven-inning complete game. He has allowed only three runs on 10 hits in his last two starts (14 IP).
Game 2: Tennessee could not complete the doubleheader sweep, mustering five hits in a 1-0 setback in the nightcap.
- 3B Christian Villanueva (2-for-3) extended his hitting streak to four games (.438/7-for-16) with a first-inning single.
- LHP Eric Jokisch tossed his sixth quality start in nine games and added a double at the plate (1-for-2).
Daytona Cubs (21-21)
Jupiter broke open a 1-1 tie with a three-run, eighth inning, defeating Daytona 4-1 in the opener of a four-game set.
- SS Javier Baez (.262) extended his hitting streak to seven games (.379/11-for-29), going 2-for-4 with two doubles (11) and a RBI (24).
- CF Zeke DeVoss (.214) went 2-for-3, collecting his second consecutive multi-hit game.
- Prior to the game, 1B Dustin Geiger (0-for-3, BB) was named Florida State League Player of the Week after batting .469 (15-for-32) with two home runs, one triple, seven doubles, seven RBI and six runs scored in eight games.
Kane County Cougars (20-22)
Kane County suffered an 8-7 loss for the second straight day, losing its third game in four tries against Cedar Rapids.
- 3B Jeimer Candelario (.267) recorded his first four-hit game of the season and his fourth multi-hit game in the last five. He went 4-for-5 with a run scored and two RBI (12), hitting safely in six-straight games (.480/12-for-25).
- 2B Gioskar Amaya (.260) went 2-for-4 with a walk, two doubles (10) and two runs scored.
- 1B Dan Vogelbach collected two hits and two RBI (25) in five at-bats.
Nick Struck captured his second victory of the season Sunday. (Photo by Stephen Green)
Iowa held off a short-lived comeback attempt, Daytona battled back to grab a win, Kane County’s late push fell short and Tennessee was rained out. Here are some highlights from Sunday’s action:
Iowa Cubs (16-24)
Iowa led 7-2 after five innings and held on for a 7-3 victory over Tucson, splitting the four-game set.
- 1B Brad Nelson (.286) went 2-for-4 with a double (8), a homer (7), two runs and a season-high five RBI (31).
- CF Dave Sappelt (.225) collected his second multi-hit effort in his last three games, going 2-for-4 with two runs.
- SS Donnie Murphy (.284) singled and homered in four at-bats, hitting safely for the eighth time in nine games.
- RHP Nick Struck earned his second consecutive win after starting the season winless in his first five starts.
Daytona Cubs (21-20)
Daytona came from behind to defeat Lakeland 5-4, sweeping the four-game, road series.
- DH Dustin Geiger (.333) blasted a go-ahead, solo home run in the eighth inning, extending his hitting streak to seven games (.536/15-for-28).
- 1B Taylor Davis (.240) collected his first multi-hit game of the season, going 2-for-4 with a run scored.
- SS Javier Baez (.256) extended his hitting streak to six games (.360/9-for-25), going 1-for-3 with a walk and a run.
- LHP Jeff Lorick (2-0, 0.00) scattered three hits in two scoreless frames, earning the win in relief. He has yet to allow a run in 5.1 innings this season (four appearances).
- RHP Luis Liria (2 IP) converted his first save in his third-straight, scoreless appearance (5 IP).
Kane County Cougars (20-21)
Kane County scored two runs in the top of the ninth inning, tying the game 7-7 at Cedar Rapids, but fell in walk-off fashion in the bottom of the ninth, 8-7.
- RF Bijan Rademacher (.343) collected his third, multi-hit effort in his last six games, going 2-for-4 with two runs.
- 3B Jeimer Candelario (.248) went 2-for-4 with a double (15) and a run scored. He has hit safely in five-straight games (.400/8-for-20).
- LF Rock Shoulders (.300) hit his 10th home run of the season, a two-run shot in the sixth inning.
- SS David Bote (.182) went 1-for-4 with his first home run of the season, a game-tying, two-run blast with two outs in the ninth inning.
Jonathan Mota claimed his fifth two-hit game of the season Thursday. (Photo by Stephen Green)
Iowa and Tennessee both tallied a win Thursday, while Kane County split its doubleheader and Daytona continued to struggle in its fourth-straight loss. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s action:
Iowa Cubs (15-22)
Matt Garza and Brooks Raley combined on a four-hitter in a 1-0 victory vs. Tucson.
- RHP Matt Garza threw 75 pitches, 53 for strikes, in his fourth rehab start. He faced twenty batters, allowing two singles while striking out six.
- LHP Brooks Raley walked one and allowed two hits in a three scoreless innings of relief, converting his first save.
- SS Donnie Murphy (.254) went 1-for-2 with a stolen base (3) and knocked in the game’s only run with a sacrifice fly in the second inning.
- CF Dave Sappelt (.167) scored a run for the fourth consecutive game in a 1-for-4 effort.
Tennessee Smokies (20-19)
The Smokies defeated host Jackson 6-4 behind two home runs from DH Ty Wright.
- DH Ty Wright (.254) hit two-run homers in the first and third innings and collected season-highs in both runs scored (2) and RBI (4).
- 2B Arismendy Alcantara (.252) went 2-for-4 with a run scored. He’s hit safely in five of six games.
- 1B Jonathan Mota (.238) recorded his fifth two-hit game of the season, going 2-for-4 with a run scored.
- C Rafael Lopez (.266) went 2-for-4 with a RBI, extending his hitting streak to four games (.353/6-for-17).
- RHP A.J. Morris (3 IP, 3 K) tossed 3.0-perfect innings, earning his second win of the season.
Daytona Cubs (17-20)
Daytona lost its fourth-consecutive game, falling 12-7 to the Charlotte Stone Crabs.
- 1B Dustin Geiger (.298) went 3-for-5 with a double (6), a homer, two runs scored and his team-leading 30th RBI.
- DH Chadd Krist (.500) went 3-for-3 with two doubles (2), a run scored and five RBI.
- 3B Ben Carhart (.287) scored two runs, going 1-for-4 with a walk.
- LF Taiwan Easterling (.234) went 1-for-4 with a RBI (12) and a stolen base (5).
- RHP Hunter Cervenka (IP, H) has not allowed an earned run in his last seven relief appearances (14.2 IP).
Kane County Cougars (19-19)
Game 1: Kane County scored four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to pull away from Peoria, 5-0, in the first game of a doubleheader.
- 2B Gioskar Amaya (3-for-4, 2B, R, 3 RBI) recorded a season-high three RBI.
- SS Marco Hernandez (3-for-3, 2 R) collected his third multi-hit effort in the last four games.
- C Willson Contreras (.307) recorded his third-straight, multi-hit game, going 2-for-3 with a walk.
- LF Pin-Chieh Chen (.254) went 2-for-3 with a walk, a run scored and a RBI (9).
Game 2: Peoria scored six runs in the third inning to defeat Kane County, 6-2, in the nightcap.
- SS Marco Hernandez (.271) extended his hitting streak to three games (.333/6-for-9) with a second-inning, two-run homer.
- 3B Jeimer Candelario (.235) went 2-for-3 with two doubles (12).
- RHP Steve Perakslis (3 IP, 3 H, 2 K) threw a season-high 3.0 innings.
- Kane County committed six errors leading to six unearned runs.