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The last few weeks have seen a dramatic increase in slugger Anthony Rizzo’s offensive statistics. Already the NL leader in extra-base hits with 19, including 10 doubles (tied for eighth in NL) and nine homers (tied for third), the first baseman’s batting average has soared from .173 on April 25 to .266 midway through Wednesday’s game. In his first at-bat against the Cardinals he doubled and added a single in his next plate appearance. The Cubs and their fans hope he continues on his recent run of success.
Above is a photo of him with a fan prior to Monday night’s contest with the Rangers.
Dave Sappelt singled in his first game with Iowa Tuesday. (Photo by Stephen Green)
Iowa, Tennessee and Daytona all struggled to get the bats going Tuesday night, all resulting in losses while Kane County had the night off. Despite the defeats, here are some highlights from yesterday’s action:
Iowa Cubs (11-18)
Iowa mustered only four singles in a 5-0 setback at Colorado Springs in the first game of a four-game series.
- RF Dave Sappelt (1-for-3) singled in his first game with Iowa.
- 2B-LF Edwin Maysonet (.254) went 1-for-1, extending his hitting streak to four games (.500/5-for-10).
- C Luis Flores (.200) singled, snapping a five-game hitless skid.
- RHP Zach Putnam tossed 1.1 shutout innings of relief, allowing no hits and striking out one.
Tennessee Smokies (15-15)
Tennessee allowed back-to-back, six-run frames (third and fourth innings), falling 16-0 to Birmingham in a rain-shortened, five-inning game.
- LF Ty Wright (.257) recorded a hit for the fourth time in five games, going 1-for-2 with a single.
- DH Ronald Torreyes (.317) walked twice in two plate appearances. He has reached base in five-consecutive games.
- C Rafael Lopez (.231) extended his hitting streak to five games with a fifth-inning single.
- Tennessee has been shut out in three-consecutive games and five times in the last eight outings.
Daytona Cubs (16-15)
- SS Javier Baez (.238) went 1-for-4 with a solo home run, his sixth of the season.
- LF Taiwan Easterling (.224) recorded his first multi-RBI game since April 12, knocking in two runs as part of a 1-for-3 outing.
- 3B Ben Carhart (.310) extended his hitting streak to a season-high 12 games (.422/19-for-45) with a fifth-inning single.
- LHP Sheldon McDonald (IP) tossed his third-consecutive scoreless outing (4.0 IP).
Matt Carpenter has been solid since splitting duties between his regular third base and the keystone. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
The Cardinals certainly had their share of early-season setbacks, but that only made it clearer the broad collection of talent GM John Mozeliak has assembled can carry the team through just about anything. Having to scratch veteran ace Chris Carpenter for the season made it easy to make room in the rotation for potential Rookie of the Year candidate Shelby Miller, and losing shortstop Rafael Furcal opened up an opportunity for last year’s stretch-drive hero, Pete Kozma. The team is so strong and deep that outfielder Oscar Taveras, arguably the best hitting prospect in baseball, may spend the season in the minors waiting for an opportunity. And most pundits believe the Cards have the best farm system in baseball. In the after-Pujols era, this team isn’t just ready, it’s fully loaded to contend for years to come.
4.8 runs scored/game, 4th in the NL
The Cardinals have shifted a few players around to maximize the team’s offensive potential. They asked third baseman Matt Carpenter to split time between the hot corner and second to get his lefty power stroke into the lineup while also making room for first baseman Matt Adams, who could be off the DL by the time the Cards head to Wrigley Field. Carpenter, four-corners asset Allen Craig and utilityman Daniel Descalso give manager Mike Matheny more than enough moving parts to rotate around stars Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina. This hitting talent has also made it much easier for the team to endure a slow start from third baseman David Freese. If there’s one weakness in the St. Louis attack, it’s that the loss of Furcal has almost eliminated the running game. As a result, the Cards have become very much a station-to-station, big-inning offense.
3.5 runs allowed/game, 2nd in the NL
Perhaps no rotation in the league has been as strong as the Cardinals’ quintet in the early going. Adam Wainwright put up a 2.03 ERA in six April starts, striking out 43 and walking just three on his way to a 4-2 record. Lefty Jaime Garcia would front many big league rotations, and Miller’s mid-90s, moving fastball made him the top pitching prospect in the league coming into the year. Add in Jake Westbrook’s league-leading 1.07 ERA and Lance Lynn’s power-curve assortment, and there’s no such thing as a day off for opposing lineups. The problem is the ’pen, where Mitchell Boggs struggled to fill in for injured closer Jason Motte and was recently demoted. If there’s another source of worry, it might be the team’s interior defense. Experimenting with Carpenter at the keystone is much like the risk the Cards ran when they converted outfielder Scott Schumaker to second base. The move has worked out so far, as Carpenter’s defensive stats indicate there’s not much of a dropoff, but it remains to be seen how well it will work in the long run.
LHP Chris Rusin earned a win Monday after five scoreless innings of relief for Iowa. (Photo by Stephen Green)
Iowa collected a win Monday while Kane County had its six-game win streak snapped and Daytona picked up its second-straight loss. Tennessee had the day off and will host Birmingham tonight. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s action:
Iowa Cubs (11-17)
Iowa recorded six extra-base hits in a 6-2 victory against visiting Oklahoma City.
- 3B Josh Vitters (.353 AVG.) clubbed his second home run in three games, going 1-for-2 with the homer and two RBI (4).
- 1B Edwin Maysonet (.242) went 2-for-4 with a double (2), a home run and a team-high three RBI (11).
- RF Brian Bogusevic (.419) reached base three times, going 1-for-2 with two runs scored, two walks, a triple (2) and one RBI (12). He’s hit safely in 14 of his last 15 contests.
- RHP Matt Garza (2.70 ERA) allowed one run on three hits in 3.1 innings in his second rehabilitation start (first with Iowa); 37 of Garza’s 54 pitches were strikes.
- LHP Chris Rusin (2-3, 3.79) scattered three hits in five scoreless innings of relief to pick up his second win of the campaign. The southpaw is holding right-handed hitters to a .230 batting average (26-for-113).
Daytona Cubs (16-14)
Daytona dropped its second-straight contest, falling at St. Lucie, 6-2.
- RF Jorge Soler (.268) went 2-for-4 with two runs scored, a triple (1), a home run and one RBI (11).
- LF John Andreoli (.343) extended his hitting streak to eight games, going 2-for-4 with a double (3) and a stolen base (10). He’s hitting .394 (13-for-33) during the streak.
- LHP Frank Del Valle (2.08) and RHP Austin Reed (8.31) each tossed two scoreless innings of relief. Left-handed hitters are just 3-for-15 (.200) against Del Valle this season.
Kane County Cougars (14-14)
Kane County had its six-game winning streak snapped in an 11-8 loss to visiting Dayton. The Cougars scored the final seven runs of the game after falling behind, 11-1.
- RF-P Bijan Rademacher (.353) recorded his fourth straight multi-hit game, going 3-for-5 with a run scored, a RBI (11) and a stolen base (3). He made his second appearance of the season on the mound, tossing a perfect ninth inning.
- LF-RF Pin-Chieh Chen (.259) went 2-for-3 with two runs scored, two walks and two RBI (8).
- 1B Daniel Vogelbach (.299) went 1-for-4 with a walk, a double (3) and two RBI (20). He has drawn a free pass in three straight games.
- RHP Eddie Orozco (4.82) tossed a season-high, two scoreless innings of relief.
The Cubs hosted Texas Monday night to make up a game that was rained out in mid-April, and fans in attendance saw the North Sider’s largest offensive output of the season. The Cubs downed the Rangers 9-2 behind another excellent start from right-hander Scott Feldman, who gave up only two hits and no runs in seven innings of work. Anthony Rizzo went 3-for-4 with a home run and four RBI to extend his seven-game hitting streak. Click through the above photos for an enlarged view of the game’s highlights.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Tonight’s starting pitcher, Scott Feldman, is looking to continue his hot streak versus his old teammates, the Texas Rangers. In his last outing, a 6-2 win against the Padres, Feldman has his best game as a Cub, pitching a complete game, three-hitter. But the highlight might have been his second inning RBI double down the right-field line to drive in Darwin Barney. Feldman, who spent his entire career with Texas before signing with Chicago this offseason, is a career .138 hitter in 29 at-bats.
The Cubs selected outfielder Ryan Sweeney from Triple-A Iowa Monday. (Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)
They might only be minor league numbers, but Cubs fans should still be impressed with what outfielder Ryan Sweeney accomplished in the Pacific Coast League this season.
The 28-year-old outfielder spent the first month of 2013 ripping the cover off the ball to the tune of .337/.396/.627 (AVG/OBP/SLG). In 83 at-bats, the lefty had six home runs, 16 RBI and an OPS of 1.022, good for eighth in the league. Now he’ll get a chance to see if he can keep that up at the major league level, as the Cubs selected him today from Triple-A Iowa.
The Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native is a career .280 hitter (481-for-1,719) with 102 doubles, 12 triples, 14 home runs and 185 RBI in 535 games covering all or part of seven big league seasons with the White Sox (2006-07), Athletics (2008-11) and Red Sox (2012). He has a .338 on-base percentage and a .378 slugging percentage, good for a .715 OPS. Sweeney has spent time at all three outfield positions, and his .994 fielding percentage ranks third-best among all major league outfielders since the start of the 2006 season.
Sweeney’s best season came in 2009, when he hit .293/.348/.407 in 134 games for Oakland. He was originally drafted by the White Sox in the second round of the 2003 draft.
The Cubs also recalled right-handed reliever Rafael Dolis to help the struggling bullpen. This will be Dolis’ second call-up to the major league level this season. He also threw 1/3 of an inning on April 14. The 25-year-old was on the major league roster for most of 2012, recording a 6.39 ERA over 38 innings and fanning 24. He had a 3.52 ERA in 7.2 innings in Iowa this season.
To make room for the pair, reliever Kameron Loe was designated for assignment, while outfielder Dave Sappelt was optioned to Triple-A Iowa.
Josh Vitters recorded two multi-hit games Sunday with the I-Cubs. (Photo by Stephen Green)
While Daytona and Tennessee both tallied a loss Sunday, Iowa split its doubleheader while Kane County captured a six-game win streak. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s action:
Iowa Cubs (10-17)
Game 1: Iowa used a three-run fourth inning to beat visiting Oklahoma City, 5-2.
- DH Josh Vitters (.250 AVG) clubbed his first home run of the season, a two-run shot in the fourth inning. He finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored, the home run and two RBI (2).
- CF Brian Bogusevic (.414) recorded his 12th multi-hit game of the campaign, going 2-for-2 with a walk, a run scored, two doubles (9) and one stolen base (6).
- RHP Kyuji Fujikawa (0.00 ERA) tossed 1.0 scoreless inning of relief in his first game with Iowa as part of a rehabilitation assignment. He struck out two and walked one while throwing 21 pitches (11 strikes).
- RHP Esmailin Caridad (2-1, 7.71) picked up his second win of the season, tossing 1.0 scoreless inning of relief while fanning one.
Game 2: Iowa couldn’t complete the doubleheader sweep, dropping a 4-3, 10-inning decision to Oklahoma City.
- 3B Josh Vitters (.385) registered his second multi-hit game of the day, going 3-for-5.
- CF Brian Bogusevic (.418) reached base three times, going 2-for-4 with a walk and a RBI (11). He’s hit safely in 13 of his last 14 contests.
- RHP Yoanner Negrin (2.70) struck out three batters in 1.1 scoreless innings of relief.
Tennessee Smokies (15-14)
Tennessee suffered its second-straight shutout and the fourth in its last seven games, falling 6-0 at Mississippi.
- LF Matt Szczur (.259) reached base twice, going 1-for-3 with a walk and a stolen base (9).
- LHP Zach Rosscup (1.46) worked a spotless seventh inning while fanning one. He owns a 1.23 ERA (ER/7.1 IP) in his last six appearances.
- RHP Marcus Hatley (2.31) struck out two in 1.0 scoreless inning of relief. He’s holding right-handed hitters to a .150 batting average (3-for-20).
Daytona Cubs (16-13)
St. Lucie pinch-hitter Matt Reynolds delivered a walk-off infield single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat Daytona, 1-0.
- 3B Ben Carhart (.314) extended his hitting streak to 10 games, going 1-for-3 with a stolen base (2). He’s hitting .459 (17-for-37) with eight RBI during the streak.
- LF John Andreoli (.337) went 1-for-4, extending his hitting streak to seven games. He owns a .369 batting average (31-for-84) against right-handed pitchers this season.
- RHP Yeiper Castillo extended his scoreless-innings streak to 15. The righty has fanned 21 hitters during the streak.
Kane County Cougars (14-13)
Kane County extended its winning streak to six games with a 2-0 shutout of visiting Dayton.
- 2B Gioskar Amaya (.263) went 2-for-4 with a run scored and a double (7).
- CF Oliver Zapata (.280) extended his hitting streak to seven games, going 2-for-3 with a RBI (14). He’s hitting .391 (9-for-23) during the streak.
- DH Dan Vogelbach (.301) recorded his second-straight, multi-walk game, going 1-for-2 with a double (2), a RBI (18) and two walks.
- LHP Nathan Dorris (2.19) tossed 1.2 scoreless innings of relief, converting his second save of the campaign.
Smokies third baseman Christian Villanueva snapped a four-game hitless run Thursday. (Photo by Stephen Green)
Tennessee and Daytona both captured a win with offensive outbursts Thursday while inclement weather forced Iowa and Kane County to reschedule their matchups. The Cougars will face Bowling Green in a doubleheader this afternoon, but the I-Cubs postponed their make-up for June 8, when they host another series with Round Rock. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s action:
Tennessee Smokies (15-11)
Tennessee recorded its second shutout in three games, blanking host Mississippi 7-0 in the second of a five-game set.
- RHP Dallas Beeler has tossed five-consecutive quality starts and has not allowed a run in his last two (13.2 IP).
- CF Rubi Silva (.318) went 3-for-4 with a walk, a triple (3) and two runs scored. He reached base a season-high four times.
- C Rafael Lopez (.214) hit his first home run of the season in the eighth inning. He went 1-for-3 with two walks, the homer, two runs scored and a RBI (7).
- 3B Christian Villanueva (.211) snapped a four-game, hitless skid, going 2-for-5 with a stolen base (3), a run scored and a RBI (16).
- 2B Ryan Torreyes (.333) recorded his fourth multi-hit game of the season, going 2-for-5 with a double (3) and a run scored.
Daytona Cubs (15-12)
Daytona defeated Lakeland 6-2, extending its season-best winning streak to five games. The two teams combined for 20 singles and three extra-base hits.
- 3B Ben Carhart (.309) extended his hitting streak to eight games (.483/14-for-29) with a second-inning RBI single.
- DH Stephen Bruno (.362) went 2-for-4 with a double (8), two runs scored and a RBI (7).
- 2B Anthony Giansanti (.333) recorded his second-consecutive, multi-hit game, going 2-for-3 with a RBI (4).
- LF John Andreoli (.323) stole a base (9), scored a run and extended his hitting streak to five games (.333/7-for-21).
- RHP David Cales (1.0 IP, H, BB, K) hasn’t been scored upon in 6.0 innings this season (four appearances).
- LHP Austin Kirk earned his fourth victory, tied for the most wins in the Florida State League. He is the only pitcher in the Cubs organization with four wins.
This spring, manager Dale Sveum talked at length about the newfound depth in the Cubs system. That depth was tested early when the team suffered a rash of injuries and endured some early bullpen struggles. But the addition of players like Carlos Villanueva and Nate Schierholtz—and the emergence of Welington Castillo and Dave Sappelt—has made the Cubs a much more versatile team. During the first homestand of the season, Vine Line managing editor Gary Cohen talked to the skipper about dealing with injuries, platooning in the outfield and restoring Wrigley Field.
To read the full interview, pick up the May issue of Vine Line, on sale at select Chicago-area retailers. Or subscribe to Vine Line, the official magazine of the Chicago Cubs, for just $29.95.