Tag: Chicago Cubs

Cubs win 96th as Jon Lester continues to build Cy Young case

The Chicago Cubs have had Cy Young winners and MVPs and Rookies of the Year. What they haven’t had in a long time is a World Series championship. But when a team is going so well, sometimes the personal accolades go hand in hand with the ultimate team honor. At least that’s how the Cubs hope it plays out.

In the Cy Young chase, Jon Lester bolstered his case with another quality outing, a 6-1 win over Cincinnati that made him the National League’s first 18-game winner. Despite having a shaky fastball early, Lester wriggled out of a couple of jams and ended up throwing only 97 pitches over seven innings.

“I think he pitched a little bit more today, rather than just really relying on his fastball,” manager Joe Maddon said. “It was good, it was very good. But he has been on quite a roll.”

Lester tossed his MLB-best 25th quality start and lowered his ERA to 2.36, second in the majors to teammate Kyle Hendricks.

“He’s pitching well,” catcher David Ross said. “This is the guy you were going to get when he signed the deal he signed. He’s one of many guys who is throwing well on the staff.”

And, in an interesting twist this season, the right-handed hitting Turner has been far better against right-handed pitching than left-handed. He entered play Tuesday batting .299 with a .920 OPS against right-handers and .193/.627 marks against lefties.

“I think that we have had spurts where we were OK,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “But if we plan to do what we want to as a team, accomplish what we want to and go deep into the postseason, we have to be better against left-handed pitching.”

An option like the righty-hitting Enrique Hernandez was key for the Dodgers against lefties last season, but he has hardly done the same damage this season in sporadic playing time. Yasiel Puig has produced about the same numbers against left-handers as right-handers, but overall, it has not been one of his best seasons.

“Most of the times in the game, you’re worried about your next at-bat or defense. Obviously you’re cheering for your team and paying attention, but I was able to watch those guys closer and see what they did, how they got ready for pitches, things that you see normally but you don’t pay as much attention to,” Upton said.

He noticed how early Kinsler got his foot down in his swing, how both Cabrera and Martinez rely more on rhythm. It was a luxury, watching some formidable hitters within his own lineup without worrying about his own production on those particular nights. Did it help? He’s not sure, but it was better than what he had been doing previously.

Rodriguez’s biggest moment, the one that inspires the most confidence that he’s capable of succeeding in October, came in the sixth inning.

With the Red Sox leading 2-1, the tying run on second base, two outs and the crowd getting loud at Camden Yards, Rodriguez could have chosen to walk AL home run leader Mark Trumbo and pitch to Jonathan Schoop. Instead, he won an eight-pitch duel with the 43-homer slugger, striking him out on a nasty changeup after he had fouled off three fastballs and laid off a dirt-diving slider.

“Bryce is always going to be Bryce,” Rendon said after the game. “He’s still going to be a threat, no matter if he’s 0 for his last 10, or he’s 10 for his last 10. He’s fun to watch and it’s good to see him getting more respect.”

As good an omen as that is for the Nationals, Dusty Baker is even happier about what’s happening behind Harper.

“It’s better how guys respond behind him,” the Nats skipper said. “That was some of the problems earlier in the year. The guys weren’t responding like they are now.”

There will be no toasting in St. Louis as Cubs offense stalls

ST. LOUIS — Put the champagne on ice, because it won’t be needed until the Chicago Cubs return to Wrigley Field later this week. The Cubs’ magic number to clinch the National League’s Central Division remained at three after a 4-2 loss Tuesday night to the team behind them, the St. Louis Cardinals.

“It’s inevitable at this point,” center fielder Dexter Fowler simply stated after the game.

With their division lead at 16 games, the question the last few days in the locker room has been about where, not when or if, they would clinch their first division title since 2008. Either the Cubs would clinch at Busch Stadium with a dramatic sweep of the Cardinals, or they would do it back at home in front of their own fans after Wednesday’s conclusion of a nine-game road trip. The task of sweeping a playoff contender on the road was always a tall one, so now they’re likely to pop champagne in Chicago. Tuesday’s starter, Jason Hammel, and the Cubs offense made sure of that.

“Whoever put that out there, the source within the system, they lied,” Backman said. “And that’s the part that pisses me off.”

Backman said he played a large role in advising the organization to acquire James Loney, Rene Rivera and Jose Reyes and never received any appreciation.

It’s widely known that Alderson has never been enamored with Backman, a popular 1986 Met whose hiring was fueled by ownership. Asked about his relationship with Alderson and Mets manager Terry Collins, Backman said: “It’s not Terry. Terry and I talked all the time. I think the biggest thing, and part of the reasoning behind it, is the lack of respect.

Backman had been hired by the Arizona Diamondbacks in Nov. 2004 to manage their major league club, but was fired days later after previous arrests and financial issues surfaced.

Backman said he has the temperament and loyalty to be on a major league staff.

“Everybody calls me old school,” Backman said. “I use every bit of the information that’s available in today’s baseball world.”

Cooperstown Cub? Kris Bryant’s career is off to a Hall of Fame start

LOS ANGELES — There’s something going on with Chicago Cubs star Kris Bryant that is bigger than the National League MVP race. Few teammates — and certainly not Bryant himself — want to go there yet, but those observing him can: Bryant is a Hall of Fame player in the making.

This isn’t about a bold prediction or being able to say “I told you so” years later. This is about appreciating and understanding what we’re seeing develop in front of our eyes. And that’s knowing how extremely tough the daily struggle in baseball is and how long and how good — and healthy — you actually have to be to make the Hall of Fame.

But Daniels has also hired managers, Ron Washington and Banister, who excel as communicators and set expectations.

Neither has a bunch of rules, and they don’t mind players with personality as long as they play hard.

Still, baseball is a game built around the discipline required to play 162 games in 183 days.

“We don’t expect you to change anything, but we do expect you to embrace our organizational concepts of accountability of work and having a certain responsibility to yourself and teammates,” said former Ranger Michael Young, who was recently inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame and now serves as an assistant to Daniels.

“If they embrace those things, they have all the freedom in the world to be themselves, but there’s a certain conduct that’s expected. There’s an unwritten code of what a Ranger is supposed to look like, so either fall in line or get of town. It’s simple.”

Anyway, Gomez hit a three-run jack off Josh Tomlin in the second inning, and Cole Hamels made another Cy Young statement with just two hits allowed over eight scoreless in a 9-0 shutout of the Indians. Cleveland’s lead over Detroit is down to 4 1/2 games. The Cleveland rotation, so good most of the season, ranks 26th in the majors in August, with a 6.13 ERA.

Two pitches later, Gomez hit his first homer as a Ranger, a three-run blast that led Texas to a 9-0 win over the Cleveland Indians.

“I feel so blessed,” Gomez said after the game. “To come from not having a job to a team in first place and to start like this right away is a gift from God.”

And just like that, the Rangers’ latest reclamation project made an impact on the team with the American League’s best record.

This is a team that’s been known to take chances on players.

General manage Jon Daniels has done it with players with off-field concerns such as Josh Hamilton (twice), Milton Bradley and Matt Bush, and now Jeremy Jeffress, who was suspended twice in the minors for violating the league’s drug policy and was jailed at 5:13 a.m. Friday morning on suspicion of driving under the influence.

Daniels has also done it with players that have more on-field concerns, such as Manny Ramirez (who never made it out of Triple-A), Ian Desmond coming off a down year in Washington and now Gomez.

Houston released Gomez because he didn’t produce on the field — a .210 average with five homers and 29 RBIs this season — and because the Astros grew weary of his over-the-top antics, whether it was swinging so hard his batting helmet fell off or making too many mental mistakes in the field for a former Gold Glove outfielder.