Cubs Broke Out the Bats and Beat the ‘Stros – Cubs 14, Astros 6

Game Seventy-Four – Cubs 14, Astros 6

WP – Jeff Samardzija (5-7) LP – Jordan Lyles (4-2) Save – None

wflag-pubRyan Sweeney had a career day, Anthony Rizzo drove in four runs with a three-hit day and Jeff Samardzija survived the conditions at Wrigley as the Cubs closed out the weekend series with a convincing victory over the Astros.

The Cubs offense scored a season-high 14 runs on a season-high 16 hits and outslugged the Astros on a hitter’s day at Wrigley. The two teams scored a combined 20 runs on 29 hits and committed four errors. It was not a pretty game by any stretch for either team but at least the Cubs came out on top on Sunday afternoon (4-8 on Sundays in 2013).

Ryan Sweeney (3-for-5 with a home run, two doubles and six RBI) drove in Anthony Rizzo (3-for-3 with a home run, a double, HBP, four RBI and four runs scored) with the Cubs’ first run and the two left handed sluggers drove in a combined 10 runs and scored six on Sunday afternoon. Sweeney hit his third homer in a Cubs’ uniform in the seventh inning that capped a career-high six RBI day. Rizzo added his 12th longball of the season, a two-run shot in the eighth, that added an exclamation point to his perfect afternoon at the plate.

Nate Schierholtz (3-for-5 with two RBI and two runs scored) quietly had another good day at the dish while Alfonso Soriano (2-for-5 with a triple, a double and two runs scored) collected two extra basehits and scored two runs. Luis Valbuena (1-for-5 with a triple and a RBI) tripled in Scott Hairston in the seventh. Darwin Barney (2-for-5 with a RBI) had another two-hit game and continued showing improvement after a slow start to his season.

Half of the Cubs’ 16 hits went for extra bases (two home runs, two triples and four doubles) and Starlin Castro (0-for-4 with a walk and a run scored) was the only starter that did not record a hit on Sunday afternoon. Castro continued to struggle at the plate and in the field. Castro was charged with two more errors on Sunday and has committed at least one error in each of his last three games.

Jeff Samardzija put together a better outing than his final line indicates. Samardzija completed seven innings on a day that the wind was blowing out and the key to his success was that he did not issue a single free pass. Samardzija pitched around his defense in the Astros’ three-run fourth inning without allowing Houston to tie the game. Samardzija notched another quality start after allowing four runs, three earned, on nine hits with no walks and five strikeouts on 92 pitches, 67 for strikes. Samardzija even contributed at the plate with a 1-for-3 performance that included scoring the Cubs’ second run of the game.

James Russell allowed a run on three hits in a shaky two-thirds of an inning in the eighth. Henry Rodriguez struggled with his command in the ninth and gave up a run on one hit and one walk.

The Cubs and Astros were each charged with two errors but did not make several plays that extended innings for both teams.

With Sunday’s win, the Cubs improved to 8-3 against the Junior Circuit and ended their three-series losing streak at Wrigley. The Cubs will hit the road with a 31-43 mark on the season after taking two of three from Houston.

Jeff Samardzija retired Houston in order on just six pitches, all for strikes, in the first inning. Nate Schierholtz reached on a two-out single in the Cubs’ first but did not advance.

The Astros managed a one-out single by Chris Carter in the second. Samardzija retired three of the four batters with two deep fly ball outs. Samardzija needed 15 pitches, 11 for strikes, to complete two innings on Sunday.

Anthony Rizzo led off the second inning with a hustle double to right. Rizzo smacked a 1-1 pitch to right that went off of Altuve’s glove. Rizzo hustled out of the box and slid in safe at second as Marc Krauss’ throw got past Marwin Gonzalez. Rizzo got to his feet and ended up at third on the first error of the day. Ryan Sweeney fell behind 1-2 before working a full count. Sweeney hit a grounder to second that Altuve fielded and threw to first as Rizzo scampered home with the game’s first run. Castillo flied out to center and Barney grounded out to third to end the inning.

Samardzija set down the Astros in order in the third (28 pitches, 22 for strikes) and led off the third with a single to center. Luis Valbuena dribbled a 1-1 pitch up the middle. Gonzalez put himself into position to field the ball but took his eye off the ball. Samardzija and Valbuena were safe after the Astros’ second error in as many innings. The error seemed to affect Lyles and he issued a four-pitch walk to Castro to load the bases.

Nate Schierholtz drove a 1-1 pitch back up the middle, just to the right of second. Samardzija and Valbuena scored, 3-0 Cubs. With runners on first and second with no outs, Soriano predictably struck out swinging (1-2 pitch) for the first out.

Anthony Rizzo followed Soriano and lifted a 2-0 pitch to deep center. Castro tagged and scored as Schierholtz advanced to second on the play. Ryan Sweeney smoked a 2-0 pitch into left center. Schierholtz scored easily and the Cubs took a 5-0 lead. Lyles plunked Castillo and put runners on first and second with two down.

Darwin Barney hit a grounder back up the middle and through Lyles’ legs. Altuve could not change direction and the ball hit off his glove as he tried to field it and step on the bag. Castillo saw the miscue but did not read it correctly. Castillo took off for third and was hung up. Sweeney then broke for the plate and was thrown out at home to end the inning.

The Cubs took what appeared to be a commanding 5-0 lead into the fourth inning … but it quickly evaporated.

After Anthony Rizzo lost what should have been a foul pop out in the sun, Jose Altuve ripped a single into center. Jason Castro pulled a double into right and the Astros had runners on second and third with no outs. J.D. Martinez grounded out to second and plated Altuve, 5-1 Cubs. Chris Carter followed with a double to left center and Castro scored from third, 5-2 Cubs. Samardzija retired Krauss and got the groundball he needed off the bat of Matt Dominguez. Starlin Castro fielded the ball in the hole but side-armed a low throw to first. The ball skipped past Rizzo, Carter scored and Dominguez ended up at second with two down. Samardzija struck out Lyles swinging to end the inning.

Jeff Samardzija survived his defense in the long fourth inning but it took him 29 pitches to record three outs. Samardzija threw 57 pitches, 43 for strikes, over the first four innings.

The Cubs did nothing in the fourth and Samardzija worked around a two-out double by Jason Castro in the fifth. Samardzija needed 67 pitches, 50 for strikes, to complete five innings on Sunday.

Alfonso Soriano tripled to right with one out in the fifth. With the infield in, Anthony Rizzo blooped a single into left center, Soriano scored and the Cubs took a 6-3 lead. Ryan Sweeney ripped a 3-1 pitch into the gap in left center. Maxwell raced over and got a glove on the ball but he could not haul it in. Maxwell then missed the cutoff man. Rizzo scored as Sweeney stopped at second. Castillo struck out swinging for out number two.

Darwin Barney delivered a single into center. Sweeney scored, 8-3 Cubs. Samardzija flied out to deep right to end the inning.

Chris Carter led off the sixth with a double to right center. Krauss flied out to right but Matt Dominguez singled to center and plated Carter with the Astros’ fourth run. Gonzalez flied out to deep center and Bo Porter sent up Brandon Barnes to hit for Jordan Lyles. Samardzija struck out Barnes swinging to end the inning … 83 pitches, 61 for strikes, for Samardzija after six frames.

Samardzija faced the minimum in the seventh after catching a liner from Altuve and doubling off Maxwell from first base.

The Cubs teed off on Wade LeBlanc in the seventh. Alfonso Soriano doubled to center to start the inning. LeBlanc then hit Rizzo to put two on with no outs for Sweeney.

Ryan Sweeney launched a 2-0 pitch from the lefty into the bleachers in right center. Sweeney’s third homer put the Cubs up 11-4. LeBlanc retired Castillo and Barney before issuing a two-out walk to pinch-hitter Scott Hairston. Luis Valbuena then ripped a triple off the wall in right. Hairston scored, 12-4 Cubs. Bo Porter went to his pen for Josh Fields and Castro struck out swinging to end the inning.

After seven complete, the Cubs led 12-4.

James Russell started the eighth and gave up a single to J.D. Martinez. Chris Carter followed with a double into the left field corner (2-2 pitch). Martinez scored, 12-5 Cubs. Russell retired Krauss on a pop out to third and Dominguez tapped back to the mound for the second out. Marwin Gonzalez singled to center and put runners on first and third with two down. Dale Sveum went to his pen for Carlos Villanueva. Ronny Cedeno hit for Fields and struck out swinging to end the inning.

The Cubs kept hitting in the eighth. Nate Schierholtz led off with a single to center against lefty Wesley Wright. Soriano flied out to center for the first out.

Anthony Rizzo stepped in and lined a 1-0 pitch into the bleachers in right center … 14-5 Cubs. Welington Castillo doubled after Sweeney struck out but Barney struck out swinging to end the inning.

Henry Rodriguez took over in the ninth and struggled with his command. Rodriguez walked Justin Maxwell to start the inning. Jose Altuve ripped a 1-0 pitch toward first that Rizzo fielded and threw toward second. Castro dropped the ball, his second error of the game. Jason Castro singled to right to load the bags with no outs.

J.D. Martinez stepped in and pulled a 2-2 pitch toward third. Valbuena fielded the ball, stepped on third and threw to first. Maxwell scored but the 5-3 double play put Castro at second with two down. Chris Carter grounded out to Starlin Castro to end a wild game at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs are off on Monday and open a nine-game road trip on Tuesday with Edwin Jackson taking on Kyle Lohse and the Brewers in the first of three at Miller Park.

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  • paulcatanese

    It looks as though Castro is taking his hitting problems out to the field with him.
    He is trying very hard, that I will give him, but he may be putting himself in a trade situation. If, and I say if, he gets out of this funk he is in right now, the glove will become better as well.
    I fear he is getting a lot of advice from different people and is trying to take it all in, therefore the funk.
    I really would like to sympathize with him, but he is being paid a good deal of money to perform, and he is not doing that.
    It’s going to take a lot of crystal ball eyeing by the front office to look ahead, and if the ball gives the wrong read, he is going to be gone.
    A lot of promise when he first came up, and he did perform, and I think it’s unfair to completely change what had been a model of a future success story, into something he is not.

    • Tony_Hall

      Paul – Castro will be fine. Nothing physically has happened to him, he still has the same quick hands. He is struggling for the 1st time in a sport that has come naturally to him, and doing it at the highest level of competition.

      I just don’t buy into the thought that it is “unfair to completely change what had been a model of a future success….” Paul, if you were his coach would you not be talking to him about those AB”s he swings at bad pitches early in the count and gets himself out? Would you not be talking to him about expanding the zone too often? Would you not be talking to him about driving those pitches he gets in his hot zone? I guarantee you would be doing this, and that is what the Cubs coaches are trying to do as well.

      Castro has figured out how to work the count better. HIs pitches per plate appearance has improved a lot. What happens when he gets 2 strikes on him, is he is swinging at everything, because he can put the bat on the ball, or at least thinks he can. Once he learns to not overly expand the zone with 2 strikes, look out. He is going to bust out of this and be a very good offensive player.

      • paulcatanese

        You may be right Tony, but I also guarantee there is more than one person talking to him, trying to help.

        Film would tell him everything all he has to do is look at it.

        The constant flailing at low outside pitches are now out of his reach more than ever before.

        He starts out in a very open position , closes and then goes right back out there. Earlier he could hit those low outside pitches with some success, that is not happening any longer. His butt is almost out of the batters box.
        Two different directions, upper body going towards the ball, lower body going down the third base line.
        I have throw this in their also Tony, I think he is nursing a sore arm that he is not talking about. Three four weeks ago he tweaked it on an awkward throw and has been shaking it off and on since then.
        He needs to start over in the batters box, alignment, stride have to be corrected, until then, he will continue to struggle.
        I would also say Sveum, Theo, Hoyer, the hitting coach (whoever that is) can see this as plain as day.
        He was and will be again a good offensive player but not until those things are addressed and corrected.
        And by watching film (Castro, his) he cannot see what’s wrong, he must totally be so into himself that he dosent care, and I don’t believe that.
        As I mentioned earlier, he is trying.
        pitches with some success, no longer.

        • Tony_Hall

          I agree on the arm he definitely did do something to it about a month ago

          As far as watching film I guarantee he is watching film and getting coached by more than one person There are two hitting coaches James Rowson and Rob Deer and Dale Sveum is a past hitting coach They have all worked with him Castro has poor recognition of what is a strike and what is a ball Whether the Cubs Way came to him or not this was going to get exposed as he had more at bats and teams had more film on him He has to get this figured out to get better and there is no better time than now

          • paulcatanese

            Glad you noticed the arm. Had to come on a slow hit ball and the throw across the body, as I remember he was shaking his arm from the wrist up while it was just hanging. Can’t pinpoint the exact time, but my first response was “he hurt his arm”.
            And many throws since then have been with an almost side arm flip. Hope it’s not too bad.
            My biggest fear with his trying to correct his hitting, and does not, is that he would emulate into another Soriono, who has never corrected even after all these years and still makes himself look silly with the outside low pitch in the dirt.
            In fairness Castro is chasing less and less, and trying.

    • 07GreyDigger

      They may trade him down the line, but if you do its when his value is high. Now is not that time. Who’s going to give you two top ten prospects and a useful major leaguer for a young SS in the worst slump of his career? Nobody. I agree with Tony. He’ll figure this out. It happens. Look at David Wright. In 2011, he had the worst season of his career and a lot of people had doubts about him going forward and the now he’s back to being the best 3B in the NL.

      • paulcatanese

        I cannot say anything to you or Tony that would make you understand what I see there with Castro, I’m at a loss for words. But it is so plain and obvious in what he is doing, that other teams know it and are pitching him accordingly.
        Guys, I like Castro, and feel for him, because he’s the only one that can correct the funk he’s in. I know everyone else on the staff knows it, other teams know it, so the only conclusion could be that Castro is totally stubborn, or has no clue what they are talking about. Sorry, but that’s how I see it.

        • 07GreyDigger

          I’ll have to go by your judgement Paul. I honestly don’t watch enough games (at least until the Hawks finish the playoffs) to see what you’re seeing, but I can tell he’s frustrated. I saw one of his errors over the weekend and you can see its tearing him up that it’s not coming easy. But his teammates are pulling for him, so hopefully he can pull himself out of it.

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  • triple

    This year’s Cubs are “an anomaly, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” They have an expected won/loss of 36-38. Their record within their division is 9-24. That’s a .273 winning percentage! Obviously they are getting beat up by STL, Cincy, and the Pirates (they have the 3 best records in all of MLB), but they even get killed by the Brewers! But then the most confounding part is that they are 22-19 against all the other teams they’ve played.

    • 07GreyDigger

      Despite the bad record, that means things just aren’t as bad as they seem doesn’t it?

      • triple

        I think so, but it is just hard to say. Even through the frustrations of last season and this one, I am still optimistic. Of course, I’m one of the ones that are mostly behind what Ricketts, the FO, and coaching staff are trying to do. I’m not gonna lie, that sometimes I find myself questioning what Sveum and these supposed “hitting coaches” are doing while they work with some of these players, and some of Sveum’s pitching changes are certainly questionable, but I think that is natural and will happen with most teams.

        But that record against the NL Central speaks toward how hard it will be for the cubs to turn it around and compete in that division. We know the Cards are proven, the Reds seem like they are here to stay too, and who really knows about the Pirates? They’ve trended like this for the last couple seasons but then have terrible finishes, I don’t think that will be the case this year. And if they start to sustain their success, they can be tough in the future too. Meaning, we gotta pass at least 2 of those 3 to have a legitimate shot at a wildcard spot. Do I expect this for next year? No. But I certainly hope by the 2015 season that we can start thinking about the postseason again.

        And yes, the expected wins/loss of this team coupled with their results of games out of the division does give the appearance of it not being as bad as it really is, but the reality is that until they strengthen the bullpen and hit in the clutch consistently, there is just no chance for this team to compete in any division.

    • paulcatanese

      Love the post, as soon as I find my dictionary to figure out what you said?
      Just kidding and very well done.