After splitting the four-game series with the Dodgers, the Cubs hit the road for six games over the next seven days with three in St. Louis and three in New York. And the trip begins with a big test for the Cubs against the best team in baseball, the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Cubs enter the weekend series 8 1/2 games back of the Cardinals, in third place in the NL Central. The Cubs are a half game behind the Pirates and five games ahead of the surging Reds. The Cubs have 13 games left with the Cardinals this season, and seven of the 13 will take place in the next two weeks.
Joe Maddon said Thursday the Cubs focus is on winning the division.
Maddon has found a way to win games while dealing with injuries, but the Cardinals have not slowed down while dealing with a host of injuries to several of their best players.
Jed Hoyer told Patrick Mooney that he thinks having the Cardinals in the same division is a plus for the Cubs.
“I look at their presence as a huge positive. It makes you keep your standards really high and makes you not cut corners because we’re not going to beat them with gimmicks. We’re not going to beat them by cutting corners. We’re going to have to beat them by being a great organization.”
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have used the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry from day one as an example of how the Red Sox had to beat the best in order to be the best.
The Cubs are staring up at the best organization in baseball. And will have a chance to stay in the race for the division crown this weekend on three nationally televised games. Stumbling out of St. Louis, however, will make it an even bigger challenge to catch the Cardinals this season.
Joe Maddon said Thursday the Cubs would make the announcement Friday on the starter for Saturday’s game. Two options are no longer available if Tsuyoshi Wada is not able to start. Edwin Jackson pitched Thursday and RHP Carlos Pimentel made his start Thursday, and pitched rather well, for the I-Cubs.
Tsuyoshi Wada did not throw his scheduled bullpen session Thursday, which has put Saturday in doubt according to the Tribune. If Wada is unable to go, the Cubs could give Travis Wood a spot start or call-up RHP Donn Roach.
Roach is scheduled to start for Iowa on Friday night at Principal Park. If he is not in the starting lineup, obviously he will become an option. The Cubs will have to make a 40-man roster move to clear a spot for him. And that could be as simple as transferring INF Tommy La Stella to the 60-day DL.
The high-flying and unbeatable Cardinals are 7-9 in games started by lefties this season so that could influence the Cubs decision to give the ball to Travis Wood.
Whether it is Travis Wood, Tsuyoshi Wada or Donn Roach, the more innings Jake Arrieta is able to give Joe Maddon on Friday night the better off the bullpen will be for Saturday.
Jon Lester did not back down from his poor outing Thursday and admitted it is hard to be successful when “you’re ball one, ball two all the time.” Lester said he is frustrated “because all of the work is there” and he feels “good going into starts.”
Lester is still learning what it takes to pitch in the National League. And Thursday might have been what he needed to hit home exactly how much different the two leagues are. Joe Maddon saw a chance to score runs in the fourth inning and pulled Lester from the game. Miguel Montero singled hitting for Lester but Chris Coghlan was thrown out at the plate to end the inning. In the American League, Lester would have been left in the game.
The bottom line is that Lester knows he has to pitch better than he has almost three full months into the season.
As has been the case for the last week, the Cubs say Jorge Soler is close to starting a rehab assignment.
Soler is making the trip with the Cubs to St. Louis and according to the Tribune, Soler could start a rehab assignment next week.
RHP Neil Ramirez made his first rehab appearance for Triple-A Iowa in the first of two games Thursday.
The plan for Ramirez was to enter the game with one out and record the last two outs of the inning. Ramirez faced three batters and gave up a hit, along with a stolen base. The other two batters, one grounded out and the other went down swinging. Ramirez threw 13 pitches, eight for strikes.
Nothing official from the Cubs on when he will be activated from the DL … but a report earlier in the week pointed to the series in St. Louis as a possibility for Ramirez to return.
Mike Olt played in and started both games of Iowa’s doubleheader Thursday. And Olt had a good day at the plate and in the field in the first game.
Olt started at third base in game one and was 3-for-4 with a double and a home run. Olt smacked a solo homer in the second inning after going from 0-2 to 3-2 in the at-bat. Olt was Iowa’s DH in game two and was 0-for-2 with a walk.
In three games for the I-Cubs, Olt is 3-for-9 with a double, a home run, a walk and four strikeouts in nine at bats. And in six rehab games for Iowa and Tennessee, Olt is 7-for-18 with three doubles, a triple, a home run, four walks and eight strikeouts.
Marty Pevey corrected information about Olt’s rehab. Pevey told the Des Moines Register that Olt is only going to play third base while he is with Iowa. When Olt first reported Pevey said he would play third and first base, according to Tommy Birch that is not the case.
Kyle Schwarber played in both games of Iowa’s doubleheader on Thursday. Schwarber was the DH in game one and he caught the second game.
Schwarber went 2-for-5 with a double, a triple and two runs scored in the first of two. Schwarber collected his first Triple-A hit, a triple.
At each level this season, Schwarber’s first hit has been a triple. Schwarber tripled for his first hit at the Double-A level (April 9), Major League level (June 17) and Triple-A level (June 25).
Schwarber was 0-for-3 in the second game.
In his three games with Triple-A Iowa, Kyle Schwarber is 2-for-12 with a double, a triple and five strikeouts in 12 at bats.
According to a report from Robert Feder, the White Sox agreed to terms on a six-year contract with Cumulus Media and will move its games to WLS AM 890 beginning next season. WLS beat out WSCR AM 670 (The Score) for the White Sox radio rights.
The move by the White Sox to WLS clears the way for the Cubs to change radio stations next season.
According to Robert Feder, “CBS Radio is all but certain to move the Cubs to The Score. After WGN severed its historic association with the Cubs last year, CBS Radio signed the team to a seven-year deal now in effect on Newsradio WBBM AM 780. The contract allows a one-time relocation to The Score in 2016.”
News, Notes and Rumors
• Despite finishing Thursday’s game in center field, Joe Maddon was not sure if Dexter Fowler will be in the starting lineup for Friday’s opener in St. Louis.
• The New York Post reported Thursday the Mets “have absolutely nothing going on in trade talks at the moment.”
• OF Donnie Dewees and now RHP Matt Rose reported to Short-Season Eugene Emeralds on Thursday.
• Joe Maddon laughed off the overreaction on Twitter when Kris Bryant was removed from Thursday’s game.
• According to Ken Rosenthal, the Cubs not facing lefty starters is influencing the performances of Starlin Castro and Dexter Fowler.
• Futures could come quickly for the Cubs according to a report from the Sun-Times.
• For those that missed the Ump Show at Wrigley Field … it was ridiculous.
And last, but not least, a quick reminder … it is The Silly Season. Not every time a player leaves a game over the next five weeks means the cameras should scan the dugout looking for hugs (#HugWatch). Players get sick, players get hurt (unfortunately) and not everything that will happen before the deadline is trade related. #RelaxAndEnjoyTheGameEvenIfTheCubsAreLosing
This Day In Cubstory
2005 – Cubs beat the White Sox 2-0. Mark Prior, Jerome Williams and Ryan Dempster combined on a one-hitter, the third one-hitter of the season for the Cubs staff
1991 – Cubs traded David Rosario to the Yankees for Steve Adkins
1985 – Cubs beat the Mets 7-3 and ended a club-record-tying losing streak of 13 games, the Cubs longest losing streak since 1944
1979 – Cubs traded Bobby Murcer to the Yankees for Paul Semall and cash
1978 – Cubs traded Paul Reuschel to the Indians for Dennis DeBarr
1978 – Dave Radar hit a pinch-hit Grand Slam and Rodney Scott stole home as the Cubs edged the Mets at Wrigley Field, 10-9
1974 – Jason Kendall, born
1972 – Rick Reuschel made his first big league start and the Cubs beat the Phillies 11-1 at Wrigley Field
1969 – Rodney Myers, born
1966 – Ron Santo was struck in the face by a pitch thrown by Mets’ starter Jack Fisher. Santo fractured his cheek and had it operated on the next day. Santo’s streak of 390 straight games at third base came to an end, but his 27-game hitting streak, one shy of the franchise mark, stayed intact with a first inning single.
1960 – Ron Santo made his Major League debut and went 3-for-7 with five RBI as the Cubs swept the Pirates in a doubleheader at Forbes Field. Cubs beat the Pirates 7-6 in game one, and 7-5 in game two.
1950 – Dave Rosello, born
1957 – Orioles signed amateur free agent Milt Pappas
1948 – Cubs signed amateur free agent Ed Winceniak
1903 – Babe Herman, born