The Cubs ran the season-long winning streak to seven games Thursday when they completed the three-game sweep of the Brewers. The Cubs improved to a season-best 17 games over .500 and picked up a game in the division on the Cardinals, the Pirates won Thursday for the first time this year in St. Louis.
The Cubs will begin play Friday afternoon at The Cell for round two of the Crosstown Cup Series 1 ½ games behind the Pirates for the top NL Wild Card spot and 7 ½ games back of the Cardinals in the NL Central.
With the Giants taking care of the slumping Nationals, the Cubs maintained their 4 ½ game lead in the second NL Wild Card.
Jon Lester picked up the win Thursday and gave up only two runs in what was his shortest start since the end of June. It was the ugly third inning that Lester spent answering questions about after the game.
The Brewers tied the game without hitting the ball out of the infield. And they swiped four bases on Lester after a bad throw to Anthony Rizzo sailed wide right, his first pickoff attempt since April.
Lester acknowledged he has to do a better job making throws to bases and did not shy away from the questions. The Cubs will continue working with Lester on throwing to bases, not only from the mound but when fielding his position.
Joe Maddon focused on the positives while pointing out how well David Ross played defensively. Maddon believes Lester will get better and “there’s going to be that one moment where he has that epiphany where it all makes sense to him where he can do it more readily.”
Jon Lester struck out 10 batters Thursday and became the first left-handed starter in Cubs’ history with four double-digit strikeout games in a single season.
Since July 1, Jon Lester has a 1.92 ERA. In 56 1/3 innings, Lester has allowed 41 hits with nine walks and 63 strikeouts … Jake Arrieta since July 1 has a 1.41 ERA. In 57 1/3 innings, Arrieta has given up 34 hits with 16 walks and 55 strikeouts. Not a bad one-two punch.
Tommy La Stella
Tommy La Stella was officially activated Thursday and made his first start for Triple-A Iowa. La Stella batted sixth and played second base.
La Stella hit a three-run home run in his first I-Cubs at bat. La Stella ended up 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBI.
Dexter Fowler had another good game at the plate Thursday. Fowler was 2-for-3 with a double, a home run, two walks and three runs scored. Fowler was thrown out at second base but his two-run homer in fifth broke a 1-1 tie.
In 25 games since the break, Fowler is batting .272/.433/.478 with five doubles, a triple, four home runs 26 walks and 20 strikeouts. Fowler has a .912 OPS.
The Cubs are 36-15 when Dexter Fowler reaches base two or more times this season.
Joe Maddon will be the subject of the SC Featured segment in Sunday’s editions of ESPN’s signature news and information program SportsCenter.
Maddon isn’t afraid to be different. Gene Wojciechowski reports for this SC Featured all-access look at the manager and hometown hero, who’s just your average Joe.
The segment will debut in the 9:00am CDT edition of SportsCenter and will re-air in other editions of the program throughout the day.
“If you’re not a little bit crazy, you’re never gonna take the necessary risks to be great. Whether it’s some guy in the clubhouse doing something nuts, or whether it’s bringing a python in there, penguins in there, bringing a salsa band or a DJ, something that loosens the moment up.” — Joe Maddon
News and Notes
• According to multiple reports, Kyle Schwarber or Miguel Montero will be the Cubs’ designated hitter on Friday against Jeff Samardzija and the White Sox.
• Joe Maddon did not feel it was necessary to have a meeting with Jason Hammel about lifting him with two outs in the sixth inning of Wednesday’s game. Maddon explained to ESPN Chicago that Hammel has not been as sharp lately as he was early in the season.
• According to Bruce Levine, Joe Maddon is managing the moment.
• FOX Sports examined how the Cubs, Blue Jays and Mets put themselves into the playoff picture since August 1.
• Dexter Fowler, Kyle Schwarber and Anthony Rizzo went yard in the fifth inning Thursday. The first time since Aug. 29, 2011 (Alfonso Soriano, Geovany Soto and Blake DeWitt off Tim Lincecum) three different Cubs hit home runs in the same inning. Thursday was the first time at Wrigley since June 21, 2008 (Jim Edmonds, Mike Fontenot and Aramis Ramirez off Jose Contreras) three Cubs hit longballs in the same inning.
• The Sun-Times reported during the Cubs seven-game homestand Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Jorge Soler hit a combined .309 (30-for-97) with five home runs, six doubles, a .387 OBP and .526 slugging percentage. The four rookies drove in 25 runs and scored 22 of the 40 total runs the Cubs scored in the seven games.
• Kyle Schwarber is the latest rookie to take the surging Cubs by storm according to ESPN Chicago.
• And the young Cubs are riding a hot streak into crosstown series according to Comcast SportsNet.
• LHP Bryan Hudson made his professional debut Thursday night for the AZL Cubs. Hudson was the Cubs’ third round pick in June’s Draft. Hudson allowed two runs, both earned, on two hits with a walk in two-thirds of an inning. According to Bill Mitchell, Hudson threw his fastball in the 89-92 mph range and used his curveball. Hudson had command issues in his first action in the Rookie League.
• Bruce Levine reported Hector Rondon is regaining control of Cubs’ closer role.
• The Cubs-Brewers game Wednesday night scored the highest ratings on WGN-TV since 2011.
And last, but not least, did Joe Maddon tip the Cubs’ hand Thursday? When asked if Kyle Schwarber’s swing reminded him of another player, Maddon said “Chase Utley.”
This Day In Cubstory
2014 – Cubs traded Brett Jackson to the Diamondbacks for Blake Cooper
2009 – The Cubs scored 14 runs in the first two innings in route to a 17-2 victory over the Pirates. The Cubs sent 15 batters to the plate in the second inning and scored 10 runs. Randy Wells picked up the win, Derrek Lee drove in seven runs.
2008 – The Cubs beat the Braves 11-7 and completed the franchise’s first season series sweep over the Braves.
2003 – Cubs released Kane Davis
1985 – Chris Valaika, born
1985 – The Cubs released Larry Gura
1977 – Juan Pierre, born
1972 – In the last Boys Benefit game played, the Cubs beat the White Sox 3-1 at Comiskey Park. Ernie Banks was brought out of retirement for the game and received a standing ovation when he pinch-hit.
1959 – For the second straight game, Dale Long hit a pinch-hit home run as the Cubs beat the Giants 7-5 at Wrigley Field. Ernie Banks and Moose Moryn also homered and Glen Hobbie struck out 10 batters on his way to the win.
1919 – In a total of two hours and 17 minutes, the Cubs and Dodgers split a doubleheader. The Cubs blanked Brooklyn 2-0 in game one that took one hour and 10 minutes to play. The Cubs lost the second game 1-0 in one hour and seven minutes.