The Cubs had a rough two games against a Tigers team that clicked on all cylinders offensively at Wrigley Field. And for as poor as the pitching staff performed, Joe Maddon’s team is 12-4 in August and owns a three-game lead for the final spot in the post-season tournament.
The Cubs kick off a four-game series against the Braves on Thursday night and enter play 16 games over .500 (67-51), four games back of the Pirates for second in the NL Central and three games in front of the Giants, four in the loss column, in the NL Wild Card race.
The Cubs must get back on track against the Braves and make the two games against the Tigers a distant memory by the end of the weekend.
Dexter Fowler was rather productive at the plate Wednesday. Fowler went 3-for-5 with a double, a home run and two RBI. Fowler has 13 home runs this season and has been a different player in the second half.
In the 30 games since the break, Fowler is batting .310/.451/.558 with nine doubles, two triples and five home runs for a 1.009 OPS. Fowler has 29 walks with 27 strikeouts in 113 at bats. Fowler managed a .232/.308/.369 line in his first 85 games with 13 doubles, four triples and eight home runs for a .677 OPS.
According to Ace of MLB Stats, Fowler’s slash line has gone from .225/.303/.364 on July 11 to .252/.348/.417 on Aug. 20.
Chris Coghlan is having a better year offensively than his numbers indicate. Coghlan’s slash line for the season is .251/.336/.442 and he has 18 doubles, two triples and 14 home runs for a .778 OPS.
Joe Maddon has moved Coghlan into a utility role of sorts as he tries to keep Coghlan’s bat in the lineup against right handed pitching and have Kyle Schwarber play just about every day.
As was the case throughout the off-season and Spring Training with Arismendy Alcantara, the beat writers are now trying to label Coghlan as the Cubs’ Ben Zobrist. Maddon talked to the Sun-Times and Comcast SportsNet about the similarities and differences of the two players.
Chris Coghlan is not a switch-hitter. He has not played shortstop, and likely won’t. Coghlan is having a good year and has been a team player willing to move from position to position. Coghlan has played both left and right field, second, third and first base. What is wrong with Chris Coghlan just being Chris Coghlan?
RHP Trevor Cahill made his first appearance for the I-Cubs on Wednesday night. Cahill replaced Felipe Paulino and was very good.
Cahill pitched three shutout innings and allowed three hits while not issuing a free pass. Cahill struck out two, recorded five groundball outs with no fly ball outs and made 39 pitches, 25 for strikes. Cahill faced 12 batters.
Randy Wehofer reported that Cahill was impressive with good velocity and a power sinker.
Javier Baez had a good night in Iowa’s 8-2 win over Salt Lake. Baez was 3-for-4 with a walk, a RBI, a run scored and no strikeouts. Baez batted third and played shortstop Wednesday.
After slowing down for a short time, Baez has five straight multi-hit games. Baez is 11-for-23 with a double, two walks and four strikeouts since Aug. 15.
Over his last 18 games, Javier Baez is 22-for-75 with three doubles, two triples, a home run, seven walks and 18 strikeouts (.293/.349/.427/.776).
Chris Valaika reached a milestone Wednesday night in Salt Lake. Valaika went 2-for-4 with a double, a RBI and a run scored and a second inning single was the 1,000th hit of his minor league career.
Valaika has played in 985 games over 10 minor league seasons for three different organizations. Valaika was selected by the Reds in the third round of the 2006 draft and spent the first seven years of his career in Cincinnati’s system. Valaika played one year in the Marlins’ organization and has been with the Cubs the last two years.
The Red Sox officially released Justin Masterson on Wednesday. Boston designed Masterson for assignment on Aug. 10.
The Cubs showed a lot of interest in Masterson last off-season before he signed a one-year contract with the Red Sox in an attempt to rebuild his value. Masterson struggled this year and in 18 games, nine starts, Masterson was 4-2 with a 5.61 ERA, 1.60 WHIP and 4.86 FIP. As a reliever, Masterson was 1-0 with a 4.11 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. In nine games, Masterson allowed seven runs on 15 hits (three home runs) with six walks and 17 strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings. Masterson spent time on the DL with right shoulder tendinitis.
The Cubs have not been linked to Masterson but with the familiarity the front office has with him it would not be surprising if he was signed to a minor league deal to see if he has anything that could help the Cubs in September.
News and Notes
• Wednesday was the third time in three games a Cubs’ starting pitcher allowed three or more home runs … Cubs’ starters have allowed three or more homers in a single game five times this year. Cubs’ starters (Dan Haren, Jason Hammel and Jon Lester) allowed a combined 15 earned runs over the last three games (10 1/3 innings) for a 13.06 ERA.
• According to ESPN Stats and Info, Tuesday and Wednesday was the first time since Sept. 8-9, 2000 the Cubs gave up 19 or more hits in consecutive games.
• The Tigers pounced on Cubs’ pitching in the two-game sweep according to the Sun-Times.
• ESPN Chicago reported Jon Lester was the latest Cubs hurler to struggle.
• Jesse Rogers explained how the buzz is back and the fan base is excited about the way the Cubs have played.
And last, but not least, with David Ross unavailable, Joe Maddon turned to Chris Denorfia for the ninth inning Wednesday. Denorfia became the second position player used by Maddon in mop-up duty this season. Denorfia made his big league debut on the mound and retired the only batter he faced … Jose Iglesias on a grounder to second base. Denorfia admitted he was “absolutely terrified” but it was “fun on a not so fun day.”
This Day In Cubstory
2014 – Major League Baseball upheld a protest filed by the Giants over the rain-shortened 2-0 loss to the Cubs on Aug. 19. What was labeled ‘Tarp-Gate’ prevented the field from being covered and the field took in too much water for play to continue once it stopped raining. The game was resumed in the fifth inning on Aug. 21 with the Cubs holding on for a 2-1 win.
2006 – Cubs traded Neifi Perez to the Tigers for Chris Robinson
1996 – In an 8-1 win over the Marlins, Sammy Sosa recorded the 100th RBI of his season when he was hit by Mark Hutton in the first inning with the bases loaded. The pitch broke Sosa’s wrist and he missed the rest of the season … and his injury ended his streak of 304 consecutive games played.
1985 – Blake DeWitt, born
1967 – Mets purchased Bill Connors from the Cubs
1963 – Kal Daniels, born
1961 – The Cubs and Pirates tied a National League record by playing their third straight extra-innings game. The Cubs won 1-0 and won two of the three games.
1958 – With Sammy Taylor out for a pinch-hitter, Moe Thacker in the hospital and Cal Neeman having been ejected, Dale Long became the first left handed catcher in Cubs history. Long wore his first baseman’s glove behind the plate in the first game of a doubleheader with the Pirates. Cubs lost the first game, 4-2, won the second game, 5-1 at Wrigley Field.