The Cubs improved to 45-20 on the season with the sixth win in seven games against the Pirates. The Cubs have outscored the Bucs 44-13 to this point in the season series. And the Cubs lead in the NL Central reached double digits. The Cubs are 10 ½ games ahead of the Cardinals on June 18, and 13 games in front of the now below .500 Pirates.
The Cubs run differential is plus-165 on the season, almost double that of the Nationals plus-84 which is the second best run differential in the majors.
The Cubs have a rare night game at Wrigley on the schedule for Saturday. Jon Lester will look to keep the Cubs on-track against the Pirates under the lights (7:15pm CDT).
Jake Arrieta ran his record to 11-1 on the season Friday afternoon. Arrieta is the first 11-game winner in the National League. Arrieta lowered his ERA to 1.74 and WHIP to 0.94. In 14 starts (93 innings) this season, Arrieta has allowed 19 runs, 18 earned, on 57 hits with 31 walks and 101 strikeouts.
Arrieta continued his dominance over the Pirates on Friday afternoon. Arrieta pitched six scoreless innings and ended his day by striking out the last two batters he faced after walking the bases loaded. Arrieta gave up two hits, walked three and struck out 11.
In his last 10 starts against the Pirates, Arrieta has allowed six earned runs in 72 innings. In three starts this season, Arrieta is 3-0 with a 0.86 ERA and 0.66 WHIP. The Pirates have scored two runs on seven hits against Arrieta with seven walks. Arrieta has 27 strikeouts in 21 innings.
Friday was the Cubs’ seventh shutout of the season. The Cubs have allowed two or fewer runs in 35 games this season, the most in the big leagues. The Dodgers (30), Mets (28), Nationals (27) and Giants (27) round out the top five. The Cubs starting staff, after Friday, has a 2.29 ERA and 0.97 WHIP on the season.
Willson Contreras made his Major League debut Friday afternoon. Contreras was on deck in the eighth inning and it appeared he would get his first big league at-bat. Miguel Montero lined into an inning ending double play. Joe Maddon got Contreras in the game. He caught Justin Grimm in the ninth inning.
Contreras received a standing ovation when he entered the game in the ninth inning replacing Montero.
“That’s the best feeling I have ever felt. I can’t describe it. I can’t explain it. I have no words,” Contreras said after the game.
Theo Epstein talked about the top catching prospect in the game. Epstein said, “We think it’s great timing to get Willson some experience and get him acclimated to the big league level at a time when he doesn’t have to step in and carry the catching load. He’s going to get some playing time, and we’ll see where it goes from there. He’s earned his way up here.”
Miguel Montero and David Ross welcomed the addition of Contreras to the roster and clubhouse. Montero saw the progress Contreras made early in the season while he was on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Iowa. Montero told the beat writers, “He’s an upgrade. Can’t wait to see him play.”
Contreras was on the field before the game and even caught John Lackey’s bullpen. Lackey is scheduled to pitch Monday’s opener with the Cardinals. With Jon Lester starting Saturday night, the first game Contreras could start would be Sunday night. Kyle Hendricks is scheduled to pitch the finale of the Pirates series.
“The primary objective is to get his feet wet,” Joe Maddon said. And the Cubs’ skipper would not put a timeframe on how long Contreras will be in the majors. “It could be anything. It could be short, it could be long, it could be we need a roster spot and he has to go back, we don’t know. What we do know is we’ve got to get this clock going right now. He’s gonna help us at some point this year, maybe dynamically by the end of the year. So right now is the right time to get this thing going.”
“He knows how to play baseball, he’s really good,” Maddon said. “We’ve seen him hit, we’ve seen him make good throws, and he runs well. But when it comes down to putting the right fingers down versus this hitter in this moment for our pitcher, it’s different … and that’s the part that has to be learned.”
Willson Contreras’s locker is in between Albert Almora Jr. and Miguel Montero.
- Report from Comcast SportsNet
- Report from ESPN Chicago
- Report from The Sun-Times
- FanGraphs: Projecting Willson Contreras (a must read)
Theo Epstein provided an update on Kyle Schwarber’s rehab prior to Friday’s game and reiterated he will not be able to play again this year, and that includes the post-season. Schwarber remains on schedule to be ready for Spring Training.
According to multiple reports, Schwarber’s latest checkup showed progress and he “hit all of his range-of-motion checkpoints.” Schwarber is not using crutches and was fit for a new knee brace according to the Sun-Times.
Epstein also said that Schwarber helped in the draft room last week.
“He’s always looking for ways to contribute to the organization,” Epstein said to Comcast SportsNet. “He’s been helping the advanced scouts, been breaking down opposing hitters. It was neat for us to have him sit in the draft room for three or four days and help out the scouts, add some levity to the room. It was great having him around.”
Schwarber’s next check-up is scheduled for early August.
Friday was Opening Day for the Eugene Emeralds. And the Cubs’ Short-Season affiliate won their first game of the season, a 6-1 victory over the Boise Hawks.
Dylan Cease got the start and gave up one run (a solo homer by Luis Castro in the fourth inning) on two hits with a walk. Cease struck out two in four innings. Enrique De Los Rio picked up the win with two scoreless innings.
Matt Rose smacked a two-run homer. D.J. Wilson walked three times and scored two runs. Kevonte Mitchell went 2-for-4 with a walk and a RBI. Andruw Monasterio had two hits and drove in two runs.
News, Notes and Rumors
• The Tribune reported the Cubs are pulling away from the pack but refuse to sit on their lead.
• The Cubs do not have a timetable yet for when Jorge Soler and Tommy La Stella will be able to return from the disabled list.
• According to the Tribune, the Cubs are one of only eight MLB teams with 11 or more players under the age of 27 on its roster … and “most of the teams with so many young players have losing records or struggling to remain above .500, while the Cubs have the best record in baseball.”
• Cubs’ third round draft pick RHP Thomas Hatch is starting Saturday (2:00pm CDT) for Oklahoma State in the opening game of the College World Series.
• RHP Aaron Brooks made his second rehab start with Triple-A Iowa. Brooks struggled Friday night in Memphis and allowed seven runs, six earned, on seven hits in three innings. Two of the seven hits were home runs. Brooks is 0-1 in two starts with a 15.00 ERA and 2.50 WHIP. In six innings, Brooks has allowed 11 runs, 10 earned, on 11 hits with four walks and four strikeouts.
• White Sox scout Bill Scherrer recalled his mid-summer trade pressure with the Tribune.
• Outfielder Josh Reddick took batting practice on Friday and is scheduled to take BP again Saturday. If all goes as planned, Reddick will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Nashville according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
• LHP Aroldis Chapman said during an interview with WPIX’s Andy Adler, “I am not what people think.” Sports Illustrated posted a video … click on this link to watch the interview with Chapman.
• The Cardinals recalled INF/OF Kolten Wong on Friday just in time to get him back in the bigs before the Cubs series on Monday. The Redbirds optioned OF Jeremy Hazelbaker to Triple-A Memphis. And yes, you read that right … Infielder/Outfielder Kolten Wong. The Cardinals had him play center field, a position he played in high school, while he was with Memphis. Wong was 12-for-28 with a double and four home runs during seven games in the minors.
• RHP Alex Sanabia re-signed with the Tijuana Toros according to Chris Cotillo.
And last, but not least, during an interview Friday on MLB Network, Matt Holliday said the “Cubs are a great team” and “hats off to them.” The Cardinals feel like they are a playoff team, either a Wild Card or overcoming the Cubs to win the NL Central. The Cardinals lost 1-0 to the Rangers on Friday night. The Redbirds will begin play Saturday 10 ½ games behind the Cubs in the division.
This Day in Cubstory
2015 – Kyle Schwarber hit the first home run of his big league career in Cleveland during a 4-3 loss to the Indians. Schwarber went 4-for-5 with a triple, three runs scored and two RBI in his first start in the majors the night before. Schwarber was Joe Maddon’s designated hitter for the two games in Cleveland and went 6-for-9 with a triple, a home run, five runs scored and four RBI.
2002 – In the first big league game to feature four players with at least 400 home runs, the Cubs beat the Rangers 4-3 on an Alex Gonzalez walk off homer in the bottom of the ninth. Sammy Sosa (475), Fred McGriff (459), Juan Gonzalez (401) and Rafael Palmeiro (460) played in the game.
1996 – Brant Brown hit his first three big league home runs, all in the same day. Brown took Chan Ho Park deep in the ninth inning as a pinch-hitter. The Cubs lost the first of two 9-6. Brown hit two homers in the nightcap to help lead the Cubs over the Dodgers 7-4.
1985 – Chris Coghlan, born
1939 – Lou Brock, born
1929 – Hack Wilson drove in six runs with a Grand Slam and a two-run homer in a Cubs 13-6 victory over the Cardinals, behind Guy Bush, at Wrigley Field
This Day In Baseball History
1972 – By a 5-3 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court confirms lower court rulings in the Curt Flood case, upholding baseball’s exemption from antitrust laws and the legitimacy of its reserve clause. Its decision is narrowly construed, however, and leaves the way open for legislation of collective bargaining to undercut the reserve system. By the year’s end the Major League owners would destroy it themselves by agreeing to salary arbitration.