The Cubs won the franchise’s first four game series against the Dodgers in 20 years in large part due to the pitching staff. According to ESPN Chicago, Cubs pitching allowed 16 hits in the four-game series, tied for the fewest hits in a four-game series since 1934. Kyle Hendricks followed Jon Lester’s gem with an excellent outing of his own.
The Cubs improved to 37-15, 22 games over .500. Joe Maddon’s team will begin the weekend series against the Diamondbacks with an 8 ½ game lead over the Pirates and a full 10 games ahead of the Cardinals in the NL Central. The Cubs are 20-7 at Wrigley, the only team in the majors with 20 wins in their home park. And the Cubs have a plus-134 run differential on the season.
Christopher Kamka had some fun with the Cubs win-loss record and run differential. The Cubs would have a 19-15 record and still the best winning percentage in the NL Central (.559) if only the games they’ve won this season by five or more runs were counted. And the Cubs are 29-5 in games they’ve hit at least one home run.
And speaking of home runs …
Kris Bryant hit a big fly for the second time in as many games Thursday. After supplying all the runs Jon Lester needed Wednesday night, Bryant started at third base Thursday and went back-to-back with Jason Heyward, his first at Wrigley with the Cubs, in the fifth inning.
Bryant has hit safely in eight of his last nine games and has taken over the team lead in home runs (13), RBI (40) and total bases (106).
Over his last 15 games, Bryant has hit .293/.388/.603. And for the season, Bryant is batting .279/.364/.520 with 10 doubles and 13 home runs for a .883 OPS. Bryant has 23 walks with 49 strikeouts in 51 games (2014 at bats).
Comcast SportsNet explained how Kris Bryant creates immeasurable value for the Cubs.
Hector Rondon tested his back before Thursday’s game and said he was fine, which is great news. And he received clearance from Cubs’ trainers to pitch.
According to the Sun-Times, Rondon’s sore back is another reminder why the Cubs seek more pitching. And Comcast SportsNet reported the Cubs received a couple of reminders this week as to why pitching will be a focus for the front office leading up to the non-waiver trade deadline.
LHP Rich Hill (Athletics) and OF Jackie Bradley Jr. (Red Sox) were named American League Pitcher and Player of the Month for May. It’s truly incredible what Rich Hill has done with the Oakland A’s.
For the first time since last July a pitcher not named Jake Arrieta was the NL Pitcher of the Month. Clayton Kershaw, well is Clayton Kershaw and the best pitcher on the planet.
As for NL Player of the Month … Daniel Murphy won the award and he had a good month, but he’s no Ben Zobrist.
Murphy is having an excellent season offensively. Murphy had a .416/.424/.673 line last month with eight doubles, seven home runs and a 1.096 OPS in 29 games, 27 starts. Murphy drove in 23 runs and scored 17 runs with two walks and 12 strikeouts, 76 total bases.
Zobrist hit .406/.483/.653 with seven doubles, six home runs and a 1.137 OPS in 28 games, 27 starts. Zobrist drove in 25 runs, scored 25 runs, walked 16 times with 16 strikeouts and 66 total bases.
The numbers are close but one would think Zobrist’s ability to catch the baseball and field his position would have carried a little more weight with the voters.
Former Cubs’ outfielder Marlon Byrd received a 162-game suspension from Major League Baseball on Wednesday after testing positive for a second time for PEDs. Byrd’s career effectively came to an end Wednesday as he admitted to his Indians’ teammates he would not try to play again.
Byrd tested positive for growth hormone secretagogue lpamorelin and issued a shallow statement. Byrd did not appeal the suspension. According to Ken Rosenthal, Byrd tested positive the first week of May. Due to the CBA, he was allowed to play and impact the outcome of games because of the process.
The Cubs gave Byrd a three-year contract in December 2009 as then GM Jim Hendry tried to convince the new ownership and fan base the team was only three or four moves away from being able to win a championship. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer basically gave Byrd to the Red Sox in April 2012 before he was busted the first time for PEDs.
Several players took to Twitter on Wednesday to voice their opinion about Byrd, including Justin Verlander. Byrd helped beat Verlander and the Tigers earlier in the season. Buster Olney pointed out he directly impacted the careers of some peers before he was caught … again.
Dan Haren did not hold back. The former Cubs’ right-hander asked Ken Rosenthal if he could get back all the home runs Byrd hit off him. Haren reminded Rosenthal that Byrd “magically returned from a broken wrist in 16 days, at age 38, and proceeded to homer” off Haren that day.
For the record, Haren gave up a three-run homer to Byrd on Aug. 27. The Cubs and Giants were tied at one going into the bottom of the third. The Giants scored four in the third with Byrd delivering the knockout blow with Madison Bumgarner on the hill. The Cubs lost 9-1.
Many words now come to mind when thinking about Marlon Byrd. Suffice it to say, Byrd is no longer the word in Major League Baseball.
News and Notes
• According to the Sun-Times, Javier Baez continues to dazzle in the field while adjusting to his role. Gordon Wittenmyer pointed out in his report that Baez is the first Cub since Mark DeRosa in 2008 to play all four infield positions and left field.
• ESPN Chicago reported they might not by All-Stars, but Cubs’ role players get the job done.
• Bruce Levine reported the Cubs will continue pursuit of pitching depth.
• David Berg’s confidence is leading to success on the bump according to Mark Harris.
• Ben Badler reported Thursday that Lazarito Armenteros will be part of a Cuban showcase on June 13, two days before the 2015-16 International signing period ends.
• According to Ken Rosenthal, the Dodgers will not be punished for using laser rangefinders to help position their outfielders. MLB did notify “all clubs Thursday that gold tees, chalk and paint cannot serve as markers for positioning.”
• For those that missed it, Padres’ executive chairman Ron Fowler blasted his team and players Wednesday. Fowler called the team “miserable failures” and labeled James Shields’ performance as an embarrassment to him and the team. The Padres are a mess behind the scenes and on the field.
And last, but not least, Cubs prospect Charcer Burks made a ridiculous catch that was voted as the Minor League Play of the Week.
This Day in Cubstory
2003 – Sammy Sosa was ejected from the game in the first inning after he shattered his bat and the broken pieces exposed cork. Further inspection of the bat revealed it was loaded with cork. Sosa was ejected and the run was taken off the board. The Cubs beat the Devil Rays 3-2 at Wrigley Field. Sosa’s eight- game suspension was appealed down to seven games.
2003 – Cubs selected Jake Fox in the third round of the draft
2003 – Cubs selected Sean Marshall in the sixth round of the draft
2003 – Cubs selected Casey McGehee in the tenth round of the draft
2003 – Cubs selected Tim Lincecum in the 48th round of the draft, but was not signed
1997 – Cubs selected Jon Garland in the first round (tenth overall pick) of the draft
1997 – Cubs selected Scott Downs in the third round of the draft
1997 – Cubs selected Michael Wuertz in the 11th round of the draft
1993 – Cubs selected Brooks Kieschnick in the first round (tenth overall pick) of the draft
1993 – Cubs selected Jon Ratliff in the first round (24th overall pick) of the draft
1993 – Cubs selected Kevin Orie in the first round (29th overall pick) of the draft
1993 – Cubs selected Bo Porter in the 40th round of the draft
1991 – Cubs selected Doug Glanville in the first round (12th overall pick) of the draft
1991 – Cubs selected Ozzie Timmons in the fifth round of the draft
1991 – Cubs selected Steve Trachsel in the eighth round of the draft
1991 – Cubs selected Jon Lieber in the ninth round of the draft
1987 – Three grand slams are hit in a Cubs 22-7 victory over the Astros. Keith Moreland and Brian Dayett went deep for the Cubs, Billy Hatcher for Houston. Jody Davis scored five runs.
1985 – Cubs selected Rafael Palmeiro in the first round (22nd overall pick) of the draft
1985 – Cubs selected Rick Wrona in the fifth round of the draft
1985 – Cubs selected Kevin Tapani in the ninth round of the draft
1985 – Cubs selected Doug Dascenzo in the 12th round of the draft
1985 – Cubs selected Mark Grace in the 24th round of the draft
1981 – Munenori Kawasaki, born
1980 – Cubs selected Don Schulze in the first round (11th overall pick) of the draft
1980 – Cubs selected Craig Lefferts in the ninth round of the draft
1978 – Cubs and Braves tied a Major League record for the most pitchers used in a single game. The two teams used 14 pitches, seven each, in a Cubs 8-6 victory at Wrigley Field
1978 – Steve Smyth, born
1975 – Jose Molina, born
1975 – Cubs selected Lee Smith in the second round of the draft
1973 – Robert Machado, born
1971 – Ken Holtzman pitched his second no-hitter in a 1-0 victory over the Reds at Riverfront Park. Holtzman scored the only run in the game, and it was unearned.