The Cubs enter play Saturday at the one-third point of the season with a 38-15 record. After 53 games, Joe Maddon’s team has the best record in the game and a 9 ½ game lead in the NL Central with a lot of work ahead of them.
John Lackey said it Friday after his latest solid outing on the mound. “We have really high goals and we have a long way to go before we can reach them. The best way to get there is to try to win the game that day. If you do that for several months you look up and you’re in a pretty good place.”
With Lackey tossing 6 2/3 innings of scoreless ball he dropped his ERA on the season to 2.88. While ERA is no longer the best indicator of how a pitcher is performing, it is rather impressive that all five of the Cubs’ starters, after 53 games, have a sub-3.00 ERA.
Jake Arrieta (1.56), Jon Lester (2.29), John Lackey (2.88), Jason Hammel (2.09) and Kyle Hendricks (2.84) have as much, if not more, to do with the Cubs being 23 games over .500 as the position players. The quintet has a 2.33 ERA and 0.99 WHIP, tops in baseball. The Cubs rotation has allowed the fewest hits (239) and home runs (88) while striking out the third most batters (321) in the majors and holding teams to a .199 batting average.
According to Christopher Kamka, the starting staff’s 2.33 ERA “is lower than 72 of the 110 Cy Young winning seasons in MLB history.”
“I’ve seen some pretty good starting pitching but this is really, really good,” Joe Maddon said. “You feel pretty good about each of them getting pretty deep into the game.”
So it really does all start with the day’s starting pitcher …
Anthony Rizzo had another good game at the plate Friday, on the bases … well, not so much.
Rizzo doubled in Jason Heyward with the Cubs’ first run in the 6-0 win and finished the day 2-for-3 with a double, a walk and a RBI. Rizzo was thrown out at second base trying to stretch a single into a double in the eighth. Second time in as many days Rizzo ran into an out.
Over his last seven games, Rizzo has a .350/.500/.600 line and the all-important batting average is creeping back up. For the season, Rizzo is batting .246/.385/.508 with 11 doubles, a triple and 12 home runs for a .893 OPS.
Joe Maddon addressed Rizzo’s batting average with the beat writers before Friday’s game. Maddon said, “Whatever Riz is hitting right now, easily add 25 points, maybe 30 points without a shift.”
Rizzo had a little fun with former teammate Welington Castillo. Wely plunked Rizzo in the head with his return throw … and Rizzo shoved him, creating a moment that will likely be included in the team’s highlight reel for the season.
The Cubs sent RHP Dallas Beeler on a rehab assignment to Triple-A Iowa. Beeler was placed on the 15-day DL on April 3, retroactive to March 25, with right shoulder inflammation. Beeler did not pitch in any of the Cubs’ Cactus League games.
Beeler reported to Iowa and made his first appearance of the season out of the bullpen on Friday night in Oklahoma City.
Beeler spent the first two months of the season at the Cubs’ facility and participated in extended Spring Training. According to Randy Wehofer, Beeler pitched in four or five extended spring games only for two innings per outing.
Dallas Beeler picked up the win on Friday night in Iowa’s 7-5 victory over Oklahoma City. Beeler allowed one run on one hit in two innings. Beeler made 30 pitches, 17 for strikes, and recorded all six outs on the ground.
News and Notes
• According to Comcast SportsNet, Cubs displayed their dominance in wacky eighth inning.
• John Lackey lived low in the zone according to ESPN Chicago.
• Cubs put it all together once again in 6-0 victory over the Diamondbacks according to the Tribune.
• The Cubs played ‘Screw the Closer’ again Friday afternoon. Addison Russell and Javier Baez delivered a pair of two-run doubles with two outs and the Cubs scored five runs. Hector Rondon was warming up in the pen but when Baez cracked the double and scored on the throwing error he sat down. ESPN Chicago reported the Cubs denied closer Hector Rondon again with five-run rally in eighth.
• According to Bruce Levine, the Cubs are scoring big without high batting averages.
• Christopher Kamka: “If the only Cubs wins you counted were ones by five-plus runs, they would be 20-15 (.571) … which would still be the best win percentage in the NL Central.” The Cubs have more wins by five or more runs than the Cardinals (14) and Mariners (12) … 20 of the Cubs 38 wins this season have been by five or more runs.
• Matt Szczur and his wife visited patients at Advocate Children’s Hospital at Lutheran General this week according to a report from Carrie Muskat.
• Paul Sullivan took a look at the Ritz (the Cubs clubhouse) compared to the pits (visitor’s clubhouse) at Wrigley Field.
• The Giants received bad news on Hunter Pence before the 5-1 victory over the Cardinals on Friday night. Pence is “expected to undergo surgery to remove a torn right hamstring tendon” which could sideline him for at least eight weeks. Pence’s hamstring tendon was torn completely from the bone according to Henry Schulman.
• Neil Ramirez made his Brewers’ debut on Friday night in Milwaukee’s 6-3 loss to Philadelphia. Ramirez struck out two of the three batters he faced on 12 pitches, eight for strikes.
• The Cardinals signed one-time Cubs’ starter, RHP Jerome Williams to a minor league contract. According to Chris Cotillo, Williams will be paid $2 million if he makes it to the big league team. Cardinals’ GM John Mozeliak said Williams was added for depth and will report to Triple-A Memphis.
• Major League Baseball announced Friday that Trevor Hoffman and Moises Alou will be the managers for the 2016 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game.
• LHP Rob Zastryzny is back on the Cubs’ prospect track according to the Tribune.
• The Cubs are not ready to promote hot catching prospect Willson Contreras according to ESPN Chicago.
And last, but not least, according to Jerry Crasnick, Jason Heyward endures with defensive expertise.
This Day in Cubstory
2014 – Cubs released Joel Pineiro
2012 – Cubs selected Albert Almora in the first round (6th pick) of the draft
2012 – Athletics selected Addison Russell in the first round (11th pick) of the draft
2004 – Cubs hit the million mark in attendance, the quickest in franchise history. Mark Prior made his first start of the season, pitched six scoreless innings in a 2-1 loss to the Pirates.
2002 – Cubs selected Billy Petrick in the third round of the draft
2002 – A’s selected John Baker in the fourth round of the draft
2002 – Cubs selected Rich Hill in the fourth round of the draft
2002 – Cubs selected Adam Greenberg in the fourth round of the draft
2002 – Cubs selected Micah Hoffpauir in the 13th round of the draft
2002 – Cubs selected Rock Cherry in the 14th round of the draft
2002 – Cubs selected Randy Wells in the 38th round of the draft
1996 – Cubs selected Chad Meyers in the fifth round of the draft
1996 – Cubs selected Kyle Lohse in the 29th round of the draft
1990 – Cubs selected Lance Nixon in the first round (23rd overall pick) of the draft
1990 – Cubs selected Pedro Valdes in the 12th round of the draft
1984 – Cubs selected Drew Hall in the first round (third overall pick) of the draft
1984 – Cubs selected Greg Maddux in the second round of the draft
1984 – Cubs selected Dwight Smith in the third round of the draft
1984 – Cubs selected Dave Liddell in the fourth round of the draft
1984 – Cubs selected Jamie Moyer in the sixth round of the draft
1984 – Cubs selected Jeff Pico in the 13th round of the draft
1981 – Cubs purchased Bobby Bonds from the Texas Rangers. In his first game with the Cubs, Bonds tripped on a seam in the field at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, broke a bone in his right hand and was placed on the 21-day DL
1976 – Chang-Yong Lim, born
1970 – Cubs selected Tom Lundstedt in the first round (17th overall pick) of the draft
1970 – Cubs selected Gene Hiser in the first round (19th overall pick) of the draft
1970 – Cubs selected Rick Reuschel in the third round of the draft
1967 – Scott Servais, born
1967 – Rick Wilkins, born
1966 – Ron Santo homered twice in a 6-4 victory over the Reds
1953 – After batting practice at Forbes Field, the Cubs and Pirates announced a big trade. Cubs traded pitcher Bob Schultz, catcher Toby Atwell, first baseman Preston Ward, third baseman George Freese, outfielders Bob Addis and Gene Hermanski plus an estimated $150,000 to Pittsburgh for pitcher Howie Pollet, catcher Joe Garagiola and outfielders Catfish Metkovich and Ralph Kiner. Cubs lost 6-1 to Pittsburgh, Kiner went 1-for-4 with a double.
1950 – Ernie Banks made his professional debut with the Kansas City Monarchs. Banks went 3-for-7 in a doubleheader against the Memphis Red Sox.
1929 – Rogers Hornsby, Hack Wilson and Charlie Grimm hit home runs in the fifth inning of a 10-9 victory over the Giants at Wrigley Field.