The Cubs wrapped up the series in Philadelphia with an 8-1 win over the Phillies and improved to a Major League best 41-17 on the season. Thursday is an off-day for the Cubs. Joe Maddon’s team begins a three-game series in Atlanta on Friday night.
Albert Almora Jr. was in a Major League starting lineup for the first time Wednesday and he announced his presence with authority. The first defensive play of his big league career backed up the reputation he’s had since the day he was drafted. Almora Jr. is a Gold Glove caliber outfielder and those that did not know about him found out real quick.
Almora Jr. started a 7-2 double play when he caught a fly in left center and threw a strike to Miguel Montero to nail Odubel Herrera at the plate. Almora Jr. changed the game with the throw that according to Mike Petriello was a 91 mph strike that traveled 206 feet.
Almora Jr. collected his first hit, RBI and run scored in the eighth inning. Not bad for the youngest player on the Cubs’ roster less than 24 hours after arriving to The Show.
With Almora Jr. in the same outfield as Jason Heyward, the Cubs have one of the best defensive outfields in the game according to the Sun-Times.
Joe Maddon compared the impact of Almora’s play to the catch Jason Heyward made in San Francisco to take away at least a triple from Denard Span before crashing into the wall.
Entering play Wednesday, the Cubs led the majors with 35 defensive runs saved on the season according to ESPN. Run prevention at its league-leading best.
And Wednesday’s game was just the latest reminder of how important the draft and player development is to a team’s success. The Cubs had four former first round picks in the starting lineup. Three were drafted by the Cubs and developed under the current regime.
Kris Bryant (2013: 2-for-5, HR, 2R, 2RBI), Javier Baez (2011: 4-for-4, 2B, 3RBI) and Albert Almora Jr. (2012: 1-for-4, R, RBI) were main contributors to the Cubs’ 41st win of the season.
Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft begins tonight. The Cubs first pick is not until the third round (pick No. 104). So the Cubs will not start adding talent to the system until Friday.
Cubs Starting Staff
John Lackey was outstanding again Wednesday with seven shutout innings. Lackey improved to 7-2 with a 2.63 ERA and 0.93 WHIP. In 12 starts, Lackey has allowed 25 runs, 24 earned, on 57 hits with 19 walks and 84 strikeouts in 82 innings … and just imagine how good his line would look with just decent outings in Phoenix and Cincinnati.
The Cubs starting staff all have ERAs under 3.00 for the season: Jake Arrieta (1.80), Jon Lester (2.06), Jason Hammel (2.14), John Lackey (2.63), Kyle Hendricks (2.90).
Four of the starting five are in the top six in all of baseball in WHIP: Clayton Kershaw (0.647), John Lackey (0.927), Kyle Hendricks (0.937), Chris Sale (0.941), Jake Arrieta (0.963), Jon Lester (0.966).
And over the last 13 games, the Cubs’ starting staff has a 1.34 ERA, 0.805 WHIP (51 hits, 97 strikeouts in 87 innings) while holding opponents to a .171 batting average … and averaging 6 2/3 innings per start.
Cubs Run Differential
With Wednesday’s 8-1 victory over the Phillies, the Cubs have scored 313 runs this season while allowing 164, that’s a plus-149 run differential … more than double the Red Sox (+70).
The Cubs have the most wins by five or more runs in baseball. Christopher Kamka pointed out that 21 of the Cubs’ 41 wins have been by five or more runs this season (51.22 %). The Cardinals have won 14 games by five or more runs and the Mariners are third on the list with 13.
Last season, over the entire 162-game season, the Cubs were 16-15 in games decided by five or more runs and in 2014, the Cubs were 17-27.
Willson Contreras is expected back in Iowa’s starting lineup Thursday night when the I-Cubs begin a series with Round Rock. Contreras was a big topic before Wednesday’s game in Philadelphia.
Joe Maddon said Contreras will be in the majors at some point. Maddon has heard “nothing but good stuff” about Contreras’ development.
“You’ll see him here at some point. I’m certain of that. I don’t know when. He’s doing everything properly. I’m hearing a lot about his defense. You think he’s going to hit. The big thing with us is you can see our pitching staff’s doing so well. How much do our catchers have to do with that? We have some veteran catchers back there now that can really help pitchers. So you just got to make sure all the boxes are checked properly, and then you bring him here when you think it’s the right time. I’ve heard nothing but glowing reports about him. You can’t expect a finished product. You got to expect some things to pop that you have to address to work on. But I’m fine with that.”
“Understand that they’re also going to make mistakes, just like veterans do. I hate the term ‘rookie mistake.’ I’ve seen a lot of veterans make the same mistakes. I’ve never really uttered those words. With young guys, I’m talking about the nuance of the game, understanding little things, whether it’s base-running stuff, whether it’s making sure you’re throwing to the right base, working an at-bat (when) your pitcher just had a long inning and you go out there and you make a first-pitch out. Those are the kind of things you want to make sure that the guy is savvy about. A Major League Baseball game is really chock full of nuance that is not really played up as much in the minor leagues.”
News, Notes and Rumors
• According to Jerry Crasnick, the versatile Cubs roster is right up Joe Maddon’s alley.
• The Tribune reported Joe Maddon gets charge out of beanball disputes.
• Addison Russell welcomes the reunion with Albert Almora Jr. according to the Tribune.
• Seven-year old Cubs fan Beckham Zobrist had to have his right eye removed “following the discovery of retinoblastoma, a malignant tumor on the retina that is almost exclusively found in children.” And he figured out a way to avoid the taunting by other kids he received for losing his eye. He now has a prosthetic eye with the Cubs logo on it. The young man recently showed the players during a visit to Wrigley Field. Dave Martinez was really taken by the young Zobrist and said he is welcome back any time he wants.
• Comcast SportsNet explained what the win over the Phillies and Vince Velasquez says about Cubs as contenders built to last.
• John Lackey talked to Jerry Crasnick about the Cubs starting staff. Lackey said, “You don’t want to be the guy who screws it up, for sure. It’s kind of like a relay race. When a guy hands you the baton, you don’t want to drop it. You want to keep it moving and keep the race going in the right direction.” Lackey went on to explain he just doesn’t want to let his boys down.
• There have been whispers that LHP Sean Doolittle could be of interest to the Cubs, instead of paying the huge price to acquire LHP Andrew Miller. According to Peter Gammons, Doolittle is not an option. Billy Beane said he is not going to trade Doolittle and his “very workable contract.”
• James Shields made his White Sox debut on Wednesday night at The Cell. And Shields was rocked. Shields pitched into the third inning, recorded six outs and allowed seven runs on eight hits (three home runs) with two walks and two strikeouts in two-plus innings. Shields made 84 pitches, 44 were strikes. Chris Jaffe pointed out that Shields has allowed as many earned runs in his last two starts (17) as all the Cubs starting pitchers combined in the last 14 starts.
• The Brewers designated RHP Neil Ramirez for assignment Wednesday night. Milwaukee activated RHP Corey Knebel from the DL and needed room on the active roster. Ramirez appeared in two games for the Brewers and allowed two runs on two hits (two home runs) with no walks and three strikeouts in 1 2/3 innings (10.80 ERA, 1.20 WHIP).
• According to Jeff Passan, the Royals have discussed RHP Yordano Ventura in trade talks recently.
• Travis Ishikawa re-signed with the Giants on a minor league contract.
• Mets’ manager Terry Collins asked Padres’ skipper Andy Green to be part of the NL All-Star Team’s coaching staff. Green obviously said yes and accepted the invitation.
• MLBAM (MLB Advanced Media) hired Tom Tango … Statcast is only going to get better, great hire.
• With the First-Year Player Draft beginning today, Comcast SportsNet reposted Patrick Mooney’s report from three years ago that explained why the Cubs bet on Kris Bryant and against Jonathan Gray with the No. 2 pick.
• David Ross played his final games in Philadelphia this week and completed his Philly bucket list according to a report from ESPN. Grandpa Rossy is helping the Cubs win and having a ton of fun on his #YearLongRetirementParty
And David Ross is trying to use modern technology to get his teammates to San Diego for the All-Star Game.
Give Grandpa Rossy credit. He’s trying to #VoteCubs.
— #VoteCubs (@Cubs) June 8, 2016
This Day in Cubstory
2015 – Cubs signed free agent Rafael Soriano
2010 – Cubs hit five home runs, including Derrek Lee’s 300th of his career in a 9-4 win over the Brewers. Geovany Soto and Marlon Byrd both hit two home runs.
2010 – Cubs selected Dallas Beeler in the 41st round of the draft
2009 – Cubs selected Brett Jackson in the first round (31st overall pick) of the draft
2009 – Cubs selected D.J. LeMahieu in the second round of the draft
2009 – Cubs selected Chris Rusin in the fourth round of the draft
2009 – Cubs selected Brooks Raley in the sixth round of the draft
2009 – Cubs selected Justin Bour in the 25th round of the draft
2008 – Cubs released Randy Keisler
2002 – Cubs acquired Jackson Melian from the Brewers for Robert Machado
2000 – The Cubs, Rangers and Marlins complete three-way trade. Brant Brown went from Florida to Texas for Chuck Smith. The Rangers sent Brown to the Cubs for Dave Martinez.
1988 – Zac Rosscup, born (Rays selected Rosscup in the 28th round of the draft on this day in 2009)
1982 – Buck Coats, born
1980 – Mike Fontenot, born
1978 – Cubs traded Woodie Fryman to the Expos for a PTBNL. Cubs received Jerry White as the PTBNL on June 23.
1978 – Rookie pitcher Dennis Lamp tossed a one-hitter in a Cubs 5-0 victory over the Padres at Wrigley Field. Gene Richards collected the only hit, a single with two outs in the sixth. Dave Kingman hit a two-run home run and collected a bunt single.
1963 – Ernie Banks hit three home runs, two off Sandy Koufax, in an 11-8 loss to the Dodgers at Wrigley Field.
1958 – Cubs signed amateur free agent Ron Perranoski
1957 – Ernie Banks hit the 100th home run of his career with two on in the eighth inning off Robin Roberts.
1954 – Ralph Kiner hit two home runs and drove in three runs and Hank Sauer hit another home run and drove in three runs as the Cubs beat the Phillies and Robin Roberts 6-5 at Wrigley Field.
1926 – Roy Smalley, born
1920 – Sal Madrid, born
1900 – Marty Callaghan, born