Happy Fourth of July!
It’s Independence Day and for the first time in eight years the Cubs are at the top of the standings in the NL Central on America’s birthday.
The Cubs return to Wrigley after a difficult road trip (4-7) for the first of three with the Reds in what is a four-game homestand.
Even with posting just four wins in the last 14 games, the Cubs begin play on the Fourth of July with a 51-30 record at the halfway point of the season and eight games ahead of the Cardinals in the division. The Cubs struggles should not be overlooked or overblown. The Cubs are a good team that is not playing well offensively or defensively while in the middle of the pitching staff’s worst stretch of the season.
The Cubs are in a position to finish the first half of the baseball season with a good week leading up to the break. A little time off and getting a few key players back will help rejuvenate the Cubs for the second half.
The Cubs are being rather vague on when Dexter Fowler will return from the disabled list. Fowler is eligible to come off the DL on Monday. But Joe Maddon said that would not happen and it doesn’t sound like Fowler will be back before the end of the Reds series. At this point, Fowler should need a short rehab stint with an affiliate, but there has not been a timeframe given on when that could happen.
Dexter Fowler is in line to play in the All-Star Game and he really deserves to do so. He played like an All-Star for the first half of the season.
The Cubs have struggled mightily since he went on the DL. As Matt Snyder pointed out, the Cubs are 43-18 with Fowler starts and 8-12 when he’s not in the starting nine.
Even when Fowler does not get on base to start a game, he will typically make a pitcher work and that pays off in the first inning and throughout a game. Instead of a starting pitcher facing Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo after throwing 10-15 pitches, starters are routinely throwing less than 15 pitches in the first inning against the Cubs. Lineup construction is a major component to a team’s success, especially this Cubs’ team. The headline-making relentless offense is no longer a factory for the Cubs and actually seems like a distant memory.
As Fowler goes, the Cubs go. And this team must have a healthy Dexter Fowler back as soon as possible.
Jeimer Candelario made his big league debut Sunday afternoon and went 1-for-4 at the plate. Candelario was born in New York and played his first game in the majors in an otherwise forgettable day for the Cubs in the Big Apple. According to Comcast SportsNet, Candelario had a large group of family and friends at Sunday’s game.
Candelario’s stay with the Cubs could be a short one, according to the Tribune, but he’s going to make the most of the opportunity he’s been given. Candelario will play his first game at Wrigley on Monday.
Jeimer Candelario became the sixth different player to start at third base for Joe Maddon since Kris Bryant was called up last season. Bryant, Tommy La Stella, Javier Baez, Jonathan Herrera, Chris Coghlan and Candelario have started games at the hot corner for the Cubs over the last year and a half.
Tommy La Stella
The Cubs decided Tommy La Stella needed more time at Iowa before he was ready to be activated from the DL. La Stella started at third base Sunday and was 0-for-4 hitting out of the two-spot in Marty Pevey’s lineup.
When Chris Coghlan left Saturday night’s game before the fourth inning with what turned out to be a right rib cage strain, La Stella was expected to be activated for Sunday’s finale with the Mets. The Cubs called up Jeimer Candelario instead.
According to Carrie Muskat, the Cubs did not want to rush La Stella back and “wanted him to complete his rehab.” Reports suggested La Stella could return this week.
Gonzales reported that La Stella “has experienced some post-game soreness.”
Tommy La Stella showed earlier this season he can produce off the bench. And the Cubs could really use his bat right now. If his right hamstring is still sore after a couple of more games, the Cubs should shut him down and let him get right and as back to 100 percent as possible at this point of a baseball season.
Clayton Richard made his second start for Triple-A Iowa on Sunday. The I-Cubs lost 3-2 to Round Rock in a game that Neal Cotts was the winning pitcher.
Richard made 62 pitches, 37 for strikes, over four scoreless innings. Richard gave up one hit, walked two and struck out three. Rain limited Richard’s first start to one inning. In five innings, two starts, with Triple-A Iowa, Richard has allowed just one hit, no runs and struck out five while walking two batters.
Brian Matusz made his organizational debut on Saturday. The southpaw started for the AZL Cubs and completed two innings. Matusz gave up a hit and struck out a batter. Matusz faced seven batters and kept the ball down with four groundball outs and one fly ball out.
Reports have suggested the Cubs are happy with the progress Matusz has made.
News and Notes
• Comcast SportsNet asked what if Cubs don’t get Jake Arrieta back pitching at a Cy Young Award level.
• Willson Contreras deserves shot to be Cubs’ everyday catcher according to the Tribune.
• For the first time this season, the Cubs are not in the top spot in Buster Olney’s weekly power rankings. Olney’s Top 10: Indians, Cubs, Giants, Rangers, Nationals, Orioles, Astros, Mets, Dodgers, Royals.
• According to Jerry Crasnick, the rout of Jon Lester and sweep by the Mets are the latest test of Cubs’ resilience.
• Comcast SportsNet reported the Mets knocked out Jon Lester and gave Cubs another reality check. Look familiar? According to the Sun-Times, the Cubs were swept by the Mets in NLCS rematch. The Tribune reported there were some new characters in Cubs-Mets, but ending was just as hard to watch. And the Cubs’ past problems linger in 14-3 humbling by the Mets at the halfway point according to the Tribune.
• Joe Maddon treasures scouting, minor league managing experience according to the Tribune.
• According to ESPN, John Lackey is one of the cheaper free-agent pitchers outshining the stars.
• Miguel Montero made his mound debut Sunday at Citi Field. Montero pitched for the first time in the big leagues. Montero completed 1 1/3 innings, same as Jon Lester. Montero helped save the Cubs bullpen, that is extremely taxed, from pitching the remainder of the blowout. Montero allowed one run on four hits with no walks or strikeouts in 1 1/3 innings.
• Mark Simon reported on ESPN that the Cubs have a few imperfections to deal with.
• The Pirates claimed veteran catcher Eric Fryer off waivers from the Cardinals.
This Day in Cubstory
2014 – Cubs traded Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija to the Oakland A’s for Addison Russell, Billy McKinney, Dan Straily and cash.
2003 – Cubs signed free agent Josh Paul
2003 – Cubs signed amateur free agent Al Alburquerque
2001 – Cubs signed free agent Trent Hubbard
1997 – Cubs signed amateur free agent Juan Cruz
1979 – Cubs purchased Miguel Dilone from the A’s
1979 – Reds purchased Sam Mejias from the Cubs
1977 – Cubs released Joe Decker
1966 – Ron Santo set a modern-day Cubs’ record by hitting in his 28th straight game. The Santo streak started May 31. The Cubs split a doubleheader with the Pirates at Wrigley Field, losing the first game 6-4. The Cubs won the second game 6-4 but Santo was held hitless and his streak came to an end.
1962 – Johnny Abrego, born
1942 – Stan Hack set a National League record of 54 games without an error at third base (Hack’s record has since been broken) in a 6-5 win over the Cardinals. Hack’s streak is snapped in the second game of the twin bill with the Cardinals when he bobbled a Stan Musial grounder with the bases loaded in the third inning. The Cubs dropped game two at Sportsman’s Park, 9-3.
1939 – Hank Leiber hit three consecutive home runs in a Cubs 6-4 loss to the Cardinals at Wrigley.
1934 – Kiki Cuyler hit three doubles, a triple and scored three runs in a 6-2 win over the Cardinals at Sportsman’s Park.
1929 – Hack Wilson jumped into the Reds dugout to settle a dispute with pitcher Ray Kolp. Wilson did not get to Kolp and was ejected from the game. The Cubs won the game 10-5. That night while waiting for a train at Union Station, Wilson was able to make his point to Reds pitcher Pete Donahue.
1929 – Bill Tremel, born
1928 – Chuck Tanner, born
1908 – Mordecai Brown pitched his fourth consecutive shutout, his second in three days and set a Cubs’ record (Ed Reulbach tied the record later in the season and Bill Lee equaled the mark in 1938). The Cubs topped the Pirates 2-0 in game one of a twin bill in Pittsburgh. The Cubs won the second game 8-3 behind Ed Reulbach with ‘Circus’ Solly Hofman driving in four runs with a pair of singles and a double.
1906 – Cubs swept the Pirates by identical 1-0 scores at West Side Grounds. Mordecai Brown hurled a one-hitter and Carl Lundgren tossed a five-hitter in game two.
1900 – Approximately 1,000 of the 10,000 fans in attendance at West Side Grounds were armed with revolvers and fired them consistently in celebration of the Fourth of July. There were holes shot in the stadium as the Cubs beat the Phillies in both games of a doubleheader.
1895 – The Chicago National League Ball Club took both games of a doubleheader from Cincinnati. 22,913 were on hand for the second game, the first time more than 20,000 fans attended a game in the history of Chicago baseball.