It’s hard to believe, but the Cubs play the final game Sunday of what is referred to as the first half of the season. The midway point of the baseball season was a week ago. Sunday is the Cubs’ 88th game of the year.
The Cubs started the season 25-6 after dropping nine of 10 and 15 of 20, Joe Maddon’s team is 27-29 over the last 56 games. The double-digit lead in the NL Central is long gone and the Cubs vaguely resemble the team that took the field in April, May and early June.
When asked about his team’s 6 ½ game lead in the division, Joe Maddon said, “You’d take this kind of lead going into the break any day of the week.”
Anthony Rizzo, as expected, was not happy following Saturday’s loss and said the Cubs must come in and take care of business on Sunday. Rizzo told the beat writers, “This game isn’t easy. It’s impossible to boat-race a whole season like we were going. It’s impossible.” Rizzo said the Cubs have to clean up their pitching. The Cubs are walking too many and that’s not the formula.
Rizzo is confident John Lackey will be ready to go and said, “Just winning tomorrow will send us out on a high note on the first half.”
For the second time in as many starts, Jon Lester did not get the job done. Lester was rocked in the third inning and had zero command in the second inning. An argument could be made he was actually worse at PNC than he was last Sunday at Citi Field. Joe Maddon didn’t see Lester getting any better and went to the bullpen in the fourth inning.
Lester stood up and owned his performance after the game. Lester said he was “terrible” and the way he pitched was “unacceptable.” Lester said he is healthy and pointed out, “I don’t know why it you pitch bad it’s got to be a physical reason.”
Lester added he “can deal with solo homers all day” the walks and hit batsmen “can’t happen.” Lester added to an alarming home run total by Cubs’ starting pitchers over the last 20 games. Cubs’ starters allowed 30 homers in the first 67 games of the season. After Lester served up two more Saturday, Cubs’ starters have given up 28 longballs in the last 20 games.
After earning the NL Pitcher of the Month Award for June (4-0 in six starts with a 1.41 ERA and 0.78 WHIP), Lester is 0-1 in his last two starts with a 27.00 ERA and 3.92 WHIP. Lester has given up 13 runs on 13 hits (five home runs) with four walks and five strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings.
Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta will be in San Diego for the All-Star Game. And both starters will receive a mental break. As Comcast SportsNet reported, if Lester and Arrieta are not able to get back on track after the break, the Cubs will have a very difficult second half of the season.
Dexter Fowler will join his teammates in San Diego for the All-Star Game and take part in the festivities. Fowler will be introduced as an All-Star, one of seven Cubs on the NL All-Star team. Fowler will not participate in the game.
The Cubs announced Saturday that Fowler decided to withdraw from the Midsummer Classic. He did not have enough rehab time and did not want to push it and risk the injury to his right hamstring lingering in the second half. Fowler will continue his rehab with a Cubs’ affiliate after the break. The Cubs have not given a timetable on when he will be activated from the DL.
With Fowler, Noah Syndergaard and Yoenis Cespedes unable to play in the All-Star Game, Starling Marte (Pirates), Jay Bruce (Reds) and Drew Pomeranz (Padres) were named as replacements Saturday for the National League. Marcell Ozuna (Marlins) and Carlos Gonzalez (Rockies) will start in place of Fowler and Cespedes.
Dexter Fowler showed his appreciation to the South Bend Cubs for letting him play a rehab game Friday. Fowler had Ruth’s Chris cater what ended up being a post-game celebration. The South Bend Cubs scored seven runs in the bottom of the ninth for a remarkable 12-11 win over Bowling Green.
The SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game takes place Sunday (6:00pm CDT) at PETCO Park in San Diego. MLB Network will carry the game and MLB Network Radio will provide the play-by-play with Mike Ferrin on the call.
This is a must-see game for those that follow the minor leagues. Many of baseball’s top prospects will play in the prestigious game.
Eloy Jimenez and Jeimer Candelario were named to the World Team.
Eloy Jimenez will participate in the game. The 19-year old outfielder has torn up the Midwest League this season. In 80 games, Jimenez has hit .332/.372/.527 with 29 doubles, a triple and 10 home runs for a .899 OPS.
Jeimer Candelario will not play in the game. While he was in the big leagues for six days, he was replaced on the roster by another player. Candelario will report to Triple-A Iowa after the break.
Tune into the MLB Network to watch Eloy Jimenez compete in the game that Kyle Schwarber was MVP of just a year ago.
Joe Nathan took the loss Saturday in his sixth appearance with the Smokies. Nathan allowed one run on two hits in two-thirds of an inning. Travis Harrison took Nathan deep in the ninth inning for the only run in the game, the Smokies lost to the Lookouts 1-0.
Nathan made 21 pitches, 12 for strikes. Nathan recorded one fly ball out, the other on the ground.
Nathan has given up two runs on three hits during his rehab assignment with the Smokies, both runs have been on solo home runs.
Joe Nathan is 0-1 with a 3.18 ERA and 0.53 WHIP in six games (5 2/3 innings). Nathan has allowed two runs on three hits with no walks and six strikeouts.
The Cubs have been rather vague on Jorge Soler’s status. Jorge Soler has been on the DL since June 7 with a left hamstring strain. Due to the amount of leg injuries Soler has had it’s understandable the Cubs are being cautious with him.
The Sun-Times posted a positive update on Soler.
Joe Maddon told Gordon Wittenmyer that the team received “enough positive feedback from the last evaluation” that Soler could be ready for a rehab assignment after the break.
News and Notes
• Comcast SportsNet talked to Joe Maddon about what he saw from Jeimer Candelario and asked what’s next for one of the top prospects in the system.
• The Cubs optioned Jeimer Candelario to Triple-A Iowa and recalled Munenori Kawasaki before Saturday’s game, a move that should have been done a week ago. Joe Maddon values what Kawasaki brings to the clubhouse and bench. Maddon said Saturday that bringing up Kawasaki was “a lot more inexpensive and easier to find that a magician.” Kris Bryant told ESPN Chicago that Kawasaki filled a void in the clubhouse with Dexter Fowler and David Ross on the DL and not with the team.
• Kris Bryant (21 doubles, 25 home runs) and Anthony Rizzo (21 doubles, 21 home runs) joined a rather small list of Cubs that have hit at least 20 or more doubles and 20 or more home runs before the All-Star break. Since 1913 only Derrek Lee (2005), Sammy Sosa (2000, 2001) and Billy Williams (1972) had accomplished what ‘Bryzzo’ did this season.
• Anthony Rizzo hit two doubles Saturday, the second in the eighth inning came within inches of being a home run. Rizzo ended up a homer shy of being the first Cub to hit for the cycle in more than 23 years. Rizzo was asked about just missing out on the cycle. According to ESPN, Rizzo said it “would have been like scoring on a Hail Mary down two TD’s with no time left.”
• Buy or sell? Ken Davidoff explained what the Yankees can learn from 2015 teams that were in the same limbo.
• The Phillies released RHP Yoervis Medina.
• Ian Happ went 0-for-4 on Saturday night playing in his second game in the outfield since he was promoted to Double-A Tennessee. Happ is batting .407/.443/.611 with five doubles and two home runs for a 1.054 OPS in 15 games with the Smokies.
And last, but not least, Joe Maddon has an All-Star version of his ‘Try Not to Suck’ t-shirts.
The latest: pic.twitter.com/kUaCoJ4lJx
— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) July 9, 2016
This Day in Cubstory
2014 – Kyle Hendricks made his big league debut in Cincinnati. Hendricks received a no decision against the Reds after allowing four runs on five hits with three walks and seven strikeouts in six innings.
2014 – Anthony Rizzo is voted on the National League All-Star team via the Last Man Vote. Rizzo joins Starlin Castro on the NL All-Star squad.
2013 – Cubs signed free agent Edgar Gonzalez
2009 – Cubs released Anderson Machado
2000 – Sammy Sosa defeated Ken Griffey Jr. in the Home Run Derby
1974 – Cubs purchased Billy Grabarkewitz from the Phillies
1969 – The Cubs scored five runs in the fifth inning and beat the Mets 6-2 behind Bill Hands. The Cubs victory halted the Mets seven-game winning streak and kept the Cubs in first place by four games
1954 – Andre Dawson, born