Matt Szczur played in the first two games of the series with the Rangers. Joe Maddon used Szczur to bat for his starting pitcher (Kyle Hendricks, Jason Hammel) in back-to-back games in the sixth inning with runners on base and two outs. And both times, Szczur delivered a run scoring hit.
Matt Szczur has only seen two pitches in the series and he’s driven in three runs.
Szczur has quietly had a good season and has become a valuable back-up for Joe Maddon. Szczur can play all three outfield spots and he’s mashed left-handed pitching. Szczur is batting .278/.316/.556 with two doubles, a triple and two home runs for a .871 OPS against southpaws this season.
With hits on Friday and Saturday, Szczur is now 10-for-29 as a pinch-hitter this season with a double and a triple (.345/.367/.448) for a .815 OPS. Szczur’s 10 pinch-hits is the third most in the majors.
And in 45 games off the bench, Matt Szczur is hitting .304/.347/.457 (14-for-46) with two doubles, a triple and a home run for a .803 OPS.
Matt Szczur and Tommy La Stella have created quite the one-two, righty-lefty punch off the bench for the Cubs this season.
Joe Nathan made a second appearance with Triple-A Iowa on Saturday night. Nathan is scheduled to pitch a full inning Sunday. Nathan is expected to be added to the Cubs’ pen this week but he told the Des Moines Register he could pitch with Iowa again on Wednesday.
Nathan said he was sore after Thursday’s inning of work. According to the Des Moines Register, Nathan said, “I had sore spots but in the right places. So, that’s a good thing.”
Nathan was supposed to face one batter on Saturday. The Cubs wanted him to enter the game with runners on base. Nathan was called on in the sixth inning with two outs and a runner on second base.
Nathan did not get the call on a two-strike pitch to Matt Reynolds and ended up walking him. Nathan retired Michael Conforto on a grounder to second base to end the inning. Nathan retired one of the two batters he faced on 13 pitches, six for strikes.
Nathan’s fastball was in the 91-93 mph range on Saturday. Nathan did not throw his fastball harder than 92 mph while he was with the Smokies.
The Des Moines Register talked to Nathan and he said not only does he want to end his career on his own terms, he is motivated by a shot at the Series with the Cubs.
There will be a little more interest than usual in Sunday’s game at Principal Park. The I-Cubs take on the Las Vegas 51s (Mets) and Brian Matusz is scheduled to make his first start.
Matusz has appeared in three games in the Cubs system, this will be his first with the Iowa Cubs. Matusz pitched in two games for the AZL Cubs and did not allow a run in five innings before he was sent to Iowa and eventually Double-A Tennessee.
Matusz completed 3 1/3 innings out of the Smokies pen five days ago and allowed one run on two hits with two walks and six strikeouts.
Matusz told the Des Moines Register he is not sure about the Cubs’ plan for him moving forward. Right now he’s being stretched out as a starter but he could end up helping the Cubs in the bullpen or in a starting role.
Dan Vogelbach had a rare 0-for on Saturday in Iowa’s 11-5 loss to Las Vegas. Saturday was the first time in eight games Vogelbach did not reach base with either a hit or a walk.
After 87 games, Vogelbach is batting .310/.420/.535 with 18 doubles, two triples and 15 home runs for a .956 OPS.
Vogelbach has put up excellent numbers in the PCL and with any other organization, as Jon Paul Morosi pointed out, he likely would have been called up to the majors by now. But with Anthony Rizzo at first base, there is no room for Vogelbach on the Cubs’ big league roster.
Morosi reported that Vogelbach “will be of interest to AL clubs with long-term questions at first base or designated hitter.” Morosi noted that the Yankees “have the worst first base production of any team in the majors this year.”
If the Cubs and Yankees make a deal before the non-waiver trade deadline, Vogelbach might be one of the players included in a package from Chicago to the Bronx.
Law’s Top 25 Under 25
Keith Law posted his ranking of the top 25 players in the majors under the age of 25. And to no surprise, two Cubs players made his list … Kris Bryant and Addison Russell.
Kris Bryant checked in on Law’s list at No. 5 behind Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Corey Seager. Law pointed out Bryant has made “strides at the plate this year, including cutting down on his swing-and-misses.” Law agrees that Bryant is “a serious MVP candidate” and sees 45-50 home runs seasons with “high OBPs ahead of him.”
Addison Russell made the list at No. 24 in his first full season in the majors. Russell hasn’t shown the improvements at the plate Law thought he would this year. And Law thinks his development might have been slowed a little with his call up last season. At 22 years old, Law believes Russell will be a star in the majors.
News, Notes and Rumors
• Jason Hammel’s brilliance led the Cubs over the Rangers according to Comcast SportsNet. Jason Hammel credited potato chips for keeping him healthy. And Jason Hammel wasn’t kidding according to ESPN Chicago, potato chips could save his season. Hammel said his doctor prescribed potato chips to help with the cramping that forced him out of his last start. Hammel could not decide between Utz and Kettle Brand.
• Anthony Rizzo delivered in Cubs second straight win according to ESPN.
• The Pirates have talked to the Yankees about Nathan Eovaldi according to Rob Biertempfel. The Rangers are also interested in the right-hander. The Cubs have shown a lot of interest in Eovaldi in the past. And Sweeny Murti expects plenty of scouts at Nathan Eovaldi’s start on Tuesday.
• The Marlins are surveying the market for pitching depth according to Joe Frisaro and would like to upgrade the rotation but not at the expense of a player from the active roster. The Marlins have been linked to Rich Hill (Athletics), Michael Pineda (Yankees), Nathan Eovaldi (Yankees) and Chris Archer (Rays).
• The Red Sox, Orioles, Marlins, Tigers and Rangers are expected to watch Rich Hill pitch Sunday in what could be his last start with the A’s according to Susan Slusser.
• The Rangers are engaged in ongoing trade talks with the Rays about Matt Moore according to Jon Paul Morosi. The Rangers and Rays talks have also included relievers the Rays have made available. The Rangers are looking to add a starting pitcher and a late-inning reliever.
• According to Rob Bradford, the Rays’ pitchers were never really an option for the Red Sox. Dave Dombrowski’s options to add a starting pitcher after Drew Pomeranz were very limited.
• The Yankees have been exchanging names on their players for weeks, according to Buster Olney, but ownership hasn’t decided if they will be sellers before the deadline.
• Dave Stewart told Nick Piecoro that the Diamondbacks will not be trading a starting pitcher but he will listen on relievers Daniel Hudson and Tyler Clippard.
• And speaking of relievers, the Braves placed Arodys Vizcaino on the 15-day DL with a right oblique strain. Vizcaino’s latest injury will make it very hard for the Braves to cash in on him before the deadline.
• One NL scout called Kris Bryant the most improved player in the Major Leagues according to a report from John Perrotto.
• Willson Contreras always has catching on his mind according to the Tribune. Contreras caught Jake Arrieta’s side session Saturday before starting in left field and eventually finishing the game behind the plate.
• The Cubs can’t afford to worry about what the media or fans say about them according to Paul Sullivan.
• Eloy Jimenez left Friday’s game for precautionary reasons after he lunged for first base in the fourth inning trying to beat out an infield hit. Jimenez stayed in the game and singled in the sixth inning before he was removed. Jimenez was obviously not running at full strength after tweaking something hustling down the line. Jimenez did not play Saturday and told Paul Johnson it was “just a precautionary day off.” Jimenez expects to be back in the lineup in a couple of days.
And last, but not least, Peter Gammons would “love to see Clay Buchholz reincarnate his career with the Cubs, Marlins or Dodgers.”
This Day in Cubstory
2015 – Cubs signed free agent Luke Carlin
2009 – Cubs signed amateur free agent Marco Hernandez
2002 – Cubs released Adam Melhuse
1966 – Billy Williams hit for the cycle behind Ken Holtzman in a Cubs 7-2 victory over the Cardinals.
1964 – Major League Baseball made its debut on pay TV when subscription television carried the Cubs-Dodgers night game in Los Angeles. Don Drysdale struck out 10 in a Dodgers 3-2 victory.
1949 – Herb Hutson, born
1942 – Don Kessinger, born
1918 – Lefty Tyler pitched a complete game in a Cubs 2-1 win over the Phillies in 21 innings.
1908 – Joe Tinker hit an inside-the-park home run in the fifth inning as the Cubs and Mordecai Brown edged the Giants and Christy Mathewson 1-0 at West Side Grounds.