The Cubs have Thursday off after completing the three-game sweep over the Marlins and wrapping up the eight-game homestand against the White Sox, Mariners and Marlins with a 7-1 record.
The Cubs are 13-6 since the break and 3-0 in August. For the season, the Cubs have the best record in baseball at 66-41 (.617), 25 games over .500. Joe Maddon’s team is a full nine games ahead of the Cardinals in the NL Central, the biggest division lead in either league.
The Cubs high-water mark on the season came on June 19 when they improved to 47-20, 27 games over .500. After a rough 30-day stretch, if the Cubs are able to take care of business on the road (29-24) in Oakland, Maddon’s team could fly back from the West Coast within reach of the next goal.
Javier Baez is proving to be a difference maker, both offensively and especially on defense. Baez is having a very good season at the plate and a phenomenal year in the field.
Baez has slowed down offensively. After hitting .325/.364/.482 with a .846 OPS in July, he hasn’t adjusted back to the league. Baez is just 1-for-12 in his last three games with seven strikeouts. The one hit, however, was a big one and came in the ninth inning of Wednesday’s comeback. Baez scored the tying run when Ben Zobrist worked the bases loaded walk.
Joe Maddon talked about Baez prior to Wednesday’s game. Maddon was still praising the play Baez made the night before to start the ninth inning. Maddon called Baez “a game changer on defense.”
Offensively, Baez is working on slowing the game down with a more consistent approach at the plate while shortening his swing. Maddon said, “There are days … or maybe a week or 10 days … where he’ll shorten up and really utilize the entire field. Other times, he’s pretty much John Daly.”
Maddon and the Cubs are very happy with the progress Baez has made this season. Maddon has been in Baez’s corner since he saw him play in Winter Ball shortly after taking the Cubs’ job.
According to Comcast SportsNet, Maddon said, “You look at him and two years from now you’re not going to recognize him. Even right now compared to the beginning of the year, there are moments where it’s completely different. This is who he is, man. He’s going to hit homers. He’s going to make extravagant plays, offensively, defensively. But there’s been more of a consistent approach to his game this year … at times.”
“So just continue to be patient with him. He’s making some really wonderful strides. He goes in and out of windows or pockets regarding his awareness to really cut things down with two strikes,” Maddon said. “But it’s a very forceful swing. You’re going to see the power when he gets his 500, 600 at-bats and really knows what he’s doing at the plate. You’re going to see a lot of homers, too.”
Javier Baez is hitting .278/.316/.448 with 14 doubles and 11 home runs for a .764 OPS in 91 games this season. And he’s crushing left-handers (.349/.419/.554) with nine extra basehits (five doubles, four home runs) and a .974 OPS.
Tommy La Stella
The Cubs optioned INF Tommy La Stella to Triple-A Iowa last Friday (July 29). By rule, La Stella would have 72 hours to report to Iowa. But as of Tuesday, La Stella had not reported and the Cubs said Wednesday that he was “granted some extra time due to personal reasons before reporting.”
Tommy La Stella was not happy according to Joe Maddon about being demoted to the minors to make room on the roster for Chris Coghlan. La Stella was the odd man out not because of performance but because he had minor league options left.
The Cubs will have to address this further if he does not report to Iowa before the weekend.
According to the Des Moines Register, Mark Zagunis broke a bone in his foot (broken toe) and could miss the remainder of the season. Zagunis was hit in the foot by a pitch last month and broke his big toe.
Zagunis has not ruled out a return despite being told the broken toe could sideline him for four to six weeks. The I-Cubs last game of the season is Sept. 5 at Principal Park.
Zagunis has put together a good season, one that started with Double-A Tennessee. Zagunis was hitting .274/.360/.486 with Triple-A Iowa after 50 games at the time of the injury. Zagunis had 12 doubles, four triples and six home runs for a .846 OPS.
The Cubs promoted OF Bijan Rademacher from Double-A Tennessee to Triple-A Iowa on Wednesday. Rademacher has put together a good season with the Smokies.
Rademacher hit .313/.395/.484 in 86 games at the Double-A level with 17 doubles and nine home runs for a .879 OPS.
Rademacher went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts in his Triple-A debut on Wednesday night.
Bijan Rademacher turned 25 in June and the lefty-hitting outfielder earned the promotion after showing improvement with the Smokies this season.
The Cubs made their way to the coast Wednesday following the comeback, walk-off win over the Marlins. Joe Maddon’s team has Thursday off ahead of a three-game series with the A’s in Oakland. The Cubs fly back to Chicago following Sunday afternoon’s game (3:05pm CDT). After a scheduled off-day on Monday, the Cubs have a 10-game homestand against the Angels (Aug. 9-10), Cardinals (Aug. 11-14) and Brewers (Aug. 16-18).
Joe Maddon has not decided which of his players will be the DH for the three games. Maddon used the games at the Cell as a way to get Dexter Fowler and Kris Bryant a breather in the field while keeping their bat in the lineup.
The Cubs will face two lefties and Sonny Gray during the three games in Oakland. The Cubs and A’s announced the scheduled starters for the weekend series Wednesday:
- Friday, Aug. 5 (9:05pm CDT) – LHP Jon Lester vs. LHP Dillon Overton
- Saturday, Aug. 6 (3:05pm CDT) – RHP Jake Arrieta vs. RHP Sonny Gray
- Sunday, Aug. 7 (3:05pm CDT) – RHP Kyle Hendricks vs. LHP Sean Manaea
Brian Matusz was outrighted to Triple-A Iowa on Wednesday according to the official transactions page on Cubs.com. The Cubs designated Matusz for assignment on Monday after he made his Cubs debut on Sunday night in game that will not soon be forgotten.
A report from the Tribune early Monday indicated Matusz had been released. The Cubs officially DFA’d him later in the day.
The Cubs have not announced whether or not he’s accepted the assignment to Iowa in order to stay in the organization.
News and Notes
• Justin Grimm was called up Wednesday when the Cubs unfortunately had to place Jason Hammel on the bereavement list. The Cubs used the spot for a reliever to help out in the pen and increased the bullpen to nine men as Bruce Levine reported. The Cubs’ relievers are spent after covering nine innings on Sunday night and not having a break in two weeks. The addition of Grimm coupled with two days off in the next five should help get the bullpen back in order before Hammel returns on Tuesday for the start of a 10-game homestand with the Angels, Cardinals and Brewers.
• The Sun-Times reported, no haircut for John Lackey, Cubs … just a close shave as they sweep the Marlins on the Cubs second walk-off win in four days. Patience pays as the Cubs rally to win homestand finale according to ESPN Chicago. Comcast SportsNet reported that John Lackey is thinking World Series after wild comeback win for the Cubs. Lackey said in his post-game press conference, “We’re trying to win the World Series. I didn’t come here for a haircut. You know what I mean? We’re trying to get it on. I came here for jewelry.”
• Comcast SportsNet explained the value of Jason Hammel as the Cubs develop Willson Contreras.
• Ichiro did not reach 3,000 hits during the Marlins series at Wrigley. Ichiro went 0-for-3 in the three games, making three pinch-hit appearances. The Sun-Times reported on Ichiro leaving Chicago still seeking 3,000th hit.
• Jim Bowden handed out grades to all 30 teams for the moves they made and didn’t make before the deadline. Bowden gave the Cubs an ‘A+’ and said Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer “won the trade deadline when they rebuilt their bullpen with the acquisitions for Aroldis Chapman, Joe Smith and Mike Montgomery.”
• Checking in on two of the prospects the Cubs moved to help rebuild the pen, it’s been a rough week for both Gleyber Torres and Dan Vogelbach. Torres is 6-for-29 in seven games with two doubles (.207/.303/.276) for High-A Tampa. Vogelbach is 8-for-44 in 13 games with a double, two home runs and nine walks (.182/.321/.341) for Triple-A Tacoma.
• John Perrotto posted his trade deadline winners and losers. And the Yankees were one of the three winners he highlighted.
• The Dodgers transferred Clayton Kershaw from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL and he’s eligible to return on Aug. 27. The Cubs have a three-game series at Dodger Stadium at the same time he can return from the DL. The Cubs are in Los Angeles for three against the Dodgers from Aug. 26-28.
• Most leadoff triples for the Cubs from 1980-present: Dexter Fowler (5), David DeJesus (3), Doug Dascenzo (3), Brian McRae (3).
This Day in Cubstory
2011 – Cubs completed a three-game sweep over the Pirates with a 7-6 win. James McDonald started the game in which Carlos Pena, Geovany Soto and Blake DeWitt homered.
1997 – Kevin Tapani made his Cubs debut after signing with the team in the off-season and missing time following surgery to remove scar tissue in his right index finger. Tapani beat the Braves 3-1.
1991 – Corey Black, born
1987 – Cubs released Ron Davis
1982 – Cubs released Hector Cruz
1973 – Bobby Howry, born
1969 – Glenn Beckert collected five hits and Ferguson Jenkins struck out 12 batters in the Cubs 9-3 win over the Astros in Houston
1969 – Troy O’Leary, born
1968 – Pinch hitter Lee Elia singled in the winning run as the Cubs beat the Cardinals 6-5 in 13 innings at Busch Stadium. 47,443 were on hand for the unveiling of the Stan Musial statue
1961 – Cubs beat the Dodgers 4-1 with Bob Anderson outpitching Sandy Koufax. George Altman hit two homers off Koufax, the first time anyone hit two homers off Koufax in a single game.
1960 – The Reds Billy Martin broke Jim Brewer’s checkbone after he threw his bat toward the mound. Martin claimed that Brewer was throwing at his head. Ernie Banks homered in the Cubs 5-3 win at Wrigley
1955 – Ernie Banks hit three home runs in an 11-0 victory over the Pirates at Wrigley Field. The first time Banks hit three homers in the same game.
1955 – Ernie Banks hit three home runs in an 11-0 victory over the Pirates at Wrigley Field. First three-homer game of Banks’ career
1949 – Cubs acquired Bobby Rhawn and cash from the White Sox for Johnny Ostrowski
1948 – Filling in for Red Barber, Ernie Harwell called his first big league game, the Cubs and Dodgers from Ebbets Field
1944 – Rich Nye, born
1934 – Dallas Green, born
1931 – Cubs purchased Billy Herman from Louisville (American Association) for $50,000