The Cubs have the best record in baseball (73-42) and will begin play Sunday night with a 13-game lead in the division over the Cardinals. While the Cubs are 31 games over .500 and leading the division, recent circumstances and injuries have forced the front office to continue to explore ways to improve the roster.
The Cubs would like to acquire a left-handed bat. The Cubs were focused on adding a left-handed hitting outfielder before the deadline but deals with the A’s (Josh Reddick) and Reds (Jay Bruce) could not be worked out. With Tommy La Stella unsure if he wants to keep playing baseball, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are exploring options to acquire the left-handed bat they were unable to before the non-waiver deadline.
Bruce Levine reported Saturday the Cubs “are combing the bushes for a few key additions” and the front office is “looking for a left-handed bat and another bullpen guy or two.”
Jed Hoyer admitted Saturday morning during Inside the Clubhouse (670 The Score) that the Cubs “never stop looking to add good players.”
The Cubs have not been connected to any left-handed bats since the non-waiver trade deadline (Aug. 1). Not long after the Nationals released Jonathan Papelbon, reports linked the Cubs to him. The Cubs level of interest in Papelbon is unknown at this point.
The Cubs have issues the front office has to address. Right now, the Cubs have built a lead in the division and can add to it Sunday night (7:08pm CDT) behind John Lackey.
Joe Maddon said Hector Rondon is close to returning. And the Cubs’ skipper made it sound like Rondon could be available for Sunday’s finale with the Cardinals.
Maddon addressed Rondon’s status during Saturday’s post-game press conference. Maddon was told Rondon felt “really good” on Saturday, the day after completing a bullpen session. Rondon played catch Saturday as scheduled. Maddon explained that he’s found over the years that when a pitcher coming back from an arm injury says he is ready to go, give him one more day to ensure everything is okay.
It was a rough day Saturday for the Cubs’ bullpen. With Pedro Strop on the DL and both Hector Rondon and Justin Grimm unavailable, Joe Maddon used Carl Edwards Jr. and Joe Smith in the eighth inning. And the Cardinals scored six runs on two hits.
The Cubs’ pen was the main topic of the questions Maddon fielded during his post-game talk Saturday with the beat writers.
“That’s an example of what the team looks like without Strop and Rondon. Regardless, I felt really good about C.J. in that moment. He’s been outstanding. He gets that first out quickly, the walk, then all of a sudden that groundball gets through, and he lost his command, obviously, a little bit. But with the way he has been pitching … nobody’s perfect. But I think he’s has been outstanding. He had a bad day, but I like him a lot. If he gets out of it, it’s another lesson learned. It just didn’t play out.”
Maddon still calls Carl Edwards Jr. ‘C.J.’ Maddon thinks Edwards Jr. will learn from Saturday and he will be in a better position mentally to handle those situations down the line.
Maddon admitted if he had other options Saturday he probably would not have left Edwards Jr. out there as long as he did. Rondon and Grimm were not available.
Joe Smith took responsibility for another poor performance Saturday. Smith told the beat writers that he’s never had a problem with giving up home runs. He said it seems like when he’s missing now, the ball is going over the wall. Smith said he is not worried but admitted he is aggravated.
“I haven’t had that problem in my career,” Smith said. “Sometimes this game is crazy, and it doesn’t go the way you want it to go. I’ve had people roll over that ball hundreds of times. Now I have people hit it over the wall in not good situations to do that. I’m not worried. Just aggravating. When you come to a new team you want to do well. Obviously you want to do well right off the bat, show what you can do. It hasn’t gone that way.”
Pedro Strop’s arthroscopic surgery on his left knee went well Friday. Pedro Strop was in the Cubs’ clubhouse on Saturday and told the beat writers he will “be back soon.” The Cubs set a timeframe of four to six weeks before Strop would be ready to come off the DL.
Tommy La Stella
Joe Maddon fielded the daily question about Tommy La Stella’s status. Maddon did not have an update on Tommy La Stella before Saturday’s game.
“I’m still very optimistic about him coming back, but nothing has really abruptly changed right now,” Maddon said. “I think he was very clear how he felt. I think we were very clear back to him how we felt.”
Rob Zastryzny took the hill Saturday night in Fresno and picked up the win. Zastryzny’s scoreless streak came to an end (15 innings) in the first inning on a two-run homer. Zastryzny completed five innings and allowed five runs on six hits with a walk, a HBP and nine strikeouts. Zastryzny made 86 pitches, 56 for strikes.
Zastryzny struck out the side in the second inning and set a new career-high in strikeouts for a single-season. Between Double- and Triple-A this year, Zastryzny has 119 strikeouts in 135 2/3 innings.
News and Notes
• According to Comcast SportsNet, even two Cardinals homers can’t keep Kyle Hendricks from looking dominant. The Sun-Times reported Edwards’ wildness sinks Cubs; win streak ends at 11. The Tribune reported the Cardinals stopped Cubs winning streak at 11 after bullpen implodes. And Comcast SportsNet reported with no Rondon or Strop, Cubs bullpen implodes in loss to Cardinals.
• Jeimer Candelario just keeps on hitting with the I-Cubs … Candelario was 3-for-5 with a run scored and three RBI on Saturday … and he beat the shift to tie the game in the first inning. Candelario is batting .326/.420/.442 with two doubles and a home run for a .862 OPS in his last 12 games.
• Spencer Patton, or ‘The General,’ as Randy Wehofer called him, was in Fresno on Saturday night to close out the I-Cubs 9-5 win over the Grizzlies. Patton struck out the side in order. Three of 18 strikeouts on the night for the I-Cubs staff.
• LHP C.J. Riefenhauser was placed on the DL with a calf strain. Riefenhauser is 2-1 with a 4.55 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in 28 relief appearances for the I-Cubs this season.
• The Angels signed veteran reliever Andrew Bailey to a minor league contract.
• Christopher Kamka posted an interesting tidbit Saturday after Kyle Hendricks completed his second start of the season with 12 strikeouts and no walks. Kyle Hendricks is now one of four Cubs pitchers since 1913 to record multiple starts of 12 or more strikeouts and no walks in the same season. Hendricks joined Mark Prior (2003), Rick Sutcliffe (1984) and Ferguson Jenkins (1971) as the only four pitchers in franchise history to strikeout 12 or more without walking a batter at least twice in the same season.
This Day in Cubstory
2014 – Cubs traded Brett Jackson to the Diamondbacks for Blake Cooper
2009 – The Cubs scored 14 runs in the first two innings in route to a 17-2 victory over the Pirates. The Cubs sent 15 batters to the plate in the second inning and scored 10 runs. Randy Wells picked up the win, Derrek Lee drove in seven runs.
2008 – The Cubs beat the Braves 11-7 and completed the franchise’s first season series sweep over the Braves.
2003 – Cubs released Kane Davis
1985 – Chris Valaika, born
1985 – The Cubs released Larry Gura
1977 – Juan Pierre, born
1972 – In the last Boys Benefit game played, the Cubs beat the White Sox 3-1 at Comiskey Park. Ernie Banks was brought out of retirement for the game and received a standing ovation when he pinch-hit.
1959 – For the second straight game, Dale Long hit a pinch-hit home run as the Cubs beat the Giants 7-5 at Wrigley Field. Ernie Banks and Moose Moryn also homered and Glen Hobbie struck out 10 batters on his way to the win.
1919 – In a total of two hours and 17 minutes, the Cubs and Dodgers split a doubleheader. The Cubs blanked Brooklyn 2-0 in game one that took one hour and 10 minutes to play. The Cubs lost the second game 1-0 in one hour and seven minutes.