Monday, April 29, 2013

Cubs win 5-3 over the Padres as Kevin Gregg earns 4th save and Darwin Barney and Cody Ransom each with two RBIs

The Cubs opened their 10-game homestand with a 5-3 win over the San Diego Padres on a 70-degree spring night at Wrigley Field.  Jeff Samardzija was the starting pitcher and allowed three runs on four hits while walking four and striking out eight batters over five innings pitched. 

The Shark didn't have his best outing of the season as he walked Everth Cabrera to lead off the game and then allowed a single to Chase Headley.  Samardzija then threw two wild pitches and the runners advanced and Cabrera ended up scoring on that second wild pitch.

Michael Bowden earned the win and Kevin Gregg got James Russell out of an 8th inning jam and closed out the game to earn his fourth save of the season.  It sure is nice to see the Cubs have an effective bullpen that's actually doing the job they're there for. 

Scott Hairston and former Padre Cody Ransom hit back-to-back homers in the second inning and Ransom also had two RBIs, which included a go-ahead RBI single in the sixth inning.

Scott Hairston and Cody Ransom hit back-to-back homers in the second inning against the Padres (Chicago Tribune photo)
Second baseman Darwin Barney had two RBI doubles tonight as well, drew a walk and was 2-for-3.  It sure is good to have him back and see his bat come alive!

Darwin Barney had two RBIs against the Padres (Chicago Tribune photo)
Tomorrow the Cubs and Padres will play the second game of the four-game series at 7:05pm CT.  Edwin Jackson will start for the Cubs and try to earn his first win of the season.  Go Cubs Go!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Cubs earn third consecutive win as they beat the Marlins 3-2

The Cubs earned their third consecutive win (woohoo!) as they beat the Miami Marlins 3-2 on Saturday night at Marlins Park.  Travis Wood made a strong start for the Cubs and allowed two runs on three hits and walked one batter and struck out five over six innings pitched.

Travis Wood earned the win against the Marlins on Saturday night (photo from Chicago Tribune)
The game went back and forth as the Cubs started with a 1-0 lead and then Giancarlo Stanton's home run in the first inning tied the game.  The Cubs then got a 2-1 lead when Luis Valbuena hit an RBI single in the second inning.  However, Miguel Olivo proceeded to homer off Wood to tie the game once again.

The two teams were tied until David DeJesus's RBI single broke the tie and gave the Cubs the lead for good in the seventh inning.

Worth mentioning:  Nate Schierholtz had an amazing diving catch in the game and Starlin Castro made a diving, inning-ending play to Darwin Barney to shut the door and get the Cubs out of an 8th inning jam.  Kevin Gregg earned his third save since coming back to the Cubs.  Honestly, who knew that Gregg would make such a difference!

In other Cubs news, third baseman Ian Stewart was supposed to play with Triple-A Iowa Friday night as part of his rehab, but he was hit in the elbow earlier in the week and was too sore to throw on Friday, so we'll see how things go.

Starting pitcher Matt Garza tweeted the other day, “5/1 is my day."  This is in reference to his first minor-league rehab start, which will be with Double-A Tennessee next week.  Hopefully Garza will remain on track for his return to the Cubs.  It seems like it's been forever since he's pitched a game.

Carlos Villanueva will make the start as the Cubs and Marlins play the fourth and final game in the series at 1:10pm CT Sunday.  Villanueva will try to earn his second win of the season.  Can the Cubs make it 4 W's in a row?  What do you think?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Cubs win 6-2 over Rangers as offense comes alive at wet Wrigley Field

The Cubs were able to play all nine innings at Wrigley Field this afternoon and earn a 6-2 win over the Texas Rangers.  The two teams ended up splitting the two-game series (since Wednesday's night's game had to be postponed due to heavy rain and thunderstorms in Chicago).  A makeup date has yet to be announced.  Personally, I was glad they decided to postpone the game, since I had tickets and wasn't particularly looking forward to trudging to the Friendly Confines in the wet and windy weather.

The Cubs' bats came alive with 13 hits in the team's best performance of the season.  Carlos Villanueva earned the win for his solid outing today.  He allowed two runs on four hits and walked one and struck out six batters.  Villanueva's ERA is 1.29 this season.

Anthony Rizzo and Alfonso Soriano had back-to-back home runs in the third inning.  Rizzo's homer went 475 feet, which is the longest homer in the majors this season. 

Welington Castillo was hot today as he went 4-for-4 with a double and a run.  Luis Valbuena had two RBIs in the game.

Welington Castillo and Carlos Marmol celebrate the Cubs' win over the Rangers on Thursday (photo from Chicago Tribune)
To top it all off, Carlos Marmol pitched in the ninth and was able to get three quick outs without any drama.  Way to go, Marmol!  It was really satisfying to have the Cubs' bullpen be effective (which hasn't happened that often this season).  Also worth mentioning is James Russell's excellent relief pitching this season as he made his eighth scoreless appearance in the eighth inning of today's game.

Tomorrow the Cubs will travel to Milwaukee to start a three-game series against the Brewers.  Jeff Samardzija will start for the Cubs and try to earn his second win of the season.  Tomorrow's game time is 7:10pm CT.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Cubs fight until the end, but lose 4-2 to Rangers; 7 players affected in roster moves

The Cubs played hard and fought until the end, but lost 4-2 to the Texas Rangers as Darwin Barney's would-have been game-tying double was caught by the Rangers' Craig Gentry on an amazing play.  Wishful thinking, especially for Barney's season debut after coming off the disabled list.

Travis Wood had a quality start for the Cubs and allowed two runs on five hits while walking three and striking out three batters over 7.1 innings pitched.  Wood was tagged with his first loss of the season, even though he has made three quality starts and has allowed only four earned runs over 19-2/3 innings with an 1.83 ERA.

Wood exited the game in the top of the 8th as Cubs manager Dale Sveum called in Shawn Camp from the bullpen.  Bad move, Sveum!  Camp proceeded to throw away a pickoff attempt and which allowed the Rangers to score and lead 2-0.  Camp then gave up a two-run homer to Adrian Beltre.  The Cubs were now losing 4-0.

Travis Wood had a quality start against the Rangers, but ended up with the loss (photo by Chicago Sun-Times)
In the bottom of the ninth inning, Nate Schierholtz had a two-run pinch-hit double which brought the Cubs within two of the Rangers.  The Cubs had the bases loaded after Welington Castillo was hit by a pitch in his ankle.  Darwin Barney then hit a sinking liner to center, which would normally have been a game-tying double, but instead, Craig Gentry made a diving catch to end the game.  

In other Cubs news, the team made several roster moves today, which are listed below:

--Activated 2B Darwin Barney from the disabled list
--Claimed infielder Cody Ransom off waivers from Padres
--Designated Brent Lillibridge for assignment
--Added RHP Kameron Loe to active roster
--Selected contract of RHP Kevin Gregg
--Designated Hisanori Takahashi for assignment
--Optioned Rafael Dolis to Triple-A Iowa

Hopefullly these roster moves will make a difference and the Cubs will start winning some games (or at least stop giving them away).  Besides James Russell, the Cubs bullpen hasn't been reliable at all.  Let's see how Loe and Gregg affect the team.  Stay tuned....

Also, if you haven't already heard, the city of Chicago and the Cubs have come to an agreement for the Wrigley Field renovation plan.  More details about the renovation plans can be found at this link.

Tomorrow the Cubs and Rangers will play the second game of the three-game series at 7:05pm CT.  Carlos Villanueva will make the start for the Cubs and try for his first win of the season.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Cubs with 4-3 walk-off win against Giants in emotional game; Darwin Barney gets his Gold Glove award

Wow, what an (Opening) week it's been for the Cubs and Wrigley Field.  First off, the Wrigley renovation talks are still ongoing, but seem to be making progress.  Secondly, if you haven't heard about the severed goat head that was delivered in a box to Gate K at Wrigley Field and addressed to Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, you don't follow the Cubs all that closely.  Also, Cubs top prospect Jorge Soler was ejected from the Daytona Cubs Class A game earlier this week after a bench-clearing incident and has been suspended for five games.

Lastly, the Cubs blew another lead in the ninth inning against the San Francisco Giants today, but were able to come back with a walk-off win.  The final score was 4-3 Cubs.

David DeJesus and his Cubs teammates celebrate after he scores the game-winning run on Friday against the Giants (Chicago Tribune photo)
How it happened:  Carlos Villanueva had a great start as he allowed just three hits and no runs and walked one and struck out three batters over 7.1 innings pitched.  When newly named Cubs closer Kyuji Fujikawa came into the ninth, he must've been channeling Carlos Marmol as he blew the 2-0 lead for Villanueva.

Entering the bottom of the ninth, the Cubs were trailing the Giants 3-2 but Dioner Navarro got things started with a home run while pinch-hitting.  David DeJesus then had a two-out single and Starlin Castro followed by hitting a double for DeJesus to score the game-winning run.  DeJesus and Castro both also homered earlier in the game.

It was very satisfying to see the Cubs come back after losing the lead and watch them jump around on the field with so much enthusiasm after the walk-off win while "Go Cubs Go" could be heard in the background.  On a side note, Villanueva said the following about not getting credited with the win today, "Personal stats will come.  Keep doing my job and they'll come eventually.  But the atmosphere in our clubhouse right now...I wouldn't change that for the world.  I'm happy."  Glad to hear it, Carlos!

Before today's game, second baseman Darwin Barney received his Gold Glove award in a ceremony on the field, since he will be rehabbing at Triple-A Iowa starting tomorrow through Monday and is expected to rejoin the Cubs lineup on Tuesday.  Hooray!

Darwin Barney poses with his Gold Glove award at Wrigley Field on Friday (photo from @Cubs on Twitter)
Tomorrow, the Cubs and Giants will play the rubber game of the series at 1:20pm CT.  Jeff Samardzija will start for the Cubs and try to earn his second win of the season.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Cubs win 6-3 over the Brewers in first home win of the season; Photos from the Home Opener

The Cubs beat the Milwaukee Brewers 6-3 in their first home win of the season tonight.  It was also the first night game at Wrigley Field this year.

Travis Wood started for the Cubs but ended up with a no-decision as Carlos Marmol earned the win and Kyuji Fujikawa earned the save.  If you're looking for more details on the win, you can go to

The Cubs broke their 4-game losing streak with tonight's win and the fans that braved the cold night were rewarded with being able to sing "Go Cubs Go."

Yesterday was the Cubs home opener, which I was lucky enough to attend and sit in the 4th row behind the Cubs bullpen.  Even though they couldn't pull off a "W" yesterday, it was still really special to be back at Wrigley taking in a game and enjoying the beautiful weather.  Although it was pouring rain earlier that morning, the skies cleared and the sun came out and for most of the game it was in the mid-60's.  It was definitely one of the nicer weather home openers I've been to at the Friendly Confines.  Anyway, following are some photos I took at the game.  Hope you enjoy them!

Cubs players warming up before the home opener (photo by Karen Burchell)

Edwin Jackson warming up before starting the home opener (photo by Karen Burchell)

David DeJesus warming up before the home opener (photo by Karen Burchell)
Anthony Rizzo and Alfonso Soriano greet each other during player introductions (photo by Karen Burchell)

Cubs warming up before the home opener (photo by Karen Burchell)

Cubs players on the field during player introductions before the home opener (photo by Karen Burchell)
Beautiful Wrigley Field  (photo by Karen Burchell)
The Wrigley Field marquee welcomes fans to Opening Day (photo by Karen Burchell)
Tomorrow the Cubs and Brewers will play the rubber game of the three-game series at 7:05pm CT.  Scott Feldman will make the start for the Cubs and try to earn his first win with the team. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Cubs in first place after 3-2 win over Pirates; Travis Wood's exceptional start

The Cubs beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-2 to win their first series of 2013 and to stay in first place in the NL Central (tied with the Reds).  Travis Wood made his first start of the season and was impressive, allowing just one hit over six innings pitched.

Cubs players celebrate their 3-2 win against the Pirates on Thursday (Getty Images photo)
Wood threw 85 pitches and said, "I had good fastball command and was able to locate it both sides and keep them off balance.  It's great to start off the season up here and get off to a good start and hopefully keep rolling."  That's what we like to hear, Travis! 

Travis Wood allowed just one hit over six innings pitched and earned a win against the Pirates (Getty Images photo)
However, Carlos Marmol almost blew the Cubs' lead (again!), but thankfully was able to earn his first save of the year instead.

Manager Dale Sveum said the following about Marmol, "He gave up hits, but it wasn't like he was throwing the ball all over the place.  For the most part, we know things like that can get interesting with him.  He got the ground ball when he needed it.  He was OK.  It didn't seem that way, but it wasn't too bad."  For the record, Marmol's ERA is 20.25 in two outings this season.

I'm not sure why Sveum is so willing to give Marmol so many chances, when the team now has Kyuji Fujikawa, who has been excellent so far this season.  You know that Cubs fans dread Marmol when numerous tweets about the "Marmol coaster" and "Un-oh, it's Marmol" and such start appearing all over Twitter once Marmol is in the game.  Hopefully Marmol will improve as the season moves on, but I'd be lying if I didn't say that he makes me nervous.

Outfielder Nate Schierholtz's home run in the ninth inning proved to be the difference in the game after Marmol's influence on the game.  Whew!

Nate Schierholtz is congratulated after his homer in the ninth inning against the Pirates (Getty Images photo)
The Cubs got on the board with Starlin Castro's RBI single in the third inning, which scored Travis Wood, who was at second base after hitting a single and advancing on a groundout.

Tomorrow, the Cubs will start a three-game series against the Braves in Atlanta.  Scott Feldman will make his first start with the Cubs.  Game time will be at 6:30pm CT.

Just 4 more days until the Cubs Home Opener!  Here's a photo from @Cubs on Twitter of the marquee at Wrigley Field getting fresh paint today!

Wrigley Field marquee getting a fresh coat of paint before the Home Opener (photo from @Cubs on Twitter)
 Who's going to the Home Opener on Monday?  Go Cubs Go!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Cubs' bats and the weather both cold in Pittsburgh as they lose 3-0 to Pirates

In what looked like a promising start to the game for the Cubs and newly acquired starting pitcher Edwin Jackson, turned out with the Cubs getting their first loss of the 2013 season.  Jackson struck out the side in the first inning, but the Cubs' bats were as cold as the 35-degree weather in Pittsburgh, as they were only able to get two hits during the entire game off Wandy Rodriguez.

Jackson allowed two runs on three hits over five innings and was pulled from the game for a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning.

Edwin Jackson made his Cubs debut against the Pirates (USA Today photo)
The Cubs had a chance to score in the seventh inning when they loaded the bases with one out.  But Brent Lillibridge was called out on strikes after a long at-bat and Alberto Gonzalez popped out to end the inning.

Needless to say, the Cubs lost 3-0 to the Pirates.  The good news is that they are even with all four other teams in the NL Central, with each team winning one game and losing one.

There was a panic moment in the seventh inning when Wandy Rodriguez's pitch drilled Anthony Rizzo and he fell to the ground, losing his helmet.  I think everyone watching the game thought the Cubs' first baseman might have been seriously hurt.  But thankfully the ball hit Rizzo's arm and not his head and he was able to get up on his own and continue playing.

Anthony Rizzo after being hit by a pitch in the seventh inning against the Pirates (USA Today photo)
In other Cubs news, pitching prospect Robert Whitenack, who was designated for assignment by the Cubs, was claimed by the Indians on waivers today.  Whitenack tweeted, "Thank you for the excellent 4 years!!! Excited to start a new journey with the " earlier today.  The Cubs also signed infielder Donnie Murphy and outfielder Ryan Sweeney to minor league deals today.

Tomorrow the Cubs and Pirates will play the rubber game of the series at 11:35am CT.  Travis Wood will make the start for the Cubs.

After that, the Cubs will head to Atlanta to play a three-game series against the Braves before heading home to Chicago to get ready for the Home Opener at Wrigley Field on Monday at 1:20pm CT.  Five more days! 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Jeff Samardzija leads Cubs to 3-1 win over Pirates to open the 2013 season

The Cubs opened their 2013 season by winning 3-1 against the Pirates in Pittsburgh.  Jeff Samardzija had an excellent start to the season by allowing just two hits and walking just one batter and striking out nine over eight shutout innings pitched.  This was the Shark's first career Opening Day start.

Cubs players lined up on the field before taking on the Pirates in Pittsburgh on Opening Day (photo from @Cubs on Twitter)
Maybe it was good luck that the pack of baseball cards I picked up this morning had this card in it:

My lucky baseball card on Opening Day!
Anyway back to the game: Anthony Rizzo connected with the first pitch that was thrown to him and gave the Cubs an early 2-0 lead in the first inning with a 438-foot home run to center field.

The Cubs held the lead the entire game, even after Dale Sveum sent in Carlos Marmol in the ninth inning and he allowed a run to score before being pulled for lefty reliever James Russell.  Russell got the second out and was followed by Kyuji Fujikawa, who made his MLB debut and threw two pitches to get the final out and the save.  Phew! 

In other Cubs news, second baseman Darwin Barney was placed on the 15-day disabled list (retroactive to Sunday) after suffering a deep laceration on his left kneecap during the exhibition game against the Astros on Saturday.  "I thought by sliding, I'd be protecting myself," Barney said. "There's a concrete corner and slab on the bottom [of the wall].  I ran right into that.  When I pulled my pant leg up, i was pretty freaked out, and didn't have any idea [the cut] was there."

Barney also added, "You spend your whole offseason thinking about today [Opening Day] -- when you're in the gym, when you're pushing yourself.  We had a good spring as a club.  We did a lot of things positively.  It's unfortunate, but the good thing is we have guys who can fill in like Lillibridge and Gonzalez, who are good players."  Get well soon, Darwin!

Infielder Alberto Gonzalez was added to the 40-man roster and Brent Lillibridge played second base in today's season opener.  The Cubs also officially added pitcher Scott Baker to the 60-day disabled list for a strained right elbow and starting pitcher Matt Garza (strained lat) and third baseman Ian Stewart (sore left quad) to the 15-day disabled list.

The Cubs optioned outfielder Brett Jackson to Triple-A Iowa and designated right-handed pitcher Robert Whitenack for assignment earlier today.

Tomorrow the Cubs have the day off (already!) before playing their first night game of the season against the Pirates on Wednesday at 6:05pm CT.