Hendricks Dominant in Cubs Win

Kyle Hendricks picked up his 1st win of the year in an impressive shutout.

Kyle Hendricks picked up his 1st win of the year in an impressive shutout.

He doesn’t throw 100 mph and he doesn’t throw a knee-buckling curve. But Kyle Hendricks is controlled and steady.

The Chicago Cubs had some hope that, despite not having the kind of “stuff” that blows away scouts, he had the makeup of a quality starting pitcher and maybe some sort of intangible “it”.

After a rough start to the 2015 season, Hendricks finally had a shining moment last night against the San Diego Padres, putting up a game score of 84 with a 5-hit, no-walk shutout, striking out 7. Hendricks’ ERA plummeted to 4.14 while picking up his first win of the season, throwing 108 pitches in the process.

A couple of the rookies got it done at the plate, with Kris Bryant (5th) and Addison Russell (3rd) going deep in the 1st and 7th innings, respectively, to account for every run in the 3-0 win.

* * *

Jacob deGrom ruined what could have been a special comeback game for Jaime Garcia, blanking the St. Louis Cardinals in a 5-0 win for the New York Mets.

Garcia – now expected to be the permanent replacement for Adam Wainwright‘s vacated spot in the starting rotation – went 7 strong innings, allowing a pair of runs on 5 hits. He did struggle with his command a bit, walking 5.

But deGrom went 8 shutout innings allowing just a single hit and no walks, striking out 11. At one stretch, he retired 23 consecutive batters. Truly dominant stuff.

The top 5 men in the Cardinals lineup each struck out twice while Kolten Wong and Matt Carpenter combined for the only two times a man reached base.

* * *

The highlight from the Milwaukee Brewers‘ 10-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves was reliever Will Smith getting tossed.

That should tell you something.

Matt Garza took the loss, falling to 2-6 on the season with a 5.71 ERA after allowing 4 runs in 6.1 innings of work.

* * *

There was a nice article at the Post-Gazette with some comments from Pittsburgh Pirates‘ middle infielders Neil Walker and Jordy Mercer on the use of defensive shifts. As I stated earlier this week when the Cards’ John Lackey did a little flip out about a ball being hit where the shortstop would have been had the team not been playing an extreme shift to the right side of the infield, for every one team you get beat by the shift, there are a couple of teams where the shift saved you. The numbers don’t lie – batting average on balls put into play keeps dropping, and the advanced scouting and more widely adopted use of shifts is the reason. In fact, giving the numbers so far this season, teams are on pace to employ the shift 7.5 times more often than they did just 4 seasons ago. Read the article here.

* * *

NL Central Leaders

RBI
Ryan Braun (MIL) 29
Kris Bryant (CHC) 27
Starling Marte (PIT) 27
Matt Carpenter (STL) 24
6-way tie 23
Wins
Michael Wacha (STL) 6
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 5
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 4
Jon Lester (CHC) 4
Carlos Martinez (STL) 4

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 27 14 L1
Chicago Cubs 23 17 3.5 W2
Cincinnati Reds 18 22 8.5 L5
Pittsburgh Pirates 18 22 8.5 L2
Milwaukee Brewers 15 27 12.5 L2

* * *

Schedule

24-18 Mets Syndergaard (1-1, 3.18)
18-22 PIRATES Cole (5-2, 2.40)
6:05 PM CT
18-22 REDS Leake (2-2, 3.62)
17-23 Indians Carrasco (4-4, 4.98)
6:10 PM CT
15-27 BREWERS Peralta, W (1-5, 4.32)
20-20 Braves Wood, A (2-2, 3.83)
6:35 PM CT
27-14 CARDINALS Lynn (3-3, 2.96)
26-14 Mets Young, Cr (3-0, 0.94)
7:10 PM CT
23-17 CUBS Lester (4-2, 3.70)
19-21 Diamondbacks Collmenter (3-5, 5.36)
8:40 PM CT

Cardinals, Cubs Distancing Selves From Rest of Division

Matt Adams helped pace a big offensive evening for the Cardinals.

Matt Adams helped pace a big offensive evening for the Cardinals.

Carlos Martinez had his best Game Score (68) in nearly a month and the St. Louis Cardinals offense put up 14 hits in 9-0 shutout of the New York Mets.

There were many 6-run innings on Tuesday night and we had another one on Wednesday as the Redbirds put a 6 spot up in the 4th, batting around the order.

Jason Heyward and Matt Adams each connected for their 4th home runs of the season in that 6-run outburst.

Martinez went 6.1 innings, striking out 5 and improving to 4-2.

Jaime Garcia makes his return to the Cardinals rotation this evening. He’ll become the third left-handed pitcher to try and plug in the hole left in the rotation since Adam Wainwright went down with a season-ending Achilles injury.

The always entertaining Bernie Miklasz has a nice write-up on Michael Wacha over at the Post-Dispatch. Read it here and thank me later.

* * *

Tsuyoshi Wada made his 2015 MLB debut, striking out 9 over 4.2 innings of work to help get the Chicago Cubs started in a 3-2 win over the San Diego Padres. Not getting the requisite 5 innings to qualify for the win and only having thrown 69 pitches, Wada was pulled after allowing a hit, hitting a batter, and having a few hard-hit outs. Cubs skipper Joe Maddon: “I’m more about the Cubs winning as opposed to any particular pitcher winning.”

Wada, to his credit, seemed cool with it.

Justin Grimm, Zac Rosscup, Jason Motte, Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon combined for 4.1 innings of shutout relief work. They got a couple of clutch efforts there, particularly when Motte struck out Matt Kemp in the 7th with two man on and again when Rondon struck out Abraham Almonte to end the game with the tying run on 3rd.

Down 2-1 in the top of the 5th, Dexter Fowler tied it up with an RBI triple and then scored the go-ahead run on a sac fly by Kris Bryant.

There’s talk of Javier Baez getting recalled soon. The question, then, is how the Cubs will make room for him. It would seem the odd man out would be LF Chris Coghlan with Bryant moving out there. But then who plays third? Baez, hitting .296 at AAA, has been splitting time between middle infield positions, so it wouldn’t be him. SS Starlin Castro has said he would prefer to move to second if moved at all. So does all of this mean 2B Addison Russell moves over to the hot corner? A natural shortstop, Russell is already being asked to play a position he’s unfamiliar with and his defensive metrics haven’t looked so good. But my guess is that that’s where the team is headed. Either that or the Cubs are hoping to flip Baez for assets. Baez has made 6 errors in 8 games at short and 1 in 10 games at second, which again points towards the team being influenced to move Russell to the hot corner. I’m interested in seeing how this one plays out.

* * *

The Cincinnati Reds lost their 5th straight, again getting no offense in a 7-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals.

Jason Marquis (still in the rotation) went 3.2 innings, allowing 4 runs and falling to 3-4 with a 6.91 ERA.

A case can be made that you can live with a starting pitcher who puts up pedestrian numbers provided they are chewing up innings and affording your bullpen some rest when their turn in the rotation comes up. But 6.91 is about 2 runs higher than I think you can ignore. Also, not making it through 4 innings of work (as Marquis has now failed to do in consecutive starts) is inexcusable.

Brandon Phillips had three hits for Cincinnati, upping his season average to .314.

Coming into last night’s game, Devin Mesoraco had a slash line of .400/.438/.600 since May 9th.

* * *

Joe Mauer‘s homer gave the Minnesota Twins a 4-3 win in 13 innings over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Pittsburgh was down 3-1 and tied it up by scoring in the 7th and 8th.

Another nice game for Josh Harrison, who went 3-for-6 and is now hitting .514 during his current 8-game hitting streak.

Andrew McCutchen was 3-for-5 with his 5th homer of the year.

Gregory Polanco is mired in an 0-for-18 slump.

When trailing after 7 innings, the Bucs are now 0-17 in 2015.

* * *

The Milwaukee Brewers were 5-2 losers against the Detroit Tigers.

Ryan Braun hit his 10th homer of the year. That’s his 2nd tater in as many days and it gives him 6 in May.

If you’re a Brewers fan, you’re desperate for some reason to feel good about the future. 22-year old shortstop Luis Sardinas, who came over in the Yovani Gallardo deal, was hitting .429 through his first 4 games with the team.

Martin Maldonado was 0-for-3 and is hitting .036 in his last 8 games.

* * *

NL Central Leaders

On-Base Percentage
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .460
Matt Holliday (STL) .442
Kris Bryant (CHC) .416
Joey Votto (CIN) .387
2-way tie .377
WHIP
Jason Hammel (CHC) 0.919
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 0.964
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 1.038
Michael Wacha (STL) 1.046
Mike Leake (CIN) 1.098

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 27 13 W2
Chicago Cubs 22 17 4.5 W1
Cincinnati Reds 18 22 9.0 L5
Pittsburgh Pirates 18 22 9.0 L2
Milwaukee Brewers 15 26 12.5 L1

* * *

Schedule

27-13 CARDINALS Garcia, J (NR)
23-18 Mets deGrom (4-4, 3.21)
12:10 PM CT
15-26 BREWERS Garza (2-5, 5.72)
19-20 Braves Teheran (3-1, 4.33)
6:10 PM CT
22-17 CUBS Hendricks (0-1, 5.15)
20-21 Padres Despaigne (2-2, 6.75)
8:10 PM CT

Grichuk, Cards Rebound

Randal Grichuk shook off Monday's performance and led the Cardinals Tuesday evening.

Randal Grichuk shook off Monday’s performance and led the Cardinals Tuesday evening.

Randal Grichuk shook off his 0-for-6, 5 strikeouts performance in a 14-inning loss to the New York Mets on Monday and followed through with a 3-hit, 3-RBI game Tuesday night.

The St. Louis Cardinals pounded the Mets, 10-2, behind Grichuk (3B, 2 2B) and Mark Reynolds (3-for-5, HR).

Michael Wacha won again, improving to 6-0 after going 7 innings and allowing 2 runs and 4 hits and a pair of walks. Wacha struck out 5.

The Redbirds blew the game open in the top of the 6th inning, improving on a 4-2 lead by sending 10 men to the plate in a 6-run outburst.

In other news, OF Jon Jay is on target to return from the DL on May 26th. Jay has been out with thumb and wrist injuries.

* * *

The Chicago Cubs couldn’t hold on to a 2-0 lead and let the San Diego Padres come back for a 4-3 win.

Actually, the Cubs’ fielders couldn’t hold on to anything either.

After having had a pretty nice run of error-free games – eight, to be exact – the Baby Bears committed three of them last night and that led to three unearned runs.

In the bottom of the 5th, Justin Upton led off by reaching on a throwing error by 3B Kris Bryant that sailed high over 1B Anthony Rizzo‘s head. He later scored.

In the bottom of the 6th, Matt Kemp also led off by reaching on an error, this time on a grounder that ate up SS Starlin Castro. A 2-out RBI single by Will Venable tied the game by bringing home another unearned run.

And in the bottom of the 8th, with the score tied 2-2, Clint Barmes – yes, this happened three times – led off and reached base on an error. This one was a dropped pop up in shallow center field by 2B Addison Russell. Both Barmes and Cory Spangenberg scored on a 2-RBI double off the bat of Derek Norris. That lead run – unearned.

Jason Hammel had a nice start for the Cubs, going 7 innings and allowing no earned runs on 3 hits and no walks to go along with 8 strikeouts. We’ve been seeing his name pop up on the NL Central Leaderboards under WHIP and ERA, which fell to 2.70 after this start. The Cubs did well to bring him back.

There’s been some talk of Chris Coghlan‘s roster security, but he had a 2-homer night for the Cubs. (He also struck out twice.) Coghlan, who is hitting .205 this year, said he isn’t worried. The former NL Rookie of the Year actually had a pretty decent season for the Cubs last year and there’s still some time to turn things around as we head towards the end of the end of May.

Aside from the costly error, Castro had a rough night at the plate, going 0-for-4 with 3 strikeouts.

In light of this Cubs/Padres series, Carlos Portocarrero at Sports on Earth took a look at how the Rizzo-for-Andrew Cashner trade. Read the article here.

* * *

The Cincinnati Reds managed just 4 hits in a 3-0 shutout at the hands of Yordano Ventura (7 IP, 6 SO) and the Kansas City Royals.

It was the 4th straight loss for the Redlegs.

Future trade-bait, Johnny Cueto, fell to 3-4 on the year despite a 3.03 ERA. He continues to get miserable run support when he’s on the mound, further pointing out the ludicrous nature of the Win-Loss statistic for pitchers. You can throw phenomenally, but if you’re team can’t hit a lick, you get hung with the “L”.

* * *

The Minnesota Twins scored 6 in the 2nd inning en route to an 8-5 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Although this highlight of Pedro Alvarez hitting a ball into a boat on the Allegheny River is pretty damned awesome.

Francisco Liriano went just 2 innings for Pittsburgh, watching his ERA climb from 2.96 to 4.15 in 2015.

Both Gregory Polanco (2 SO) and Andrew McCutchen (1 SO) went 0-for-5 at the plate for the Bucs. I die a little inside every time I point out another bad game for McCutchen.

Pittsburgh has lost 5 of their last 6 games.

On a bright note, Josh Harrison has been heating up. In the last 7 games, he’s hitting .517 with 6 extra-base hits.

* * *

The Milwaukee Brewers unpredictably went up 2-0 on the Detroit Tigers in this series with a dominant 8-1 win on the road.

6 continued to be the magic number of the day as the Brew Crew put up a 6-spot of their own in the top of the 3rd inning. The highlight came with 2 outs in the inning when Ryan Braun (9th), Adam Lind (7th) and Aramis Ramirez (5th) hit homers on three consecutive at bats.

Braun also doubled in a 4-RBI night.

Jimmy Nelson (W 2-4) went 8 innings, allowing 1 run on 3 hits and 4 walks. His ERA dropped to 3.73 for the season.

Martin Maldonado went back to being a blight in the lineup, going 0-for-4 and committing an error. He’s putting up a slash line of .154/.204/.220, which is not too far removed from his .215/.279/.339 career slash line. He’s 1-for-25 in his last 7 games.

I get that catchers offer value in ways other than their performance at the plate, but the Brewers have to be dying for Jonathan Lucroy to get back from the DL.

* * *

NL Central Leaders

Home Runs
Todd Frazier (CIN) 12
Ryan Braun (MIL) 9
Marlon Byrd (CIN) 8
Starling Marte (PIT) 8
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) 8
Strikeouts
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 60
Lance Lynn (STL) 58
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 55
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 53
2-way tie 52

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 26 13 W1
Chicago Cubs 21 17 4.5 L2
Cincinnati Reds 18 21 8.0 L4
Pittsburgh Pirates 18 21 8.0 L1
Milwaukee Brewers 15 25 11.5 W2

* * *

Schedule

22-17 Twins Pelfrey (3-1, 3.23)
18-21 PIRATES Locke (2-2, 5.40)
6:05 PM CT
15-25 BREWERS Lohse (3-4, 5.85)
23-17 Tigers Greene (4-2, 4.21)
6:08 PM CT
26-13 CARDINALS Martinez, C (3-2, 4.73)
23-17 Mets Colon, B (6-2, 3.86)
6:10 PM CT
18-21 REDS Marquis (3-3, 6.63)
25-14 Royals Guthrie (3-2, 5.44)
7:10 PM CT
21-17 CUBS Wada (NR)
20-20 Padres Ross, T (2-3, 3.94)
9:10 PM CT

Cards Slump Continues, Fall in 14 to Mets

Eric Campbell slid in ahead of the throw home as the New York Mets handed the St. Louis Cardinals a 14-inning loss.

Eric Campbell slid in ahead of the throw home as the New York Mets handed the St. Louis Cardinals a 14-inning loss.

For 8 innings, the St. Louis Cardinals were shut down by Matt Harvey and the New York Mets.

Harvey went 8 shutout innings, allowing 6 hits and a walk to go along with 9 strikeouts.

Thankfully for the Cards, John Lackey had done pretty well himself – 7 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 0 BB, 6 SO.

And so the door was left open for them to tie the game up in the top of the 9th.

With one out, Matt Adams singled and was replaced by pinch-runner Pete Kozma. The move paid off when Koz moved to third on Yadier Molina‘s base hit into right and then scored on Jason Heyward‘s sac fly to right, tying the game up.

From there it was all up to the bullpens.

In the bottom of the 9th, the Mets had Curtis Granderson on 2nd with one out – couldn’t score him.

In the top of the 11th, the Cardinals had Jhonny Peralta on 2nd with two out – couldn’t score him.

In the top of the 14th, the Cardinals had Heyward on 2nd with one out – couldn’t score him.

The game finally ended in the bottom of the 14th when the Cardinals’ Sam Tuivailala walked the first two men he faced, one of whom scored when pinch-hitter John Mayberry hit a walk-off, bases-loaded single off of Trevor Rosenthal.

With five infielders, Mayberry hit a ball to Peralta’s right from shortstop. Peralta dove to knock the ball down, recovered, and threw home but it was too late as Eric Campbell scored well ahead of the throw.

The two teams combined for 32 strikeouts in 27.1 innings of pitching, allowing 3 runs.

So are all the injuries catching up to the Cardinals? Or it just a matter of facing tougher teams as of late? They’ve now lost 6 of their last 9.

Randal Grichuk (5 strikeouts) and Matt Carpenter (3 strikeouts) were each 0-for-6.

Lackey, by the way, did not want to speak to the media post-game and appeared very upset about the one run he allowed – an RBI base hit by Lucas Duda to the left side of second base with the Cards playing three infielders on the right side and one of the left with Carpenter holding a runner on third.

There have been numerous studies that show that the data leading to more shifts has been largely successful, but when it fails (as it did in that particular at bat) it’s more magnified because of the peculiarity of the situation. I think this sort of thing will become increasingly normal, more acceptable and less cause for a hissy-fit from a pitcher like Lackey or the anti-shift tirade from the Pirates’ A.J. Burnett a couple of years ago. For every one time the shift burns you, there are a couple more times where it has saved you. It’s been working. Everybody relax.

* * *

I did a double take when I received my notification that the Milwaukee Brewers had beaten the Detroit Tigers, 3-2. How can this be?

Carlos Gomez went 2-for-5 with a homer (4th) in the first plate appearance of the game and RBI single to break a 2-2 tie in the top of the 7th.

Martin Maldonado snapped an 0-for-19 stretch.

Khris Davis was 0-for-4 and grounded into a double play.

* * *

The Chicago Cubs optioned lefty reliever Phil Coke, moved fellow lefty Travis Wood to the bullpen, and recalled a third lefty – Tsuyoshi Wada – to join the rotation.

In 16 appearances, Coke had a 6.30 ERA this season, allowing 17 of the 45 batters he faced to reach base for a 1.700 WHIP.

Wood is carrying a 5.45 ERA to go with a 1.263 WHIP in 8 appearances, including 7 starts.

The 34-year old Wada went 4-4 with a 3.25 ERA in 13 starts for the Cubs last season. While rehabbing from a groin injury, he went 1-3 with a 2.86 ERA in 6 starts.

The Cubs feel more confident with other left-handed relief options in Zac Rosscup (16 G, 1.02 WHIP) and James Russell (7 G, 1.25 WHIP).

In other Cubs news, their 3-headed catcher experiment officially ended just a few moments ago as Welington Castillo was traded to the Seattle Mariners for relief pitcher Yoervis Medina.

Castillo was expected to be the odd man out from the beginning and the Cubs had been seeking trade partners since Spring Training. When none were found, they opened the season with Castillo, Miguel Montero and David Ross. Castillo was hitting .163 in 43 AB this year, although he did seem to square up the ball pretty well on some of the outs that I saw.

In 12 appearances this season, the right-handed Medina had a horrid 1.500 WHIP. His ERA was just 3.00, but for relief pitchers (who can enter games mid-inning and therefore create artificially low ERAs), that WHIP is a real killer. 18 of 54 batters faced had reached base. The 26-year old has a career 9.2 K/9 in 141 relief appearances to go along with a 1.336 WHIP and 2.82 ERA.

* * *

NL Central Leaders

AVG
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .344
Matt Holliday (STL) .320
Matt Carpenter (STL) .314
Brandon Phillips (CIN) .310
Kolten Wong (STL) .304
ERA
A.J. Burnett (PIT) 1.38
Michael Wacha (STL) 2.06
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 2.40
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 2.77
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 2.93

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 25 13 L1
Chicago Cubs 21 16 3.5 L1
Cincinnati Reds 18 20 7.0 L3
Pittsburgh Pirates 18 20 7.0 W1
Milwaukee Brewers 14 25 11.5 W1

* * *

Schedule

21-17 Twins Nolasco (3-1, 6.38)
18-20 PIRATES Liriano, F (1-3, 2.96)
6:05 PM CT
14-25 BREWERS Nelson (1-4, 4.22)
23-16 Tigers Sanchez, An (3-4, 4.76)
6:08 PM CT
25-13 CARDINALS Wacha (5-0, 2.06)
23-16 Mets Niese (3-3, 2.49)
6:10 PM CT
18-20 REDS Cueto (3-3, 2.93)
24-14 Royals Ventura (2-3, 5.36)
7:10 PM CT
21-16 CUBS Hammel (3-1, 3.11)
19-20 Padres Shields (5-0, 3.91)
9:10 PM CT

Cards Drop 2 of 3 Against Tigers

Kolten Wong's solo homer helped the Cardinals avoid a sweep last night.

Kolten Wong’s solo homer helped the Cardinals avoid a sweep last night.

Recapping the NL Central results from over the weekend…

The St. Louis Cardinals took the Sunday night game at home against the Detroit Tigers, avoiding being swept… The Chicago Cubs won their sixth straight on Saturday before the streak was broken by the Pittsburgh Pirates Sunday afternoon at Wrigley Field… The Cincinnati Reds were swept at home by the San Francisco Giants, pushing them back into a tie with the Bucs for 3rd place… The Milwaukee Brewers predictably lost 2 of 3 visiting the New York Mets

* * *

It’s official. Jaime Garcia is joining the Cardinals’ rotation. When Adam Wainwright went down with a season-ending Achilles injury, it was assumed that the spot would be filled in by either Garcia or Marco Gonzales, but both have been rehabbing from injuries. Ultimately, Garcia pitched decently enough and got healthier faster that Gonzales.

Before Garcia was ready, the Cards went with Tim Cooney (1 GS) and Tyler Lyons (3 GS). They combined for a 6.46 ERA in four starts and averaged fewer than 4 innings per start. That’s not getting it done.

Garcia will get the start Thursday, pitching the final game of a 4-game set against the New York Mets.

* * *

The Brewers sent Scooter Gennett to AAA. I remember driving around this winter and listening to Wisconsin sports radio, naively predicting good things for the Crew this year. (I’ve lamented about this before, but for some reason blind optimism just really grates on me.) I remember them calling out Gennett as one of the bright spots for this team.

If Scooter Gennett is somebody you’re pinning your hopes on, your team is in trouble. This is why nobody with an ounce of objectivity was predicting good things for your team, Milwaukee Sports Radio… Gennett never cracked Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects list. His best ranking ever within the Brewers system was #5 following the 2011 season. In other words – not a guy who a whole lot is expected of by people who know these sorts of things.

Gennett was hitting .159/.209/.206 this season. Read it again. Slowly.

He hit .324 in 69 games during the 2013 season but drew just 10 walks for a .356 OBP. Last year he played 137 games and hit .289 with a decent .754 OPS. By Baseball Reference’s calculations, Gennett was a 2.2 WAR player in 2013 and 1.3 last season – not too bad. He was a minus 1.0 thus far in 2015. He may not be given a chance to rebound.

* * *

On Friday afternoon, I sent out this tweet about the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo.

On Saturday, Tim Healey at SportsOnEarth had stolen all of my hard research and written up this article about Rizzo standing closer to the plate, leading to more plunks.

* * *

Back with the goods tomorrow!

* * *

National League Ranks

Batting Pitching
St. Louis 5th 1st
Chicago 6th 8th
Cincinnati 10th 9th
Pittsburgh 12th 4th
Milwaukee 13th 14th

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 25 12 W1
Chicago Cubs 21 16 4.0 L1
Cincinnati Reds 18 20 7.5 L3
Pittsburgh Pirates 18 20 7.5 W1
Milwaukee Brewers 13 25 12.5 L2

* * *

Schedule

13-25 BREWERS Fiers (1-4, 5.00)
23-15 Tigers Lobstein (3-3, 4.33)
6:08 PM CT
25-12 CARDINALS Lackey (2-2, 3.226)
22-16 Mets Harvey (5-1, 2.31)
6:10 PM CT

Carpenter Homer Leads Cards Over Tribe

Matt Carpenter's two-run shot gave the Redbirds a win in Cleveland.

Matt Carpenter’s two-run shot gave the Redbirds a win in Cleveland.

Left-handed reliever Marc Rzepczynski was brought in to face the left-handed hitting Matt Carpenter in the top of the 8th inning with the Cleveland Indians staked to a 1-0 lead over the St. Louis Cardinals.

It didn’t work out.

Carpenter hit a high fly ball to right-center that carried, carried, carried just to the edge of the wall where center fielder Michael Bourn lept, only to have the ball hit his glove, the glove hit the wall, the ball fall out of his glove, the glove fall off his hand, the ball bounce on top of the yellow line that runs along the length of the wall.

Carp’s two-run homer in the 8th inning put the Cardinals up for good and they held on to win 2-1.

Michael Wacha went 5 innings and got the ND, allowing 1 run on 5 hits and 2 walks, striking out 7. His ERA fell to 2.06 on the year.

Matt Adams (.236) went 0-for-4 with 3 strikeouts and is now in a 1-for-30 slump. Actually, “slump” might not be a strong enough word. That’s pretty horrible.

Jason Heyward‘s nightmare season continued, going 0-for-4 with a strikeout and GIDP, dropping him .236 this year.

Mark Reynolds, Kolten Wong and Yadier Molina had a pair of hits each out of the 5-7 spots in the lineup. Wong is hitting .320 now.

Down in the minors, Marco Gonzales‘ bid to get into the rotation hit a setback. He allowed 7 runs last night thanks in part to 3 homers allowed in 4 innings of work. That’s not getting it done.

Jaime Garcia, another potential replacement, gets a start down in the minors this evening.

By the way, Fangraphs had a really nice article on Lance Lynn yesterday. Read it over here.

OF Jon Jay went on the DL yesterday. 1B/OF Xavier Scruggs was recalled. LF Matt Holliday was originally out of yesterday’s lineup but petitioned to play DH shortly before game time. He had taken a low-90s fastball from Corey Kluber on the left elbow in the 1st inning of Wednesday’s game.

* * *

The Chicago Cubs kept getting one hit after another in a 4-run 5th inning, coming back from a 5-1 deficit to tie the game up, then taking the lead in the 7th inning on a passed ball. Pedro Strop threw nothing but strikes, striking out a pair in the 8th inning and Hector Rondon struck out Dilson Herrera with a man on 3rd to notch his 8th save.

The 6-5 win over the New York Mets gave the Cubs a 4-game sweep of the top team in the NL East. New York entered the series 20-11.

Dexter Fowler had a solo homer in the 4th and scored the go-ahead run in the 7th. He finished 2-for-3 with a walk.

* * *

Marlon Byrd‘s solo homer in the bottom of the 8th inning snapped a 3-3 tie and help up to lead the Cincinnati Reds in a 4-3 win over the San Francisco Giants.

Aroldis Chapman pitched a perfect 9th, striking out the first two men he faced and recording his 7th save.

Byrd finished 2-for-2 with 3 RBI (see division leaders below) and a pair of walks.

Johnny Cueto struck out 9, going 7 innings and allowing a pair of runs.

Jay Bruce‘s struggles continued – since April 14 he’s hitting .141 with 30 strikeouts.

* * *

The Pittsburgh Pirates lost to the Philadelphia Phillies, 4-2, leaving them with a split of their 4-game series.

The Bucs trailed 4-0 heading into the 9th, scoring a pair of runs that final inning thanks to Starling Marte – he drove in a run with a double and then scored on a ground out.

Andrew McCutchen stepped to the plate as a pinch-hitter with two outs and a man on, but popped out to Ryan Howard off of first base in foul ground.

Pittsburgh was done in by a pair of unearned runs, with Neil Walker (0-for-4, GIDP) and Jordy Mercer (0-for-3, K) committing the fielding gaffes while simultaneously having bad days in the field.

Marte finished 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles.

Josh Harrison had another nice game as he shows signs of busting out of his slump. He had three base hits while receiving his first start this year in the outfield. Harrison had been a regular in the lineup last season, but was moved around at multiple infield and outfield positions. In essence, an “everyday utility” player. The Pirates had tried to make him a regular third baseman this season, but fielding problems coupled with a sub-.200 batting average and inability to draw walks have led to some shuffling around. He’s had a couple nice games this week against Philly, so we’ll see where he goes from here.

Things aren’t going good for the Pirates so far. As I wrote in the pre-season, I had a wide margin for this team. I could see them winning 92 games, but I could see them winning 75. I couldn’t figure them out in March and I still can’t figure them out in May.

* * *

SS Jean Segura heads to the DL for the Milwaukee Brewers. Segura was hitting .262 with 2 HR, 12 RBI and 6 SB.

Hooray for Brewers baseball. (sigh…)

* * *

NL Central Leaders

RBI
Starling Marte (PIT) 25
Matt Carpenter (STL) 23
Todd Frazier (CIN) 23
Marlon Byrd(CIN) 22
2-way tie 21
Wins
Michael Wacha (STL) 5-0
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 5-1
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 4-3
4-way tie 3-1

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 24 10 W1
Chicago Cubs 19 15 5.0 W4
Cincinnati Reds 18 17 6.5 W3
Pittsburgh Pirates 17 18 7.5 L2
Milwaukee Brewers 12 23 12.5 L2

* * *

Schedule

17-18 PIRATES Locke (2-2, 4.71)
19-15 CUBS Hendricks (0-1, 4.65)
1:20 PM CT
12-23 BREWERS Lohse (2-4, 7.03)
20-15 Mets Colon, B (6-1, 3.30)
6:10 PM CT
17-18 Giants Bumgarner (3-2, 3.30)
18-17 REDS Marquis (3-2, 5.66)
6:10 PM CT
21-14 Tigers Greene (3-2, 4.71)
24-10 CARDINALS Martinez, C (3-1, 4.89)
7:15 PM CT

Cards Shut Down by Kluber, Indians

We usually use a player from the NL Central as our featured image, but DAMN! Can't ignore last night's performance by Cleveland Indians' starting pitcher Corey Kluber.

We usually use a player from the NL Central as our featured image, but DAMN! Can’t ignore last night’s performance by Cleveland Indians’ starting pitcher Corey Kluber.

Corey Kluber did this to the St. Louis Cardinals last night, erasing his 0-5 start to the season: 8 shutout innings with 1 hit allowed, no walks and 18 strikeouts.

18!!!

Kluber, the defending AL Cy Young winner, joined Bob Feller as the only Cleveland pitchers to strike out 18 men in a game. That’s good company.

John Lackey (L 2-2) allowed 2 runs in 5.1 innings, which seems like a small miracle considering he allowed 5 hits and walked 5 as well. The Indians went 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position.

Jhonny Peralta had the sole Cardinal hit – a single with two out in the 7th.

Mark Reynolds and Peter Bourjos each struck out in all three plate appearances.

Dominant stuff.

Matt Holliday took a 94-mph Kluber fastball to the left elbow in the 1st inning and had to be pulled from the game. A scan revealed a “deep contusion” and he’ll likely be out at least a few days. With Jon Jay already nursing an injury (left thumb bruise) and Randal Grichuk‘s back injury keeping him off the team, the Cards’ outfield situation is pretty grim right now.

* * *

A walk-off walk for Chris Coghlan and the Comeback Cubs as they take their 3rd straight game against the visiting New York Mets.

Jason Hammel held his own against Matt Harvey, leaving the Chicago Cubs trailing 1-0 headed into the bottom of the 8th. Addison Russell singled with one out, moved to second on a wild pitch, then scored on a base hit by Dexter Fowler to tie it up.

In the bottom of the 9th, Anthony Rizzo led off with a hard single into right. Starlin Castro roped one through the left side for another hit, moving pinch-runner Matt Szczur to 3rd. After Miguel Montero was intentionally walked, reliever Jeurys Familia entered the game. He struck out Jorge Soler, who swung at some pitches that he really shouldn’t have. But then Coghlan stepped up with the bases loaded and left the bat on his shoulders on a 3-1 pitch that wasn’t close.

Hammel went 8 innings, allowing 1 run on 5 hits and a walk, striking out 6. Check him out on the division’s WHIP leader boards below.

A rough night for Soler, who couldn’t possibly look more miserable about playing in weather below 50 degrees. The entire field will be full of guys in short sleeves and there’s Soler with a parka on. He might have signed up for the wrong team. His plate appearances tonight: 4-6-3 double play, strike out, 4-6-3 double play, strike out with the bases loaded.

* * *

Jeff Francoeur can still throw the ball and his arm helped save the Philadelphia Phillies in a 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Jordy Mercer‘s fly ball into right field was caught in foul territory by Francouer for the 2nd out. Steve Lombardozzi then attempted to tag up from 3rd but was thrown out at the plate by a good 5 feet, giving Francouer his 123rd career outfield assist. That’s 3rd best among active outfielders behind only Carlos Beltran (135) and Torii Hunter (125). For reference, the career leader is “The Grey Eagle”, Tris Speaker, who had 449.

Cole Hamels was impressive against Pittsburgh, going 7 innings for the win while allowing 2 runs on 5 hits and a walk, striking out 9.

Andrew McCutchen is still only hitting .231 this season, but he had a 2-RBI single last night and is hitting .293 with 6 extra-base hits in his last 14 games.

Sean Rodriguez, who my wife finds exceptionally handsome for a hirsute man, struck out twice and also grounded into a double play.

The loss ended the Bucs’ four-game winning streak.

Some exciting news for Pirates prospects as the #2 pick of the 2010 draft, starting pitcher Jameson Taillon, is slated to throw his first inning of work since undergoing Tommy John surgery last April.

Also recovering is Charlie Morton, scheduled to start in the minor today in his rehab from hip surgery. Morton is among the front-runners to replace Vance Worley in the bullpen.

* * *

Raul Iglesias made his second career start an impressive win, firing 5+ innings of no-hit ball to lead the Cincinnati Reds to a 5-1 win over the Atlanta Braves.

Iglesias finished with 8 innings of work, allowing 1 run on 2 hits and 3 walks, striking out 5.

Zack Cozart returned to the Cincy lineup and had a double and sac fly. He also made this pretty sweet play in the field. The shortstop is hitting .321 this season.

On the other side of the middle infielders, Kristopher Negron is hitting just .111 after an 0-for-2 day – he filled in for Brandon Phillips and his injured toe at second.

* * *

The Milwaukee Brewers tried to come back but couldn’t overcome the 3 runs they allowed in the 1st inning, falling to the Chicago White Sox 4-2.

The Journal Sentinel has a nice short article on Elian Herrera. Herrera signed as an amateur free agent in 2003 and didn’t see action in the big leagues until 2012 when he was already 27 years old. Read the full article here.

Herrera has been filling in at third base while Aramis Ramirez sits out with back problems. Rami, who has missed the last six games, is expected to return to the lineup Friday.

* * *

NL Central Leaders

OBP
Matt Holliday (STL) .466
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .463
Kris Bryant (CHC) .411
Joey Votto (CIN) .408
Matt Carpenter (STL) .391
WHIP
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 0.877
Mike Leake (CIN) 0.966
Jason Hammel (CHC) 0.993
Francisco Liriano (PIT) 1.007
Michael Wacha (STL) 1.034

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 23 10 L1
Chicago Cubs 18 15 5.0 W3
Cincinnati Reds 17 17 6.5 W2
Pittsburgh Pirates 17 17 6.5 L1
Milwaukee Brewers 12 23 12.0 L2

* * *

Schedule

23-10 CARDINALS Wacha (5-0, 2.09)
12-20 Indians Bauer (2-1, 4.19)
11:10 AM CT
17-17 PIRATES Worley (2-2, 4.63)
12-23 Phillies Harang (3-3, 2.38)
12:05 PM CT
20-14 Mets Niese (3-2, 1.95)
18-15 CUBS Wood, T (2-2, 4.96)
1:20 PM CT
17-17 Giants Lincecum (3-2, 2.00)
17-17 REDS Cueto (3-3, 2.98)
6:10 PM CT

Cards Back To Winning

Matt Carpenter returned to the lineup and kicked ass again.

Matt Carpenter returned to the lineup and kicked ass again.

The St. Louis Cardinals had come off of their first day off in a while, having just played on 20 straight days.

Last night they picked up right where they left off, pounding the Cleveland Indians 8-3.

Lance Lynn, who seems to have a nice start with nothing to show for it most times out, went 6 shutout innings, striking out 9 while improving to 2-3 on the season. Oh, and it was his 28th birthday. Not a bad way to celebrate.

Matt Holliday homered (3rd) and drove in 4 runs.

Matt Carpenter returned to the lineup after last week’s bout with dehydration/fatigue/dizziness/lightheadedness/exhaustion/insomnia and did his usual 2015 thing, picking up 2 hits to up his season average to .336 and (of course) doubled again. It was Carp’s 15th double of the season. Earl Webb, look out.

Kolten Wong was granted his wish to bat leadoff and responded by going 0-for-5 with a pair of strikeouts.

There was one other issue to keep an eye on, as Yadier Molina left the game in the 9th with upper back stiffness. Yadi is hitting .276/.325/.343 with 7 doubles, having appeared in 28 of the Cards’ 32 games this season.

* * *

The much anticipated debut of New York Mets wunderkind Noah Syndergaard went well for 5 innings. But the Chicago Cubs got to the kid in the 6th inning, prompting a move to the bullpen and when the dust settled, the Northsiders had sent 10 men to the plate and scored 4 runs.

At the end of the day, Jake Arrieta (W 4-3) out-pitched Syndergaard, going 8 innings and allowing 1 run on just 3 hits and 2 walks, fanning 10.

Kris Bryant homered (3rd) for the third time in the last four games, reaching base four times. (He also tripled and walked twice.) So far, that move to the 2nd spot in the lineup has opened up the power game. You can argue that there’s no such thing as protection in the batting lineup, but since he moved ahead of Rizzo in the lineup, he’s been seeing a different assortment of pitches.

Anthony Rizzo drew a trio of walks and also had a hit.

* * *

Yesterday we mentioned Josh Harrison‘s troubles. Most recently, he had just 1 hit in his last 25 at bats. Last night, he helped lead the way in a 7-2 win for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Harrison connected for a 3-run homer and another struggling Pirate, Andrew McCutchen also homered in the Bucs win over the Philadelphia Phillies.

A.J. Burnett, clearly motivated to be named to the 2015 NL Central Hub All-Division Team, improved to 2-1 with a sterling 1.60 ERA, allowing 1 earned run in 7 innings of work.

Perhaps turning a corner on the 2015 season, Cutch is now hitting .385 in his last 7 games.

That’s four straight wins now for the Pirates.

* * *

A walk-off win for the Cincinnati Reds over the Atlanta Braves, as Devin Mesoraco‘s double ended the game.

Mesoraco, who has been unable to resume catching duties came through as a pinch hitter, scoring pitcher Michael Lorenzen, who had replaced Brayan Pena as a pinch runner after a one-out single. Let it be said that using Lorenzen as a pinch-runner paid off in a big way there. It looked like there might be a play at the plate, as Lorenzen was just rounding 3rd as the throw was coming in from left field. But Andrelton Simmons couldn’t get a hold of the throw in, dropping the ball before he could make a relay throw. Game over.

Mesoraco has a hip injury which prevents him from squatting, but he has had no trouble running, legging out a triple and double in the last couple of days.

More troubles for the Cincinnati middle infield, as 2B Brandon Phillips left in the 6th inning with a toe injury. SS Zack Cozart had already missed the last two games with a sore wrist.

* * *

The Milwaukee Brewers‘ 3-game winning streak ended with a 4-2 loss at home against the Chicago White Sox, who are just 3-10 now on the road.

ChiSox starting pitcher Chris Sale returned from his suspension and struck out 11 Brewers over 8 innings of work.

Elian Herrera homered (4th) in his 3rd straight game as he started for the 5th time in as many games at third base, filling in while Aramis Ramirez waits for his back issues to clear up.

Martin Maldonado had a rough night, striking out in all three plate appearances.

* * *

NL Central Leaders

Home Runs
Todd Frazier (CIN) 11
Starling Marte (PIT) 8
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) 7
Joey Votto (CIN) 7
3-way tie 6
Strikeouts
Lance Lynn (STL) 51
Mike Fiers (MIL) 49
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 48
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 47
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 45

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 23 9 W1
Chicago Cubs 17 15 6.0 W2
Pittsburgh Pirates 17 16 6.5 W4
Cincinnati Reds 16 17 7.5 W1
Milwaukee Brewers 12 22 12.0 L1

* * *

Schedule

23-9 CARDINALS Lackey (2-1, 3.20)
11-20 Indians Kluber (0-5, 5.04)
5:10 PM CT
17-16 PIRATES Liriano, F (1-2, 2.79)
11-23 Phillies Hamels (2-3, 3.68)
6:05 PM CT
15-18 Braves Stults (1-3, 4.84)
16-17 REDS Iglesias, R (0-0, 5.40)
6:10 PM CT
20-13 Mets Harvey (5-1, 2.72)
17-15 CUBS Hammel (3-1, 3.52)
7:05 PM CT
13-17 White Sox Quintana (1-3, 5.03)
12-22 BREWERS Nelson (1-3, 4.00)
7:10 PM CT

Cubs Hold Off Mets; Marte, Cole Keep Pirates Hot

The Chicago Cubs' Anthony Rizzo connected for his 7th homer of the year last night.

The Chicago Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo connected for his 7th homer of the year last night.

No intra-divisional games going on last night which means a whole lot of recapping to do. With the St. Louis Cardinals getting their first day off in 21 days, we’ll work our way down from the #2 spot in the division to #5.

* * *

The Chicago Cubs opened up the Wrigley Field bleachers for the first time in 2015 – well, except for right field which is still under construction. It’s a start.

Anyhow, you may all remember that awful stretch to begin the season, but Jon Lester is now tied for the Cubs’ team lead in wins (3), picking up his 3rd straight win in a 4-3 victory over the NL East-leading New York Mets.

Kris Bryant (2nd) and Anthony Rizzo (7th) hit back-to-back homers in the 1st inning, while the Cubs got some mixture of luck and great defense in the latter innings to hold their lead. In the 8th, with a man on 1st and none out, the Mets’ Lucas Duda hit a scorcher down the right field line that was caught by Rizzo at first who was then a step away from doubling Michael Cuddyer up. In the 9th, the Mets again led off by putting the potential tying runner on base, but Dilson Herrera‘s liner up the middle was caught by a diving Starlin Castro from shortstop, and then pinch-hitter Johnny Monell‘s grounder to second appeared to eat up the fielder only to have Addison Russell quickly recover to start a game-ending 4-6-3 double play, complete with a Castro fist pump as the ball hit Rizzo’s glove for the final out.

* * *

From Starlin to Starling Marte, who hit his 8th homer of the season while Gerrit Cole picked up his 5th win to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates over the intra-state rival Philadelphia Phillies, 4-3.

Mark Melancon picked up his 8th save, but not without some drama. In the 9th, Odubel Herrera led off with a homer that made it a 1-run game. Carlos Ruiz singled with one out, but Melancon got a pair of fly outs to close the game out.

Cole went 7 innings, allowing 2 runs on 6 hits and a pair of walks, striking out 6. That raised his ERA to 2.32, still among the division’s best.

Jung Ho Kang got his 3rd straight start as he continued to shed a bad Spring Training and show he might just belong in the lineup after all. Kang has a .333/.386/.529 slash line in 21 games while the struggling Josh Harrison is at .173/.209/.282 in 28 games. Also a factor – Harrison’s .938 fielding percentage to go with 5 errors at third base; Kang has fielded 16 balls at third without an error in 2015.

Pittsburgh has rattled off three straight wins.

* * *

Aroldis Chapman‘s wild pitch allowed the eventual game-winning run to score in the top of the 9th as the Cincinnati Reds lost at home to the Atlanta Braves, 2-1.

Between innings, Chapman appeared to throw his glove about 103 miles per hour in the dugout.

It’s a small sample size, of course, but in the last two nights Chapman has gone 1.2 innings and allowed 6 hits. His ERA had been 0.00 before then; it’s now up to 1.26.

The loss dragged the Reds’ losing streak out to 3 games.

Cincinnati’s inability to muster any offense against Braves starter Shelby Miller (1.60 ERA) spoiled another nice start by Mike Leake, who went 6 innings and allowed one run on 8 hits and a pair of walks.

At one stretch, Miller retired 15 straight Reds. Dominating effort.

* * *

Check it out. The Milwaukee Brewers win again, this time a 10-7 win over the Chicago White Sox who are now 2-10 on the road.

Milwaukee had an early 6-0 lead, only to fritter it away and allow the ChiSox to tie it up 7-7 in the top of the 8th.

In the bottom of the inning, Elian Herrera (3rd) and Khris Davis (3rd) each took White Sox reliever Zach Duke deep, giving the Brew Crew their 7th win in their last 10 games. They have won their last three in a row.

Carlos Gomez homered (2nd) and tripled for Milwaukee, driving in a pair of runs.

On the down side, Scooter Gennett was 0-for-3 (.189) and committed his 3rd error of the season. Gennett’s .953 fielding percentage at second is the league’s 3rd worst mark, with the Cubs’ Addison Russell (.949) at the bottom.

37-year old Aramis Ramirez missed his fourth straight game with a sore lower back. He’s planning on retiring after the 2015 season.

* * *

I’m a little concerned about Matt Carpenter, who has been having bouts of vertigo, exhaustion, dehydration – you name it… Carpenter was off to an amazing start, connecting for a potential record-breaking number of doubles. But the last week has seen him miss some games with various maladies. He’s expected to play tonight against the Cleveland Indians, but nothing is guaranteed. We’ll keep an eye on this one.

* * *

Interesting note on the NL Central’s ERA Leaderboard below. As much as the Cards are known for their top pitching staff right now, look which teams have some of the top marks thus far. In fact, were I to extend that board, you’d find only one Cardinal pitcher in the top 7.

What does it mean? Well, it could mean the Cardinals’ bullpen has been better. It could just mean the Cardinals have more depth from 1 to 5 in their rotation than other teams. It could also mean that, in a playoff series where you can lean on your top guns more, some of these teams might actually be better poised for success than the Redbirds.

It’s also only May 12th, so let’s stay tuned on this one.

* * *

NL Central Leaders

ERA
A.J. Burnett (PIT) 1.66
Michael Wacha (STL) 2.09
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 2.32
Mike Leake (CIN) 2.36
Anthony DeSclafani (CIN) 2.50

* * *

Schedule

22-9 CARDINALS Lynn (1-3, 3.82)
11-19 Indians Carrasco (4-2, 4.71)
5:10 PM CT
16-16 PIRATES Burnett (1-1, 1.66)
11-22 Phillies O’Sullivan (0-1, 4.91)
6:05 PM CT
15-17 Braves Foltynewicz (2-0, 5.23)
15-17 REDS DeSclafani (2-3, 2.50)
6:10 PM CT
20-12 Mets Syndergaard (NR)
16-15 CUBS Arrieta (3-3, 3.41)
7:05 PM CT
12-17 White Sox Sale (2-1, 5.93)
12-21 BREWERS Fiers (1-4, 5.46)
7:10 PM CT

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 22 9 L2
Chicago Cubs 16 15 6.0 W1
Pittsburgh Pirates 16 16 6.5 W3
Cincinnati Reds 15 17 7.5 L3
Milwaukee Brewers 12 21 11.0 W3

Pirates take weekend series against Cards

NL Pitcher of the Month Gerrit Cole (4-1, 2.27) takes the mound this evening in Philly

NL Pitcher of the Month Gerrit Cole (4-1, 2.27) takes the mound this evening in Philly

The NL Central Hub returns!

I’m back from a work trip which kept me away from baseball for four days. Returned home to a blown out water heater that led to me tending to standing water in the basement, though thankfully not too much. In the past six days I got to listen to two games, watch a few innings with a traveling salesman from St. Louis late at night in a hotel bar, and watched Cards/Pirates and Cubs/Brewers on Sunday.

Over the weekend, the St. Louis Cardinals lost their first series of the year, as the Pittsburgh Pirates were finally able to take 2 of 3 against them. You may recall that in the prior weekend, the Bucs were swept by the Redbirds, losing three straight games in extra innings.

The Milwaukee Brewers showed that they can, in fact, win – as long as they’re playing the Chicago Cubs, against whom they are now 4-2.

The Cincinnati Reds dropped two out of three in an inter-league series against the Chicago White Sox.

* * *

Some quick hits…

The Cardinals get a welcome day off today. They’ve played in 20 straight days… Jaime Garcia made a rehab start in the minors and was hitting low-90s on his fastball. Garcia’s next start will be Friday as he continues to aim his sights on taking the spot in the rotation that opened up when Adam Wainwright went down with an Achilles injury… Marco Gonzales, also hoping to take that spot, makes his next rehab start on Thursday…

Gerrit Cole is back doing his thing for the Pirates tonight. He was the first Pirates pitcher to win National League Pitcher of the Month in 23 years, which is kind of ridiculous. Seriously?! Cole went 4-0 with a 1.76 ERA in April, striking out 35 men in 30.2 innings of work…

* * *

So the standings aren’t too terribly different from where we sat one week ago. The Cards are still kicking butt, the Cubs have stalled, the Reds and Pirates are kind of floating around, and the Brewers have regressed towards the mean. Not a lot of action here.

In NL Ranks, the big move up this past week was the Cardinals, who jumped up from 7th to 4th in Offense.

On the way down was the Cubs’ pitching, falling from 5th to 10th. Their bullpen continues to drag the team down.

* * *

National League Ranks

Batting Pitching
St. Louis 4th 1st
Chicago 8th 10th
Pittsburgh 12th 3rd
Cincinnati 9th 9th
Milwaukee 13th 14th

* * *

Schedule

15-16 PIRATES Cole, G (4-1, 2.27)
11-21 Phillies Williams, J (2-2, 5.18)
6:05 PM CT
14-17 Braves Miller, S (4-1, 1.66)
15-16 REDS Leake (2-1, 2.47)
6:10 PM CT
12-16 White Sox Samardzija (2-2, 4.38)
11-21 BREWERS Peralta, W (1-4, 3.92)
6:20 PM CT
20-11 Mets deGrom (3-3, 2.95)
15-15 CUBS Lester (2-2, 4.04)
7:05 PM CT

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 22 9 L2
Chicago Cubs 15 15 6.5 L2
Cincinnati Reds 15 16 7.0 L2
Pittsburgh Pirates 15 16 7.0 W2
Milwaukee Brewers 11 21 11.5 W2
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