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
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