Category: Recaps

Liriano Guides Bucs to Opening Day Win

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Yesterday

Pirates 4, Cardinals 1 – Francisco Liriano was the story for the Bucs, striking out 10 Redbirds in his Opening Day start. Liriano also put Pittsburgh on the board with an RBI single. Liriano ran into some trouble, loading the bases with a 2-0 lead and 2 outs in the top of the 6th inning, but ex-Cardinal David Freese – a stop-gap, perhaps, until Jung Ho Kang is ready to play again – played a short hop nicely down at third to start an inning-ending 5-4 fielder’s choice. Matt Adams came up as the potential tying runner in the top of the 9th, but flew out to center. Tommy Pham went down with an oblique injury for the Cards early on in the contest.


PIRATES 4, CARDINALS 1

Today
San Francisco (0-0) @ Milwaukee (0-0) – Wily Peralta gets the Opening Day nod for the rebuilding Brew Crew, fresh off a 5-10, 4.72 season. Not the kind of numbers you’d expect for a #1, but there’s not a whole lot of other options out there for them. He’s up against Madison Bumgarner with the first pitch coming at 1:10 CT in Wisconsin.

Philadelphia (0-0) @ Cincinnati (0-0) – Raul Iglesias is getting some hype coming into the 2016 as a guy that could be a breakout star for the Reds. We’ll be spending the 2016 season waiting for Cincy to trade in their assets to build for the future, what with three other teams clearly the class of the division. Then again, we wrote that at the start of 2015 as well and they never really jumped on board. Not sure what management is thinking there, but it’s not reality. Game starts at 3:10 CT.

Chicago (0-0) @ Los Angeles (0-0) – The season of hype is upon us as the Cubs start off on the West Coast against Mike Trout and 24 other guys not named Mike Trout. First pitch is 9:05 CT. Jake Arrieta is fresh off of throwing about 90 more innings in a professional season than he ever has before. The wear and tear showed in the playoffs. Yes, he shut out the Pirates in the Wild Card game, but if you watched the game then you know he didn’t have his A game. Plenty of hard-hit balls that ended up being hit right at people. There was a bit of luck involved in that win. The Halos have Garrett Richards on the mound and I’ve seen his name show up in a half-dozen places as a pre-season pick for AL Cy Young. Should be a good watch.

Lackey Leads Cards To 4th Straight Win

Kolten Wong celebrates with teammates after scoring to put them ahead by a pair of runs.

Kolten Wong celebrates with teammates after scoring to put them ahead by a pair of runs.

The St. Louis Cardinals were 3-1 winners over the Arizona Diamondbacks last night, running their winning streak up to 4 games.

John Lackey improved to 11-8, throwing a steady 7 innings of work, allowing 1 run on 7 hits and a walk. Lackey served up a solo homer to slugger Paul Goldschmidt in the 1st and then tossed 6.1 shutout innings to finish off his day.

Kolten Wong‘s RBI double in the 7th inning broke a 1-1 tie and Matt Carpenter‘s RBI single plated Wong to pad the lead.  Since taking three games off to get his head straight, Wong has three hits in the last two nights.

Trevor Rosenthal picked up his 40th save of the season, joining Pirates closer Mark Melancon in that club. Rosenthal is out this weekend on paternity leave with his wife scheduled to be induced into labor tomorrow.

The Redbirds got more solid defense, turning 3 double plays.

Highlights

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The Pittsburgh Pirates scored 6 in the 2nd inning en route to an easy 7-2 win over the Miami Marlins, winning for the 11th time in their last 14 games.

Andrew McCutchen had a pair of extra-base hits – his 20th homer and 32nd double – driving in 4 runs.

Jeff Locke (W 7-8) went 7 innings, allowing a pair of runs on 5 hits and a walk.  It snapped a 6-game streak in which Locke had failed to escape the 6th inning.  He had gone 1-2 with a 6.39 ERA in that stretch.

The Bucs remain 4.5 games back of the Cardinals in the NL Central.  September should provide plenty of drama with those two teams battling for the division title.

Highlights

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The Chicago Cubs fell back to even in their series with the San Francisco Giants, falling 4-2 and snapping a 6-game winning streak.

Buster Posey hit an RBI double over the head of Chris Coghlan in right field to break a 2-2 tie in the 6th.

Kyle Schwarber and Kris Bryant each had a double and single, with Bryant driving in a pair of runs to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead in the 1st.

Even with the loss, the Cubs are still 21-5 in their last 26 games.

Highlights

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Pirates starting pitcher A.J. Burnett is feeling well after throwing a two inning simulated game and is hopeful to be back soon. He’s scheduled to throw another simulated game – this time three innings – on Sunday as he tries to work his way back into the rotation for the postseason run.

The often entertaining Adam Bittner of the Post-Gazette had a nice write-up on the use of Pirates “first baseman” Pedro Alvarez. Check it out over there.

Jeff Sullivan at Fangraphs.com wrote up 23-year-old Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco, focusing on his improved handling of southpaws. Last year, Polanco had a slash line of .171/.222/.244 against left-handed pitchers. This year? .214/.275/.321. Still not great, but improving. FYI: His numbers against RHP are pretty similar between last year and this. By the way, both Polanco and Alvarez sat last night against the left-handed Chris Narveson. Read it.

Anthony Castrovince takes a look at 2015’s Most Impactful MLB Managers and, wouldn’t you know it, 3 of the top 6 are from the NL Central. The Bucs’ Clint Hurdle comes in at #6, the Cards’ Mike Matheny at #4 and the Cubs’ Joe Maddon is #1. Read it at Sports On Earth.

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Joey Votto continues to have a monster season, upping his on-base percentage yet another 10 points this past week to hit .446 at the top of the NL Central Leader Board.

In 14 games played since August 12th, Votto has a .571 OBP to go along with a .372 AVG, .837 SLG, 1.409 OPS, 5 HR and 5 2B. That’s spanning 63 plate appearances. Unreal.

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Division Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 81 45 W4
Pittsburgh Pirates 76 49 4.5 W1
Chicago Cubs 73 52 7.5 L1
Milwaukee Brewers 53 74 28.5 L4
Cincinnati Reds 52 73 28.5 L2

Wild Card Standings

W L GB
Pittsburgh Pirates 76 49 +3.0
Chicago Cubs 73 52
San Francisco Giants 67 59 6.5
Washington Nationals 63 62 10.0

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Schedule

69-56 Dodgers Greinke (13-3, 1.67)
52-73 REDS DeSclafani (7-9, 3.97)
11:35 AM CT
73-52 CUBS Haren (8-8, 3.76)
67-59 Giants Bumgarner (15-6, 3.02)
2:45 PM CT
76-49 PIRATES Cole (14-7, 2.49)
51-76 Marlins Nicolino (2-1, 3.77)
6:10 PM CT
81-45 CARDINALS Martinez (12-6, 2.85)
62-64 Diamondbacks De La Rosa (11-5, 4.32)
8:40 PM CT

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NL Central Leaders

On-Base Percentage
Joey Votto (CIN) .446
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) .400
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .396
Kris Bryant (CHC) .368
Jung Ho Kang (PIT) .364
WHIP
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 0.93
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 0.98
Jason Hammel (CHC) 1.09
Michael Wacha (STL) 1.12
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 1.13

Top Three Winners Again

Kris Bryant hit another walk-off for the Cubs in a 2-1 win yesterday.

Kris Bryant hit another walk-off for the Cubs in a 2-1 win yesterday.

Well, this is starting to become quite routine, isn’t it?

I guess it shouldn’t surprise us, given that the top 3 in the division make up 3 of the top 4 teams in all of Major League Baseball, but still. Sometimes it seems ridiculous, but yet again we have The Big Three all coming out winners yesterday.

You start to wonder if the only time these teams lose is when they play each other.

Tell you what, let’s just throw the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs into the playoffs by themselves.

They can each play a 3-game home series against each other, making up a 12-game schedule. Whoever finishes with the best record advances to the World Series. We cool with that?

Sorry, I realize there’s no definite way any of these three teams even makes the National League Championship Series, let alone wins it.

The playoffs are such a crap-shoot. This is why you’ll hear folks who are a bit longer in the tooth complain about the de-valuing of the 162-game regular season that comes about by introducing more teams into the postseason.

Also, the fact that I just used the phrase “long in the tooth” should tell you something about my own age and feelings on the matter.

But I digress.

What I’m really trying to say is that it would be immeasurably fun to watch these three teams go at it, head-to-head, in the playoffs.

What we may very well end up with instead is one of them being eliminated immediately in a best-of-1 Wild Card game. And then the two survivors could get swept in a best-of-5 National League Divisional Series because, hey, it’s three games. That’s a small sample size. Even the 1927 New York Yankees had a pair of 3-game losing streaks. It happens.

I just don’t want this season to end, that’s all.

RESULTS!

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The Cardinals scored 3 in the 7th to snap a 2-2 tie, ending the Arizona Diamondbacks winning streak with a 5-3 victory.

Tommy Pham inside-outed a single through the right side with men on the corners to put the Cards ahead. Yadier Molina brought two more home with a base hit into right and the Cards didn’t look back.

Trevor Rosenthal picked up his 39th save while Lance Lynn improved to 10-8 on the season.

Lynn got some help on defense, turning 4 double plays to help limit the damage that could have been done by Arizona.

Injured first baseman Matt Adams (remember him?) is possible to return from the disabled list next week. He wasn’t exactly tearing it up when he was healthy (.243/.281/.375), so it will be interesting to see how the Cardinals handle his return, particularly when rosters are going to be expanding to 40-man soon anyhow. Then there’s still Matt Holiday, Randal Grichuk, Jordan Walden, Jon Jay

Highlights

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Jon Lester pitched brilliantly for 8.2 innings, only to be undone by his inability to field a ground ball as the Cleveland Indians tied up the Cubs 1-1 in the top of the 9th.

No matter.

Kris Bryant stepped up and hit the walk-off to right with two out in the bottom of the 9th. It was the highly-touted rookie’s 20th long ball of the season.

Also, props to Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo who seems to make a highlight-reel fielding play every week. Yesterday afternoon, with a man on 1st, he sprinted in on a bunt in front of the plate down the first base line. Seeing the ball was going to roll foul, he slid along the line, stopping it from rolling foul so that he could scoop it up in fair territory and start a 3-6-4 double play. Amazing.

At the plate, Rizzo also had an RBI triple.

The Cubs also got some pretty slick fielding up the middle on other double plays, with Starlin Castro getting a start at short.

Chicago put right fielder Jorge Soler on the DL.  He’s expected back before the playoffs start, should the Cubs get there.  Soler has hit .265 with 7 HR and 42 RBI, striking out 111 times in 378 plate appearances.  It’s been a disappointing season, though he’s shown signs at times of snapping out of it.

It’s go time for the Cubs now, with a chance to really put some distance between themselves and the San Francisco Giants – they start a 3-game series in ‘Frisco this evening.

Highlights

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The Pirates beat the Miami Marlins 5-2 with J.A. Happ putting up another strong outing since coming over at the trade deadline.

Happ (W 6-7) went 6 shutout innings, allowing 4 hits and a walk while striking out 6.

Gregory Polanco had a four-hit game, including a pair of doubles.

Mark Melancon notched his 40th save with a perfect 9th.

Things got a bit tense with Miami pitchers coming up and in on Pirate batters no fewer than 6 times. An ejection was eventually made with no apparent retaliation on the part of Pittsburgh’s pitchers. Just win, I guess.

It’s hard to know where to start when looking at the Pirates recent trends. They’ve won 6 of 7, 10 of 12, 14 of 18… Anyway you look at it over the past month or so, they’ve been hot.

Injured starting pitcher A.J. Burnett was scheduled to throw off a mound in a bullpen session yesterday in hopes of returning to the rotation.

Highlights

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The Cincinnati Reds snapped a 9-game losing streak and are back in a virtual tie with the idle Milwaukee Brewers for last place in the division.

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Some Leaderboard trends for you today.

Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli is up there now for the division batting title. Not so much that he’s been suddenly hitting the tar out of the ball. More that he’s playing so regularly that he now qualifies for the batting title. He has 382 plate appearances, exactly one more than he currently needs to qualify.

Pirates outfielder Starling Marte is on a 9-game hitting streak during which he’s hitting .375 with 6 extra-base hits.

And in his last 7 games, Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen has had five 2-hit games. He’s batting .357 over that time frame with 3 extra-base hits.

Those guys have been hot enough to push Rizzo, Cardinals outfielder Jason Heyward and Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips down in the leader board, but all three have actually hit well over the past week.

In his last two starts (small sample size alert!), Cardinals starting pitcher Carlos Martinez has a 5.56 ERA, allowing 14 hits in 11.1 innings of work. Martinez is at 148.2 innings this season, quite a bit more than last year’s mark of 112. Could he be starting to fray at the edges a bit? Something to keep an eye on during this stretch run, for sure.

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Division Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 79 45 W2
Pittsburgh Pirates 75 48 3.5 W3
Chicago Cubs 72 51 6.5 W5
Milwaukee Brewers 53 72 26.5 L2
Cincinnati Reds 52 71 26.5 W1

Wild Card Standings

W L GB
Pittsburgh Pirates 75 48 +3.0
Chicago Cubs 72 51
San Francisco Giants 66 58 6.5
Washington Nationals 62 61 10.0
Arizona Diamondbacks 62 62 10.5

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Schedule

67-56 Dodgers Wood (8-8, 3.79)
52-71 REDS Lamb (0-1, 6.35)
6:10 PM CT
53-72 BREWERS Peralta (4-7, 4.48)
58-66 Indians Tomlin (1-1, 2.03)
6:10 PM CT
75-48 PIRATES Morton (8-4, 4.06)
50-75 Marlins Hand (3-3, 4.46)
6:10 PM CT
79-45 CARDINALS Garcia (5-4, 1.79)
62-62 Diamondbacks Ray (3-9, 3.38)
9:10 PM CT
72-51 CUBS Arrieta (15-6, 2.30)
66-58 Giants Cain (2-3, 5.66)
9:15 PM CT

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NL Central Leaders

AVG
Joey Votto (CIN) .309
Francisco Cervelli (PIT) .303
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) .297
Starling Marte (PIT) .292
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .291
ERA
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 2.30
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 2.49
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 2.62
Michael Wacha (STL) 2.80
Carlos Martinez (STL) 2.85

Pirates, Cubs Move Up In Wild Card

Charlie Morton led the Pirates to a shutout of the Giants.

Charlie Morton led the Pirates to a shutout of the Giants.

The Pittsburgh Pirates shut out the outside-looking-in San Francisco Giants and the Chicago Cubs were dominant winners over the Atlanta Braves, giving both teams a bit more room in the National League Wild Card race.

Starting with Pittsburgh, Charlie Morton went 6.2 innings in a 4-0 win over the Giants, improving to 8-4 on the season.

Neil Walker hit his 13th homer of the season and had a pair of hits. Also joining in with multi-hit games were Starling Marte and Jung-Ho Kang.

It was the Bucs’ 7th win in their last 8 games as they moved within 4.5 games of the idle St. Louis Cardinals. That’s the closest Pittsburgh has been since July 29th.

It also gave them a full 8-game lead over the Giants in the Wild Card race. They remain 4 ahead of the Cubs.

Tonight will be tough for the Pirates as they have Jeff Locke going up against Madison Bumgarner (14-6, 2.98) who, besides being a good hitter, is also a decent pitcher.

Both 3B Josh Harrison (thumb) and SS Jordy Mercer (knee) are expected to return from the DL this weekend, with the team having survived thrived while missing the left side of their infield over the last five weeks.

Kang has excelled and 3B Aramis Ramirez looks rejuvenated since coming back to where his career started, so manager Clint Hurdle will have some tough decisions to make.

Highlights

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Jake Arrieta won his 15th game of the year with 6 shutout innings, striking out 7 as the Cubs pounded the Braves, 7-1.

Anthony Rizzo hit his 24th homer and Addison Russell his 8th as the Cubs scored 4 in the 3rd and came out to a 7-0 lead after 5 innings of play. That tends to hold up when Arrieta is on the bump.

In breaking their 3-game skid, Chicago moved 4 ahead of the Giants for the 2nd Wild Card spot.

The Cubs get a tough draw later this afternoon against Shelby Miller (5-9, 2.43) and the Braves.

Highlights

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The Cincinnati Reds lost their 6th straight and are now just a half game ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers at the bottom of the division.

Or a half game away from tying them up for a higher draft pick, if you’re a “glass half full” kind of person.

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Fangraphs has a Q&A with Brewers starting pitcher Jimmy Nelson. Check it out.

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If you want to know why the NL Central is the most entertaining division in baseball, Anthony Witrado at Bleacher Report has an article explaining that. Go enjoy it.

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Division Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 77 43 W1
Pittsburgh Pirates 72 47 4.5 W3
Chicago Cubs 68 51 8.5 W1
Cincinnati Reds 51 68 25.5 L6
Milwaukee Brewers 52 70 26.0 W1

Wild Card Standings

W L GB
Pittsburgh Pirates 72 47 +4.0
Chicago Cubs 68 51
San Francisco Giants 65 56 4.0
Washington Nationals 60 60 8.5

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Schedule

53-68 Braves Miller (5-9, 2.43)
68-51 CUBS Hendricks (6-5, 3.97)
3:05 PM CT
52-70 BREWERS Nelson (9-9, 3.61)
60-60 Nationals Gonzalez (9-5, 3.86)
6:05 PM CT
65-56 Giants Bumgarner (14-6, 2.98)
72-47 PIRATES Locke (6-7, 4.31)
6:05 PM CT
59-61 Diamondbacks De La Rosa (10-5, 4.40)
51-68 REDS Holmberg (1-2, 5.95)
6:10 PM CT
77-43 CARDINALS Lackey (10-7, 2.87)
59-62 Padres Cashner (4-12, 4.20)
9:10 PM CT

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NL Central Leaders

WAR (fielders)
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) 5.7
Joey Votto (CIN) 5.2
Jason Heyward (STL) 4.0
Starling Marte (PIT) 3.9
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) 3.8
WAR (pitchers)
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 4.9
John Lackey (STL) 3.3
Michael Wacha (STL) 3.3
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 3.2
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 3.1

Power Surge: Yadi Makes History

Yadier Molina homered for the 2nd time in 3 nights.

Yadier Molina homered for the 2nd time in 3 nights.

Yadier Molina‘s 100th career homer lifted the St. Louis Cardinals as they took the rubber game against the San Francisco Giants with a 4-3 win at home.

In the 7th, Tommy Pham sped from 3rd base to score the tying run, getting in ahead of a throw home with the infield playing in.

Molina, batting cleanup for the first time in 2015, hit his 4th homer of the season in the 8th inning, breaking a 3-3 tie. After going much of the season without a homer, the thinner version of Molina homered for the 2nd time in the series. He went 3-for-4 on the night.

Trevor Rosenthal pitched a spotless 9th, striking out a pair for his 38th save.

Highlights

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J.A. Happ went 6 shutout innings to guide the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 4-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Mark Melancon had 3 strikeouts in the 9th (all on curveballs) to collect save number 38.

Sean Rodriguez went 3-for-4 with an RBI out of the #8 spot in the lineup, helping to atone for a big error in last night’s game.

Highlights

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Make it three straight losses for the Chicago Cubs, who allowed double digit runs for the second straight night – the first time that’s happened to them this season.

If you want to know how bad things went for the Cubs, the Detroit Tigers starting pitcher homered to center field in his first career at bat in the majors.

To be fair, the wind was blowing straight out to center at 15 mph, but still.

The 15-8 loss to the Tigers knocked the Cubs 9 games back in the division, although the Giants’ loss to the Redbirds kept them with the same lead in the Wild Card chase.

Jon Lester (L 8-9) lasted just 2.2 innings, allowing 7 runs on 7 hits and 3 walks, serving up 3 homers.

If you’re a Cubs fan with an eye on the future, it will please you to know that the kids were alright. Kris Bryant hit his 17th homer in a 4-for-4 night and Kyle Schwarber hit his 10th. It was Schwarber’s 2nd straight game with a long ball.

There’s always next year, folks.

Highlights

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Leaderboard Trends

In his last 12 games, Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli has a .429 on-base percentage.

In 16 August games, Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant has a .463 on-base percentage.

In contrast, Pirates infielder Jung-Ho Kang has a .233 OBP in his last 6 games. Since ending a recent 10-game hitting streak, Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter has a .250 OBP in his most recent 5 games.

Pirates starting pitcher Francisco Liriano has a 1.75 WHIP in his last 4 starts. In that timeframe, he has gone 2-0 with a 5.82 ERA, allowing 29 hits in 21.2 innings of work.

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Division Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 77 43 W1
Pittsburgh Pirates 71 47 5.0 W2
Chicago Cubs 67 51 9.0 L3
Cincinnati Reds 51 67 25.0 L5
Milwaukee Brewers 52 70 26.0 W1

Wild Card Standings

W L GB
Pittsburgh Pirates 71 47 +4.0
Chicago Cubs 67 51
San Francisco Giants 65 55 3.0
Washington Nationals 60 59 7.5

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Schedule

65-55 Giants Peavy (3-5, 4.18)
71-47 PIRATES Morton (7-4, 4.36)
6:05 PM CT
58-61 Diamondbacks Corbin (3-3, 3.43)
51-67 REDS Lamb (0-1, 7.50)
6:10 PM CT
53-67 Braves Foltynewicz (4-4, 5.61)
67-51 CUBS Arrieta (14-6, 2.39)
7:05 PM CT

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NL Central Leaders

On-Base Percentage
Joey Votto (CIN) .436
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .401
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) .398
Francisco Cervelli (PIT) .375
Kris Bryant (CHC) .367
WHIP
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 0.93
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 0.99
Jason Hammel (CHC) 1.09
Michael Wacha (STL) 1.11
Dan Haren (CHC) 1.12

Pirates Gain Some Ground Despite Fielding Gaffes

Pedro Florimon's 2nd hit of the season was a big one.

Pedro Florimon’s 2nd hit of the season was a big one.

The Pittsburgh Pirates and Arizona Diamondbacks went 15 innings last night with the Bucs finally coming out winners.

The Pirates took an 8-3 lead into the 8th inning, only to allow ‘Zona to tie the game up and send it to extras.

Francisco Liriano went 7 innings, allowing 5 runs. He allowed the first two men to reach base in the 8th before turning the game over to the pen.

Mark Melancon entered the 9th with a 2-run lead going for the save, but errors at the corner infield positions (3B Jung Ho Kang and 1B Sean Rodriguez) led to a pair of unearned runs and the tie ballgame.

Pedro Florimon‘s two-out triple in the bottom of the 15th scored Francisco Cervelli to give the Pirates a game gained on the Cardinals in the division. Floimon had entered the game as a pinch-runner in the 8th. It was just his 2nd hit of the season.

Though he has excelled in other metrics, Starling Marte popped his first homer since July 1st.

Highlights

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The St. Louis Cardinals were shut out for the first time in three weeks, falling 2-0 to the San Francisco Giants.

The Cards managed just four base runners, with the top four in the order accounting for a double, single and pair of walks but nary a run.

The Giants picked up runs in the 6th and 7th, the latter coming in bizarre fashion as Madison Bumgarner was used as a pinch-hitter (and singled) and then Brandon Belt was hit on the knee by Randy Choate with the bases loaded, pushing a run across.

Lance Lynn fell to 9-8 after allowing 2 runs in 6.2 innings of work, striking out 6. Lynn allowed just 4 hits but also walked 5.

In four August starts, Lynn is 1-3 with a 4.58 ERA, walking 12 men in 17.2 innings of work.

Nursing a tight hamstring, Jason Heyward is expecting to return to the lineup for the Cardinals on Friday.

In possible good news for the Pirates and Cubs, the Giants’ Hunter Pence was put on the 15-day DL with an oblique strain. Pence has put up a slash line of .275/.327/.478 this year. After having appeared in every game during the last two seasons, he has played in just 52 games this year.

Highlights

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The Chicago Cubs played too late for me to pay attention in a rain-soaked suck-fest, losing 10-8 at home to the Detroit Tigers.

Starting pitcher Jason Hammel had a rough outing, allowing 5 runs on 9 hits and a walk in just 3 innings of work. He served up three long balls.

The Cubs trailed 6-2 early on but scratched their way back into a tie game, thanks in large part to rookie Kyle Schwarber‘s 3-run homer (9) in the 5th.

But reliever Pedro Strop imploded, allowing 3 runs in the 8th, and that was it for the Cubs who lost a game in the Wild Card race.

It was the first time the Cubs lost consecutive games since a 3-game skid from July 24th through 26th.

Highlights

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Division Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 76 43 L1
Pittsburgh Pirates 70 47 5.0 W1
Chicago Cubs 67 50 8.0 L2
Cincinnati Reds 51 66 24.0 L4
Milwaukee Brewers 51 70 26.0 L2

Wild Card Standings

W L GB
Pittsburgh Pirates 70 47 +3.0
Chicago Cubs 67 50
San Francisco Giants 65 54 3.0
Washington Nationals 59 59 8.5

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Schedule

49-70 Marlins Koehler (8-10, 3.68)
51-70 BREWERS Peralta (3-7, 4.07)
1:10 PM CT
58-60 Diamondbacks Ray (3-8, 3.29)
70-47 PIRATES Happ (4-7, 4.64)
6:05 PM CT
72-46 Royals Guthrie (8-7, 5.63)
51-66 REDS Sampson (2-1, 3.18)
6:10 PM CT
65-54 Giants Cain (2-3, 6.05)
76-43 CARDINALS Garcia (5-4, 1.57)
6:15 PM CT
57-61 Tigers Norris (2-2, 4.24)
67-50 CUBS Lester (8-8, 3.21)
7:05 PM CT

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NL Central Leaders

Home Runs
Todd Frazier (CIN) 29
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) 23
Ryan Braun (MIL) 21
Joey Votto (CIN) 21
2-way tie 19
Strikeouts
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 163
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 154
Francisco Liriano (PIT) 154
Jon Lester (CHC) 149
Carlos Martinez (STL) 144

Cards Come Back on Cubs

Jhonny Peralta took advantage of Pedro Strop's belt-high, down-the-middle fastball to give the Cardinals a big win last night.

Jhonny Peralta took advantage of Pedro Strop’s belt-high, down-the-middle fastball to give the Cardinals a big win last night.

For a minute there, it looked like the Chicago Cubs were going to pull within 6.5 games of the St. Louis Cardinals, a number that seemed unexpected about 10 days ago.

But Pedro Strop left a fastball right over the heart of the plate, belt high, and Jhonny Peralta did what Major League hitters tend to do when served up a meatball like that, lining it into the left field basket at Wrigley Field for a 2-run homer that gave the Redbirds a lead they wouldn’t surrender.

One swing of Peralta’s bat turned into a 2-game swing in the division standings.

The Cubs’ rotation took a hit when starting pitcher Jason Hammel left the game with a hamstring injury after pitching a perfect 1st inning. Hammel is among the league’s leaders in WHIP – see the division leader boards below. He received an MRI after the game. With the All-Star break coming up, the Cubs can always retroactively assign Hammel to the disabled list a week from now.

Continuing to trend downwards was Matt Carpenter, who went 0-for-4. In his last 16 games, Carp has hit .145 with a .266 OBP and .164 SLG. A .429 OPS is… not good.

Game Highlights (MLB.com)

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The Pittsburgh Pirates were winners again, this time up-ending the San Diego Padres 5-2 with a late comeback of their own.

The Bucs tailed 2-1 but tied it up after the 7th inning stretch, then put 3 on the board with two out in the bottom of the 8th.

After retiring the first two men, Padres starting pitcher Andrew Cashner walked pinch-hitter Travis Ishikawa who then scored on Gregory Polanco‘s long single off the wall, putting Pitt up 3-2.

Andrew McCutchen and Jung Ho Kang followed up with RBI singles to extend the lead.

In his last 16 games, “Cutch” has a .529 OBP – check him out climbing up the division leader boards below. In that stretch, he’s put up a slash line of .380/.529/.660 for a 1.189 OPS, including 8 doubles and a pair of homers.

That’s 10 wins in their last 12 games, including a current run of five straight victories for the Pirates, who now host the Cards in a four-game series that should be about as exciting as baseball gets heading into the All-Star Break. Can’t wait.

Pedro Alvarez made two more errors in the field while also going 0-for-2 at the plate. His 13 errors at first base are… insane. Nobody else in the National League has more than 5.

Game Highlights (MLB.com)

Josh Harrison started off the year awful, then really took off. But his season was sidetracked by Wednesday’s surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb. He’s expected to miss the next two months of the season. Harrison has a 94 OPS+ this season, hitting .279/.313/.383 with 9 SB.

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The Milwaukee Brewers continued to play better baseball as of late, particularly when playing against sub-.500 teams, beating the Atlanta Braves 6-5.

Atlanta took a 4-0 lead in the 2nd, only to watch Milwaukee chip away at it, finally taking the lead in the bottom of the 8th on Carlos Gomez‘s 8th home run of the season – a 3-run blast.

Gomez drove in 4 of the Brew Crew’s 6 runs.

Adam Lind went 0-for-2 with a pair of walks, boosting him into the division’s leader boards. And, hey, probably a good trade piece for Milwaukee before month’s end. In his last 18 games, the 31-year old has gotten on base at a .480 clip while posting a 1.218 OPS behind a .377 batting average with 6 homers and 4 doubles.

Game Highlights (MLB.com)

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The Cincinnati Reds were rained out.

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Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 55 30 W1
Pittsburgh Pirates 50 34 4.5 W5
Chicago Cubs 46 38 8.5 L1
Cincinnati Reds 38 44 15.5 W2
Milwaukee Brewers 37 50 19.0 W1

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Schedule

55-30 CARDINALS Martinez (9-3, 2.70)
50-34 PIRATES Locke (5-4, 4.15)
6:05 PM CT
38-44 REDS TBD
35-50 Marlins Fernandez (1-0, 4.50)
6:10 PM CT

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NL Central Leaders

On-Base Percentage
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .408
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) .398
Joey Votto (CIN) .390
Kris Bryant (CHC) .381
Adam Lind (MIL) .378
WHIP
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 0.87
Jason Hammel (CHC) 0.95
Francisco Liriano (PIT) 1.01
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 1.05
Michael Wacha (STL) 1.10