Tagged: Brandon Phillips

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!

* * * * * * * * *

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

* * * * * * * * *

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

* * * * * * * * *

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

* * * * * * * * *

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.

* * * * * * * * *

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.

* * * * * * * * *

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

* * * * * * * * *

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

* * * * * * * * *

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

Garcia Latest Cardinal Bit By Injury Bug?

Jaime Garcia was solid again

Jaime Garcia was solid again

The St. Louis Cardinals were 6-1 winners over the Miami Marlins.

Another nice start for Jaime Garcia, who went 7 innings, allowing 1 run on 5 hits and no walks. He’s 3-3 with a 1.69 ERA now.

Not all good news for Jaime, however, as he left the game with a cramp near his left groin while rounding 3rd base.

Kolten Wong went 2-for-4 with a 2-run homer in the 3rd inning, put the Cards up 2-1.

Jason Heyward homered for the 3rd straight game.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

Cardinals Notes: Lance Lynn returns to the rotation tonight, having missed his last two starts with a forearm strain…

* * *

The Cincinnati Reds put 4 runs up on Gerrit Cole in the 1st inning en route to a surprising 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

J.J. Hoover got the save for the Reds with Aroldis Chapman out on paternity leave. Hoover threw a spotless 9th, ending with a pair of strikeouts. Chapman is available for tonight’s game.

Cole went 4.2 innings, allowing 5 runs on 8 hits and 3 walks, falling to 11-3 with a 2.16 ERA this season.

Marlon Byrd went 2-for-4 with his 12th homer of the year, driving in 3 runs.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

Reds Notes: Raul Iglesias did some bullpen work as he starts the road to returning to the Reds’ rotation, tossing 30-plus pitches in the bullpen as he recovers from an oblique injury. Iglesias is due back before the All-Star break… Brandon Phillips sat out last night with a jammed thumb…

* * *

The Chicago Cubs‘ winning streak was ended with a 5-2 loss at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Another rough start for Kyle Hendricks, who has allowed 10 earned runs in 10 innings across his last two starts.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

Cubs Notes: Still no word from the Cubs on whether or not Tsuyoshi Wada will be available to make his scheduled start on Saturday. Seems they’d rather not go to Edwin Jackson or Travis Wood, each of whom has fared well since being put in the bullpen. The top 3 of the Cubs’ rotation has been solid. After that, things are fragile…

* * *

The Milwaukee Brewers were 4-1 winners over the New York Mets.

Jimmy Nelson improved to 4-8, going 8 innings and allowing 1 run on 2 hits and a walk.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 47 24 W2
Pittsburgh Pirates 40 31 7.0 L1
Chicago Cubs 39 31 7.5 L1
Cincinnati Reds 33 37 13.5 W1
Milwaukee Brewers 27 46 21.0 W2

* * *

Schedule

36-37 Mets deGrom (7-5, 2.34)
27-46 BREWERS Jungmann (2-1, 3.50)
1:10 PM CT
39-34 Dodgers Frias (4-5, 4.68)
39-31 CUBS Lester (4-5, 3.80)
1:20 PM CT
33-37 REDS DeSclafani (5-5, 3.48)
40-31 PIRATES Burnett (6-3, 2.05)
6:05 PM CT
47-24 CARDINALS Lynn (4-4, 3.07)
30-43 Marlins Haren (6-4, 3.19)
6:10 PM CT

* * *

NL Central Leaders

On-Base Percentage
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .417
Joey Votto (CIN) .405
Matt Carpenter (STL) .387
Kris Bryant (CHC) .384
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) .376
WHIP
Jason Hammel (CHC) 0.938
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 0.949
Francisco Liriano (PIT) 0.985
Michael Wacha (STL) 1.087
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 1.088

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

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

Where Do The Brewers Go From Here?

The Cubs won their 4th straight Tuesday night

The Cubs won their 4th straight Tuesday night

Been thinking about the train wreck that is the Milwaukee Brewers and how hopeless the future seems to be.

They lost again last night, falling to 4-17 on the season and are 10 games back (again) of the St. Louis Cardinals.

A friend of mine from New York was on a trip to Milwaukee for a pair of ballgames last weekend and recently quipped on Facebook “I have seen 25% of all Brewers wins this year.”

What’s truly disheartening is how they don’t have the ability to go anywhere and didn’t seem to have planned for it.

They came into the season by most pre-season picks as maybe the 3rd best team in the division (at best) but were picked by most as 4th or last. The number 2% came up quite a bit as their chance of making the playoffs.

But they don’t have pieces to move, so far as I can see. There’s no veteran talent that you could deal off in return for prospects. They seem to be built with this belief that they had everything they needed to win now.

I listen to Milwaukee sports radio some times and the things I heard during the off-season were borderline delusional.

As for their more immediate future, here are some rankings of the NL Central’s Minor League Organization Talent Ratings per Baseball America (BA) and Baseball Prospectus (BP).

BA BP
Chicago Cubs 1 1
Pittsburgh Pirates 7 8
St. Louis Cardinals 16 13
Cincinnati Reds 17 15
Milwaukee Brewers 19 26

You’d be hard pressed to find anybody who doesn’t think that the Cubs and Pirates are the future of the division. The Brewers are already well behind at the Major League level and don’t have anything coming down the pipeline. The time to rebuild is now, but how? What’s on that team that you can get value in return for?

* * *

The Chicago Cubs won their 4th straight, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates soundly at home, 6-2.

Travis Wood (W 2-1) went 7 innings, striking out 9 while allowing 2 runs on 5 hits and no walks.

I was surprised to notice yesterday afternoon how many stolen bases the Cubs had in 2015, and last night they added five more and now lead the National League with 25 in total. They’ve been successful on 81% of their attempts, which is well above what most Sabermetric analysts will say is an acceptable rate.

Last night they had a pair of successful double steals, while Dexter Fowler and Anthony Rizzo (!) each swiped their 6th of the year. On the bad side, they were caught stealing twice and picked off once. There was also plenty of taking extra bases on hits last night, so this is definitely an aggressive team.

Top play by Kris Bryant wasn’t even at bat (though he did have an RBI single). With the Bucs staging a rally and Corey Hart on 2nd, Starling Marte roped a single into left field. Junior Lake (with his first start of the year after a recent call-up) fielded the ball cleanly. Hart rounded 3rd and the 3rd base coach put up his hands to signal for Hart to hold. Hart had rounded too far, but not too far. Bryant took the cut off throw from Lake and immediately went on an all-out sprint towards Hart to try to tag him. Hart fairly casually jogged towards 3rd – he was only about 10 feet away and Bryant about 20 feet away. While the ump called Hart safe getting back to 3rd, the play was reviewed by Cubs manager Joe Maddon and video replay confirmed that Bryant tagged him just a beat before Hart’s left foot tapped the bag. Heads-up play by the rookie who, while he occasionally lets one go over the head of Rizzo at first, is still playing really smart baseball. It’s only two weeks, but he’s been the real deal.

Josh Harrison had a rough night for Pitt, going 0-for-3 with a strikeout and error.

The Pirates get a good chance to avoid the sweep tonight with Gerrit Cole (3-0, 2.19) taken to the mound.

* * *

The Cardinals rebounded to torch the Philadelphia Phillies, 11-5, roughing up Severino Gonzalez in his first career start.

Michael Wacha improved to 4-0 with less than dominant stuff, going 5.2 IP and allowing 4 runs on 6 hits and a pair of walks, striking out 4.

Randy Choate, Mitch Harris, and Carlos Villaneuva combined for 3.1 innings out of the pen, allowing 1 unearned run.

It was all Matts, as Holliday (.383) and Adams (.267) had 3 hits each and Carpenter (.380) had a pair, including his 12th double of the season.

Mike Matheny shook things up with the lineup, with Carp hitting out of #2 spot in the lineup while Jason Heyward (.213) moved down to 6th. Jon Jay batted 1st. It was the first time this year that any of those 3 batted in that spot in the order. Given the results, let’s see if the Cards stick with that.

* * *

As mentioned previously, the Brewers were 4-2 losers to the Cincinnati Reds.

All 6 runs scored on homers. The Brew Crew got solo shots from Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez – it was the 2nd of the year for each. The Redlegs got a solo homer from Joey Votto (7th) in the 1st, then back-to-back homers with 2 outs in the 4th that put them ahead 4-0. The first was a 2-run tater for Brandon Phillips (1st) followed by a solo homer for Marlon Byrd (2nd). All 3 homers were surrendered by Kyle Lohse, whose ERA is 7.28 this year.

Johnny Cueto (W 2-2) went 8 innings with 6 strikeouts, allowing just 3 hits and no walks. Reds manager Bryan Price did the right thing coming off of Cueto’s last start, when he racked up 124 pitches. This time, at just 85 pitches but cruising along and holding a 2-run lead, Price moved to shutdown closer Aroldis Chapman to save both the game and Cueto’s arm.

Chapman struck out 2 in the 9th for his 5th save.

The game was completed in 2 hours and 11 minutes.

With Homer Bailey out for the year with an arm injury, the Reds called up Mike Lorenzen from AAA to join the rotation. He’ll get the start this afternoon with Mike Leake’s turn getting pushed back a day. Lorenzen, a 23-year old righthander who was a 1st round draft pick, had gone 2-1 with a 2.84 ERA at AAA Louisville this year.

Fangraphs’ scouting report gives Lorenzen some pretty high marks on his 99 mph fastball (a 60 with a 65 potential) and low-80s slider (50/60). Check out their scouting report on Lorenzen here. And here’s a scouting report from MLB Pipeline last fall.

The thought of putting Tony Cingrani back into the rotation with Bailey’s injury was shut down. After a month working out of the pen, he’d have to get stretched back out to work longer.

The Reds are .500 again, but are just 5-9 against teams not named the Brewers.

* * *

Schedule

4-17 MILWAUKEE Garza, M (1-3, 5.16)
10-10 CINCINNATI Lorenzen (NR)
11:35 AM CT
11-10 PITTSBURGH Cole (3-0, 2.19)
12-7 CHICAGO Hendricks (0-0, 5.74)
7:05 PM CT
8-13 Philadelphia Harang (2-1, 1.37)
13-6 ST. LOUIS Martinez, C (2-0, 1.35)
7:15 PM CT

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 13 6 W1
Chicago Cubs 12 7 1.0 W4
Pittsburgh Pirates 11 10 3.0 L2
Cincinnati Reds 10 10 3.5 W2
Milwaukee Brewers 4 17 10.0 L2

Brewers Win; Closers Do Their Job

Pittsburgh Pirates' starting pitcher Jeff Locke

Pittsburgh Pirates’ starting pitcher Jeff Locke

All the closers were represented yesterday and all of them got their jobs done, with the Pittsburgh PiratesMark Melancon, Milwaukee BrewersFrancisco Rodriguez and St. Louis CardinalsTrevor Rosenthal all closing out their teams wins for saves.

* * *

Melancon (Sv 3), Radhames Liz, and Arquimedes Caminero combined for 4 shutout innings of relief work, allowing just 1 hit and striking out 5 as the Pirates up-ended the Chicago Cubs, 5-4, handing them their first back-to-back losses of the season.

Pushed into the #3 spot because of a day off being granted to Andrew McCutchen and an injury to Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco had 3 hits (.300) with a double and stolen base.

For the Cubs, Brian Schlitter (L 0-2, 9.53 ERA) continued to struggle, allowing a run in an inning of work.

Marte is day-to-day after being hit on the wrist Wednesday night, but did pinch-run and play center field in yesterday’s game. X-rays on the wrist were negative.

Kris Bryant got his first career start in center field with Dexter Fowler going through some groin issues. Fowler is hopeful to play Friday night. For you Strat-O-Matic fans, that’s Bryant’s 2nd appearance in center, so he’ll probably be rated there on his 2015 card now – congratulations!

The Bucs’ win put them back at .500 again. They’ll have Gerrit Cole on the mound tonight against the D-Backs in an attempt to finally move about the even mark.

The Cubs try to get their first win out of Jon Lester this evening in Cincinnati.

* * *

The Brewers ended their 8-game losing streak with a 4-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds. They finally got some homers, with Adam Lind (3 hits, .309) hitting his 2nd and Aramis Ramirez his 1st in his farewell season. (Maybe?)

Kyle Lohse (W 1-3) finally had a good start, going seven innings and allowing a pair of runs on just three hits and a walk to go along with four strikeouts.

K-Rod pitched a scoreless 9th, redeeming himself after a rough game Wednesday night, notching his 350th career save.

For the Reds, Kevin Gregg had a “nice” outing, dropping his ERA to 10.29 by allowing only one earned run in 1.1 innings of work. Yikes.

* * *

The Cardinals stayed hot, beating the Washington Nationals on the road, 4-1.

Michael Wacha (W 3-0) went 7 innings, allowing 1 run on 5 hits and a pair of walks, striking out 6.

Rosenthal picked up save #6, working a perfect 9th and striking out one.

Matt Carpenter went 2-for-4 to up his average to .386 and also collected his 8th double of the year. I know pitching is back in fashion these days, but I’m starting to wonder if he can’t make a run at .400 this year. It’s early, I know, but he’s sick.

* * *

Bernie Miklasz at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch had a nice column on why won-loss records for pitchers are kind of ridiculous, using Lance Lynn as an example. It’s worth a read.

* * *

Some good stuff by Anthony Witrado at Bleacher Report on Joey Votto with a little focus on Brandon Phillips‘ complete misunderstanding that getting on-base actually correlates with winning games; they’re not at odds. Read it here.

* * *

Schedule

8-7 CHICAGO Lester (0-2, 6.89)
8-8 CINCINNATI Leake (0-1, 3.92)
6:10 PM CT
10-4 ST. LOUIS Martinez, C (1-0, 2.08)
3-13 MILWAUKEE Garza, M (1-2, 5.40)
7:10 PM CT
8-8 PITTSBURGH Cole (2-0, 2.65)
8-7 Arizona Collmenter (1-2, 3.38)
8:40 PM CT

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 10 4 W2
Chicago Cubs 8 7 2.5 L2
Cincinnati Reds 8 8 3.0 L1
Pittsburgh Pirates 8 8 3.0 W2
Milwaukee Brewers 3 13 8.0 W1