Tagged: Gregory Polanco

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

* * * * * * * * *

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

Martinez, Cards Take it to Bucs

It looked bad early, but Carlos Martinez rebounded to pitch 7.1 shutout innings in a Cardinals win.

It looked bad early, but Carlos Martinez rebounded to pitch 7.1 shutout innings in a Cardinals win.

Game 1 of the big four-game weekend series went the St. Louis Cardinals‘ way as they soundly defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates, 4-1.

Cards starting pitcher Carlos Martinez wriggled out of several early jams to throw 7.1 shutout innings.

Martinez was assisted by key double plays early in the game that got him and the Redbirds out of trouble.

In the bottom of the 1st, Pittsburgh put men at the corners to start the inning off, only to ground into a bizarre 5-4-2 double play that cut the runner down at the plate. Gregory Polanco, the man on 3rd, couldn’t decide whether to hold on the soft grounder to third base or go for home on contact, likely being thrown out but giving the batter and runner a chance to move up to 2nd and 3rd. Instead, he waffled, running towards home only after the throw went to 2nd base for the force out there and then getting pegged at the plate.

In the bottom of the 4th, with the game still scoreless, the Bucs had men at 2nd and 3rd with nobody out only to watch Martinez snare a line drive up the middle off the bat of Pedro Alvarez, then double Jung Ho Kang off of 3rd base.

That started a run of 12 straight batters retired by Martinez, who overcame some early control troubles to put in a great line.

St. Louis batted around in the top of the 5th, scoring a quartet of runs behind three singles, an error by shortstop Jordy Mercer, a walk, and a hit batter.

Andrew McCutchen homered in the 9th inning to break up the shutout and extend his hitting streak to 16 games.

The Pirates’ loss snapped a five-game winning streak.

Game Highlights (MLB.com)

Both the Cardinals’ Kolten Wong (concussion) and Matt Holliday (15-day DL, torn quadricep) could be back in action today – the former possibly getting the start and the latter as a pinch-hitter.

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The Cincinnati Reds were shut out on the road, falling to Jose Fernandez and the Miami Marlins, 2-0.

Marlon Byrd had a pair of hits in the loss.

Game Highlights (MLB.com)

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The Chicago Cubs are expected to release the results of an MRI on starting pitcher Jason Hammel‘s hamstring sometime today.

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Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 56 30 W2
Pittsburgh Pirates 50 35 5.5 L1
Chicago Cubs 46 38 9.0 L1
Cincinnati Reds 38 45 16.5 L1
Milwaukee Brewers 37 50 19.5 W1

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Schedule

39-44 White Sox Rodon (3-2, 4.18)
46-38 CUBS Hendricks (4-4, 3.82)
3:05 PM CT
56-30 CARDINALS Lynn (6-4, 2.52)
50-35 PIRATES Cole (12-3, 2.28)
6:05 PM CT
38-45 REDS Leake (5-5, 4.39)
36-50 Marlins Phelps (4-4, 4.03)
6:10 PM CT
37-50 BREWERS Nelson (6-8, 4.50)
49-38 Dodgers Bolsinger (4-3, 3.09)
9:10 PM CT

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NL Central Leaders

WAR (fielders)
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) 3.8
Todd Frazier (CIN) 3.7
Kris Bryant (CHC) 3.0
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) 3.0
Joey Votto (CIN) 3.0
WAR (pitchers)
A.J. Burnett (PIT) 3.5
Carlos Martinez (STL) 3.0
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 2.9
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 2.6
Trevor Rosenthal (STL) 2.4

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

* * * * * * * * *

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

 

Cubs Sweep Twin-Bill Against Cards

Jake Arrieta pitched strong in the opening game of a double-header sweep for the Chicago Cubs.

Jake Arrieta pitched strong in the opening game of a double-header sweep for the Chicago Cubs.

You disappear for a few days of vacation, come back, and everything looks a little different.

Not hugely different, maybe. Just different.

For example, before heading away for a little rest and relaxation, I fully expected to start focusing more on the National League Wild Card and less on the National League Central.

But things have taken a bit of a turn and the race seems back on. For the moment, anyhow.

We’ll put off bringing the Wild Card into the discussion for just a little bit longer, although your #2 and 3 teams in the division here have pretty decent leads in that race, particularly with the San Francisco Giants having recently lost a whole mess of games.

Let’s dive back in as we usually do here, getting into yesterday’s recaps.

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Coming into yesterday’s day-night double-header, the Chicago Cubs had lost 5 straight to the St. Louis Cardinals and were just 2-8 against them this season.

So it was a bit surprising to see them sweep the Cards, winning 7-4 behind Jake Arrieta‘s 9th win in the afternoon and then 5-3 with a little bit of luck in the night game.

The Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo went 2-for-3 with his 16th homer and a pair of walks in the opening game.

The Cards’ Tim Cooney went 5.1 innings, allowing one run on 3 hits and a walk in the second game, leaving with a 2-1 lead. But the Cubs rattled off 3 runs in the bottom of the 7th, en route to the win.

Game two was a wild one, with Dallas Beeler getting called up and starting for Chicago, going 5-plus strong innings. Beeler, a 41st round draft pick, was only ranked the Cubs’ #24 prospect by Baseball America following the 2013 season.

The big play came with Chicago down 2-1 in the bottom of the 7th with 2 men on and 1 out. Addison Russell faced Seth Maness, hitting a grounder down the 1st base line for a game-tying single. Pretty much everybody on the Cards thought the ball went foul. But the umps ruled it fair. Maness was tossed from the game and Mike Matheny came out to argue for a while.

It was a strange play, as Russell’s grounder hit foul just in front of the plate, then appeared to cross just fair (maybe?) as it came over the first base bag, then veered back foul afterwards. Whole lot of English on that ball…

On the next play, Dexter Fowler hit a grounder back to new pitcher Kevin Siegrist, who turned to try to start an inning-ending 1-6-3 double play, instead throwing it into center field for an error that allowed Chicago to take a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Jason Motte started the 9th with a 3-run lead, putting the first two Cardinals batters on base, eventually allowing a run and putting the tying run on base before retiring Matt Carpenter on a foul pop out to third and Jhonny Peralta on a 6-4 fielder’s choice.

The Cubs have won 7 of their last 9 games.

Game Highlights (MLB.com) – Game 1

Game Highlights (MLB.com) – Game 2

In other Cardinals’ news, left fielder Matt Holliday is hoping to be brought back from the DL for this weekend’s series against the Pirates. Meanwhile, Kolten Wong left the opening game after taking a tumble chasing after a wind-blown pop up, forcing him from the game with signs of a concussion.

* * * * * * * * *

The Pittsburgh Pirates beat the San Diego Padres, 3-2, led by Gregory Polanco‘s tie-breaking RBI triple in the bottom of the 8th inning.

Mark Melancon pitched a scoreless 9th for his 28th save. That’s now 26 straight appearances going back to May 15th without a run allowed. 25.2 innings of work, 16 hits, 4 walks, 20 strikeouts, 1 win, 20 saves.

Francisco Liriano went 6 innings, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits and a walk, striking out 6.

The Bucs have won 7 of their last 8 and 9 of their last 11. On June 28th, they were 9 games back. Now? Half that.

Game Highlights (MLB.com)

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Johnny Cueto continues to look like potential game-changing bait for the upcoming trade deadline, leading the Cincinnati Reds to a 5-0 win over the Washington Nationals while out-dueling Max Scherzer.

Cueto went the distance, striking out 11 while allowing just 2 hits and a walk in a 122-pitch shutout. He’s 6-5 with a 2.61 ERA this season.

His Game Score of 93 tied a career best and the elbow looked just fine, hitting 95 mph routinely with his fastball. Cueto has allowed 1 run in 17 innings of work across his last two starts.

Joey Votto went 3-for-5 with his 15th homer and a double, driving in 3 runs.

Game Highlights (MLB.com)

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The Milwaukee Brewers lost 4-3 at home to the Atlanta Braves.

Khris Davis was brought back from the 15-day DL after having surgery to remove cartilage from his right knee. Davis, who was hitting .250 with 5 HR and 16 RBI in 46 games, took over in left field for Gerardo Parra, who is hitting .309 with 8 HR. Parra also had a stretch of six straight games with multiple hits. Make of that what you will.

Aramis Ramirez went 0-for-4 with a strikeout, also grounding into a double play as his batting average fell to .237 in his farewell season.

Game Highlights (MLB.com)

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Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 54 30 L2
Pittsburgh Pirates 49 34 4.5 W4
Chicago Cubs 46 37 7.5 W2
Cincinnati Reds 38 44 15.0 W2
Milwaukee Brewers 36 50 19.0 L2

* * * * * * * * *

Schedule

42-42 Braves Teheran (6-4, 4.60)
36-50 BREWERS Fiers (4-7, 3.83)
1:10 PM CT
38-44 REDS Lorenzen (3-3, 3.58)
46-38 Nationals Gonzalez (6-4, 4.16)
6:05 PM CT
39-47 Padres Cashner (3-9, 4.06)
49-34 PIRATES Morton (6-2, 4.30)
6:05 PM CT
54-30 CARDINALS Wacha (10-3, 2.66)
46-37 CUBS Hammel (5-4, 2.89)
7:05 PM CT

* * * * * * * * *

NL Central Leaders

Home Runs
Todd Frazier (CIN) 25
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) 16
Ryan Braun (MIL) 15
Adam Lind (MIL) 15
Joey Votto (CIN) 15
Strikeouts
Francisco Liriano (PIT) 119
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 114
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 113
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 111
Carlos Martinez (STL) 105

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