Tagged: Jason Heyward

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
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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

* * * * * * * * *

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

* * * * * * * * *

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

* * * * * * * * *

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

* * * * * * * * *

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

* * * * * * * * *

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 Lose Grichuk, Win Game

Brandons : Crawford of the Giants makes a bad decision as Moss slides into second

Brandons : Crawford of the Giants makes a bad decision as Moss slides into second

As first reported yesterday, the St. Louis Cardinals did end up placing rookie center fielder Randal Grichuk on the 15-day disabled list.

Grichuk, leading the team with a 141 OPS+ while batting .284 with 43 extra-base hits in 85 games, was diagnosed with a “low-grade sprained ligament in the (throwing) elbow” as well as a “low-grade muscle strain”.

Jason Heyward was moved from right to center field with Brandon Moss and Stephen Piscotty getting the starts at the corner outfield positions last evening.

But Heyward, too, was injured, leaving the game with a hamstring injury in the 3rd inning.

If he’s out for considerable time, that could mean Peter Bourjos and Tommy Pham splitting time in center.

It’s a patchwork situation for now, though Grichuk, LF Matt Holliday, 1B Matt Adams and OF Jon Jay are all possibilities to return from the DL by mid-September.

So don’t panic yet, Cardinals fans.

Oh, also, you just gained a game on the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Baseball Prospectus has the Red Birds at 99.7% locks to make the playoffs with an 80.4% chance to win the Central. Those are good odds.

* * * * * * * * *

Piscotty tripled and scored in the 8th inning last night, breaking a tie to give the Cardinals a 2-1 win over the San Francisco Giants.

With one out and Piscotty on 3rd base, the Giants elected to give Moss a free pass, setting up the inning-ending double play.

They appeared to have gotten just that when the slow-footed Mark Reynolds hit a grounder to shortstop Brandon Crawford.

Though the second baseman was there waiting for the flip to start a 6-4-3 DP, Crawford instead motioned as though he would flip the ball, pulled his arm back, ran to second for the force, pirouetted around to throw to first, and had his throw go wide of first and allowing Piscotty to score.

Trevor Rosenthal notched his 37th save of the year, ending the game by retiring pinch-hitter Buster Posey on a long fly out to Bourjos at the wall in right-center.

Michael Wacha took the ND, but went 7 innings and allowed just 1 run on 6 hits and a walk, striking out 6.

Heyward, by the way, is hitting .333 in his last 29 games.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

The Pirates were 4-1 losers at home to the Arizona Diamondbacks as Gerrit Cole continued to struggle in the second half, ending Pittsburgh’s 4-game winning streak.

Cole went 6.2 innings, allowing 4 runs on 9 hits and a walk, striking out 5. He fell to 14-7 with the loss.

He has yet to post a Game Score above 54 in his 4 August starts, posting a 4.70 ERA while allowing 27 hits in 23 innings.

Cole threw 160.1 innings last season between AAA and the Majors. He’s at 155.1 this season and keeps appearing as though he could really use a breather.

With the Bucs in the midst of a playoff race and with A.J. Burnett currently unavailable, it’s hard to see how they can squeeze that in, but Cole certainly seems off right now.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

Jake Arrieta of the Chicago Cubs has pitched 11 straight games with a Game Score north of 50, going at least 6 innings in each start.

Your division leader in ERA has posted a 9-2, 1.35 mark across that time span, allowing just 46 hits in 80 innings of work.

* * * * * * * * *

Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds has a modest 6-game hitting streak and is batting .403 across his last 24 games.

* * * * * * * * *

Division Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 76 42 W1
Pittsburgh Pirates 69 47 6.0 L1
Chicago Cubs 67 49 8.0 L1
Cincinnati Reds 51 65 24.0 L3
Milwaukee Brewers 51 69 26.0 L1

Wild Card Standings

W L GB
Pittsburgh Pirates 69 47 +2.0
Chicago Cubs 67 49
San Francisco Giants 64 54 4.0

* * * * * * * * *

Schedule

58-59 Diamondbacks Anderson (5-5, 4.31)
69-47 PIRATES Liriano (8-6, 3.19)
6:05 PM CT
71-46 Royals Volquez (11-7, 3.27)
51-65 REDS Iglesias (3-4, 4.70)
6:10 PM CT
56-61 Tigers Sanchez (10-10, 4.95)
67-49 CUBS Hammel (6-5, 3.10)
7:05 PM CT
48-70 Marlins Conley (1-0, 5.00)
51-69 BREWERS Cravy (0-4, 5.92)
7:10 PM CT
64-54 Giants Vogelsong (8-8, 4.15)
76-42 CARDINALS Lynn (9-7, 2.95)
7:15 PM CT

* * * * * * * * *

NL Central Leaders

AVG
Joey Votto (CIN) .310
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .296
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) .292
Jason Heyward (STL) .287
Brandon Phillips (CIN) .285
ERA
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 2.39
Carlos Martinez (STL) 2.59
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 2.61
Michael Wacha (STL) 2.85
John Lackey (STL) 2.87

Cards Lose; Everybody Else Wins?

It was Randal Grichuk day at the Post-Dispatch last night.

It was Randal Grichuk day at the Post-Dispatch last night.

If only one team were to lose in the division last night, you wouldn’t have guessed it would be the team with the best record in baseball playing against one of the worst teams.

Indeed, it was the St. Louis Cardinals who were 7-1 losers at home against the Chicago White Sox last night after another rain-soaked evening.

It was a close, 2-1 ballgame until the 9th when the ChiSox went off on the Cardinals bullpen.

Seth Maness faced three batters, all of whom picked up hits and scored. Randy Choate faced two batters and hit both of them – they scored as well.

Matt Carpenter went 0-for-4 with an error as hit batting average slipped to .275. That call I put out early in the season for him to break the all-time record for most doubles in a season? It’s on hold. In his last 9 games – dating back to June 20th – Carpenter is hitting .100/.250/.133 for a .383 OPS across 36 plate appearances.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

Tyler Cooney (0-0, 11.57) gets the start tonight for Saint Louie, subbing for Jaime Garcia‘s groin. Garcia won’t go on the DL and is expected to start on Tuesday.

Bernie Miklasz got all stat-happy on Randal Grichuk at the Post-Dispatch yesterday. Go check it out.

It wasn’t stat-focused, but Dan O’Neill was also all over Grichuk last night. Check his work out here.

With Grichuk’s improvement and Jason Heyward‘s awakening, Jon Jay (.223) is going to find himself on the bench when Matt Holliday is healthy and back in the lineup.

* * * *

The Pittsburgh Pirates were 9-3 winners over the Detroit Tigers, led by a 5-run 3rd inning.

He hadn’t homered in four weeks, but you wouldn’t have known it when Neil Walker went 4-for-6 with a pair of homers (6) and 3 RBI. Oh, and in case you him on your fantasy baseball team, he also swiped a base for you. Nice job!

Starling Marte also had a four-hit game, including a homer (13) and double.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * * *

For a second straight night, neither the Chicago Cubs nor the New York Mets appeared interested in scoring any runs.

Ultimately the Cubs prevailed, pulling out a 2-0 win in 11 innings.

The Cubs are 6-0 against the Mets this year. Five of those six games have been one-run victories.

Jon Lester went 7 shutout innings, allowing 5 hits and a walk while striking out 7.

Sure, it was because of the circumstances of an extra-inning game, but Justin Grimm became the 5th Cubs pitcher to record a save in 2015. Joe Maddon has said he has no defined closer and is instead going “by committee”. Sabermetric fans around the world are rejoicing.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

Injured right fielder Jorge Soler is expected back to the major league clubhouse this weekend.

* * * *

Johnny Cueto led the Cincinnati Reds to a 2-1 win over the Minnesota Twins.

Hard to not always wonder if every start he makes will be his last with the team, but nothing official yet.

Cueto went 8 innings, allowing 1 run on 4 hits and a walk, striking out 8. He improved to 5-5 on the season.

Concerns over the elbow that caused him to miss a few starts? Since coming back, he’s 2-1 with a 2.52 in 6 GS.

Would be really interesting to watch him pitch for a contending team.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * * *

It must be nice playing the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Milwaukee Brewers won for the 7th time in their last 9 games, putting 17 hits on the board in a 9-5 win over Philly.

Scooter Gennett was 3-for-5 with a triple and a pair of doubles, driving in 3 runs.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 51 26 L2
Pittsburgh Pirates 44 33 7.0 W2
Chicago Cubs 41 35 9.5 W2
Cincinnati Reds 36 41 15.0 W1
Milwaukee Brewers 32 48 20.5 W4

* * *

Schedule

44-33 PIRATES Liriano (4-6, 3.21)
39-38 Tigers Ryan (1-1, 4.56)
12:08 PM CT
41-35 CUBS Arrieta (7-5, 2.94)
40-39 Mets deGrom (8-5, 2.15)
12:10 PM CT
32-48 BREWERS Garza (4-10, 5.52)
27-53 Phillies Billingsley (0-2, 6.75)
5:35 PM CT
37-44 Padres Ross (5-7, 3.57)
51-26 CARDINALS Cooney (0-0, 11.57)
6:15 PM CT

* * *

NL Central Leaders

On-Base Percentage
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .405
Joey Votto (CIN) .396
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) .386
Kris Bryant (CHC) .378
Matt Carpenter (STL) .373
WHIP
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 0.92
Jason Hammel (CHC) 0.97
Francisco Liriano (PIT) 1.01
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 1.06
Michael Wacha (STL) 1.10

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

One Big Inning All Pirates Need

Francisco Cervelli has given Pirates fans cause to forget Russell Martin.

Francisco Cervelli has given Pirates fans cause to forget Russell Martin.

Did you know that if you ranked all 15 National League teams by winning percentage, the NL Central has the top 3 teams?

And if you did the same for all 30 Major League teams, the NL Central has 3 of the top 5?

* * *

The Pittsburgh Pirates were 7-6 winners over the visiting Cincinnati Reds, scoring all their runs in the 4th inning.

The Bucs sent 10 men to the plate in the inning, highlighted by Francisco Cervelli‘s 3-run homer that tied the game at 4-4 and Andew McCutchen‘s 2-run tater that put Pittsburgh ahead by 3 runs.

Tony Watson struck out the side in the 8th and Mark Melancon did the same in the 9th to pick up his 24th save. That’s 19 straight appearances now, spanning 19.1 innings, without allowing a run. MM has 16 saves in that stretch.

Starling Marte made a pair of highlight reel plays in left field, helping the Pirates snap a 3-game losing streak, having been swept by the Washington Nationals over the weekend.

Neil Walker made his first start in 5 days, having sat out with hip pain.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * *

The Chicago Cubs continued to hold their own against division leaders, this time beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 1-0 in 10 innings on Chris Denorfia‘s walk-off sacrifice fly to deep center field.

The Cubs loaded the bases to start the bottom of the 10th. Addison Russell inside-outed a grounder to Adrian Gonzalez at first base which was nearly muffed, but then recovered for a 3-2 fielder’s choice. Denorfia then followed up by connecting on a 1-1 cutter into center field that carried deep enough for the speedy Matt Szczur to score easily.

No win, but Jason Hammel was solid, throwing 7.2 shutout innings and allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out 6.

The win was Chicago’s 4th straight.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * *

Another day, another win for the St. Louis Cardinals, who scored 4 unanswered runs in the middle innings to win 4-3 visiting the Miami Marlins.

Jason Heyward put the birds on the board first, picking up his 8th homer of the year in the 4th inning. He’s homered in 3 of his last 5 games now and is hitting .500/.520/.958 in his past 6 games. Heyward was looking like a bust of a signing, batting just .211/.268/.333 through May 3rd. Since then? 42 games in which he’s hit .320/.350/.503 with 15 extra base hits.

A 2-RBI double into the left field corner by Xavier Scruggs tied the game up.

Mark Reynolds‘ base hit off of pitcher Sam Dyson with two out and the bases loaded in the 7th broke the 3-3 tie.

Trevor Rosenthal came on to pitch the 9th, ending the game by getting Dee Gordon to ground into a 4-3 double play.

Jhonny Peralta had a rough night, going 0-for-5, striking out 3 times and grounding into double plays in his other two plate appearances.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

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The Milwaukee Brewers defeated the New York Mets, 3-2, aided by an error in left field by Michael Cuddyer who allowed a carom off the wall to get past him and allow the go-ahead run to score in the 7th.

Mike Fiers went 6 innings, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits and a pair of walks with 7 strikeouts.

Carlos Gomez started in center field for the first time in 9 days, going 1-for-2 with a walk.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

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Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 45 24 L1
Pittsburgh Pirates 39 30 6.0 L3
Chicago Cubs 38 30 6.5 W3
Cincinnati Reds 32 36 12.5 W1
Milwaukee Brewers 25 46 21.0 L2

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Schedule

32-37 REDS Leake (4-4, 4.01)
40-30 PIRATES Cole (11-2, 1.78)
6:05 PM CT
46-24 CARDINALS Garcia (2-3, 1.76)
30-42 Marlins Latos (2-4, 5.37)
6:10 PM CT
39-33 Dodgers Bolsinger (4-2, 2.87)
39-30 CUBS Hendricks (2-3, 4.28)
7:05 PM CT
36-36 Mets Colon (9-5, 4.81)
26-46 BREWERS Nelson (3-8, 4.64)
7:10 PM CT

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NL Central Leaders

Home Runs
Todd Frazier (CIN) 23
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) 15
Ryan Braun (MIL) 14
Joey Votto (CIN) 14
2-way tie 12
Strikeouts
Francisco Liriano (PIT) 105
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 97
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 96
Carlos Martinez (STL) 94
Jason Hammel (CHC) 92

Pirates Run Win Streak To 8

Mark Melancon has been lights out.

Mark Melancon has been lights out.

Sure, it’s only beating up on the Chicago White Sox – a team that has struggled mightily in 2015 and has now lost seven straight games – but the Pittsburgh Pirates will still take it.

The Bucs’ winning streak was extended to 8 games after a 3-2 win last night, led once again by ace Gerrit Cole.

Cole improved to 11-2 on the year with a 1.78 ERA, allowing 2 runs in 7 innings of work on 3 hits and 3 walks.

Five Pirates had multi-hit games, including a 3-for-3 night by Corey Hart at DH.

Another spotless inning for closer Mark Melancon, who picked up his 23rd save, striking out a pair in the 9th. He has not allowed a run since May 11th, posting a 0.00 ERA in his last 18 appearances (18.1 IP); if you bump that back to games from April 23rd onwards, his ERA is 0.33 across his last 27 games (27.1 IP).

Game Highlights from MLB.com

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The St. Louis Cardinals offense continued to stall as they dropped their second in a row, losing 2-1 against the Minnesota Twins.

All three runs in the game came on solo homers, with Jason Heyward (6th) putting the Cards up 1-0 in the top of the 7th, only to have Joe Mauer tie it up in the bottom of the 8th and Kennys Vargas win it in the 9th.

The homers were allowed by Kevin Siegrist and Carlos Villanueva, respectively.

The Cards have gone 12 straight games scoring 4 or fewer runs. Of course, they’ve also gone 7 straight games allowing 3 or fewer.

Jaime Garcia went 6 shutout innings as he continues to pitch lights out since getting called up to the rotation. He’s sporting a 1.76 ERA in 6 starts thus far, though has just a 2-3 record to show for it. In fact, the St. Louis offense has been shut out in three of Garcia’s six starts. Consider his numbers on a high-powered team – he’d likely be more like 5-0 right now.

Mark Reynolds has some pop in his bat, but his obscene strike out rates really hurt the Cardinals in Thursday night’s contest. In the top of the 9th of a tie game with Matt Carpenter on 3rd base and one out, Reynolds struck out flailing at a pitch well off the plate.  Yadier Molina then flew out routinely to right field to end the inning.

Carpenter had a pair of doubles and is 5-for-11 during a 3-game hitting streak.

The second straight loss for the Redbirds coupled with the Bucs’ winning streak means their lead in the NL Central is down to 4 games heading into Friday.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

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The Chicago Cubs were 4-3 losers against the Cleveland Indians in a game with multiple rain delays.

Hammel lasted just 4 innings, having run his pitch count up to 86 already. He allowed 3 runs (2 earned) on 2 hits and a pair of walks, striking out 6.  An hour-long rain delay in the top of the 5th led to a shortened night of work.

Kyle Schwarber had another great night at the plate, showing some hustle on the bases that is unexpected for a guy who looks like a tank. He also popped an opposite-field homer; the first of his MLB career.

Without a position he can really play regularly with any aptitude at the Major League level, he’s still getting sent down after inter-league play is over. But he’s definitely shown he can mash with the big boys. He has a nice short swing and the ball comes off his bat like it’s shot out of a cannon. He’ll head to AAA after this weekend.

The Cubs loaded the bases with two outs after the Schwarber homer, and then the rain fell.  When the game resumed, Cody Allen came on to pitch and got Miguel Montero to fly out to left, erasing the threat.

Kris Bryant extended his hitting streak to 14 games.  He’s batting .351 with 5 doubles during this stretch of games.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

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The Cincinnati Reds game against the visiting Detroit Tigers was called on account of rain sweeping across Ohio.

Recently injured starting pitcher Jon Moscot is undergoing surgery to repair his dislocated left (non-throwing) shoulder. Having gone 1-1 with a 4.63 ERA across three starts, Moscot should be out the rest of the season and good to go for 2016.

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The Milwaukee Brewers lost their 6th straight (ho hum), defeated 3-2 to the Kansas City Royals.

K.C. took an early 3-0 lead on starting pitcher Jimmy Nelson (L 3-8, 5 IP, 3 ER, 11 H, 2 BB, 0 SO), then allowed Milwaukee to creep back into the game, only to come up short.

Down by one, Milwaukee loaded the bases in the top of the 8th inning, only to have Aramis Ramirez pop out and Scooter Gennett strike out looking at a Wade Davis curveball in the middle of the plate.

Carlos Gomez (hip) was out of the lineup again. He’s played in only 3 of the Brew Crew’s last 9 games.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

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Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 43 23 L2
Pittsburgh Pirates 39 27 4.0 W8
Chicago Cubs 35 29 7.0 L1
Cincinnati Reds 30 35 12.5 W2
Milwaukee Brewers 24 44 20.0 L6

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Schedule

39-27 PIRATES Burnett (6-2, 1.89)
34-33 Nationals Ross (1-1, 3.46)
6:05 PM CT
43-23 CARDINALS Lyons (1-0, 5.00)
23-45 Phillies Aumont (NR)
6:05 PM CT
29-39 Marlins Haren (6-3, 3.22)
30-35 REDS Leake (3-4, 4.35)
6:10 PM CT
35-29 CUBS Hendricks (2-2, 3.80)
36-30 Twins Hughes (4-6, 4.79)
7:10 PM CT
24-44 BREWERS Jungmann (1-1, 2.25)
28-38 Rockies De La Rosa (4-2, 4.91)
7:40 PM CT

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NL Central Leaders

WAR (fielders)
Todd Frazier (CIN) 3.7
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) 2.8
Joey Votto (CIN) 2.7
Jhonny Peralta (CIN) 2.4
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) 2.2
WAR (pitchers)
A.J. Burnett (PIT) 2.7
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 2.5
Michael Wacha (STL) 2.3
Carlos Martinez (STL) 2.0
2-way tie 1.8