Tagged: Jon Lester

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

Power Surge: Yadi Makes History

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

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

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

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

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s always next year, folks.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

Leaderboard Trends

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

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

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

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

* * * * * * * * *

Division Standings

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

Wild Card Standings

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

* * * * * * * * *

Schedule

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

* * * * * * * * *

NL Central Leaders

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

Pirates Avoid Sweep

Lance Lynn had what you might call a rough night

Lance Lynn had what you might call a rough night

The Pittsburgh Pirates were able to come out ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals Thursday night, avoiding a 3-game sweep to move back within 6 games.

The Bucs put 7 runs on the board in the top of the 1st en route to a 10-5 win.

Cardinals starter Lance Lynn didn’t make it out of the 1st inning, allowing 7 runs on 6 hits and no walks, retiring 2 batters. Thankfully, only 3 runs were earned, due to a throwing error by Matt Carpenter.

Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez led the offensive charge with three hits a piece, including Pedro’s 17th tater of the season.

It was the Bucs’ first win in St. Louis this season, where they are now 1-5.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

The Chicago Cubs won for the 13th time in their last 14 games, pounding the Milwaukee Brewers 9-2 to complete their second sweep of their neighbors to the north in the past two weeks.

Rookie Kyle Schwarber was back to mashing, going 3-for-4 with a pair of home runs (8). Anthony Rizzo poked his 22nd, Chris Denorfia his 2nd and Dexter Fowler his 12th.

Fowler has been playing well of late, and reached base four times yesterday, scoring 3 runs.

It wasn’t all good news for the Cubs, as Jon Lester tried to pick a runner off for the first time since April and once again threw it away for an error – his third of the year. Lester allowed 5 stolen bases in the game and is worst in the league in that category.

He struck out 10 in 7 innings of work, improving to 8-8 on the year.

The Cubs now head into the dreaded “Crosstown Classic” that brings out the absolute worst in Chicago baseball fans. In my experience, it involves fans of the White Sox openly berating anybody who is minding their own business and wearing Cubs gear and, on the flip side, has Cubs fans talking about the number of teeth that most White Sox fans have.

If you don’t live in a market with multiple baseball teams, consider yourself lucky.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

Division Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 73 40 W2
Pittsburgh Pirates 65 46 7.0 L2
Chicago Cubs 64 48 8.5 W6
Cincinnati Reds 50 62 22.5 W1
Milwaukee Brewers 48 67 26.0 L2

Wild Card Standings

W L GB
Pittsburgh Pirates 65 46 +1.5
Chicago Cubs 64 48
San Francisco Giants 60 53 4.5
Washington Nationals 58 55 6.5

* * * * * * * * *

Schedule

65-48 CUBS Hendricks (6-5, 3.73)
54-58 White Sox Samardzija (8-7, 4.62)
3:10 PM CT
66-46 PIRATES Happ (4-7, 4.78)
63-53 Mets Colon (10-11, 4.76)
6:15 PM CT
46-69 Phillies Morgan (3-3, 4.06)
48-68 BREWERS Peralta (2-7, 4.48)
7:10 PM CT
46-68 Marlins Koehler (8-9, 3.75)
73-41 CARDINALS Garcia (4-4, 1.77)
7:15 PM CT
51-62 REDS Lamb (NR)
64-51 Dodgers Wood (7-7, 3.72)
9:10 PM CT

* * * * * * * * *

NL Central Leaders

WAR (fielders)
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) 5.4
Joey Votto (CIN) 4.8
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) 4.0
Jason Heyward (STL) 3.8
Jung Ho Kang (PIT) 3.6
WAR (pitchers)
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 4.6
Carlos Martinez (STL) 3.3
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 3.3
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 3.1
John Lackey (STL) 3.1

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

Lester no match for Scherzer

Jon Lester made history at the plate. (It wasn't good history.)

Jon Lester made history at the plate. (It wasn’t good history.)

The Jon Lester / Max Scherzer showdown ended with a 3-0 win for the Washington Nationals, taking the rubber game against the Chicago Cubs.

It was yet another high-strikeout game for the Cubs, who fanned 13 times in Scherzer’s 7 shutout innings of work.

For his part, Lester did well, going 7 innings and allowing 2 runs (1 earned), striking out 10.

At the plate, Lester made history by going 0-for-2. Lester sett n MLB record for most consecutive at bats to start a career without a hit (59), breaking former San Diego Padre Joey Hamilton‘s record. He’s now tied with Hamilton for most consecutive plate appearances to start a career without a hit (66).

Starlin Castro had a multi-hit game, but also had a multi-error day in the field. That gives him five errors in his last nine games.

That’s back-to-back series losses for the Cubs now and things don’t get any easier – the Kansas City Royals are up next.

* * *

The Miami Marlins couldn’t hold down the lead, surrendering a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the 7th as they lost 5-2 to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Bucs sent 10 men to the plate, doing it in strange fashion as they started the inning with consecutive outs and nobody on base. Four singles, two walks, and another single followed and they suddenly found themselves with a 3-run lead that held up. Neil Walker had the unfortunate discussion of hitting into both the first and last outs of the inning.

Gerrit Cole improved to 7-2 on the year, allowing a pair of runs in 7 innings of work while also fanning 7.

Andrew McCutchen (.262) and Sean Rodriguez (.281) each had a pair of hits for the Pirates, who won their 6th straight.

Before this comeback win, Pittsburgh was 0-15 when trailing after 6 innings.

* * *

The St. Louis Cardinals came from behind to sweep the Arizona Diamondbacks with a 4-3 win Wednesday night.

Trailing 3-2, Jason Heyward led off the bottom of the 9th with a solo homer to tie it up.

With one out and the bases loaded, Jhonny Peralta grounded into what looked to be a potential 5-2-3 double play, sending the game into extra innings. Third baseman Yasmany Tomas made a clean grab of the grounder, coming home to force Peter Bourjos out at the plate. But catcher Jordan Pacheco‘s throw down to 1st base sailed well over the head of first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, into right field for an error that allowed Matt Carpenter to score. Game over.

Matt Holliday made history in the game, reaching base for the 43rd straight game. Doing so in every game of the 2015 season thus far broke Albert Pujols’ National League record, set in 2008. There are five names ahead of him, but all did it in the American League. Next up? 44 – Harry Heilmann (1923 Tigers), 47 – Alvis Davis (1984 Mariners), 48 – Mark McGwire (1996 Athletics), 52 – Frank Thomas (1996 White Sox), 53 – Derek Jeter (1999 Yankees).

Holliday has a .433 on-base percentage this season, second only to the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo in the division.

On the injury front, Matt Adams‘ torn right quad could mean the end of his season. The expected recovery time is 3-4 months. In his place, Mark Reynolds will become the full-time first baseman. There’s some talk of calling up Xavier Scruggs to replace him, with Bernie Miklasz of the Post-Dispatch pointing out Scruggs’ power numbers and good batting average against lefties. Here’s the problem – 21 HR at AAA is nice, but what does that translate to over a full season in the MLB? 15? Maybe? And hitting lefties is something Reynolds already can do for you. You need a first baseman who can hit righties, the handedness of pitcher you will face 60% of the time. So now we’ll keep an eye on what deal the Cards can pull off both to bolster their rotation and first base.

CF Jon Jay could be returning for this weekend’s series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

* * *

The Cincinnati Reds couldn’t get a winning streak going one day after breaking a 9-game losing run, falling 6-4 at home to the Colorado Rockies.

Starting pitcher Mike Leake (L 2-4) was atrocious, allowing 6 runs in 5 innings of work and putting the team in a 5-1 hole after 2 innings.

Todd Frazier connected for his 14th home run of the year and Billy Hamilton stole his 18th base.

Reds manager Bryan Price held a closed-door meeting with the team following the loss. Things are bad in the Queen City.

The Reds are considering Johnny Cueto as Sunday’s starting pitcher.

* * *

The Milwaukee Brewers lost 3-1 to the San Francisco Giants.

Khris Davis had a pair of triples for Milwaukee.

Mike Fiers fell to 1-5, allowing 2 runs on 8 hits across 5 innings of work, starting on short rest.

Adam Lind, who had a monster April, is now mired in a 2-for-24 stretch. His 6th inning single broke up a run of 16 straight ABs without a hit.

That’s five straight losses now for the Brew Crew, who fell 15.5 games back. And we still have a few days left in May.

* * *

NL Central Leaders

On-Base Percentage
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .439
Matt Holliday (STL) .433
Kris Bryant (CHC) .393
Matt Carpenter (STL) .389
2-way tie .373
WHIP
Jason Hammel (CHC) 0.912
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 0.964
Michael Wacha (STL) 1.040
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 1.086
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 1.094

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 31 16 W4
Chicago Cubs 25 21 5.5 L1
Pittsburgh Pirates 24 22 6.5 W6
Cincinnati Reds 19 27 11.5 L1
Milwaukee Brewers 16 32 15.5 L5

* * *

Schedule

24-22 PIRATES Burnett (4-1, 1.37)
23-25 Padres Kennedy (2-4, 6.11)
9:10 PM CT

Cubs Hold Off Mets; Marte, Cole Keep Pirates Hot

The Chicago Cubs' Anthony Rizzo connected for his 7th homer of the year last night.

The Chicago Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo connected for his 7th homer of the year last night.

No intra-divisional games going on last night which means a whole lot of recapping to do. With the St. Louis Cardinals getting their first day off in 21 days, we’ll work our way down from the #2 spot in the division to #5.

* * *

The Chicago Cubs opened up the Wrigley Field bleachers for the first time in 2015 – well, except for right field which is still under construction. It’s a start.

Anyhow, you may all remember that awful stretch to begin the season, but Jon Lester is now tied for the Cubs’ team lead in wins (3), picking up his 3rd straight win in a 4-3 victory over the NL East-leading New York Mets.

Kris Bryant (2nd) and Anthony Rizzo (7th) hit back-to-back homers in the 1st inning, while the Cubs got some mixture of luck and great defense in the latter innings to hold their lead. In the 8th, with a man on 1st and none out, the Mets’ Lucas Duda hit a scorcher down the right field line that was caught by Rizzo at first who was then a step away from doubling Michael Cuddyer up. In the 9th, the Mets again led off by putting the potential tying runner on base, but Dilson Herrera‘s liner up the middle was caught by a diving Starlin Castro from shortstop, and then pinch-hitter Johnny Monell‘s grounder to second appeared to eat up the fielder only to have Addison Russell quickly recover to start a game-ending 4-6-3 double play, complete with a Castro fist pump as the ball hit Rizzo’s glove for the final out.

* * *

From Starlin to Starling Marte, who hit his 8th homer of the season while Gerrit Cole picked up his 5th win to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates over the intra-state rival Philadelphia Phillies, 4-3.

Mark Melancon picked up his 8th save, but not without some drama. In the 9th, Odubel Herrera led off with a homer that made it a 1-run game. Carlos Ruiz singled with one out, but Melancon got a pair of fly outs to close the game out.

Cole went 7 innings, allowing 2 runs on 6 hits and a pair of walks, striking out 6. That raised his ERA to 2.32, still among the division’s best.

Jung Ho Kang got his 3rd straight start as he continued to shed a bad Spring Training and show he might just belong in the lineup after all. Kang has a .333/.386/.529 slash line in 21 games while the struggling Josh Harrison is at .173/.209/.282 in 28 games. Also a factor – Harrison’s .938 fielding percentage to go with 5 errors at third base; Kang has fielded 16 balls at third without an error in 2015.

Pittsburgh has rattled off three straight wins.

* * *

Aroldis Chapman‘s wild pitch allowed the eventual game-winning run to score in the top of the 9th as the Cincinnati Reds lost at home to the Atlanta Braves, 2-1.

Between innings, Chapman appeared to throw his glove about 103 miles per hour in the dugout.

It’s a small sample size, of course, but in the last two nights Chapman has gone 1.2 innings and allowed 6 hits. His ERA had been 0.00 before then; it’s now up to 1.26.

The loss dragged the Reds’ losing streak out to 3 games.

Cincinnati’s inability to muster any offense against Braves starter Shelby Miller (1.60 ERA) spoiled another nice start by Mike Leake, who went 6 innings and allowed one run on 8 hits and a pair of walks.

At one stretch, Miller retired 15 straight Reds. Dominating effort.

* * *

Check it out. The Milwaukee Brewers win again, this time a 10-7 win over the Chicago White Sox who are now 2-10 on the road.

Milwaukee had an early 6-0 lead, only to fritter it away and allow the ChiSox to tie it up 7-7 in the top of the 8th.

In the bottom of the inning, Elian Herrera (3rd) and Khris Davis (3rd) each took White Sox reliever Zach Duke deep, giving the Brew Crew their 7th win in their last 10 games. They have won their last three in a row.

Carlos Gomez homered (2nd) and tripled for Milwaukee, driving in a pair of runs.

On the down side, Scooter Gennett was 0-for-3 (.189) and committed his 3rd error of the season. Gennett’s .953 fielding percentage at second is the league’s 3rd worst mark, with the Cubs’ Addison Russell (.949) at the bottom.

37-year old Aramis Ramirez missed his fourth straight game with a sore lower back. He’s planning on retiring after the 2015 season.

* * *

I’m a little concerned about Matt Carpenter, who has been having bouts of vertigo, exhaustion, dehydration – you name it… Carpenter was off to an amazing start, connecting for a potential record-breaking number of doubles. But the last week has seen him miss some games with various maladies. He’s expected to play tonight against the Cleveland Indians, but nothing is guaranteed. We’ll keep an eye on this one.

* * *

Interesting note on the NL Central’s ERA Leaderboard below. As much as the Cards are known for their top pitching staff right now, look which teams have some of the top marks thus far. In fact, were I to extend that board, you’d find only one Cardinal pitcher in the top 7.

What does it mean? Well, it could mean the Cardinals’ bullpen has been better. It could just mean the Cardinals have more depth from 1 to 5 in their rotation than other teams. It could also mean that, in a playoff series where you can lean on your top guns more, some of these teams might actually be better poised for success than the Redbirds.

It’s also only May 12th, so let’s stay tuned on this one.

* * *

NL Central Leaders

ERA
A.J. Burnett (PIT) 1.66
Michael Wacha (STL) 2.09
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 2.32
Mike Leake (CIN) 2.36
Anthony DeSclafani (CIN) 2.50

* * *

Schedule

22-9 CARDINALS Lynn (1-3, 3.82)
11-19 Indians Carrasco (4-2, 4.71)
5:10 PM CT
16-16 PIRATES Burnett (1-1, 1.66)
11-22 Phillies O’Sullivan (0-1, 4.91)
6:05 PM CT
15-17 Braves Foltynewicz (2-0, 5.23)
15-17 REDS DeSclafani (2-3, 2.50)
6:10 PM CT
20-12 Mets Syndergaard (NR)
16-15 CUBS Arrieta (3-3, 3.41)
7:05 PM CT
12-17 White Sox Sale (2-1, 5.93)
12-21 BREWERS Fiers (1-4, 5.46)
7:10 PM CT

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 22 9 L2
Chicago Cubs 16 15 6.0 W1
Pittsburgh Pirates 16 16 6.5 W3
Cincinnati Reds 15 17 7.5 L3
Milwaukee Brewers 12 21 11.0 W3

Cole Mows Down Cubs; Bourjos Runs Over Phils

Gerrit Cole

Gerrit Cole

The Pittsburgh Pirates avoided the sweep last night at Wrigley Field, trouncing the Chicago Cubs 8-1.

Gerrit Cole was magnificent again, tossing 6 innings and allowing just one unearned run. Cole struck out 8 Cubs and walked one, surrendering three hits. He retired 14 of the last 15 batters he faced.

The 24-year old Cole, who was the top pick in the 2011 draft, is currently among the National League’s Top 10 in ERA (1.76), Wins (4-0), Strikeouts (35) and Strikeouts per 9 Innings (10.3). His 2.19 FIP is 3rd best.

In his 13th appearance of the season, Jung Ho Kang went 3-for-4 with a double, 2 RBI, a walk and a stolen base. Kang has put up a .269/.310/.346 slash line this season.

Although he’s hitting just .194 this season, Andrew McCutchen racked up his 1,000th career hit in the ballgame.

For the Cubs, Jorge Soler continued to struggle, going 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts, also grounding into a double play. He’s now 2 for his last 25.

Other Rookie of the Year hopeful, Kris Bryant, went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts, drawing a walk in his other plate appearance.

The loss snapped a 4-game winning streak for the Cubs.

The Bucs start a big series in St. Louis on Friday night while the Cubs hope Jon Lester can get the ship righted against Milwaukee.

* * *

The St. Louis Cardinals got a 4-run 5th inning, leading them to a 5-2 win at home over the Philadelphia Phillies.

Jason Heyward batted 6th again and went 2-for-4, upping his season average to .228.

Matt Adams (.281) had another pair of hits as well.

Peter Bourjos started and led off, showcasing his speed in that 5th inning by first tying the game at 2-2 with an RBI triple and then scoring at home on a fielder’s choice to put the Redbirds ahead, 3-2. Carpenter grounded one to Ryan Howard at first. He came home with the throw, but Bourjos got in under the tag just before it was applied.

Bourjos later showed off his wheels in the field, taking away a possible double off the bat of Chase Utley, sprinting towards the wall in right-center to make a nice running catch.

Tim Cooney got the call up from AAA and will make his Major League debut for the Cards, taking the place of the injured Adam Wainwright. Cooney grew up a Phillies fan and gets to face off against his childhood team this afternoon.

* * *

In the afternoon, Cincinnati Reds rookie starting pitcher Mike Lorenzen made his debut against the Milwaukee Brewers, taking the loss.

Milwaukee won 8-3 with Ryan Braun going 3-for-5, driving in 5 runs and connecting for a pair of homers (4).

Adam Lind also homered (4) and had a pair of hits to up his season average to .333.

Lorenzen (L 0-1) went 5 innings, struck out 5, and allowed 3 runs on 8 hits and a walk, giving up 3 gopher balls.

Milwaukee should be getting star center fielder Carlos Gomez back as well. On the 15-day DL with a right hamstring strain, Gomez is eligible to return Friday and stated that he expects to be in the lineup this Saturday against the Cubs.

* * *

Schedule

8-14 Philadelphia Buchanan, D (0-4, 7.52)
14-6 ST. LOUIS Cooney (NR)
12:45 PM CT
10-11 CINCINNATI Leake (0-1, 3.90)
10-11 Atlanta Miller, S (3-0, 2.05)
6:10 PM CT

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 14 6 W2
Chicago Cubs 12 8 2.0 L1
Pittsburgh Pirates 12 10 3.0 W1
Cincinnati Reds 10 11 4.5 L1
Milwaukee Brewers 5 17 10.0 W1