Tagged: Jorge Soler

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

Martinez, Cardinals Strike Pirates; Cubs Win Again

Carlos Martinez fanned 8 Pirates last night

Carlos Martinez fanned 8 Pirates last night

The St. Louis Cardinals took game 1 of their 3-game set with the Pittsburgh Pirates, coming off as 4-3 winners at home.

The Bucs took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the 5th only to have the Cards peck away – two walks, an RBI single, a ground out that moved runners up, a sac fly, an RBI single.

Small-ball.

Carlos Martinez struck out 8 men in as many innings of work, improving to 12-4 with a 2.62 ERA for the Redbirds.

Trevor Rosenthal struck out the side in the 9th for his 34th save.

All’s well in the Cardinals’ world, where they now lead Pittsburgh by 6 games in the Central.

They go at it again tonight, with Gerrit Cole (14-5, 2.39) squaring off against Michael Wacha (13-4, 2.92). Great match-up.

Game Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

Though not competing for the division anytime soon, the Chicago Cubs won for the 11th time in their last 12 contests, beating the Milwaukee Brewers 6-3 in relatively easy fashion.

Anthony Rizzo had a pair of hits, including his 29th double, driving in a pair of runs.

Jorge Soler had two RBI as well.

Starlin Castro continued to ride the bench, but did come in to the game as defensive replacement – at second base. He made a nice catch in foul ground in the 9th inning.

Game Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

Jeff Sullivan at Fangraphs.com takes a look at Jung-Ho Kang. Read it over there.

* * * * * * * * *

Division Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 72 40 W1
Pittsburgh Pirates 65 45 6.0 L1
Chicago Cubs 63 48 8.5 W5
Cincinnati Reds 49 62 22.5 L3
Milwaukee Brewers 48 66 25.0 L1

Wild Card Standings

W L GB
Pittsburgh Pirates 65 45 +2.5
Chicago Cubs 63 48
San Francisco Giants 60 52 3.5
Washington Nationals 58 54 5.5

* * * * * * * * *

Schedule

49-62 REDS Iglesias (2-4, 4.73)
54-60 Padres Shields (8-4, 3.75)
2:40 PM CT
48-66 BREWERS Garza (6-12, 4.95)
63-48 CUBS Hammel (6-5, 3.17)
7:05 PM CT
65-45 PIRATES Cole (14-5, 2.39)
72-40 CARDINALS Wacha (13-3, 2.92)
7:15 PM CT

* * * * * * * * *

NL Central Leaders

Home Runs
Todd Frazier (CIN) 28
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) 21
Ryan Braun (MIL) 19
Marlon Byrd (CIN) 19
Joey Votto (CIN) 19
Strikeouts
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 158
Francisco Liriano (PIT) 144
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 143
Jon Lester (CHC) 139
Carlos Martinez (STL) 139

Redbirds Top Dodgers

Michael Wacha wins again - number 8 on the season.

Michael Wacha wins again – number 8 on the season.

The St. Louis Cardinals had no trouble handling the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday night as the NL Central leaders took down the top dog in the NL West, 7-1.

Michael Wacha improved to 8-1 with a 2.18 ERA, going 7 innings and allowing 1 run.

On the offensive front, Jhonny Peralta had three safeties while Kolten Wong and Matt Holliday had two hits each.

Game Highlights (MLB.com)

Rick Hummel takes a look at Trevor Rosenthal‘s big 2015 season thus far. Read it over at the Post-Dispatch.

* * *

Desperate to get back into some winning ways, the Chicago Cubs came away with a nice 2-1 win over the Washington Nationals.

Jake Arrieta started the season on fire but had cooled off lately. In his last two starts, he had a 4.85 ERA. Last night he allowed 1 run in 6 innings of work, striking out 8 and improving to 5-4, picking up his first W since May 12th.

The game ended bizarrely, with the Nats putting men on 1st and 2nd with one out. After Denard Span flew out to center for the 2nd out, catcher David Ross picked Clint Robinson off of 1st base for the final out. The grey-beard was pumped. Ross later revealed that first baseman Anthony Rizzo had signaled to him that Robinson was taking too big of a lead and to be on the lookout. Nice job by the 25-year old and unofficial captain of the team.

Rizzo also made a nice play in the field, spearing a line drive up and to his left with the bases loaded in the 6th inning to kill a Washington rally.

At the plate, Rizzo and Dexter Fowler each had two hits.

Game Highlights (MLB.com)

The word now is that the Cubs will not call up Javier Baez (at least not immediately) and instead may call up Chris Denorfia to help shore up the outfield. Denorfia has been rehabbing an injured hamstring. Regular right fielder Jorge Soler is on the DL for probably three weeks with an ankle injury. Delaying Baez’s call-up also gives him more time to get his feet wet playing third base, something he only just started doing earlier this week.

* * *

The Cincinnati Reds once again took a lead into the late innings against the Philadelphia Phillies, but this time they held on to it for a 6-4 win.

Aroldis Chapman rebounded from a tough game Wednesday night (1 IP, 2 ER, 1 H, 2 BB, 0 SO), striking out all 3 batters he faced in the bottom of the 9th to record his 10th save.

Brandon Phillips had three hits with a double at the top of the order.

Game Highlights (MLB.com)

Speaking of Chapman, Craig Edwards at Fangraphs.com had a close look at him yesterday. Check it out.

* * *

Bill Brink at the Post-Gazette profiles Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton, who makes his 3rd start of the season this evening. Read it here.

* * *

NL Central Leaders

WAR (fielders)
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) 2.9
Todd Frazier (CIN) 2.5
Jhonny Peralta (STL) 2.2
Kolten Wong (STL) 2.0
Matt Carpenter (STL) 1.9
WAR (pitchers)
A.J. Burnett (PIT) 2.1
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 2.1
Michael Wacha (STL) 1.8
Jason Hammel (CHC) 1.6
3-way tie 1.5

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 36 18 W3
Pittsburgh Pirates 29 24 6.5 W3
Chicago Cubs 28 24 7.0 W1
Cincinnati Reds 23 29 12.0 W1
Milwaukee Brewers 18 36 18.0 L2

* * *

Schedule

28-24 CUBS Wada (0-0, 2.30)
29-25 Nationals Roark (1-2, 2.59)
6:05 PM CT
27-28 Padres Ross, T (2-5, 3.76)
23-29 REDS Iglesias, R (1-1, 5.11)
6:10 PM CT
29-24 PIRATES Morton (2-0, 1.93)
26-27 Braves Perez, W (1-0, 2.66)
6:35 PM CT
18-36 BREWERS Lohse (3-6, 6.50)
32-21 Twins Gibson (4-3, 2.61)
7:10 PM CT
36-18 CARDINALS Martinez, C (5-2, 3.13)
31-23 Dodgers Anderson, B (2-3, 3.42)
9:10 PM CT

Reds Lose in Walk-off Fashion (Again)

Ryan Mattheus couldn't handle a throw from Joey Votto, but it was only the straw in an epic Reds collapse.

Ryan Mattheus couldn’t handle a throw from Joey Votto, but it was only the straw in an epic Reds collapse.

The Cincinnati Reds took a 4-0 lead into the bottom of the 9th and found a way to lose.

Mike Leake started the 9th, poised to pick up the shutout but allowed leadoff singles to Ben Revere and Jeff Francoeur.

That’s fine, right? You’ve got this left-handed weapon named Aroldis Chapman who throws triple digits like it’s nothing.

In he comes. Chase Utley hit what looked to be a double into left-center, only to have Billy Hamilton make a fantastic diving catch that turned it into a sac fly. Ryan Howard walked, and Maikel Franco hit a three-run homer.

Tie game.

The Philadelphia Phillies ended up winning, 5-4, on an error by pitcher Ryan Mattheus in the bottom of the 11th. After Cody Asche doubled with one out, Freddy Galvis hit a grounder in the hole on the right side. First baseman Joey Votto fielded the ball and tossed to Mattheus, but the throw was a little high and went off the top of his glove, rolling into foul territory while Asche sped home with the winning run.

It’s that kind of season for the Reds, who lost a second straight walk-off game.

In the loss, Votto went 3-for-6 with his 10th homer and a pair of doubles. Brandon Phillips had three hits, including a double, walk and stolen base (7th).

Todd Frazier and Zack Cozart each went 0-for-6.

Leake finished with 2 runs allowed in 8 innings of work, giving up just 3 hits and a pair of walks while whiffing 9 Phils. He had taken a no-hitter into the 7th inning.

The Reds have faced Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels 13 times now and have nothing to show for it. That’s right. 0 wins in 13 chances. Hamels himself is 10-0 with a 1.51 ERA in those 13 starts against Cincinnati.

Game Highlights (MLB.com)

* * *

The Pittsburgh Pirates are on a roll, sweeping the San Francisco Giants with a 5-2 win last night.

The Bucs have won 11 of their last 13 games, finally passing the Cubs and moving into 2nd place in the NL Central.

Francisco Liriano went 7 innings, allowing 1 run on 4 hits and a walk while striking out 6 to improve to 3-4.

Andrew McCutchen stayed hot, reaching base in 2 of his 4 plate appearances.

Jordy Mercer homered for a second straight day. By the way, these were his first two long balls of the season. Quirky.

Mercer, who lost his staring job at shortstop with the combination of himself getting off to a bad start and Jung Ho Kang hitting well, seems to be finding his groove. Although he’s still hitting just .210, he’s hit .370 over his last 9 games.

Mark Melancon, who faced two batters to record his 16th save, now has a 0.47 ERA across his last 19 outings.

Josh Harrison had an off night, going 0-for-5 with 3 strikeouts.

Game Highlights (MLB.com)

In other Pirates news, Legendary Pictures – the media company who put together the Jackie Robinson biopic “42” – is reportedly doing the same for Roberto Clemente.

* * *

The St. Louis Cardinals put 5 runs up on Jimmy Nelson and the Milwaukee Brewers in the 1st inning and cruised to a 7-4 win.

Gerardo Parra had a big night for Milwaukee, going 4-for-5 with a HR (3rd).

Game Highlights (MLB.com)

Kevin Modelski at the Post-Dispatch has a feature article on Kolten Wong kick-starting things atop the Cards’ lineup. Go check it out.

* * *

The Chicago Cubs slide continued as Jon Lester was demolished in a 7-3 loss to the Miami Marlins.

Miami took a 6-0 lead and went on from there.

For those who expected the Cubs to compete this season, I’d point out that they’ve now lost series to the Marlins and Brewers this season.

Junior Lake caused a commotion with some unnecessary and misplaced showboating following a homer he hit at a time late in the game when his team trailed 6-0. Acting the fool when you’re team is getting crushed is a really stupid time to be acting that way, Junior. Let’s treat the job with some respect, okay?

Game Highlights (MLB.com)

Gordon Wittenmyer (Sun-Times) had a nice feature article on Addison Russell yesterday that’s worth a read. Read it here.

We wrote a bit yesterday about Javier Baez‘s numbers at Iowa (AAA) and we’ve postulated on how things could be put together were he to get called back up to The Show. Well, add another wrinkle to that story. Baez is getting some work at the hot corner now. So maybe it’s as simple as Kris Bryant moving to left, Starlin Castro and Russell staying where they are, and Chris Coghlan still finding some time in the outfield now that Jorge Soler is expected to miss three weeks with an ankle injury.

* * *

NL Central Leaders

On-Base Percentage
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .443
Matt Holliday (STL) .430
Matt Carpenter (STL) .396
Joey Votto (CIN) .387
Kris Bryant (CHC) .382
WHIP
Jason Hammel (CHC) 0.896
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 0.953
Michael Wacha (STL) 1.042
Francisco Liriano (PIT) 1.050
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 1.085

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 35 18 W2
Pittsburgh Pirates 29 24 6.0 W3
Chicago Cubs 27 24 7.0 L2
Cincinnati Reds 22 29 12.0 L2
Milwaukee Brewers 18 36 17.5 L2

* * *

Schedule

27-24 CUBS Arrieta (4-4, 3.18)
29-24 Nationals Gonzalez, G (4-2, 4.73)
6:05 PM CT
22-29 REDS DeSclafani (3-4, 3.41)
21-33 Phillies Harang (4-5, 2.02)
6:05 PM CT
35-18 CARDINALS Wacha (7-1, 2.27)
31-22 Dodgers Frias (4-2, 4.29)
9:10 PM CT

Cards Flip Script on Brewers

Trevor Rosenthal has a 0.71 ERA after last night's scoreless inning.

Trevor Rosenthal has a 0.71 ERA after last night’s scoreless inning.

A day after losing 1-0 to the Milwaukee Brewers, the St. Louis Cardinals returned the favor and won by the same score.

Trevor Rosenthal allowed a pair of hits in the 9th, picking up his 16th save. The game ended when Aramis Ramirez, at bat with the tying run at 3rd base and one out, grounded into a 5-4-3 double play. It’s hard to not watch that clip and think “Just about anybody else at bat there and it’s a fielder’s choice with the game being tied up”, but Rammy’s can’t move like he used to. (And he never moved to begin with.) A nice pivot by 2B Kolten Wong on the throw over from Matt Carpenter.

Lance Lynn went 7.2 innings in the shutout, allowing 5 hits and a walk while striking out 5. Lynn lowered his ERA to 3.03 this season and improved to 4-4.

25 year old starting pitcher Tyler Cravy made his MLB debut for the Brew Crew, going 7 innings and allowing 1 run on 4 hits and a pair of walks. He struck out 6.

Matt Holliday saw his run of consecutive games reaching base to start a season ended last night with the 5th best mark in MLB history. 45 games, if you lost count. The streak ended when “Country” Joe West gave Holliday the hook in the 7th inning after arguing a called third strike. The pitch looks pretty good to me. You decide for yourself, but Holliday told West “You’re strike zone’s been huge the whole night” and then kept going. And going. And going. West finally had enough and tossed him. No final chance to extend the streak.

Holliday’s post-game interview in the locker room seemed to indicate that he feels veteran players have a God-given right to continually question an umpire and show them up. West is, y’know, not anybody’s favorite. But Holliday really could’ve let up a little sooner there. One comment would have been enough and then you could have walked off. But his little tirade went on for some time.

Game Highlights (MLB.com)

* * *

The Pittsburgh Pirates game against the San Francisco Giants had a similar feel to their meeting on Monday. The Giants jumped ahead early, the two teams went back and forth, then the Bucs jumped ahead for good in the middle innings. This time they came out 7-4 winners.

Andrew McCutchen continues to put that miserable April behind him. Last night he went 4-for-5 with a triple and a double, driving in a pair of runs. After the games of May 6th, his slash line was .189/.279/.292 with a .571 OPS and his team had just lost their 5th straight game. Since then, he has put up a line of .404/.481/.719 for an unworldly 1.201 OPS across 25 games in which the Pirates went 16-9.

Also removing himself from early-season awfulness is Josh Harrison, who had another multi-hit game last night and is now hitting .263 for the season. Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez and Jordy Mercer also had two hits a piece last night.

Game Highlights (MLB.com)

* * *

Marcell Ozuna‘s base-clearing double in the bottom of the 5th inning led the Miami Marlins to a 5-2 win over the Chicago Cubs.

Kris Bryant – playing left field – went 0-for-4, grounding into a double play and striking out.

Starlin Castro, 25 year old and often maligned for his errors, made a few nice plays in the field and picked up his 900th career hit. Check out those plays here and here and his hit here.

The Cubs recalled Matt Szczur for another go-round at the MLB level. On a related note, RF Jorge Soler (twisted ankle) is expected to head to the DL. An official announcement should be coming sometime today.

Javier Baez (.325-7-26 at AAA) hit a pair of homers, going 4-for-5 last night for Iowa. He’s going 11-for-22 with 4 HR in his last 5 games.

Game Highlights (MLB.com)

* * *

Despite Johnny Cueto‘s comeback, the Cincinnati Reds‘ three-game winning streak came to an end as they fell 5-4 at home against the Philadelphia Phillies.

The big right-hander went 6 innings, allowing 2 runs (1 earned) on 5 hits and no walks.

Todd Frazier had a rough night, going 0-for-5 at the plate and committing a pair of errors in the field, one of which led to an unearned run charged against Cueto.

Marlon Byrd, among the division’s top home run hitters (see below), was hit by a pitch in the 6th inning and is out with a fractured wrist. He had nearly homered earlier in the game, but settled for a double off the top of the wall.

Game Highlights (MLB.com)

* * *

The wonderful Dave Cameron at Fangraphs.com took time to dissect one of baseball’s most exciting pitchers, Pirates starter and former #1 draft pick, Gerrit Cole. Cameron’s article is on Cole’s ascendancy to true “ace” status, focusing on his improved numbers against lefties this year, and more particularly on his increased use of the slider – a pitch that is a beautiful thing to watch.

Read the full article over here.

* * *

NL Central Leaders

Home Runs
Todd Frazier (CIN) 16
Ryan Braun (MIL) 12
Marlon Byrd (CIN) 10
Starling Marte (PIT) 10
3-way tie 9
Strikeouts
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 79
Francisco Liriano (PIT) 75
Lance Lynn (STL) 72
Mike Fiers (MIL) 69
Jason Hammel (CHC) 69

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 34 18 W1
Chicago Cubs 27 23 6.0 L1
Pittsburgh Pirates 28 24 6.0 W2
Cincinnati Reds 22 28 11.0 L1
Milwaukee Brewers 18 35 16.5 L1

* * *

Schedule

18-35 BREWERS Nelson (2-5, 3.90)
34-18 CARDINALS Lackey (3-3, 2.83)
12:45 PM CT
28-24 PIRATES Liriano, F (2-4, 3.47)
30-24 Giants Hudson, T (3-4, 4.62)
2:45 PM CT
22-28 REDS Leake (2-4, 4.66)
20-33 Phillies Hamels (5-4, 2.91)
6:05 PM CT
27-23 CUBS Lester (4-3, 3.30)
21-32 Marlins Haren (5-2, 3.03)
6:10 PM CT

Cards Shut Down by Kluber, Indians

We usually use a player from the NL Central as our featured image, but DAMN! Can't ignore last night's performance by Cleveland Indians' starting pitcher Corey Kluber.

We usually use a player from the NL Central as our featured image, but DAMN! Can’t ignore last night’s performance by Cleveland Indians’ starting pitcher Corey Kluber.

Corey Kluber did this to the St. Louis Cardinals last night, erasing his 0-5 start to the season: 8 shutout innings with 1 hit allowed, no walks and 18 strikeouts.

18!!!

Kluber, the defending AL Cy Young winner, joined Bob Feller as the only Cleveland pitchers to strike out 18 men in a game. That’s good company.

John Lackey (L 2-2) allowed 2 runs in 5.1 innings, which seems like a small miracle considering he allowed 5 hits and walked 5 as well. The Indians went 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position.

Jhonny Peralta had the sole Cardinal hit – a single with two out in the 7th.

Mark Reynolds and Peter Bourjos each struck out in all three plate appearances.

Dominant stuff.

Matt Holliday took a 94-mph Kluber fastball to the left elbow in the 1st inning and had to be pulled from the game. A scan revealed a “deep contusion” and he’ll likely be out at least a few days. With Jon Jay already nursing an injury (left thumb bruise) and Randal Grichuk‘s back injury keeping him off the team, the Cards’ outfield situation is pretty grim right now.

* * *

A walk-off walk for Chris Coghlan and the Comeback Cubs as they take their 3rd straight game against the visiting New York Mets.

Jason Hammel held his own against Matt Harvey, leaving the Chicago Cubs trailing 1-0 headed into the bottom of the 8th. Addison Russell singled with one out, moved to second on a wild pitch, then scored on a base hit by Dexter Fowler to tie it up.

In the bottom of the 9th, Anthony Rizzo led off with a hard single into right. Starlin Castro roped one through the left side for another hit, moving pinch-runner Matt Szczur to 3rd. After Miguel Montero was intentionally walked, reliever Jeurys Familia entered the game. He struck out Jorge Soler, who swung at some pitches that he really shouldn’t have. But then Coghlan stepped up with the bases loaded and left the bat on his shoulders on a 3-1 pitch that wasn’t close.

Hammel went 8 innings, allowing 1 run on 5 hits and a walk, striking out 6. Check him out on the division’s WHIP leader boards below.

A rough night for Soler, who couldn’t possibly look more miserable about playing in weather below 50 degrees. The entire field will be full of guys in short sleeves and there’s Soler with a parka on. He might have signed up for the wrong team. His plate appearances tonight: 4-6-3 double play, strike out, 4-6-3 double play, strike out with the bases loaded.

* * *

Jeff Francoeur can still throw the ball and his arm helped save the Philadelphia Phillies in a 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Jordy Mercer‘s fly ball into right field was caught in foul territory by Francouer for the 2nd out. Steve Lombardozzi then attempted to tag up from 3rd but was thrown out at the plate by a good 5 feet, giving Francouer his 123rd career outfield assist. That’s 3rd best among active outfielders behind only Carlos Beltran (135) and Torii Hunter (125). For reference, the career leader is “The Grey Eagle”, Tris Speaker, who had 449.

Cole Hamels was impressive against Pittsburgh, going 7 innings for the win while allowing 2 runs on 5 hits and a walk, striking out 9.

Andrew McCutchen is still only hitting .231 this season, but he had a 2-RBI single last night and is hitting .293 with 6 extra-base hits in his last 14 games.

Sean Rodriguez, who my wife finds exceptionally handsome for a hirsute man, struck out twice and also grounded into a double play.

The loss ended the Bucs’ four-game winning streak.

Some exciting news for Pirates prospects as the #2 pick of the 2010 draft, starting pitcher Jameson Taillon, is slated to throw his first inning of work since undergoing Tommy John surgery last April.

Also recovering is Charlie Morton, scheduled to start in the minor today in his rehab from hip surgery. Morton is among the front-runners to replace Vance Worley in the bullpen.

* * *

Raul Iglesias made his second career start an impressive win, firing 5+ innings of no-hit ball to lead the Cincinnati Reds to a 5-1 win over the Atlanta Braves.

Iglesias finished with 8 innings of work, allowing 1 run on 2 hits and 3 walks, striking out 5.

Zack Cozart returned to the Cincy lineup and had a double and sac fly. He also made this pretty sweet play in the field. The shortstop is hitting .321 this season.

On the other side of the middle infielders, Kristopher Negron is hitting just .111 after an 0-for-2 day – he filled in for Brandon Phillips and his injured toe at second.

* * *

The Milwaukee Brewers tried to come back but couldn’t overcome the 3 runs they allowed in the 1st inning, falling to the Chicago White Sox 4-2.

The Journal Sentinel has a nice short article on Elian Herrera. Herrera signed as an amateur free agent in 2003 and didn’t see action in the big leagues until 2012 when he was already 27 years old. Read the full article here.

Herrera has been filling in at third base while Aramis Ramirez sits out with back problems. Rami, who has missed the last six games, is expected to return to the lineup Friday.

* * *

NL Central Leaders

OBP
Matt Holliday (STL) .466
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .463
Kris Bryant (CHC) .411
Joey Votto (CIN) .408
Matt Carpenter (STL) .391
WHIP
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 0.877
Mike Leake (CIN) 0.966
Jason Hammel (CHC) 0.993
Francisco Liriano (PIT) 1.007
Michael Wacha (STL) 1.034

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 23 10 L1
Chicago Cubs 18 15 5.0 W3
Cincinnati Reds 17 17 6.5 W2
Pittsburgh Pirates 17 17 6.5 L1
Milwaukee Brewers 12 23 12.0 L2

* * *

Schedule

23-10 CARDINALS Wacha (5-0, 2.09)
12-20 Indians Bauer (2-1, 4.19)
11:10 AM CT
17-17 PIRATES Worley (2-2, 4.63)
12-23 Phillies Harang (3-3, 2.38)
12:05 PM CT
20-14 Mets Niese (3-2, 1.95)
18-15 CUBS Wood, T (2-2, 4.96)
1:20 PM CT
17-17 Giants Lincecum (3-2, 2.00)
17-17 REDS Cueto (3-3, 2.98)
6:10 PM CT

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