Tagged: Starling Marte

Top Three Winners Again

Kris Bryant hit another walk-off for the Cubs in a 2-1 win yesterday.

Kris Bryant hit another walk-off for the Cubs in a 2-1 win yesterday.

Well, this is starting to become quite routine, isn’t it?

I guess it shouldn’t surprise us, given that the top 3 in the division make up 3 of the top 4 teams in all of Major League Baseball, but still. Sometimes it seems ridiculous, but yet again we have The Big Three all coming out winners yesterday.

You start to wonder if the only time these teams lose is when they play each other.

Tell you what, let’s just throw the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs into the playoffs by themselves.

They can each play a 3-game home series against each other, making up a 12-game schedule. Whoever finishes with the best record advances to the World Series. We cool with that?

Sorry, I realize there’s no definite way any of these three teams even makes the National League Championship Series, let alone wins it.

The playoffs are such a crap-shoot. This is why you’ll hear folks who are a bit longer in the tooth complain about the de-valuing of the 162-game regular season that comes about by introducing more teams into the postseason.

Also, the fact that I just used the phrase “long in the tooth” should tell you something about my own age and feelings on the matter.

But I digress.

What I’m really trying to say is that it would be immeasurably fun to watch these three teams go at it, head-to-head, in the playoffs.

What we may very well end up with instead is one of them being eliminated immediately in a best-of-1 Wild Card game. And then the two survivors could get swept in a best-of-5 National League Divisional Series because, hey, it’s three games. That’s a small sample size. Even the 1927 New York Yankees had a pair of 3-game losing streaks. It happens.

I just don’t want this season to end, that’s all.

RESULTS!

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The Cardinals scored 3 in the 7th to snap a 2-2 tie, ending the Arizona Diamondbacks winning streak with a 5-3 victory.

Tommy Pham inside-outed a single through the right side with men on the corners to put the Cards ahead. Yadier Molina brought two more home with a base hit into right and the Cards didn’t look back.

Trevor Rosenthal picked up his 39th save while Lance Lynn improved to 10-8 on the season.

Lynn got some help on defense, turning 4 double plays to help limit the damage that could have been done by Arizona.

Injured first baseman Matt Adams (remember him?) is possible to return from the disabled list next week. He wasn’t exactly tearing it up when he was healthy (.243/.281/.375), so it will be interesting to see how the Cardinals handle his return, particularly when rosters are going to be expanding to 40-man soon anyhow. Then there’s still Matt Holiday, Randal Grichuk, Jordan Walden, Jon Jay

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

Jon Lester pitched brilliantly for 8.2 innings, only to be undone by his inability to field a ground ball as the Cleveland Indians tied up the Cubs 1-1 in the top of the 9th.

No matter.

Kris Bryant stepped up and hit the walk-off to right with two out in the bottom of the 9th. It was the highly-touted rookie’s 20th long ball of the season.

Also, props to Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo who seems to make a highlight-reel fielding play every week. Yesterday afternoon, with a man on 1st, he sprinted in on a bunt in front of the plate down the first base line. Seeing the ball was going to roll foul, he slid along the line, stopping it from rolling foul so that he could scoop it up in fair territory and start a 3-6-4 double play. Amazing.

At the plate, Rizzo also had an RBI triple.

The Cubs also got some pretty slick fielding up the middle on other double plays, with Starlin Castro getting a start at short.

Chicago put right fielder Jorge Soler on the DL.  He’s expected back before the playoffs start, should the Cubs get there.  Soler has hit .265 with 7 HR and 42 RBI, striking out 111 times in 378 plate appearances.  It’s been a disappointing season, though he’s shown signs at times of snapping out of it.

It’s go time for the Cubs now, with a chance to really put some distance between themselves and the San Francisco Giants – they start a 3-game series in ‘Frisco this evening.

Highlights

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The Pirates beat the Miami Marlins 5-2 with J.A. Happ putting up another strong outing since coming over at the trade deadline.

Happ (W 6-7) went 6 shutout innings, allowing 4 hits and a walk while striking out 6.

Gregory Polanco had a four-hit game, including a pair of doubles.

Mark Melancon notched his 40th save with a perfect 9th.

Things got a bit tense with Miami pitchers coming up and in on Pirate batters no fewer than 6 times. An ejection was eventually made with no apparent retaliation on the part of Pittsburgh’s pitchers. Just win, I guess.

It’s hard to know where to start when looking at the Pirates recent trends. They’ve won 6 of 7, 10 of 12, 14 of 18… Anyway you look at it over the past month or so, they’ve been hot.

Injured starting pitcher A.J. Burnett was scheduled to throw off a mound in a bullpen session yesterday in hopes of returning to the rotation.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

The Cincinnati Reds snapped a 9-game losing streak and are back in a virtual tie with the idle Milwaukee Brewers for last place in the division.

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Some Leaderboard trends for you today.

Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli is up there now for the division batting title. Not so much that he’s been suddenly hitting the tar out of the ball. More that he’s playing so regularly that he now qualifies for the batting title. He has 382 plate appearances, exactly one more than he currently needs to qualify.

Pirates outfielder Starling Marte is on a 9-game hitting streak during which he’s hitting .375 with 6 extra-base hits.

And in his last 7 games, Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen has had five 2-hit games. He’s batting .357 over that time frame with 3 extra-base hits.

Those guys have been hot enough to push Rizzo, Cardinals outfielder Jason Heyward and Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips down in the leader board, but all three have actually hit well over the past week.

In his last two starts (small sample size alert!), Cardinals starting pitcher Carlos Martinez has a 5.56 ERA, allowing 14 hits in 11.1 innings of work. Martinez is at 148.2 innings this season, quite a bit more than last year’s mark of 112. Could he be starting to fray at the edges a bit? Something to keep an eye on during this stretch run, for sure.

* * * * * * * * *

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

Pirates, Cubs Move Up In Wild Card

Charlie Morton led the Pirates to a shutout of the Giants.

Charlie Morton led the Pirates to a shutout of the Giants.

The Pittsburgh Pirates shut out the outside-looking-in San Francisco Giants and the Chicago Cubs were dominant winners over the Atlanta Braves, giving both teams a bit more room in the National League Wild Card race.

Starting with Pittsburgh, Charlie Morton went 6.2 innings in a 4-0 win over the Giants, improving to 8-4 on the season.

Neil Walker hit his 13th homer of the season and had a pair of hits. Also joining in with multi-hit games were Starling Marte and Jung-Ho Kang.

It was the Bucs’ 7th win in their last 8 games as they moved within 4.5 games of the idle St. Louis Cardinals. That’s the closest Pittsburgh has been since July 29th.

It also gave them a full 8-game lead over the Giants in the Wild Card race. They remain 4 ahead of the Cubs.

Tonight will be tough for the Pirates as they have Jeff Locke going up against Madison Bumgarner (14-6, 2.98) who, besides being a good hitter, is also a decent pitcher.

Both 3B Josh Harrison (thumb) and SS Jordy Mercer (knee) are expected to return from the DL this weekend, with the team having survived thrived while missing the left side of their infield over the last five weeks.

Kang has excelled and 3B Aramis Ramirez looks rejuvenated since coming back to where his career started, so manager Clint Hurdle will have some tough decisions to make.

Highlights

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Jake Arrieta won his 15th game of the year with 6 shutout innings, striking out 7 as the Cubs pounded the Braves, 7-1.

Anthony Rizzo hit his 24th homer and Addison Russell his 8th as the Cubs scored 4 in the 3rd and came out to a 7-0 lead after 5 innings of play. That tends to hold up when Arrieta is on the bump.

In breaking their 3-game skid, Chicago moved 4 ahead of the Giants for the 2nd Wild Card spot.

The Cubs get a tough draw later this afternoon against Shelby Miller (5-9, 2.43) and the Braves.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

The Cincinnati Reds lost their 6th straight and are now just a half game ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers at the bottom of the division.

Or a half game away from tying them up for a higher draft pick, if you’re a “glass half full” kind of person.

* * * * * * * * *

Fangraphs has a Q&A with Brewers starting pitcher Jimmy Nelson. Check it out.

* * * * * * * * *

If you want to know why the NL Central is the most entertaining division in baseball, Anthony Witrado at Bleacher Report has an article explaining that. Go enjoy it.

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Division Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 77 43 W1
Pittsburgh Pirates 72 47 4.5 W3
Chicago Cubs 68 51 8.5 W1
Cincinnati Reds 51 68 25.5 L6
Milwaukee Brewers 52 70 26.0 W1

Wild Card Standings

W L GB
Pittsburgh Pirates 72 47 +4.0
Chicago Cubs 68 51
San Francisco Giants 65 56 4.0
Washington Nationals 60 60 8.5

* * * * * * * * *

Schedule

53-68 Braves Miller (5-9, 2.43)
68-51 CUBS Hendricks (6-5, 3.97)
3:05 PM CT
52-70 BREWERS Nelson (9-9, 3.61)
60-60 Nationals Gonzalez (9-5, 3.86)
6:05 PM CT
65-56 Giants Bumgarner (14-6, 2.98)
72-47 PIRATES Locke (6-7, 4.31)
6:05 PM CT
59-61 Diamondbacks De La Rosa (10-5, 4.40)
51-68 REDS Holmberg (1-2, 5.95)
6:10 PM CT
77-43 CARDINALS Lackey (10-7, 2.87)
59-62 Padres Cashner (4-12, 4.20)
9:10 PM CT

* * * * * * * * *

NL Central Leaders

WAR (fielders)
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) 5.7
Joey Votto (CIN) 5.2
Jason Heyward (STL) 4.0
Starling Marte (PIT) 3.9
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) 3.8
WAR (pitchers)
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 4.9
John Lackey (STL) 3.3
Michael Wacha (STL) 3.3
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 3.2
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 3.1

Bad Day for Bucs

This is what Yadi looks like after breaking a tie score with an RBI triple.

This is what Yadi looks like after breaking a tie score with an RBI triple.

There was quite a list of things that didn’t go well for the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night.

First off, they lost to the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals for a second straight day, pushing them 7 games back in the division.

Secondly, outfielder Starling Marte left the game with a hand injury after being plunked for the 3rd time in his last 4 games. He’s hitting .285 with 13 HR and 22 SB this season.

Third, the Chicago Cubs won for the 12th time in their last 13 games to close to within a game and a half of them for the top Wild Card spot.

Pedro Alvarez‘s brick glove at first base cost the Pirates two runs early on.

In the bottom of the 3rd, with the game still scoreless, the Cards had the bases loaded and one out. Jason Heyward hit a bouncer up the middle that looked to be an inning-ending 4-3 double play, but Neil Walker‘s throw to 1st was in the dirt and not only couldn’t Alvarez scoop it, but he also let the ball bounce well enough away from him to allow two Cardinal runners to score.

This play, by the way, came after one in which Alvarez failed to get back to first base in time to cover the bag on a ground ball.

Yadier Molina‘s RBI triple in the 6th inning snapped a 2-2 tie and held up to be the game-winner in a 4-2 St. Louis victory.  Molina’s low liner into center field got past a diving Gregory Polanco, giving the Pirates’ their second questionable defensive play of the night.

Meanwhile, Michael Wacha (W 14-4) struck out 7 Pirates in 6 innings of work, somehow scattering 12 base runners to allow just a pair of runs.

Andrew McCutchen homered (18th) and tripled (3rd) in the Pittsburgh loss.

This is the largest lead St. Louis has had in the division since July 25th. With another win today, it would be their largest lead since June 30th.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

Meanwhile, in Chicago, close Hector Rondon again tried to play “Houdini” by putting men at 2nd & 3rd with nobody out and a 1-run lead in the 9th. After striking out the next two batters, however, he bounced a pitch in the dirt that catcher Miguel Montero couldn’t handle, allowing it to get away and giving the Milwaukee Brewers a run to make it a 2-2 tie.

Miggy atoned in the 10th, with a solo home run (11th).

Kris Bryant poked his 16th homer of the year for the Cubs and first baseman Anthony Rizzo made an unbelievable play on a foul ball, jumping up onto the tarp and then stepping out into the crowd to make a catch and retire the much-despised Ryan Braun.

Braun had a nice day at the plate, actually, going 3-for-4 with his 20th homer of the year.

It was the Cubs’ 6th straight win and 12th in their last 13. Amazingly, they’ve only made up 3 games on the Cardinals during this stretch.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

Fielding metrics are a tricky thing and (at this point, anyhow) largely subjective and prone to stringers.

I just want to throw that caveat out there before pointing out some numbers about the Cubs’ shortstop situation.

Much has been made of Addison Russell being the more “natural” or “gifted” shortstop and Starlin Castro being more of a hack.

Well, this is an admittedly small sample size for Russell, but take a look at the numbers so far at short.

Castro: 103 games, 4.43 range factor per 9 innings, .962 fielding percentage
Russell: 14 games, 3.07 range factor per 9 innings, .917 fielding percentage

The subjective data from Baseball Info Solutions has Russell as the better fielder, with a +3 in defensive runs saved already, compared to -7 for Castro.

So the numbers say one thing but the eyes say another.

* * * * * * * * *

In his last 28 games, Cincinnati Reds‘ first baseman Joey Votto has a .563 OBP. He’s also hit .382 with 8 doubles and 5 home runs.

* * * * * * * * *

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

48-67 BREWERS Cravy (0-3, 5.40)
64-48 CUBS Lester (7-8, 3.227)
1:20 PM CT
65-46 PIRATES Liriano (7-6, 3.13)
73-40 CARDINALS Lynn (9-6, 2.76)
6:15 PM CT
50-62 REDS Sampson (1-1, 3.00)
64-50 Dodgers Latos (4-8, 4.67)
9:10 PM CT

* * * * * * * * *

NL Central Leaders

On-Base Percentage
Joey Votto (CIN) .434
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .405
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) .395
Jung-Ho Hang (PIT) .371
Matt Carpenter (STL) .367
WHIP
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 0.93
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 0.99
Jason Hammel (CHC) 1.04
Francisco Liriano (PIT) 1.11
Dan Haren (CHC) 1.12

Yadi’s Triple Brings Win to Cards

Yadier Molina's base-clearing triple lifted the St. Louis Cardinals to comeback win over the Chicago White Sox.

Yadier Molina’s base-clearing triple lifted the St. Louis Cardinals to comeback win over the Chicago White Sox.

With his team down 2-0 and the bases loaded in the 8th inning, Yadier Molina ripped a David Robertson pitch into the right field corner for a stand-up triple, leading the St. Louis Cardinals to a 3-2 win over the Chicago White Sox.

It was the Cards’ 4th win in 5 games since the All-Star Break, as they improved their lead in the NL Central to 6 games.

Yadi had a three-hit game, but none was as big as that 3-RBI three-bagger.

Lance Lynn had a nice start, going 6 innings and allowing a pair of runs on 5 hits and a walk, striking out 8.

Game Highlights

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On the flip side of the Second Half Coin, the Pittsburgh Pirates have lost 5 of 6 after being swept by the Milwaukee Brewers and losing 2 of 3 against the Kansas City Royals.

The series loss came after dropping the rubber game of the series, 5-1, yesterday.

Starling Marte had three hits for the Bucs.

The team is reeling behind injuries to the left side of the infield, with both Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer most likely out until September.

Game Highlights

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With the San Francisco Giants having won 8 of their last 9, the Chicago Cubs are going to have to do a lot better than splitting a 4-game series with teams like the Cincinnati Reds.

That came on the heels of winning a series in Atlanta, so they are still a respectable 4-3 since the All-Star Break. But with more series coming up against teams that are ripe for the picking – at home against the Philadelphia Phillies and Colorado Rockies, then visiting the Brewers and battered Pirates – they really need to start stepping things up.

Yesterday, the Cubs split a day-night double-header.

In the afternoon game, they were owned by Mike Leake, who went 8 innings and allowed 1 run on 4 hits allowed with 6 strikeouts against no walks. The Cincy offense was also on, as they pounded the Cubs 9-1.

Game two went 6-5 to the Cubs, who narrowly held on. The big play came in the 8th when the Reds loaded the bases in a tie game and Todd Frazier at the plate. Frazier ripped a Hector Rondon pitch up the middle that bounced off the pitcher, directly to first baseman Anthony Rizzo who came home for a 1-3-2 force out at the plate. Jay Bruce then flew out to left to end the inning with the game still tied.

In his last 10 games, Joey Votto has a .609 on-base percentage and is batting .455. In his last 7 games, his slash line is .538/.647/.846 for a 1.493 OPS.

Game 1 Highlights
Game 2 Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

The Brewers fell 7-5 to the Cleveland Indians.

Adam Lind went 4-for-5 with a homer (16th), double and 4 RBI in the loss.

Scooter Gennett had a three-hit day, including a double.

Game Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

Division Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 60 34 W2
Pittsburgh Pirates 54 40 6.0 L2
Chicago Cubs 51 43 9.0 W1
Cincinnati Reds 42 51 17.5 L1
Milwaukee Brewers 42 53 18.5 L1

Wild Card Standings

W L GB
Pittsburgh Pirates 54 40 +3.0
Chicago Cubs 51 43
San Francisco Giants 51 44 0.5
New York Mets 49 46 2.5

* * * * * * * * *

Schedule

51-42 Nationals Firster (3-5, 4.30)
54-40 PIRATES Liriano (5-6, 2.98)
6:05 PM CT
57-36 Royals Young (8-5, 3.03)
60-34 CARDINALS Lackey (8-5, 2.90)
6:15 PM CT
42-53 BREWERS Fiers (5-7, 3.79)
43-50 Diamondbacks Godley (NR)
8:40 PM CT

* * * * * * * * *

NL Central Leaders

On-Base Percentage
Joey Votto (CIN) .413
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .402
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) .388
Adam Lind (MIL) .374
Kris Bryant (CHC) .367
WHIP
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 0.95
Jason Hammel (CHC) 0.98
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 0.98
Francisco Liriano (PIT) 1.03
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 1.09

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

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

Wada Bad-ass

Wada Bad-Ass

Wada Bad-Ass

Hard not to lead with the Chicago Cubs, who shutout the Cleveland Indians while scoring a pair of touchdowns and a field goal (17-0).

They received 7 shutout innings of work from starting pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada, who was pretty much on the cusp of losing his spot in the rotation.

Every member of the lineup had a hit, including multi-hit games for the kids: Kyle Schwarber (4 hits including a triple in his first Major League start), Anthony Rizzo (2 hits including his 12th homer, snapping an 0-for-20 stretch), Kris Bryant (2 hits with a grand slam off of outfielder-turned-emergency-pitcher David Murphy), and Addison Russell (2 hits including his 5th homer and a spectacular play in the field).

Chris Denorfia also homered and doubled, driving in 4 runs for the Cubs.

In the post-game press conference, Wada had this to say about his big day:

I am bad-ass.

See the full interview here.

It was the most runs the Cubs had scored in a game since a 19-0 win over the San Diego Padres by that ill-fated 1969 squad.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

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If not for a hugely lop-sided game and the ability to include a non-English speaker calling himself “bad-ass”, the lead story would surely be the Pittsburgh Pirates, who ran their winning streak up to 7 with a 3-2 win over the Chicago White Sox.

All 3 Pirate runs scored in the 1st inning – Andrew McCutchen had an RBI single and Jung Ho Kang popped a 2-run homer, his 4th of the season.

Jeff Locke wasn’t able to keep the shutout parade going, allowing 2 runs in 6 innings of work. He struck out 8 against 2 walks and 3 hits allowed.

Mark Melancon collected his 22nd save with a perfect 9th inning.

It wasn’t all sunshine for the Bucs, though, as Starling Marte had to leave the game in the 9th inning. Marte appeared to injure his left ankle while hitting the first base bag in the previous inning.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

Jeff Sullivan wrote about Cutch’s post-April rebound over at Fangraphs. If you like looking at feet, you will probably enjoy it. Check it out over there.

* * *

The St. Louis Cardinals saw their 5-game winning streak end with a 3-1 loss visiting the Minnesota Twins.

Carlos Martinez threw effectively, allowing just 2 runs (1 earned) in 6.2 innings of work, while striking out 6.

The turning point came in the 4th inning when the Twins had men at the corners with one out, down 1-0. Martinez’s pickoff attempt at first went just wide of first baseman Mark Reynolds‘ grasp, glancing off his glove for an E-3 and allowing the tying run to score from 3rd and move the runner from 1st up to 3rd. That runner, Eduardo Nunez, then scored on a sacrifice fly to put Minnesota up 2-1.

But the offense hit 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position, not giving Martinez any kind of support.

Jason Heyward had the sole multi-hit day at the plate for the Birds, upping his average to .259 this season.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

Closer Trevor Rosenthal, who hasn’t pitched since June 13th, says he’s ready to resume closing duties but that he’ll be keeping a close eye on some arm fatigue. Rosenthal has 21 saves in 29 appearances this season, posting a sterling 0.59 ERA to go with a 0.96 WHIP, striking out 9.8 men per 9 innings. He hasn’t allowed a run since May 3rd, boasting a perfect 0.00 ERA in his last 17 appearances.

* * *

The Todd Frazier Show continued, leading the Cincinnati Reds to an 8-4 win in 13 innings over the Detroit Tigers.

Fraizer’s walk-off grand slam in the 13th inning was his 2nd of the game and 22nd of the year.

Jay Bruce is hitting just .232 this season, but went 5-for-6 with a pair of doubles last night.

And Twitter-abuser Brayan Pena went 4-for-6 (.302) with his 8th double of the year.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

Devin Mesoraco sounds close to officially ending his season after an aborted attempt to convert from catcher to outfielder. The hip injury isn’t getting any better and it sounds like he’s finally ready to concede the season to surgery.

In other Reds injury news, outfielder Marlon Byrd could be returning soon. Eligible to come off the DL this Thursday, he’s expected to play a pair of rehab games at AA before returning to the big league club for this weekend’s games.  Byrd had been an interesting stick for Cincy before his injury, hitting just .212 but also driving 10 of his 35 hits out of the park.

* * *

The Milwaukee Brewers were crushed again by the Kansas City Royals, this time by a 10-2 score that handed them their fifth straight loss.

Carlos Gomez was in the lineup at DH and had a pair of hits including a double. He’s been out of the lineup 5 of the Brewers’ last 7 games.

There is good news ahead for Milwaukee, however. There’s only 95 games left this season.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

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Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 43 22 L1
Pittsburgh Pirates 38 27 5.0 W7
Chicago Cubs 35 28 7.0 W1
Cincinnati Reds 30 35 13.0 W2
Milwaukee Brewers 24 43 20.0 L5

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Schedule

43-22 CARDINALS Garcia (2-3, 2.06)
35-30 Twins Pelfrey (5-3, 3.18)
12:10 PM CT
35-28 CUBS Hammel (5-2, 2.81)
30-34 Indians Salazar (6-2, 3.54)
6:10 PM CT
34-32 Tigers Verlander (0-0, 3.60)
30-35 REDS Leake (3-4, 4.35)
6:10 PM CT
24-43 BREWERS Nelson (3-7, 4.60)
37-25 Royals Guthrie (4-4, 5.79)
7:10 PM CT
38-27 PIRATES Cole (10-2, 1.71)
28-36 White Sox Samardzija (4-4, 4.84)
7:10 PM CT

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NL Central Leaders

On-Base Percentage
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .422
Matt Holliday (STL) .417
Kris Bryant (CHC) .398
Joey Votto (CIN) .398
Matt Carpenter (STL) .379
WHIP
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 0.949
Francisco Liriano (PIT) 0.956
Jason Hammel (CHC) 0.963
Michael Wacha (STL) 1.044
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 1.083