August 2011

8/31 Hide and seek

It’s tough to hit what you can’t see, and the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner was able to hide the ball well from the Cubs, who mustered two hits in a 4-0 loss on Wednesday. Bumgarner matched a career-high with 11 strikeouts over eight innings and Jeff Keppinger and Pablo Sandoval hit back to back homers to lift the Giants to victory and avoid a sweep. It’s the Cubs’ fewest hits since they totaled two on Sept. 21, 2010, also against the Giants in a 1-0 loss.

The only Chicago hits were a single by Starlin Castro with two outs in the third and a leadoff single by Marlon Byrd in the fifth.

“He hid the ball very good,” Alfonso Soriano said of Bumgarner, “but at the same time, when you see the ball come out of his hands, you don’t know [what it is] because you can’t see the rotation of the ball and it’s hard to hit like that. He’s good, but he got a lot of help because it was bright, too.

“It wasn’t only me but everybody,” Soriano said. “It was weird at home plate.”

Soriano did draw a walk in his first at-bat in the second, grounded out in the fourth, and struck out to end the seventh.

“My first at-bat, I said, ‘Oh my God, thank God he didn’t throw me anything close,'” Soriano said. “I saw the ball and when it came close, it disappeared. My second at-bat, I wanted to swing at the first pitch. I didn’t know if it was a fastball, breaking ball. I couldn’t see.”

— Carrie Muskat

8/31 Castro OK after slide

Starlin Castro said he’s fine after feeling something in his right hamstring after stealing second base on Wednesday. Castro singled, one of two hits off the Giants in the 4-0 loss, then stole second and advanced to third on an error by catcher Chris Stewart. Castro came up limping, but stayed in the game.

“It hurt at the moment but now it’s good,” said Castro, whose raised his season hit total to 173, tops in the National League. “I slid and I came up too hard and went to third and I felt like it was ready to pop. Now I feel pretty good, it doesn’t hurt, it’s not sore, nothing.”

The 21-year-old shortstop can’t stop. He has a goal this season.

“I feel I can try to finish strong the last month and try to get 200 hits,” Castro said. “If you’re on the bench, you can’t do it. If you play every day, you’ve got a chance.”

— Carrie Muskat

8/31 August happenings

The Cubs enter Wednesday’s game with a 16-12 mark this month. It’s the team’s first winning month this season, and first August with a record above .500 since the Cubs were 20-8 in August 2008. They’ve hit 39 homers this month, most in the National League and second in the Majors. They have hit 40 homers in August four times in franchise history.

What’s the difference?

“Everybody’s healthy,” Matt Garza said. “We only have one guy on the DL [Andrew Cashner] who should be coming back in a couple days. This is the way we expected to come out of spring but when you lose [Randy Wells] and ‘Cash’ in the first week and then you have to mix and match your rotation and it was injury after injury after injury, it just seemed like it never stopped. Now that we’re all back together with the team we broke camp with, it’s fun to watch.”

After an off day Thursday, the Cubs will have 25 games remaining, including 13 road games and 12 home games.

— Carrie Muskat

8/31 Cubs Minor League report

Bryan LaHair hit his 38th home run to set an Iowa Cubs single season record but it wasn’t enough as Iowa lost, 7-3, to Nashville on Tuesday. LaHair topped the mark of 37 homers set by Joe Hicks in 1984. Nick Struck took the loss, giving up six runs on eight hits over 4 2/3 innings.

Josh Vitters had three hits and five RBIs in Tennessee’s 10-8 win over Jacksonville. Steve Clevenger had three hits and scored two runs and Rebel Ridling extended his hitting streak to 15 games. Jeff Stevens picked up the save, pitching 1 2/3 innings. The Smokies are tied for fist in the North standings in the Southern League. If Chattanooga and Tennessee finish tied for the second half, they will meet in a one-game playoff at Smokies Park next Tuesday.

Daytona’s doubleheader against Tampa was postponed because of rain. They will try to play Wednesday.

Rafael Valdes had four hits and one RBIs in Peoria’s 8-7 win over Kane County. Taiwan Easterling had three hits and Roderik Pichardo converted his second save.

Paul Hoilman hit his 16th home run and Reggie Golden hit his fifth and drove in three runs in Boise’s 5-1 win over Vancouver. Dustin Fitzgerald picked up the win in relief.

— Carrie Muskat

8/30 LaHair hits 38th homer


Bryan LaHair belted his 38th homer but it wasn’t enough as Iowa lost, 7-3, to Nashville on Tuesday. In a pregame ceremony in Des Moines, LaHair was honored as the Iowa Cubs’ 2011 MVP. He set the team’s all-time single-season home run mark with a blast in the sixth. LaHair now has passed Joe Hicks, who hit 37 homers for the Iowa team in 1984. LaHair came close to accomplishing the feat in the first inning, but settled for a double off the right-center field wall.
— Carrie Muskat

8/30 Soriano’s homers

Alfonso Soriano hit his second homer of this series and 24th of the season with one out in the second inning Tuesday against the Giants. It was Soriano’s 130th homer with the Cubs. Only six players have hit more home runs in their first five seasons as a Cub. Hack Wilson holds the record with 177 homers in his first five seasons from 1926-30. He’s followed by Andre Dawson (152 homers from 1987-91); Aramis Ramirez (146 from 2003-07); Hank Sauer (145 from 1949-53); Sammy Sosa (142 from 1992-96); and Ernie Banks (136 from 1953-57).

— Carrie Muskat

8/30 Baez to Boise; Castillo on DL

Cubs’ first-round pick Javier Baez will join Class A Boise Tuesday. The ninth overall pick this June, Baez will be joined on the Hawks’ roster by right-handed pitchers Michael Jensen, James Pugliese, and Tony Zych. All three were Draft picks from this season and were in Mesa. Zych was a fourth-round pick out of the University of Louisville. Pugliese is an 18th rounder from Mercer County Community College in New Jersey, and Jensen was the Cubs’ 26th round draft pick out of Hartnell Community College in California.

* Catcher Welington Castillo was placed on the disabled list with a hamstring injury for the second time. He spent two weeks on the DL with a similar injury, July 28-Aug. 11, but rejoined the I-Cubs earlier this month after rehabbing in Mesa.  In a corresponding move, catcher Mario Mercedes was called up from Boise.

— Carrie Muskat

8/30 Cubs lineup

Matt Garza will try to make it two in a row against the Giants Tuesday night. Here’s the Cubs’ lineup:

SS Castro

2B Barney

3B Ramirez

1B Pena

LF Soriano

CF Byrd

RF Colvin

C Soto

P Garza

— Carrie Muskat

8/30 Santo, Hughes on Frick ballot

You can help Ron Santo and Pat Hughes get into baseball’s Hall of Fame. Santo and Hughes are among the 75 candidates vying for the 2012 Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in baseball broadcasting. This is Hughes’ 16th season as WGN Radio’s play by play announcer. Santo’s last season as the team’s analyst was 2010. The former Cubs third baseman, who died last December, began his broadcasting career in 1990 and teamed with Hughes for 15 seasons.

Fans can cast votes for the Cubs radio broadcasters at the Hall of Fame’s Facebook page, This is the ninth consecutive year the fans will select three of the 10 names on the ballot for the Frick Award. Voting runs from Thursday through Sept. 30, and fans can cast votes once per day through September.

The Hall of Fame has trimmed the list of fan-eligible candidates to 75, with two representing every current big league team and 15 at-large selections. The selections were based on popularity, longevity and past voting results in the online fan balloting. Eligible candidates must have a minimum of 10 years of continuous Major League broadcast service with a ball club, network, or a combination of the two.

Results of the fan voting will be announced Oct. 5. The final 2012 Frick Award ballot will be comprised of the three fan selections, along with seven other candidates, determined by a Hall of Fame staff research team. The winner will be announced Dec. 6 at the Winter Meetings.

— Carrie Muskat

8/30 Jackson, Carpenter, Cashner to play in AFL

Andrew Cashner, Brett Jackson and Chris Carpenter are among the Cubs prospects who will play in the Arizona Fall League, which begins Oct. 4. The trio will be joined on the Mesa Solar Sox by Trey McNutt, Junior Lake and DJ LeMahieu. Left-hander Jeff Beliveau is on the taxi squad as well. The AFL begins its 20th season this October. The six-team league plays six days per week (Monday-Saturday) in six Cactus League stadiums in the Phoenix area. Salt River Fields at Talking Stick has been added as the new home of the Rafters, joining Mesa Hohokam Stadium (Solar Sox), Peoria Sports Complex (Javelinas), Phoenix Municipal Stadium (Desert Dogs), Scottsdale Stadium (Scorpions) and Surprise Stadium (Saguaros) as the league venues.

— Carrie Muskat