August 2013

8/31 Cubs 4, Phillies 3

Starlin Castro smacked his first home run in a month Saturday, hitting a tie-breaking shot leading off the sixth, and Cole Gillespie drove in two runs to lift the Cubs to a 4-3 victory over the Phillies for just their fourth win in the last 21 home games. The Cubs evened the series at Wrigley Field in front of 36,410, and spoiled Phillies interim manager Ryne Sandberg’s bid for a sweep against his former team.

It was a see-saw battle. Kevin Frandsen hit a solo home run in the Phillies’ fifth, but the Cubs tied it in the second on Welington Castillo’s RBI single. In the Phillies’ third, Chase Utley hit a grounder to Donnie Murphy, but Anthony Rizzo closed his glove before catching the ball for an error. Utley then stole second, and Carlos Ruiz followed with a RBI double. Cubs starter Chris Rusin took a deep breath. He should’ve been out of the inning after throwing eight pitches but instead needed 16 more pitches to finish.

The Cubs got some payback in their half. With two outs in the third, Murphy was safe on an error by Michael Young, Junior Lake singled, and Murphy scored on Castillo’s single. Young hit a RBI triple in the fourth to take a 3-2 lead but the Cubs loaded the bases and tied the game on Cole Gillespie’s sacrifice fly.

Castro connected on a 1-0 pitch from Zach Miner leading off the sixth for his eighth homer of the season, and first since July 31. The Cubs now have hit 89 home runs at Wrigley, second-most by a team at home in the Majors behind the Orioles, who have 94.

— Carrie Muskat

8/31 Extra bases

Scott Baker will make his final Minor League rehab start Monday for Class A Kane County. The right-hander, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery, hopes his next outing will be with the Cubs. Baker’s rehab was interrupted by rain as weather in Florida while he was scheduled to pitch for Class A Daytona kept forcing games to be cancelled.

In his last outing for Kane County, he gave up one hit over five scoreless — and dry — innings.

“For me, it’s just about making pitches, and I feel like I’m making pitches,” Baker said Saturday. “Some of the arm speed is starting to come back. I know that takes time. Just being a realist, it’s a long time since I’ve pitched competitively. There’s only one way to gain the arm speed and that’s to pitch.”

His goal is still to pitch for the Cubs in the final month of regular season play.

“As long as I can make pitches, I think I can be competitive,” Baker said.

He knows how many pitches and innings he needs to convince the Cubs front office.

“I’m cutting it close for sure,” he said of the timing. “I feel if I can get to that six-inning, 90-pitch mark, then that puts me right in line to start a game at the Major League level. Of course, that decision is totally up to them. I really can’t complain one bit because things have been great, and they’ve taken good care of me and allowed me to take my time and made sure I’m just not healthy for the short term but for the long term.”

* Ryan Sweeney stopped by Wrigley Field to pick up his gear. He hopes to be back on Sunday for the rest of the season. Sweeney and Luis Valbuena were scheduled to make rehab outings Saturday night for Class A Kane County. If all goes well, Sweeney, who has been sidelined since June 30 because of a left rib fracture, could be added on Sunday when rosters expand.

“He’ll be back [Sunday],” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Saturday of Sweeney. “It’ll be good to have him back.”

Valbuena, who has been out since Aug. 3, may need a little more time. Kane County’s season ends Monday. Sweeney was batting .295 when injured while Valbuena was hitting .225, but had hit nine home runs and driven in 31 runs.

The Cubs also may add a left-handed pitcher to the bullpen. James Russell has handled those duties by himself for the majority of the season.

* September will be a key month to evaluate the Cubs players.

“I think the last month is priceless for some guys, especially some guys who had a tough struggle or whatever,” Sveum said. “Other guys are being evaluated for next year. The adage of it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish, it helps the winter a lot. You don’t want a bad September and then sit on that for the winter.”

— Carrie Muskat

8/31 Minor matters

Friday’s games

Brooks Raley gave up one run on one hit and two walks over five innings in Iowa’s 3-2 loss to Nashville. The I-Cubs were eliminated from the playoffs with the loss. Brad Nelson hit his 20th home run, a solo shot. Mike Olt had three hits.

Eduardo Figueroa threw six shutout innings, giving up one hit and walking one, in Tennessee’s 12-1 win over Chattanooga. Justin Bour was a triple shy of the cycle, finishing with a double, a homer and a season-high six RBIs. Brett Jackson had two hits, including a double and a triple. Christian Villanueva had two hits and two RBIs. He leads the Southern League with 41 doubles.

Kris Bryant, Dustin Geiger, Bijan Rademacher, Pin-Chieh Chen and Zeke DeVoss each homered in Daytona’s 11-6 win over Brevard County. For Bryant, it was his second homer in the last three games. Chen smacked a two-run blast. Ivan Pineyro gave up four runs over five innings.

Starling Peralta gave up eight runs over four innings in Kane County’s 8-2 loss to Cedar Rapids. Carlos Escobar had three hits and Reggie Golden had two hits.

Duane Underwood gave up eight runs — four earned — over three innings in Boise’s 10-6 loss to Salem-Keizer. Dan Lockhart had two hits.

Mesa’s season ended Thursday at 27-28.

8/31 Cubs lineup

The Cubs face the fourth and final Cy Young winner on Saturday in the last five games in the Phillies’ Cliff Lee. Here’s the lineup:

Castro SS
Barney 2B
Rizzo 1B
Murphy 3B
Lake CF
Castillo C
McDonald LF
Gillespie RF
Rusin P

8/30 Phillies 6, Cubs 5

It was a perfect homecoming for Ryne Sandberg at Wrigley Field, which has been anything but friendly to the Cubs this season. Back at the ballpark he called home for 15 seasons, Sandberg, now the Phillies interim manager, celebrated a 6-5 win over the Cubs on Friday. Michael Young had four hits, including a tiebreaking RBI single with two outs in the ninth, and Kevin Frandsen hit a game-tying home run in the seventh to lift the Phillies.

Last Friday in San Diego, the Cubs blew a six-run first inning lead in an 8-6 loss to the Padres. This time, they couldn’t hold a 5-0 lead after five innings. Chicago now is 25-42 at Wrigley, and are one of five teams with more wins on the road than at home.

“Twice in one week, to see this kind of game, and this one at home, with your big horse [Jeff Samardzija] on the mound, cruising along and all of a sudden he starts misfiring and gets the ball up [it’s tough],” Dale Sveum said. “We can’t get a big hit to walk them off or get the chance. Michael Young hits the outfield grass [with his game-winning single] — we’re having trouble doing that at home.”

Sandberg, the Hall of Fame second baseman, received a nice ovation from the fans in his return to Wrigley. He took time to sign autographs, meet the media and say hello to old friends at the ballpark he called home from 1982-94 and again from 1996-97.

“It was good,” Sandberg said of the reception. “I heard it. A little tip of the hat to the crowd for that. And once I got up there with the umpires, we chatted a little bit. I asked them if they wanted me to take them around the ground rules.”

Sandberg not only could offer advice on how to deal with the hitter-friendly wind or the tough infield at Wrigley, but may have had a few suggestions about dealing with Samardzija, who was once on his Triple-A Iowa roster. The right-hander was shut down last Sept. 8 in his first season as a starter because the Cubs wanted to watch his innings. This year, the kid gloves are off. Friday was Samardzija’s career-high 28th start, and it included his 500th career strikeout, which he notched when he struck out Young in the third.

“Any time you get the early runs, you can be aggressive and attack the zone,” Samardzija said. “It allowed me to cruise through the middle innings. I obviously had the hiccup in the sixth.”

Anthony Rizzo and Nate Schierholtz each hit solo home runs. The Cubs added on in the fourth on Starlin Castro’s two-run double. Brian Bogusevic hit a RBi single in the fifth. But it wasn’t enough.

Pinch-hitter Kevin Frandsen tripled to open the Phillies’ sixth and scored on Young’s second single of the game. Jimmy Rollins then singled, and he and Young scored on Chase Utley’s triple to pull within 5-3. Utley then tallied on Domonic Brown’s groundout.

Frandsen stayed in the game, and delivered a solo homer with two outs in the seventh to tie the game at 5.

The Cubs had runners at first and second and one out in the seventh but Zach Miner struck out Murphy. Bogusevic singled to right, and Dioner Navarro, who was on second, tried to score, but was thrown out at home.

“You think about pinch-running there, but at home, in the seventh inning, [Navarro] is coming up again, and unless it was to win a game, it’s tough to [lift him],” Sveum said.

“I knew they were going to send me, there were two outs, tie game,” Navarro said. “They told me he made a perfect throw to the plate. We couldn’t catch a break today.”

— Carrie Muskat

8/30 Sing along

Comedian and actor Jon Lovitz will lead the crowd at Wrigley Field in the seventh inning stretch on Friday. Here is the lineup for the Cubs’ series vs. the Phillies and vs. the Marlins:

Friday: Jon Lovitz, Actor & Comedian
Saturday: Gary “Sarge” Matthews
Sunday: Chicago Sky players Swin Cash, Sylvia Fowles & Courtney Vandersloot
Monday: Chicago Blackhawks player
Tuesday: Big Ten Network football analysts Dave Revsine, Gerry DiNardo & Howard Griffith
Wednesday: Hall of Famer Andre Dawson

8/30 Ryno’s back

Darwin Barney still has a bat autographed by his former Triple-A manager, Ryne Sandberg. The current Cubs second baseman also remembers all the lessons he learned from the former one, now a Hall of Famer and back at Wrigley Field as the Phillies interim manager.

“I admired the way he prepared for the game every day, his intensity, the way baseball was his life,” Barney said Friday. “He went about it the right way and respected it where he’s like, ‘I’ll start in the Minor Leagues and won’t try to jump on with a buddy and be a bench coach.’ He wanted to learn how to manage. The way he went about his business every day and the way he helped me out before games at second base [was huge].”

Sandberg spent four seasons in the Cubs organization as a Minor League manager, and was passed over the big league job twice. He then left to manage in the Phillies’ system, and was on the big league team’s coaching staff this year. When Charlie Manuel was dismissed, Sandberg took over the Phillies.

Barney was Iowa’s starting shortstop but passed over when the Cubs promoted Starlin Castro from Double-A Tennessee in May 2010. Barney went to Sandberg because he wanted to know what to do to get that call. Sandberg and Barney began working at second base before games three times a week at home and on the road.

“I was fortunate to have a good relationship with him,” Barney said. “The ability to communicate with him was very helpful.”

Dale Sveum could relate to Sandberg’s interim status. Sveum was the Brewers’ interim manager for 12 games in 2008.

“The biggest thing is we’re probably taking over in the same kind of way,” said Sveum, hired as the Cubs manager prior to the 2012 season. “I took over as interim with 12 games. He’s got a couple months, six weeks. As a coach, you’ve got your own little world, and then all of a sudden, you have everybody’s little world, all 25 players, and the game management as well. You have so many responsbilities as well as the media as well as the game management as well as managing 25 players.”

Sveum said he didn’t even think about being an “interim” manager. He was the manager.

“You’re just managing at that time, you don’t worry about any tag,” he said. “You have a job to do and that’s all you can do.”

Sveum expected the Wrigley Field crowd to give Sandberg a nice welcome.

“A guy coming back to a place where he was a Hall of Famer, he deserves a lot of attention,” Sveum said. “He had a heck of a career here in Chicago. On the field, off the field, he was the ultimate professional and deserves all the attention he’s going to get. He’s one of the best players of all time.”

— Carrie Muskat

8/30 Extra bases

Third baseman Luis Valbuena, outfielder Ryan Sweeney and pitcher Rafael Dolis will join Class A Kane County to continue their rehab assignments, with Valbuena and Sweeney to be added to the Cubs’ when rosters expand on Sunday. Valbuena has been sidelined since Aug. 3 with a right oblique strain. He played in two games for the Cubs’ Rookie League team in Mesa, and was 5-for-7 with two doubles and a stolen base. Sweeney has been out since crashing into the outfield wall in Seattle June 29 and suffering a fractured left rib. In four games with the Rookie League team, he was 4-for-14 with two doubles and two RBIs.

Dale Sveum said Friday that Valbuena and Sweeney will likely be added once rosters expand on Sunday. The Cubs also were expected to add catcher J.C. Boscan and some pitchers from the Triple-A Iowa roster.

Sveum didn’t expect Valbuena to play every day once he returns.

“It’s nice to have left-handed bats when you can for matchups,” Sveum said. “As for playing every day, I don’t know. This last month will be evaluation for a lot of things.”

* Scott Baker, rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, was at Wrigley Field for a bullpen session, and will make one more rehab start for Class A Kane County on Monday. So far, Baker has made two starts for Class A Daytona, and five for Kane County. In his last outing on Wednesday, he retired the first 13 batters he faced, and gave up one hit over five innings.

“We’ll evaluate and see what we want to do the rest of the month,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Baker, who signed a one-year, $5.5 million contract with the team last November.

Kane County’s season ends on Monday.

* Five members of the Cubs’ Double-A Tennessee team were named to the Southern League All-Star team on Friday. They include second baseman Arismendy Alcantara, third baseman Christian Villanueva, shortstop Javier Baez, outfielder Matt Szczur and pitcher Kyle Hendricks.

— Carrie Muskat

8/30 Ryno back at Wrigley


8/30 Minor matters

Thursday’s games

Casey Coleman gave up two runs on five hits over six innings in Iowa’s 4-2 win over Omaha. Edgar Gonzalez and Edwin Maysonett each drove in a run.

Christian Villanueva hit a solo home run in Tennessee’s 5-0 win over Chattanooga. Neil Ramirez gave up one hit over 4 2/3 innings. Justin Bour had three RBIs.

Corey Black gave up one run on three hits over six innings in Daytona’s 3-2 win over Brevard County. Bijan Rademacher had two hits and Chadd Krist had two RBIs.

Kane County lost, 5-2, to Cedar Rapids. Daury Torrez gave up three runs over five innings. Marco Hernandez had two hits and one RBIs. Rock Shoulders had one RBIs.

Kevin Encarnacion hit his seventh home run and drove in four runs in Boise’s 10-8 loss to Salem-Keizer. Shawon Dunston and Dan Lockhart each had two hits.

Ryan Sweeney had two hits, including a double, and one RBIs in Mesa’s 8-1 win over the Diamondbacks. It was Sweeney’s fourth rehab outing. Luis Valbuena had three hits, including a double, and two RBIs in his second rehab game.