May 2014

5/31 Extra bases, post-game edition

* Anthony Rizzo posted his fifth career multi-homer game on Saturday, hitting a pair of two-run homers. It’s his first multi-homer game since Aug. 21, against the Nationals.

* Jason Hammel has thrown 14 scoreless innings at Miller Park in two starts, and struck out 15 over that stretch.

* Since May 12, the Cubs bullpen has a 1.96 ERA, giving up 12 runs over 55 1/3 innings.

* Jeff Samardzija faces Kyle Lohse on Sunday in the series finale.

5/31 Cubs 8, Brewers 0

One day after getting a breather for the first time this season, Anthony Rizzo crushed a pair of two-run homers on Saturday to back Jason Hammel and lift the Cubs to an 8-0 victory over the Brewers in front of a sellout crowd of 42,332 at Miller Park.

Hammel continued his love affair with Miller Park. When he most recently pitched here on April 27, he did not give up a hit until one out into the sixth. The Brewers didn’t wait that long Saturday, collecting a single with two outs in the first, but they mustered only four hits off the right-hander over seven innings.

“He set the tone and gave us seven really, really good innings,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. “He kept the ball down, mixed up his pitches, very calm, very poised. He’s a veteran. He commands his emotions and is very meticulous in his preparations and just attacks the hitters.”

Whether the right-hander will still be pitching for the Cubs after the Trade Deadline remains to be seen.

“I know my own value,” Hammel said. “My value is here for the Cubs and that’s the way I see it. I’m not going to play into the trade talk — it is what it is. The only way you can’t get traded in baseball is if you have a no-trade clause. It can happen to anybody.”

Rizzo apparently benefitted from the respite. Emilio Bonifacio singled to lead off the Chicago fourth, and he was safe at second on Junior Lake’s grounder despite a challenge from Roenicke. Rizzo then smacked a 3-2 pitch from Wily Peralta into the right-field seats for his ninth homer and a 2-0 lead.

“Having a day off is kind of weird,” he said. “I didn’t know what to do with myself.”

He knew what to do at the plate. Hammel singled to lead off the Chicago sixth, and two outs later, Rizzo launched his second homer of the game, again off a 3-2 pitch from Peralta, to put the Cubs ahead, 4-0. It was Rizzo’s fifth career multihomer game and his first since Aug. 21 against the Nationals.

Starlin Castro followed Rizzo with a double, and Nate Schierholtz walked to chase Peralta. Zach Duke took over and served up RBI singles to Chris Coghlan and Baker, as well as an RBI double to Barney as Chicago opened a 7-0 lead.

— Carrie Muskat

5/31 Cubs lineup

Anthony Rizzo is back after a one-game break. Jason Hammel gets the start against the Brewers at Miller Park. Here’s the lineup:

Bonifacio 3B
Lake CF
Rizzo 1B
Castro SS
Schierholtz RF
Coghlan LF
Baker C
Barney 2B
Hammel P

5/31 Extra bases

* Jason Hammel enters today’s start with a 0.90 WHIP, third-lowest in MLB, and trailing the Reds’ Johnny Cueto (0.75) and the Giants’ Tim Hudson (0.88). The last time Hammel pitched at Miller Park was April 27. In that game, he had a no-hitter with one out in the sixth when he had a brain cramp and forgot the signs. Carlos Gomez doubled for the first of three Milwaukee hits. The Cubs held on for a 4-0 win.

“Honestly, when guys say they weren’t thinking of [a no-hitter], they’re lying through their teeth,” Hammel said after the game. “I was, too, but I don’t really care. I was more frustrated with what happened in the sixth. I screwed myself going back and forth with signs. … Basically, I mixed myself up and lost my rhythm. The no-hit problem was my fault.”

Cubs catcher John Baker could only shake his head, then laugh.

“He forgot,” Baker said of Hammel during Gomez’s at-bat. “We were laughing about it, and so of course, he gave up a hit. It cost me a watch. I should’ve figured out a way to use my mind to give him the signs with telepathy but that didn’t work.”

* After batting .273 in nine games from May 11-21, the Cubs were hitting .207 in eight games on this road trip, including a .238 mark with RISP.

* The Cubs have scored three runs or less in 30 of their 52 games (58 percent), and are 4-26 when scoring three runs or less, and 0-19 when scoring two runs or less.

* The Cubs today close out May, and enter with a 10-16 record for the month. Last year, they were 13-14 in May. The Cubs have had two three-game winning streaks during the month (counting the April 30 win), but have had four losing streaks of at least three games, including their current slide.

Anthony Rizzo is tied for the third in the NL with 20 walks this month. Luis Valbuena’s .295 batting average (23-for-78) leads the club in May while Mike Olt’s five homers and Junior Lake’s 15 RBI have paced the club.

Travis Wood leads the team with four victories this month. Neil Ramirez has posted a 0.93 ERA (1 ER/9.2 IP) in 11 contests this month.

— Carrie Muskat

5/31 Minor matters — Friday’s games

Arismendy Alcantara hit a pair of home runs to lead Iowa to a 6-4 win over Memphis. The teams waited through a 4 hour 11 minute rain delay before starting. The delay didn’t disrupt Cubs’ leadoff man Ryan Kalish. He hit the second pitch of the game from Redbirds’ starter Zach Petrick for a home run. It was his first hit since joining Iowa on tuesday. Alcantara hit a three-run homer in the third. Alcantara hit his second blast in the top of the seventh. It was his first career multi-homer game and he is tied with Javier Baez for the team lead with seven homers. Scott Moore homered off Iowa starter Kyle Hendricks, the first he’s served up in 60 innings this season.

Kris Bryant hit his Southern League-leading 17th home run but it wasn’t enough as Tennessee lost, 5-1, to Huntsville. Bryant led off the ninth with his homer, his third in as many games. He has homered in four of his last five games, and was batting .404 in 28 May games with 29 runs, six doubles, 12 home runs and 34 RBIs.

Rob Zastryzny gave up five runs on seven hits over 3 2/3 innings in Daytona’s 7-2 loss to Palm Beach. Wilson Contreras had two hits and his 12th RBis of the year.

Jacob Rogers hit a three-run homer to help Kane County beat Clinton, 4-1. Daury Torrez picked up the win, giving up one run over five innings. James Pugliese struck out five over three scoreless innings of relief.

5/30 Cubs lineup

Anthony Rizzo, who is 1-for-21 lifetime vs. Marco Estrada, is not starting Friday for the Cubs as they open a three-game series at Miller Park against the Brewers. Rizzo has started the Cubs’ previous 51 games at first. Travis Wood gets the start and is looking to become the fourth Cubs pitcher to win five games in May in the last 20 seasons, joining Sean Marshall and Carlos Silva, who both did so in 2010, and Kevin Foster, who won five in 1997.

Here’s the lineup:

Bonifacio 2B
Lake CF
Valbuena 3B
Castro SS
Ruggiano LF
Castillo C
Schierholtz RF
Olt 1B
T. Wood P

5/30 Minor matters – Thursday’s games

Javier Baez had two hits but it wasn’t enough as Iowa lost 2-1 to Memphis to finish a game suspended from Wednesday. In the regular game Thursday, Tsuyoshi Wada gave up four runs on eight hits over six innings and took the loss in a 4-0 defeat. Arismendy Alcantara spoiled Tim Cooney’s no-hit bid with a single with two outs in the ninth.

Kris Bryant hit his Southern League leading 16th home run in Tennessee’s 4-3 loss to Huntsville. Bryant is batting .347 overall, and has homered in three of his last four games.

Daytona pitchers served up 11 hits in an 8-1 loss to Palm Beach. Chadd Krist had two hits.

Tyler Skulina took the loss as Kane County dropped a 5-0 game to Clinton. Skulina gave up two runs on two hits and three walks over five innings.

5/30 Roster move

Hector Rondon was placed on paternity leave on Friday to be with his wife, Keilin, who is expecting their first child. Pedro Strop, who had been sidelined with a groin strain, was activated from the disabled list.

5/29 Minor matters

Dallas Beeler gave up one run over 6 1/3 innings but took the loss in Iowa’s 1-0 loss to Memphis in the first game of a doubleheader. Arismendy Alcantara singled to extend his hitting streak to four games. The second game of Iowa’s doubleheader was suspended in the sixth because of rain. It will resume Thursday with Iowa trailing, 2-1.

Kris Bryant went 4-for-4 and hit his Southern League leading 15th home run in Tennessee’s 2-1, 11-inning loss to Huntsville. Bryant is now batting .349, and is 40-for-97 in May. Arodys Vizcaino struck out two in one inning in relief. Dae-Eun Rhee started and struck out eight over seven innings.

Wilson Contreras had two hits in Daytona’s 7-2 loss to Palm Beach. Nathan Dorris took the loss, giving up five runs over 4 1/3 innings. Gioskar Amaya had two hits.

Kane County won its fourth straight, beating Clinton, 7-1. Daniel Lockhart and Trey Martin each had three hits. Zak Hermans struck out four over 3 1/3 scoreless innings in relief to pick up the win.

5/28 Giants 5, Cubs 4

The Cubs had two on and two outs in the first inning Wednesday, and Nate Schierholtz battled the Giants’ Tim Lincecum in a 10-pitch at-bat, which ended with the outfielder lining out to first baseman Buster Posey to end the threat.

“When that ball starts hitting the grass, that’s when our team will take off,” Chicago’s John Baker said. “A lot of the games have been very close. It’s real difficult — what is the cliche? It’s a game of inches. I think the Chicago Cubs are proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that baseball is a game of inches.”

The Cubs could only get two balls to hit the grass at AT&T Park, collecting two hits off Lincecum and five other pitchers as the Giants posted a 5-0 shut out to clinch the series.

Chicago was blanked for the second straight game, the second time that’s happened this season. The Yankees also did so April 16 in a day-night doubleheader in New York. It’s the seventh time the Cubs have been shut out this season, third most in the National League. It was a somber clubhouse.

“It’s a testament to us that when we get beat 5-0, we feel we’ve been blown out,” Baker said.

Jackson took the loss Wednesday, striking out nine and giving up two runs on four hits over 5 1/3 innings. He watched as Lincecum threw five no-hit innings, but was then pulled after throwing 96 pitches because of a blister that developed on the top of his right middle finger in the third inning.

The Cubs finally got a hit when Baker singled with one out in the seventh. Chicago holds the Major League record for consecutive games played of at least nine innings without being no-hit (7,714).

Despite the lack of offense, Rick Renteria liked the approaches by his hitters.

“We drove [Lincecum’s] pitch count to almost 100 in five innings, so we were having good at-bats,” Renteria said. “We actually hit quite a few balls hard but didn’t find any holes. The last four inings, we weren’t able to do anything. I thought we were able to put together good at-bats, just couldn’t get any runs.”

The Giants finally did score in the sixth. Angel Pagan doubled to lead off that inning against Jackson, who then walked Hunter Pence. Posey flied out to center and Jackson was lifted for James Russell, who served up an RBI single to Pablo Sandoval, who was batting .156 against left-handers. Brian Schlitter took over for Russell, and one out later, Tyler Colvin hit an RBI double.

The Giants padded their lead with two outs in the seventh when a run scored as Posey reached on an error by Mike Olt. Sandoval was intentionally walked, and Hector Sanchez followed with a two-run double to go ahead 5-0.

“I thought [Jackson] gave us a good chance to win the ballgame,” Renteria said. “Tip your hat to them, they kept grinding and were able to get to us.”

— Carrie Muskat