Cubs will find out if Dolis has what it takes

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Cubs will find out if Dolis has what it takes

ST. LOUIS One day late in spring training, Carlos Marmol agreed to translate for Rafael Dolis. Marmol has earned a reputation as someone whos always at his locker, win or lose, ready to take the heat.

As the media moved in for a nice and easy notebook item, one reporter asked Marmol to ask Dolis if he would like to close one day.

Close what? Marmol said and everyone laughed. What are you talking about?

Even if it didnt come out quite right, it was still a very good question. No one thought the answer would come about a month into the season.

Dolis had his baptism by fire into the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry on Tuesday in St. Louis, in front of another sellout crowd at Busch Stadium. They celebrated a 7-6 walk-off win as Yadier Molina hit a two-out RBI single past diving second baseman Darwin Barney.

Dolis looked like he wanted to throw his glove to the ground. A Cubs team thats playing the percentages with spray charts and defensive positioning got burned on that one.

Its one quarter of a step from maybe saving a run, Barney said. Thats kind of how we play Yadi. Hes such a talented hitter. He can hit the ball to all fields. He tends to hit the ball up the middle or to the pull side early in the count.

If there was two strikes right there, I probably would have shifted over a little bit. Were committed to playing the middle. I wasnt shifted all the way over, but just enough for him to get it through there.

But it didnt have to come down to that in the ninth inning.

In the eighth, Matt Carpenter launched James Russells first-pitch fastball 422 feet into the seats in right-center field. The inning before, Kerry Wood walked two batters and allowed the game-tying run.

The Cubs wasted Alfonso Sorianos first home run this season, a game-tying shot in the ninth in his 120th at-bat. Those are the margins for a 15-21 team and an organization thats willing to go through the growing pains.

Manager Dale Sveum officially told Marmol he lost the job on May 4, the morning after another meltdown in Cincinnati. One week later, Marmol strained his right hamstring and went on the disabled list.

Dolis a 24-year-old rookie who had pitched in one game above the Double-A level until this season has emerged as a potential long-term solution for the ninth inning.

You never know the makeup of people, how they handle the last three outs, Sveum said before the game. Its not made for everybody. So hes obviously proven so far that the makeup is there for it. For a young guy that hasnt pitched a lot in the big leagues, I think thats the biggest thing.

There will be some trial-and-error stuff and understanding what goes into that.

Cubs people felt the same way about Marmol when they announced his three-year, 20 million contract on Valentines Day 2011. He was coming off a season in which he notched 38 saves in 43 chances.

Marmol has had issues with his mechanics, the feel for his slider and trusting his fastball. Hes back in Chicago receiving treatment for an injury thats considered relatively minor. Hell likely pitch one or two innings at Triple-A Iowa before being activated.

Who knows? Maybe the time away will help someone who has a 6.35 ERA, two blown saves and 16 walks in 11.1 innings.

But Sveum has said that he wont make changes just for the sake of making changes. This is a huge opportunity for Dolis, whos 2-3 with four saves, a 3.52 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP.

He got the groundball (Molina) just happened to hit it in a place he doesnt hit it very often, Sveum said before looking more broadly at his closer.

(Dolis) is not a big strikeout guy, so hes got to learn to throw his slider more. You cant keep throwing fastball after fastball. Hes got a good slider and hes got to use it. Hes learning that he needs to use that pitch more.

The overall bullpen issues compelled the Cubs to sign veteran reliever Mike MacDougal to a minor-league deal that will put him in Iowa. (They also acquired Hunter Cervenka, a Class-A left-hander in the Boston Red Sox system, to complete the Marlon Byrd-Michael Bowden trade.)

The Cardinals (21-15) arent exactly running away with the division. The Cubs now have 11 losses after leading, and have lost six games in the final at-bat.

Were playing good baseball, and were doing a lot of the little things right, Barney said, but in the end you got to start stacking up the wins.

Cubs score five runs in seventh to power past Brewers

Cubs score five runs in seventh to power past Brewers

MILWAUKEE – The franchise sensitive to being the other team in town is catching the Cubs at the worst possible time, another you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up story coming out of the White Sox clubhouse.

While Chris Sale serves a five-game suspension for playing with scissors, the Cubs will start Jake Arrieta, the National League’s reigning Cy Young Award winner, on Monday night at U.S. Cellular Field.

The perception will be hot-seat manager Robin Ventura has lost control over this White Sox season, while Manager of the Year Joe Maddon actually answered a question this weekend about how the Cubs might align their playoff rotation.

One week out from the Aug. 1 trade deadline, the debates will be which players White Sox executives Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn should sell off, and which Cubs prospects Theo Epstein’s front office should put down to buy the big-ticket item for a World Series run.

Optics, marketing and promotional throwback jerseys aside, the Cubs also appear to be hitting their stride again after a much-needed vacation, winning their third straight series out of the All-Star break with Sunday afternoon’s 6-5 win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.  

The Cubs did it with their $155 million ace (Jon Lester) throwing only four innings, getting charged with four runs and giving up five walks and five stolen bases. The Cubs could also absorb one quarter of their All-Star infield (Addison Russell) leaving in the middle of the game with a left heel contusion.

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The Cubs stormed back with five runs in the seventh inning as MVP candidate Anthony Rizzo delivered the biggest swing, a bases-loaded, three-run double into right-center field off lefty reliever Will Smith. 

Three sellout crowds here over the weekend watched the Cubs welcome back All-Star leadoff guy Dexter Fowler to the top of the order, give the ball to six-time All-Star closer Joe Nathan in his return from a second Tommy John surgery and keep the St. Louis Cardinals seven games out of first place heading into Sunday night and what should be a gut check for the entire White Sox organization.

“I anticipate that same wonderful crosstown rivalry kind of atmosphere, which I love,” Maddon said. “It’s great for the city. It’s great for the sport. I don’t think fans really care much about records at that particular moment. They just care about your team winning.”

White Sox top Tigers with two walk-offs on Sunday

White Sox top Tigers with two walk-offs on Sunday

The White Sox are somehow still afloat. But just barely.

Melky Cabrera’s game-winning, one-out single in the ninth inning Sunday afternoon got David Robertson off the hook and helped the White Sox to a 5-4 win over the Detroit Tigers in front of 30,281 at U.S. Cellular Field.

Cabrera singled past Nick Castellanos to score Adam Eaton, who reached base four times, and give the White Sox their second victory of the day. Eaton’s two-out, ninth-inning RBI single earlier helped the White Sox win a rain-suspended contest 4-3 over the Tigers. Cabrera’s hit arrived just minutes after Robertson surrendered three solo home runs — all with two strikes — and blew a victory for Jose Quintana, who may have made his final start in a White Sox uniform. The victories kept the White Sox from entirely slipping out of the wild-card race as they remain 6.5 games back of the Toronto Blue Jays.

“I love the guys that are in our clubhouse,” Eaton said after the first game. “We’ve got a tight-knit group of guys that really want to fight for each other. To get the big hit and have everyone rush out there, especially with what we’ve had the past couple of days, the whole year has really been a roller coaster both on and off the field.”

The season’s topsy-turvy nature potentially could lead to a trade of mainstays Quintana or Chris Sale, who earlier Sunday was suspended five games for insubordination and destroying team property on Saturday. It has been widely speculated the White Sox could move Quintana before the Aug. 1 nonwaiver trade deadline in an attempt to rebuild a roster that general manager Rick Hahn said Thursday has been “mired in mediocrity.” An All-Star and one of the top pitchers in the American League, Quintana and his team-friendly contract could fetch a handsome return were the White Sox to part with him in a deal.  

Sunday’s 118-pitch effort displayed exactly why Quintana is an attractive option for a contender as he shut down a Detroit lineup that has given him trouble over the years. Quintana kept the Tigers off balance throughout the effort, never allowing more than one runner to reach base in any inning. He faced two over the minimum through five innings and struck out Miguel Cabrera to end the sixth after he surrendered a two-out double to Jose Iglesias.

Though he started the inning at 107 pitches, Quintana returned in the seventh and recorded two more outs before he allowed a bloop-base hit to Justin Upton. Nate Jones struck out Mike Aviles to end the inning.

Quintana allowed three hits, walked one and struck out four. He also lowered his earned-run average to 2.97.

“He’s been helping through the long run and if he gets traded he’s going to help whoever gets him,” catcher Dioner Navarro said. “But I think he’s going to be a great part of this team for many years to come.”

That would give the White Sox plenty of chances to make up for all the heartbreak they’ve caused Quintana over the years. Sunday’s no-decision was his major-league leading 56th since 2012.

It’s no secret the White Sox have struggled to score runs for Quintana since he arrived in the majors. Even though he owns a career ERA of 3.39, Quintana’s career record remained at 41-42 after Robertson blew his fourth save in 27 tries. Robertson, who earned the win in the first game of the day and also pitched before Saturday night’s game was suspended, allowed solo homers to Castellanos, Tyler Collins and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Quintana’s sub-.500 record is in large part because the White Sox never seem to score with him on the hill. This season, Quintana ranked 126th out of 136 qualified starters with a 3.2 runs per start headed into Sunday.

But the White Sox followed Eaton’s lead. Less than 45 minutes after he won the opener, Eaton singled in the bottom of the first and scored on a two-out RBI single by Jose Abreu. An inning later, Eaton took advantage of singles by Dioner Navarro and J.B. Shuck went he lined a three-run homer with two outs off Anibal Sanchez to give the White Sox a four-run lead.

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The four runs scored for Quintana marks the team’s second-highest output for one of his starts this season.

But it wasn’t enough until Cabrera came through against Bruce Rondon with two outs. Eaton led off the inning with a walk and advanced to second on Tim Anderson’s sac bunt. Cabrera then singled on the first pitch from Rondon to produce the game-winner.

“I'm proud of the guys for what they did over the weekend and how they handled it,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “All of them reached down for the ball. They all wanted to be in there, so I'm proud of them for that. Robbie is disappointed. It's the first time I've seen that one, but I don't know if it was that he was out of gas. Probably some poor pitches and a day like today, you get it up in the air and it's gone.”

Ken Griffey Jr. finished his Hall of Fame speech in most fitting way thanks to Frank Thomas

Ken Griffey Jr. finished his Hall of Fame speech in most fitting way thanks to Frank Thomas

Ken Griffey Jr. was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday afternoon, and he went out in the most fitting way possible.

At the end of his speech, Griffey Jr. grabbed a hat from under the podium and put it on backwards, rocking his signature look.

Griffey Jr. said in his speech that it was White Sox legend Frank Thomas who pitched the idea and ultimately convinced him.

"You gotta do it," said Thomas, who joined Cooperstown in 2014.

In his 22-year career, Griffey Jr. played half a season with the White Sox in 2008. He had three homers and 18 RBIs in 41 games with the team.