Samardzija solid again in loss to Texas

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Samardzija solid again in loss to Texas

LAS VEGAS (AP) A split-squad game meant Julio Borbon got a chance to prove what he can do.Borbon batted second for the Texas Rangers on Saturday while Elvis Andrus was moved up to leadoff. With regular leadoff hitter Ian Kinsler with the other half of the Rangers in Surprise, Ariz., Borbon was able to thrive at the top of the order between Andrus and Josh Hamilton during a 12-7 victory over the Chicago Cubs at Cashman Field.Borbon, competing with Craig Gentry for an outfield spot, had a pair of hits, including a two-run, bases-loaded single with two outs in the fifth."I feel comfortable anywhere," said Borbon, who is hitting .350. "I don't have a preference in the lineup as long as I'm getting an opportunity to go out there and contribute."Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija retired his first nine batters before Elvis Andrus singled leading off the fourth and scored on Josh Hamilton's single.
Rangers starter Derek Holland allowed one hit in four scoreless innings, struck out two and walked none. Mike Adams struck out the side in the fifth.Samardzija allowed one run and three hits in four innings with three strikeouts and no walks."I'm sure he had his pitches working for him," Borbon said, "and at the same time we did not do what we wanted to do the first couple innings."Texas broke open the game with a five-run eighth that included Renny Osuna's three-run homer.Cubs fall to Athletics in split-squad action
PHOENIX (AP) Seth Smith's place on the Oakland Athletics' major league roster is as left-handed bat who can play in the outfield and be plugged in as a designated hitter.Acquired from Colorado in mid-January, Smith went 3 for 3 with two-run double in the first inning that helped the A's beat the Chicago Cubs 4-3 in a split-squad game."He's faced so many left-handed pitchers all spring and he's really starting to swing it better and better against them," Oakland bench coach Chip Hale said. "He's got a great approach at the plate. That's the reason why we went out and traded for him."Former Oakland outfielder David DeJesus tripled to lead off the game and scored on a groundout off Travis Schlichting, who allowed two hits in three innings during his first start following three relief appearances."He's done nothing but impress us every time out," Hale said.Cubs starter Paul Maholm gave up three runs - none of the them earned - and two hits in three innings with three strikeouts and two walks. Manny Ramirez reached on a run-scoring error that tied the score, and Smith followed with his double on a hanging slider."It's good to have to battle through an inning," Maholm said. "It's a step in the process, having to get through that stuff and then bouncing back the next two innings and having some pretty quick innings."Oakland left fielder Jonny Gomes had a nice throw in the sixth when Geovany Soto doubled with Marlon Byrd on first. Gomes threw to shortstop Cliff Pennington, who relayed to catcher Anthony Recker.Recker and Byrd collided, but Recker stood up with the ball and took an extended look at Byrd as he headed for the dugout."Every day we're doing some kind of fundamental, and when we do it right, it's very nice to see," Hale said.NOTES: Oakland extended its spring training winning streak to eight games, but it ended Saturday with a split squad's loss to San Francisco in Scottsdale. ... Former World Series champions Bert Campaneris and Blue Moon Odom threw out ceremonial first pitches in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Athletics' World Series title ... Cubs reliever Esmailin Caridad came on in the bottom of the eighth inning and struck out the side in order, all looking, in his spring training debut. ... Soto homered on Ryan Cook's first pitch of the fourth

Preview: Cubs-Dodgers Sunday on CSN

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Preview: Cubs-Dodgers Sunday on CSN

The Cubs take on the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 2:30 p.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

CSN will also carry the live audio call of Los Angeles Dodgers broadcasting legend Vin Scully during Sunday's game as the SportsNet LA audio feed will be featured during the third inning.

Sunday’s starting pitching matchup: Jon Lester vs. Kenta Maeda

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the Cubs: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Cubs Pulse.

Cubs: Jason Hammel still fuming after Joe Maddon’s quick hook at Dodger Stadium

Cubs: Jason Hammel still fuming after Joe Maddon’s quick hook at Dodger Stadium

LOS ANGELES – Even from the upper levels of Dodger Stadium, inside the Vin Scully Press Box, you didn’t need binoculars or a lip reader to tell that Jason Hammel wanted nothing to do with Joe Maddon. 

Not this early on Saturday afternoon, not when the Cubs pitcher came into a possible playoff preview with a 13-6 record and a 3.07 ERA. An animated Hammel gestured toward home plate and walked off the mound in the middle of the third inning, continuing a sometimes awkward/usually productive relationship with the star manager that dates back to their time together as Tampa Bay Rays.    

The media waited several extra minutes outside the visiting clubhouse after a 3-2 loss to the Dodgers while Hammel met with Maddon in his office. Maddon’s postgame press conference then lasted almost eight minutes, giving Hammel time to shower and change into his street clothes. Hammel was still fuming by the time reporters wandered over to his locker.

“That’s between me and Joe,” Hammel said. 

Hammel – who normally enjoys the back-and-forth exchanges and gives insightful answers, even to uncomfortable questions – declined to get specific about the meeting, the decision-making process or how to work with Maddon.  

“That’s a conversation for me and him,” Hammel said. “There’s no reason for that to be in the papers. It’s a professional way of working through it. We’ll leave it there.” 

No, Hammel doesn’t get much latitude, even during his 11th year in the big leagues and a strong individual season that had so far answered questions about a second-half fade. But Maddon didn’t like what he saw against a stacked left-handed Los Angeles lineup.

Maddon walked out from the dugout with two runners on and one out in the third inning. Adrian Gonzalez loomed next, trying to extend a 3-1 lead with one big swing. Maddon summoned Rob Zastryzny from the bullpen and watched the rookie lefty get two groundball outs.  

“I didn’t even pitch today in my mind,” Hammel said. “I barely threw 40 pitches, so this is a side day for me.”

Zastryzny looked extremely impressive, retiring 11 of the 12 batters he faced, eight days after getting called up from Triple-A Iowa and making his big-league debut, showing that he could become an X-factor for October.

“He was not happy with me taking him out that early,” Maddon said of his conversations with Hammel. “I can understand why, because it’s happened in the past. But I just didn’t see the game straightening out.

“Watching them one time through, it looked like they were on him a little bit. And I thought that was a great lineup for ‘Rob Z.’ One of the things with bullpen arms – I want to put them in a meaningful spot. 

“I didn’t see it happening for ‘Hammer’ today, and that’s cool, because he didn’t throw that many pitches. He’s going to be very well-rested for his next start. But it also illustrates ‘Rob Z’ and what he can do for us in the future.” 

No, Hammel didn’t look all that sharp, giving up five hits to the 12 batters he faced, including a first-inning homer to Corey Seager and three consecutive hits to begin the third. But Hammel is also a respected veteran teammate who helped the Cubs transform into a playoff team last year and build baseball’s top-performing rotation this season. 

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Who cares? The Cubs are still 36 games over .500 and began the day with huge leads over the St. Louis Cardinals (14) and Pittsburgh Pirates (16.5) in a watered-down division. 

Well, Hammel is a guy who feeds off confidence and positive reinforcement. The Cubs might need him in October, especially if John Lackey (shoulder) experiences a setback before coming off the disabled list or another starter gets hurt down the stretch.  

“It is what it is,” Hammel said. “The guys fought hard. ‘Z’ did a hell of a job coming out of the ‘pen.”

Then again, the Cubs already think Mike Montgomery could develop into a good big-league starter – the lefty swingman got a longer leash given this particular Los Angeles matchup on Friday night – and thought enough of Zastryzny to make him a second-round pick out of the University of Missouri in 2013.

But for now, Maddon allowed Hammel to take advantage of his open-door policy and vent.

“I want them to be able to do that,” Maddon said. “I have a reason why I did it. I’m not going to hide about anything. It’s not like I just picked that out of the hat and chose to do it today. 

“You just got to shoot them straight back. And hopefully they can deal with it. There’s a great line: ‘Honesty without compassion equals cruelty.’ So at some point, you got to understand your audience, too.”

Joe Maddon defends bunt decision after Cubs can’t knock out Dodgers phenom Julio Urias

Joe Maddon defends bunt decision after Cubs can’t knock out Dodgers phenom Julio Urias

LOS ANGELES – The Cubs had Julio Urias and the Los Angeles Dodgers on the ropes, but couldn’t knock out the young lefty from Mexico who’s drawn comparisons to franchise icon Fernando Valenzuela and could be the next star to burst from this pitching-rich pipeline.  

The Cubs created their “you go, we go” sense of momentum on Saturday afternoon at Dodger Stadium with Dexter Fowler drawing a leadoff walk and MVP candidates Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo hitting back-to-back singles into right field to generate the game’s first run.

Urias had already thrown 17 pitches in the first inning when manager Joe Maddon instructed cleanup hitter Ben Zobrist to try to bunt for a hit. It became an easy out for Urias, who then struck out Addison Russell and Jorge Soler looking and began to find his rhythm during a 3-2 victory in front of 49,522 at Chavez Ravine. 

“Second and third was kind of a nice spot to be,” Maddon said. “(Zobrist) could have hit into a double play. He’s the one guy who’s heavy groundball against that particular pitcher. 

“I actually like the bunt for the hit right there, (because) we had (already) scored (and) Addison’s been a pretty good RBI dude. I thought it was a nice move right there (to) at least to get one (run) out of that. 

“You got him and Soler coming up versus a left-hander who’s a little bit shaky right there – I kind of liked it.”

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The Cubs had roughed up Urias during his second career big-league start on June 2 – or two-plus months before his 20th birthday – by hitting three homers and scoring six runs off him in five innings at Wrigley Field.   

But Urias – who pitched at four different minor-league levels last season – clearly has an accelerated learning curve. He managed to last six innings this time and didn’t allow another run after that early flurry, finishing with eight strikeouts against two walks.  

Urias has gone 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA in his last six games (four starts), helping bail out a $250 million team and a fragile rotation that’s used 14 different starting pitchers. If the Dodgers (72-57) can get Clayton Kershaw back to full strength, keep Rich Hill healthy and continue to bring along Urias, then the Cubs might have some matchup nightmares in October. 

“(Urias is) all of what they think he is,” Maddon said. “The kid was outstanding. He knows how to elevate against the guy you’re supposed to elevate against. He knows how to throw the ball down against the guy you’re supposed to throw the ball down to. He’s got a nice move to first base. He handled himself well at the plate. And he’s 20 years old. That’s pretty good.”