Cubs fight back, claim wacky win over Mets

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Cubs fight back, claim wacky win over Mets

Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011Posted: 4:25 p.m.

Associated Press

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NEW YORK (AP) With first base open and the Cubs' best run producer at the plate in the ninth inning, Chicago manager Mike Quade was relieved to see the Mets pitch to Aramis Ramirez.Ramirez came through, too, hitting a two-run single with two outs, lifting the Cubs to a 5-4 victory over New York after they blew a three-run lead in the eighth Saturday."These are the decisions you live and die with," Quade said. "The question doesn't get asked unless Rami gets a base hit, does it?"Jason Bay had given the Mets a 4-3 lead in the eighth with a two-out, two-run single. But some more sloppy play by New York in the ninth on an overall rough day in the field and another meltdown by Bobby Parnell (3-6) helped the Cubs even a three-game series that will culminate with a ceremony Sunday to mark the 10-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 911. The Mets are offering free tickets to New York City first responders and their families for that game.The Mets won the opener Friday night in the ninth after blowing a lead in the top half.Afterward, workers painted the logo being used Sunday onto the Citi Field grass in foul territory, about 50 feet down the first- and third-base lines: a stars and stripes rendering of the MLB logo laying on top of red and blue ribbons, encircled by the saying "September 11, 2001. We shall not forget."In the outfield, several dozen people constructed an enormous American flag out of red and white fabric strips. The blue and white stars section came in one piece that covered much of left field.The Cubs built an early 2-0 lead with help from two errors by Jose Reyes in a dog of a game through seven innings on Bark in the Park day, a benefit for the North Shore Animal league. There were 332 dogs in attendance along with 30,443 people.David Wright made his second error and New York's fourth of the game - the team's most since Aug. 4, 2010 - when he couldn't handle Geovany Soto's grounder leading off the ninth.Pinch-hitter Bryan LaHair doubled to put runners at second and third. Parnell then got two outs ahead of Ramirez. Collins considered walking Ramirez but he was thinking of his young closer."The one thing that enters my mind is I didn't want to put Bobby in that: He can't miss, I've got to throw that ball over the plate," Mets manager Terry Collins said.Ramirez then lined an opposite-field single to right for the go-ahead runs. Parnell has been given an opportunity to earn the closer role for the Mets but he has blown five saves in 10 chances."I feel like I didn't give him anything good to hit," Parnell said. "I got a groundball out of it. Unfortunately it was in the hole."Kerry Wood (3-5) earned the win even though he gave up two runs in the eighth in relief of Randy Wells, who pitched neatly into the eighth inning.Carlos Marmol gave up a one-out walk in the ninth but finished for his 34th save in 43 opportunities.Trailing 3-0 in the eighth and having wasted several opportunities against Wells, the Mets scored four times after pinch-hitter Willie Harris walked leading off, the third time they had the leadoff batter reach in four innings. Reyes followed with an RBI double to end Wells' day.Wood entered and gave up a hit to Ruben Tejada and an RBI single to Wright after striking out Lucas Duda. Angel Pagan struck out and Wright stole second without a throw when the count was 0-2 to Bay.Bay then lined a hit over leaping shortstop Starlin Castro for two runs, wasting another strong effort by Wells."All I care about is if the team wins," Wells said.Most of the dogs were gone by the time the Mets mounted their eighth-inning rally to take a 4-3 lead.Marlon Byrd had an RBI double in the eighth inning off Ryota Igarashi after Chris Capauno pitched seven impressive innings for New York to make it 3-0.Reed Johnson doubled and scored in the first when Reyes jumped to catch Jeff Baker's sharp line drive right at him but dropped the ball. Johnson then added an RBI fielder's choice in the fifth a batter after Reyes fumbled Starlin Castro's grounder before he tried to make a throw to second for a forceout."It's no one person's fault that you lose a game," Wright said. "Collectively there's a lot of things we could have done to win this game."Wells has not lost since July 28 when his ERA was 6.16. In eight starts since then, he has lowered it to 4.73. The right-hander didn't allow a baserunner until Mike Nickeas singled with one out in the third.Capuano rebounded from his worst start of the year in which he gave up six runs in four innings against the Marlins on Monday with seven solid innings. He gave up five hits and two runs, striking out six.Castro had two hits for Chicago to up his NL-leading total to 186.NOTES:
Mets LHP Johan Santana will make another rehab start, either in the minors or in a simulated game in New York. Collins said "we have no plans to see him here" this season. ... Quade said the "medical people will decide what's best for" RHP Andrew Cashner, who was activated from the 60-day DL on Monday. Cashner (strained right rotator cuff) hasn't pitched in the majors since being injured on April 5, his only outing of the season. ... Cubs RHP Matt Garza (8-10) faces RHP Miguel Batista (4-2) on Sunday.

Why Dodgers could be a playoff problem for Cubs

Why Dodgers could be a playoff problem for Cubs

LOS ANGELES – Imagine a Los Angeles Dodgers team doing more with less getting Clayton Kershaw back to start Game 1 of a playoff series. That could become a nightmare matchup for the Cubs, if Rich Hill stays healthy and continues his late-career renaissance, and if rookie phenom Julio Urias saves enough bullets for October.   

“They would be a tough team,” said Ben Zobrist, a World Series hero last year with the Kansas City Royals, the switch-hitter the Cubs signed with October specifically in mind. “We would have our hands full because of all the lefties they have. 

“We have to do a better job against lefties overall – and figuring out how to just get more runners on base. We tend to rely on the homer a little bit too much. And in those situations, (we) have to find a way to just take our hits and hit line drives around the park.”

On Sunday afternoon at Dodger Stadium, the Cubs didn’t have any answers for Brock Stewart, a 24-year-old right-hander out of Illinois State University who matched $155 million lefty Jon Lester for five scoreless innings. The Dodgers manufactured a 1-0 victory, and might have swept the best team in baseball out of Chavez Ravine if not for Kris Bryant’s MVP game on Friday night.

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“They have a veteran group on the field,” manager Joe Maddon said. “They’re always able to come up with another pitcher somehow. They got a really good bullpen. For right now, they’ve been utilized a lot, so I don’t know how that’s going to hold up, but they are good.”

Maddon couldn’t resist taking a few passive-aggressive shots, but he did compare this Los Angeles bullpen to the 2002 Anaheim Angels team that won the World Series and gave him a championship ring as Mike Scioscia’s bench coach.
  
Kershaw (11-2, 1.79 ERA) appeared to be rolling toward his fourth National League Cy Young Award when he went on the disabled list with lower back pain in late June.

“Kershaw coming off a back injury, you just don’t know,” Maddon said. “Hill’s good. He’s reinvented. He’s a curveball pitcher and all that kind of good stuff. So, of course, they can be good.”

Maddon wondered how Urias – who settled down after a rocky start to win a 3-2 game on Saturday – would hold up at the age of 20 after throwing only 80-plus innings combined last year at four different minor-league affiliates. 

“The biggest concern would probably be that he would run out of gas,” Maddon said, “not being used to pitching that late into a year. And I know they’re mindful. I know they’re going to do things to restrict him, whatever. But that would be the biggest concern there.”

[RELATED: With John Lackey ramping up for return, could Cubs go to six-man rotation?] 

The Dodgers (73-57) built a lineup around professional hitters like Justin Turner, Adrian Gonzalez, Chase Utley and Howie Kendrick. They have a two-way catcher (Yasmani Grandal), their own 22-year-old All-Star shortstop (Corey Seager) and a lights-out closer (Kenley Jansen).

“They’re in first place,” Lester said. “I don’t see why they should be overlooked. I don’t feel like they’re overlooked. Being a part of West Coast baseball for a couple months (with the Oakland A’s), I think really everything on the West Coast gets overlooked. I think it’s the time difference and a lot of other factors that are going on. But they’re a good team. They’ve been a good team.”

Maybe the Dodgers will expend too much energy trying to fend off the San Francisco Giants, and there are conditionals to Kershaw, Hill and Urias. But that left-handed-heavy rotation could mean the Cubs will be slamming their bats and helmets in frustration in October.  

“I’m not there yet,” Maddon said. “I’m not worried about the Dodgers. I’m worried about getting our guys healthy and us playing the game properly. If it comes to that, I would be more than happy. I would be ecstatic about facing them in the latter part of the season. They can throw as many lefties as they want. They’re good, but I can’t worry about the Dodgers.” 

Preview: Arrieta, Cubs return home to face Pirates Monday on CSN

Preview: Arrieta, Cubs return home to face Pirates Monday on CSN

Jake Arrieta and the Cubs return home to battle the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday, and you can catch all the action on CSN at 7:05 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.

Starting pitching matchup: Steven Brault (0-1, 3.60 ERA) vs. Jake Arrieta (16-5, 2.62 ERA)

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Theme trip: Cubs break down at Dodger Stadium with miscommunication between Javier Baez and Ben Zobrist

Theme trip: Cubs break down at Dodger Stadium with miscommunication between Javier Baez and Ben Zobrist

LOS ANGELES – Joe Maddon watched John Lackey board the team bus on Sunday morning wearing a Team USA onesie. The Cubs manager later noticed Aroldis Chapman in pajamas in the clubhouse on his way out to the dugout for his pregame media session at Dodger Stadium.
 
“We’ve created our own little culture, our own little identity,” Maddon said. “I just love the fact that they buy into those moments. Your stars are buying into it.”
 
The Cubs are in their own world, followed like rock stars on the road, freed from baseball’s unwritten rules and checked out from the daily anxiety and scoreboard-watching stress during a normal pennant race. 

But the Cubs weren’t in a playful mood after a 1-0 loss, even as they changed into their onesies – Mr. Peanut, Yoda, Stars and Stripes, camouflage – for the flight home from the West Coast. Almost exactly a year after Jake Arrieta threw his no-hitter here, the Cubs had their in-house TV crew shooting the postgame scene inside the locker room – look at us! – while Dodger Stadium security kicked out the Chicago reporters waiting to take pictures outside the clubhouse.   

The Cubs got a reminder that the Dodgers are a team to be reckoned with, that every-pitch focus matters, that communication will be essential in tight playoff games. That’s what this felt like, a crowd of 44,745 erupting in the eighth inning after a replay review that lasted 96 seconds confirmed the call on the field.

The Cubs lost their composure, Trevor Cahill hitting Andrew Toles with a pitch and then jamming Howie Kendrick. Cahill fielded the groundball and threw it into right field. An intentional walk to Corey Seager loaded the bases, setting up a battle between Carl Edwards Jr. and the heart of the Los Angeles lineup.

The rookie unleashed a 97-mph fastball and struck out Justin Turner on a foul tip. Edwards then went right back at Adrian Gonzalez, inducing a chopper toward third baseman Javier Baez, who made the split-second decision to throw to second, where Seager’s right foot crashed into second just before Ben Zobrist’s left foot touched it.

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“We just didn’t communicate,” Baez said. “I completely forgot about who was running down the line. We weren’t holding at first with the bases loaded. Obviously, he had like a huge lead. But in the moment, I was going back with the groundball and I saw Zo going full speed to the bag.”

But Zobrist had been playing deeper in right field to defend Gonzalez, a left-handed slugger and a slow runner. The margin for error is razor-thin when the Cubs needed 10 innings to secure a comeback win on Friday night – and the Dodgers responded by winning one-run games on Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

“I feel like the responsibility falls on me being the veteran,” Zobrist said. “It’s a tough play. It’s a reaction play. It’s a feel play. But if we communicate ahead of time, then he knows right away when he catches the ball, you go to first base with it. 

“He can’t (put) the blame on himself. It’s everybody out there. It’s more my responsibility being the older guy out there. He’s still very young and playing all over the place. And sometimes we can all get, I guess, a little bit lackadaisical with our communication.”  

If anything, Maddon was more bothered by Baez not running out a pop-up in the fifth inning, part of an 0-for-4 day and a 3-for-27 road trip that to this point had highlighted his Gold Glove defense. 

“This kid has as much instinct for the game as anybody I’ve ever been around,” Maddon said. “He just misread the moment right there. I would like to believe they’re going to communicate in the future.”

The Cubs would still leave Los Angeles with a 14-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals, their magic number to clinch the division down to 20 after a 5-4 road trip. With such a huge cushion, the Cubs also got a chance to remember what it’s like to play in front of a huge crowd where every pitch has consequences.  

“I don’t think that really matters,” said Jon Lester, who got the no-decision after six scoreless innings and didn’t look thrilled to be wearing a onesie. “Everybody here has been in playoff situations now. It’s kind of like we don’t really have to prep for anything anymore. These are situations now that guys are used to. Just go play.”