CHICAGO - Paul Maholm pitched six solid innings to earn his first win in nine months and the Chicago Cubs beat the Cincinnati Reds 6-1 on Saturday to stop a six-game slide. Maholm (1-2) allowed one run and four hits to snap a personal six-game losing streak. The left-hander struck out five and walked three in his first victory since July 10 for Pittsburgh against the Cubs. Darwin Barney and Steve Clevenger each had three hits for the Cubs, who grabbed control with a four-run second inning. Starlin Castro had a double and a triple. Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips went a combined 1 for 7 for the Reds, who have lost six of nine. Mike Leake (0-2) allowed 10 hits and five runs in 5 2-3 innings. One day after he learned he will not face charges over an alleged sexual assault, Castro tripled home a run in the second and doubled in the fifth. The 21-year-old shortstop also committed two errors to run his major league-worst total to seven. State's attorney spokeswoman Sally Daly said Friday police and prosecutors reviewing the case found insufficient evidence to charge Castro. His attorneys have said the allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman last fall are baseless. Phillips singled in a run in the first, but Bryan LaHair hit a sacrifice fly in the bottom half and the Cubs added four more runs in the second. Clevenger led off with a single to right and moved to second on a groundout. Joe Mather followed with an RBI double to left. Mather advanced on Leake's errant pickoff attempt and scored on David DeJesus' single. Barney added a run-scoring double and came home on Castro's first triple of the season to make it 5-1. Clevenger added an RBI single in the seventh as the Cubs finished with a season-high 14 hits. Clevenger, the backup catcher, is 10 for 17 on the season. The Reds had runners on third and second with no outs in the seventh, but James Russell retired Stubbs, Votto and Phillips to get out of the inning. NOTES: Cubs RHP Ryan Dempster was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right quadriceps. OF Tony Campana was recalled from Triple-A Iowa, and Randy Wells will start in place of Dempster on Sunday. Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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.”
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.”
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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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.”