Cubs snap skid to get Maholm's first win

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Cubs snap skid to get Maholm's first win

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

How Cubs reached the breaking point with Kyle Schwarber

How Cubs reached the breaking point with Kyle Schwarber

MIAMI – Theo Epstein scoffed at the possibility of sending a World Series hero down to the minors on May 16, writing the headline with this money quote: “If anyone wants to sell their Kyle Schwarber stock, we’re buying.”

If the Cubs aren’t dumping their Schwarber stock, they’re definitely reassessing their investment strategy, trying to figure out how such a dangerous postseason hitter had become one of the least productive players in the majors.

The overall portfolio hasn’t changed that much since the team president’s vote of confidence, Schwarber batting .179 for the defending champs then and .171 when the Cubs finally made the decision to demote him to Triple-A Iowa. That 18-19 team is now 36-35 and still waiting for that hot streak. 

What took so long?

“The honest answer is we believe in him so much,” general manager Jed Hoyer said Thursday. “He’s never struggled like this. We kept thinking that he was going to come out of it. We got to a point where we felt like mentally he probably needed a break before he could come out of this. 

“The honest answer is patience. We’ve got a guy who’s never really struggled. He was the best hitter in college baseball. He blew through the minor leagues. Last year in the World Series, he performed. We just felt like he was going to turn himself around.

“It just got to a place where we felt like the right way for this to come together was to allow him to get away from the team, to take a deep breath and be able to work on some things in a lower-pressure environment.”   

The Cubs plan to give Schwarber a few days off before he reports to Iowa, an idea that would have seemed unthinkable after watching his shocking recovery from knee surgery and legendary performance (.971 OPS) against the Cleveland Indians in last year’s World Series.

But preparing for one opponent and running on adrenaline through 20 plate appearances is completely different from handling the great expectations and newfound level of fame and doing it for an entire 162-game season.   

This might actually be the most normal part of Schwarber’s career after his meteoric rise from No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 draft to breakout star in the 2015 playoffs to injured and untouchable during last year’s trade talks with the New York Yankees. 

“There’s been a long and illustrious list of guys that have gone through this,” manager Joe Maddon said. “When a guy’s good, he’s good. Sometimes – especially when they’re this young – you just got to hit that reset button. It’s hard for a young player who’s never really struggled before to struggle on this stage and work his way through it.

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“There’s no scarlet letter attached to this. It’s just the way it happens sometimes. You have to do what you think is best. We think this is best for him right now. We know he’s going to be back.” 

When? The Cubs say they don’t have a certain number of Pacific Coast League at-bats in mind for a guy who’s played only 17 career games at the Triple-A level.

Maddon pointed out how Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee needed minor-league sabbaticals/refresher courses before becoming Cy Young Award winners and two of the best pitchers of their generation.

New York Mets outfielder Michael Conforto – another college hitter the Cubs closely scouted before taking Schwarber in the 2014 draft – has gone from the 2015 World Series to Triple-A Las Vegas for parts of last season to potential All-Star this year.

The Cubs fully expect their Schwarber stock to rebound – whether or not the turnaround happens in time to impact the 2017 bottom line.    

“I’m still sticking by him,” Maddon said. “But at some point, you have to be pragmatic. You have to do what’s best for everybody. We thought at this point that we weren’t going to necessarily get him back to where we need him to be just by continuing this same path.

“It’s not a matter of us not sticking with him anymore. We just thought this was the best way to go to really get him well, so that we could utilize the best side of Kyle moving forward.”

CubsTalk Podcast: Reacting to Kyle Schwarber's demotion and Mike Montgomery on his evolution

CubsTalk Podcast: Reacting to Kyle Schwarber's demotion and Mike Montgomery on his evolution

Tony Andracki, Scott Changnon and Jeff Nelson react in real time to the breaking news that Kyle Schwarber was demoted to the minor leagues. Plus, the trio play around with expansion drafts and who the most indispensable players on the Cubs are.

[RELATED - Inside the numbers on Schwarber's season-long struggles]

Patrick Mooney also goes 1-on-1 with Cubs swingman southpaw Mike Montgomery about the lanky lefty’s role and how he got here.

Check out the entire Podcast here.