Chicago Cubs

LIVE: Cubs, Reds battling in extra innings

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LIVE: Cubs, Reds battling in extra innings

Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011
Posted: 9:13 a.m.

(AP) -- Randy Wells has been a consistent bright spot for the Chicago Cubs for more than a month.

The right-hander looks to win a sixth straight decision and help the Cubs salvage a split of their four-game road set with the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday night.

Wells (7-4, 4.73 ERA) was 2-4 with a 6.16 ERA in his first 12 starts, which were interrupted by a stint on the disabled list because of a right forearm strain. Since the beginning of August, however, he's 5-0 with a 3.02 ERA in eight starts, and he's allowed four runs in 28 2-3 innings while going 3-0 in his last four outings - all Cubs wins.

Wells allowed two runs in seven innings Saturday but did not factor in the decision in a 5-4 victory at New York.

"All I care about is if the team wins, that makes it a lot better," Wells told the Cubs' official website.

The only Chicago defeat during Wells' last eight starts came in his lone 2011 appearance versus Cincinnati (73-76). He yielded six runs and three homers in seven innings of an 8-7 loss Aug. 7.

He will try to help the Cubs (65-84) avoid a third consecutive defeat. They totaled three runs and 13 hits while losing the last two games after pounding out 16 hits during a 12-8 victory in Monday's series opener.

One night after his 13-game hitting streak was snapped, All-Star shortstop Starlin Castro went 2 for 3 in Wednesday's 7-2 loss to extend his streak of reaching base to 27 games. The NL leader with 192 hits, Castro has batted .432 (16 for 37) with eight RBIs in his last nine contests versus Cincinnati.

"Finishing strong is big," Cubs manager Mike Quade said. "If we're going to do that, then individual players are going to have to finish strong."

Castro's only hit in four at-bats against scheduled Cincinnati starter Homer Bailey (8-7, 4.34) left the park. Bailey allowed four runs and walked three in six innings May 16 but still earned the win in the Reds' 7-4 home victory in his only 2011 start versus Chicago.

The right-hander was 0-2 with a 5.09 ERA in his previous four starts overall before working 7 2-3 innings of a 4-1 win at Colorado on Friday for his first victory since Aug. 13.

"When you're going out there and you're on the same page with your catcher and the game can flow really quick, good things are going to happen," Bailey said.

Ramon Hernandez hit a three-run homer and infielder Juan Francisco drove in two runs Wednesday as the Reds overcame a back injury to starting pitcher Johnny Cueto, who left the game in the fourth inning.

Trying to solidify a future in Cincinnati, Francisco is 4 for 12 with a homer and four RBIs in the series. He also turned in a defensive gem from third base Wednesday, throwing out Marlon Byrd from foul territory in the ninth inning.

"You practice that every day," Francisco said. "I watch Scott Rolen."

Cincinnati has won six of eight versus Chicago this season at Great American Ball Park.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Kris Bryant knocks out Brewers and knows what big-game experience means for Cubs

Kris Bryant knocks out Brewers and knows what big-game experience means for Cubs

MILWAUKEE – Teammates swarmed Kris Bryant in Miller Park’s visiting dugout late Thursday night, flinging sunflower seeds and forming a mosh pit around the National League’s reigning MVP.

Are you not entertained? The Cubs haven’t always played with this urgency or made it easy while nursing a World Series hangover. But they can feel it now, how close they are to October and how much they learned last year while making history.

It’s too early to pop champagne bottles, but the Cubs won a huge swing game in the NL Central race, beating the Milwaukee Brewers in the 10th inning when Bryant blasted Oliver Drake’s 92-mph fastball off a beam underneath the gigantic video board.

The Cubs watched it ricochet back onto the right-center field grass for a go-ahead two-run homer, bumping up the division lead to 4.5 games while cutting the magic number to clinch the division down to six.

After a head-spinning 5-3 victory that lasted 3 hours and 57 minutes and ended at 11:08 p.m., Bryant didn’t sound surprised or overexcited, the same way he didn’t overreact when the Cubs struggled to gain traction before the All-Star break and the Brewers swept the defending World Series champs two weekends ago at Wrigley Field.       

“We’ve done that so many times,” Bryant said. “We’ve had a nice run with that. I guess it is experience. The heartbeats aren’t going too fast when the game’s on the line there. It kind of plays to our advantage.”

So did the Brewers pushing their bullpen so hard this week trying to catch up that Cubs manager Joe Maddon would have to admit “their A-listers were not available,” meaning Corey Knebel, Anthony Swarzak and Josh Hader. Classic response from Bryant, who has 28 homers and likes to think of pitchers as nameless, faceless opponents: “I didn’t find out their top three guys were down until after the game was over.”

Maybe that changes the ninth-inning rally against Jeremy Jeffress where Ian Happ sprinted for a “Respect 90” single and scored the game-tying run when Javier Baez delivered a two-out, two-strike single up the middle. But the Cubs are in their element now, playing games that matter, not what-if.

“I just think we like loud,” Maddon said. “I think we’re a little bit like adrenaline junkies with the fact we’re used to 40,000 people a night.”

Just look at the stone face Wade Davis made in the ninth inning, escaping a bases-loaded jam by striking out Domingo Santana swinging at an elevated 95-mph fastball and forcing Orlando Arcia to chop a 3-2 pitch back to the mound. The All-Star closer who’s 32-for-32 in save chances went back out for the 10th inning and struck out the side to notch the win. That is a five-out playbook Maddon can use in October.

“You definitely feel it,” Davis said of the playoff atmosphere in a road stadium filled with Cubs fans. “It’s a lot easier to get up for the moment itself instead of having to create it yourself. You feel that.”

As Cubs move closer to division title, Jake Arrieta looks ready for October

As Cubs move closer to division title, Jake Arrieta looks ready for October

MILWAUKEE – This was the type of game Jake Arrieta visualizes, a loud atmosphere with 35,114 fans on their feet and an opponent that really doesn’t like the Cubs at all.

This one would ultimately be out of his hands, lasting 10 innings and almost 4 hours on Thursday night at Miller Park, but Arrieta looked like a Game 1 starter as the Cubs roared back for a 5-3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Those playoff plans are coming into focus, the magic number to win the National League Central title down to six and Arrieta managing the Grade 1 right hamstring strain that has been one of the biggest question marks hanging over the defending World Series champs.

“It’s just good to be back out there,” Arrieta said. “These are big games, and I want to be a part of as many as I can, especially to try and clinch the division as quick as possible and then kind of line things up for us in October. But we got to get there first.”

Arrieta threw his first real pitch in 18 days at 7:16 p.m., firing a 92-mph fastball toward Brewers leadoff guy Eric Sogard and giving the Cubs a shot of adrenaline. That always wears off, but the Cubs are a different team when Arrieta sticks his chest out and triggers his perfect posture into a crossfire delivery.

Arrieta looked sharp in his first real action since Labor Day, even as his five-inning, 71-pitch limit exposed how fragile this pitching staff might be right now. If it’s not Jon Lester laboring at the top of the rotation, it’s the softer spots in the middle of the bullpen, or questions about how much wear and tear the Cubs can take after a deep playoff run in 2015 and last year’s World Series madness stretched into early November. 

But Arrieta basically picked up where he left off as the NL pitcher of the month for August, realigning his unique mechanics and generating enough power from his right leg, restarting the momentum in a second half where he’s shown the flashes of dominance you saw during his 2015 Cy Young Award season. 

Arrieta exited this game with a 2-1 lead – before it spun out of control – and passed one test by hustling to cover first base to complete an inning-ending 3-6-1 double play in the fifth. He walked just one of the 20 hitters he faced and could really only regret one pitch in the fourth inning, the 92-mph fastball Domingo Santana drilled off the batter’s eye in center field.

“I felt OK,” Arrieta said. “I can tell that something happened. I think it’s just the residual feeling of something like a hamstring strain. But no pain, really no discomfort. That’s a good sign.

“Tomorrow is the biggest indicator moving forward of how we’ll be able to approach this. I don’t see any reason that I won’t feel good tomorrow.”

Arrieta is scheduled to make two more regular-season starts, but this dramatic comeback means the Cubs might be able to treat those as controlled experiments instead of must-win situations.

“Just an incredible baseball game,” Arrieta said. “This is a really awesome time to be in an organization like this, in a division like the NL Central, where there’s a couple teams that have playoff aspirations in mind. If we take care of business here over the next few days, we get a couple steps closer.”