Chicago Cubs

Managing just fine, but Reds overpower Cubs

245298.jpg

Managing just fine, but Reds overpower Cubs

Friday, Aug. 27, 2010
10:10 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

CINCINNATI Joey Votto is on the cover of Sports Illustrated and chasing the Triple Crown. Dusty Baker has been offered a contract extension, but might want to wait for a more lucrative offer, if not a better job in a bigger market.

Lou Piniella will celebrate his 67th birthday on Saturday, out of uniform and away from a big-league stadium. Cincinnati reporters wont be able to ask him how great that 1990 Reds team was 20 years ago.

This city can worry about locking up Votto arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter and Baker at a later date. Right now, a franchise that has made the playoffs just once since Piniella led it to a World Series title is enjoying the thrill of a pennant race.

It sounded like a Springsteen concert on Friday night at Great American Ball Park, with a crowd of 36,219 chanting Bruuuuuuuuuuce!

The fans were saluting Jay Bruce, who launched three home runs and powered the Reds to a 7-1 victory over the Cubs, beginning a three-game series that shows just how far the gap has widened between these two teams.

The Cubs (54-75) now trail the first-place Reds (74-54) by 20.5 games in the National League Central, a division they dominated only two years ago.

On Thursday, general manager Jim Hendry interviewed Eric Wedge, who managed the Cleveland Indians to within one victory of the 2007 World Series before being fired nearly two years later.

The next night marked the first loss of the Mike Quade era. The Cubs manager for the next 33 games at least said he has no problem with Hendry meeting other candidates.

Quade felt Hendry was upfront with him on Saturday night, when he was informed that he would be promoted from third-base coach. This is how an extensive search process is going to work.

We covered everything and Im actually surprised that I remember most of it, because I was buckled, Quade said. Look, hes going to interview people. This is going to give him time to do that and not have some crush at the end of the season. (He) knows Im good with it.

And why wouldnt you (do more interviews)? Theres a lot of good baseball people out there. (Its) not a distraction at all. I get it.

Amid all these changes, Quade has found it to be most relaxing once the game begins 7:10 p.m. local time and the Cubs swept the Washington Nationals this week with the strength of their starting pitching.

Tom Gorzelanny who had thrown 240 pitches combined in his previous two starts watched as Bruce drilled a hanging slider and a fastball that stayed right in the middle of the plate.

Bruce and Chris Valaika hit back-to-back homers in the fifth inning that together traveled an estimated 801 feet, suddenly turning a 2-1 game into a 6-1 blowout. Gorzelanny surrendered six runs and snapped his streak of throwing at least six innings in eight consecutive starts.

Nothing was working, Gorzelanny said. Ive been focused on trying to keep the ball down and just get guys to ground out. Ive been fortunate enough to not give up too many long balls (this season.) You run out of luck real easy pitching in a park like this, facing a lineup like this.

Its not as if Quade was going to finish the year undefeated. And the front office clearly respects his teaching background after managing 17 seasons in the minor leagues. But he doesnt want to think about the alternative, like if the organization will find a spot for him even if someone else is managing the 2011 Cubs.

I love Chicago Id love to be here, Quade said. (Ill) do this audition (and) then (well) see where we go from there. For me to think, Well, if I dont get it, Ill do this Thats not how Im geared.

Right now Im going to do the best job I can here and see what happens. And if the scenario doesnt involve me here running this club, then you take a look at other scenarios. Just let me get through these five weeks.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

What really happened between Jon Lester and Chris Bosio

What really happened between Jon Lester and Chris Bosio

What really happened between Jon Lester and Chris Bosio?

After Lester's early exit from Thursday's game against the Cincinnati Reds, cameras caught the Cubs southpaw appearing to have a confrontation in the home dugout with Bosio, the team's pitching coach.

CSN's David Kaplan did some investigating and said Friday on his morning radio show on ESPN 1000 that Lester was expressing frustration with the Cubs defense. It was not directed to Bosio.

The Cubs were trailing 8-0 in the second inning when Lester left the game with left lat tightness. The Reds eventually tacked on another run to make it 9-0. It was a frustrating inning — to say the least — for the Cubs, who eventually erased the nine-run deficit but failed to complete the comeback in a 13-10 loss.

Kaplan also said an update on Lester should come some time Friday morning, but he isn't expected to miss a serious amount of time. He will likely land on the disabled list, though.

Once again, Javier Baez will be a huge X-factor for Cubs down the stretch

javy_baez.jpg
USA TODAY

Once again, Javier Baez will be a huge X-factor for Cubs down the stretch

Javier Baez flicked his bat and watched the ball rocket in the direction of Waveland Avenue, the last of the back-to-back-to-back homers against Cincinnati Reds starter/Cubs trivia answer Scott Feldman.

That quick strike came during a four-homer fourth inning on Thursday afternoon at Wrigley Field, where the offense looked explosive and the pitching looked combustible in a 13-10 loss that left the Milwaukee Brewers one game out of first place, the St. Louis Cardinals right behind them and the Cubs awaiting a diagnosis on Jon Lester’s lat injury.

“I know the talent we got,” Baez said. “When they come to play a team like us, we know they’re going to come play hard and obviously play good baseball. They’re going to come to compete, and that’s what we got to do.”

Whatever happens from here – the Cubs are 2-2 so far during a 13-game stretch against last-place teams – you know Baez will be in the middle of the action as the No. 8 hitter with 19 homers this season and a power source with Willson Contreras (strained right hamstring) injured.

This is the starting shortstop until Addison Russell (strained right foot/plantar fasciitis) comes off the disabled list and the unique talent you couldn’t take your eyes off during last year’s playoffs.

“He’s not afraid of anything,” manager Joe Maddon said. “So I don’t care how big or small the game is, he’s going to play the same way. He’s going to do everything pretty much full gorilla all the time.

“Sometimes, he’s going to make a mistake. And that’s OK, because with certain people – with all of us – you got to take the bad with the good. Everybody wants perfection. He’s going to make some mistakes. But most of the time, he’s going to pull off events.”

The night before against the Reds, Baez led off the ninth inning with a line-drive double and scored the game-winning run on a wild pitch. Last week, Statcast clocked him at 16.11 seconds for his inside-the-park homer off the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. Over the weekend, he launched another home-run ball 463 feet against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field.

There are so many different ways Baez can help the Cubs win a game at a time when they don’t have anywhere close to the same margin for error that they did during last season’s joyride into the playoffs.

“I know we often talk about the strikeouts or the big swings,” Maddon said. “But look at his two-strike numbers. Look at his OPS (.808). Look at the run production in general (his 55 RBI match Kris Bryant). It’s been outstanding. And you combine that with first-rate defense.

“Now he’s going to make some mistakes. I’ve talked about that. That’s going to go away with just experience. As he gets older, plays more often, he’s going to make less of those routine mistakes. And the game’s going to get really clean and sharp.”

Until then, Baez will keep taking huge swings, making spectacular plays and trying to cut down on the errors (10 in 334 innings at shortstop, or one less than Russell through 729 innings), because he knows what he means to this team.  

“Javy’s very important,” pitcher Jake Arrieta said. “He’s one of our best defensive players, one of our most athletic players on the team.

“Javy’s got a really big swing, but he’s got a great eye and he handles the bat really well. For as big as his swing is, he still manages to make really good contact. I don’t want him to approach the game any other way than he does right now.”