Rain Delay: Cubs trailing Astros

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Rain Delay: Cubs trailing Astros

Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011
Posted: 11:11 a.m.

Associated Press

With win No. 4,000 at Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs extended the Houston Astros' misery, handing them the first 100-loss season in franchise history.

Houston, however, could leave Chicago in much higher spirits with red-hot Brett Myers taking the mound in Sunday's series finale.

The Astros (51-100) entered Saturday as one of just three teams never to have lost 100 games. They can no longer lay claim to that after losing 2-1 on Saturday - their fifth straight defeat on the North Side.

"It's definitely a number that breaking camp with the talent we've had all year in this clubhouse, (I didn't think) anything like that would happen," shortstop Clint Barmes said.

Houston's struggles can largely be attributed to its inability to get things going at the plate. It has scored an NL-low 43 runs since Aug. 31 while hitting .204 with runners in scoring position.

"We were (0 for 14) with runners in scoring position (Saturday), which turned out to be quite a number," manager Brad Mills said."...We can't focus on (100 losses) right now. It's not the right thing that we need to be looking at as we move forward."

Myers (5-13, 4.52 ERA) will try to help the Astros avoid a fourth straight loss.

The right-hander is 10-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his last 12 starts against the Cubs, going 5-1 with a 1.41 ERA over seven career starts at Wrigley. He threw six innings of one-run ball during his last visit, a 3-1 win June 1.

Myers has had his way with several of Chicago's best hitters, most notably Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano. Ramirez is 11 for 46 (.239) with two homers and 11 strikeouts against Myers while Soriano has gone 6 for 39 (.167), fanning 15 times.

Myers has allowed one run in each of his last three starts spanning a combined 22 2-3 innings, winning twice during that span. He allowed six hits and a walk in eight innings of Monday's 5-1 victory over Philadelphia

"Sometimes you go out there and don't want to throw a pitch because they know it's coming or they have something on you," he said. "You just have to mix it up and keep them (as) off balance as much as possible."

Myers will try to slow down Bryan LaHair, who gave the Cubs the lead for good Saturday with his second home run. LaHair is 13 for 30 (.433) since he was promoted from Triple-A Iowa on Sept. 2.

"When he squares it up it's pretty impressive," manager Mike Quade said. "Big, strong kid. We like what we've seen so far, that's for sure."

Starlin Castro also continues to impress. He doubled to extend his streak of reaching base to 30 straight games - the longest run by a Cubs shortstop since Ernie Banks in 1960.

Ryan Dempster (10-12, 4.66) takes the mound seeking his first win in seven tries. The right-hander allowed two runs and six hits but issued a season worst-tying six walks in seven innings of Tuesday's 2-1 loss at Cincinnati.

Dempster is 1-0 with a 4.05 ERA in two starts - both on the road - against the Astros this season.

Carlos Lee is 14 for 41 (.341) with two homers lifetime versus Dempster, who is one loss away from matching his career high set in 2002.

Chicago, on the verge of its second consecutive three-game home sweep of Houston, has never taken six straight at Wrigley against the Astros in a single season.
Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

How Justin Grimm could be X-factor in Cubs bullpen

How Justin Grimm could be X-factor in Cubs bullpen

Justin Grimm doesn't care what role he's in anymore, a sign of growth from the past few years when he still held out hope of getting a chance to become a starter again or a more glamorous late-inning role if he had to be in the Cubs bullpen.
 
Grimm is now just focused on taking that next step forward, however he can.
 
"I know my talent. I know what I'm capable of doing," Grimm said. "I'm in a really good spot this spring mentally, physically. I feel good and that's all I'm concerned with right now.
 
"Just being ready to go April 1. Whatever's asked of me, not getting caught up in, 'Aw man, I don't have this role.' I really think that's hurt me in the past. And I think that's why you see me probably excel in games that are tight, because I embrace that. You know they're confident in you to come in, shut it down, whatever it may be."
 
Grimm is focused on consistency, eyeing a full season of dominance instead of flashes that last a month or two at a time.
 
From June 27 through Sept. 13 last season, Grimm gave up just one run in 22.2 innings, striking out 30 batters while allowing only 20 baserunners. Yet even with that spectacular run, Grimm's season ERA was still 4.10 after a bad June overall (10.38 ERA) and five earned runs allowed in his last five appearances.
 
Grimm acknowledges that step forward has to come from between his ears. The talent and stuff is there, as evidenced by his 132 strikeouts in 102.1 innings the last two seasons — a mark that ranks him 12th in baseball in that span (among pitchers with at least 100 innings), just behind dominant relievers like Cody Allen, Ken Giles and Shawn Kelley.
 
"It's just a mental confidence thing," Grimm said. "It's not even necessarily getting caught up in [the role]. You come into a seven-run game, you get a little comfortable.
 
"It's finding ways not to do that. Like, 'OK, well it's 0-0 right now, even though we're winning by eight.' And I feel like that's going to happen a lot this year because we got an offense that's going to put up a lot of runs.
 
"How to handle that and stay locked in, I think it's just having a chip on my shoulder. All the guys are getting all the talk and I like it that way. I'm just in the shadows, doing my job and staying locked in. And I think it's going to help out a lot."
 
Grimm’s self-awareness is on point: With a bullpen that added Wade Davis and Koji Uehara to a group that already included Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr., Grimm is something of a forgotten man.

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Only Rondon and Strop have predated Grimm in the Cubs bullpen and the 28-year-old right-hander has posted a 3.29 ERA across 213 appearances over the last four seasons. This year figures to be more of the same, settling into that "mid-innings closer" role Joe Maddon talked up last year with Grimm and Travis Wood.
 
"He fits in everywhere. Probably earlier in the game, he'll be a great bridge guy," Maddon said. "I've always liked the middle-innings closers. They're the kind of guys that help win games.
 
"All our guys are capable to pitch at almost any time. There's going to be some guys that are probably relegated more to earlier in the game and [Grimm] probably will be one of them, unless we get on a nice roll and everybody's a little bit overused.
 
"But I'm here to tell you, man, when he's throwing the ball right, he can get anybody out and he's very good against lefties."
 
When the Cubs sent Jorge Soler to the Kansas City Royals for Davis over the winter, Grimm was immediately drawn to baseball's ERA leader over the last three seasons. In Davis, Grimm sees a guy who's gone through the starter-to-reliever transition and morphed into one of the top arms in the game. Grimm spent a lot of time around Davis this spring, grabbing the veteran to break down Grimm's game in the video room.
 
"I just looked at him like, 'Wade, it's there. I just gotta find a way to consistently do that for six months, not five months, and have one month where I implode,'" Grimm said.
 
"He's been there. He knows. I look to learn a lot this year from him. It's cool to have a guy like that around. I was saying two years ago when Kansas City came to Wrigley, I would just love to sit down and talk with that guy. When we [traded for] him, I was pumped. 
 
"It's time to learn something from him. Everybody's different, so you can't really try to be like that guy, per se. You just gotta find little things that might work for you, that might change a little bit and help you out. That was the majority of our convo. I literally felt like I was reliving my career listening to him. It was pretty cool."
 
Now it's just a matter of carrying it all over into the games that matter.
 
"I'm not worried about what the hell my role's gonna be," Grimm said. "It's here; it's right now. I know what I'm capable of doing. It's just as much as anybody in this room."

Jon Lester thinks Cubs have a special player in Willson Contreras: ‘It’s about time we got an offensive catcher’

Jon Lester thinks Cubs have a special player in Willson Contreras: ‘It’s about time we got an offensive catcher’

MESA, Ariz. – Jon Lester couldn't resist when a reporter mentioned the two home runs Willson Contreras launched off Danny Salazar, an All-Star talent who might have changed last year's World Series if he had been at full strength.

"It's about time we got an offensive catcher," Lester said.

Zing! Lester had already seen David Ross on "Dancing with the Stars" by the time he finished up against the Cleveland Indians and met with reporters on Monday night at Goodyear Ballpark. While Lester knew Grandpa Rossy would appreciate that one-liner, there is also some truth behind it.

Yes, Ross became the security blanket for a $155 million pitcher, helped push and encourage young players like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant and got carried off the field after delivering his own Game 7 homer. But whatever Contreras may lack now in game-calling experience and pitcher psychology, he can make up for it with his rocket arm, smooth swing and willingness to learn.

A camp that began with questions about how Lester would work with Contreras ended with a sincere endorsement.

"Willie's obviously very special, to be serious about it," Lester said. "He's definitely going to add a presence to that lineup as far as protecting ‘Rizz' and ‘KB' to where they're not going to be able to just pitch around those guys. We're going to have some other guys to do some damage in the middle to the bottom of that order.

"He's a special kid, just like anybody else on this team. He's (24), so he'll only get better as time goes on and (he gets) the at-bats and the innings and all that stuff. So I'm excited to see him for a full season and how well he can do back there."

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That's another reason why the defending World Series champs might actually look better on paper than the unforgettable 2016 Cubs. Ross did a "Dancing with the Stars" routine based off Young MC's "Bust a Move," a song released in 1989, or years before Bryant, Contreras, Kyle Schwarber, Addison Russell, Javier Baez and Albert Almora Jr. were born.

Before the Cubs packed up and left Arizona, Ross made a promotional appearance in Mesa this week and caught up with some old friends like John Lackey.

"We got rid of Rossy," Lackey told reporters as the Cubs finished their Cactus League schedule with Wednesday's 15-11 win over the Oakland A's at Sloan Park. "He stinks. And we should be better. Actually, I was just inside talking to Rossy and he said that, so that's from him."