Russell, Cubs continue series vs. Rockies

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Russell, Cubs continue series vs. Rockies

Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Posted: 10:47 a.m.

(AP) -- The Colorado Rockies haven't been hitting well recently, but if the Chicago Cubs are as sloppy defensively as they were in the last game, it might not matter.

The Rockies will try to win their third straight against the Cubs when the teams continue their series Tuesday night in Chicago.

Colorado (15-7) won seven straight April 9-15, but is 4-5 since, failing to win back-to-back games during that stretch.

The Rockies have a chance to do that after Monday's 5-3 victory over the Cubs (10-12). They scored four unearned runs off Matt Garza, taking advantage of three errors by Starlin Castro in the second inning and one by Garza in the fifth that allowed the go-ahead run to score.

READ: Game slips out of Castro's hands

"We lost tonight because I couldn't throw the ball to first base," Garza said.

Colorado was 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position and had only four hits, including three singles. The team is batting .139 during the first four games of its road trip while scoring 12 runs.

Carlos Gonzalez had another rough game, going 0 for 4. He's hitless in his last 21 at-bats, dropping his average to .217 after it was .333 on April 9.

Jorge De La Rosa (3-0, 3.00 ERA), who is looking to extend the best start of his career, will take the mound Tuesday for the Rockies as they try to win consecutive games at Wrigley Field for the first time since 2006.

De La Rosa, who had 16 victories in 2009 but just eight last year, had another strong outing Wednesday, giving up two runs and four hits in a season-high seven innings of a 10-2 victory against San Francisco. He struck out six as he recorded his first quality start of the year.

READ: Kaplan reveals the reason for Soriano's solid start

"Very good stuff today," he said. "We needed this. I hope we can stay playing like we did today."

De La Rosa is 3-0 with a 1.74 ERA in six appearances against the Cubs. He's made only two starts against them, including one last season in which he allowed three runs and eight hits in 6 2-3 innings of an 8-7 victory Aug. 1.

Chicago, which has seven errors in its last three contests, has lost four of five, stranding 20 baserunners the last two games - including 12 on Monday.

Kosuke Fukudome had five of his team's 11 hits in the defeat, but the Cubs went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position. Castro was 0 for 5 after going hitless in four at-bats Sunday.

FOLLOW: Cubs insider Patrick Mooney on Twitter

Before Monday's loss, the Cubs had won 11 of 12 at home against the Rockies, but they dropped two of three in Denver from April 15-17.

James Russell (1-2, 8.00) will make his third start for the Cubs on Tuesday due to injuries. He allowed four runs and seven hits - three of which were homers - in four-plus innings of a 5-4 loss to San Diego on Wednesday, falling to 0-2 with a 12.71 ERA in two starts.

The left-hander has made five career relief appearances against the Rockies, including 1 1-3 scoreless innings over two this season.

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

Jake Arrieta getting close and message to Cubs is clear: ‘We can’t expect outside help to get us out of this rut’

Jake Arrieta getting close and message to Cubs is clear: ‘We can’t expect outside help to get us out of this rut’

MIAMI – Kyle Schwarber’s offensive spiral had gone on for so long and gotten so deep that the shock value of sending a potential franchise player to Triple-A quickly wore off once the news broke on Twitter.

The Cubs sent their message directly to Schwarber. Even if the bosses wanted to, the Cubs couldn’t put the rest of the clubhouse on edge by demoting a .171 hitter with 260-plus plate appearances in late June. 

The Cubs are in survival mode, not a position to play mind tricks, beginning an 11-games-in-11-days road trip with World Series MVP Ben Zobrist (sore left wrist), Gold Glove outfielder Jason Heyward (cut left hand) and Cy Young Award finalist Kyle Hendricks (right hand tendinitis) all on the disabled list.   

The Cubs didn’t rebook Schwarber to Iowa so he can be converted into a pitcher. An aging, stressed rotation remains a much bigger concern than the boom-and-bust periods with a young offense. 

All these circumstances made a vintage Jake Arrieta performance during Thursday night’s 11-1 win at Marlins Park so important. Whether or not the Cubs make a blockbuster trade for a pitcher, there are still five-plus weeks left until buyers and sellers will feel the urgency of a deadline.   

“If something presents itself that makes sense, we’ll certainly jump on it,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “But to us, the answers are in that clubhouse. We can’t expect outside help to get us out of this rut. The answers are in there, and we believe in those guys. 

“Will we be active? No question. But that’s not going to happen for a while and there’s a lot of games to be played between now and July 31.”

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On a night where he felt “low energy,” rocked a new buzz cut and covered his right thumb with Dermabond to treat a cut/blister issue that can be traced back to spring training, Arrieta needed only 82 pitches to get through seven innings, completely shutting down a strong Miami lineup except for a Marcell Ozuna home run.

Arrieta’s inconsistencies (7-5, 4.36 ERA) have mirrored a 37-35 team, but he didn’t hesitate when asked where he is at now in a season that has so far not lived up to his Cy Young/All-Star expectations.  

“I’m close,” Arrieta said. “I’m really close.”

The Cubs are still the defending champs. Kris Bryant unleashed an MVP swing when he launched a three-run homer into the left-center field patio deck. Blocking out a messy personal situation, All-Star shortstop Addison Russell almost hit for the cycle (no triple) the day after getting questions about his divorce and a Major League Baseball investigation. This year’s Schwarber – rookie Ian Happ – also went 4-for-5 and gave the team another jolt.  

“It’s tough to see Schwarber go down,” Arrieta said. “We know that he’s going to be one of our mainstays in the lineup eventually. He’s hit a rough patch and it happens to the best of us. 

“I’ve been there. I talked to him yesterday a little bit about just keeping his head down and going to work and getting his at-bats and trying to find that comfort level. He’ll be back soon. He’s a tremendous hitter who’s going through some struggles and he’s going to right the ship. There’s no doubt about that. He’s too good of a hitter.

“A night like tonight where we pitch well and we score 11 runs, it looks easy. But it’s about consistency and trying to build off of a night like tonight. We’ve got the guys necessary to do so. We’re very capable of doing that.”

Especially if Arrieta gets hot again and shows how he can lift an entire team. 

“To get Jake pitching that kind of quality game again is going to be a big boon to us,” manager Joe Maddon said.

Did Cubs start the tailspin by making Kyle Schwarber their leadoff guy?

Did Cubs start the tailspin by making Kyle Schwarber their leadoff guy?

MIAMI – Everything aligned for the Cubs to make Kyle Schwarber their leadoff hitter. Joe Maddon’s gut instincts told him to do it – so the manager asked the Geek Department to run the numbers – and the projections backed him up. A front office raised on Bill James principles endorsed the idea after Dexter Fowler took an offer he couldn’t refuse – five years and $82.5 million – from the St. Louis Cardinals.
   
It all looked good on paper and sounded reasonable in theory. But by the time the Cubs made the Schwarber-to-Iowa move official before Thursday’s game at Marlins Park, the slugger once compared to Babe Ruth in a pre-draft scouting report had devolved into the qualified hitter with the lowest batting average in the majors (.171) and an .OPS 75 points below the league average.  

If Schwarber had been batting, say, sixth since Opening Day, would the Cubs be in a different spot right now?   

“Obviously, I can’t answer that,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “It’s an impossible question to answer. We put him in a leadoff position and he struggled. We obviously moved him out of that position (and) that didn’t work either. I know that’s what people are going to point to, because that’s a variable in his career. 

“Obviously, hitting him leadoff in 2017 didn’t work. Whether or not it caused the tailspin, I have no way to answer that question.”   

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The Cubs also deserve credit for: drafting Schwarber when the industry viewed him as a reach with the No. 4 overall pick in 2014; fast-tracking his development to the point where he could help the 2015 team win 97 games and two playoff rounds; and overseeing a rehab process that allowed him to be a World Series designated hitter less than seven months after reconstructive surgery on his left knee.    
 
The Cubs will have their hitting instructors give Schwarber subtle suggestions, focusing on how he starts his swing and where he finishes, trying to reestablish his balance and confidence during this Triple-A timeout.
    
But deep down, this is a 24-year-old player who never experienced a full season in the big leagues before and wanted so bad to be a huge part of The Cubs Way.

“I do think a lot of the problems are mental,” Hoyer said. “These struggles have kind of beaten him up a little bit. Like anyone would, he’s lost a little bit of his swagger, and I think he needs to get that back. But I think when you look at what a great fastball hitter he’s been – how good he was in ’15, how good he was last year in the World Series – the fact that he hasn’t been pounding fastballs this year is a mechanical/physical issue that we’ll be looking to tweak. 

“This is a guy that has always murdered fastballs and he’s not there right now.”