Samardzija solid again in loss to Texas

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Samardzija solid again in loss to Texas

LAS VEGAS (AP) A split-squad game meant Julio Borbon got a chance to prove what he can do.Borbon batted second for the Texas Rangers on Saturday while Elvis Andrus was moved up to leadoff. With regular leadoff hitter Ian Kinsler with the other half of the Rangers in Surprise, Ariz., Borbon was able to thrive at the top of the order between Andrus and Josh Hamilton during a 12-7 victory over the Chicago Cubs at Cashman Field.Borbon, competing with Craig Gentry for an outfield spot, had a pair of hits, including a two-run, bases-loaded single with two outs in the fifth."I feel comfortable anywhere," said Borbon, who is hitting .350. "I don't have a preference in the lineup as long as I'm getting an opportunity to go out there and contribute."Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija retired his first nine batters before Elvis Andrus singled leading off the fourth and scored on Josh Hamilton's single.
Rangers starter Derek Holland allowed one hit in four scoreless innings, struck out two and walked none. Mike Adams struck out the side in the fifth.Samardzija allowed one run and three hits in four innings with three strikeouts and no walks."I'm sure he had his pitches working for him," Borbon said, "and at the same time we did not do what we wanted to do the first couple innings."Texas broke open the game with a five-run eighth that included Renny Osuna's three-run homer.Cubs fall to Athletics in split-squad action
PHOENIX (AP) Seth Smith's place on the Oakland Athletics' major league roster is as left-handed bat who can play in the outfield and be plugged in as a designated hitter.Acquired from Colorado in mid-January, Smith went 3 for 3 with two-run double in the first inning that helped the A's beat the Chicago Cubs 4-3 in a split-squad game."He's faced so many left-handed pitchers all spring and he's really starting to swing it better and better against them," Oakland bench coach Chip Hale said. "He's got a great approach at the plate. That's the reason why we went out and traded for him."Former Oakland outfielder David DeJesus tripled to lead off the game and scored on a groundout off Travis Schlichting, who allowed two hits in three innings during his first start following three relief appearances."He's done nothing but impress us every time out," Hale said.Cubs starter Paul Maholm gave up three runs - none of the them earned - and two hits in three innings with three strikeouts and two walks. Manny Ramirez reached on a run-scoring error that tied the score, and Smith followed with his double on a hanging slider."It's good to have to battle through an inning," Maholm said. "It's a step in the process, having to get through that stuff and then bouncing back the next two innings and having some pretty quick innings."Oakland left fielder Jonny Gomes had a nice throw in the sixth when Geovany Soto doubled with Marlon Byrd on first. Gomes threw to shortstop Cliff Pennington, who relayed to catcher Anthony Recker.Recker and Byrd collided, but Recker stood up with the ball and took an extended look at Byrd as he headed for the dugout."Every day we're doing some kind of fundamental, and when we do it right, it's very nice to see," Hale said.NOTES: Oakland extended its spring training winning streak to eight games, but it ended Saturday with a split squad's loss to San Francisco in Scottsdale. ... Former World Series champions Bert Campaneris and Blue Moon Odom threw out ceremonial first pitches in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Athletics' World Series title ... Cubs reliever Esmailin Caridad came on in the bottom of the eighth inning and struck out the side in order, all looking, in his spring training debut. ... Soto homered on Ryan Cook's first pitch of the fourth

Preview: Cubs-Marlins Sunday on CSN

Preview: Cubs-Marlins Sunday on CSN

The Cubs take on the Miami Marlins on Sunday, and you can catch all the action on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports App.

Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 11:30 a.m., followed by first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies on the call. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Starting pitching matchup: Mike Montgomery (1-3, 2.26 ERA) vs. Edinson Volquez (3-8, 4.19 ERA)

Click here for more stats to make sure you’re ready for the action.

— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the Cubs: All of the most recent news and notes.

Jon Lester: It’s go time for Cubs

Jon Lester: It’s go time for Cubs

MIAMI – Jon Lester dropped his head and wiped the sweat from his face. The Cubs ace didn’t jerk his neck and twist his body, hoping the swing and the sound somehow fooled him. The slow turnaround revealed the obvious – the 75-mph curveball out of his left hand flew over the left-field wall and nearly into the Clevelander bar billed as an adult playground. 

Lester gripped the next ball, stared out into the visual noise at Marlins Park and went to work late Saturday afternoon after J.T. Realmuto’s two-out, three-run homer in the first inning. This is the bulldog determination and tunnel vision that’s been the antidote to the big-market pressures at Fenway Park and Wrigley Field and made Lester such a big-game pitcher.

“You really just have to lock it down,” Lester said after doing just that in a 5-3 win. “You have to try to figure out a way to pitch innings. That was one thing I learned at an early age in Boston with ‘Schill’ (Curt Schilling) and Josh (Beckett). It doesn’t matter. Now we start over. You have to take that mindset of ‘It’s back to zero’ and not keep looking at the scoreboard.”

From that Realmuto moment, Lester retired the next 13 hitters he faced, 15 of the next 16 and 18 of his last 20 at a time when the Cubs needed that performance to buy time for their young hitters, weather a series of injuries and survive a brutal schedule.

Lester believed enough in the coming waves of talent to sign with a last-place team after the 2014 season, and got rewarded with his third World Series ring, continually impressed with this group’s poise and maturity.

The day after getting shut out for the sixth time this season, Addison Russell, Ian Happ, Javier Baez and Albert Almora Jr. – four 24-and-under players – combined to go 7-for-15 with five RBI and four runs scored.

“It’s a test for everybody,” Lester said. “These guys are kind of getting broken in early. They’re going to figure it out and we’re going to go. Now it seems like our guys are really feeling comfortable at the plate. We’re having good at-bats, normal at-bats.

“The results will come. This is, obviously, a results-driven industry. But the plans – as far as on the mound and in the batter’s box – just look a lot smoother right now, a lot cleaner and hopefully we can just keep playing good baseball.”

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The Cubs are 38-36, a half-game behind the first-place Milwaukee Brewers and in position to win three consecutive series for the first time since April. Whether or not Lester (5-4, 3.83 ERA) returns to Little Havana for the All-Star Game, he is the bellwether for this rotation.  

“Jonny’s just got this thing going on right now,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He knows where the ball is going and he gets the high-number velocity when he wants to. He’s not just pitching at 92, 93, 94 (mph). It’s in his back pocket when he needs it. And he gets it with command when he wants it.

“As well as I’ve seen him pitch – I know he had a great run last year also – from a stuff perspective, command perspective, it’s as good as he can pitch.”

This $155 million investment will at some point become a sunk cost. The Cubs understand the history of nine-figure contracts for pitchers and how desperately they need reinforcements. But almost 100 innings into this title defense, Lester feels like he’s just getting started. 

“I feel better now than I did in April and May, for sure,” Lester said. “I think bigger bodies just take a while sometimes. Some years are different than others. Some years you come out like gangbusters and you’re ready to go and the body feels fine. And other years it takes a while to get into that rhythm of pitching every five days again. This was one of those years.”