Tag Archives: NL Central

Cubs ground rival Cardinals, lower magic number

Hendricks was in control in beating the Cards on Saturday

The Chicago Cubs downed their historic arch-rival Saint Louis Cardinals by a 4-1 score on Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field.

With the victory, the Cubbies lowered their ‘Magic Number’ to clinch their second consecutive NL Central Division crown to 10 over the Cards, and to 11 over the second place Milwaukee Brewers.

The Brewers were dumped by the host Marlins down in Miami by a 7-4 score. Combined with a huge 16-0 destruction of the San Diego Padres by the Colorado Rockies, the Brewers now trail the Rockies by 3.5 games, and the Cardinals trail Colorado by 4.5 in the race for the final NL Wildcard berth.

The Cubs fifth straight win was made possible largely thanks to a brilliant outing from starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks. The 27-year old righty allowed just six hits over 7.2 innings, striking out five and walking just one.

Albert Almora singled home the game’s first run in the bottom of the 4th, then doubled home another in the home 5th inning that made it a 3-0 game.

After Matt Carpenter’s solo homer put the Cards on the board in the top of the 8th, Addison Russell responded with one of his own in the bottom of the frame to provide the final margin of victory.

It was a triumphant return for the 23-year Chicago infielder. Russell had been out of the lineup for a month and a half with an injured left foot.

Kendricks has been pitching really well for the Cubs since returning from his own DL stint of more than a month in late July. Since his return, Kendricks is 3-2 with a 2.42 ERA. He has allowed just 61 hits in 67 innings over 11 starts in that time, with a 57/17 K:BB ratio.

“It’s good to feel strong, even at that last pitch,” Hendricks said per Carrie Muskat for MLB.com following his outing. “I still felt good. I still had plenty in the tank. That was my takeaway from today.”

Muskat also quoted Cubs skipper Joe Maddon on his starting pitcher’s performance.

“Everything was working from the side,” Maddon said per Muskat. “They were having bad takes. They were taking pitches that were called strikes. His fastball was the best he’s had all year. … His confidence could not be higher.”

The Cubs-Cardinals series concludes on Sunday afternoon. Following an off-day on Monday, Chicago will travel to Tampa Bay for a two-game inter-league series with the Rays that will begin a 10-game road trip.

From Tampa, the Cubs will then travel on to a pair of huge series. They visit the Brewers at Miller Park for a long four-game weekend series, then travel on to Saint Louis for a four-game set at Busch Stadium.

After wrapping their series down in Miami today, the Brewers travel up to Pittsburgh for three with the host Pirates before heading home to host the four games with the Cubbies next weekend.

After leaving Chicago on Sunday evening, the Cardinals have an off-day on Monday prior to a three-game set in Cincinnati against the Reds. Then they will stay on the road for three at PNC Park against the host Pirates next weekend.

Pirates ready to see the real Tyler Glasnow

Glasnow ready for his second chance in 2017
It might seem as though Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Tyler Glasnow has been around in the prospect game for a long time. In fact, he has indeed.
He has steadily climbed the MLB Pipeline pre-season rankings. Prior to the 2014 season he was ranked as the 27th overall prospect. In 2015, he moved up to #12, then to #10 in 2016. Finally, prior to this season, Glasnow was ranked as the #9 overall prospect in the game.
For the last three years, Glasnow has been a Top 25 prospect in the rankings as presented by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus.
Selected by Pittsburgh with their 5th round choice in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft out of a California high school, Glasnow turned 24 years old just three weeks ago.
He was called up for his first taste of life in the big leagues in July of 2016. Then in September, Glasnow re-joined the Bucs to finish the season.
Overall in 2016 he appeared in seven games, making four starts. He allowed 22 hits over 23.1 innings while striking out 24 and walking 13 batters. The right-hander threw just 59% of his pitches for strikes.
While it was a largely inauspicious beginning, it was a beginning. Most prospects struggle during their first go-around in Major League Baseball. Glasnow had at least gotten his feet wet. It was hoped the experience would serve him well entering 2017, when he was expected to fill a rotation spot with the Pirates.

Big league fail, minor league recovery

He was indeed given that shot at the beginning of this season, but struggled mightily. Over a dozen starts, Glasnow surrendered 75 hits in 54.1 innings. He produced a modest 50/29 K:BB ratio. His ERA was through the roof at a 7.45 mark, and he was still throwing just 61% of his pitches for strikes.
Pittsburgh brass had seen enough. They returned their prized young pitcher to AAA Indianapolis for more seasoning.
Back with the Indianapolis Indians of the International League, it once again all kicked in for Glasnow. He would go 9-2 with a 1.93 ERA and 0.954 WHIP mark over 15 starts. He dominated minor league hitters, allowing just 57 hits over 93.1 innings. Glasnow also produced a sensational 140/32 K:BB ratio.
“It was at the point where I went down and it was like nothing else, it’s the worst it can get right now,” Glasnow said per MLB.com’s Alaina Getzenberg. “I was up here, I didn’t do very well, so it was the time to make a big change, and it was kind of like the perfect time for it. It clicked my first start in the Minor Leagues and I carried it on through.”

Second chance as season winds down

Just as clearly as he needed to go back down to find himself, it has now become clear that Glasnow is ready to come back up and prove himself.
A lost season is winding down in Pittsburgh. The Pirates won just nine of their previous 28 games before shutting out Milwaukee on Monday night.
Gerrit Cole will be 27 years old next year. Jameson Taillon will be 26 years old. An organization such as the Pirates can’t really afford to splurge on big-ticket free agents. They could desperately use Glasnow to emerge into a legitimate home-grown rotation force, joining those other two talented arms.
“I think when you come up here, you don’t want to step on anyone’s toes and you can kind of lose who you are a little bit,” said Glasnow per Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “What I learned most is just do what I do, just kind of be who I am and not worry about … obviously don’t come down and be an idiot, but just be yourself and don’t worry about stepping on anyone’s toes.”
The Pirates could use someone to loosen up their locker room, and Glasnow may be a great fit in that regard. But more importantly, they need him to just be himself on the mound. That self who scouts have envisioned, and who has dominated minor leaguers.
It’s time for that Glasnow to take the mound in the big leagues. His second chance will begin on Wednesday night in Milwaukee against the division rival Brewers.

Cincinnati Reds collapse could cost manager his job

Reds skipper Bryan Price will find his job on the line 
The 2017 Major League Baseball season began well for the Cincinnati Reds. The club got off to a hot start, winning seven of their first nine games.
As late as May 17, the Reds were still in first place in the National League Central Division standings. At that point, the club had a 17-14 record.
Beginning on April 30, the club would win nine of 11 games to reach a high-water mark on the season of four games over the .500 mark.
After a month-long period of struggles, the Reds record had fallen into the red. But then Cincinnati went on a four-game winning streak in early June. The quick spurt got the club back within a game of the break-even mark.
It all began to go wrong for the Reds when they left for a west coast swing out to Los Angeles and San Diego beginning on June 9. Scoring just 20 runs on the trip, Cincinnati lost all six games to the Dodgers and Padres.
That west coast shutout was the start of a nine-game losing streak. The Reds have never recovered. Since leaving for that trip, Cincy has collapsed with a 12-30 record.
The Reds are now in last place in the division, buried 13.5 games out. They’re even further back, 17 games, in the NL Wildcard race.
Cincinnati is tied for 18th in MLB in runs scored heading into Saturday action. The pitching staff is 24th in Batting Average Against. Those statistical positions have been on the decline, propped up by the performances of the first two months.


Just 10 days ago, C. Trent Rosecrans at Cincinnati.com spoke with Reds general manager Dick Williams. Rosecrans brought up the topic of Price’s contract, which has a club option for next season that has yet to be activated.
That contract, per Rosecrans, has “language that would prevent the decision from going down to the last week, like it did last year.” Williams telegraphed that the decision would not come down purely to wins and losses.
However, the losses have really piled up on Price’s watch. The ball club is nearly a full 100 games below the .500 mark with a 249-340 record in his four seasons at the helm.
If the losing continues at anything close to the pace of the last two months, the Reds will finish with 100 or more losses for the first time in 35 years.
“We’re not losing games in the dugout right now,” said Williams per Rosecrans. “The coaching staff has done a good job. We just need to make sure the talent continues to develop and those guys keep believing in themselves.”
Since Williams made those comments in what appeared to have been a vote of confidence in Price at the MLB All-Star break, the Reds have lost 13 of 15 games.


Their 7-4 defeat on Friday night at Marlins Park was the Reds seventh consecutive loss to the struggling Fish in Miami. Price was quoted by Fox Sports on the South Florida streak.
“You look at our winning percentage since the second half of 2014, and it hasn’t been very good. We haven’t won a lot of games anywhere. I don’t think this is any different than any other venue.”
Price is right. The Reds don’t win a lot of games anywhere. His last two teams finished in last place, and this one is headed towards that same finish in the standings.
The Reds may not be losing games in the dugout, as Williams claims, but they are absolutely losing them on the field at an alarming rate. If there isn’t some kind of dramatic turnaround in the next few weeks, it’s hard to see how Price’s contract option will be picked up.

MLB Spotlight Series: Chicago Cubs at Milwaukee Brewers

NL Central lead at stake as Cubs visit Brewers
The most competitive division race in the 2017 MLB regular season thus far is taking place in the National League Central Division.
After appearing to sleepwalk through much of the first half, the defending champion Chicago Cubs are on top once again. However, three teams are within just 4.5 games of the lead.
This weekend, the Cubbies travel just about two hours up I-94 to Miller Park in Milwaukee. Waiting for them will be the NL Central’s second place team, the host Milwaukee Brewers.
The Brewers actually led the division for much of the season. The Brew Crew jumped into first place on May 17, and until this past Wednesday had spent just two days out of the top spot ever since.
The Cubs, meanwhile, were suffering from a serious World Series victory hangover. By the end of May they were two games under .500 and sitting in third place. As late as July 9, the Cubs were still those same two games below the break-even mark.
However, something clicked for Chicago coming out of the MLB All-Star Game break. The Cubs have won 11 of 13 games since taking those four days off. Conversely, Milwaukee has lost nine of their last 11 contests.
Headed into the weekend, the Cubs hold a 1.5 game lead on the second place Brewers in the division standings. That lead is three games in the loss column. There is no doubt that this series in front of their home crowd is of vital importance to manager Craig Counsell and his ball club.
Milwaukee needs to get back on track, and fast. This is a perfect opportunity to let the Cubs know that they intend to stay in the race for the long haul.
For the Cubs, it’s a chance to stay hot and begin to put Milwaukee further back in the rear view mirror. The champs are looking to make a statement: we’re back, and now we’re going to pull away.


The weekend starting pitching match-ups are scheduled as follows:
FRIDAY: Jose Quintana (6-8, 4.22 ERA) vs Brent Suter (1-1, 2.84 ERA)
SATURDAY: Kyle Hendricks (4-3, 3.95 ERA) vs Junior Guerra (1-4, 5.22 ERA)
SUNDAY: John Lackey (7-9, 4.97 ERA) vs Zach Davies (12-4, 4.45 ERA)
Quintana was a big trade acquisition two weeks ago from the AL’s crosstown Chicago White Sox. He has been fantastic in his first two Cubs starts, winning both. Suter began the year pitching out of the Brewers bullpen, but started July in the rotation. He has not allowed more than two earned runs since, and three of his four outings were of the Quality Start variety.
Last year’s third place finisher in the NL Cy Young Award vote, Hendricks is fresh off a seven-week stint on the Disabled List. He surrendered eight hits and lasted just 4.1 innings in his first start back earlier this week. Guerra was a pleasant surprise a year ago, emerging as a reliable starter at age 31 after bouncing around the minor leagues for a decade. But this season, MLB hitters appear to have caught up with him. He hasn’t reached the fifth inning in four of his last five starts.
The 38-year old Lackey is the senior member of the Cubs rotation. Now in his 15th big league season, the righty has just seven Quality Starts among his 19 turns so far this year. Davies is a 24-year old who is emerging as a reliable mid-rotation option. He got banged around by the Cubs back in April, but then beat them with a solid effort earlier this month at Wrigley Field.


Milwaukee is seventh and Chicago just 14th in baseball in runs scored this season. However, the Cubs recent hot streak has been spurred largely by an offensive awakening. The North Siders have scored seven, nine, and 10 runs once each and put eight runs on the board three times since the All-Star break. They are averaging exactly six runs per game in that time.
The Brewers hold a slight edge in OPS at .768-.763 for the season. On the basepaths, however, it’s no contest. Milwaukee has stolen 87 bases, tops in all of Major League Baseball. The Cubs are way down at 25th with just 37 bags swiped.
On the mound, the Cubs hold the edge. The Chicago staff has a .237 Batting Average Against, fourth in the game. Milwaukee’s staff at .259 ranks just 18th in the game. In both WHIP (1.27-1.38) and K/BB ratio (2.53-2.35) the Cubs staff holds the edge.
The Cubs are coming off a four game home-and-home with the Chisox in which they won the final three games to capture the 2017 “Crosstown Cup” trophy. They have won five of the nine games against the Brewers so far this season.

This are two teams who have begun heading in opposite directions. The Cubs are on the rise, the Brewers are falling. It’s something that many believed was inevitable. Now it’s up to the Brewers to answer the Cubs challenge. After this, the two teams won’t meet again until the second week in September.

Will the suddenly hot Pittsburgh Pirates be trade deadline buyers or sellers?

Pirates could contend with Cutch, or deal him
On Monday night, the Pittsburgh Pirates rallied from behind for a 4-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
With that win, the Bucs drew to within three games of the .500 mark on the season. 
They also pulled within six games in the NL Central standings of the first place Brew Crew, and within eight of the second NL Wildcard spot.
The Pirates are suddenly hot, winners now in eight of their last 10 games. They are also about to get star left fielder Starling Marte back in the lineup. He has missed the first 80 games of the season due to a PED suspension. As the MLB trade deadline approaches, they appear to be a team on the bubble.
It’s difficult to get a read on exactly where the Pirates are right now, as far as their overall organizational status and ability to contend. Are they buyers or sellers here in July? That is the decision GM Neal Huntingdon and the rest of management will need to make in the coming weeks.
After earning an National League Wildcard playoff spot for three straight years, Pittsburgh regressed last season. The Pirates finished five games below the .500 mark in 2016, and were 8.5 games out of that Wildcard position.


Playing a large part in that regression was an atypical poor season from star center fielder Andrew McCutchen. For five straight years from 2011-15, ‘Cutch’ had been clutch. An NL All-Star each of those years, he was awarded Silver Sluggers each season from 2012-15. He was also a top five finisher in the NL MVP race each of those last four seasons, capturing the honors in 2013.
Now, McCutchen has returned to that star-level production. In 380 plate appearances the now 30-year old has hit for a .294/.382/.518 slash line. His 57 runs scored and 38 extra-base hits lead the ball club. And with seven stolen bases, McCutchen has already swiped one more bag than he did all of last season.
The Pirates have a $14.75 million team option on his contract for next season, after which he would become an absolute free agent. They could also buy him out for $1 million, but that’s not going to happen now.
Though he is again, he is not yet old. His return to production has to be encouraging for any potential trade partner. So does the fact that you can have him for at least one more season beyond this at a reasonable price.
McCutchen is not the only potential trade chip for Pittsburgh. Third baseman David Freese is now 34-years old. He is signed through next season to an extremely affordable deal. Freese carries a .371 on-base percentage, and has a wealth of postseason experience.


The Pirates also have a pair of experienced, serviceable lefty relievers in Tony Watson and Wade LeBlanc. Southpaws are always in demand at this time of year as team’s with postseason aspirations try to improve their bullpens.
Right-handed starter Ivan Nova is now 30 years old. He is signed for two more seasons at just over $9 million per. With a 9-6 record, 3.21 ERA, 1.094 WHIP he could be an attractive piece for anyone looking to shore up their pitching rotation.
Which way will Huntingdon choose to go? Much may hinge on whether the Pirates can extend their recent winning ways out another week or so. If they begin to cool again, they will have made their general manager’s decision much easier.