Lackey and Bullpen Earn Cubs Impressive 2-1 Win Over White Sox, Welcome Mariners for Weekend Series

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Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.

The Cubs (61-40) earned arguably their most impressive win of the season when they beat the White Sox 2-1 on Thursday night. John Lackey looked significantly better than he has in months after going winless in eight starts. He gave up a run in the first inning, but then settled down and pitched five scoreless innings to keep the Cubs in the game.

Chris Sale was coming back after his suspension and having not pitched in ten days. However, he did not look like he had any rust despite taking the loss. He kept the Cubs offense in check, but they did just enough to turn it over to the newly formed Cubs bullpen. Dexter Fowler scored twice, once on a Bryant double in the first and the other on a Zobrist single in the third. Russell was able to knock in Zobrist in the eighth on a groundout for an insurance run.

With a 2-1 lead heading into the seventh, Manager Joe Maddon was able to send out his three-man bullpen rotation of Pedro Strop in the seventh, Hector Rondon in the eighth, and Aroldis Chapman in the ninth. The rotation almost went as plan as Strop got through the seventh without any trouble. Although Rondon recorded two outs in the eighth he allowed the tying run on third with two outs. This is where the luxury of having Chapman comes in as Maddon went to him early and he proceeded to strike out Melky Cabrera on a 102 mph pitch. Chapman finished the game with a 1-2-3 ninth to give the Cubs the victory. The look of the new bullpen was a beautiful thing to watch as it appears teams are really going to struggling scoring runs if they are down in the seventh inning.

Game 102
Jon Lester (10-4, 3.09 ERA) will be facing Hisashi Iwakuma (11-6, 3.96 ERA) in Friday’s series opener. Lester struggled in his last start, against the Milwaukee Brewers, when he gave up four earned runs in just four innings. He did strike out seven batters, but was pulled by Joe Maddon when it was apparent he didn’t have is good stuff that game. Iwakuma has been the Mariners best starter as he has won six games in a row and has not lost since June 22. In his last game he was able to stifle the high-powered Toronto Blue Jays lineup by keeping them to two earned runs over six innings.

Game 103
Wade Miley (6-8, 5.23 ERA) will get the start for the Mariners on Saturday. Miley started out the season pitching well as he came out to a 6-2 record. However, he has since lost his last six games in a row. Miley last win was against the Cleveland Indians on June 7. Along with the high earned run average, Miley has a high batting average against at .286.  Jake Arrieta (12-4, 2.76 ERA) will be on the mound for the Cubs, who have lost his last four starts. It is hard to believe that Arrieta has not won a decision in over a month. He is still in contention to repeat as National League Cy Young winner, but he will need to get a win here to stay to remain in the hunt.

Game 104
Sunday’s game will be on ESPN and will feature Felix Hernandez (5-4, 3.45 ERA) versus Kyle Hendricks (9-7, 2.39 ERA). Hernandez was arguably the most dominant pitcher in the American League since 2009, but he has fallen off a bit recently due to injuries. Hernandez has especially struggled in his last three games where he has pitched a total of 18.2 innings and has given up 15 earned runs. Surprisingly, over that span, he has only struck out 11 batters. Hendricks, on the other hand, has been the Cubs most consistent pitcher despite losing his last outing. In that game, against the Chicago White Sox, he threw 5.2 innings and gave up three earned runs on six hits. Hendricks had previously not given up a run in four outings.

Outlook: The Mariners are battling for a playoff spot in the American League West. They remain in playoff contention due to their powerful offense lead by second baseman Robinson Cano, right fielder Nelson Cruz, and third baseman Kyle Seager who have home runs of 22, 25, 20 respectively. The Mariners (51-49) are currently 12th in MLB in team batting average with a .260. The Cubs are now down to 15th with a .254. The Mariners pitcher will present a challenge to the Cubs, but Hernandez is not pitching the way he normally does. Iwakuma will be the biggest challenge to the Cubs. However, it is expected for the Cubs to come out with a series victory.

 

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Cubs Show Their Might at Plate and On Mound in Win, Ready to Face Sale in His Return

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Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.

Entering the sixth inning of last night’s game, the Cubs (60-40) looked like they were on their way to being shut out again, this time by an unheralded journeyman in Anthony Ranaudo. The Cubs offense was going into their 14th straight scoreless inning and to make things worse Ranaudo homered off of Jason Hammel in the previous inning to give the White Sox (50-51) a 1-0 lead. That all changed, though, when Kris Bryant lofted his 26th home run of the season into the Wrigley Field bleachers to tie the game.

Just like that a switch flipped and the Cubs electric offense was once again turned on. In the seventh inning Javier Baez crushed a two-run home run onto Waveland Avenue and Addison Russell followed in the eighth inning with his first career grand slam. In what seemed like just a few minutes the Cubs went from down 1-0 to coasting to an 8-1 victory.

Still, with the game out of reach, Manager Joe Maddon decided that was the best opportunity to introduce all of MLB to their new closer and to send the fans home with some fireworks in the form of Aroldis Chapman fastballs. Chapman delivered the pyrotechnics with fastballs hovering 101-103 mph. He ended up striking out Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia and getting Todd Frazier to groundout on a 103 mph fastball. Those final innings caused much excitement among fans and analysts as the Cubs showed in those few short innings what kind of team they will be in the playoffs. If they get good starting pitching and put some runs on the board then Hector Rondon and Chapman will come in and close the door.

Game 101
The final game of the Crosstown Classic will bring a lot of intrigued as Chris Sale (14-3, 3.18 ERA) returns to the White Sox rotation after a five-game suspension for his locker room “incident” before Saturday’s game against the Detroit Tigers. Sale’s outburst grabbed headline news as many analysts were wondering if he had pitched his last game with the White Sox. With the trade deadline fast approaching tonight’s game could very well be his last game. Sale has not pitched in ten days, so he’ll be well rested to face the Cubs lineup. Surprisingly, he has only won once this month, which was back on July 2.

John Lackey (7-7, 3.79 ERA) will be on the mound tonight for the Cubs. This is arguably Lackey’s most important start of the season as his performance may determine whether Theo Epstein decides whether or not to trade for a starter by the deadline. Lackey has not won a start since June 8 while his ERA has risen since then from 2.63 to 3.79. Moreover, Lackey has given up a home run in seven straight games. Lackey has been consistent in that out of 20 games this season he has pitched six or more innings in every game except for two. Still, Lackey needs to show something in this start, otherwise he may soon become the odd-man out of the rotation if the Cubs trade for another starter.

Outlook: A well-rested Chris Sale poses a significant challenge to the Cubs hitters. Sale is the front-runner for the American League Cy Young award. He has dominated batters on both sides of the plate. Right-handed batters are hitting .219 against him while left-handers are only hitting .189. Probably his one weakness this season is giving up the long ball to right-handed batters. Right-handers have hit 13 home runs off of him, which would be a good sign for the Cubs who can trot out a right-hand heavy lineup. The key to this game is whether Lackey can keep the Cubs in the game. There is little room for error when facing Sale. So Lackey will need to be at his best to give the Cubs a chance to win.

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Cubs Offense Shut Down by Shields, Hope for a Turnaround at Wrigley and Chapman Appearance

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Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.

James Shields showed glimmers of his old self last night as he shut down the Cubs over 7.2 innings. Although the score was close throughout the game, the Cubs offense failed to assert itself and put together any type of scoring threat. Kyle Hendricks pitched another strong game for the Cubs as he kept the game close by only giving up three runs on six hits over 5.2 innings.

A major positive from the game was that the Cubs bullpen didn’t allow a run or hit and also kept the team in the game as the offense continued to struggle. These past two games are those that the team should move on and forget. They have not been playing their best, but the Cubs now return to Wrigley Field with a dominant closer in Aroldis Chapman. Being back at the Friendly Confines should hopefully jumpstart the offense.

Game 100
The Cubs (59-40) will be facing a well-traveled pitcher in Anthony Ranaudo (1-0, 17.18 ERA) who was acquired by the White Sox (50-50) from the Texas Rangers in May. Ranaudo has only made two appearances this season totaling 3.2 innings both with the Rangers. He has yet to make an appearance with the White Sox, but has one win earlier in the year. Still, Ranaudo has struggled in his two appearances as he has given up a total of seven earned runs over those three plus innings. Ironically, his last appearance in the majors was on May 10 against the White Sox. In that game Ranaudo did not give up a hit, but walked five batters all of whom came in to score.

The Cubs will counter with Jason Hammel (9-5, 3.35 ERA) who has been somewhat rejuvenated since the All-Star break. He has won his last two decisions after going over a month without winning. Hammel, over his last two outings, has pitched 11 innings and has given up only three earned runs on seven hits. Most significantly, he has struck out 11 while only walking three. Hammel has pitched better at home this season than away from Wrigley. He is 4-1 at Wrigley Field and 5-4 on the road.

Outlook: Ranaudo, in his brief time in the majors this season, has yet to yield a hit against a left-handed batter, but obviously has not fared as well with right-handed batters as they have hit .250 with six runs. Still, there is not enough data from this year to know how well the Cubs will do against Ranaudo, especially due to the fact that they have struggled significantly against right-handed pitchers as of late. The Cubs currently sit 17th in MLB in team batting average against right-handers with a .249 average. Similarly, the White Sox are even worse against right-handers as they are 22nd with a .247. As a result, Hammel should have his way with the White Sox line-up. Above all, the fans at Wrigley will be anxious to have the ball turned to Chapman in the ninth to see him work and lead the Cubs to a win.

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In Wake of Chapman Acquisition Cubs Fall to White Sox in Game 1 of Crosstown Classic, Hendricks goes up against Shields Tonight

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Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.

The Cubs (59-39), as they went into the Crosstown Classic against the White Sox (49-50), generated buzz across the country by acquiring arguably the most dominate closer in MLB in Aroldis Chapman. The Cubs front office announced the trade a mere two hours before the game and clearly grabbed the headlines, even over the Chris Sale suspension. Still, despite the buzz the Cubs still had to go out and beat the White Sox. Unfortunately, a quiet offense, sloppy base running, and a few bad pitches led to the Cubs 5-4 loss to their rivals.

The Cubs should’ve felt confident going into the game with Jake Arrieta headed to the mound against a struggling Miguel Gonzalez. However, once the game got going, Gonzalez settled in and kept the Cubs hitters off-balance, while Arrieta labored through his start. The box score said it all as Arrieta gave up four earned runs on five hits over six innings pitched. His pitch in the sixth inning to Todd Frazier that ended up as a three-run homer forced the Cubs to play catch-up the rest of the game. Gonzalez, on the other hand, carried into the game with him a 4.41 earned run average, but the Cubs could not get anything going until a Javier Baez two-run homer.

The Cubs offense finally broke through in the ninth when they scored two runs to tie the game at four. Still, two major base running mistakes by Kris Bryant, one in third and one in the ninth, cost the Cubs additional runs. In the bottom of the ninth, Joe Maddon went to newly acquired Mike Montgomery and he quickly gave away the game with a single, sacrifice bunt, and another single, which led to the 5-4 loss. Montgomery looks like he is having difficulty acclimating himself to his new ball club as he has struggled in his first two outings for the Cubs.

Game 99
Now with Chapman aboard, the Cubs look to bounce back and even the series before both teams head to Wrigley on Wednesday night. Tonight’s game will feature Kyle Hendricks (9-6, 2.27 ERA) versus the White Sox big in-season acquisition James Shields (4-12, 4.99 ERA). Hendricks has continued to perform at a high-level as of late. He has not given up a run in the last 23 innings. Moreover, he has won his last five decisions and has dropped his ERA from 3.05 on June 13 to currently 2.27. Hendricks continues to be the Cubs steadiest pitcher throughout the past five weeks.

The White Sox picked up Shields in the hope that he would regain his form from his Kansas City Royals days. Unfortunately for the White Sox he has continued his performance with the San Diego Padres before he was traded. Shields lost his first four decisions to begin the season. He went on to have a 2-7 record before the Padres traded him to the White Sox. He has since struggled since he joined the White Sox as he is 2-5 in nine starts with a 6.00 earned runs average. Shields has also given up 11 home runs in those nine starts. He is also equal in walks to strikeouts as Shields has walked 21 and struck out 24.

Outlook: This is a game that the Cubs should win. It is not a game they have to win, but given everything surrounding both teams, what happened the night before, and facing Shields whose better days are behind him, the Cubs have every incentive and reason to win this game. With the new look bullpen of Hector Rondon pitching the eighth and Chapman now closing games out in the ninth the Cubs have the ability to shorten the games. If they can gain the lead by the seventh inning, in theory the game should likely be over. Cubs fans will be eager to see the new look bullpen in action.

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Cubs Come From Behind to Beat the Brewers, Head into Crosstown Classic with Apparent Acquisition of Chapman

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Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.

Halfway through Sunday’s game, the Cubs (59-38) looked like they were down and out against the Milwaukee Brewers (41-55). After the fifth inning the Brewers held a 4-0 lead and the Cubs offense looked like it was stalled again like the previous game. Then at the top of the sixth they eked out a run with a Ben Zobrist RBI single. Then came the seventh inning where Tommy La Stella made it 4-2 with an RBI double. Subsequently, after a Kris Bryant intentional walk Anthony Rizzo came to the plate with the bases-loaded. He certainly made the Brewers pay for walking Bryant ahead of him as he drove a pitched into the right-center gap to clear the bases and give the Cubs a 5-4 lead.

A Zobrist RBI single scoring Rizzo gave the Cubs an insurance run, which they needed after Hector Rondon surrender a ninth inning solo home run to make the game 6-5. The win felt good in so many ways as the offense looked dead inthe water after struggling to hit Junior Guerra. However, it appears that Brewers manager Craig Counsel did the Cubs a favor by replacing Guerra after he got the first out of the inning with Will Smith. The left-hander went to give up three hits, the intentional walk, and five runs (four earned) without recording an out. Another positive was that Joe Nathan made his Cubs debut in the sixth and despite giving up a lead-off triple and a subsequent walk he struck out the next three batters to prevent the Brewers from expanding their lead. Even more, Nathan got the decision to get his first win of the season and first as a Cub.

The Cubs series win could certainly generate enough excitement to give the Cubs some momentum heading into the Crosstown Classic against the Chicago White Sox. However, even more excitement was generated a few hours after the game when ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that the Cubs were on the verge of striking a deal with the New York Yankees that would send their prized prospect shortstop Gleyber Torres to the Bronx in exchange for arguably the best closer in the game Aroldis Chapman. Although the deal has yet to be finalized the idea of Chapman coming out of the bullpen for the Cubs has created quite a stir among the Cubs fan base. A once middling bullpen would become a formidable one with Chapman closing, Hector Rondon handling the eighth inning duties and Joe Nathan, Mike Montgomery, Carl Edwards, Jr., Pedro Stop, and Travis Wood filling out the rest of the relief corps. That would certainly reinforce the Cubs as World Series favorites come playoff time.

Game 98
The Crosstown Classic begins on Monday night, which has the entire city of Chicago buzzing. The first two games will be held at U.S. Cellular Field, while the last two will be held at Wrigley Field. Monday night’s game will see Jake Arrieta (12-4, 2.60 ERA) go up against Miguel Gonzalez (2-5, 4.41 ERA). Arrieta had a brilliant game in his last outing, against the New York Mets, where he gave up only one run on five hits while striking out eight over seven innings. Although he did not get a decision, Arrieta showed that he is getting back on track. Still, it has been almost a month since he has won a game, so a win here against the White Sox would have extra meaning besides bragging rights.

Gonzalez is having a down year after coming from the Baltimore Orioles in the off-season. His earned run average has only dipped below four for a brief moment in early June. Since then it has steadily held in the high fours and evening hitting 5.17 on June 25 after giving up eight earned runs to the Toronto Blue Jays. Gonzalez has been steady as of late. Since July 1, he has thrown 26 innings and has given up only eight earned runs and struck out 18 batters. Gonzalez does not have much of a history against the Cubs hitters as Ben Zobrist is the only player with any significant experience versus him. Zobrist has 29 career at-bats and only six hits, which includes a home run and two doubles.

Outlook: The Cubs are facing the White Sox probably at their most vulnerable as they are still dealing with the fallout of the Chris Sale situation. Sale created a clubhouse “incident” when he decided to cut up some of the throwback jersey they were supposed to wear during their game against the Detroit Tigers on Saturday. Despite initial success the overall season of the White Sox has been tumultuous with the front office telling veteran Adam LaRoche that he was not allowed to bring his teenage son around the team any longer. That caused a divide among players and the front office and eventually led to issues between Sale and team President Kenny Williams. Still, although the White Sox are dealing with issues beyond the field of play they still present a difficult challenge to the Cubs. On paper, though, a match-up between Arrieta and Gonzalez should tip in the Cubs favor.

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Cubs Bats Go Silent against Davies and Brewers Bullpen, Lester Goes for Win in Rubber Match

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Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.

The Cubs (58-38) offense looked like it was primed for a return to early-season form with the addition of a healthy Dexter Fowler at the top of the order. Unfortunately, the rejuvenation might take a little longer as they struggled to hit the ball in his second game back in the lineup. Milwaukee Brewers (41-54) starter Zach Davies stifled the Cubs offense by limiting them to three hits and one earned run over 6.1 innings on Saturday night. Davies’ success was due to his ability to mix-up his pitches well while locating his fastball on the edges of the strike zone. Moreover, the Brewers bullpen followed by keeping the Cubs to three hits and no runs over 2.2 innings. As a result the Brewers beat the Cubs 6-1 to end their two-game win streak.

The Cubs had their best opportunity to tie the game in the seventh inning when Addison Russell singled in Ben Zobrist to cut the Brewers lead to 3-1 and leaving two men on with one out. However, Javier Baez struck out swinging and Matt Szczur grounded out to shortstop. The seventh was the only inning they really threatened to score as they went 1-2-3 in four other innings. The Cubs bullpen was not able to maintain its recent success as Adam Warren came in on the eighth and quickly gave up a single and a walk before giving way to newly acquired reliever Mike Montgomery. Unfortunately, his Cubs debut did not go as planned as he immediately gave up a three-run home run to Kirk Nieuwenhuis. It just became a game that was not going to go the Cubs way.

Game 97
Today, the Cubs will go for the series win as Jon Lester (10-4, 2.89 ERA) will be facing Junior Guerra (6-2, 3.06 ERA) in the rubber match. Lester appears to have benefited from the All-Star break as he pitched a very strong game against the New York Mets on Monday. He held the National League Champs to one earned run on four hits over 7.2 innings. Lester looked in complete control throughout the game and was able to stay out of trouble. The only run he gave up was a solo home run to Wilmer Flores. Lester has yet to face the Brewers this season.

Guerra broke into the majors last season with the Chicago White Sox as a reliever, but has since found a spot in the Brewers starting rotation. Guerra has done exceptionally well for Milwaukee this season as beyond his 6-2 record the Brewers are 10-4 this season when he starts. He has had four starts where he has limited the opposition to no runs. Guerra beat the Cubs on May 19 when he held them to three earned runs over seven innings. Most significantly, he struck out a season-high 11 batters.

Outlook: This is certainly not an ideal game for the Cubs after coming off of a game in which they struggled to get on base they now face a pitcher in Guerra who over powered them with 11 strikeouts in his previous start against them. Additionally, Guerra has only gotten better since the Cubs faced him last. What makes this game even more difficult for the Cubs is that the offense is currently 16th in MLB in team batting average against right-handed pitchers with a .250 average. In the Cubs favor, though, is the fact that the Brewers rank 22nd against left-handed pitchers. In the end, if Lester can give the Cubs another solid start and Joe Maddon put together a lineup that will put the ball in play against Guerra then they will come out with a series win.

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Fowler Makes Statement in Return as He Leads Cubs to Win Over Brewers

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Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.

The almost five weeks that Dexter Fowler had been out of the Cubs (58-37) lineup felt a lot longer as it became difficult to remember what the team was like with him at the top of the order. Fowler, however, quickly reminded the team, fans, and opponents just how potent the Cubs offense is with him batting leadoff. He announced his return quickly and loudly in Friday night’s game by driving a Jimmy Nelson pitched into seats to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Fowler would continue to make noise throughout the game by going three-for-four and driving in three runs in the Cubs 5-2 win.

Fowler simply being back in the lineup provided a warm feeling through all of Cubs Nation, but his offensive display was an excellent reminder that their offense sorely missed him. He brings a dimension of speed and getting on base consistently that no other player could replace. As a result of this game, Fowler now leads the team in batting average at .298 and on base percentage at .405, which shows just how important he is to this lineup. The Cubs offense now going forwarded should be much improved regardless if they add another bat at the trade deadline.

Game 96
John Lackey (7-6, 3.75 ERA) will try to extend the Cubs win streak to three as he goes up against Zach Davies (6-4, 3.79 ERA). Lackey will also look to win his first game since June 8. Moreover, he has given up two earned runs or more in seven straight games and has given up at least one home run in six straight games. The Cubs hope that Lackey will solve all these issues in one good start against the Brewers. He has faced the Brewers once this season and gave a solid performance as he gave up only four hits and only one earned run over six innings in the Cubs 2-1 win.

Davies is in his first full year in the majors, which has seen the typical ups and downs for a rookie. He has provided the Brewers with a handful of quality starts, but also a few games that he would like to forget. Davies relies on locating his pitches since he does not throw hard. His fastball can reach up to 92 mph, which will not blow any major league hitters away. Davies’ success is reliant upon how well he throws his secondary pitches and mixes them up with his fastball. Currently, Davies throws a change-up, cutter, curve, and slider all with average command. Although he struggled at the beginning of the season, Davies has steadily improved as his ERA has almost dropped two whole runs from 5.75 to 3.79 since May 21.

Outlook: Fowler’s mere presence in the lineup changes the look and feel of the Cubs offense. Joe Maddon decided to change things up in Friday’s game with Fowler back by keeping Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo in the second and third spot instead of batting Ben Zobrist after Fowler like he did consistently before. Instead, Maddon had Zobrist batting clean-up with Willson Contreras, Jason Heyward, and Addison Russell to follow. This look gives the club a deep lineup with power and above average speed throughout. It will be interesting to see how the offense follows up Friday night’s game against the rookie Davies today. Beyond the offense, Lackey really needs to have a good showing today in order to reestablish himself as a top of the line pitcher in the rotation. Six weeks of not earning a win is too long for a pitcher of Lackey’s caliber. Hopefully, a match-up with the Brewers and their struggling offense will do the trick.

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Cubs get much-needed Series Win over Mets, Prepare to Welcome Back Fowler for Series against the Brewers

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Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.

In such a short time the Cubs are generating good news left and right. First, the Cubs (57-37) were able to take two of three games from the National League Champion New York Mets after losing eight in a row against them dating back to last year’s NL Championship Series. The Cubs, in the final game, put together an all-round excellent effort led by two monster home runs off the bat of Anthony Rizzo. Kyle Hendricks provided the Cubs with another quality start scattering seven hits over 6.1 innings while not allowing a run and striking out seven. 

The second piece of good news was that the Cubs made a trade right after the game to bolster their bullpen, especially against left-handed batters by acquiring lefthander Mike Montgomery from the Seattle Mariners for AAA first baseman Dan Vogelbach and AA pitcher Paul Blackburn. Montgomery will be a solid edition to the bullpen, which has struggled at times to be consistent. The trade deadline is over a week away and many are looking for the Cubs to make an even more significant move by acquiring either Andrew Miller or Aroldis Chapman from the New York Yankees. Still, even if another move is not made the bullpen should be improved with the addition Montgomery.

Third, they will be getting back their All-Star center fielder and arguably the best lead-off hitter in all of baseball in Dexter Fowler, who has been sidelined since June 18 with a right hamstring injury. Beyond his superb defense in center, Fowler is batting .290 with seven home runs and 28 runs batted in. However, what is most important is that he has an on base percentage of .398, which highlights the fact that he gets on base often for Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo to drive him in. Additionally, Jorge Soler is also about ready to return to the lineup as he is completing his rehab assignments at AAA Iowa.

Game 95
The Cubs are in Milwaukee this weekend for a three-game series against the Brewers (40-53). They are looking to exact a little revenge as they dropped a series back in Milwaukee in mid-May. Tonight’s starters will be Jason Hammel (8-5, 3.34 ERA) against Jimmy Nelson (6-7, 3.39 ERA). Hammel is coming off of his first win since June 4. In between, he struggled considerably; however, it appears that the All-Star break rest and a few bags of potato chips did just the trick as he earned the win against the Texas Rangers by only giving up one earned run in six innings pitched. He also struck out seven while only walking one.

Nelson is having a steady season. In his last outing he got the win versus the Cincinnati Reds, which was his first win since May 29. Nelson held the Reds to six hits and no earned runs over seven innings. He has faced the Cubs twice this season losing the first game and getting a no-decision in the second. Nelson pitched strong in both of those games, so this should be no easy game for the Cubs. Altogether, Nelson has pitched 12.2 innings against the Cubs and has struck out 11 and walked eight while only surrendering one earned run.

Outlook: There are two mindsets for this game being that this will be the third time that they will see Nelson pitch. The first is that Nelson is comfortable facing the Cubs and will continue to pitch with a certain level of success against them. Conversely, the second is that the Cubs will know what to expect from Nelson after seeing him for the third time and will hit him hard. The Cubs lineup will certainly benefit with the addition of Fowler. This will allow Manager Joe Maddon to drop Ben Zobrist to second, and after Bryant and Rizzo, Willson Contreras can bat fifth and Jason Heyward sixth. The lengthening of the lineup will only benefit the offense.

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Cubs Make First Trade Deadline Deal, Get Lefty Reliever, but Not That Lefty Reliever

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Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.

The Cubs finally made a trade for a left-handed reliever. However, the left-handed reliever in question is not one of the two that the fans expected to see in a Cubs uniform. The reliever in question was neither Andrew Miller nor Aroldis Chapman. Instead, the Cubs traded AAA Iowa first baseman Dan Vogelbach and AA Tennessee pitcher Paul Blackburn to the Seattle Mariners for… Mike Montgomery.

Now, the acquisition of Montgomery might not move the headlines like Miller or Chapman as it was thought that Vogelbach would get traded for either one of them, but Montgomery is nothing to shake a stick at. He is a six-foot-four left hander who is in his second major league season, both with the Mariners. The key stat that Montgomery brings for the Cubs is that left-handed batters are only hitting .164 off of him this season.

Montgomery immediately shores up the bullpen as he becomes the primary option to face left handers in late innings. He has a fairly high strike out rate per nine innings at 7.88.  Moreover, over the 61.2 innings pitched this season he has only given up three home runs. He brings with him four pitches—fastball, curveball, cutter, and change-up. Montgomery throws his fastball in the high 90’s. Overall, Montgomery provides insurance if the Cubs are unable to land Miller or Chapman. Another positive is that he has experience as a starter, so can come in and give Manager Joe Maddon a spot start if need be.

The Cubs gave up a top prospect in Vogelbach; however, moving him was in the best interest of both parties as he was blocked from reaching the majors due to Anthony Rizzo being firmly planted as the current and future first baseman. Vogelbach has had an impressive 2016 campaign at AAA. He was basically a major league hitter playing at the AAA level. He ends his time at AAA Iowa batting .318 with 16 home runs and 64 runs batted in. He does strike out a lot, but that is given with his big swing. It will be surprising if he is not promoted to Seattle right away, since he is ready to hit major league hitting.

Blackburn has had a solid year with AA Tennessee as he has gone 6-4 with a 3.17 earned run average. This season Blackburn has already pitched 102.1 innings. The six-foot-one right hander has struck out 72 batters this season while only walking 26. Neither player was considered a top 30 prospect for the Cubs at the beginning of the season. Overall, this deal for the Cubs was the right one in that they get much needed left-handed help in the bullpen and do not give up any prospects that they might needed to depend on in the future.

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Cubs Fail to Capitalize in the 9th, Fall to Mets 2-1 despite Arrieta’s Performance

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Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.

Last night, the Cubs (56-37) had the Mets (50-43) and closer Jeurys Familia on the ropes and were closing in on a comeback victory. After two walks and a bunt-hit the Cubs had the bases-loaded with no outs while down 2-1. The Cubs hottest hitter, Matt Szczur, came to the plate looking to end the game on a base hit. Unfortunately he grounded into a force out at home plate. With one out, Kris Bryant stepped to the plate to take his turn to win the game. It was a big moment for the NL MVP candidate as a flyball would tie the game. Again, though, misfortune struck as Bryant’s groundball was unable to sneak through the left-side of the infield and resulted into a game-ending double-play.

Although the Cubs lost a lot of good came out of the game as Jake Arrieta appeared to be in top form after a mini-slump. Arrieta was able to go seven innings only giving up one run on five hits. Most importantly, he struck out eight while only walking one. It was important for the Cubs to see this performance out of Arrieta. He was in need of regaining his control and some confidence and this outing certainly established both. It is without a doubt that the Cubs will go as far in the playoffs as Arrieta will take them. So despite losing the game there was a bright spot in the bigger picture.

Game 94
The rubber match in the series will feature Kyle Hendricks (8-6, 2.41 ERA) and Bartolo Colon (8-4, 3.11 ERA). Hendricks has been arguably the Cubs best pitcher over the last month. He is looking to extend his string of scoreless innings, which currently sits at 17 innings. Since June 19, Hendricks has won four decisions in a row and has lowered his ERA from 2.94 to 2.41. This will be his first start against the Mets this year.

Colon beat the Cubs on July 2. In their 4-3 win, Colon gave up only two earned runs on four hits over six innings. He is coming off of a win in his last start, against the Philadelphia Phillies, in which he pitched 5.2 innings giving up three earned runs, but all were unearned. At the age of 43 many pundits were unsure what to expect from Colon; however, he has not only exceeded expectations but even made this year’s All-Star team.

Outlook: Only two Cubs on the active roster has had any success against Colon over their careers—Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist. Heyward has seven hits in 20 at-bats including a home run, double, and four runs batted in. Zobrist has eight hits off of Colon over 16 at-bats. Surprisingly, out of those eight hits, four have been home runs and one has been triple. Zobrist’s OPS against Colon is an astounding 1.975, so expect him to be in today’s lineup. Mets second baseman Neil Walker is the only current Met who has had moderate success against Hendricks. Walker has three hits in eight at-bats including a double, but no runs batted in. This will be the final game the Cubs and Mets will play in the regular season.

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