Brewers outlast Cubs in series finale


Brewers outlast Cubs in series finale

The Cubs got more offense Sunday, but it still wasn't enough to pull out the victory.

The Brewers (7-18) set the tone early again and then put the Cubs (13-10) away in the eighth inning en route to a 5-3 victory in front of 33,398 fans at Wrigley Field.

The Brewers scored solo runs in the second, third and fourth innings before breaking a 3-3 tie in the eighth.

"Gotta set the tone better early," Cubs starter Jason Hammel said. "The first inning was nice. But single runs in the next three innings kinda dampens the mood a bit. I kept us in it, but it could've been a lot better."

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Hammel ended up with the minimum requirements for a quality start, tossing six innings and allowing three earned runs on five hits and a walk while striking out four. He admitted he didn't have a good feel for the ball Sunday as he's dealing with a nail/blister issue on his pitching hand.

Cubs reliever Pedro Strop had a rough eighth inning, giving up a double and a bunt base hit before plunking Jean Segura on the forehead with a high fastball in a scary moment on the field.

Play was halted for a few minutes as the Brewers tended to Segura, who initially tried to stay in the game before calling time and pulling himself off first base for a pinch-runner.

"Definitely a scary moment," Cubs catcher Miguel Montero said. "It really scared me. I went down with [Segura] to see how he was, but I just couldn't say anything, so I just moved to the side and called the trainers."

Montero said he thought Segura's helmet broke as he saw a piece of plastic fly off immediately.

Strop was shaken up, but said he had been in touch with the Cubs and Brewers training staffs and planned to reach out to Segura.

Strop was given some time to breathe and get back to the task at hand when play resumed, getting Ryan Braun to bounce into a 5-2-3 double play.

Maddon called for Strop to intentially walk lefty Adam Lind to load the bases for former Cub Aramis Ramirez, who had already homered in the game. Ramirez fisted a 95 mph fastball into left field for a two-run, game-winning single.

"It's a better matchup," Maddon said of the choice between pitching to Ramirez or Lind. "It's just one of those things under the category of the right thing to do, but it didn't work.

"That doesn't mean it was wrong' it just didn't work out at that time. I'll take Stroppy in that matchup. It's just an unfortunate moment."

Ramirez agreed that Maddon made the correct call.

"It’s the right move," Ramirez said. "Lind has been hitting hard all year. The guy's hitting over .300 and I’m hitting .200."

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

The Cubs picked up a run in the bottom of the second on a sacrifice fly from pitcher Jason Hammel. They tied the game in the fifth thanks to some shoddy fielding by the Brewers that led to an Anthony Rizzo RBI triple and Kris Bryant RBI double.

The Cubs had scored just three runs in 31 innings prior to their second-inning tally.

[MORE - Cubs: Kris Bryant keeping his head up despite recent struggles]

This is the first series the Cubs have lost since April 17-19 against the Padres at Wrigley Field. It's also the first series the Brewers have won all season.

"They got a couple important pieces back in [Carlos] Gomez and Ramriez, but it's Major League Baseball," Hammel said. "There are good teams. You can't keep a team down long.

"Even some of the teams that are struggling the most can find a good game or two here or there. We've all been through it. Pleased we were able to come back and make a game of it, but to get where we want to be, we obviously need to win these games."

The Cubs head to St. Louis for a four-game series with the Cardinals beginning Monday night on Comcast SportsNet.

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'


Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

MESA, Ariz. — “That’s last year, don’t want to talk about that.”

In other words, Addison Russell is so over 2017.

The Cubs shortstop went through a lot last year. He dealt with injuries that affected his foot and shoulder. He had a well-documented off-the-field issue involving an accusation of domestic abuse, which sparked an investigation by Major League Baseball. And then came the trade speculation.

The hot stove season rarely leaves any player completely out of online trade discussion. But after Theo Epstein admitted there was a possibility the Cubs could trade away one or more young position players to bolster the starting rotation, well, Russell’s name came up.

And he saw it.

“There was a lot of trade talk,” Russell said Saturday. “My initial thoughts were, I hope it doesn’t happen, but wherever I go, I’m going to try to bring what I bring to the table here. It’s a good thing that it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m happy being in a Cubs uniform, I want to be in a Cubs uniform, for sure. But there was some talk out there. If I got traded, then I got traded, but that’s not the case.”

No, it’s not, as the Cubs solved those pitching questions with free-agent spending, bringing in Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood to replace the departed Jake Arrieta and John Lackey. It means Russell, along with oft-discussed names like Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Javy Baez, are all still Cubs.

While the outside world might have expected one of those guys to be moved in some sort of blockbuster trade for Chris Archer or some other All-Star arm, the Cubs’ young core remains intact, another reason why they’re as much a favorite to win the World Series as any team out there.

“I’m really not surprised. The core is still here. Who would want to break that up? It’s a beautiful thing,” Russell said. “Javy and I in the middle. Schwarber, sometimes playing catcher but mainly outfield. And then (Kris Bryant) over there in the hot corner, and of course (Anthony) Rizzo at first. You’ve got a Gold Glover in right field (Jason Heyward). It’s really hard to break that up.

“When you do break that down on paper, we’ve got a lineup that could stack up with the best.”

This winter has been about moving on for Russell, who said he’s spent months working to strengthen his foot and shoulder after they limited him to 110 games last season, the fewest he played in his first three big league campaigns.

And so for Russell, the formula for returning to his 2016 levels of offensive aptitude isn’t a difficult one: stay on the field.

“Especially with the injuries, I definitely wanted to showcase some more of my talent last year than I displayed,” Russell said. “So going into this year, it’s mainly just keeping a good mental — just staying level headed. And also staying healthy and producing and being out there on the field.

“Next step for me, really just staying out there on the field. I really want to see what I can do as far as helping the team if I can stay healthy for a full season. I think if I just stay out there on the field, I’m going to produce.”

While the decrease in being on the field meant lower numbers from a “counting” standpoint — the drop from 21 homers in 2016 to 12 last year, the drop from 95 RBIs to 43 can in part be attributed to the lower number of games — certain rate stats looked different, too. His on-base percentage dropped from .321 in 2016 to .304 last year.

Russell also struggled during the postseason, picking up just six hits in 36 plate appearances in series against the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers. He struck out 13 times in 10 postseason games.

Of course, he wasn’t alone. That World Series hangover was team-wide throughout the first half of the season. And even though the Cubs scored 824 runs during the regular season, the second most in the National League and the fourth most in baseball, plenty of guys had their offensive struggles: Schwarber, Heyward and Ben Zobrist, to name a few.

“You can’t take anything for granted. So whenever you win a World Series or you do something good, you just have to live in the moment,” Russell said. “It was a tough season last year because we were coming off winning the World Series and the World Series hangover and all that. This year, we had a couple months off, a couple extra weeks off, and I think a lot of guys took advantage of that. I know I did. And now that we’re here in spring training, we’re going to get back at it.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans


Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

Jon Lester has arrived at Cubs camp, and he’s pleased with the new-look rotation full of potential aces. Kelly Crull and Vinnie Duber discuss the 5-man unit, and where Mike Montgomery fits into the Cubs’ plans.

Plus, Kelly and Vinnie talk Jason Heyward and Kyle Schwarber, along with the continuing free agent stalemate surrounding Jake Arrieta.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here: