Cubs

LIVE: Castro gets 200th as Cubs face Cardinals

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LIVE: Castro gets 200th as Cubs face Cardinals

Friday, Sept. 23, 2011
Posted: 10:34 a.m.

Associated Press

The St. Louis Cardinals wasted a golden opportunity to tighten the NL wild- card race after a ninth-inning collapse by their bullpen.

While the Chicago Cubs have little left to play for, they'd love to end their archrivals' playoff aspirations.

The Cardinals open a key three-game series with the Cubs on Friday night at Busch Stadium.

St. Louis led by four going into the ninth Thursday against New York before relievers Jason Motte, Marc Rzepczynski and Fernando Salas combined to allow six runs in a stunning 8-6 loss.

"We're trying to play our way into the playoffs and this is when you push," manager Tony La Russa said.

St. Louis, which committed two errors in the ninth, lost for the third time in 16 games. The Cardinals (86-70) trail wild card-leading Atlanta by two games with six left.

"Don't make a mistake and say we're heartbroken," La Russa pointed out. "Our heart's beating. We won the series, get ready for (Friday)."

St. Louis has won eight of 12 against Chicago this year and the bullpen has been especially strong in six home meetings, posting a 1.56 ERA while allowing nine hits, walking one and striking out 15 in 17 1-3 innings.

Chris Carpenter (10-9, 3.66 ERA) will try to give the bullpen a break as he looks to end a long winless stretch at home against the Cubs.

The right-hander is 3-3 with a 2.25 ERA in 10 career starts versus Chicago in St. Louis, but he's 0-2 with a 3.07 ERA in his last four such outings dating to Sept. 20, 2009.

Carpenter pitched well enough to beat the Cubs at Busch Stadium on June 5, allowing two runs over nine innings before St. Louis won 3-2 in 10. He was reached for four runs and a career-worst 13 hits - all singles - in seven innings of a 6-4 victory at Wrigley Field on May 10.

The 2005 NL Cy Young Award winner hasn't allowed a run in each of his last two wins. He tossed a four-hitter to defeat Milwaukee 2-0 on Sept. 7 and scattered eight hits over eight innings Sunday in a 5-0 win over Philadelphia.

Slumping Ryan Dempster (10-13, 4.63) will take the ball for the Cubs. The right-hander is 0-5 in his last seven starts.

Dempster has lost each of his last two starts, falling 3-2 to major league-worst Houston on Sunday. He was charged with three runs and seven hits in seven innings.

Dempster is 1-1 with a 7.36 ERA in two starts at Busch Stadium this year.

Lance Berkman is 3 for 6 with two homers when facing Dempster this season, while Albert Pujols is 2 for 5 with a homer.

Pujols reached base safely for the 38th straight game Thursday, leaving him one shy of matching Tampa Bay's Johnny Damon for the longest run in the majors this year. Pujols, the NL home run leader, needs three more to reach 40 for the seventh time in 11 seasons.

Chicago (69-87) won for the fourth time in six games after Wednesday's 7-1 rout of the NL Central-leading Brewers.

Starlin Castro went 2 for 3, leaving him one hit shy of becoming the first Cub with 200 in a season since Juan Pierre in 2006. At just 21, he would also be the youngest of 16 players in franchise history to reach the milestone.

"We're all anxious to see it happen," teammate Carlos Pena told the Cubs' official website. "It's a very impressive feat to accomplish."

The second-year shortstop is 5 for 27 (.185) in six games in St. Louis this season but 7 for 18 (.389) when facing Carpenter.

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

Would trading Kyle Schwarber begin to solve pitching issues that run much deeper than Chris Bosio?

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USA TODAY

Would trading Kyle Schwarber begin to solve pitching issues that run much deeper than Chris Bosio?

The Cubs now apparently believe they are a stronger organization without Chris Bosio, firing a pitching coach known for his strong convictions, brutal honesty and bottom-line results in a move that doesn’t seem like an actual solution.

Hiring Jim Hickey – who has a good reputation from his years with the Tampa Bay Rays, a close friendship with Joe Maddon and what looks like a slam-dunk interview lined up for Monday – might make the manager feel more comfortable and less isolated.

But the new-voice/different-direction spin doesn’t fundamentally address the pitching issues facing a team that needs to replace 40 percent of the rotation and find an established closer and has zero expectations those answers will come from within the farm system.

This is an operation that won a seven-game World Series last year without a homegrown player throwing a single pitch.     

If the Cubs can say thanks for the memories and dump “Boz,” what about “Schwarbs?”

Advancing to the National League Championship Series in three straight seasons doesn’t happen without Bosio or Kyle Schwarber. But the fastest way for the Cubs to dramatically improve their pitching staff isn’t finding someone else who thinks it’s important to throw strikes. It could mean breaking up The Core and severing another emotional attachment.   

Theo Epstein saw Schwarber play for Indiana University and used the Fenway Park frame of reference, envisioning him as a combination of David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia with his left-handed power and energizer personality.

Epstein wasn’t the only Cubs official to develop a man-crush on Schwarber, but he’s the only one with ultimate control over baseball operations. Epstein’s style isn’t pounding the table as much as the ability to frame questions in the draft room, gather as many opinions as possible before the trade deadline and at the winter meetings, trying to form a consensus.

“I will say that it’s really an organization-wide evaluation of this player, but I’m not skirting responsibility,” Epstein said. “I’ll happily endorse him as the type of player that we want to win with here at the Cubs, and have won with. I don’t know, the fact that he hit 30 bombs in a bad year is a good start.

“But power is not everything. I think he fell into this year becoming more of a slugger and less of a hitter than he really is. It’s important for him to get his identity back as a dangerous hitter. Honestly, I think we feel he has the potential to be an all-around hitter on the level of an Anthony Rizzo. When he reaches his prime, that’s what he could be.”

Where will that be? As a designated hitter in the American League? That’s obvious speculation, but Schwarber has improved as an outfield defender – his strong throw at Dodger Stadium led to another NLCS Maddon Moment where the manager compared the Buster Posey Rule to the Chicago soda tax.      

A 43-45 record at the All-Star break also exposed some of the weaknesses in the clubhouse and downsides to Maddon’s methods. The Cubs flipped a switch in the second half, got hot in September and had the guts to beat the Washington Nationals in the playoffs. But that doesn’t completely wipe away the concerns about a group that at times seemed too casual and unfocused and didn’t play with enough edge. For better or worse, Schwarber approaches the game like a blitzing linebacker.

“He’s got a certain toughness and certain leadership qualities that are hard to find,” Epstein said, “and that we don’t necessarily have in surplus, in abundance, running around in this clubhouse, in this organization.

“A certain energy and grit and ability to bring people together – that’s important and we rely on it. But the biggest thing is his bat. We think he’s the type of offensive player that you build around, along with a couple other guys like him.”

Maddon would never admit it, but was the Schwarber leadoff experiment a mistake?

“I’ll judge that one based on the results and say yeah,” Epstein said. “I think we can talk about the process that went into it. Or in an alternate universe: Does it pan out? But those are just words. It didn’t work.

“Everything that went into Kyle’s really surprising and difficult first half of the season, we should look to correct, because that shouldn’t happen. He’s a way better hitter than that. What he did after coming back from Iowa proves it.”

In the same way that Maddon should own what happens with the next pitching coach, Epstein will ultimately have to decide Schwarber’s future.

Schwarber didn’t complain or pout when he got sent down to Triple-A Iowa this summer, finishing with 30 homers, a .782 OPS, a .211 batting average and a 30.9 strikeout percentage.    

Trading Schwarber would mean selling lower and take another team having the same gut instincts the Cubs did in the 2014 draft – and offering the talented, controllable starting pitcher that sometimes seems like a unicorn.

Is Schwarber still the legend from last year’s World Series? An all-or-nothing platoon guy? An intriguing trade chip? A franchise player? Eventually, the Cubs are going to find out.

“We have to look to do everything we can,” Epstein said, “and more importantly he has to look to do everything he can to get him to a point where he’s consistently the quality hitter and tough out and dangerous bat in the middle of the lineup that we know he can be.

“He wasn’t for the first half of this year – and he knows it and he feels awful about it. He worked his tail off to get back to having a pretty darn good second half and getting some big hits for us down the stretch.”

And then the offseason was only hours old by the time the Cubs showed they will be keeping an open mind about everything this winter, not afraid to make big changes.

Jake Arrieta shaved his beard again and he keeps looking younger

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USA TODAY

Jake Arrieta shaved his beard again and he keeps looking younger

It's become a tradition that Jake Arrieta shaves his beard after the season ends.

The 31-year-old did it again days after the Cubs were eliminated from the 2017 postseason, and it's still a sight we'll never be used to seeing.

Check it out:

Weird, right?

Here's how he looked following the Cubs' World Series win in 2016:

And again in 2015:

It's crazy how much younger he looks.