Cubs

LIVE: Cubs trail Dodgers 7-2 in seventh inning

448889.jpg

LIVE: Cubs trail Dodgers 7-2 in seventh inning

Sunday, April 24, 2011
Posted: 10:37 a.m.
Associated Press

The Los Angeles Dodgers have put together two of their best offensive showings of the season in their first two games against the Chicago Cubs.

Coming up with another strong performance could be tough.

In Sunday's series finale, the Dodgers will try to better Chicago's Carlos Zambrano, who is coming off a stellar outing and has been outstanding lately at home.

After pounding out a season-best 14 hits and scoring its most runs this year in Friday's 12-2 win over the Cubs, Los Angeles (11-11) again had little trouble generating offense Saturday.

Casey Blake, Matt Kemp and Rod Barajas homered, and Andre Ethier extended his major league-leading hitting streak to 20 games with a two-run double in the Dodgers' 10-8 loss.

Ethier is batting .408 (31 for 76) with two homers and 12 RBIs during his career-best hitting streak.

"He's been good, there's no doubt about it," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.

Los Angeles seemed poised to win for the sixth time in seven games Saturday after scoring seven unanswered runs to take an 8-5 lead, but Chicago responded with a five-run eighth. Jeff Baker hit a tiebreaking two-run double for the Cubs (10-10), who had combined for nine runs in their previous four games combined.

The top three hitters in Chicago's order led the surge, as Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney and Marlon Byrd combined for nine hits, six RBIs and four runs.

"We never lost confidence that we could come back," Castro said through a translator. "The way we play right now, everybody was aggressive and everybody had confidence."

Zambrano (2-0, 4.21 ERA) is also feeling especially confident following a brilliant performance.

In Monday's 1-0, 10-inning win over San Diego, Zambrano allowed three hits and struck out 10 in eight innings. The right-hander retired the last 13 batters he faced.

"You watch the way Z's throwing and you feel like one run is going to win this game," manager Mike Quade told the Cubs' official website. "If you get two, it's like a 2-0 lead in soccer."

Although Zambrano didn't earn the win, the three-time All-Star is 3-0 with a 1.39 ERA in his last seven starts at Wrigley Field.

Zambrano is 2-3 with a 3.40 ERA in eight career regular-season starts against the Dodgers, yielding two runs or fewer six times. In his last start against Los Angeles in Game 2 of the 2008 NL division series, Zambrano permitted seven runs - three earned - in 6 1-3 innings of a 10-3 loss.

Dodgers scheduled starter Hiroki Kuroda (2-2, 3.33) also hasn't faced the Cubs since 2008 playoffs.

Kuroda went 1-1 with a 0.59 ERA in two starts against the Cubs in the 2008 regular season and threw 6 1-3 shutout innings to beat them in Game 3 of the NLDS in sweeping the series.

Kuroda was saddled with the loss in Tuesday's 10-1 defeat to Atlanta but wasn't much of a factor in the final score, as the Braves scored eight runs in the ninth inning.

The right-hander threw five shutout innings before serving up solo homers in the sixth and seventh. He exited after giving up five hits in 6 1-3 innings.

Although Kuroda pitched well for the most part, there were some concerns. He seemed to labor a bit, throwing 101 pitches, and walked three. He had only issued two walks over 20 2-3 innings in his first three starts.

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

Why did Kris Bryant get a first-place vote in this year's National League MVP balloting?

1117_kris_bryant.jpg
USA TODAY

Why did Kris Bryant get a first-place vote in this year's National League MVP balloting?

Kris Bryant was the 2016 National League MVP. And despite having what could be considered an even better campaign this past season, he finished seventh in voting for the 2017 edition of the award.

The NL MVP was awarded to Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton on Thursday night, a fine choice, though it was nearly impossible to make a poor choice, that's how many fantastic players there were hitting the baseball in the NL this season.

After Stanton, Cinicinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto finished second, earning the same amount of first-place votes and losing out to Stanton by just one point. Then came Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon and Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon ahead of Bryant.

But there was someone who thought Bryant deserved to repeat as the NL MVP. Yes, Bryant earned a first-place vote — as did everyone else mentioned besides Rendon, for that matter — causing a bit of a social-media stir considering the Cubs third baseman, despite his great season, perhaps wasn't as standout a candidate as some of the other guys who finished higher in the voting.

So the person who cast that first-place vote for Bryant, MLB.com's Mark Bowman, wrote up why he felt Bryant deserved to hoist the Kenesaw Mountain Landis Memorial Baseball Award for the second straight year.

"In the end, I chose Bryant because I believe he made the greatest impact, as his second-half production fueled the successful turnaround the Cubs experienced after the All-Star break," Bowman wrote.

"Though I don't believe the MVP must come from a playoff contender, in an attempt to differentiate the value provided by each of these three players (Bryant, Votto and Stanton), I chose to reward the impact made by Bryant, who produced the NL's fourth-best OPS (.968) after the All-Star break, when the Cubs distanced themselves from a sub-.500 record and produced an NL-best 49 wins."

It's easy for Cubs fans and observers to follow that logic, as the Cubs took off after the All-Star break following a disappointing first half. As good as Bryant was all season long, his second-half numbers, as Bowman pointed out, were especially great. He hit .325 with a .421 on-base percentage and a .548 slugging percentage over his final 69 games of the regular season, hitting 11 home runs, knocking out 21 doubles and driving in 35 runs during that span.

Perhaps the craziest thing about this year's MVP race and Bryant's place in it is that Bryant was just as good if not better than he was in 2016, when he was almost unanimously named the NL MVP. After slashing .292/.385/.554 with 39 homers, 102 RBIs, 35 doubles, 75 walks and 154 strikeouts in 2016, Bryant slashed .295/.409/.537 with 29 homers, 73 RBIs, 38 doubles, 95 walks and 128 strikeouts in 2017.

Of course, the competition was much steeper this time around. But Bryant was given the MVP award in 2016 playing for a 103-win Cubs team that was bursting with offensive firepower, getting great seasons from Anthony Rizzo (who finished third in 2016 NL MVP voting), as well as Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist. While the Cubs actually scored more runs this season and undoubtedly turned it on after the All-Star break on a team-wide basis, Bryant was far and away the best hitter on the team in 2017, with many other guys throughout the lineup having notably down years and/or experiencing down stretches throughout the season. Hence, making Bryant more, say it with me, valuable.

So Bowman's argument about Bryant's impact on the Cubs — a team that still scored 822 runs, won 92 games and advanced to the National League Championship Series — is a decently convincing one.

Check out Bowman's full explanation, which dives into some of Bryant's advanced stats.

Game on as Jake Arrieta, Wade Davis and Alex Cobb turn down qualifying offers

jakearrieta.png
AP

Game on as Jake Arrieta, Wade Davis and Alex Cobb turn down qualifying offers

During the middle of Jake Arrieta’s 2015 Cy Young Award campaign, super-agent Scott Boras compared the emerging Cubs pitcher to another client – Max Scherzer – in the first season of a seven-year, $210 million megadeal with the Washington Nationals.

Now don’t focus as much on the money – though that obviously matters – as when Scherzer arrived for that Washington press conference to put on his new Nationals jersey: Jan. 21, 2015.

It might take Boras a while to find a new home for his “big squirrel with a lot of nuts in his trees.” Teams have been gearing up for next winter’s monster Bryce Harper/Manny Machado free-agent class for years. Mystery surrounds Shohei Ohtani, Japan’s Babe Ruth, and the posting system with Nippon Professional Baseball. Major League Baseball’s competitive balance tax may also have a chilling effect this offseason.

As expected, Arrieta, All-Star closer Wade Davis and pitcher Alex Cobb were among the group of free agents who went 9-for-9 in declining the one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer before Thursday’s deadline.

With that formality out of the way, if Arrieta and Davis sign elsewhere, the Cubs will receive two third-round picks in the 2018 draft.

By staying under the $195 million luxury-tax threshold this year, the Cubs would have to give up a second-round draft pick and $500,000 from their international bonus pool to sign Cobb, an obvious target given their connections to the Tampa Bay Rays, or Lance Lynn, another starter on their radar who turned down a qualifying offer from the St. Louis Cardinals.

That collectively bargained luxury-tax system became a central part of the Boras media show on Wednesday outside the Waldorf Astoria Orlando, where he introduced “Playoffville” as his new go-to analogy at the end of the general manager meetings.

“The team cutting payroll is treating their family where they’re staying in a neighborhood that has less protection for winning,” Boras said. “They’re not living in the gated community of Playoffville. Certainly, they’re saving a de minimis property tax, but the reality of it is there’s less firemen in the bullpen. There’s less financial analysts sitting in the press boxes.

“The rooms in the house are less, so obviously you’re going to have less franchise players. When you move to that 12-room home in Playoffville, they generally are filled with the people that allow you to really achieve what your family – your regional family – wants to achieve. And that is winning.”

Boras also represents four other players who rejected qualifying offers – J.D Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Greg Holland – another reason why this could be a long winter of Arrieta rumors, slow-playing negotiations and LOL metaphors.