Cubs

Risk-reward: Cubs pin hopes on young pitching

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Risk-reward: Cubs pin hopes on young pitching

Friday, Sept. 24, 2010
5:47 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Mark DeRosa was educated at the University of Pennsylvania, but played like a blue-collar guy from New Jersey, and that style endeared him to the fans at Wrigley Field.

The disappointment when he was traded off that 97-win team almost made it seem as if the utility infielderoutfielder should one day get his own statue at Sheffield and Addison.

Chris Archer is aware of the love DeRosa received during his two seasons on the North Side, and wants to prove that the front office made a smart decision in dealing for three minor-league pitchers from the Cleveland Indians system on New Years Eve 2008.

Next year the Cubs will likely cut payroll from the approximately 145 million they started with on Opening Day, as chairman Tom Ricketts told Bloomberg this week. That means they will have to develop young arms from within.

Twenty-seven-year-old Tom Gorzelanny (7-9, 4.28) feels he has already done enough to belong in the 2011 rotation, and he may be right. But on Friday afternoon he looked like someone who hadnt pitched in more than three weeks after a line drive bruised his left hand and fractured his pinky finger.

Allen Craig the fifth batter Gorzelanny has faced since Sept. 1 drilled a 3-2 fastball into the left-field bleachers. That two-out, three-run homer in the first inning set the tone in a 7-1 victory for a St. Louis Cardinals team that could be mathematically eliminated from playoff contention by the end of the weekend.

I just wasnt in a groove and couldnt find it, said Gorzelanny, who reported no health issues after giving up seven runs in 3.1 innings. Im not going to worry about: If I have a good start, I hope I make the team. Because then Ill have a terrible start if I think (like) that.

All season long, you get questions about that. (Its) the last thing on my mind. Im worried about my next time on the mound. Thats it.

The fastest way for the Cubs to get back to the postseason will be through the accelerated development of their young pitchers.

Archer, who will turn 22 on Sunday, could be the next big thing. He started his fifth professional season by going 7-1 with a 2.86 ERA at Class-A Daytona. He earned a promotion and began his time at Double-A Tennessee by throwing 31 13 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run.

Considering that this season the Cubs incorporated 18 rookies and 11 making a big-league debut Archer will be someone to watch at spring training next year in Mesa, Ariz.

It gives you hope, he said. You know that theyre willing to use the younger players. And it definitely gets you excited and makes you even want to work harder (to) try to get there.

In front of the Cubs staff, the right-hander threw a side session on Friday at Wrigley Field. He is nearing his innings limit and will not play in the Arizona Fall League, though hes available to pitch for USA Baseball at next months Pan American Games qualifying tournament in Puerto Rico.

A combined 15-3 record with a 2.34 ERA made Archer the organizations minor league pitcher of the year. In 2008 that award went to Mitch Atkins, who this week was designated for assignment and outrighted back to Triple-A Iowa. The next season it went to Casey Coleman, who will start Saturday against the Cardinals (79-74).

Thats not to say Atkins is finished or Coleman has a spot locked up. Its just difficult to make these projections.

The Atlanta Braves selected Adam Wainwright in the first round of the 2000 draft and traded him away as part of the J.D. Drew deal. Wainwright, 29, first pitched out of the St. Louis bullpen before developing into an elite starter.

Wainwright allowed one run across six innings Friday and won his 20th game of the season in front of 36,553 fans. The Cubs (69-84) have now scored three runs in their past four games. Up next theyll see Chris Carpenter, Jake Westbrook and a San Diego Padres team thats built on pitching and fighting for first place in the National League West.

This aint the Yellow Brick Road, manager Mike Quade said. Im telling you right now this is going to be a tough task these next few days. (The) veterans know it and the kids are going to find out. Were going to have to scratch and scrape and do everything we can to try and stay in games.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Predicting NLCS Game 3: Cubs are due for a win...right?

Predicting NLCS Game 3: Cubs are due for a win...right?

The Cubs are "due."

That's a funny thought in general. For anybody or any team to be "due," that's saying that everything will even out eventually.

That's often true in baseball. But that's over the course of a 162-game season, far and away the longest sample size in professional sports. 

In an abbreviated postseason series, there really is no such thing as "due" because the season's over before you get a chance to see things even out.

The baseball gods don't ensure that everybody gets the same amount of luck at the same time. The sample size is absolutely too small for that. Plus, the Cubs have had plenty of luck and caught their fair share of breaks already this postseason.

So while it's easy to point to some of the Cubs numbers and say things like "they're not going to hit .162 as a team forever," that's not necessarily true because there are only two guaranteed games left in the 2017 for Joe Maddon and Co. It is absolutely possible the Cubs' season is over before they get a chance to correct their offensive woes.

Though, it would be pretty stunning to see the Cubs offense finish a 9-game October stint with Jon Lester and Jose Quintana as the team's leading hitters (both are 1-for-4, .250 average). 

Like a deliriously-happy, champagne-soaked Theo Epstein said early Friday morning in our nation's capital, "we always hit eventually."

So if I'm a betting man (which I'm not, unless you count fantasy sports), I'm betting on the Cubs offense finally waking from their fall slumber. 

They're simply too good to continue these numbers. This team has combined for a .513 OPS, which is essentially a team of Andres Blancos, a 33-year-old backup infielder who defined "light-hitting" with a .192 average and .549 OPS in 144 plate appearances this season.

The urgency is now a very real thing with the Cubs, and that's something — maybe the ONLY thing — that has really motivated this 2017 squad. They've really only played well when they've had a sense of urgency and they did not have that the first two games in Los Angeles.

Which is understandable. After such a physically, emotionally and mentally draining Game 5 that didn't end until early Friday morning, the team had to travel all the way across the entire continental U.S. only to wind up getting diverted to New Mexico where they sat on the tarmac for five hours.

Every single starting pitcher on the team was exhausted and working on short rest, and that's not to say anything about Wade Davis, who gave everything he had just to get the Cubs to the NLCS.

The Cubs have now had a full day off to clear their heads, get back to center and find their mojo again.

I'm betting that's exactly what they've done, because this team has proved over and over again how resilient they are. I mean, really, a 2-0 deficit is nothing for a team that stared down a 3-1 deficit in the World Series a year ago.

Prediction

Cubs 5, Dodgers 2

The Cubs started out the two-game set in LA by having a few good at-bats against the game's best pitcher (Clayton Kershaw) before things got awful against the Dodgers bullpen.

But if we're talking about being "due," that Dodgers bullpen is due for a regression on some level. They've been absolutely incredible this postseason, allowing only one baserunner to the Cubs in eight innings thus far.

Breaking things down individually, there are positive signs for several guys:

—Kris Bryant struck out only three times in 8 at-bats in LA, which is actually an improvement considering he struck out 10 times in 20 at-bats in the NLDS.

—Addison Russell lined a homer to left off Rich Hill for the Cubs' only run in Game 2. He had some really good at-bats in Game 5 and the game's biggest hit when he doubled home two runs off Max Scherzer.

—Javy Baez walked in Game 2. I mean, if that's not enough of a reason for positivity, what is??

Either way, the Cubs offense has their hands full against Yu Darvish (10-12, 3.86 ERA) and Alex Wood (16-3, 2.72 ERA) the next two games and if they win one of those two, Kershaw awaits in Game 5 Thursday.

Breaking down where Cubs can turn NLCS around and beat L.A.

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USA TODAY

Breaking down where Cubs can turn NLCS around and beat L.A.

“Sometimes, you got to lay your marbles out there,” Jon Lester said Sunday night inside Dodger Stadium’s visiting clubhouse, before the Cubs flew home from Los Angeles down 0-2 in the National League Championship Series. “And you get beat.”

It will be extremely difficult for the Cubs to win four of the next five games against the Dodgers, starting Tuesday night at Wrigley Field. But the Cubs had the, uh, marbles to win last year’s World Series and have developed the muscle memory from winning six playoff rounds and playing in 33 postseason games since October 2015.

There is a cross section left of the 2015 team that beat the Pittsburgh Pirates and silenced PNC Park’s blackout crowd in a sudden-death wild-card game. While 2016 is seen in hindsight as a year of destiny, those Cubs still had to kill the myths about the even-year San Francisco Giants, survive a 21-inning scoreless streak against the Dodgers and win Games 5, 6, 7 against the Cleveland Indians under enormous stress.

There is at least a baseline of experience to draw from and the sense that the Cubs won’t panic and beat themselves, the way the Washington Nationals broke down in the NL Division Series.

· Remember the Cubs pointed to how their rotation set up as soon as Cleveland took a 3-1 lead in last year’s World Series: Lester, Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks would each give them a chance to win that night. The Dodgers will now have to deal with last year’s major-league ERA leader (Hendricks) in Game 3 and a Cy Young Award winner (Arrieta) on Wednesday night in Game 4.

“Obviously, we know we need to get wins at this point,” Hendricks said. “But approaching it as a must-win is a little extreme. We've just got to go out there and play our brand of baseball.

“Since we accomplished that, we know we just have to take it game by game. Even being down 3-1 (in the World Series), we worry about the next game. In that situation, we didn’t think we had to win three in a row or anything like that. We just came to the ballpark the next day and worried about what we had to do that day.”

· The history lessons only go so far when the Dodgers can line up Yu Darvish as their Game 3 starter instead of, say, Josh Tomlin. There is also a huge difference between facing a worn-down Cleveland staff in late October/early November and a rested Dodger team that clinched a division title on Sept. 22 and swept the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first round. Joe Blanton and Pedro Baez aren’t walking through that bullpen door, either.

“We’ve done it before. We’ve been there before,” shortstop Addison Russell said. “But this year’s a new year. That’s a different ballclub. We’re definitely going to have to bring it.”

· Outside of Kenley Jansen, can you name anyone else in the Los Angeles bullpen off the top of your head? No doubt, the Dodger relievers have been awesome in Games 1 and 2 combined: Eight scoreless innings, zero hits, zero walks and Anthony Rizzo the only one out of 25 batters to reach base when Jansen hit him with a 93.7-mph pitch.

But the Dodgers are going to make mistakes, and the Cubs will have to capitalize. Unless this is the same kind of synthesis from the 2015 NLCS, when the New York Mets used exhaustive scouting reports, power pitching and pinpoint execution to sweep a Cubs team that had already hit the wall.

“Their bullpen is a lot stronger than it was last year,” Kris Bryant said. “They’re really good at throwing high fastballs in the zone. A lot of other teams try to, and they might hit it one out of every four. But this team, it seems like they really can hammer the top of the zone. And they have guys that throw in the upper 90s, so when you mix those two, it’s tough to catch up.”

· Bryant is not having a good October (5-for-28 with 13 strikeouts) and both Lester and Jose Quintana have more hits (one each) than Javier Baez (0-for-19 with eight strikeouts) during the playoffs. But we are still talking about the reigning NL MVP and last year’s NLCS co-MVP.

Ben Zobrist is clearly diminished and no longer the switch-hitting force who became last year’s World Series MVP. Kyle Schwarber doesn’t have the same intimidation factor or playoff aura right now. But one well-timed bunt from Zobrist or a “Schwarbomb” onto the video board could change the entire direction of this series and put the pressure on a Dodger team that knows this year is World Series or bust.

“We need to hit a couple balls hard consecutively,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Once we’re able to do that, we’ll gain our offensive mojo back. That's all that’s going on.

“I inherited something from my dad, and that was patience. So you’ve got to be patient right now. You’ve got to keep putting the boys back out there. You keep believing in them, and eventually it comes back to you.”

· Maddon is a 63-year-old man who opened Monday’s stadium club press conference at Wrigley Field by talking about dry-humping, clearly annoyed by all the second-guessers on Twitter and know-it-all sports writers who couldn’t believe All-Star closer Wade Davis got stranded in the bullpen, watching the ninth inning of Sunday’s 1-1 game turn into a 4-1 walk-off loss.

By the time a potential save situation develops on Tuesday night, roughly 120 hours will have passed since Davis threw his 44th and final pitch at Nationals Park, striking out Bryce Harper to end an instant classic. Just guessing that Maddon will be in the mood to unleash Davis.