Cubs

Bartolo Colon threw how many straight strikes?

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Bartolo Colon threw how many straight strikes?

From Comcast SportsNetANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- It wasn't as though Bartolo Colon didn't give the Los Angeles Angels anything good to hit. The Oakland Athletics' right-hander threw 82 of his 108 pitches for strikes against his former team -- including 38 in a row at one point.But the Angels' vaunted offense managed only four hits over eight innings against the 38-year-old Colon, who struck out five and walked none in a 6-0 victory on Wednesday night."I felt like I threw a lot of strikes, but I never thought I threw 38 in a row. I didn't know anything about it until I came in here," Colon said through a translator. "The two-seamer was the most consistent pitch that I had tonight. I feel good because I know that team has great players. You have to have confidence in yourself, because if you don't, that's when you have trouble."Colon's strike streak ended on an 0-1 pitch to Bobby Abreu with one out in the eighth after he gave up a pinch-hit ground-rule double by Erick Aybar -- the only hitter to reach second base against him."I can't believe it," A's catcher Kurt Suzuki said. "I mean, against a team like the Angels when you look at their lineup, that's going after guys and not being afraid to throw strikes. That's what he did tonight -- basically off heaters, too. He was just dialing."We tried to keep it going. And as the game goes on, you kind of figure out what's working for him," Suzuki added. "We got into a rhythm probably after the second inning. Bartolo knows where the ball's going and he knows what he wants to do. He's the kind of pitcher you need in the rotation to kind of stabilize it, and the kind that the other guys can lean on, with the young rotation we have."Colon (3-1) helped drop his former team six games behind two-time defending AL champion Texas in the AL West -- just 12 games into the season."Our offense has been a little bit spotty, and we need to get simple at the plate," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Some guys are starting to get into their game -- but as a unit, we're not finding that offensive chemistry. We just need to start to get a better direction of our own. But we have a good club. I really like this club."Colon won the 2005 AL Cy Young Award after helping lead the Angels to a division title with a 21-8 record and 3.48 ERA. The two-time All-Star is 3-2 with a 2.05 ERA in five starts against them since leaving the organization and signing with Boston as a free agent in February 2008.Colon, whose three previous starts this season all were against Seattle, has walked only two batters in his first 27 1-3 innings and has made 18 consecutive starts with fewer than three -- one off his longest such streak. The last time he issued more than two walks was July 7, 2011, when he had four against Tampa Bay."It's a phenomenal feat, yet really not surprising out of him," A's manager Bob Melvin said of the 38 straight strikes. "I mean, I think he could throw a strike with his eyes closed if he had to. That's the way he's been for us. Granted they have a great lineup and you can never take a breather with it. But a guy like Bartolo has been around long enough to know that you're going to throw strikes, not walk anybody and make them earn their way on."Yoenis Cespedes hit a three-run homer for Oakland, giving the Cuban-born rookie a team-leading 12 RBIs in his first 12 games.Jonny Gomes added a solo shot for the A's against Ervin Santana (0-3), who gave up four runs and seven hits over seven innings with five strikeouts. The Angels' No. 3 starter is 5-7 with a 3.90 ERA in 14 starts since his no-hitter at Cleveland on July 27, and has a 6.75 ERA in his three starts this season.Colon was staked to a 3-0 lead before he even threw a pitch. Cespedes, whose two-run double capped a four-run eighth inning in Tuesday night's 5-3 win, drove a 1-2 pitch into the left field bullpen for his fourth home run after singles by Cliff Pennington and Josh Reddick.Gomes, starting in left field with Coco Crisp battling a flu bug and a 2-for-24 drought, led off the sixth with a drive to left field for his third homer of the season -- and third hit.Albert Pujols' season-opening home run drought reached 12 games and 49 at-bats. The three-time NL MVP was 1 for 4, including a sixth-inning drive that Cespedes caught at the edge of the warning track in left-center. The only other time in Pujols' 12-year career that he went more than five games before hitting his first homer was 2008, when it took him nine games and 28 at-bats to do it.Notes: The Angels have called a press conference for Thursday to announce a contract extension for Aybar, for a reported 35 million over four years. He then will be presented with his first Gold Glove before the start of the series finale. ... The A's had 10 hits, including Jemile Weeks' RBI double in the ninth. It was the first time they're reached double digits in 13 games this season. ... Angels LF Bobby Abreu was 0 for 4 while batting in the leadoff spot for the first time since Aug. 28, 2010 -- when he ended stretch of 20 consecutive starts in the one hole. Lifetime, he is hitting .281 with nine homers, 20 RBIs, 32 walks and 45 strikeouts in 50 starts in the leadoff spot.

Javy Baez can see the future

Javy Baez can see the future

Javy Baez doesn't have the words to describe Javy Baez.

But then again, that's not what he does.

Analytical breakdowns aren't his game — incredible, heart-stopping physical feats on the baseball diamond are.

On a night at Wrigley Field that felt like one of the October battles of the past between the Cubs and Dodgers, Baez once again wowed and awed.

It wasn't just that ridiculous juke move at first base, though that will undoubtedly go down as one of the top MLB highlights of the year — if not THE top highlight. 

During Tuesday night's 7-2 Cubs win, Baez turned five different ground balls into outs...from the outfield grass. One such play nabbed Cody Bellinger by a split second at first base to end a bases-loaded threat in the eighth inning. 

And there was his seventh homer of the season — his first at home, surprisingly — to give the Cubs some more breathing room as he continues to hit the ball with authority the other way. He now has 15 hits in his last 33 at-bats and 9 of those knocks have gone for extra bases (5 doubles, 3 homers and a triple). 

But back to that play at first base — how did he do it?

After pausing for a few seconds, Baez shrugged and said, "I don't know," before trying to find the words to explain what was going through his head in those few seconds as he was hurtling down the basepath:

"I just saw him really close to the line," Baez said. "Usually on that play, you go around [the base] like it's a base hit. I think if I would've kept going, he was going to run me over because he's a big dude. 

"I saw a play — Billy Hamilton did it like 3 or 4 years ago. I saw it and that was the first thing that came to my mind — to stop or see a reaction and he couldn't stop. I know I didn't leave the line. It was everything good."

It's the last part that's most amazing. 

Here's the play Baez was referencing, from July 11, 2014:

So as he's running down to first base, he has the wherewithal to dip into his encyclopedic cache, pluck out the perfect play from his memory and execute it in glorious fashion...all in a matter of maybe a second-and-a-half.

"I think we all feel his energy all around the place — not only on the field, but in the clubhouse," catcher Willson Contreras said. "We call him The Mago for a reason. I love this guy. To me, he has the best instincts in the game. What he did today was just awesome. That's one of the best base hits ever."

Joe Maddon said he and the Cubs coaches were comparing Baez to legendary Bears running back Gale Sayers in the dugout for that juke move.

"That's him playing on a playground in Puerto Rico somewhere," Maddon said. "That's what I love about him. There's no fear in his game. His game is a game and he sees things in advance and he's fearless. He could strike out three or four times in a row and that is not going to impact his fifth at-bat."

Just about every week throughout the season, Baez shows the baseball world something it's never seen before. 

From his lightning quick tags to his swim move slides to hitting bombs left-handed during batting practice to his rocket arm that has been clocked as high as 98 mph on the infield — even he has to surprise himself every now and then, right? Especially like this play Tuesday night?

"Nah, not really," he said, smirking. "I think if it's in your mind, it's possible. I see a lot of things that people can do and they don't realize it. I realize everything I can do and everything I can't do."

If you ever want to know what makes Baez "El Mago," read that last sentence again:

"I realize everything I can do and everything I can't do."

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Jose Quintana continued his strong run in a dominant 7-inning performance against the Dodgers

Jose Quintana continued his strong run in a dominant 7-inning performance against the Dodgers

During the 4th inning of the Cubs’ 7-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night, LA right fielder Cody Bellinger took a 92 mile per hour fastball from Jose Quintana and sent it right back his way at 96: 

After a quick (maybe unintentional?) grab, Quintana calmly tossed the ball in his glove a few times before walking off the mound without even a grimace.

It was just that kind of night for Quintana, who pitched 7 strong innings while allowing only two runs on four hits and striking out seven. He’s now gone seven innings in three straight starts, all Cubs wins - two of which were against teams that currently sit in 1st place.

“We needed that kind of performance tonight,” Manager Joe Maddon said after the game. “They have a very difficult lineup to navigate and he was once again on top of his game. Great focus - he kept coming back with good pitches. Really the curveball was very pertinent tonight and then he had some good changeups to go with the fastball. He’s pitching.”

Quintana flashed an impressive amount of control while working through one of baseball’s toughest lineups. After walking six batters through his first two starts, Quintana has now only walked three since. 71 of his 114 pitches -- the most thrown by any Cubs pitcher this season, per team notes -- went for strikes. 

“I feel great,” he said after the game. “I know I’ve been throwing the ball really well the last couple of starts. All my stuff’s worked really good.”

“This year he’s been really good,” Willson Contreras added. “He’s using all his pitches which he didn’t do last year very often. I think he has his mind in the right place right now, and we’re in a good place.”

Quintana’s offspeed repertoire was firmly on display all night. Per Statcast, after throwing two changeups to Dodgers leadoff hitter Enrique Hernandez, he didn’t show the pitch again until the 4th. On the night, he threw the change up 12 times; the Dodgers failed to put a single one in play. 

“We’ve been in these types of situations and conversations since Spring Training,” Contreras added. “I saw him working out his change up in [there], which is good. He was a little harder than 84, but today I think was one of the best games he threw with the change up.”

Through 28 innings pitched this season, the lefty now sports a sub-3 FIP (2.89) and is striking out over 11 batters per nine innings. Some pitchers that have a higher FIP include David Price, Jacob deGrom and Stephen Strasburg. 

“He’s absolutely pitching right now,” Maddon added. “Where in the past I thought he would just pretty much rely on his fastball. He’s becoming a pitch maker.”