Cubs

Beaten down, Cubs pitching in survival mode

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Beaten down, Cubs pitching in survival mode

Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Posted: 11:34 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

HOUSTON As soon as James Russell walked off the mound, the Minute Maid Park sound system pumped out the music: Mama said thered be days like this.

Russells family traveled to Houston for his first career big-league start, but its not really about the 25-year-old Texan. For the Cubs, this was just trying to get through Tuesday night and fast-forward to tomorrow.

George H.W. Bush, the 41st president, was among the 23,523 fans who watched the Astros cruise to an 11-2 victory. When the Cubs look at the big picture, its unclear what they see in their rotation.

Russell maxed out at 55 pitches in the second inning and that was it for a reliever who was only expected to go one time through the lineup. This was a bridge to next week, possibly April 19, when the Cubs will again need a fifth starter.

The Astros dropped two perfect bunts to begin the game and didnt let up until Russell had given up five runs, four earned, on seven hits. It didnt help that Alfonso Soriano and Darwin Barney committed errors in the first inning.

I felt pretty good overall, but unfortunately a couple (breaks) didnt go my way, Russell said. You can only worry about the stuff that you can actually control. I must have done something to piss off the baseball gods. It happens.

Hours earlier, the Cubs confirmed that Doug Davis signed a minor-league deal and will stay in Arizona for extended spring training. General manager Jim Hendry projects that the 35-year-old left-hander could be at Triple-A Iowa by months end.

The night before Ramon Ortiz, another veteran pitcher who recently agreed to a minor-league contract, pitched well for Iowa, giving up two runs in 5.2 innings. The 38-year-old right-hander has pitched for six different teams and made 212 career starts.

Ortiz is just a phone call away. Todd Wellemeyer, who has been dealing with a hip issue, only recently began a throwing program and isnt close enough yet.

Davis was sidelined with heart and elbow issues last year. He made only eight starts, none in the seasons second half. The Cubs know him from his five years in Milwaukee, where he went 38-40 with a 4.11 ERA. They remember him with the Arizona Diamondbacks, helping to sweep them out of the 2007 playoffs.

Hendry insisted that the Cubs still would have done these deals even if Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner hadnt gone to the disabled list. Hendry described both pitchers as insurance policies. They might be needed sooner rather than later.
Watch: Quade on Russell
Weve got some time, manager Mike Quade said. Well reassess the group thats here, too. To me, one disappointing outing doesnt mean the end of the road and that we scrap this thing. We have to take a look at it.

Theres no doubt that Russell who emerged as a trusted bullpen piece last season would like another chance to start: Absolutely, I feel great and confident in my stuff. Its just one of those things that didnt go my way.

Going against Brett Myers, this was a game to write off. The Astros right-hander allowed one run in seven innings, making him 11-2 with a 2.16 ERA in 14 career starts against the Cubs.

By late Tuesday night, it was already time to think about who didnt pitch out of the bullpen Sean Marshall, Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol and the high-leverage situations they could handle in the series finale. The Cubs are in survival mode.

It was ugly, Quade said, but we were able to get through it.

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

Why what Mike Montgomery did against LA could go a long way toward keeping him in the Cubs' rotation

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USA Today

Why what Mike Montgomery did against LA could go a long way toward keeping him in the Cubs' rotation

Joe Maddon needed Mike Montgomery to get through at least six innings given the circumstances presenting the Cubs' manager before Game 2 of Tuesday’s day-night doubleheader against the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

Not only were the Cubs short a man in the bullpen (thanks to Brandon Morrow’s pants-related back injury), but Maddon had to use four relievers — including Pedro Strop for two innings — after Tyler Chatwood managed only five innings in Game 1 earlier in the afternoon. 

So when Montgomery — who had only thrown over 100 pitches once in the last two and a half seasons before Tuesday — saw his pitch count sit at 40 after two innings, and then 63 after three, he knew he needed to regroup to avoid creating a mess for the Cubs’ bullpen. 

What followed was a start that, statistically, wasn’t the most impressive of the five Montgomery’s made since re-joining the Cubs’ rotation earlier this year. But it was an important start in that the 28-year-old left-hander didn’t have his best stuff, yet didn’t give in to a good Dodgers lineup. And holding that bunch to one run over six innings was exactly what the Cubs needed in what turned out to be a 2-1 extra-inning win. 

“Especially when you don’t have have your best stuff, you always gotta — that’s when you really learn how to pitch,” Montgomery said. 

It’s also the kind of start that could be a major point in Montgomery’s favor when Maddon is presented with a decision to make on his starting rotation whenever Yu Darvish comes off the disabled list. Knowing that Montgomery can grind his way through six innings when his team needs it the most without his best stuff only can add to the confidence the Cubs have in him. 

Montgomery didn’t have his best stuff on Tuesday, issuing more walks (four) than he had in his previous four starts (three). He threw 48 pitches between the second and third innings, and only 25 of those pitches were strikes. Of the nine times the Dodgers reached base against Montgomery, six were the result of fastballs either leading to a walk or a hit. 

Even though the Dodgers were able to bother Montgomery a bit on his fastball, Maddon said that’s the pitch of his that’s impressed him the most over the last few weeks. 

“He never got rushed,” Maddon said. “In the past he would seem to get rushed when things weren’t going well, when he spot-started. Overall, fastball command is better — even though he was off a little bit tonight, the fastball command still exceeds what I’ve seen in the past couple of years on a more consistent basis. The changeup, really, good pitch. He got out of some jams but I think the fact that he knows where his fastball is going now is the difference-maker for him.”

Darvish will throw a simulated game on Wednesday after throwing two bullpen sessions last week. Maddon still doesn’t have a timetable for the $126 million right-hander’s return, and said he’s not entertaining what to do with his rotation until Darvish comes off the disabled list. But Maddon did mention Montgomery’s relative lack of an innings load — the most he’s thrown in a season in 130 2/3, which he did in 2017 — as a reason to perhaps not rush him into a permanent starting role the rest of the season. Going to a six-man rotation is a possibility, too, Maddon said. 

But the over-arching point is this: Montgomery will remain in the Cubs’ rotation as long as he keeps earning it. That can be the product of strong outings in which he has good stuff, or games like Tuesday in which he shows the Cubs the kind of resiliency most starters need to get through a full season. 

“I pitch well, good things happen,” Montgomery said. “I’ve always thought that. Opportunities, you just gotta make the most of them.”

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 28th + 29th homers in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 28th + 29th homers in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

For the second time in 1998, Sosa went back-to-back games with multiple home runs. After going yard twice on June 19 of that season, Slammin' Sammy again sent two balls into the bleachers on June 20.

He singlehandedly beat the Phillies that night, driving in 5 runs in a 9-4 Cubs victory.

But that wasn't the most impressive feat of the day from Sosa. His second homer was actually measured at a whopping 500 feet! It was the longest of the season, but not the longest of his career. On June 24, 2003, Sosa hit a homer at Wrigley measured at 511 feet.

The back-to-back big games raised Sosa's season OPS to 1.083 with a ridiculous .685 slugging percentage. He began June 1998 with a .608 slugging percentage.

Fun fact: Kerry Wood struck out 11 batters in 7.1 innings on June 20, 1998 to pick up his 7th big-league victory. As Wood marched to the National League Rookie of the Year that season, he finished with a 13-6 record and 233 strikeouts in only 166.2 innings for a career-high 12.6 K/9 rate.