Cubs

Better lucky than good? Cubs escape with wacky win over Pirates

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Better lucky than good? Cubs escape with wacky win over Pirates

A win's a win, right?

Not sure that really applies to every victory, but the Cubs still escaped with their fifth straight win Friday, walking off for an 11-10 victory over the Pirates in 12 innings at Wrigley Field in a game that lasted five hours.

[MORE: Carrying three catchers comes in handy again for Cubs]

The Cubs mounted a rally in the bottom of the 12th when Starlin Castro walked with one out. Miguel Montero followed that with a single before Jorge Soler was intentionally walked. Matt Szczur popped a fly ball into right field, and Pittsburgh outfielder Gregory Polanco fell down, leading to a Cubs walk-off and another dance party in the clubhouse.

So...better lucky than good?

"We'll take it," Szczur said. "Anything we can get."

Szczur was faced with the exact same situation - bases loaded, one out - in the 10th inning and also hit a pop fly into right field, but Polanco stayed on his feet for that one, throwing a perfect strike to nab Castro at home by a wide margin.

Still, manager Joe Maddon, Castro and the Cubs maintained it was the right call to gamble and send Castro.

The Cubs jumped out to a 7-1 lead in the fifth inning, but the Pirates plated four in the sixth. The Cubs came right back and scored one in the sixth and two in the seventh to make it a 10-5 ballgame.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

But the Pirates just wouldn't stop. They scored four more times in the eighth and then tied things up in the ninth off Cubs closer Hector Rondon with two outs.

"I could have lived without it," Maddon said. "We really should have put that away earlier. We played really well today. Don’t be deceived; we played really well today. We did not pitch well today, but we played a good game of baseball.

"I’m really happy with the way we played, whether it was the at-bats, the hitting, the defense, the baserunning, everything.

"It would really have been a sin not to have won that game, based on how well we played. And that’s my takeaway."

Kyle Hendricks was cruising along, having allowed just one run before a two-out, three-run double from Pittsburgh catcher Francisco Cervelli opened the floodgates. Hendricks was charged with five runs in 5.2 innings of work.

The Cubs bullpen had been looking much better lately, but they allowed five runs in 6.1 innings Friday, with two pitchers - Justin Grimm and Jason Motte - failing to record even one out in their appearances.

"I know the bullpen, we’ve had those moments already this year," Maddon said. "We have to get better. We just can’t maybe get better; we have to get better at that, because you’re not going to the dance without that functioning properly. That’s a fact.

"... The big thing about the bullpen is, when you bring a guy from the bullpen, that you know what to expect. We need to know what to expect."

[RELATED - Cubs feeling comfortable in one-run games]

The two teams combined to throw 496 pitches in the 12 innings, with 30 hits, 17 walks (three intentional), three hit batters, five homers and one wacky finish.

The Cubs' new "Bash Brothers" (Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo) each hit a homer and combined to drive in six runs while reaching base six times. Soler drew four walks, Castro walked twice and singled twice and Szczur finished with two hits and three RBI.

The Cubs are now 11-6 in one-run contests. This is a game the Cubs would have lost the last few seasons, but this is a new team with a new vibe, still figuring out how to win.

They're going to need a few "lucky" wins if they're going to really make a run at the postseason.

"We could recap all the times we’ve had bad baseball luck this season also," Maddon said. "That was good baseball luck today. And we’ll take it."

4 Cubs crack MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospects list

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MiLB

4 Cubs crack MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospects list

MLB Pipeline unveiled its annual top 100 prospects list on Saturday, and four Cubs minor leaguers made the cut.

Nico Hoerner (SS; No. 51), Brailyn Marquez (LHP; 68), Brennen Davis (OF; 78) and Miguel Amaya (C; 95) cracked the list for the North Siders. It’s the first time the Cubs have had four players on the list since 2016: Ian Happ (No. 21), Eloy Jimenez (23), Albert Almora Jr. (82) and Dylan Cease (98).

So yeah, it’s been a minute.

Cubs fans are most familiar with Hoerner; the 22-year-old made his big-league debut last September in an emergency spot after Javy Báez and Addison Russell got hurt. Hoerner hit .282/.305/.436 in 20 games and held his own defensively.

Hoerner is ranked as the No. 9 overall shortstop prospect, and he’ll get an opportunity to make the 2020 Opening Day roster. With Báez entrenched at shortstop, Hoerner will shift to second base and potentially play some center field, though he's still learning the latter.

Marquez, 20, is Pipeline’s No. 9 left-handed pitching prospect. The Cubs have struggled to develop homegrown starting pitching under Theo Epstein. In fact, Marquez is the first Cubs pitcher (LHP or RHP) to crack MLB Pipeline’s top 10 pitchers list during Epstein’s tenure on the North Side.

Marquez sported a 3.13 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in 22 starts between Single-A South Bend and advanced-A Myrtle Beach in 2019. The 20-year-old struck out 128 batters in 103 2/3 innings, walking 50.

Cubs senior director of player development Matt Dorey said the club has “really high expectations” for Marquez this season.

“Brailyn, his last half of last year in Myrtle was an epic run, just in terms of the raw stuff, the strikes, the breaking ball development,” Dorey said Sunday at Cubs Convention. “I think it’s a little early to decide where he’s going to start [the season], but I would guess Double-A.

“But I wanna see how he comes into camp — especially with our new pitching infrastructure — that we’re not missing anything with his delivery or anything from a pitch data perspective. We want to make sure that’s really tied before we send him out [for] a long, full season. It’s such a big year for him. But I think it would be foolish to put any cap on what he can do this year.”

Marquez allowed two earned runs or less in nine of his final 10 starts (he allowed three earned runs on Aug. 26 — the lone exception). The Cubs promoted him to Myrtle Beach on Aug. 6, where he posted a 1.71 ERA with 26 strikeouts and seven walks in five starts (26 1/3 innings).

The Cubs drafted Davis out of high school in 2018 (second round, No. 62 overall). The 20-year-old was more of a basketball player and had some Division I offers, but he ultimately signed with the Cubs and received a $1.1 million bonus.

Davis is considered to be a raw, athletic talent. He hit .305/.381/.525 with eight homers and a 160 wRC+ in 50 games with South Bend last season. He missed time after getting hit on the hand on two separate occasions.

Although Davis is listed as a center fielder (199 innings in 2019) he played left almost as frequently (193 2/3) in 2019. Pipeline projects him to make his big-league debut in 2022.

Amaya spent all of 2019 with Myrtle Beach, slashing .235/.351/.402 with a 122 wRC+ in 99 games. His defense has always been ahead of his bat, and he’s known to be an advanced catcher for his age.

The Cubs added Amaya to the 40-man roster in November in preparation for the Rule 5 Draft. However, he won’t make his big-league debut until 2021, at the earliest.

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Cubs agree to deal with free agent outfielder Steven Souza, per report

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USA TODAY

Cubs agree to deal with free agent outfielder Steven Souza, per report

The Cubs have made a roster move.

According to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, the Cubs and outfielder Steven Souza have agreed to a one-year, big-league deal. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal first reported Friday the two sides were nearing an agreement.

Souza, 30, missed the 2019 season after suffering a torn left ACL and LCL at the end of spring training. He also missed a chunk of 2018, playing 72 games while hitting the injured list on multiple occasions. The Diamondbacks non-tendered him last month.

Souza is a career .233/.323/.417 hitter with 70 home runs in five seasons. His best campaign came with the Rays in 2017: .239/.351/.459, 30 home runs, 78 RBIs and a 121 wRC+ — all career-bests, excluding his average. He sported a walk rate (13.6 percent) above league average (8.5) that season, though his strikeout rate (29 percent) was worse than average (23).

Signing Souza likely rules out a return of fan favorite outfielder Nicholas Castellanos. The Cubs have been linked to Castellanos throughout the offseason, but since they're looking to stay under MLB’s luxury tax threshold, re-signing Castellanos would require some financial maneuvering.

Souza has spent most of his career in right field (3,608 career innings) but has minimal experience playing center (33 1/3) and left (20). He’s above average in right (career 6 Defensive Runs Saved) and posted a career best 7 DRS in 2017.

The Cubs have a five-time Gold Glove right fielder in Jason Heyward, so Souza will see time at all three outfield spots. Heyward moved to center full-time last season after the Cubs acquired Castellanos and has played center at times throughout his career.

He's coming off a serious knee injury, but Souza is a low-risk, high-reward move for the Cubs. If he's healthy, he’ll add power to the middle of the order and add another bat to an outfield group with some question marks. Albert Almora Jr. and Ian Happ have each struggled offensively at times since 2018. Souza offers another option in case those two slump again, with room for a larger role.