Bullpen becoming strength for Cubs at right time


Bullpen becoming strength for Cubs at right time

With the Cubs’ starting pitching in a bit of a rocky patch right now, the bullpen becomes all the more crucial.

If it keeps pitching like it did in Friday’s 5-3 win over the Braves, there’ll be no rush for the starting staff to find its footing.

After starter Kyle Hendricks only made it five innings, the Cubs’ relief corps turned in four spotless innings Friday, with four different pitchers retiring 12 of the 14 hitters they faced. Jason Motte, Justin Grimm and Pedro Strop each pitched a perfect 1-2-3 frame. Hector Rondon, as he tends to do, made things a little more interesting in the ninth, giving up a double and a walk around his three outs. But he got those outs nonetheless, making it a scoreless performance for the quartet of relief arms.

“They’ve been doing it for me all year,” Hendricks said. “One of these days I’m going to pay them back, I’ll turn it around. But those guys down there have been solid all year. It takes a lot of pressure off me. When I’m coming out of a game, I know the score’s going to stay pretty close to that and give our lineup a chance.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Cubs pitching in general has been significantly improved over the past two games after a two-day deluge of Tigers hits, homers and runs in a brief two-game set where the Cubs yielded 25 runs and 40 hits. Thursday, in the series opener with the Braves, Jake Arrieta was stellar, and three Cubs relievers allowed just one run over three innings. Throw in Friday’s performance, and Cubs pitching has let up four runs in two games after allowing a quarter century of them in the prior two.

The bullpen, of course has been a big part of that. Friday, Cubs relievers shaved 0.03 points off their collective ERA, dropping it to 3.40.

“The bullpen did a good job,” Cubs catcher Miguel Montero said. “The guys have been outstanding overall. I know we had a tough series against Detroit, but we’ve just got to forget about it and move on. From that point on, the guys have been doing a good job.”

[MORE: Cubs have just enough to come back against Braves]

Cubs manager Joe Maddon needed four innings of relief Friday, and according to him, everything went to plan. The order in which Cubs relievers pitched Friday was the order Maddon envisioned, and nothing that happened in the game required changing that up — mainly because Cubs relievers made sure nothing happened.

The first of those guys used, Motte, is having quite the rare season for a late-inning reliever. He earned the win Friday, his eight of the season, which ties him for second on the team with Jon Lester.

That’s not a typical amount for a bullpen arm of his sort. And according to Hendricks, Motte was letting everyone know about his accomplishment after the game.

“Yeah, 8-1. He was yelling about it,” Hendricks said. “He’s done unreal all year. He’s come in after me a lot of times and kept the score right there. He definitely deserves it.”

Maddon seemed to like hearing that Motte was 8-1.

“Is he really? Got to get him out there more often, man.”

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 12th + 13th homers in 1998


Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 12th + 13th 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.

An off-day did nothing to slow down the 1998 National League MVP as Sosa collected his second straight 2-homer game May 27 of that season.

He went deep in the eighth and ninth innings of a Cubs' 10-5 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field, driving in 3 runs. 

The first homer - off Darrin Winston - was an absolute blast, traveling an estimated 460 feet. The second shot was tame in comparison with only 400 feet as a recorded distance.

In a matter of two games, Sosa raised his season OPS from .930 to .988 and his slugging percentage from .521 to .577 thanks to a pair of 2-homer contests.

Fun fact: Doug Glanville - former Cubs outfielder and current NBC Sports Chicago analyst - was the Phillies leadoff hitter that day in 1998, collecting three hits and scoring a pair of runs.

Yu Darvish back on the DL for Cubs with triceps tendinitis


Yu Darvish back on the DL for Cubs with triceps tendinitis

Yu Darvish now has more trips to the disabled list in a Cubs uniform than wins.

The Cubs place their 31-year-old right-handed pitcher on the DL Saturday evening with right triceps tendinitis. The move is retroactive to May 23, so he may only have to miss one turn through the rotation.

In a corresponding move, Randy Rosario was recalled from Triple-A Iowa to provide Joe Maddon with another arm in the bullpen. Tyler Chatwood will start Sunday in Darvish's place.

Thanks to two off-days on the schedule last week, the Cubs should be fine with their rotation for a little while. Jon Lester could go on regular rest Monday, but the Cubs would need to make a decision for Tuesday given Kyle Hendricks just threw Friday afternoon.

That decision could mean Mike Montgomery moving from the bullpen to the rotation for a spot start, or it could be the promotion of top prospect Adbert Alzolay from Triple-A Iowa.

Either way, this is more bad news for Darvish, who has had a rough go of it since he signed a six-year, $126 million deal with the Cubs in February.

Between issues with the weather, the concern of arm cramps in his debut in Miami, leg cramps in Atlanta, a trip to the disabled list for the flu, trouble making it out of the fifth inning and now triceps tendinitis, it's been a forgettable two months for Darvish.

He is 1-3 with a 4.95 ERA, 1.43 WHIP and 49 strikeouts in 40 innings with the Cubs.

Over the course of 139 career starts, Darvish is 57-45 with a 3.49 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and has averaged 11 strikeouts per nine innings.