Cubs

Cubs think Sorianos bat can still play

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Cubs think Sorianos bat can still play

MESA, Ariz. The Cubs fans who are tired of watching Alfonso Soriano would love to see Dale Sveum bench their 136 million man for not sprinting out of the box.

You should have seen the ball that slammed off the left-field scoreboard at HoHoKam Stadium. Yes, Soriano is feeling very good at home plate.

Soriano smashed two home runs during Tuesdays 11-4 win over the Colorado Rockies, a reminder that he can still be a force, even at the age of 36. Soriano who was batting cleanup as the designated hitter doubled and homered while leading off an inning.

I just prepare my mind to be 100 percent, Soriano said. It doesnt matter leadoff, fourth, fifth, sixth. I just want to be in the lineup and be healthy and help the team win.

My goal (is to) show the fans, my teammates and the coaches that Im here to play the game.

A new Cubs front office with a deep background in statistical analysis knows the lineup debates are just noise. Bill James, the sabermetrics pioneer and Red Sox advisor, was asked years ago about the importance of batting order during a chat with ESPN.com.

There is no real evidence that it matters, James wrote. What matters is having good hitters. Who hits second and who hits sixththere is little evidence that it makes any difference.

Soriano generated 26 homers and 88 RBIs last season and still got booed at the Cubs Convention. He started hitting in January and focused on an agility program at the teams academy in the Dominican Republic. He said it usually takes about 25 at-bats in spring training before he starts feeling comfortable.

His manager is going to do everything he can to make Soriano feel that way. Batting leadoff or cleanup could boost Sorianos confidence. And Sveum knows that he needs Soriano to produce in a lineup that is mostly unproven.

We know 162 games is out of the question, but its vital to keep those legs as fresh as possible to where he can do things like he did today, Sveum said. (Well) give him those day games after night games (off), when we fly back home and then have a day game, things like that. (Its) vital (when) your legs arent what they used to be. But that bat still plays, so its important to give him those breathers.

2019 MLB Power Rankings: The AL West is weird, man

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USA Today

2019 MLB Power Rankings: The AL West is weird, man

Sometimes, making these rankings can get repetitive. The Astros were the best team last week and they're the best team this week and they'll be the best team next week. When there's not a lot of variety, it can be more fun to focus in on who was the loser of the week. This week's definitive loser? The Mets. Congrats to you, the Mets. It's low hanging fruit, but sometimes you want to conserve energy. How'd everyone else do? To the rankings! 

CLICK HERE TO SEE THIS WEEK'S MLB POWER RANKINGS 

A Hobbled Hero: Baez, Cubs keep finding wild ways to win

A Hobbled Hero: Baez, Cubs keep finding wild ways to win

Javy Baez has only seen one pitch in the Cubs-Phillies series, but that's all he needs to make a major impact.

"El Mago" notched his first walk-off RBI since May 8, 2016 in the bottom of the ninth inning Tuesday night, lacing the only pitch he saw from Juan Nicasio down the right-field line. Baez had missed the entire series to that point due to a heel injury he suffered Sunday in Washington D.C. and actually underwent an MRI before Tuesday's game to make sure there was no other damage.

Baez's single put the finishing touches on the Cubs' first win this season when trailing after eight innings. They now lead the majors with five walk-off victories.

After another blown lead by the bullpen (the third in the last week), the Cubs entered the bottom of the ninth down 2-1, but Kris Bryant led off with a walk and then Anthony Rizzo doubled. After a Willson Contreras flyout, Jason Heyward was intentionally walked and then Albert Almora Jr. hit a tapper in front of home plate that Bryant just barely beat out at home to tie the game.

Then came Baez, as Joe Maddon opted to go to the hobbled star in place of Daniel Descalso, who was 0-for-4 on the evening to that point.

Prior to the ninth inning, Maddon wasn't sure if Baez would even be available to pinch hit in the game, but trainer P.J. Mainville taped up Javy's foot/ankle at the start of the inning and gave the Cubs skipper the all-clear.

"Just give PJ some credit on the tape job," Maddon joked. "This is right out of the Lombardi era kind of stuff. Tape and aspirin — go ahead and play. That's what everybody's football coach said."

If Baez hadn't delivered the walk-off hit and the Cubs wound up in extra innings, Maddon said he didn't know if Baez would be able to even play the field on his injured heel and the only player left on the bench was backup catcher Victor Caratini.

"In moments like that, you can only think it so far," Maddon said. "And then at some point, you gotta throw it at the wall and see what happens."

Maddon doesn't know if Baez will be able to play Wednesday night, but plans to make two lineups and then check with the shortstop to see about his status when he arrives at the field.

Baez's Cubs teammates are no longer surprised at the ridiculous things he does or how easy he makes some very difficult tasks look. Bryant joked he was actually upset Baez didn't hit it over the fence for a walk-off grand slam.

"I don't even know what's going on with him half the time anyway," Bryant said. "It's like, 'oh, Javy's pinch-hitting. And then I was debating like, 'don't swing at the first pitch," but I was like, 'no, it's Javy.' 

"It was awesome. He just like goes up there and swings the bat. If he didn't have to run to first base, he wouldn't. It's just like, 'I'm so good, I'm just gonna get this hit and then we're gonna go home.'"

However awe-inspiring Baez's Kirk Gibson impression was, the only reason the Cubs were even in the spot to win the game at that moment was because of the hustle and aggressive baserunning from Bryant. 

His game-tying run on Almora's tapper in front of the plate was huge, but his first trip around the bases was even more impressive. 

With Bryant on second base and Rizzo on first in the first inning, both runners were off on the full-count pitch to Contreras, who hit a routine grounder to Phillies shortstop Jean Segura. As Segura made the throw to first to retire Contreras, Bryant never hesitated around third base and scored on some heads-up, aggressive baserunning that looked like a page right out of the El Mago Playbook.

Bryant said as he was running, he thought about what it's like to play the left side of the infield on such a routine play and felt like he could catch the Phillies by surprise.

"I saw [third base coach Brian Butterfield] holding me up, too, and I just kept going," Bryant said. "I almost felt like I had eyes in the back of my head. It was kind of like one of those experiences that it's hard to explain, but I just kept going."

That run was all Jose Quintana and the Cubs needed for six innings, until Carl Edwards Jr. came on in relief for the seventh. Edwards allowed a leadoff single and then a double two batters later, giving way to Brandon Kintzler with two outs.

Kintzler gave up a groundball single up the middle to Andrew McCutchen and just like that, the Cubs' thin 1-0 lead had evaporated in the blink of an eye. And with the offensive issues (they were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position before Baez's hit), that looked to be enough to send the Cubs to their second straight defeat in frustrating fashion.

But the magic of El Mago and Bryant allowed the Cubs to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and send fans home happy and with a little more belief that this just might be a special summer on Chicago's North Side.

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