Cubs

Even with injuries, Joe Maddon thought Cubs would have better record halfway through season

Even with injuries, Joe Maddon thought Cubs would have better record halfway through season

CINCINNATI (AP) — With the bases loaded, two outs and the Reds down a run, manager Bryan Price decided to let his rookie pitcher take some swings.

Jackson Stephens delivered on the first one.

The right-hander lasted five innings in his major league debut and drove in the go-ahead runs with a bases-loaded single on Saturday, leading Cincinnati to a 5-3 victory over the struggling Chicago Cubs.

"It was unbelievable, a childhood dream," said Stephens (1-0), who smacked his hands together after reaching first base on his first major league hit.

The Cubs' fourth loss in five games dropped them to 40-41, well off their pace from a year ago (51-30) when they were on their way to an NL Central title and a World Series championship.

"We look forward to turning that thing around completely and heading in the other direction - .500 is not good enough for us, and we know that," infielder Ben Zobrist said.

The Cubs' roster has been depleted by injuries, contributing to their season-long inconsistency. Zobrist returned from the disabled list on Saturday, and Kris Bryant was back after missing two games with a sprained ankle.

Manager Joe Maddon thought his team would have a better record at this point, even with the injuries.

"But it's OK," Maddon said. "We get everybody healthy right now, get everybody back out there, and I'm very confident that we'll start looking like we're supposed to look."

Stephens gave up a solo homer by Jon Jay and a two-run shot by Willson Contreras in five innings. He was called up to help the Reds fill an opening in the rotation created by Brandon Finnegan's arm injury.

With two outs and the bases loaded in the fourth, Stephens singled up the middle off Eddie Butler (4-3) for two runs and a 4-3 lead.

"I located probably my best fastball of the day to the pitcher and he hits a six-hopper up the middle," Butler said. "That's frustrating."

Raisel Iglesias escaped a two-on threat in the eighth and got the last four outs for his 15th save in 16 chances.

Chicago managed only three singles while losing the series opener 5-0 on Friday night. The Cubs got to Stephens the second time through the order for a 3-0 lead. Jay led off the third inning with his first homer since May 24 of last season, and Contreras added a two-run shot.

Cincinnati sent nine batters to the plate in the fourth. Adam Duvall doubled home a run, and Butler walked Tucker Barnhart to force in a run with two outs and bring up Stephens, who singled on the first pitch.

GOTCHA!

Billy Hamilton singled to open the Reds' first inning and was picked off by Butler, the first time he's been picked off this season.

TWEET

Maddon tweeted two photos of a large group of Cubs fans cheering the team as it left the hotel for the ballpark on Saturday morning. "Pretty spectacular," Maddon said. "And it's humbling, it really is."

STATS

Jay's homer ended a streak of 328 at-bats without one. ... The Cubs have homered in 16 of their last 17 games at Great American Ball Park. ... The Reds will try to sweep the Cubs for the first time at Great American. Their last three-game sweep in Cincinnati came in 1996 at Cinergy Field. ... Stephens is the first Reds pitcher with two RBIs in his major league debut since Paul Moskau drove in two runs on June 21, 1977, according to information from the Elias Sports Bureau provided by the Reds.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Cubs: Zobrist was activated off the DL and grounded out as a pinch hitter. He missed 17 games with an injured left wrist. ... OF Jason Heyward starts a rehab assignment on Sunday. He's been sidelined since June 19 by a hand injury.

Reds: SS Zack Cozart got a day off. He returned from a thigh injury and singled twice on Friday night. He'll get days off regularly as he's eased back into a starting role.

UP NEXT

Cubs: Jake Arrieta (7-6) makes his first start since the Washington Nationals stole seven bases against him during the Cubs' 6-1 loss on Tuesday. Afterward, Miguel Montero blamed the pitcher's move to the plate, prompting the Cubs to let go of the catcher a day later.

Reds: Tim Adleman (5-4) is 3-2 with a 3.43 ERA in his last seven starts. He didn't get a decision in the Cubs' 6-5 win at Wrigley Field on April 21 after he allowed two runs in six innings.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred: 'We weren’t going to play more than 60 games'

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred: 'We weren’t going to play more than 60 games'

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred made an interesting revelation Wednesday about negotiations between MLB and the players union. In an interview with Dan Patrick, Manfred said the 2020 season was never going to be more than 60 games given the spread of the coronavirus — at least by the time they got to serious negotiations two weeks ago.

“The reality is we weren’t going to play more than 60 games, no matter how the negotiation with the players went, or any other factor," Manfred said on The Dan Patrick Show. "Sixty games is outside the envelope given the realities of the virus. I think this is the one thing that we come back to every single day: We’re trying to manage something that has proven to be unpredictable and unmanageable.

"I know it hasn’t looked particularly pretty in spots, but having said that, if we can pull off this 60-game season, I think it was the best we were gonna do for our fans given the course of the virus."

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Manfred unilaterally imposed a 60-game season after the two sides couldn't come to terms. The union rejected the owners' final proposal, retaining the right to file a grievance against the owners for not negotiating in good faith.

Whether Manfred's comments become a point of contention in any grievance the players might file is unclear. The league would likely argue Manfred was referring to negotiations after his face-to-face meeting with MLBPA executive director Tony Clark on June 16. Manfred's comments to Patrick's follow up question — if the league would have been willing to go to 80 games, had the players agreed to all their terms — also points to this.

"It’s the calendar, Dan. We’re playing 60 games in 63 days. I don’t see — given the reality of the health situation over the past few weeks — how we were gonna get going any faster than the calendar we’re on right now, no matter what the state of those negotiations were.

"Look, we did get a sub-optimal result from the negotiation in some ways. The fans aren’t gonna get an expanded postseason, which I think would have been good with the shortened season. The players left real money on the table. But that’s what happens when you have a negotiation that instead of being collaborative, gets into sort of a conflict situation.”

The players' final proposal called for a 70-game season. At this point in the calendar, 60 games in 69 days (Sept. 27 is the reported end date for the regular season) leaves room for a couple more games, not 70 (or more).

So, Manfred's right that 60 games on the current timetable was probably the most MLB can fit in amid the pandemic. But you have to wonder if the union will use those comments in a potential grievance. 

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Cubs fan base named second most loyal in MLB, only trailing Red Sox

Cubs fan base named second most loyal in MLB, only trailing Red Sox

When you wait more than 100 years for a championship, you must maintain a strong sense of loyalty to your favorite team. 

Cubs fans have done that, supporting the club through thick and thin, from the mediocre years to the curse-breaking 2016 World Series season. They pack the Wrigley Field stands, consistently ranking in the top 10 in attendance season after season.

That devotion led to Forbes naming Cubs fans the second most loyal fan base in Major League Baseball, second to only the Red Sox.

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Per Forbes, the rankings are based on "local television ratings (per Nielsen), stadium attendance based on capacity reached, secondary ticket demand (per StubHub), merchandise sales (per Fanatics), social media reach (Facebook and Twitter followers based on the team’s metro area population) and hometown crowd reach (defined by Nielsen as a percentage of the metropolitan area population that watched, attended and/or listened to a game in the last year)."

All that science aside, does the 108-year wait for a championship warrant the Cubs being first on this list? In fairness, the Red Sox waited 86 years before winning the 2004 World Series, their first since 1918. Plus, in terms of attendance, the Cubs have only out-drawn the Red Sox in six of the past 10 seasons, a near-equal split.

Two historic clubs. Two historic ballparks. Two historic championships. In a loyalty ranking, you can't go wrong with either franchise. Here's how the list's top 10 panned out:

10. Braves
9. Phillies
8. Indians
7. Giants
6. Brewers
5. Dodgers
4. Yankees
3. Cardinals
2. Cubs
1. Red Sox

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