Cubs

Jon Lester ready if needed to pitch out of bullpen in Games 6 or 7 of World Series

Jon Lester ready if needed to pitch out of bullpen in Games 6 or 7 of World Series

Jon Lester’s last relief appearance came nine years ago as the Boston Red Sox, ironically enough, were in the process of falling to 3-1 American League Championship Series deficit to the Cleveland Indians, only to storm back and win the 2007 AL pennant. 

Former Red Sox and current Indians manager Terry Francona used Lester twice in relief in that series, with the then-23-year-old completing a seven-run 11th inning meltdown in Game 2 when he allowed a Franklin Gutierrez three-run home run. Lester returned in Game 4 to throw three scoreless innings in mop-up duty as the Indians took that 3-1 lead they’d eventually squander. 

Since then, Lester has exclusively pitched as a starter, winning the deciding game of the 2007 World Series against the Colorado Rockies, picking up another championship ring in 2013 with the Red Sox and earning a $155 million contract to be the ace of the Cubs’ rotation after the 2014 season. 

But with the World Series on the line in Game 6 and Game 7 Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, in Cleveland, Lester said he’ll be prepared to pitch if he’s needed to help deliver the Cubs their first World Series championship since 1908. 

“Hey, whatever we've got to do,” Lester said. “I mean, this time of year there's no barriers, there's no nothing. It's all hands on deck.”

Lester didn’t want to step on the toes of anyone in the Cubs’ bullpen, praising the work guys like Aroldis Chapman, Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon and Travis Wood, among others, have put in this year. The 90 pitches he threw in Game 5 shouldn’t be a hinderance, even if they were stressful ones

If the Cubs do force a Game 7 Wednesday, though, Lester could be a critical weapon for manager Joe Maddon to deploy to maximize Kyle Hendricks’ effectiveness and bridge the gap to, potentially, Chapman. 

“I love our bullpen,” Lester said. ‘I love what these guys have done, but if there's a match-up in there that Joe likes, I'll be ready.”

Who Knew? The week in Cubs stats and factoids

Who Knew? The week in Cubs stats and factoids

Welcome back to "Who Knew?" - a roundup of fun facts, statistics & oddities. Today, we're looking at the last week of Cubs baseball. While they went a disappointing 3-3 on the road trip, there was plenty of interesting nuggets of information to be mined. Let's get started.

Time to go to school

On Tuesday, Kyle Hendricks had a brilliant outing at Cincinnati where he tossed 8 innings of one-run ball, allowing three hits. But he also collected three hits at the plate himself!

Cue the Carlos Zambrano trivia.

Hendricks was the first Cubs pitcher with a 3-hit game since  Zambrano on May 26, 2011.

He was the first Cubs pitcher to get 3+ hits at the plate and allow 3 or fewer on the mound since Zambrano (8.2 IP, 3 Hits for, 3 against) 9/10/2010.

And Hendricks was the first Cubs starting pitcher to collect a hit in the 9th inning or later since Zambrano 9/25/2009... off Randy Johnson!

Back to the pitching for a minute - Hendricks started May with  three straight starts of 8+ innings, 1 or 0 runs & 1 or 0 walks. He's the first Cubs pitcher to do that in three straight starts since Mike Krukow in September 1981.

While Hendricks' start Sunday night didn't go quite as well, he still came away with a win, and he added on to an impressive run (before it finally came to an end).

From the beginning of May through the third inning Sunday, these are the pitch counts by completed inning (not counting the one batter in the 9th inning on Tuesday he faced before being pulled): 10, 6, 8, 15, 9, 7, 7, 9, 10, 15, 11, 12, 6, 12, 19, 15, 6, 11, 15, 7, 9, 16, 11, 13, 10, 11, 9, 8

That's a run of 28 consecutive completed innings under 20 pitches. And in 12 of the 28 innings, he kept it in single digits.

He finally tossed 21 pitches to get through the 4th inning Sunday night to snap the streak.

And by the way, Hendricks has put up an excellent 3.21 ERA and solid 1.179 WHIP this season despite not reaching 90 MPH on any of the 799 pitches he has thrown this season (though he did hit 89.2, 89.2 and 89.1 Sunday night). His max this season has been 89.3.

Going to 11

Anthony Rizzo homered Sunday night to bring his season total to 11. That tied him with THREE OTHER CUBS for the team lead, joining Javier Báez, Willson Contreras & Kris Bryant.

By the way, the most home runs in which four teammates in a season had the same amount (that's a mouthful) is 27. By the 2018 Yankees. Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Didi Gregorius & Miguel Andújar all had exactly 27 home runs. But they didn't tie for the team lead! Giancarlo Stanton had 38.

Anyway, four Cubs have double digit home runs through 44 team games. And do you remember the last time they did that?

You do not. Because it never happened!

In fact, through 44 team games, these are the players with 10+ home runs during the Joe Maddon era:
2019 - 4 (Javier Báez, Willson Contreras, Kris Bryant & Anthony Rizzo)
2018 - 1 (Javier Báez)
2017 - 1 (Kris Bryant)
2016 - 1 (Anthony Rizzo)
2015 - 0

They haven't had two double digit guys through 44 games since 2008 (Derrek Lee & Alfonso Soriano). They haven't had three since 2004 (Sammy Sosa, Aramis Ramírez & Moises Alou). And they have never had four. The Cubs National League lineage dates back to 1876.

And fun sidenote: through 44 games in 1998, the Cubs team leader in home runs was Henry Rodríguez with 9. Sammy Sosa had 8 before finishing the season with 66.

Schwarber's battle

On Friday night in the top of the 8th inning, Kyle Schwarber battled Kyle Barraclough until he finally homered on the 13th pitch of the at-bat. Pitch data is mostly complete to 1988. There are a few plate appearances for which we don't have pitch data. But of the at-bats that we do, it was the longest plate appearance to end with a Cubs home run since Gary Scott's April 20, 1992 grand slam off Kyle Abbott (also 13 pitches)

Bryant homers thrice

Kris Bryant homered three times on Friday. It was the second 3-homer game of Bryant's career.

According to STATS, Bryant was the 12th player in MLB history to homer in three consecutive innings (7th, 8th and 9th); the second (after J.D. Martinez) to homer in the 7th, 8th & 9th.

Bryant is the only Cub besides Sammy Sosa (3rd, 4th & 5th) on August 10, 2002 to homer in three consecutive innings.

He was the first Cub since Dave Kingman (May 17, 1979 - 40 years ago to the day) to homer off three different pitchers in the same game.

He is the second Cub ever to homer three times in a game with none coming off a starting pitcher, joining Adolfo Phillips on June 11, 1967 (Game 2 of doubleheader). In fact, in each of the last ten Cub three-HR games, the batter hit at least two home runs off the starter.

He was the first Cub ever to homer three times in a game in the 7th inning or later, though Dave Kingman on May 14, 1978 homered in the 6th, 9th and 15th inning of a game.

NBC Sports Chicago launches Outside the Ivy, interactive Cubs show by fans

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NBC Sports Chicago

NBC Sports Chicago launches Outside the Ivy, interactive Cubs show by fans

Chicago, IL (May 20, 2019) – Following the launch of its first fan-hosted/fan-interactive postgame program, “Bulls Outsiders,” NBC Sports Chicago – THE Home of the #AuthenticFan – has announced it will debut Outside the Ivy presented by Supercuts, a brand new, half-hour, live, multi-platform, viewer-interactive Cubs postgame show that will provide viewers with the hottest takes and spirited commentary from the fans' perspective. 

Hosted by three, die-hard Cubs enthusiasts – Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami), Danny Rockett (@SonRanto), and Luis Medina (@lcm1986), Outside the Ivy will make its network debut following NBC Sports Chicago’s telecast of the Cubs vs. Philadelphia Phillies game on Wednesday, May 22 (approx. 10:30 PM CT).  The show will air immediately following Cubs Postgame Live presented by BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois on NBC Sports Chicago, via live stream to authenticated NBC Sports Chicago subscribers at NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive, through social media on Facebook Live (Facebook.com/NBCSChicago), and via the new “MyTeams by NBC Sports” app (Fans located anywhere in the U.S. can download MyTeams for free on iOS and Android devices in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store). 

Throughout the season, NBC Sports Chicago’s cross-platform presentation of Outside the Ivy will air immediately following Cubs Postgame Live on nights the network carries a 7:00 PM start time Cubs telecast (approx. 10:30 PM), along with a few select 6:00 PM game time starts, plus – fans can also look forward to additional special editions of Outside the Ivy for the Cubs-White Sox “Crosstown” series, All-Star break, MLB trade deadline, and a season-end recap among others.  

In addition to the lively post-game discussion with the show’s hosts, Outside the Ivy will also emphasize heavy viewer interaction via fan engagement on a number of the network’s social media platforms including Twitter (@NBCSCubs; fans urged to utilize the Twitter hashtag #OutsidetheIvy in their posts) and Facebook Live (Facebook.com/NBCSChicago), which will enable Cubs fans to directly interact with the show’s hosts (and each other) with comments and questions pertaining to that particular evening’s game, the key topics of the night, or anything else they want to discuss from a league-wide MLB perspective. 

In preparation for the hiring of the program’s three primary hosts, NBC Sports Chicago reached out to numerous notable local (and vocal) die-hard Cubs fans who stood out among the vast Cubs social media community. Candidates who responded back with interest were simply asked to shoot a 90-second video on their phone and offer up their take on a recent Cubs topic of interest.  From there, over 30 top candidates were narrowed down to nine, who were then all brought in for in-studio auditions. Following the lengthy on-camera process, Director of Studio Content John Schippman and Multi-Platform Director Michael Allardyce finalized their decision and welcomed Cerami, Rockett, and Medina to the NBC Sports Chicago family.  

Please note the following Outside the Ivy host bios:

Michael Cerami Chicago Cubs blogger for “Bleacher Nation”

Age: 27
Hometown: Schaumburg, IL
Favorite Cubs player of all time: Starlin Castro
Favorite current Cub: Anthony Rizzo 
Favorite Cubs moment: “When Javier Báez stole home in the 2016 NLCS!”

Danny RockettHost of the Son Ranto Podcast, Front man for ‘The Bleacher Bum Band,’ and blogger for SB Nation’s ‘Bleed Cubbie Blue’

Age: 44
Hometown: Arlington Heights, IL                            
Favorite Cubs player of all-time: Andre Dawson
Favorite current Cub: “Javy Báez, but Willson Contreras is a real close second. I love catchers.”
Favorite Cubs moment: “It has to be World Series Game 7, right? I went to that game in Cleveland, just an amazing night on so many levels.”

Luis MedinaCubs blogger for “Bleacher Nation”

Age: 31
Hometown: Chicago, IL                            
Favorite Cubs player of all-time: Sammy Sosa
Favorite current Cub: Javy Báez
Favorite Cubs moment: “World Series Game 5. I was at the game and got to see the Cubs win a World Series game at Wrigley Field.”

PROGRAMING NOTE:  NBC Sports Chicago’s next Cubs telecast takes place TONIGHT as the northsiders host Bryce Harper and the Philadelphia Phillies, featuring the highly-anticipated starting pitching showdown between the Cubs YU DARVISH against former Cubs standout/2015 NL Cy Young award winner JAKE ARRIETA.  Live coverage gets underway with Baseball Night in Chicago at 6:30 PM with game coverage starting at 7:00 PM.  This game will also stream live on NBCSportsChicago.com and on the “MyTeams by NBC Sports” app. 

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