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.”

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 31st homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 31st homer 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.

Sosa's 18th homer of June and 31st of the season came off the Tigers in the Cubs' brief 2-game Interleague series in Detroit. 

Sosa connected in the first inning off Tigers starter Seth Greisinger, going back-to-back with Mickey Morandini. 

The Cubs wound up getting out to a 5-0 start in the game but still lost 7-6 on a Gabe Alvarez single in the bottom of the 11th.

The aforementioned Morandini homer was only the 3rd of the season for the Cubs second baseman. He finished with 8 homers on the year and 224 total bases on 172 hits in what was a very good offensive season. Yet it paled in comparison to Sosa, who had nearly 200 more total bases (416) and a slugging percentage nearly 200 points above Morandini's (.647 to .471), a testament to how truly incredible Sosa's season was.

Fun fact: Tony Clark was the Tigers' cleanup hitter that day. Clark is now the head of the MLB Players Union.

Fun fact No. 2: Paul Bako was the Detroit catcher in the game. He later became the Cubs backup catcher in 2003 and 2004, when he posted a .611 OPS in 119 games over the two years.

Maddon gets funky with bullpen, calls catcher Chris Gimenez to mound

maddonmadman.jpg
USA TODAY

Maddon gets funky with bullpen, calls catcher Chris Gimenez to mound

The Cubs continued their recent struggles, suffering their third straight loss to the Cincinnati Reds. 

But the game was not without its fair share of drama. The matchup was a back-and-forth affair, up until the Reds blew the game wide-open in the bottom of the third inning. This included a grand slam by Reds pitcher Anthony DeSclafani, the first home run of his career.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon turned to the bullpen following Cincinnati's third inning explosion, and things did not get much better from there.

With the Cubs down six runs in the bottom of the eight inning, Maddon brought in catcher Chris Gimenez to pitch. 

This was not new territory for Gimenez, who despite being a catcher, now has 10 MLB pitching appearances to his name. 

Down six runs, Gimenez didn't have a lot to lose. But Reds first basemen Joey Votto hammered a fastball in the zone for his eighth homer of the year.

Gimenez had a career ERA of 8.00 before Saturday's appearance, and he certainly didn't do much to help lower that figure.

According to ESPN's Jesse Rogers: "Including one today, Cubs relievers have allowed 41.1 percent of inherited runners to score in June, sixth most in the NL." 

A tired bullpen is certainly cause for concern for the Cubs, who are locked into a battle in the NL Central with the Brewers and Cardinals. Maddon was surely hoping to keep his bullpen arms fresh with the move, seeing as the game was already out of reach. 

So yes, the game did end in a 11-2 win for the Reds. But with a grand-slam by a pitcher—on his first career HR no less—and four-seam fastballs from a catcher, Cubs baseball always keep things interesting.