Cubs

LIVE: Castro is 2-for-2, one hit shy of 200

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LIVE: Castro is 2-for-2, one hit shy of 200

Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011
Posted: 10:26 a.m.

Associated Press

Some solid play over the last nine days has helped the Milwaukee Brewers inch closer to their first division title since 1982.

The Brewers look to conclude their final road trip of the season with a second straight win over the rival Cubs on Wednesday.

After its three-game winning streak was snapped with a 5-2 loss in Monday's series opener, Milwaukee (91-64) scored four times in the third inning Tuesday en route to a 5-1 victory. The Brewers, who have won six of eight since a five-game skid, dropped their magic number for winning the NL Central to three. Since Wednesday is their final road game, they will clinch their first division title since 1982 at home barring a collapse.

"I think everybody is excited," said Shaun Marcum, who pitched eight solid innings Tuesday to earn the win. "We're not looking ahead to see when everything can happen. Just looking to go out (Wednesday) and try to get another win."

Rickie Weeks drove in two runs as Milwaukee reached 91 wins for the first time since 1992, when the club went 92-70 but missed the postseason. Corey Hart, who added an RBI on Tuesday, is 9 for 19 with five RBIs in his last five games versus Chicago.

The Brewers hope Randy Wolf (13-9, 3.45 ERA) can continue his recent success both overall and against the Cubs (68-87). The left-hander matched his win total from last season when he allowed three runs and struck out seven in seven innings of a 6-3 victory at Cincinnati on Friday, improving to 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA in his last three starts.

Wolf has allowed just three runs over 19 2-3 innings while going 1-1 in three outings versus the Cubs this season. He gave up six hits and fanned seven over seven scoreless innings of a 1-0 loss at Wrigley Field on June 13.

He might not have to face Chicago third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who is day to day after leaving Tuesday's contest with a mild strain in his right quad.

Shortstop Starlin Castro, 5 for 15 with a home run against Wolf, homered Tuesday and is three hits shy of 200. The All-Star has reached base in 33 straight games, the longest such streak by a Cubs shortstop since Woody English in 1929. Castro's 336 career hits surpassed Glenn Beckert's franchise record for a player since 1900 in his first two seasons.

Scheduled Chicago starter Matt Garza (8-10, 3.51) has allowed 10 runs in 11 2-3 innings while splitting his two starts versus Milwaukee this year. The right-hander gave up five runs and two homers in six innings of a 12-7 victory over the Brewers at Wrigley Field on June 16.

Garza has pitched better recently, going 2-0 with a 2.67 ERA in four starts since losing to Atlanta on Aug. 25. He allowed three runs on a pair of Carlos Lee homers - including a two-run shot to tie the game in the ninth - and threw a career-high 124 pitches Friday in the Cubs' 4-3, 12-inning win over Houston.

"I want to finish strong, finish healthy and finish on a good note," Garza told the Cubs' official website.

Milwaukee sluggers Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder are a combined 6 for 11 with four doubles off Garza.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Cubs name minor league player and pitcher of the year

Cubs name minor league player and pitcher of the year

The Cubs farm system, while not loaded with Kris Bryants, Kyle Schwarbers, and Javier Baez' anymore, still has plenty of talent. And among that talent, the Cubs recognized two players as people who stood out the most in their minor league system this season in Jared Young and Matt Swarmer. 

Jared Young, a 23-year-old infielder, won the Cubs Minor League Player of the Month back in June with Single-A South Bend, batting .313/.368/.525 with 10 home runs and 53 RBI. He was promoted on July 7th to Single-A Myrtle Beach where he continued to mash, slashing .282/.341/.431 with 6 home runs and 23 RBI in 51 games, as Young took massive steps of improvement from his first season of professional baseball.

The former 2017 15th round pick struggled some in his first season in the Cubs system, only mustering a single home run and a .257 batting average that left something to be desired. But after his strong 2018 season, Young is on his way to making a big league impact in the near future, finishing the year batting .300 with 16 combined home runs between South Bend and Myrtle Beach.

The Cubs minor pitcher of the year, Matt Swarmer had an encouraging 2018 season that saw him successfully make the jump to Double-A Tennessee. The 24-year-old Swarmer started the season in Myrtle Beach where he posted a 2.28 ERA, with a 10.3 K/9,  and an incredible 1.2 BB/9 in 9 starts for the Pelicans - which earned him a mid-season All-Star spot. Swarmer was called up to Tennessee on June 5th where he would finish the season with a 3.84 ERA, 808 K/9, and another impressively low walk rate at 1.6 BB/9. 

Swarmer struck out an impressive 135 batters while only walking 21 combined between Myrtle Beach and Tennessee this season. He also won the Cubs Minor League Player of the Month award in April, when he posted a 1.74 ERA with 21 strikeouts and only 3 three walks in his 4 starts that month. 

Young and Swarmer will be honored during an on-field ceremony prior to the Cubs 7:05 p.m. CT game Thursday, September 27, against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field.

Cubs offense appears to be heating up at the right time

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USA TODAY

Cubs offense appears to be heating up at the right time

The Cubs are nearing the end of a brutal stretch where they have reported to the ball park 30 days in a row. Naturally, as that stretch is nearing its end, the offense seems to be catching fire. 

After scoring just 15 runs in their previous seven games, the Cubs have scored a combined 14 runs in two games on 21 hits. They scored nine runs on Tuesday alone, beating the Diamondbacks 9-1 in Arizona.

Scoring nine runs in one game is a great sign, but the fact that the entire starting lineup is contributing is an even better one. Every player in Tuesday's starting lineup got at least one hit, minus starting pitcher Mike Montgomery. 

Daniel Murphy entered Tuesday hitting .191 in September that included a 3-for-26 stretch dating back to Sept. 8. Tuesday, he went 2-for-3 with a leadoff single and a two-run home run.

Javier Báez was in an 8-for-30 "slump" entering Tuesday that dated back to Sept. 8. He hit a two-run home run in the first inning, his second home run in as many days. Kris Bryant hit safely for the third straight game, while Ian Happ hit an RBI double from the ninth spot in the batting order.

Baby steps, people.

Jason Heyward made his first start since Aug. 30 on Tuesday, hitting a double and scoring on an RBI double by Happ. While Heyward exited after two at-bats, it was likely to not push him too hard as he comes back from a hamstring injury.

Heyward's return is important due to his defense, but also because of his .276 batting average and respectable .743 OPS. Adding him to the lineup, no matter where he hits, is only a good thing for the Cubs' offense. 

Willson Contreras is just 1-for-9 this series, but he has been driving the ball with authority. After posting a 19.6 percent hard contact rate in August (his lowest over an entire month all season), he has posted a 32 percent hard contact rate this month (entering Tuesday's game), according to Fangraphs.

With 11 games to go, the Cubs now hold a 3.5 game lead over the Brewers for first place in the NL Central. Their magic number to win the division dropped to 8 following Tuesday's win and the Brewers 3-1 loss to the Reds.

Talks of fatigue have surrounded the Cubs recently due to their current 30-day stretch without a day off. The fact that the offense has scored as much as it has this series is quite ironic; perhaps the team sees the light at the end of the tunnel? 

Fatigue or not, the Cubs have to like they way the offense is trending as the regular season comes to a close.