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.

On a mistake-filled afternoon, Javier Baez does what he does best and saves the Cubs

On a mistake-filled afternoon, Javier Baez does what he does best and saves the Cubs

Consider the Cubs’ starting middle infield in Saturday’s 6-5 win over the San Diego Padres to be comprised of two extremes. 

On one end of the spectrum was Addison Russell, who started at second base. Russell was doubled off second base on an Albert Almora line drive in the second inning — a ball hit hard enough where, had it fell in for a hit, he wouldn’t have scored. There was no spinning Russell drifting far enough off second base to be doubled up; it was simply bad baserunning. 

Russell, too, was thrown out at home on an Almora ground ball in the fourth inning. He appeared to lose a pop fly in the sun, too, which fell in for a double in the third inning. 

Manager Joe Maddon was willing to excuse the pop-up double — “The sun ball, there’s nothing you could do about that,” he said — but sounded frustrated with Russell’s far-too-frequent baserunning gaffes. 

“He’s gotta straighten some things out,” Maddon said. “He has to. There’s no question. I’m not going to stand here — he’s got to, we’ve talked about his baserunning in the past. 

“… The baserunning, there’s some things there — we’re making too many outs on the bases and we’re missing things on the bases that we can’t to be an elite team.”

Russell’s mistakes were part of a larger sloppy showing by both teams. As Cubs reliever Brandon Kintzler put it: “No lead was safe. It was really just who was going to survive and not make so many mistakes.”

Javier Baez ensured the Cubs would survive by not merely avoiding mistakes, but by coming up with two massive plays. 

Baez’s three-run home run in the fourth inning gave the Cubs’ the lead for good, and he fell a triple short of the cycle. He’s homered in consecutive games, and Maddon senses the 26-year-old is emerging from a slump that dropped his OPS to .853 after Wednesday’s game, his lowest mark since the small-sample-size landscape of mid-April. 

But it was Baez’s masterful tag in the bottom of the ninth inning that captured most of the attention around Wrigley Field, reminding everyone in the dugouts and stands just how incredible “El Mago” can be. 

Craig Kimbrel walked Wil Myers to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning, and after budding superstar Fernando Tatis Jr. inexplicably bunted (he popped out), Myers took off to steal second base. Kimbrel sailed a fastball high and inside, and Victor Caratini’s throw was well to the left of second base. Myers appeared to have the base stolen until Baez gloved the ball and rapidly snapped a tag onto Myers’ left leg:

”We needed a play made, and he made it,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “It’s what he does.”

Baez’s home run increased the Cubs’ win expectancy by 35.7 percent; his tag on Myers upped it that mark from 83.3 percent to 96.5 percent. This is why the Cubs’ mantra, even when Baez is in a lull, is to let Javy be Javy. 

One player can’t carry a team forever — Baez had his best season as a pro in 2018, only to see the Cubs crash out of the Wild Card game, of course. But it’s hard to not think about the kind of plays Baez can conjure up when the Cubs need them the most in 2019’s playoff race. 

After all, stuff like that tag on Myers — the Cubs have come to expect that from Baez. 

“You saw a lot of plays today, they weren’t baseball plays,” Maddon said. “The game is clamoring for baseball players who know how to play this game, and he’s one. He is one. He’s got the biggest hard drive, the most RAM, he’s got everything going on every day. 

“He sees things, he’s got great vision. Technically, he’s a tremendous baseball player. He’s going to make some mistakes, like everyone else does, but what he sees and sees in advance — it’s like the best running back, it’s the best point guard you’ve ever seen. It’s all of that. As a shortstop, that’s what he is.

“… We needed him to be that guy today and he was. And again, it’s not overtly surprising.” 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Dare we ask... are the Cubs back?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Dare we ask... are the Cubs back?

Rick Telander, Ben Finfer and Seth Gruen join Kap on the panel.

0:00 - The Cubs beat the Padres from their 6th win in their 7 games since the All-Star Break. Are they really this good or are they just feasting on sub-.500 teams?

7:00 - The White Sox have lost seven straight after the break. Should fans be furious with the slump or still optimistic about the future?

13:00 - The Bears report to Bourbonnais in 6 days. Will the 2019 season be a failure if they do not make it to the Super Bowl?

19:00 - Kap gives out his play of the night in the FanDuel Friday Faves.

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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