Cubs

LIVE: Castro gets 200th as Cubs face Cardinals

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LIVE: Castro gets 200th as Cubs face Cardinals

Friday, Sept. 23, 2011
Posted: 10:34 a.m.

Associated Press

The St. Louis Cardinals wasted a golden opportunity to tighten the NL wild- card race after a ninth-inning collapse by their bullpen.

While the Chicago Cubs have little left to play for, they'd love to end their archrivals' playoff aspirations.

The Cardinals open a key three-game series with the Cubs on Friday night at Busch Stadium.

St. Louis led by four going into the ninth Thursday against New York before relievers Jason Motte, Marc Rzepczynski and Fernando Salas combined to allow six runs in a stunning 8-6 loss.

"We're trying to play our way into the playoffs and this is when you push," manager Tony La Russa said.

St. Louis, which committed two errors in the ninth, lost for the third time in 16 games. The Cardinals (86-70) trail wild card-leading Atlanta by two games with six left.

"Don't make a mistake and say we're heartbroken," La Russa pointed out. "Our heart's beating. We won the series, get ready for (Friday)."

St. Louis has won eight of 12 against Chicago this year and the bullpen has been especially strong in six home meetings, posting a 1.56 ERA while allowing nine hits, walking one and striking out 15 in 17 1-3 innings.

Chris Carpenter (10-9, 3.66 ERA) will try to give the bullpen a break as he looks to end a long winless stretch at home against the Cubs.

The right-hander is 3-3 with a 2.25 ERA in 10 career starts versus Chicago in St. Louis, but he's 0-2 with a 3.07 ERA in his last four such outings dating to Sept. 20, 2009.

Carpenter pitched well enough to beat the Cubs at Busch Stadium on June 5, allowing two runs over nine innings before St. Louis won 3-2 in 10. He was reached for four runs and a career-worst 13 hits - all singles - in seven innings of a 6-4 victory at Wrigley Field on May 10.

The 2005 NL Cy Young Award winner hasn't allowed a run in each of his last two wins. He tossed a four-hitter to defeat Milwaukee 2-0 on Sept. 7 and scattered eight hits over eight innings Sunday in a 5-0 win over Philadelphia.

Slumping Ryan Dempster (10-13, 4.63) will take the ball for the Cubs. The right-hander is 0-5 in his last seven starts.

Dempster has lost each of his last two starts, falling 3-2 to major league-worst Houston on Sunday. He was charged with three runs and seven hits in seven innings.

Dempster is 1-1 with a 7.36 ERA in two starts at Busch Stadium this year.

Lance Berkman is 3 for 6 with two homers when facing Dempster this season, while Albert Pujols is 2 for 5 with a homer.

Pujols reached base safely for the 38th straight game Thursday, leaving him one shy of matching Tampa Bay's Johnny Damon for the longest run in the majors this year. Pujols, the NL home run leader, needs three more to reach 40 for the seventh time in 11 seasons.

Chicago (69-87) won for the fourth time in six games after Wednesday's 7-1 rout of the NL Central-leading Brewers.

Starlin Castro went 2 for 3, leaving him one hit shy of becoming the first Cub with 200 in a season since Juan Pierre in 2006. At just 21, he would also be the youngest of 16 players in franchise history to reach the milestone.

"We're all anxious to see it happen," teammate Carlos Pena told the Cubs' official website. "It's a very impressive feat to accomplish."

The second-year shortstop is 5 for 27 (.185) in six games in St. Louis this season but 7 for 18 (.389) when facing Carpenter.

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

Javy Baez should be the frontrunner for NL MVP heading into the All-Star Break

Javy Baez should be the frontrunner for NL MVP heading into the All-Star Break

If the season ended today, Javy Baez may be your National League MVP.

Of course, the season isn't ending today, only the first half of the 2018 campaign is.

He flashed his skills again over the weekend — scoring the game-winning run Friday, posting a 5-RBI game Saturday and then drove in the Cubs' first run in their 7-4 victory Sunday to close out a sweep of the Padres.

Entering the All-Star Break, Baez should be the frontrunner for Most Valuable Player.

For starters, he's the best player on the best team in the league.

Thanks to a recent hot surge by the Cubs and an ugly weekend for the Brewers (who have lost 6 straight), Baez and Co. will go into the break with the best record in the NL. 

Baez, meanwhile, leads the Cubs in WAR and nearly every offensive category — OPS, slugging percentage, homers, RBI, runs scored, doubles, triples, total bases, stolen bases and hits.

And that's not even saying anything about his glovework at any position on the infield or dynamic baserunning.

He's on pace to become the first Cubs player to drive in 125 runs since Sammy Sosa in 2001.

Baez also is on track for a 30-30 season — something only Sosa accomplished in a Cubs uniform in 1993 and 1995. 

El Mago will enjoy his week in the Home Run Derby and as the NL's starting second baseman in the All-Star Game, but those shouldn't be the end of his accolades this year if he can find a way to keep this pace up in the second half.

What other NL candidate would be a better choice for the MVP right now?

Baez is tied for the league lead in RBI. Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar is just behind Baez with 70 RBI, but he also has 70 fewer at-bats than the Cubs star due to a platoon to begin the year. 

Eugenio Suarez and Scooter Gennett are also having great years, but the Reds are nowhere close to a playoff spot. 

Nolan Arenado, Freddie Freeman and Paul Goldschmidt are also having very good seasons on teams that are currently in the playoff hunt, but how do you deny the best player on the league's best team?

After all, where would the Cubs be without Baez this season? 

Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo have battled through injuries and bouts of ineffectiveness, the pitching staff has had all kinds of consistency/health woes and Willson Contreras has yet to find his power stroke at the plate.

At the very least, "El Mago" has been the most important player on the North Side of Chicago during the first 3.5 months of 2018.

Nico Hoerner makes great catch in first game with South Bend

Nico Hoerner makes great catch in first game with South Bend

Cubs first-round pick Nico Hoerner made his debut with the Class-A South Bend Cubs, and he did not disappoint.

The 23-year old shortstop showed off impressive hops during an acrobatic grab in the topf of the second inning in his first game with the South Bend Cubs. Hoerner will surely be an exciting defensive prospect with ability like this.

As far as offense goes, through four at-bats at South Bend, Hoerner is batting .500, and this comes after he hit .318 with a home run and two RBI through seven games with the Eugene Emeralds, the Cubs Class A short-season affiliate.

Here is to hoping we continue to see big-time plays from Hoerner.