Cubs

LIVE: Cubs, Diamondbacks tied 3-3

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LIVE: Cubs, Diamondbacks tied 3-3

Saturday, April 30, 2011
Posted: 11:35 a.m.
Associated Press

Matt Garza is tied for second in the NL in strikeouts, but he's come up empty in a more important category since switching leagues in the offseason.

Garza takes the mound Saturday still looking for his first win with the Chicago Cubs, who continue their series with the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field.

Chicago's starters have the highest ERA in the majors at 6.24, but Garza (0-3, 4.11 ERA) will follow up an effective outing by Carlos Zambrano, who went six innings in a 4-2 win over the Diamondbacks (11-14) on Friday.

Alfonso Soriano homered twice and Geovany Soto also went deep as the Cubs (11-14) snapped a four-game losing streak.

"This was real good coming off losing four in a row and everything else," manager Mike Quade said. "A real good effort."

Soriano, who also homered in his previous game Tuesday against Colorado, is batting .484 with nine homers and 18 RBIs in his last 10 games against the Diamondbacks.

Garza hopes that success continues, but he'd prefer some improved defense after a sloppy game played a part in his latest loss.

He gave up five runs - four unearned - in six innings of a 5-3 loss to Colorado on Monday. Shortstop Starlin Castro committed three errors in the second, but Garza's errant throw in the fifth allowed the Rockies to score the go-ahead run.

"It is what it is," he told the Cubs' official website. "I accomplished what I wanted to do except throw that ball away in the fifth. I kept the ball in the yard, kept the ball on the ground and pitched effectively - not enough to win, but it's going to come."

Garza, whose 41 strikeouts are tied with Clayton Kershaw for second in the NL behind Tim Lincecum, came over from Tampa Bay during the offseason after winning 15 games in 2010.

The right-hander pitched six scoreless innings April 20 against San Diego, but the Cubs squandered a ninth-inning lead before winning 2-1 in 11 innings. In the two starts before that, he didn't get any run support.

Garza, who has 16 strikeouts in his last two games, has never faced the Diamondbacks.

Arizona pounded Chicago 11-2 in Thursday's series opener, but went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position Friday as it lost for the sixth time in nine games.

Ian Kennedy (3-1, 4.02) will try to help the Diamondbacks bounce back as he goes for a third straight win.

Kennedy threw a three-hitter in a 4-0 victory over Philadelphia on Monday for his first career complete game. He struck out 10 and walked none, going the distance after lasting a combined 8 1-3 innings in his previous two starts.

"To shut our lineup down like that, he was definitely doing something right," Philadelphia's Cliff Lee said. "I wouldn't expect him to go nine innings without giving up a run. That's impressive."

The right-hander split two starts against the Cubs last year, but was roughed up for seven runs in a 9-4 home loss July 5.

Kosuke Fukudome, who is 1 for 9 his last three games, is 3 for 7 against Kennedy with two home runs.

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

A stellar Jon Lester outing gives the Cubs more than just a win

A stellar Jon Lester outing gives the Cubs more than just a win

It's been a tale of two halves for the Cubs veteran Jon Lester, who after a sparkling first half of baseball that saw him win 12 games with a 2.58 ERA, has looked nothing like a 2018 All-Star. Prior to Thursday's start, Lester had posted a 10.32 ERA, allowed 4 or more runs in 4 of his 5 most recent starts, and had yet to win a game in the second of the season. 

The 34-year-old veteran flipped the script Thursday night, throwing 6-shutout innings while striking out 8 Pirate batters in the Cubs 1-0 win in Pittsburgh. Lester surrendered only 5 hits and baffled the Pirates all-night, finally busting out of his slump and giving the Cubs his 2nd quality start since the All-Star break. 

Lester attacked the bottom portion of the strike zone all night with his fastball, which topped out at 93 mph, generating 4 whiffs with his heater. Over the last month, Lester has said he's felt he can't quite execute his "out" pitches, explaining that when he has a hitter set up for a strikeout he hasn't been able to throw the ball effectively in those moments. 

And while Lester walked off the mound after the 6th inning amassing 8 punch outs, the veteran starter never looked like he was trying to strike out batters. He just continued to dot the corners, occasionally raise the eye-level of the batter with an elevated heater, and threw his secondary pitches just enough to keep the Pittsburgh batters uncomfortable at the plate. 

The Cubs offense once again struggled, facing Ivan Nova who has won four his last five starts against the Cubs, but Ian Happ's solo shot in the 4th inning was enough run support for Lester to push the Cubs to 20 games over .500. But the biggest takeaway from Thursday night's win isn't that the Cubs came out on top, it's that Jon Lester returning to form gives this Chicago rotation something they've lacked seemingly this entire season. 

Stability at the front of the rotation. 

With Cole Hamels impressive three starts in a Cub uniform and Kyle Hendricks finally figuring out his issues on the mound, if Jon Lester can replicate Thursday's performance throughout the rest of the season, the Cubs rotation may finally turn into the strength many thought it could be before the season started. At the very least, Lester showed that whatever he's been working through over the last month of baseball is fixable. 

It's only one start in a string of poor outings for Lester, and while The Athletic's Sahadev Sharma did find some positives in his starts prior to Thursday's big win, Lester will have to show he can maintain this level of pitching through the remainder of this season. But I think our own Tony Andracki put it best tonight on Twitter. 

With the Cubs pitchers finally starting to perform to their expected level, and the return of Yu Darvish looking closer each day, it could be the Cubs starting pitching that carries through the rest of the season. 

Joe Maddon speaks out on Wednesday night's Marlins-Braves brawl

Joe Maddon speaks out on Wednesday night's Marlins-Braves brawl

Much has been made about Wednesday night's brawl between the Marlins and Braves, which started when Braves young star Ronald Acuna was nailed in the elbow with a 99 mph fastball from Jose Urena. The strangest part of the whole situation was that it seemed like Urena was unprovoked by Acuna or any of the Braves players prior to plunking the former No. 1 prospect in all of baseball.  

The ever wise Cubs skipper Joe Maddon was asked about the incident prior to Thursday's game, making it clear he felt plays like these needed to leave the game entirely. 

It was announced Thursday afternoon that Urena would be suspended just 6 games for intentionally throwing Acuna, which means the Marlins starter will likely only miss one game for trying to hurt Acuna. The good news is that Acuna did not sustain any serious injuries, but Joe Maddon is right there is no reason for people to be hurling nearly triple-digit fastballs at players. Whether provoked or not, intentionally throwing at players is something that needs to be phased out of the game, and its safe to assume Maddon would agree.