Cubs

LIVE: Cubs trail Dodgers 7-2 in seventh inning

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LIVE: Cubs trail Dodgers 7-2 in seventh inning

Sunday, April 24, 2011
Posted: 10:37 a.m.
Associated Press

The Los Angeles Dodgers have put together two of their best offensive showings of the season in their first two games against the Chicago Cubs.

Coming up with another strong performance could be tough.

In Sunday's series finale, the Dodgers will try to better Chicago's Carlos Zambrano, who is coming off a stellar outing and has been outstanding lately at home.

After pounding out a season-best 14 hits and scoring its most runs this year in Friday's 12-2 win over the Cubs, Los Angeles (11-11) again had little trouble generating offense Saturday.

Casey Blake, Matt Kemp and Rod Barajas homered, and Andre Ethier extended his major league-leading hitting streak to 20 games with a two-run double in the Dodgers' 10-8 loss.

Ethier is batting .408 (31 for 76) with two homers and 12 RBIs during his career-best hitting streak.

"He's been good, there's no doubt about it," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.

Los Angeles seemed poised to win for the sixth time in seven games Saturday after scoring seven unanswered runs to take an 8-5 lead, but Chicago responded with a five-run eighth. Jeff Baker hit a tiebreaking two-run double for the Cubs (10-10), who had combined for nine runs in their previous four games combined.

The top three hitters in Chicago's order led the surge, as Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney and Marlon Byrd combined for nine hits, six RBIs and four runs.

"We never lost confidence that we could come back," Castro said through a translator. "The way we play right now, everybody was aggressive and everybody had confidence."

Zambrano (2-0, 4.21 ERA) is also feeling especially confident following a brilliant performance.

In Monday's 1-0, 10-inning win over San Diego, Zambrano allowed three hits and struck out 10 in eight innings. The right-hander retired the last 13 batters he faced.

"You watch the way Z's throwing and you feel like one run is going to win this game," manager Mike Quade told the Cubs' official website. "If you get two, it's like a 2-0 lead in soccer."

Although Zambrano didn't earn the win, the three-time All-Star is 3-0 with a 1.39 ERA in his last seven starts at Wrigley Field.

Zambrano is 2-3 with a 3.40 ERA in eight career regular-season starts against the Dodgers, yielding two runs or fewer six times. In his last start against Los Angeles in Game 2 of the 2008 NL division series, Zambrano permitted seven runs - three earned - in 6 1-3 innings of a 10-3 loss.

Dodgers scheduled starter Hiroki Kuroda (2-2, 3.33) also hasn't faced the Cubs since 2008 playoffs.

Kuroda went 1-1 with a 0.59 ERA in two starts against the Cubs in the 2008 regular season and threw 6 1-3 shutout innings to beat them in Game 3 of the NLDS in sweeping the series.

Kuroda was saddled with the loss in Tuesday's 10-1 defeat to Atlanta but wasn't much of a factor in the final score, as the Braves scored eight runs in the ninth inning.

The right-hander threw five shutout innings before serving up solo homers in the sixth and seventh. He exited after giving up five hits in 6 1-3 innings.

Although Kuroda pitched well for the most part, there were some concerns. He seemed to labor a bit, throwing 101 pitches, and walked three. He had only issued two walks over 20 2-3 innings in his first three starts.

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

Sports Talk Live Podcast: David Ross joins SportsTalk Live to discuss plans for his first season

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: David Ross joins SportsTalk Live to discuss plans for his first season

SportsTalk Live is on location in San Diego for Day 2 of the Winter Meeting.

0:00 - New Cubs manager David Ross joins Kap and Tony Andracki to talk about getting ready for his first season as a big league skipper and how he'll handle his former teammates.

10:00 - Rick Renteria joins Kap and Chuck Garfien to talk about the White Sox' big offseason plans. Plus he discusses how he might handle his lineup, Yasmani Grandal's impact and how this Sox team compares to the 2014 Cubs that he managed.

20:00 - Dave Wannstedt joins Kap to preview the Bears/Packers game Sunday at Lambeau.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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Cubs still trying to break through on extension talks with current players

Cubs still trying to break through on extension talks with current players

SAN DIEGO — While the rest of the baseball world is occupying their time with free agent signings and trades, the Cubs have been waiting for their number to be called.

They've been trying to nail down extensions with key players that are only a couple years away from free agency, though nothing appears imminent on that front. 

Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber are all free agents after the 2021 season, leaving the Cubs two years to work out a deal or trade the player before losing them for nothing but a compensation pick. Willson Contreras is a free agent after 2022. Theo Epstein's front office reached a four-year, $55.5 million deal with Kyle Hendricks in spring training, extending his team control through the 2023 season.

The Cubs won't comment specifically on the current extension talks, but they'd ideally hope to wrap anything before spring training this year, so the players can focus solely on baseball by then.

"We always take the position of not commenting on extensions, but are we having those discussions? Yes," Jed Hoyer said Tuesday. "People focus so much on trades and free agent signings at these meetings, but all the agents are under the same roofs, also, and allows us to have those kinds of discussions. I'm not gonna specify who or what, but yeah certainly those conversations are ongoing."

Bryant has long been thought of as the toughest of the group to lock up long-term given that his agent, Scott Boras, typically advises clients to hit the open market and maximize their value. Boras reiterated Tuesday afternoon at the Winter Meetings he and Bryant are still open to extension talks with the Cubs.

Baez and Rizzo loom as the two most likely to extend their Wrigley Field stays, with the two emerging as the faces of the franchise in their own ways.

As the Cubs try to navigate an offseason where they're "serving two masters" (trying to compete in 2020-21 while also enhancing the long-term future of the franchise), a potential extension would check both boxes in a major way. If Hoyer and Theo Epstein knew Baez would be locking down shortstop and the middle of the lineup for the next six seasons, they could breathe a bit easier thinking about the big picture and long-term health of the franchise. 

At the same time, they can't operate as if anything is a certainty. Bryant could decide he likes the Cubs' offer and make Chicago his baseball home forever. Baez could conclude the opposite. 

It's what makes this particular offseason so tricky for the Cubs.

"We have to be able to have parallel tracks in our mind," Hoyer said. "We have to be able to do multiple things at once. It doesn't make it more difficult. We have a lot of really good players. We've had them for a long time. When we talk to these players about contracts, there's no player that we talk to that we haven't had a conversation with at some point before about a contract. 

"We've talked about these players for five years in some way, shape or form. When we sit down with these players, we're not covering a ton of new ground. We've already been over a lot of it. I think we're able to have parallel tracks."