Cubs

LIVE: Johnson throws out run at the plate

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LIVE: Johnson throws out run at the plate

Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011
Posted: 10:22 a.m.

Associated Press

Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto hardly looked like a pitcher in line to win an ERA title the last time he took the ball.

He didn't look like one in his last start against the Chicago Cubs, either.

Cueto tries to bounce back from a rough outing and exact some revenge against a Cubs team that gave him trouble a month ago when he takes the mound for the Reds in Wednesday night's series finale at Wrigley Field.

After dropping Monday's opener 4-3, Cincinnati (70-72) withstood a late rally from the Cubs to win 4-2 in 13 innings on Tuesday. The Reds looked like they were going to cruise to a 2-0 victory with Mike Leake one out away from throwing a one-hitter, but Starlin Castro hit a two-out infield single in the ninth and pinch hitter Bryan La Hair followed with a game-tying home run.

Four innings later, Cincinnati finally earned its third victory in five games after Joey Votto's second RBI double of the game.

The Reds have been tough to beat with Cueto (9-5, 2.29 ERA) on the mound, winning nine of his last 11 starts. They won for the fifth straight time with him on the mound Friday, although the major league ERA leader wasn't particularly sharp.

Cueto allowed five runs and eight hits in five innings and didn't get the decision in an 11-8 victory over St. Louis.

"Johnny didn't have his normal good stuff," manager Dusty Baker told the Reds' official website. "He was centering some balls over the heart of the plate."

The right-hander, who had a 2.00 ERA in his previous four starts, endured his worst outing since permitting five runs, seven hits, three walks and hitting two batters in 3 2-3 innings of an 11-4 loss to the Cubs on Aug. 6.

Cueto, who opened the year on the disabled list with right biceps irritation, fared much better at Wrigley in his season debut May 8, yielding five hits in six innings of a 2-0 victory.

The Cubs (61-81), losers of 11 of 16, counter with Ryan Dempster (10-11, 4.75), who is 0-3 with a 6.06 ERA in his last three starts after going 3-0 with a 2.77 ERA in his previous four.

One of those victories came over the Reds at Wrigley on Aug. 5, when Dempster gave up two runs, four hits and a season-high tying six walks in six innings of a 4-3 win. The right-hander is 2-1 with a 2.37 ERA against Cincinnati this season, yielding two runs or fewer in all three outings. He is also 2-2 with a 2.39 ERA in his last four starts in the series in Chicago.

Dempster didn't pitch badly against Pittsburgh on Friday, allowing three runs and seven hits while striking out nine and throwing a season-high 121 pitches in 6 1-3 innings, but wound up on the wrong end of a 3-1 score. It marked the seventh time in Dempster's last eight starts that he gave up three runs or fewer.

Dempster has done a good job keeping Votto in check, limiting him to a .174 average with two homers and seven strikeouts in 23 career at-bats.

Castro, who is batting .306 during an eight-game hitting streak, has had even less success against Cueto, going 1 for 11.
Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Jose Quintana saved the Cubs pitching staff...for now, at least

Jose Quintana saved the Cubs pitching staff...for now, at least

The Cubs showed up to the ballpark Sunday morning knowing they were going to have to get creative with their pitching staff.

Sure, they just had the All-Star Break, but they kicked the season's second half off by jamming the pedal to the metal with a hard-fought 5-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals in a four-day span. 

Despite another quality start out of Mike Montgomery and trading for Jesse Chavez, the Cubs simply had too many innings to cover in Saturday's doubleheader.

They entered Sunday with Steve Cishek, Pedro Strop and Justin Wilson all unavailable, closer Brandon Morrow on the disabled list and hoping they didn't have to use long man Luke Farrell out of the bullpen so he could start Monday night's game.

That left some combination of Chavez (who had already worked 2 innings in his Cubs debut Saturday), Randy Rosario, Brian Duensing and Carl Edwards Jr. as the guys available out of the bullpen.

And that's even with 3 different position players pitching during Friday's blowout loss to help save the bullpen.

"Sometimes, you just gotta regroup and you have to try to do it in other ways to make sure that these guys are gonna be well for the rest of the season," Maddon said.

Enter Jose Quintana.

Quintana wasn't masterful — he allowed 10 baserunners in 7 innings, though a pair of those were intentional walks — but he still managed to eat up a bunch of outs and pick up his 9th win of the season. The 121 pitches he threw tied a career high and was the first time he topped the century mark since May 19.

It allowed the Cubs to only have to rely on Chavez (who threw another perfect inning) and Rosario, leaving Edwards to get some rest and Farrell to be set for Monday's start.

The Cubs are currently in a tough stretch where they play 12 games in 11 days against playoff-hopeful teams (Cardinals, Diamondbacks). They don't have another off-day until next Monday and have only four off-days between now and Sept. 13 as they'll play 53 games in that 56-day stretch.

As creative as they had to get this weekend against St. Louis, the Cubs will still have plenty of hurdles to cross to ensure their pitching staff is healthy and fresh come October.

Matt Carpenter giving the Cubs Daniel Murphy PTSD

Matt Carpenter giving the Cubs Daniel Murphy PTSD

Say the name Daniel Murphy around Cubs fans (who have been around since before they won the 2016 World Series) and expect a dirty look or shade of some sort.

What Murphy did to the Cubs in the 2015 National League Championship Series still haunts the fanbase, even if they did end the championship drought the following fall.

Now, the Cubs are seeing it again and their PTSD is in overdrive.

St. Louis infielder Matt Carpenter has been on an unreal tear of late, setting Cardinals franchise records in the process.

Throughout this five-game series at Wrigley Field, Carpenter is 9-for-16 with 6 homers, 10 RBI, 8 runs scored, 3 walks, a pair of doubles and a bunt single to lead off Sunday's game against the Cubs' shift.

"We're seeing this guy probably at his best moment in his life as a baseball player," Joe Maddon said. "My god. We saw it a couple years ago in the playoffs. We're seeing it all over again.

"Similar kind of a swing, not missing anything. It's pretty impressive."

In that 2015 NLCS, Murphy — then with the New York Mets — homered in all 4 games while hitting .529 with a 1.850 OPS, driving in 6 and scoring 6. 

To put that in perspective: The Cubs scored only 8 runs as a team in the 4 games.

Maddon and the Cubs don't know what to do to get Carpenter out right now, so they've resorted to walking him whenever possible, like in the second inning Sunday when they just dealt out a free pass to the Cardinals infielder with runners on second and third and two outs.

They also tried out a funky shift in the seventh inning Sunday, with Kris Bryant as a fourth outfielder in left-center, Addison Russell as the only defender on the left side of the infield and Javy Baez playing on the grass in shallow right field. It worked, as Carpenter grounded it to Baez for a routine out.

Beyond that, all the Cubs can do is hope time eventually wears Carpenter down. After all, nobody can stay this hot forever.

Even though Carpenter and the Cardinals are leaving town after Sunday's game, these two team square off against each other again next weekend for the final series in St. Louis.

"For them, it's a blast to watch," Maddon said. "Give the guy credit. What he's working right now is unique. The last time I saw it was Daniel Murphy. 

"Before that, I think, was Barry Bonds in the World Series in 2002. Playoffs with Murphy a couple years ago, where the guy — every pitch that is thrown — he's on time, he's on balance with a forceful swing that looks like the ball can go out of the ballpark every time. Bonds, Murphy and now him."

That's some serious company to be in.

So what's led to this insane stretch from Carpenter?

Maybe it's the salsa.

When told about that theory, Maddon laughed and said:

"Listen, that makes total sense to me. Can he send a jar over here, please?"