Cubs

LIVE: Wells, Cubs trailing Brewers early on CSN

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LIVE: Wells, Cubs trailing Brewers early on CSN

Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011
Posted: 9:05 a.m.

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(AP) -- The Milwaukee Brewers are trying to get closer to an NL Central title, but they'll need to end some recent struggles at Wrigley Field.

Shaun Marcum has his own rough stretch to overcome.

Marcum will try to avoid losing a third consecutive start for the first time in his career Tuesday night as the Brewers look to regain some momentum in the middle game of their series with the Chicago Cubs.

Milwaukee (90-64) leads the Central by 5 12 games on second-place St. Louis with eight games remaining, giving the club a magic number of four to clinch its first division title since winning the AL East in 1982.

The Brewers failed to reduce their magic number Monday, falling 5-2 to the Cubs (68-86) to lose for the fourth time in their last five games at Wrigley.

"You're still just trying to take it game by game," said Chris Narveson, who started and took the loss in the series opener. "Magic numbers don't mean anything until you clinch."

Marcum (12-7, 3.40 ERA) will make his third attempt at matching his career-best win total from last year with Toronto. He's won just one of his last five starts, losing the last two while surrendering 11 runs and 17 hits, including three homers, in 11 2-3 innings.

The right-hander allowed six runs and two of the homers in five innings of a 6-2 loss to Colorado on Wednesday.

Marcum has never lost three straight starts in his career, but did suffer three consecutive defeats over four outings as a rookie with the Blue Jays in 2006.

He was solid in his only career meeting with the Cubs on July 28, giving up two runs in six innings of a 4-2 home victory.

Ryan Braun is trying to rebound from his 0-for-4 effort Monday. He's a .374 lifetime hitter at Wrigley Field, and is 10 for 24 with two doubles and a homer off Randy Wells, Tuesday's scheduled starter for Chicago.

Braun is making a bid to become the first Brewer to win the NL batting crown, hitting .333 to rank just ahead of New York's Jose Reyes at .331.

The Cubs have won six of eight at home after ending a six-game losing streak to Milwaukee in the opener of this series.

Geovany Soto connected for a pair of two-run homers Monday and finished with three hits and five RBIs Monday. He has three career multi-homer games - all against the Brewers.

Soto's 15 homers and 37 RBIs versus Milwaukee are his highest totals against any opponent.

"I heard about that, but I think it's maybe because we play against them so much," he said. "I got a lot of opportunities against the division."

Starlin Castro singled Monday, increasing his league-leading hit total to 196. The 21-year-old shortstop is trying to become the youngest Cub to reach 200 in a season and the first of any age since Juan Pierre had 204 hits in 2006. Castro is also attempting to reach base safely for a 33rd straight game, which would be the longest such streak for Chicago since Jerome Walton had a 43-game run July 21-Sept. 4, 1989.

Wells (7-4, 4.93) is 5-0 with a 3.57 ERA in his last nine starts, but his last loss was a 4-2 defeat at Milwaukee on July 27, when he allowed four runs over six innings.

The right-hander turned in a subpar outing Thursday, surrendering five runs and seven hits - two homers - in 4 1-3 innings but not getting a decision in the Cubs' 8-6, 11-inning loss at Cincinnati.

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

Cubs bolster pitching staff with minor trade, foreshadow more moves coming

Cubs bolster pitching staff with minor trade, foreshadow more moves coming

The Cubs didn't wait long to make Joe Maddon's words come true.

Roughly 5 hours after Maddon said the Cubs are definitely in the market for more pitching, the front office went out and acquired Jesse Chavez, a journeyman jack-of-all-trades type.

It's a minor move, not in the realm of Zach Britton or any of the other top relievers on the market.

But the Cubs only had to part with pitcher Class-A pitcher Tyler Thomas, their 7th-round draft pick from last summer who was pitching out of the South Bend rotation as a 22-year-old.

Chavez — who turns 35 in a month — brings over a vast array of big-league experience, with 799 innings under his belt. He's made 70 starts, 313 appearances as a reliever and even has 3 saves, including one this season for the Texas Rangers.

Chavez is currently 3-1 with a 3.51 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 50 strikeouts in 56.1 innings. He has a career 4.61 ERA and 1.38 WHIP while pitching for the Pirates, Braves, Royals, Blue Jays, A's, Dodgers, Angels and Rangers before coming to Chicago.

Of his 30 appearances this season, Chavez has worked multiple innings 18 times and can serve as a perfect right-handed swingman in the Cubs bullpen, filling the role previously occupied by Luke Farrell and Eddie Butler earlier in the season.

Chavez had a pretty solid run as a swingman in Oakland from 2013-15, making 47 starts and 50 appearances as a reliever, pitching to a 3.85 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 8.2 K/9 across 360.1 innings.

"Good arm, versatile, could start and relieve," Joe Maddon said Thursday after the trade. "I've watched him. I know he had some great runs with different teams. 

"The word that comes to mind is verstaility. You could either start him or put him in the bullpen and he's very good in both arenas."

It's not a flasy move, but a valuable piece to give the Cubs depth down the stretch.

There's no way the Cubs are done after this one trade with nearly two weeks left until the deadline. There are more moves coming from this front office, right?

"Oh yeah," Maddon said. "I don't think that's gonna be the end of it. They enjoy it too much."

Jason Heyward has become an offensive catalyst

Jason Heyward has become an offensive catalyst

Expecting Jason Heyward to carry a team offensively would be thought as foolish just a few short months ago. But here in the middle of July, Heyward has turned into the offensive firestarter the Cubs have been seemingly missing since Dexter Fowler left. 

Heyward walked away from Thursday night's 9-6 win over the Cardinals tallying three hits, two RBI, two runs scored and his first stolen base of the year, as the 28-year-old outfielder continued to poke holes in the Cardinals defense. 

Twice Heyward was able to slip a ball between the 1st and 2nd basemen that off the bat looked like neither had a chance to make it through the right field side. Later, Heyward would battle through a lengthy at-bat, finally being rewarded with an opposite-field hit that drove in the game-tying run. 

"It just happened," Heyward explained. " [Carlos Martinez] is not going to give you a whole lot to do damage on throughout the game. I was able to get one pitch there and get a guy home." 

Cubs manager Joe Maddon mentioned Heyward and his ability to move the ball around the field and how it's helped him become an effective piece to this Cubs offense. So effective Heyward's batting average crept up to .290 after today's three-hit performance. 

Heyward credits his quick hands as the major tool he's utilized to create so many successful at-bats lately, which has allowed him to take advantage of certain pitches and punch them through for hits.

He's certainly not driving the ball for consistent power, but the approach has put Heyward on pace to match the 160 hit total he amassed with the Cardinals in 2015. 

"I feel like Joe's mindset on moving the ball is putting the ball in play when you got guys on base," said Heyward. "It keeps the line moving, regardless of the result." 

It might be crazy to think that Heyward's incredible turnaround this season might simply be attributed to putting the ball in play. But even just taking a look at Heyward's contact rates shows he's increased his contact on pitches outside the zone by roughly three percent.

Not a massive difference, but if Heyward's hands are truly giving him an edge at the plate, making contact with pitches that may not be a strike but are hittable pitches could explain the increased offense we are seeing now. 

"That's kinda the biggest thing," said Heyward. "The more good swings you take, the more hits you have a chance to get." 

Shooters shoot, and Heyward continues to shoot his shot and keep the Cubs offense chugging along.