Cubs

Managing just fine, but Reds overpower Cubs

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Managing just fine, but Reds overpower Cubs

Friday, Aug. 27, 2010
10:10 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

CINCINNATI Joey Votto is on the cover of Sports Illustrated and chasing the Triple Crown. Dusty Baker has been offered a contract extension, but might want to wait for a more lucrative offer, if not a better job in a bigger market.

Lou Piniella will celebrate his 67th birthday on Saturday, out of uniform and away from a big-league stadium. Cincinnati reporters wont be able to ask him how great that 1990 Reds team was 20 years ago.

This city can worry about locking up Votto arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter and Baker at a later date. Right now, a franchise that has made the playoffs just once since Piniella led it to a World Series title is enjoying the thrill of a pennant race.

It sounded like a Springsteen concert on Friday night at Great American Ball Park, with a crowd of 36,219 chanting Bruuuuuuuuuuce!

The fans were saluting Jay Bruce, who launched three home runs and powered the Reds to a 7-1 victory over the Cubs, beginning a three-game series that shows just how far the gap has widened between these two teams.

The Cubs (54-75) now trail the first-place Reds (74-54) by 20.5 games in the National League Central, a division they dominated only two years ago.

On Thursday, general manager Jim Hendry interviewed Eric Wedge, who managed the Cleveland Indians to within one victory of the 2007 World Series before being fired nearly two years later.

The next night marked the first loss of the Mike Quade era. The Cubs manager for the next 33 games at least said he has no problem with Hendry meeting other candidates.

Quade felt Hendry was upfront with him on Saturday night, when he was informed that he would be promoted from third-base coach. This is how an extensive search process is going to work.

We covered everything and Im actually surprised that I remember most of it, because I was buckled, Quade said. Look, hes going to interview people. This is going to give him time to do that and not have some crush at the end of the season. (He) knows Im good with it.

And why wouldnt you (do more interviews)? Theres a lot of good baseball people out there. (Its) not a distraction at all. I get it.

Amid all these changes, Quade has found it to be most relaxing once the game begins 7:10 p.m. local time and the Cubs swept the Washington Nationals this week with the strength of their starting pitching.

Tom Gorzelanny who had thrown 240 pitches combined in his previous two starts watched as Bruce drilled a hanging slider and a fastball that stayed right in the middle of the plate.

Bruce and Chris Valaika hit back-to-back homers in the fifth inning that together traveled an estimated 801 feet, suddenly turning a 2-1 game into a 6-1 blowout. Gorzelanny surrendered six runs and snapped his streak of throwing at least six innings in eight consecutive starts.

Nothing was working, Gorzelanny said. Ive been focused on trying to keep the ball down and just get guys to ground out. Ive been fortunate enough to not give up too many long balls (this season.) You run out of luck real easy pitching in a park like this, facing a lineup like this.

Its not as if Quade was going to finish the year undefeated. And the front office clearly respects his teaching background after managing 17 seasons in the minor leagues. But he doesnt want to think about the alternative, like if the organization will find a spot for him even if someone else is managing the 2011 Cubs.

I love Chicago Id love to be here, Quade said. (Ill) do this audition (and) then (well) see where we go from there. For me to think, Well, if I dont get it, Ill do this Thats not how Im geared.

Right now Im going to do the best job I can here and see what happens. And if the scenario doesnt involve me here running this club, then you take a look at other scenarios. Just let me get through these five weeks.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

It might have been just another dinger in homer-happy All-Star Game, but Willson Contreras will remember it forever

It might have been just another dinger in homer-happy All-Star Game, but Willson Contreras will remember it forever

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Willson Contreras’ third-inning home run might not have ended up standing out too much in an All-Star Game featuring a jaw-dropping and record-shattering 10 dingers.

But, obviously, it will always stand out to the guy who hit it.

“I enjoyed every single second that I spent out there.”

Remarkably, Contreras repeated his feat from two seasons ago, when he hit his first big league homer on the first big league pitch he ever saw. Ditto on Tuesday night at Nationals Park, when he launched the first pitch he saw as an All Star out over the wall in left field.

“When I hit the ball and thought it was gone, I went back to 2016, playing in Chicago. It was the same thing, first pitch for a homer,” Contreras, all smiles, said following the American League’s 8-6 victory. “I’m really blessed with these kinds of situations. Those moments, they’re going to be history and they’re going to be in my mind and my heart.”

Contreras’ long ball was the highlight of the evening for fans watching back home in Chicago. Javy Baez got a hit in his first All-Star at-bat but was outdone by his teammate. White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu was hitless in his two trips to the plate.

And while it will be a highlight on this night for Cubs fans, it will be a highlight forever for Contreras, who enjoyed the heck out of his first All-Star experience.

“‘I did it, I did it,’” he said when asked what was going through his head. “I knew it was something special. And I wasn’t trying to do too much because these guys are nasty, throwing 98 in the first inning. I just tried to get the hit out.”

The nasty guy he went deep against was Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Blake Snell, whose 2.27 ERA on the season made him a very worthy inclusion on the AL roster. But Contreras was more impressed with the guy who started the game for the National League, raving about Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer after the game.

“He was great, man. Great stuff, he gets so into the game,” Contreras said. “I would like to have him one day on my team or play with him for a few years. That guy is amazing.”

That’s not the current Nationals star Cubs fans are dreaming about, Willy, but point taken.

But it wasn’t Snell or Scherzer or even Baez or Jon Lester, also in the NL dugout, who Contreras was thinking about the most during his home run trot. Instead, Contreras was thinking about his grandfather, Ernesto, who passed away a few years ago.

“My grandpa, he died in 2015,” Contreras said. “I grew up with him.

“He didn’t play ball. But I feel like every time I go out there and step into the box, he’s at my back. It just feels amazing when you hit a homer or do something special, look at the sky and you know that he’s there smiling somewhere.”

It all made for a pretty incredible night for Contreras, who has officially and loudly taken his place among baseball’s best on the game’s biggest stage.

The only thing that was missing? The ball.

Yeah, Contreras didn’t get the ball, not that he really expected to. But if you’ve got it, he wants it.

“I don’t think they’re giving it back,” he said with a grin.

We’ll see. Social media’s a powerful tool. So reach out.

Manny Machado as a Dodger creates a formidable foe out west for the Cubs

Manny Machado as a Dodger creates a formidable foe out west for the Cubs

Well, it's finally happening, or at least it's going to happen. The Athletics' Ken Rosenthal reported during the MLB All-Star game that the Baltimore Orioles had agreed to officially move their franchise player Manny Machado. Neither team has confirmed anything at this time, but the deal has reportedly been as close to a done deal for the last day or so, and it would seem Machado is destined for finish his 2018 campaign in Hollywood. 

Of course, with this addition, the reigning National League champions look primed for another deep postseason run. Though, the club is clinging to a half-game lead in the NL West, with Machado in tow the Dodgers are right with the Cubs and Brewers as the elite squads in the National League. It could be argued the Dodgers didn't necessarily 'need' Machado, with an offense that was already in the top 10 in runs scored, but Machado might be the perfect addition for the Dodgers. 

After losing their young star shortstop Corey Seager for the season with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery, the Dodgers were in need of a more permanent solution at shortstop. And despite Machado's defensive metrics showing a steep decline in his glove at shortstop, the Dodgers will welcome his robust slash line of .315/.387/.575 while ignoring any shortcomings on defense. 

But what this means for the Cubs, who are only two games off the 2016 World Series club pace, is the path to another championship will likely require another run-in with the Dodgers. The club's biggest threat has been at this point the Brewers, but it's not hard to envision the Dodgers distancing themselves as the clear favorites in the National League with Machado in the heart of the order.

The good news for the Chicago is at least Machado didn't end up in Milwaukee, but that also could mean the Brewers make a more concerted effort to acquire pitching before the July 30th deadline. The Cubs will also see the return of Yu Darvish, who despite only managing to win one game this season in a Cubs uniform, will be a massive upgrade over the scuffling Tyler Chatwood. If the Cubs pitching can start producing like many expected them to before the start of 2018, and guys like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant start to hit alongside All-Stars Javier Baez and Willson Contreras, it's not hard to imagine the Cubs separating themselves from the pack in the 2nd half of season. 

The Dodgers are no strangers to blockbuster deadline deals, acquiring Yu Darvish in a similar three-month rental situation, but the Cubs getting a bat like Rizzo right and an arm like Darvish healthy would be better than any deal Theo Epstein could make to improve this team. And if it's not enough, the Cubs have a solid track record of grabbing former Dodger rentals in the off-season. The push for the playoffs starts Thursday for the north-siders.