Cubs

MLB Power Rankings: McCutchen, Pirates are just fine, thanks

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MLB Power Rankings: McCutchen, Pirates are just fine, thanks

Remember when Andrew McCutchen was hitting .188/.279/.292 on May 6? Everybody was freaking out. The Pirates had just lost five straight and things seemed very bleak in Pittsburgh. All McCutchen has done since then is hit .353 with a 1.040 OPS and the Pirates are now firmly planted as the second-best team in Major League Baseball...even if they aren't even leading their own division. Hey, what can we say? The NL Central is just that good.

With that comes another week of MLB Power Rankings from CSNChicago.com's Tony Andracki and JJ Stankevitz. Stay tuned for updated rankings every Monday throughout the 2015 campaign. Here's where we're at so far: Preseason rankings | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11 | Week 12

Rank Team
Last Week Comment
1 1

Matt Carpenter since June 1: .194 AVG, .568 OPS...yet the Cardinals are still winning.

2   6

Pirates are 21-9 since June 1 while Andrew McCutchen has a .951 OPS in that span.

3 2

*Only* four Royals made the AL All-Star starting lineup, and Omar Infante — much to the happiness of MLB officials, most likely — wasn’t one of them.

4   4

Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers have done well to offset Collin McHugh’s regression (4.54 ERA in ’15, 2.73 in ’14).

5 3

Bryce Harper hit the most American home run in history Saturday.

6 5

At no point this season has Zack Greinke's ERA been above 1.97. So unreal.

7 12

Followed up a tough series in St. Louis by taking 5 of 6 from Mets, Marlins.

8 15

Despite all the front office vs. dugout drama, they’ve won eight of their last 10 and are three games out of first entering the week.

9 11

Alex Rodriguez (16 HR, 2.2 WAR) is legitimately deserving of an All-Star bid.

10 7

Rough week saw them lose three of four to Texas and two of three to the White Sox.

11   13

Scoff all you want, but they’re four games over .500 at the halfway point of the season and they just got Ervin Santana back. 

12 10

That 17-23 record in the United States has gotta get better for Drake to really jump on their bandwagon.

13 9

Two wins in their last 10 games but only two out of first place. The AL East, everybody!

14 8

Six straight losses have sunk them in this week's rankings.

15 14

Miguel Cabrera is out for six weeks and Justin Verlander just gave up seven runs in five innings against Toronto. Not looking good at the midway point in the Motor City.

16 16

That offense is borderline pathetic. The only guys with an OPS over .800 are Travis d'Arnaud - in only 19 games - and Steven Matz, a pitcher.

17 18

David Peralta - a converted pitcher - is turning into a nice hitter: .804 season OPS, hitting .340/.446/.617 since June 23.

18 17

Josh Hamilton has to stay healthy for them to have any real shot at making a run in the second half.

19 19

Cameron Maybin keeps doing his thing and may be a hot trade deadline piece.

20   25

Five games under .500 but lurking — their pitching staff has the best FIP in the American League (3.54).

21 22

Only six out of first place in an AL East that may cannibalize itself. Not too early for them to give up.

22 23 Hisashi Iwakuma is back this week and should provide a much-needed boost to a lagging preseason favorite.
23 20

Hard to determine how they should play the deadline. They have enough pieces to turn things around and contend, but don't want to miss opportunity to sell high on Justin Upton, an upcoming free agent.

24 21

Everybody knows Todd Frazier's HR prowess, but did you also know he's on pace for 49 2Bs and 16 SBs? Dude's a stud all around.

25 24

On paper, they don’t make any sense. All of their starters have an ERA under 3.70, they have a +49 run differential and are squarely in last place.

26 29

An 8-game winning streak is still not enough to have the Brewers climb out of the bottom 5.

27 27

Four-game winning streak was snapped on Sunday in a 9-1 loss that saw them commit four errors and a baserunning mistake. Just haven’t found that consistency yet.

28 26

The National League is looking pretty bottom-heavy, with 4 of the last 5 teams on the rankings from the Senior Circuit.

29 28

Their lineup vs. the Cubs all weekend featured Adeiny Hechavarria, Justin Bour and J.T. Realmuto 3-4-5. That's um...yikes.

30 30

Hey, at least they can win (sometimes) when Cole Hamels pitches.

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 31st homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 31st homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa's 18th homer of June and 31st of the season came off the Tigers in the Cubs' brief 2-game Interleague series in Detroit. 

Sosa connected in the first inning off Tigers starter Seth Greisinger, going back-to-back with Mickey Morandini. 

The Cubs wound up getting out to a 5-0 start in the game but still lost 7-6 on a Gabe Alvarez single in the bottom of the 11th.

The aforementioned Morandini homer was only the 3rd of the season for the Cubs second baseman. He finished with 8 homers on the year and 224 total bases on 172 hits in what was a very good offensive season. Yet it paled in comparison to Sosa, who had nearly 200 more total bases (416) and a slugging percentage nearly 200 points above Morandini's (.647 to .471), a testament to how truly incredible Sosa's season was.

Fun fact: Tony Clark was the Tigers' cleanup hitter that day. Clark is now the head of the MLB Players Union.

Fun fact No. 2: Paul Bako was the Detroit catcher in the game. He later became the Cubs backup catcher in 2003 and 2004, when he posted a .611 OPS in 119 games over the two years.

Maddon gets funky with bullpen, calls catcher Chris Gimenez to mound

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USA TODAY

Maddon gets funky with bullpen, calls catcher Chris Gimenez to mound

The Cubs continued their recent struggles, suffering their third straight loss to the Cincinnati Reds. 

But the game was not without its fair share of drama. The matchup was a back-and-forth affair, up until the Reds blew the game wide-open in the bottom of the third inning. This included a grand slam by Reds pitcher Anthony DeSclafani, the first home run of his career.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon turned to the bullpen following Cincinnati's third inning explosion, and things did not get much better from there.

With the Cubs down six runs in the bottom of the eight inning, Maddon brought in catcher Chris Gimenez to pitch. 

This was not new territory for Gimenez, who despite being a catcher, now has 10 MLB pitching appearances to his name. 

Down six runs, Gimenez didn't have a lot to lose. But Reds first basemen Joey Votto hammered a fastball in the zone for his eighth homer of the year.

Gimenez had a career ERA of 8.00 before Saturday's appearance, and he certainly didn't do much to help lower that figure.

According to ESPN's Jesse Rogers: "Including one today, Cubs relievers have allowed 41.1 percent of inherited runners to score in June, sixth most in the NL." 

A tired bullpen is certainly cause for concern for the Cubs, who are locked into a battle in the NL Central with the Brewers and Cardinals. Maddon was surely hoping to keep his bullpen arms fresh with the move, seeing as the game was already out of reach. 

So yes, the game did end in a 11-2 win for the Reds. But with a grand-slam by a pitcher—on his first career HR no less—and four-seam fastballs from a catcher, Cubs baseball always keep things interesting.