Cubs

Ninth-inning rally earns Garza first win with Cubs

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Ninth-inning rally earns Garza first win with Cubs

Saturday, April 30, 2011
Posted: 9:50 p.m. Updated: 11:15 p.m.

By Drew Silverman
CSNChicago.com Contributor

It was, in every sense, a night of firsts at Chase Field.

The first win for Matt Garza as a member of the Cubs. The first ejection for Mike Quade as Cubs skipper. The first 10-homer April for any Cubs player. And the first month of the season ending on a high note thanks to, of course, a first-year starter.

Darwin Barney delivered a two-out, go-ahead single in the ninth inning, helping Garza earn his first win of the season with a 5-3 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday night.

The decisive rally came compliments of some shaky defense by the Diamondbacks. Included in the ninth-inning sequence was a controversial call at second base that led to Quades early dismissal.

Following the ejection, two of Quade's youngest players came up with big hits. With runners on the corners and two down, Barney laced a single up the middle off J.J. Putz (0-1) to put the Cubs ahead 4-3. Starlin Castro followed with a base hit through the left side to make it a two-run game.

He knows what hes doing, Barney said of Quade. He can get us riled up any time he wants. It was a good time for it.

Carlos Marmol worked around a walk in the bottom of the ninth for his seventh save. The Cubs have now won two straight games after suffering an 11-2 defeat in the series opener.

Whoever coined the phrase 'Pitching is 90 percent of the game' either was really smart or was stating the obvious, Quade said. Its about setting the tone and keeping your club in the game. We feel like we have the guys in place in the rotation.

Making his sixth start with the Cubs, Garza (1-3) truly deserved to win the ballgame. He worked eight innings and struck out 10 his most since striking out 12 Pirates in his season debut. The right-hander allowed just six hits and two walks and finished his night in style, striking out the side in the eighth inning.

After posting a 6.27 ERA through his first three starts for the Cubs, Garza has a sparkling 1.80 ERA in his last three outings.

I dont have to win every game - as long as we win every game I throw, Garza said.

Garza did put the Cubs in a 1-0 hole in the first inning, when Justin Upton doubled with two outs and came around to score on a base hit by Stephen Drew.

However, the red-hot Alfonso Soriano answered in the Cubs next at-bat, belting a first-pitch fastball from Ian Kennedy off the batters eye in straightaway center for his third homer in the last two nights. The mammoth home run was Sorianos 10th of the season, setting a new team record for the month of April.

Soriano wasnt done, though. In the fourth, he delivered a two-out RBI single to put the visitors ahead 2-1. The base hit gave Soriano six RBIs in his last four games after he managed a total of two RBIs in his previous seven contests.

Aramis Ramirezs RBI double in the fifth gave the Cubs a 3-1 edge, but Garza gave the lead back in the sixth.

The Cubs righty walked Chris Young to open the inning. (Note: Young has walked three times in the last two games against the Cubs after walking a total of three times in his first 24 games.) Gerardo Parra followed with an RBI triple to make it 3-2. Garza recovered to strike out Upton, but Drew followed with a base hit to forge a 3-3 tie.

That's the way things stood until the decisive ninth inning, when Marlon Byrd led off with a single. Geovany Soto then bunted to Putz, whose wild throw nearly pulled Drew off the bag at second. Replays showed that the Arizona shortstop held the bag barely but Quade argued ferociously, to no avail of course.

Lets start with that, Quade said. Im very angry. And Im very wrong. (Umpire Dan Bellino) got it right. I was mad at everything and couldnt believe Drew kept his foot on the bag.

A walk to Tyler Colvin then put two runners on before Kosuke Fukudome hit a comebacker to Putz that should have been an inning-ending double play. Putz made a good throw to second base this time, but Drew had trouble getting the ball out of his glove and Fukudome beat the relay to first.

Stephen did everything he could and (first baseman Russell Branyan) had a good stretch, but he just beat it, Putz said. It was just me not making a good pitch with two strikes on a guy, getting ahead but just not being able to finish.

Barney and Castro followed with their base hits, Marmol did his thing in the ninth, and Garza had his first win for the Cubs.

Everyones battling, Barney said. This team doesnt give up. Were just trying to enjoy it, thrive on it, and keep winning.

Notes
Chicago first baseman Jeff Baker was injured running out a grounder in the eighth inning. He was replaced by Carlos Pena after suffering what the team called left shoulder soreness. Cubs pitchers have allowed 11 first-inning runs over their last four games. Chicago matched a season high by homering for a fifth straight game. With his 10 strikeouts, Garza set the franchise record for punchouts in the month of April with 51, surpassing Kerry Wood (46 in 2001). He also temporarily took over the NL lead in the category, passing Giants ace Tim Lincecum, who has 45 strikeouts on the season.

Up next

Casey Coleman (1-1, 7.42) squares off against Daniel Hudson (1-4, 5.64) in Sundays series finale. As was the case with Garza, Coleman will be facing the Diamondbacks for the first time in his career. Likewise, Hudson the former White Sox right-hander has never faced the Cubs before. First pitch is at 3:10 p.m. on WGN.

Box Score

Some perspective on Pedro Strop's tough outing and struggles

Some perspective on Pedro Strop's tough outing and struggles

Pedro Strop has had a tough go of it lately, but that doesn't mean it's time to panic on one of the most consistent relievers in Cubs history.

After blowing the game Monday night in San Francisco — his third blown save of the month — Strop now has a 5.47 ERA on the year and an 8.22 mark in July alone. In fact, nearly half the runs he's allowed in 2019 have come this month — 7 of 16.

But Strop has been pitching better than his ERA indicates — his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) is nearly a full run lower than his ERA this season. His strikeout rate (27.4 percent) and walk rate (8.5 percent) are the lowest they've been since 2016. 

That being said, the 34-year-old has also seen a precipitous spike in hard contact rate and his soft contact percentage is way down. He's been plagued by the home run ball this year more than ever before, serving up 1.7 dingers per 9 innings, the highest rate of his career (though the same can be said for many pitchers this season).

So Strop clearly hasn't been his typical dominant self this year, but he also deserves a better fate than he's had to this point in the season.

Take Monday night, for example. 

Strop came on to pitch the eighth inning of a game the Cubs were leading 4-2 and promptly gave up a leadoff double to Pablo Sandoval. On paper, that's obviously not a great start, but look at where this pitch was when the Giants third baseman hit it:

Strop followed that by striking out Stephen Vogt before executing a nice pitch to Brandon Crawford and inducing a groundball...only to see it sneak through the infield for an RBI hit:

Then came a groundout before Austin Slater's game-tying double that came just inches away from Albert Almora Jr.'s glove in center field. 

The final blow was the go-ahead double by Joe Panik...on a ball that was higher than Strop would've liked it, but still not a bad pitch off the plate outside:

These are not bad pitches; it's not like Strop was leaving the ball over the heart of the plate all inning.

How's this for bad luck — the Sandoval double was pegged for just a .070 expected batting average. 

Crawford's single was hit at 89.7 mph and had an expected batting average of .360. By comparison, Kyle Schwarber hit a grounder in the top of the inning at 102.9 mph with an expected batting average of .630 and it was an out. It was simply a matter of Crawford's ball finding a hole while Schwarber hit his right at a defender. 

No matter which way you slice it, this was a tough luck outing for the veteran setup man. 

But bad luck or not, Strop still hasn't been getting the consistent results the Cubs need in crucial innings of a tight playoff race, so it's understandable manager Joe Maddon was asked about the bullpen usage on his weekly appearance with 670 The Score Tuesday afternoon:

"When Pedro's in the game, I really feel good about it," Maddon said. "We all do. I think last night, it was more about pitch selection than it was necessarily about stuff. He was one pitch away from getting out of that thing. 

"If you replay and look at it, you see the hit by Sandoval — that ball literally almost bounced. It really did and it almost hit his back foot. I don't know how he kept that ball fair, but he did. Good for him. And then Crawford hits a slow ground ball up the middle that gets between two guys that are outstanding infielders and that's a hit."

Maddon went on to say the last hit — Panik's double — was the more concerning one because it was a sinker that just didn't drop enough. Maddon said he'd rather see Strop go to his wicked slider in that situation than lean on a pitch (the sinker/fastball) that has seen a dip in velocity and value this season.

"I don't think Pedro's that far off," Maddon said. "Maybe the velocity's down a little bit more than anything. To utilize his cutter/slider and really get that to where he wants it — those are the devastating pitches. So that was my bigger concern last night."

Moving forward, it doesn't sound as if Maddon will shy away from utilizing Strop in high-leverage situations again, but the Cubs also have the luxury of a pretty deep bullpen where they could utilize some other arms (Steve Cishek, Brandon Kintzler) to pitch the eighth inning and help bridge the gap to closer Craig Kimbrel.

Strop is 34 now and has dealt with some health issues over the last calendar year, but he has such a long track record of success that it wouldn't be surprising to see him once again emerge as a lights-out reliever before the season ends.

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Cubs lead Bears, Bulls on Forbes' Most Valuable Sports Teams 2019 list

Cubs lead Bears, Bulls on Forbes' Most Valuable Sports Teams 2019 list

The Chicago Cubs tied the Washington Redskins for 14th on Forbes' Most Valuable Sports Teams 2019 list with a $3.1 billion valuation. The Cubs' valuation grew by 7% year over year.

The Cubs are the fourth-most valuable franchise in MLB behind the Yankees ($4.1B), the Dodgers ($3.3B) and the Red Sox ($3.2B). Only seven MLB teams made the Top 50.

Two other Chicago teams, the Bears and the Bulls, are tied for 19th on the list with a value of $2.9 billion. The Bears' value grew just 2% while the Bulls' valuation grew by 12% year over year.

The rise of the pro sports teams valued over $2 billion has been pretty meteoric over the past decade. In 2012, only Manchester United was valued over $2 billion and in 2019 that number has risen to 52.

In 2012, only the Knicks and Lakers made the Top 50 list but in 2019 the Bulls are one of nine teams to earn a spot. The Bulls were the fourth-most valuable NBA franchise in 2019 behind the Knicks ($4B), Lakers ($3.7B) and Warriors ($3.5B).

Forbes credits the NBA's international prospects and worldwide revenue growth for the league's rise in the list.

No NHL teams made the list, the New York Rangers were the most-valued hockey team at $1.55 billion, 72nd highest.