Cubs

Rain Delay: Cubs trailing Astros

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Rain Delay: Cubs trailing Astros

Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011
Posted: 11:11 a.m.

Associated Press

With win No. 4,000 at Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs extended the Houston Astros' misery, handing them the first 100-loss season in franchise history.

Houston, however, could leave Chicago in much higher spirits with red-hot Brett Myers taking the mound in Sunday's series finale.

The Astros (51-100) entered Saturday as one of just three teams never to have lost 100 games. They can no longer lay claim to that after losing 2-1 on Saturday - their fifth straight defeat on the North Side.

"It's definitely a number that breaking camp with the talent we've had all year in this clubhouse, (I didn't think) anything like that would happen," shortstop Clint Barmes said.

Houston's struggles can largely be attributed to its inability to get things going at the plate. It has scored an NL-low 43 runs since Aug. 31 while hitting .204 with runners in scoring position.

"We were (0 for 14) with runners in scoring position (Saturday), which turned out to be quite a number," manager Brad Mills said."...We can't focus on (100 losses) right now. It's not the right thing that we need to be looking at as we move forward."

Myers (5-13, 4.52 ERA) will try to help the Astros avoid a fourth straight loss.

The right-hander is 10-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his last 12 starts against the Cubs, going 5-1 with a 1.41 ERA over seven career starts at Wrigley. He threw six innings of one-run ball during his last visit, a 3-1 win June 1.

Myers has had his way with several of Chicago's best hitters, most notably Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano. Ramirez is 11 for 46 (.239) with two homers and 11 strikeouts against Myers while Soriano has gone 6 for 39 (.167), fanning 15 times.

Myers has allowed one run in each of his last three starts spanning a combined 22 2-3 innings, winning twice during that span. He allowed six hits and a walk in eight innings of Monday's 5-1 victory over Philadelphia

"Sometimes you go out there and don't want to throw a pitch because they know it's coming or they have something on you," he said. "You just have to mix it up and keep them (as) off balance as much as possible."

Myers will try to slow down Bryan LaHair, who gave the Cubs the lead for good Saturday with his second home run. LaHair is 13 for 30 (.433) since he was promoted from Triple-A Iowa on Sept. 2.

"When he squares it up it's pretty impressive," manager Mike Quade said. "Big, strong kid. We like what we've seen so far, that's for sure."

Starlin Castro also continues to impress. He doubled to extend his streak of reaching base to 30 straight games - the longest run by a Cubs shortstop since Ernie Banks in 1960.

Ryan Dempster (10-12, 4.66) takes the mound seeking his first win in seven tries. The right-hander allowed two runs and six hits but issued a season worst-tying six walks in seven innings of Tuesday's 2-1 loss at Cincinnati.

Dempster is 1-0 with a 4.05 ERA in two starts - both on the road - against the Astros this season.

Carlos Lee is 14 for 41 (.341) with two homers lifetime versus Dempster, who is one loss away from matching his career high set in 2002.

Chicago, on the verge of its second consecutive three-game home sweep of Houston, has never taken six straight at Wrigley against the Astros in a single season.
Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Behind a refined approach, Albert Almora Jr. is off to a hot start this spring

Behind a refined approach, Albert Almora Jr. is off to a hot start this spring

The Cubs have only played three spring training games, and it’s dangerous to use spring results to predict regular season successes/failures. Still, it’s okay to acknowledge Albert Almora Jr.’s hot start in camp.

In two games, Almora is 4-for-4 with a walk, double, home run, four RBIs, and four runs scored. That line is essentially equivalent to a single game in the regular season and could be turned upside down by the end of the week. But it’s a start for the 25-year-old who’s struggled immensely at the plate for the last season-and-a-half at the plate.

In his last 177 games (dating back to the second half of 2018), Almora holds a .235/.270/.347 slash line. The advanced stats paint an uglier picture: 58 wRC+, .261 wOBA and 52.2 percent groundball rate.

Last season was the most challenging of Almora’s young career. He hit .236/.271/.381 in 130 games with a 64 wRC+, .271 wOBA, -0.7 fWAR (all career worsts). On top of that, he was involved in a heartbreaking moment early in the season; an Almora foul ball struck a young girl at Minute Maid Park during a Cubs-Astros game in May.

Almora recently refused to blame his 2019 offensive woes on that incident, though it obviously played a part. He did admit he was in a bad place mentally and used this winter to decompress. Almora also used it to make some adjustments to his swing and the changes are clear as day:

Pre-2020:

2020:

As MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian notes, Almora is now more upright in the box and his stance is more closed. His leg kick is less defined, and he’s rotating his front leg far less than previous seasons. In short, he’s more direct to his swing and has more time to react in the box because he cut out a lot of his pre-swing movements.

Almora said Monday he’s far from where he wants to be, pointing out the MLB season is a 200-day marathon. It’s too early to tell whether his simplified approach leads to sustainable success.

Small sample size be damned, Almora’s made noticeable adjustments. That’s the first step in his mission to get back on track offensively.

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Two of the Cubs' best prospects made Keith Law's annual Top 100 list

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USA Today

Two of the Cubs' best prospects made Keith Law's annual Top 100 list

For those who follow such things, Keith Law's yearly Top 100 prospect rankings is always a highly anticipated read. What would baseball twitter even do with their time if they couldn't spend it vocally disagreeing with subjective lists? Having a handful of Top 100 guys is always a shot in the arm for franchises that maybe aren't doing a whole lot of winning at the major league level; when you know you're not winning a World Series, the debuts of these prospects are high points of the summer. 

There wasn't a whole lot of Cubs' representation this season, which isn't a surprise by any means. Only guys two made Law's list: Brennen Davis at 55, and Brailyn Marquez at 80.  

Law claims Davis has the highest upside of any Cubs' prospect, but isn't necessarily close to a debut: 

Davis is lanky and has barely begun to fill out, so there’s likely to be more power to come, while he’s already shown he can manage at-bats and use the middle of the field to get himself on base. Despite his 6′4″ frame he already has a very balanced swing, and the Cubs will just have to tighten up some mechanical things since he’s got such long levers. A former shortstop, he’s adapted quickly to center field; he projects to stay there and add value with his range. 

He also loves Marquez's stuff – comparing it to Aroldis Chapman's – and says it's the reason why he's team's best pitching prospect since Dylan Cease. You can see the entire rankings, which go pretty in-depth, right here.