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.

Kyle Ryan's emergence is coming at exactly the right time for Cubs

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AP

Kyle Ryan's emergence is coming at exactly the right time for Cubs

With the MLB trade deadline two weeks away, bullpen help figures to be on the Cubs' wish list.

But thanks in part to Kyle Ryan's emergence, the Cubs don't absolutely need that reliever to be left-handed (though it would probably be ideal).

The Cubs began the week with three southpaws in their bullpen, but at some point this weekend, Ryan may be the lone lefty remaining. Mike Montgomery was traded to the Royals late Monday night and with Carl Edwards Jr. progressing in his rehab (he threw again Tuesday), he might take Randy Rosario's spot in a couple days. 

The Cubs like Edwards against lefties and they also feel confident in Pedro Strop against either handed hitter when he's on. But Ryan has worked his way into Joe Maddon's Circle of Trust and is currently the only lefty residing there.

That's not to say the Cubs don't need another reliable southpaw in the 'pen, but Ryan looks like he's going to get some big outs for this team down the stretch.

"He's done a great job for us since he's been here," Jon Lester said of Ryan last month. "I don't think he gets enough credit for what he's been able to do."

Ryan impressed the Cubs with his work as a multi-inning reliever in Triple-A last season and turned heads again in camp this spring. Still, Rosario made the Opening Day roster over him, though Ryan got called up on the team's season-opening road trip and made his first appearance on April 6.

Since then, he's been a mainstay while Montgomery battled injury and ineffectiveness, Rosario and Tim Collins have bounced between Triple-A Iowa and Chicago and veteran Xavier Cedeno's time off the injured list was short-lived.

Ryan looked to be finding his way throughout his first month in the bullpen, but after his infamous "freeze" moment against the Marlins, he endured some struggles (7 runs allowed on 12 hits in 7 innings from May 8 through June 1).

He's righted the ship since then, permitting only 1 run over his last 17 appearances (14 innings) and lowering his season ERA to 3.21 to go along with a 1.31 WHIP and 33 strikeouts in 33.2 innings.

A big part of that recent success can be tied to Ryan's increased improvement against left-handed hitters. 

Lefties hit .344 with a .405 on-base percentage off Ryan through June 5. But since then, Ryan has surrendered only 3 hits — all singles — and zero walks to the 19 left-handed hitters he's faced (.158 AVG).

He credits part of that turnaround to working on a changeup, which he thinks has helped lock in the "feel" of all his other pitches as well as his mechanics. 

As he works to add a new pitch to his repertoire, Ryan has leaned on Cubs bullpen coach Lester Strode and pitching coach Tommy Hottovy for assistance, while also picking the brains of veterans like Cole Hamels, Kyle Hendricks and Brad Brach who have all thrown changeups for quite a while.

But even with all that work, he still hasn't resorted to using the changeup much in games. The pitch is so foreign that it's still being picked up as a sinker, including on the Wrigley Field video board Sunday when he threw one in his inning of work.

"Eventually, I'm gonna find the changeup and it's gonna be a comfortable, confident pitch," Ryan said. "But I do think it's gotten me behind all the rest of my pitches and it's maybe a little bit better feel for everything. It's gonna stay where it is for a while. I'm gonna keep trying."

Ryan said one of the things he likes about the changeup is that it can eventually be a nice weapon because it "goes in the opposite direction" of all his other pitches.

We'll see if the new pitch can ever become a factor for the 27-year-old. But if it's helped lock in his other pitches, that's great news for the Cubs, especially as they look to fortify their bullpen this month.

Cubs Talk Podcast: The Yu Darvish 1st Wrigley win and post-ASG hot start podcast

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: The Yu Darvish 1st Wrigley win and post-ASG hot start podcast

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki discuss Yu Darvish's 1st win at Wrigley, Cole Hamel's status, and Kris Bryant playing better than he did in his MVP season.

01:00     Darvish picking up 1st win at Wrigley

03:30     Cole Hamels injury update

05:00     Starting rotation after the All-Star break

06:00     Cubs defense looking sharp

07:30     How the Cubs will approach the weekend and the expected heat

09:30     Kris Bryant playing above his MVP level

12:00     How the NL Central stacks up

14:00     Upcoming road trip to San Francisco, Milwaukee and Saint Louis

16:00     Addition to Martin Maldonado

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast

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