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.

Remember that guy? Former Cubs shortstop Ricky Gutiérrez

Remember that guy? Former Cubs shortstop Ricky Gutiérrez

Ricky Gutiérrez played in the Majors from 1993-2004. He played shortstop for the Cubs from 2000-01 and later signed with them again in June 2004. 

However, Gutiérrez never got back to the Majors with the Cubs, who sent him to the Red Sox the following month. His final Major League game was with the Red Sox on Oct. 3, 2004, the final game of the 2004 regular season; he didn’t play in the 2004 postseason. Gutiérrez was subsequently signed and released by a few other teams, including the White Sox in 2005.

Gutiérrez holds the distinction of being the first Cubs player to hit a regular season grand slam against the White Sox (July 12, 2001). In his two seasons with the Cubs, he tied for the Major League lead in sacrifice bunts both years (16 in 2000, 17 in 2001) which was odd since he had a grand total of 18 sacrifice bunts in his 847 career games NOT in a Cubs uniform. He also had uncharacteristic power with the Cubs:  21 home runs for Chicago in 272 games, 17 home runs with everyone else (847 games).

What Cubs fans probably remember most is what Gutiérrez did against them. On May 6, 1998 he had the lone hit (many dispute it should have been ruled an error) for the Astros off Kerry Wood in Wood’s 20-strikeout masterpiece at Wrigley Field (Gutiérrez was responsible for two of the strikeouts). 

Later that season, on June 26, the number 20 and Gutiérrez were again connected when he had a 20-pitch battle against Bartolo Colón, which ended in a strikeout. It remained the last plate appearance in the Majors of at least 20 pitches until Brandon Belt flew out on the 21st pitch of an at-bat against the Angels' Jaime Barria on April 22, 2018.

Gutiérrez’s nephew, James Jones, played 14 seasons in the NBA for the Pacers, Suns, Trail Blazers, Heat and Cavaliers.

2019 encore for Jesse Chavez?

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USA TODAY

2019 encore for Jesse Chavez?

On July 15, Brandon Morrow recorded his 22nd save of the season with a scoreless inning in San Diego. It wound up being the last time he pitched in a game for the Cubs in 2018. 

Four days later, during the All-Star break, the Cubs made a move to bolster their bullpen, acquiring Jesse Chavez from the Rangers in exchange for minor league hurler Tyler Thomas. It wasn’t even the biggest trade they’d make with the Rangers that month – a little over a week later they dealt for Cole Hamels. 

Despite pitching nearly half the innings, Chavez was almost as valuable as Hamels.

2018 with Cubs IP fWAR
Jesse Chavez 39.0 1.1
Cole Hamels 76.1 1.5

Chavez made his Cubs debut on July 21; from July 21 through the end of the season, 187 pitchers tossed at least 30 innings. 185 of them had a higher ERA than Chavez, while 184 of them allowed more baserunners per 9 innings.

Best ERA, July 21-end of season

(minimum 30 innings) IP ERA
Blake Treinen 32.1 0.56
Jesse Chavez 39.0 1.15
Blake Snell 61.2 1.17
Trevor Bauer 35.0 1.29
Trevor Williams 71.2 1.38
Robert Stock 36.0 1.50

Fewest baserunners per 9 innings, July 32-end of season

(minimum 30 innings) IP BR/9 IP
Blake Treinen 32.1 5.85
Blake Snell 61.2 7.15
Jesse Chavez 39.0 7.15
Jacob deGrom 93.2 7.49
Scott Oberg 30.2 7.63
Josh Hader 33.1 7.83

But how did Chavez transform into one of Joe Maddon’s best bullpen arms down the stretch?  According to Chavez, his own transformation started on Mother’s Day.

Chavez entered a game in Houston with a 5.48 ERA in a dozen appearances, but pitched three innings with no hits, no walks and four strikeouts. From that point through the end of the season, he posted a 1.70 ERA and 0.892 WHIP. 

Chavez points to a change in arm slot which resulted in better consistency and a slight jump in velocity. A glance at his release point charts show that consistency, and he added roughly one mile an hour to his fastball.

"It's kept me more consistent in the zone," Chavez said. "Things have been sharper, velocity has been a lot sharper. I was huffing and puffing trying to get a 92 (mph fastball) out there and it wasn't coming.

"Next thing you know, I dropped it and it's right there, and I'm like, 'something's wrong here.' But I just took it and ran with it."

Jesse Chavez 2018 four-seam fastball velocity

  Average Max
Prior to May 13 92.6 mph 94.6 mph
May 13 on 93.6 mph 95.7 mph

Can Chavez be valuable in 2019?  The 35-year old reliever posted the best ERA (2.55), WHIP (1.059) and walk rate (4.5% - nearly two percent better than his previous best) in 2018, and he continued to get better as the season went on. 

He’s a former starter who can pitch multiple innings if needed, and that’s a valuable thing - especially for a manager like Joe Maddon, who uses his pitchers in a variety of ways. It’s unlikely he’ll have a second consecutive career year.

But he’ll likely be well worth the price tag; he only made $1 million in 2018, and even with a slight raise he should be very affordable. There’s definitely room in Maddon’s bullpen for a pitcher like Chavez.