Cubs

Red Sox take weekend series from Cubs

Red Sox take weekend series from Cubs

BOSTON (AP) Marco Hernandez's hustle paid off in a big way for the Boston Red Sox.

Hernandez scored the go-ahead run on Pedro Strop's wild pitch in Boston's four-run eighth inning, helping the Red Sox beat the sloppy Chicago Cubs 6-2 on Sunday night.

The Red Sox took two of three in the lively weekend series that featured a strong showing for Cubs fans, chants in support of each side and the World Series trophies that ended long title droughts for the once-frustrated franchises.

"This was a high-build series, a competitive series, certainly," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "A good series win for us that was needed."

Hanley Ramirez hit a two-run homer for Boston, which had dropped four of five before the weekend set against Chicago. The Red Sox got two more runs on shortstop Addison Russell's throwing error in the eighth that bounced past first basemanAnthony Rizzo.

"It was fun," Boston outfielder Andrew Benintendi said. "I felt like there was a lot more Cubs fans here than I expected. It was fun to kind of listen to the fans go back and forth."

Kris Bryant hit a solo homer for Chicago, extending his hitting streak to 11 games. The Cubs closed a nine-game road trip at 5-4.

Boston has won 19 of its last 22 interleague series in Fenway.

Hernandez led off the eighth with a grounder to Rizzo, who relayed the ball to reliever Koji Uehara (0-2). But a hustling Hernandez was safe at first in a bang-bang play.

Uehara appeared to break off the mound late.

"I got there as quick as I could, the runner was just faster," he said through a translator.

Xander Bogaerts and Benintendi then singled, loading the bases. Strop came in and bounced a 2-2 pitch to Ramirez, bringing Hernandez home. Mitch Moreland's grounder scored a run before Russell's error allowed two more to score.

Chicago looked as if it might be able to escape after Strop struck out Mookie Betts with the bases loaded for the first out. But the wild pitch led to the big inning.

"I thought Stropy did a great job, striking out Betts, wild pitch, but other than that he did a really nice job in there," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "Then we made another mistake to make it really look ugly at the end."

Matt Barnes (3-0) worked one scoreless inning after completing his four-game suspension for throwing behind the head of Baltimore's Manny MachadoCraig Kimbrel got the final three outs.

Chicago trailed 2-1 before Jon Jay scored from second after reliever Joe Kelly bounced a pitch past Christian Vazquez in the seventh.

Jay's headfirst slide beat Vazquez's throw to Kelly after the catcher couldn't find the ball for a few seconds. He was originally called out, but the call was challenged.

After playing the first two games in summer-like temperatures, the teams took the field to a chilly 47 degrees.

That didn't seem to affect the distance of Ramirez's homer, estimated at 440 feet after it completely left Fenway over the Green Monster seats in the first.

On Saturday, he had one estimated at 469, the longest at Fenway this season.

Boston starter Eduardo Rodriguez struck out nine over six innings, allowing one run and five hits.

Chicago's Kyle Hendricks gave up two runs and three hits in six innings.

WORTH NOTING

Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio is expected to re-join the team Monday after leaving a week ago for a personal matter.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: Farrell said 3B Pablo Sandoval, placed on the disabled list April 24 with a sprained right knee, still hasn't started any baseball activities and is only going through range of motion exercises.

CURSE BUSTERS

The 2016 World Series trophy, won by the Cubs to end their 108-year drought, and the 2004 one captured by the Red Sox, their first in 86 years, were together on a table under the stands behind right field. Fans had the chance to take pictures with the trophies for a $20 donation to charity.

There was a steady flow of fans dressed in both Red Sox and Cubs jerseys.

UP NEXT

Cubs: LHP Brett Anderson (2-0, 3.54 ERA) is set to face Philadelphia RHP Vince Velasquez (1-2, 6.33) at Wrigley Field on Monday night.

Red Sox: RHP Rick Porcello (1-3, 4.75 ERA) hopes to end a string of losses in three consecutive starts Monday. Dylan Bundy (3-1, 1.65) is slated to start for Baltimore.

Cubs free agent focus: Hyun-Jin Ryu

Cubs free agent focus: Hyun-Jin Ryu

With Hot Stove season underway, NBC Sports Chicago is taking a look at some of MLB’s top free agents and how they’d fit with the Cubs.

As the Cubs look to fill out their starting rotation, it’s extremely unlikely Gerrit Cole will be joining the North Siders via free agency.

Or Stephen Strasburg.

Or Madison Bumgarner.

As the top starters available, Cole, Strasburg and Bumgarner are set to receive lucrative contracts out of the Cubs’ price range. But if Theo Epstein and Co. are looking to acquire a top-of-the-rotation arm, left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu is a much more affordable option.

Ryu was one of the best starters in baseball last season, winning the National League ERA title (2.32) en route to being named a Cy Young Award finalist. He made 29 starts and tossed 182 2/3 innings, the second-best totals of his career.

The question with Ryu isn’t whether he’ll pitch well; he holds a career 2.98 ERA and 1.164 WHIP in 126 games (125 starts). The question each season is whether he’ll stay healthy.

Ryu missed all of 2015 after undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. He returned in July 2016, making a single start before hitting the shelf with left elbow tendinitis. He underwent a debridement procedure — like Yu Darvish last offseason — in September 2016.

Granted, Ryu has largely remained healthy since 2017. He made 24 starts that season, missing a little time with contusions in his left hip and left foot. A right groin strain kept him out for two months in 2018, though he posted a dazzling 1.97 ERA in 15 starts.

Nonetheless, teams will be wary of what they offer Ryu this offseason. The last thing you want is to sign a pitcher in his mid-30s to a long-term deal, only for him to go down with a serious arm issue. Ryu hasn't had any serious arm issues since 2016, but any injury concern is valid for the soon-to-be 33-year-old.

All negatives aside, there’s a lot to like about Ryu. He excels at inducing soft contact and ranked in the top four percent in baseball last season in average exit velocity-against (85.3 mph). Ryu doesn’t walk many batters (3.3 percent walk rate in 2019; 5.4 percent career) and strikes out a solid number (22.5 percent rate in 2019; 22 percent career).

Signing Ryu would give the Cubs three lefty starters, but that’s been the case since mid-2018, when they acquired Cole Hamels (who recently signed with the Braves). The rotation would have more certainty moving forward, too, as Jose Quintana will hit free agency next offseason. Jon Lester could as well, though he has a vesting option for 2022 if he tosses 200 innings next season.

The Cubs hope young arms Adbert Alzolay and top prospect Brailyn Marquez will contribute in the rotation for years to come. Alzolay may be on an innings limit next season and Marquez is at least a season away from making his MLB debut.

The Cubs have a rotation opening now and need to bridge the gap to their young arms for the next few seasons. Every free agent comes with question marks, and Ryu is no exception, but he is a frontline starter when healthy. He’d be a solid addition to the Cubs staff, and it won't take as big of a deal to sign him as others.

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Cubs free agent focus: Will Harris

Cubs free agent focus: Will Harris

With Hot Stove season underway, NBC Sports Chicago is taking a look at some of MLB’s top free agents and how they’d fit with the Cubs.

The Cubs are looking for bullpen help this offseason. Enter Astros free agent right-hander Will Harris.

Harris has quietly been one of the game’s best relievers since 2015. In 309 games (297 innings), the 35-year-old holds a 2.36 ERA and 0.987 WHIP. Over that same period, his ERA ranks third among relievers with at least 250 innings pitched, trailing Zack Britton (1.89) and Aroldis Chapman (2.16).

2019 was one of Harris' finest seasons yet, as he posted a pristine 1.50 ERA and 0.933 WHIP in 68 appearances. Of the 60 innings he pitched last season, 49 2/3 of them came in innings 7-9, an area the Cubs bullpen needs the most help.

Cubs relievers posted a 3.98 ERA last season (No. 8 in MLB), but that number is deceiving. The bullpen was OK in low and medium-leverage spots — as defined by FanGraphs — posting a 3.19 ERA (tied for No. 2 in MLB). But in high leverage spots, they sported a woeful 7.92 ERA (No. 24 in MLB) and a 15.4 percent walk rate (tied for last in MLB).

"It was a real interesting year in the 'pen," Cubs president Theo Epstein said at his end-of-season press conference. "Our inability to pitch in high-leverage situations was a clear problem and was a contributing factor — we had the third-worst record in all of baseball behind just the Tigers and Orioles in combined 1 and 2-run games.

"Our inability to pitch in high-leverage moments kind of haunted us throughout the year, and that’s something that I have to do a better job of finding options for."

Those walks often spelled doom for the Cubs. Fans remember all too well the three-straight free passes Steve Cishek handed out on Sept. 10 against the Padres, the final of which was a walk-off (literally). David Phelps and Cishek combined to walk three-straight Cardinals on Sept. 20, two of whom came around to score. The Cubs lost that game 2-1; there are plenty more similar instances.

Harris, meanwhile, walked 14 batters (6.1 percent walk rate) in 2019 — 15 if you count the one he allowed in 12 postseason appearances. His career walk rate is 6.2 percent.

Four Cubs late-inning relievers are free agent this winter in Cishek, Brandon Kintzler, Brandon Morrow and Pedro Strop. Cishek and Kintzler had solid 2019 seasons, while Strop had his worst season as a Cub. Morrow hasn’t pitched since July 2018, but he and the Cubs are working on a minor league deal, according to WSCR’s Bruce Levine. Strop has expressed his desire to return next season.

Harris regressing in 2020 is a concern. Relievers are the most volatile players in baseball, and Harris could see his performance sag in 2020 after pitching an extra month last season. Teams will have to trust his track record and assume a regression isn't forthcoming.

But assuming Cishek, Kintzler, Morrow and Strop all won’t return in 2020, the Cubs have a couple late-inning relief vacancies. Harris is one of the better available options, and he’d help the Cubs cut down on the walks dished out by their bullpen.

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