Cubs

Schwarber finds his groove again as Cubs pull out much-needed win

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Schwarber finds his groove again as Cubs pull out much-needed win

Forget pitching. The Cubs offense can take it from here (for one game, at least).

The Cubs (75-56) climbed back from deficit after deficit Tuesday, finally breaking through for a 5-4 win over the Reds (54-77) in front of 33,756 fans at Wrigley Field.

Kyle Schwarber delivered the big blow - a two-out, go-ahead homer into the left-center field bleachers in the bottom of the seventh.

Schwarber had been mired in a 1-for-14 slump before Tuesday and carried just a .122 average and .493 OPS over his last 11 games.

But it looks like he may have found his rhythm again as he singled, walked and scored three runs on top of his 13th big-league homer.

"He provided a spark for us," Kris Bryant said before acknowledging that nobody really needed to talk Schwarber through his slump. "He's got a good head on his shoulders. He trusts in his ability."

Joe Maddon actually had been predicting Schwarber's struggles for a while - "It's just hard to maintain that level of play or excellence at the plate, especially for a first-year guy for that long" - and the Cubs manager also believed Schwarber showed signs of coming out of his funk when he drew a fourth-inning walk.

In the next two at-bats, Schwarber ripped a single up the middle (clocked at 109 mph exit velocity) and then the two-run homer.

"I was putting a little pressure on myself," Schwarber said. "I just need to stick to the basics and stick to my approach and be more patient."

After allowing 13 runs (six unearned) Monday night, Cubs pitchers again struggled to keep Reds hitters off balance, allowing solo runs in the first, fifth, sixth and seventh innings.

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Maddon spoke pregame about how he wants to see starting pitchers go deeper in games, but Dan Haren only managed to make it through five innings before giving way to the bullpen.

Haren called it a "step forward," but also wished he could have thrown more than 73 pitches.

"Obviously in the situation I'm in, my leash is a little bit shorter," Haren said. "I understand what Joe's doing. Of course, I'd like to be out there for six, seven, eight innings and stuff, but definitely not going to complain about it.

"We've got a great bullpen, so we're gonna use it. We've got 30 or so games left. Every game, we're treating it like a playoff game. What I'm trying to do is just accept that and make the most with the amount of pitches or innings that I get."

Lefty Clayton Richard came in for the sixth and faced only two left-handed batters, allowing doubles to both before Justin Grimm pitched out of a jam.

Then Fernando Rodney served up a leadoff homer in top of the seventh, an emotional letdown after the Cubs had just rallied to tie the game the inning before.

But none of it mattered as the Cubs' slumping offense came through to pick up the pitching staff. All five of the runs came with two outs.

Bryant was 3-for-4, driving in the Cubs' first two runs of the game. Miguel Montero singled home another in the sixth inning and then Schwarber's blast put the Cubs ahead for good.

"It feels like the playoffs every night," Schwarber said.

Report: Giants interested in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for manager opening

Report: Giants interested in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for manager opening

The Giants' search for a successor to now-retired manager Bruce Bochy has led them to the North Side.

According to NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic, the Giants are interested in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for their own managerial opening. San Francisco's interest is intriguing, as Venable went to high school just outside San Francisco in nearby San Rafael. His father — Max Venable — played for the Giants from 1979-83. 

Venable also interviewed for the Cubs' manager job earlier this month, telling the Chicago Sun-Times that his interest is in the "organization in general." He is one of several internal candidates for the Cubs' job, along with bench coach Mark Loretta and front office assistant David Ross.

The Cubs also interviewed Joe Girardi and are set to meet with Astros bench coach Joe Espada and former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler.

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Former Cub Mark Prior 'likely' to take over as Dodgers pitching coach in 2020

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USA TODAY

Former Cub Mark Prior 'likely' to take over as Dodgers pitching coach in 2020

Mark Prior's big-league playing career unfortunately fizzled out due to recurring injury woes, but he's making a name for himself in the coaching realm.

With Dodgers current pitching coach Rick Honeycutt transitioning into a new role, Prior is expected to takeover the position starting next season.

Cubs fans know the story of Prior's playing career all too well. The Cubs drafted him second overall in the 2001, with Prior making his MLB debut just a season later. He went on to dominate in 2003, posting an 18-6 record, 2.43 ERA and 245 strikeouts in 30 starts, a season in which he made the All-Star Game and finished third in the NL Cy Young Award voting.

However, Prior's season ended on a sour note, as he was on the mound during the Steve Bartman incident in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS. Prior exited the game with a 3-1 lead, but the Cubs surrendered seven more runs that inning, eventually falling to the Marlins 8-3 before losing Game 7 the next day. 

Prior struggled to stay healthy after 2003, eventually retiring in 2013 after multiple comeback attempts. While many blame his injury-riddled career on former Cubs manager Dusty Baker, Prior does not. 

While we can only wonder what could've been with Prior to the pitcher, it's good to see him still making an impact in baseball in some fashion.

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