Cubs

Soriano, Zambrano help Cubs halt losing streak

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Soriano, Zambrano help Cubs halt losing streak

Friday, April 29, 2011
Posted: 11:38 p.m.

Associated Press

PHOENIX (AP) Alfonso Soriano hit a pair of leadoff homers and Carlos Zambrano bounced back from his first loss in 18 starts, lifting the Chicago Cubs to a 4-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night.Soriano led off the fifth and seventh innings with homers against Armando Galarraga (3-2), and Geovany Soto hit a solo shot of his own to help Chicago end a four-game losing streak.Zambrano (3-1) was sharp after his 10-game winning streak ended against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday, settling in after giving up a long two-run homer to Justin Upton in the first inning to win his ninth straight road start.Carlos Marmol worked a perfect ninth for his sixth save in eight chances.Arizona took a step toward erasing its first-inning woes this season against the Cubs in the series opener on Thursday, scoring seven runs - four on Stephen Drew's grand slam - off Ryan Dempster on the way to an 11-2 win. The Diamondbacks had been outscored 26-9 in the opening frame the previous 23 games.Arizona did it again against Zambrano, though not as emphatically, getting two runs in the first on a homer by Upton that almost landed in the restaurant at the back of the second deck in left. The shot, estimated at 455 feet, was one of three hits for Upton.Zambrano shook off the early drive and settled into a bit of a rhythm, stranding runners over the next four innings before pitching a perfect sixth. He was lifted for a pinch-hitter the next inning after allowing two runs on four hits and walking three.Chicago went up 4-2 in the eighth when Aramis Ramirez squibbed a fielder's choice against Esmerling Vasquez.Galarraga was solid through the first four innings, scattering three singles, including two that didn't get out of the infield.He found trouble to start the fifth, when Soriano dug out a 1-2 breaking ball from just above the dirt and lined it over the wall in left-center. Soto followed with a no-doubt shot in the same vicinity, giving Chicago back-to-back homers for the first time this season.Soriano did it again in the seventh, hitting Galarraga's first pitch just over the wall in right-center for his ninth of the season to put the Cubs up 3-2.Galarraga was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the seventh after allowing three runs and six hits. Decent, but Zambrano was just a little better.NOTES: Chicago 1B Carlos Pena, stuck in a 2-for-25 slump, was held out of the lineup and entered the game as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning. ... Soriano has 27 career multihomer games. ... Arizona had scored 21 runs in 21 innings for Galarraga in his first four starts.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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