Cubs

Theo Epstein's imprint was all over the All-Star Game beyond just the Cubs

Theo Epstein's imprint was all over the All-Star Game beyond just the Cubs

By: Brenna Carberry  

When the MLB All-Star teams were revealed last week, much of the attention was focused on the Cubs dominating the National League roster. 

But maybe the most underrated star of the midsummer classic was Theo Epstein, the one responsible for acquiring all seven Cubs players selected to this year's National League roster, as well as four of the six Boston Red Sox players selected to the American League roster.

Epstein's impact throughout his 14-year tenure with the Red Sox and Cubs can be seen on the list of players who made the trip to San Diego for this year's All-Star Game. Nine of the 11 All-Star selections who Epstein was involved in acquiring were starters in the midsummer classic. 

The Cubs made All-Star history by becoming just the second team ever to have its entire infield start an All-Star Game - Anthony Rizzo (first base), Ben Zobrist (second base), Addison Russell (shortstop) and Kris Bryant (third base) - last to do it were the 1963 St. Louis Cardinals. Outfielder Dexter Fowler was also voted in as a starter for the NL All-Star team, but decided not to play in Tuesday night's game due to an ongoing hamstring injury. Pitchers Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta were selected as reserves for the National League squad. 

[MORE: Are Cubs as good as they thought?]

For the Cubs, Epstein traded for Rizzo, Russell and Arrieta, drafted Bryant, and signed Zobrist. Epstein also acquired Fowler - initially through a trade, then Fowler re-signed with the Cubs through 2017 - and signed free-agent Lester. 

As General Manager for the Red Sox Epstein made several key acquisitions, such as signing David Ortiz and Xander Bogaerts, and drafting rising stars Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts; all of which were starters in the All-Star Game.

Epstein's imprint stretches from Boston to Chicago, and this year's All-Star Game is an opportunity for baseball fans to recognize his greatness. 

He has brought winning baseball back to both clubs, but his work in Chicago is far from complete if he is going to do what he did in Boston back in 2004, and again in 2007 - bring home a World Series trophy. While Epstein's acquisitions in Chicago have powered the Cubs to one of the best records in the MLB through the first half of the season, there is still plenty of baseball left to be played. 

A World Series trophy in Chicago would put an end to the North Siders' 108-year drought, and it would prove that Epstein is a master at his craft (if you needed any further proof).

Cubs bullpen gets another reinforcement with Craig Kimbrel activated

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USA TODAY

Cubs bullpen gets another reinforcement with Craig Kimbrel activated

The Cubs bullpen has had its share of struggles in recent days, but the team’s new closer is coming back from the injured list.

Craig Kimbrel was activated off the IL ahead of Sunday’s game against the Pirates. The game will be played in Williamsport, Pa., as the Little League Classic.

Kimbrel took the spot of Duane Underwood Jr., who heads back to Triple-A Iowa. Outfielder Mark Zagunis also joined the Cubs roster as the 26th man for Sunday’s game.

Kimbrel joined the Cubs as a free agent in the middle of the season and debuted on June 27. He made 14 appearances before going to the IL with right knee inflammation. He last pitched on Aug. 3.

In 12 2/3 innings, Kimbrel has 17 strikeouts, eight walks and 13 hits for a 5.68 ERA. He has nine saves.

The Cubs suffered back-to-back walk-off losses on Thursday and Friday with the bullpen blowing late leads. Three of the team’s most experienced relievers, Kimbrel, Brandon Kintzler and Steve Cishek were all on the IL at the same time. Kintzler was activated Friday, but promptly blew a lead in Pittsburgh on Friday in his first game back.

Kimbrel’s return gives Joe Maddon another option in the bullpen after going through a rough stretch with relievers.

With Cubs reeling, Jon Lester comes up big and plays stopper

With Cubs reeling, Jon Lester comes up big and plays stopper

The last three games have been more than forgettable for the Cubs.

From Wednesday’s 11-1 drubbing at the hands of the Phillies to back-to-back walk-off losses on Thursday and Friday, the Cubs’ current road trip has looked much like those that preceded it. At various times, the offense has scuffled, the rotation has pitched a clunker and the bullpen has cracked.

The solution to the latest road trip woes? Give the ball to Jon Lester and get the hell out of the way.

Lester —  who pitched a clunker himself Aug. 6 against the A’s — did what the Cubs have become so accustomed to see him do over the past four seasons. The 35-year-old tossed 6+ shutout innings, allowing just four hits, leading the Cubs to a 2-0 win.

Lester had no room for error on Saturday, as the Cubs offense went hitless for the first 4 1/3 innings. While the Cubs bats were asleep, the Pirates threatened to break the game on open multiple times, loading the bases with one out (first inning), no outs (fifth) and getting runners on first and second with no outs in the sixth.

The latter two of those instances were assisted by errors by third baseman Kris Bryant, but that’s neither here nor there. Point being, with how the Cubs looked offensively, any Pirates runs could have proved critical on Saturday. Instead, Lester worked out of every jam, stymying the Pirates bats to an 0-for-12 line with RISP.

Winning Saturday’s game was obviously important for the Cubs, as it puts them a game ahead of the Cardinals in the win column (pending the outcome of St. Louis' game against the Reds later Saturday). But it was equally important for Lester, who called himself the “weakest link” in the Cubs starting rotation after that tough outing against the A’s.

The beautiful thing about baseball is that the regular season is 162 games long. Each day presents teams with a new slate, a chance to forget about what happened in the previous game and move forward.  If Saturday’s start shows anything, it’s that Lester and the Cubs are more than capable of putting a tough game in the rearview mirror and keep moving forward.

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