White Sox

Cubs' success in leadoff spot continues into 2012

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Cubs' success in leadoff spot continues into 2012

Part of the reason for the Cubs' struggles over the past couple of seasons has been a lack of offense, mostly due to a lack of timely hitting. As a result, the players hitting in the leadoff spot have come under a lot of scrutiny, but it's unwarranted.

The Cubs actually led the National League in on-base percentage out of the leadoff spot last season, posting a .367 mark.

A lot of that was Kosuke Fukudome's patience, as he spent 312 plate apperances (42 of which were walks) in the leadoff spot, boasting a .370 OBP. Castro's .327 average in the 1-hole helped out as well, even though he had just 21 walks in 335 PAs.

Even Jeff Baker (.455 OBP in 22 PAs) and Reed Johnson (.375 OBP in 56 PAs) chipped in.

However, of the top five teams in the NL in leadoff OBP, only the Milwaukee Brewers made the playoffs, so getting on base at the top of order doesn't necessarily equate to success.

Of course, the Cubs' problem has always been driving in those runs.

David DeJesus is putting the Cubs in a good position again in 2012, with a .391 OBP so far this season, spending all but one plate appearance out of the leadoff spot. He's scored just three runs, but he's doing exactly what the Cubs have asked him to do.

DeJesus' on-base skills -- .356 career OBP -- make him a good fit for this Cubs lineup. He won't light up the scorecard with home runs or RBIs or even stolen bases, but his ability to work the count and draw walks is a breath of fresh air in a typically aggressive lineup.

Squirrel runs onto field to interrupt play during White Sox-Twins game

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USA TODAY

Squirrel runs onto field to interrupt play during White Sox-Twins game

In one of the nuttier things to happen at a baseball game this season, a squirrel came onto the field during Tuesday’s White Sox-Twins game.

The squirrel ran onto the field during the bottom of the fifth and the umpire called time to stop play. It ran through the legs of Max Kepler, who was the baserunner at first base for the Twins at the time, straight across the infield and into the White Sox dugout.

Check out the chaos:

'Baby steps' in the right direction for Cole Hamels

'Baby steps' in the right direction for Cole Hamels

Cole Hamels is working on so much stuff mechanically right now, he compared his pitching delivery to a golf swing and how "you're thinking about like 10 different things and you can't hit the ball off the tee box."

The veteran southpaw picked up the win Tuesday night and recorded his first quality start since June 23, but it wasn't exactly smooth.

Two separate times, he failed to come through with a shutdown inning after his offense gave him the lead, serving up a pair of homers to allow the Giants to tie the game. But he came through when they needed him most, throwing up a goose egg in the box score after Jonathan Lucroy drove home Javy Baez with the game-winning run in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Overall, it was a step in the right direction for Hamels as he tries to regain the form he had before he hit the injured list.

"It's just kinda the baby steps and getting back to knowing what I'm capable of doing and obviously not causing any sort of damage for these games that I'm trying to get back to what I know to do," Hamels said after the 5-3 victory and conceded he did have some positive things to build off of. "I was able to get a better line and direction toward home plate, but at the same time, leaving some balls up. That's what I was trying to get away from, just 'cause the past couple starts, I was really getting hurt on the fastballs up. Like I did today, the two fastballs up were obviously hit out of the ballpark.

"It's a game of inches. If I can slowly but surely get to where I need to be, then I can see the type of results I know I'm capable of having and will look a little bit better on TV and in the box score."

Cubs manager Joe Maddon felt like Hamels got better throughout the game, as the lefty started "pitching" more and settling in with his command. 

Hamels was on fire before he hit the injured list with an oblique injury and even after more than a month on the shelf, looked to be picking up right where he left off with 5 shutout innings in his first game back Aug. 3. 

But things have taken a turn since then, as he allowed 12 earned runs on 17 hits over just 5 innings pitched in his next two starts before grinding it out Tuesday night.

The Cubs haven't seen this type of struggle from Hamels, who gave the team a major shot in the arm last summer after coming over in a trade and was the rotation's best pitcher for the first half of this season.

"He's been Steady Eddy for us since he's been here," Anthony Rizzo said. "He's a professional. He's one of my favorite teammates ever. I love when he plays. I love him in the dugout, I love the intensity he brings and it's fun to watch him play."

Assuming the Cubs stay on the same rotation, Hamels will get one more start on this homestand - Sunday afternoon in the series finale with the Nationals.