Cubs

LaHair giving Cubs the power surge theyre missing

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LaHair giving Cubs the power surge theyre missing

The Cubs believed Bryan LaHair would produce in the big leagues if given a chance. The first baseman rewarded their faith by putting together a monster April, hitting .390 with five home runs and 14 RBI.

Four of LaHairs five homers have either tied a game or given the Cubs a lead, and that sense of calm when everyones watching could be a preview for how he will handle success.

I live for those moments, LaHair said. I just stay consistent with each at-bat. I dont let any at-bat overwhelm me. Pitch to pitch, all I do is try to get good balls to hit and hit them hard every at-bat.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesnt. As long as Im consistent doing that, Ill be all right.

Dale Sveums relationship with Prince Fielder didnt matter that much in the end, and Theo Epsteins meeting with the agent for Albert Pujols during the winter meetings was mostly about Rodrigo Lopez.

The Cubs werent prepared to do a megadeal.

Sveum, a former Brewers hitting coach, broke down LaHairs mechanics and saw the potential to do some damage.

Heres the scouting report the Cubs manager gave just before the games were about to begin in spring training:

I knew he had power, obviously, because of his numbers, but hes got tremendous leverage through the strike zone, Sveum said. I think hes the kind of guy that can run into 10 home runs a year just because of the leverage.

What I mean by that is he can hit home runs when hes not perfect, when hes off-balance, whether its a changeup or a breaking ball down.

The bat stays through the strike zone and the back side works correctly to where you can get a lot of home runs when it doesnt look like a prototypically perfect swing.

One reason why the Cubs are 8-15 is the power outage throughout the lineup. The last time they hit just nine homers in a month was August of 1981.

The last Cub to account for more than half of the teams home runs in a month was Sammy Sosa in August of 2001, when he hit 17 of 32.

Power usually comes later in the year, LaHair said. You never know with power. (It) comes and goes. We got guys on this team that have power and Im sure theyre going to hit for power.

I dont really read into that kind of stuff.

People should question whether LaHair will really keep this up, and the sample sizes are way too small at the major-league level.

Top prospect Anthony Rizzo is coming fast to play first base at Wrigley Field, though the Cubs have to be curious what it would be like to have both left-handed hitters in the same lineup.

There is also the possibility that the Pacific Coast League MVP who hit 38 homers last season and crushed the ball over the winter in Venezuela is starting to figure it out.

By 29, youve had a lot of at-bats and youve learned a lot of things about hitting, Sveum said. Thats about when most guys are coming into their own anyway.

Joe Maddon goes after Sean Doolittle's delivery: ‘That's exactly what I was told Carl can't do’

Joe Maddon goes after Sean Doolittle's delivery: ‘That's exactly what I was told Carl can't do’

The Cubs finished Saturday's loss at the Nationals under protest after Joe Maddon saw what he believed to be an inconsistency in how illegal pitches are being called.

Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle came in to close the game out in the ninth with the Nats up 5-2. After one pitch, Maddon went to the umpires to complain. This dragged on throughout the inning.

Maddon didn't like that Doolittle's delivery involved him pausing and potentially even touching the ground in the middle of his wind up before coming home with the pitch. To Maddon, it was clearly an illegal pitch and he was fired up because that's something Carl Edwards Jr. got called for earlier in the season. By comparison, Edwards' version may be more deliberate, but Maddon thinks it is the same thing.

"That's exactly what I was told Carl can't do," Maddon said postgame in a video posted by ESPN's Jesse Rogers. "There's no judgment. If he taps the ground, it's an illegal pitch, period. There's nothing to judge. You can judge whether he did or not. It's obvious that he did, or if you can't tell that then there's something absolutely wrong."

Maddon and the Cubs protested the game as a result. If they win the protest, the game would be restarted with one out in the ninth, when Maddon notified the umpires of the protest.

Doolittle was less than amused by Maddon's protest.

"I have no qualms against Doolittle," Maddon said. "He's great, but they took it away from our guy so for me to sit in the dugout and permit that to happen while they stripped us of that ability earlier this year with Carl, how could I do that? You can't do that. I got to say something."

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Jon Lester's hot streak comes to an end at Nationals

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USA TODAY

Jon Lester's hot streak comes to an end at Nationals

Jon Lester was on a heck of a run since coming off the IL in late April, but it came to a screeching halt on Saturday.

Lester had by far his worst start of the season at the Nationals in a 5-2 Cubs loss. He labored through his start, giving up five runs in 4 1/3 innings.

Lester gave up 10 hits, which matches the most he has given up since joining the Cubs. He gave up a fair number of hits in his last two starts, but was able to avoid trouble on the scoreboard. Lester gave up nine hits in 6 2/3 innings against the Brewers last time out, but only gave up an unearned run. On May 7, Lester gave up eight hits to the Marlins, but only allowed two unearned runs in six innings of work.

This time, Lester couldn’t stay out of trouble. Brian Dozier got the Nats on the board with a solo shot in the second and then the wheels came off in the third.

To open the third inning Lester gave up six straight hits. The Nats got three runs that inning and then added another in the fifth, when Lester departed the game.

Since Lester came off the IL on April 25, he had allowed just one earned run (four runs in total) in 24 2/3 innings. During that stretch, he had 25 strikeouts against just two walks. His ERA fell to 1.16, which would have led all of baseball if he had enough innings to qualify. It’s at 2.09 after Saturday’s loss.

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