Cubs

Papelbon pays Thome 5,000 for historic walk-off homer

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Papelbon pays Thome 5,000 for historic walk-off homer

PHILADELPHIA Jim Thome knows the routine. Hit a game-ending homer, circle the bases, get mobbed by teammates.

It never gets old.

Thome hit a pinch home run leading off the bottom of the ninth inning to lift the Philadelphia Phillies over the Tampa Bay Rays 7-6 on Saturday after Jonathan Papelbon blew his first save in 18 chances this season.

Thome connected off Jake McGee (2-2) for home run No. 609, tying Sammy Sosa for seventh place on baseball's career list. It was the 13th time he did it to end a game -- a new major-league record.

"You never forget them," Thome said. "These are moments you never know how long you'll have them."

Juan Pierre and Jimmy Rollins also homered for the Phillies, helping manager Charlie Manuel earn his 900th career win.

"To do that for him, it was special for sure," said Thome, who is very close to Manuel.

In the first meeting at Citizens Bank Park between this teams since Philadelphia won the 2008 World Series, the Phillies rallied from a 3-0 deficit against James Shields with homers from their Nos. 1-2 hitters. But Papelbon couldn't hold the lead.

Thome then came through to lead the five-time defending NL East champions out of last place for the first time since May 4. He hit a high drive to left field, jogged around the bases to a rousing ovation and got a cream pie in the face from Shane Victorino afterward on the field.

"That felt great," Thome said. "They put whipped cream instead of shaving cream so that was nice."

Tampa Bay's Jeff Keppinger was 5 for 5 with three RBIs in his first game after he missed 29 because of a broken toe.

Papelbon (2-2) allowed his first earned runs in a save situation this season. He walked Jose Lobaton with two outs to extend the game. Keppinger followed with an RBI single. Then, Brooks Conrad ripped a run-scoring single to right to tie it. Conrad was 3 for 41 before that hit.

"I've got to do a better job," Papelbon said.

Papelbon said he told Thome in the on-deck circle that he would give him 5,000 if he hit a homer. Papelbon said he wrote the check in the clubhouse.

"That was a huge pickup by Jim Thome," Papelbon said. "I couldn't be happier for anybody in the clubhouse."

Shields, who beat the Phillies in Game 2 of the '08 Series for Tampa Bay's only win, allowed five runs and seven hits in five innings. Since starting 5-0, Shields is 2-4 with a 4.69 ERA.

Tampa Bay has lost three straight.

"Tip your hat to Thome. He hit a 96 mph fastball off a left-hander and they beat us," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

Cubs bolster pitching staff with minor trade, foreshadow more moves coming

Cubs bolster pitching staff with minor trade, foreshadow more moves coming

The Cubs didn't wait long to make Joe Maddon's words come true.

Roughly 5 hours after Maddon said the Cubs are definitely in the market for more pitching, the front office went out and acquired Jesse Chavez, a journeyman jack-of-all-trades type.

It's a minor move, not in the realm of Zach Britton or any of the other top relievers on the market.

But the Cubs only had to part with pitcher Class-A pitcher Tyler Thomas, their 7th-round draft pick from last summer who was pitching out of the South Bend rotation as a 22-year-old.

Chavez — who turns 35 in a month — brings over a vast array of big-league experience, with 799 innings under his belt. He's made 70 starts, 313 appearances as a reliever and even has 3 saves, including one this season for the Texas Rangers.

Chavez is currently 3-1 with a 3.51 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 50 strikeouts in 56.1 innings. He has a career 4.61 ERA and 1.38 WHIP while pitching for the Pirates, Braves, Royals, Blue Jays, A's, Dodgers, Angels and Rangers before coming to Chicago.

Of his 30 appearances this season, Chavez has worked multiple innings 18 times and can serve as a perfect right-handed swingman in the Cubs bullpen, filling the role previously occupied by Luke Farrell and Eddie Butler earlier in the season.

Chavez had a pretty solid run as a swingman in Oakland from 2013-15, making 47 starts and 50 appearances as a reliever, pitching to a 3.85 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 8.2 K/9 across 360.1 innings.

"Good arm, versatile, could start and relieve," Joe Maddon said Thursday after the trade. "I've watched him. I know he had some great runs with different teams. 

"The word that comes to mind is verstaility. You could either start him or put him in the bullpen and he's very good in both arenas."

It's not a flasy move, but a valuable piece to give the Cubs depth down the stretch.

There's no way the Cubs are done after this one trade with nearly two weeks left until the deadline. There are more moves coming from this front office, right?

"Oh yeah," Maddon said. "I don't think that's gonna be the end of it. They enjoy it too much."

Michael Kopech electric in start vs. Pawtucket

Michael Kopech electric in start vs. Pawtucket

The Charlotte Knights took on the Pawtucket Red Sox on Thursday night in a high-profile minor league game due to White Sox No. 2 prospect Michael Kopech being on the mound. 

Kopech, the 22-yearold old flame throwing right-hander, has been collecting impressive strikeout totals but has struggled with his control. He had issued 15 walks over his last five starts, and prior to Thursday's game his ERA was 4.48. But Kopech shined in all facets against Pawtucket.

In six innings of work, Kopech allowed one earned run on seven hits, and had nine strikeouts. But the most important part of his game was that fact that he only issued one walk in the start.

Prior to Thursday's game, Kopech had 122 strikeouts and 57 walks over 88.1 innings pitched. If he continues to cut down his walks he will become a very efficient pitcher in the future. 

But the performance is important in the context of the White Sox losing season, as a lack of control is perhaps the last thing holding Kopech back from being able to make his major league debut.