Cubs

Strange reason why pitcher was ejected in DC

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Strange reason why pitcher was ejected in DC

From Comcast SportsNet
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Even without throwing a pitch, Tampa Bay's Joel Peralta left his mark on the game. The reliever was ejected in the Rays' 5-4 victory Tuesday night when Washington manager Davey Johnson asked the umpires to check Peralta's glove while the pitcher was warming up in the eighth inning. The check found "a significant amount of pine tar," according to crew chief Tim Tschida. The umpires carried the glove off the field and tossed Peralta. As the reliever walked off the field, he tipped his cap to the Nationals dugout. "Good for them," Peralta said. "They still lose the game." Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon was clearly upset with the umpires on the field, and afterward he called Johnson "cowardly" for requesting the check of the reliever who pitched for the Nationals in 2010. "Insider trading, man. It's bush," Maddon said. "It's bogus. That's way too easy, right there." Peralta did not directly answer when asked if he intentionally added pine tar to the glove. "That's a glove that I use for batting practice every day," he said. "I'm every day playing catch with it, it's hot here -- that's all I'm going to say about it." Jake McGee filled in and pitched a perfect eighth for the Rays, and Fernando Rodney pitched the ninth inning for his 20th save. "If somebody has been known to use a foreign substance on their glove or their hat, a nice hot night is the time to use it, so I asked them to check and obviously he had it," Johnson said. "It was a rumor that he liked a little pine tar." Maddon didn't deny there was pine tar on Peralta's glove, but he termed it a "common practice." "Joel is using pine tar and had pine tar in his glove," Maddon said. "I'm saying to suggest he's the only one that's doing it is inappropriate." After Peralta's ejection, Tschida told Maddon he could request a check of one Nationals player in reponse. In the top of the ninth, Maddon asked the umpires to check Nationals reliever Ryan Mattheus, but no foreign substance was found. The ejection took the spotlight from David Price (9-4), who bounced back from his worst start of the season. He gave up four runs on six hits, struck out four and walked one. His last time out against the Mets, Price gave up seven runs in five innings. "It was big for me," Price said. "It was good for our confidence and it was good for my confidence as well." The only real blemish on Price's night were a pair of home runs. Ian Desmond hit his career-best 11th in the third and Michael Morse hit his first homer of the season -- a two-run shot in the sixth. It wasn't enough for the Nationals, who lost their fourth in a row, one shy of their season-long slide. Washington starter Chien-Ming Wang (2-3) struggled from the start. He gave up singles to the game's first three batters, with the third by B.J. Upton scoring the Rays' first run. The Nationals tied the game in the bottom of the inning. Morse grounded to third with two outs, but Carlos Pena at first base couldn't handle the bounced throw from Will Ryhmes and Ryan Zimmerman scored on the error. Tampa Bay broke the game open with four runs in the third, kicked off by Pena's two-run homer to center. With two outs and two on Elliot Johnson nearly outdid Pena, missing a homer to the left-center gap by about a foot. Instead, he ended up with a two-run triple. Wang was pulled in the fourth inning after giving up five runs on seven hits. Reliever Ross Detwiler -- who opened the year as the Nationals' fifth starter -- came on and retired the first nine batters he faced before hitting Pena on the elbow in the seventh. That was the only baserunner Detwiler allowed in 3 2-3 innings, striking out three. Tampa Bay hung on to win for the third time in four games, but after the game Maddon was more concerned about a possible stain on Peralta's reputation, and he believed the ejection would cause players on other teams to change their practices. "I promise you one thing," Maddon said, "you're going to see brand-new gloves throughout the major leagues starting tomorrow, with pitchers on every major league ball club." NOTES: Rays OF Matt Joyce left the game in the fifth inning with back tightness. ... Tampa Bay will place RHP Jeremy Hellickson on the 15-day DL and recall RHP Chris Archer from Triple-A Durham to start his major league debut Wednesday. ... The Rays recalled OF Rich Thompson from Durham. ... Nationals RHPs Henry Rodriguez (right index finger) and Cole Kimball (right shoulder) started rehab assignments Tuesday. Rodriguez pitched for Triple-A Syracuse, and Kimball's assignment was with the rookie-level Gulf Coast League affiliate. ... The Nationals will make up their postponed June 1 rainout with the Braves as part of a day-night doubleheader on July 21.

How Ian Happ got his groove back at the plate

How Ian Happ got his groove back at the plate

There's a legit case to be made that Ian Happ has been the Cubs' second-best hitter in 2018.

Yes, really.

Happ ranks second on the Cubs in OPS (.895), behind only Kris Bryant (.995) among regulars, though a recent hot streak has buoyed that overall bottom line for Happ.

Still, it's been a pretty incredible hot streak and it's propelled Happ back to where he began the season — at the top of the Cubs order. 

Happ has walked 10 times in the last 6 games and hammered out 3 homers in that span, including one on top of the Schwarboard in right field as a pinch-hitter Tuesday night.

Even more jaw-dropping: He's only struck out 5 times in the last 9 games after a dreadful start to the season in that regard.

"It was just a matter of time until things clicked a little bit," Happ said. "That's why we play 162 games and it's a game of adjustments. At the end of the day, it all evens out.

"Look at the back of Tony [Rizzo's] baseball card — it's the same thing every single year. That's how this thing goes. You're gonna have your ups and your downs and I'm just trying to be as consistent as I can. If I can level it out a little bit and be more consistent over a period of time, that'll be better for our team."

So yes, Happ is on the upswing right now and he'll inevitably have more slumps where he strikes out too much and looks lost at the plate.

Such is life for a 23-year-old who is still a week away from his 162nd career MLB game.

The league had adjusted to Happ and he had to adjust back, which he'd been working hard doing behind the scenes.

"I just try to get him to primarily slow things down," Joe Maddon said. "Try to get him back into left-center. And I did not want to heap a whole lot of at-bats on him. When you're not going good, if you heap too many at-bats on somebody, all of a sudden, that's really hard to dig out of that hole.

"So a lot of conversations — a lot of conversations — but nothing complicated. I like to go the simple side of things. I wanted him to try not to lift the ball intentionally, really organize his strike zone."

Maddon believes Happ had lost sight of his strike zone organization, chasing too many pitches out of the zone — particularly the high fastball.

Now, the Cubs manager sees Happ using his hands more and less of his arms in his swing, working a more precise, compact path to the ball.

The Happ experiment at leadoff was a disaster to begin the year — .186 AVG, .573 OPS and 22 strikeouts in 10 starts there — but all the same tools and rationale exist for why Maddon likes the switch-hitting utiliy player in that spot.

And that's why Happ was leading off Wednesday with both Ben Zobrist and Albert Almora Jr. getting the night off.

"We're gonna find out [if he can stick at leadoff]," Maddon said. "I just thought he's looked better. He's coming off a nice streak on the road trip. [Tuesday night], pinch-hitting. I know the home run's great and of course that's nice.

"But how he got to the pitch that he hit out, to me, was the important thing. Got the two strikes, took the two borderline pitches and then all of a sudden, [the pitcher] came in with a little bit more and he didn't miss it.

"That's the big thing about hitting well, too — when you see your pitch, you don't either take it or foul it off. You don't miss it. He didn't miss it."

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Who has more fun on the diamond, Javier Baez or Yolmer Sanchez?

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USA TODAY

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Who has more fun on the diamond, Javier Baez or Yolmer Sanchez?

Ozzie Guillen and David DeJesus join Leila Rahimi on Wednesday's podcast. After Tuesday's game-winning hit and second self-inflicted Gatorade bath the guys wonder if anyone has more fun on the field than Yolmer Sanchez. Jim DeShaies joins the conversation and brings Javy Baez to the table.

Plus, Manny Mania continues to swirl in Chicago. Finally, what should be the White Sox plan for calling up their top prospects?

Listen to the full Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast right here: