Organizational Roundup – The Offense Has Arrived
Saturday’s 11-6 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park was kind of like a snapshot of the Cubs’ 3-2 record this season. It took a little while to get going. They looked pretty strong (but could look much better). And most importantly, they showed Cubs fans exactly why, if the offense is clicking, they are tough to beat.
The bats finally came around. (They probably should against journeyman Tommy Milone.) However, the biggest pull from this 17-hit, every-starter-recorded-at-least-one-hit effort was the play of Albert Almora.
Almora continues to show promise with his all-around game. He went 3-for-4 with 2 RBIs out of the No. 9 spot in the lineup, but his glove added another highlight-reel grab to the young season as he saved a run in the fifth inning with a sliding grab on a shallow bloop, resulting in a fist pump from starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks.
Offense Goes Boom
For a Cubs offense that really has been boom or bust this season, Saturday’s output calmed some North Side anxiety, especially when it came to reigning NL MVP Kris Bryant, who went 3-for-6 with two doubles and three RBI. Addison Russell had three hits and Willson Contreras continued his breakout campaign with two more RBI (he has five now on the season and is hitting .294).
The bats should receive a tougher test in righty Zach Davies today.
Bruised, Yep, But Back In There
Javy Baez was sporting a bruise around the eyelid on his left eye from a collision on Friday night with Jason Heyward, but he was back penciled in at second base Saturday and went 2-for-4 with 2 RBIs, relieving any concern that he was Schwarber 2.0.
It sounds as if Baez will rest today with Ben Zobrist moving to second, per Maddon’s pre-game comments on Saturday.
Pitching … Serviceable
Hendricks wasn’t his normal self, allowing a first-inning home run to Jonathan Villar and a game-tying two-run blast by Nick Franklin in the fourth. His stuff wasn’t sharp, but when you get 11 runs of support it doesn’t have to be. His strongest frame was his last, the sixth, when he had some pretty pitches for two Ks and a groundout.
Pedro Strop was on out of the pen Saturday, with three strikeouts (despite a walk and a wild pitch) … Justin Grimm struck out the side in the eighth but allowed a two-run shot to light-hitting Jett Bandy in the ninth.
The rubber match between the Cubs and Brewers is today at 1:10 p.m. on WGN-TV and Radio 670 The Score and will feature the Cubs Jake Arrieta (1-0, 0.00 ERA) against the Brewers’ Davies (0-1, 12.46 ERA). The Cubs got to Davies pretty well in Spring Training back on March 14, scoring six runs on six hits and three walks in three innings.
AAA – Iowa Cubs 10, Oklahoma City Dodgers 9
SP – Aaron Brooks – W (1-0), 5 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 5 K)
1B – Jeimer Candelario – 2-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, 5 RBI
2B – Ian Happ – 1-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI
CF – John Andreoli – 3-4, 3 R, 3B, RBI
Another Happ (No. 2 Prospect, Baseball America) power display with an opposite-field blast. At this point, after a strong spring, the guy is looking more and more polished (and major-league ready). With the play of Heyward and Almora, right now, there’s no place for him. Ditto for Candelario (No. 7 Prospect, Baseball America), though his ridiculous two-game, 2-HR, 10-RBI bender could be the springboard and bait for landing the Cubs some pitching at the trade deadline (or possibly before).
AA – Tennessee Smokies 9, Pensacola Blue Wahoos 2
SP – Trevor Clifton – W (1-0), 5 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K
1B – Yasiel Balaguert – 2-5, 2B, 2 RBI, 1 R
SS – Andrew Ely – 2-4, 3B, 2 RBI, 2 R
Clifton (No. 7 Prospect, Baseball America) pitched pretty well, allowing two runs in the opening frame before retiring 13 straight. He also had an RBI single in his first at-bat. Great start in AA for Clifton.
A-Adv – Lynchburg Hillcats 6, Myrtle Beach Pelicans 1
SP – Justin Steele – L (0-1), 4 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 5 BB, 1 K)
One night after Justin Hatch looked dominant, Steele struggled with his command, walking five. There are better days to come for Steele, who’s looking to break into the Cubs top 10 prospects with a strong season with the Pelicans.
A – West Michigan Whitecaps 2, South Bend Cubs 0
SP – Dylan Cease – L (0-1), 4 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 8 K
CF – D.J. Wilson 1-3
All eyes were on Cease (No. 4 Prospect, Baseball America) in this one, and he didn’t disappoint with 8 Ks in only four innings pitched, while only receiving singles as support on offense. Despite the three free passes, he allowed only a solo home run to Cam Gibson in the third inning. Reports from the game had him reaching 99 on the gun and sitting at 95 with a buckling, 72-mph curveball. This outing should produce pure excitement for Cubs fans along with questions on just how quickly Cease advances through the system.