The Cubs go for eight in a row this afternoon with Randy Wells taking on the Reds' Bronson Arroyo. Check the minor-league roundup below for notes on hot-hitting Josh Vitters at Class AA Tennessee. Against the Reds, manager Mike Quade goes with four left-handed hitters in his starting lineup:
“Trying to mix and match both for rest and for circumstance,” Quade said. “Arroyo’s been tough, so let’s run every left-hander we’ve got. We left Hilly on the bench. We’ll catch him in a couple of days. We had some good matchups against Cueto yesterday. Keep some people involved. This has been a pretty tough stretch, and the guys have done a good job.”
Starlin Castro enters the day with a seven-game hitting streak, during which he’s gone 16-for-32. He leads the NL in hits, with 148, putting him on pace for 210 for the season. Castro has 19 games with 3 or more hits, tops in the NL.
“Cassie right now is swinging the bat well,” Q said. I was thinking about giving him a day off. But why? The thing I’ve been impressed with is he’s gotten hot and probably has had less rest than anybody and continues to motor. There’s still a lot of baseball left, so we’ll keep an eye on him the rest of August and September. That’s another thing you like to see. Not just a guy that’s good, but he’s grinding through a tough time of the year and still playing with energy and playing successful.”
Quade also said he rejects the notion that his team is playing well because the “pressure is off.”
“I don’t buy any of that stuff,” he said. “I think we play better when we’re healthy. I think we’ve played better defense. We’ve gotten better. Hopefully, that’s from hard work. Was there pressure in May when we were struggling? I don’t buy any of that. To me, if you want to talk about pressure, talk about the last two weeks of the season, when you’re in the hunt and there’s a game separating two or three clubs. Pressure every day to play major-league baseball is what it is.”
A lot of it has boiled down to quality starts and hitting home runs of late. The Cubs have 13 homers in their last five games. In their last 22 games, the Cubs have 15 quality starts. The starters have an ERA of 2.13 in the quality-start games, with the club having gone 11-4. In the seven non-quality starts, the starters’ ERA is 10.69.
“The other thing is, we’ve played pretty clean baseball,” Q said. “We’ve complemented the pitching with a pretty good couple of weeks of defense. That’s been a plus, too. Throughout this stretch, and really outside of Marm’s struggles for a little bit, we’ve hit some, we’ve pitched some, we’ve run the bases, stolen some bases, we’ve played better defense. I just think we’ve done a lot of things to help you win, and we’ve gotten contributions in all these different areas at certain points as well as from the entire roster.”
Even so, Quade said he’s not getting caught up in a seven-game winning streak of a club that’s 49-65 and that he doesn’t concern himself with whom might or might not be back next year.
“It’s really too early for me to concern myself,” he said. “I dodge that all the time. There’s plenty of reasons to be excited, but the fact is you still want to put together more than a seven-game streak and play five or six months of good baseball.”
Class AA Tennessee split a doubleheader with Huntsville, winning 5-2 and losing 3-2. Third baseman Josh Vitters had a nice day, going 2-for-3 with a homer and 3 RBI in the first game and 2-for-4 with a double and 2 RBI in the nightcap. Over his last 10 games, Vitters is 13-for-35 with 2 doubles, 2 homers, 9 RBI, 2 walks and 3 strikeouts. His line over that span is .371/.425/.600. For the season, Vitters is at .284/.321/.455. He's 100-for-352 with 22 doubles, 1 triple, 12 homers, 58 RBI, 15 walks and 40 strikeouts.
Ryan Searle (4-2, 3.72 ERA) picked up the Game 1 win, working 6 innings, giving up 4 hits and 2 runs. Rafael Dolis earned his 11th save. Marco Carillo (5-2, 1.87) took the loss, working 5 innings and giving up 5 hits and 2 runs. Nelson Perez was 2-for-3 with a double and a homer in the first game.
Iowa (AAA) beat Fresno 3-2 on Steve Clevenger's pinch, bases-loaded single in the ninth. It was the franchise's 3,000th Triple-A victory.
"I had no idea it was No. 3,000," Clevenger told the Des Moines Register's Rick Brown. "We took three of four from these guys, and it's a good victory for us."
Casey Coleman got a no-decision as he worked 7 innings, giving up 7 hits and 2 runs while walking one and striking out three. Coleman's ERA is 3.91.
Daytona (A) fell 5-4 to Clearwater. Casey Harman took the loss, working 5 innings and giving up 9 hits and 4 runs.
Peoria (A) beat Cedar Rapids 8-3. Starling Peralta got a no-decision, working 5 innings of 7-hit, 3-run ball, walking one and striking out five. Ben Klafczynski was 3-for-4 with an RBI. Taiwan Easterling extended a hit streak to seven, going 1-for-4 with 2 RBI.
Boise (A) scored a 10-5 victory over Salem-Keizer. Recent draft pick Zeke DeVoss was 2-for-4 with 2 runs, a double, a walk and 2 strikeouts. Reggie Golden, taken last year in the draft, was 2-for-4 with a run, a triple and 4 RBI. Blair Springfield was 2-for-3 with a run, a double and 3 RBI. Austin Reed got the win, working 5.2 innings and giving up 9 hits and 3 runs, 2 earned.
The Mesa Cubs beat the Brewers 9-5. Hayden Simpson, who has had his program revamped again, started and pitched 1 inning, giving up 1 hit while striking out one. Shortstop Marco Hernandez extended a hit streak to 13 by going 2-for-5 with 2 steals. Neftali Rosario has an 11-game streak after going 2-for-5 with a triple.