Scott Fennessy: XC – Ecstasy or Excessive?

I was recently purchasing a season for the upcoming Chicagoland Tournament and I chose the 2016 Chicago Cubs.  But since I don’t have the team and also wanted to own the first Cub world championship roster in my lifetime I went ahead and ordered it.

However, when I went to APBA’s site to purchase the team and then added the XC cards to the cart I was sort of floored by the total cost.  No, I am not slamming APBA for the cost of the set, but was somewhat surprised as I have usually purchased deadball era teams and they are a lot less.

I realize the difference is the number of teams, therefore the much larger number of cards, hence the cost.  But the question remained, do I really need to spend $100 dollars on a set if you include the XC’s?

I looked at the rosters and then the XC’s.  This brought about the subject matter.  Do I or don’t I want or even NEED the XC cards.  In the two seasons that I have purchased since APBA has begun to reissue the sets I did get the XC cards.

In all honesty, I find that while you get some monster cards here and there, they are mostly cards that won’t see much past a defensive replacement or blowout relief appearance.

Back in the “old days” when APBA had 20 -25 card rosters and 10 XB cards that you had to tear apart as an option; I always ordered the XB’s as I always needed them as the seasons progressed.

Maybe I am just lazy, but I really don’t need the set for replay purposes.  80% of the cards end up in an envelope stuffed so full it can barely hold them and never get used.

But I realize they play a vital role for those that do actual game day lineups (and for putting THAT much work into a replay I salute you.)  So to those of you who read this, how important to you is the XC card set to you?


Thanks to Craig Christian for the photo!



Scott Fennessy: Lance Lynn shuts down Cubs as Cardinals win series

480px-IMG_9764_Lance_LynnBusch Stadium
St. Louis, MO
May 7, 2015

Tonight’s game features Kyle Hendricks vs Lance Lynn. Kyle has had a decent, but not spectacular season so far, while Lance has easily been the best redbird starter so far. I’m expecting this to be an interesting game so let’s get underway.

Lynn struggles with his control on this somewhat damp and chilly evening and walks a couple of batters, but manages to keep Chicago off the scoreboard in the first inning.

Unfortunately for Kyle he was in the strike zone far too much in the bottom of the inning and the Cardinals jumped on him quickly. Back to back singles by Jason Heyward and Kolten Wong put runners on the corners and Wong was off with the pitch to Chris Carpenter, who has been hitting Chicago pitching pretty solidly this series and he bangs a double off the wall in right field and two runs score.

Stephen Piscotty slaps an opposite field single and the lead is extended to 3. Jhonny Peralta and Shane Reynolds get a single and a walk, but Hendricks recovered enough to get out of the inning with three runs.

Oddly enough while both pitchers struggled throughout the game neither was tagged for another run as both teams stranded a lot of runners, but for the Cubs they only got two hits, doubles by Chris Coghlan and Austin Jackson who have both been struggling mightily of late.

Unfortunately Lynn goes to 5-1 on the young season with a 1.84 ERA while Hendricks drops to 2-3 with an ERA over 5.00. The one bright spot for the Cubs this game was the deut of Zac Rosscup. The bullpen has not been superb so far and while he did allow 3 hits and a walk in two innings he did not allow a run and struck out he side in the eighth inning.

Around the horn:

Pitching has been king over the last few games. Chris Young of the Royals throws a 1 hit shutout over the Indians and KC wins a nail biter 1-0

Anibal Sanchez starts with 4 and 1/3rd innings of no hit baseball and for the second time this year ties the all time record for a D starter. Detroit beats the White Sox 3-2.

Dallas Kuchel throws his second 2 hit shutout of the year and is reminding me of Jesse Tannehill of the Pirates run as the "King of the 1-hitter" in my 1901-03 replays.

And despite another pitchers duel in Tampa Prince fielder hits a game winning solo homer in the top of the 9th inning and the Rangers squeeze out a 1-0 victory over the Rays.

[photo credit]

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Scott Fennessy: Cubs bats return in victory over cards

360px-Anthony_Rizzo_on_July_16,_2016Busch Stadium
St. Louis, MO
May 6, 2015

The Cubs are looking to rebound from last night’s shutdown performance by redbird hurler Nick Martinez. Tonight’s game sees Jon Lester match up against
Michael Wacha, who has struggled pretty badly so far.

Wacha looks like it will be a quick start as he gets the first two hitters quickly but Anthony Rizzo, who is finally beginning to come around after a bit of a slump draws a walk and moved to second on Kris Bryant’s single up the middle. Miguel Montero gets a fastball on the upper half, and while he can’t turn on it this one rattles around in the left field corner for a two run double.

Austin Jackson, who is mired in a big slump hits a floater into right field for a single that scores another run. Chris Coghlan pops up to end the inning, but not until the Cubs are up 3-0 heading into the bottom of the first inning.

Lester, who has been solid all year gets the first three with ease, and nothing has changed as we enter the bottom of the third inning when Brandon Moss hits a single into left to start things off. Wacha lays down a sacrifice bunt to move the runner into scoring position. Jason Heyward, who is hitting more like his 2016 version right now hits a liner into right that scores Moss with no throw for the first run of the evening, but he was erased in a 6-4-3 double play to end the rally with the Cubs leading 3-1 as we are now 1/3rd of the way through this one.

Although both teams had scattered some hits here and there not much happened until the sixth inning when Jackson gets his second hit of the night and moved to second on a double by Coghlan. Addison Russell, who almost has to buy a hit at this point slips one into center field to score two more as the St. Louis bullpen begins to warm up, but he strikes out Lester and retires the side with no further damage, but the Cubs have taken control with a 5-1 lead.

The home team responds in the bottom half however, as Heyward drills a double into center field and trots home one out later on towering homer by Chris Carpenter to left field. Chris Bosio comes out for a quick chat and it appears to work as Lester gets two quick outs and the inning ends with the Cubs on top 5-3.

Kris Bryant gets a belt high fastball with one out and the lead is now 6-3, and while Wacha struggles but still gets out of the inning, but as he is due to bat this inning expect a pinch hitter.

And that wrapped up the game as both bullpens were solid with no runs are allowed and the final score was 6-3 Chicago over St. Louis.

Lester picked up the win and goes to 5-1. Justin Grimm was solid in his one inning and Hector Rondon only allowed one hit, a leadoff double by Jhonny Peralta in the ninth and got a much needed save. His ERA dropped under 8.00 for the first time all year.

Michael Wacha struggles again and is now 2-4 for the year and has a 5.20 ERA. Marcus Hatley tossed 2 strong innings of relief despite being a D.

Around the horn

A.J. Burnett of the Pirates throws a 3 hit gem as the Pirates beat the Reds 7-3.

Khris Davis of the Brewers has been on a monster tear over the last week or so. He has jumped from a .245 average to .336 and now has 9 homers and 22 RBI on the year.

"Instant Offense" Jose Altuve continues to dominate with a .364 batting average, and despite only having 1 homer (he seems to hit the 11-6 instead) has a .922 OPS. Teammate Carlos Correa is equally frightening at .359 with 14 homers and a 1.183 OPS to go with a .806 slugging percentage. They are the best 1-2 combo I have had in as long as I can remember.

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Scott Fennessy: Cubs get no discount at "Car Mart"

carmartBusch Stadium
St. Louis, MO
May 5, 2015

The Cubs face the Cardinals in game two of their series with the Redbirds. Tonight’s game features Jake Arrieta (5-1) against Carlos Martinez (4-2). Both pitchers are strikeout hurlers so runs may be at a premium this evening.

Dexter Fowler continues his hot streak with a leadoff single to center. Dex steals second easily on reserve catcher Cody Stanley and is still on second with one out. Fowler sees something in Martinez’s delivery and he’s off for third on a 2-2 count. The throw is high and sails over Shane Reynolds’ leaping stab and rolls into left field! Fowler scores and the Cubs take a 1-0 lead.

Anthony Rizzo rips a double to right but is stranded and the inning ends soon afterwards with Chicago getting just the one run.

The home team comes storming right back in the bottom half of the inning, as Kolten Wong blasts a flat slider that comes in belt high and this one is a no doubter to left field and the Cardinals have tied this game. Jake settles down and quickly ends the inning, but this game is tied at 1-1 after one.

Both pitchers are pitching extremely well tonight, and there was little action until the Cardinals come through in the bottom of the 4th inning. Stephen Piscotty hits one into the right field corner for a lead off triple. Jhonny Peralta hits a fly ball to deep center field that Fowler catches near the wall that scores Piscotty for the lead run. Arrieta gets the next two hitters and the inning is over, but not before the Cardinals take a 2-1 lead.

And that ended the scoring for this one as both pitchers were very dominant. Jake Arrieta gets the tough luck loss while allowing just 2 runs on three hits. He walked 3 and struck out 6 in 7 innings.

The big story tonight was Carlos Martinez. He goes the distance, allowing one run on 3 hits while striking out 13, including a streak of 6 in a row in the later portion of the game.

Around the horn

Cleveland starter Danny Salazar strikes out 11 batters in a complete game loss to the Royals 4-3.

Scott Kazmir of the Astros shuts out the Rangers and a grueling 1-0 victory.

Cameron Maybin of the Braves goes 5 for 5 with 3 RBI and a stolen base as the Braves beat the Phillies 7-1.

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Scott Fennessy: Wood shuts down Cardinals as Cubs stop slide

480px-Travis_Wood_on_July_16,_2016Busch Stadium
St. Louis, MO
May 4, 2015

Tonight the Cubs travel to St. Louis for the first time this season and face the Cardinals. The last time they saw this team was on opening week, where they took the two game set 2-0.

Unfortunately this meeting finds the Cubs in a bit of a slide. They were swept by the Brewers and lost the series before that, while the redbirds have finally begun to play more to their pre-season expectations and have swiftly moved into 5th place, although Yadier Molina is currently out with an injury.

Tonight’s game sees Travis Wood (1-2, 3.00) against John Lackey (3-3, 4.72). The umpire has called for Dexter Fowler to step up to the plate and it’s time to play ball!

Dexter, who has been hitting very well of late hits a 2-2 slider into right for a single. After a few throws to first by Lackey he is off on a 2-2 pitch and slides in just under Kolten Wong’s tag for a stolen base. Unfortunately nothing more happens and Lackey works his way out of trouble and the Cardinals come to bat in a 0-0 game.

The hometown crowd is sensing a big game from their team and it’s a sea of red as Chris Carpenter steps to the plate with two out. He hits a rocket down the first base side, but Anthony Rizzo makes a great diving stab, gets up and makes the underhanded toss to Wood to get the out on a bang bang play that was challenged, but the replay crew upheld the call and the score was still 0-0 after one inning.

Neither team does much and there was still no score as the Cubs batted in the top of the third inning. Travis Wood draws a walk that was sure to have irritated his manager and had moved to second on a ground out by Fowler. Starlin Castro, who has been a pleasant surprise so far puts runners on the corners with a sharp single to right.

Things get a little crazy now as clearly someone missed a sign. Castro is off on the first pitch, but stumbles on his first step and catcher Cody Stanley does not hesitate to throw to second. Wood sees the play and is off for home on what is being credited as a delayed steal of home. He scores as St. Louis elects to take the sure out at second. Rizzo strikes out, but the Cubs now lead 1-0 after 2 and a half innings of play.

While Lackey is not pitching his best game, he continues to grind this one out, and Wood is pitching a very solid game as well. The score is still the same as Jorge Soler comes to the plate as he is getting another start as Joe Maddon continues to look for help with his struggling right field position.

Soler hits a single up the middle and Javy Baez, who has so much potential it’s frightening, but still is having trouble chasing pitches comes to bat. He gets a hanging curve and he blasts this one deep into the seats for his first big league homer! It’s high fives all around as the Cubs extend their lead 3-0. Lackey struggles a bit more, but they cannot plate another runner as the inning finally ends.

The Cardinals wasted a great opportunity in the bottom of the inning as Stanley reached on an error by third baseman Kris Bryant. He was moved to second on a sac bunt by Shane Reynolds. Still on second with two out Lackey manages to draw a walk.

Jason Heyward hits a single to center, and Reynolds is waved around third but Fowler’s throw is on the money and the runner is nailed at the plate and the final out is recorded at home, ouch!

Nothing has changed as the Cubs bat in the top of the seventh inning. Castro rips a two out double and scores as the ice cold Anthony Rizzo hits a double of his own to make the score 4-0. Bryant grounds out to end the inning and the hometown bullpen is up as the pitcher’s spot is up this inning.

The Cubs end the night with two more runs in the top of the ninth off of reliever Steve Cishek as Baez gets a leadoff double and a pair of singles by Castro and Rizzo end the scoring. The Cardinals go quietly in the ninth and the Cubs get a much needed win.

For the Cubs it was nice to see Rizzo and Fowler get a some much needed hits. Castro is probably the most consistent player so far. For Travis Wood, he continues to have a good year. He finished this game with 10 strikeouts, including a stretch late in the game of 4 in a row.

The Cardinals played this one tough all the way, and while they lost 6-0 this game was in doubt most of the way.

Around the horn:

Khris Davis of the Brewers continues to be locked in. One day after going 5 for 5 against the Cubs he went 4 for 5 with two homers as the Brewers edge the Dodgers 6-5.

Chris Heston of the Giants is somehow matching Madison Bumgarner win for win this year. Chris is now 5-0 with a 2.69 ERA.

Despite being a D starter Adam Morgan of the Phillies is 4-1 with a 2.62 ERA.


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Scott Fennessy: Brewers hammer Cubs

325px-18brewer2014aKhris_DavisToday’s game features Jimmy Nelson and Kyle Hendricks. The Brewers have been pretty bad so far, but the Cubs have been struggling a bit of late.

Milwaukee jumps on Hendricks right from the start. Ryan Braun, easily the best player on the team so far draws a one out walk. Khris Davis gets a single that puts runners on the corners and Adam Lind draws a walk to load the bases.

Catcher Miguel Montero goes to the mound to talk to his pitcher and Jonathan Lucroy then gets a sac fly to bring home the first run of the day.

Ryan Gennett smokes a double high off the wall in left center field for two more runs. Shane Peterson grounds out to end the inning but the Brewers are up 3-0 after a half inning of play.

The Brewers and Cubs both hit a series of doubles, as the wind is blowing out pretty hard, but the score was still 3-0 Brewers as the Cubs bat in the bottom of the second.

Montero gets a leadoff single and Chris Coghlan bunts the runner into scoring position and Jorge Soler rips a double to left that scores Montero for the first run of the day. Javier Baez then gets another double to cut the lead to one. Hendricks whiffs to end the inning but the lead is Brewers 3, Cubs 2 after two innings.

The Brewers deliver the killing blow in the fourth inning. Elian Herrera draws a leadoff walk. Jimmy Nelson strikes out. Hernan Perez hits a double and runners are on second and third with one out. Braun then hits a single to right and two runs score as Braun takes second on the throw.

The pitching coach comes to the mound to stall for time and Davis then hits a single to score Braun and Hendricks is done for the day. Lind hits a single and runners are on first and second. Lucroy hits another in a seemingly endless line of hits that scores a run. Gennett gets a single and the bases are now loaded.

Peterson hits a fly ball to medium left field and another run scores. Herrera and Nelson are retired and the inning is mercifully over.

The score remained 8-2 Brewers on top as we reach the 8th inning. Nelson is still in and looking sharp as Dexter Fowler draws a leadoff walk. He was off with the pitch and Castro rips one into left center that rolls all the way to the wall to score Fowler. Castro then steals third and was there with one out when Kris Bryant hits a sacrifice fly to score another run. Montero strikes out and the inning is over and the Cubs trail 8-4. This was the final score as the Brewers continued to pound away at the Cubs bullpen but fortunately no further runs scored.

Kyle Hendricks takes the loss while Jimmy Nelson gets the victory. Khris Davis was the star of the day going 5 for 5 with a walk and oddly enough only 1 RBI.

Around the horn:

The Nationals get a rare win against the Mets as Bryce Harper goes 4-5 with a HR and 4 RBI

Carlos Santana of the Indians hits his second grand slam of the season. He is the only player in my replay history with two career slams.

Kevin Gausman throws a 5-0 shutout of the Tampa Rays

photo credit

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Scott Fennessy: Lester shuts down Brewers

jon lesterWrigley Field
Chicago, IL
May 2, 2015

Fresh off of last night’s victory the Cubs face the Brewers in the second game of this series. Today sees Jorge Lopez and Jon Lester match up. Lester, fresh off a solid performance last time makes quick work of the Brewers and the Cubs come to bat in the bottom of the inning. Dexter Fowler, who has suddenly remembered how to hit lately gets a single on the very first pitch of the game. Dex is off with the pitch and Starlin Castro rips a double into left that scores the runner. Anthony Rizzo gets a inside fastball and he hits this one hard. It’s high and deep and hits off the wall for another double that scores Castro.

Kris Bryant strikes out for the first out of the inning. Miguel Montero slaps a single to left and another run scores. Chris Coghlan draws a walk to put runners on first and second. Lopez calms down and gets the next two batters and the inning ends with the Cubs on top 3-0.

The Brewers had a chance in the second inning, but the Cubs defense, which has been much worse than expected so far finally comes into play Adam Lind hits a single to left, and Jonathan Lucroy rips a hard grounder to Starlin Castro who makes a nice toss to Javy Baez at short, who fires the throw to Rizzo for a rally killing double play. Ryan Gennett then hits a bullet down the third base line, but Bryant makes a terrific diving stop and throws him out on a bang bang play at first to end the inning.

Both pitchers then take control for a while and the Cubs then strike again in the bottom of the fourth inning. Austin Jackson draws a leadoff walk and after a single by Baez puts runners on first and third. Lester moves the runner to second while Jackson holes third and he scores on a ground out by Fowler. The inning ends with the Cubs on top 4-0.

Nothing changed until the top of the sixth inning when Bryant boots a grounder by Jean Segura, who then steals second base with two out. Ryan Braun hits a single up the middle to score the first run of the day for Milwaukee. Khris Davis flies out but the Brewers have cut the lead to 4-1 in the of the sixth inning.

Chicago gets the run right back in the bottom of the inning when Lester hits a soft single to left with one out. Corey Knebel, who has come in relief of Lopez then loses command suddenly and walks Fowler and Castro to load the bases. Rizzo hits another deep blast, but this one to center field that is caught at the wall and Jackson scores. Bryant hits into an inning ending double play, but the score is now 5-1 Cubs on top after six innings.

Things remained the same until the top of the eight inning when Domingo Santana pinch hits for Knebel and hits an epic blast onto Sheffield Avenue on a Lester fastball. Jon settles down though and gets the next two hitters and the inning ends with Chicago on top 5-2, which is how the game ended as neither team added anything.

Around the horn:

Christian Bergman of the Rockies tosses a 3 hit shutout against the Padres in San Diego
Nathan Evoldi strikes out 11 as the Yankees beat the Red Sox 9-4
Minnesota’s Eddie Rosario hits a GW HR in bottom of 9th inning atainst the White Sox
Jake Odorizzi ties record with 7 straight K’s in Baltimore. The Orioles still win 6-1

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Scott Fennessy: Arrietta shuts down Brewers

287px-ArrietaTonight’s game is the first in a three game set with the lowly Brewers. Former Cub Matt Garza faces Jake Arrieta in what looks like a lopsided matchup.

The Brewers, who have really struggled offensively get a two out rally in the first. Khris Davis slips a single to right that was perfectly placed between Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro. Adam Lind then pounds a 2-2 fastball into the right field corner for an RBI double and the Brewers draw first blood. Jonathan Lucroy pops up to end the inning, but the brew crew scores first and leads 1-0.

The Cubs come right back in the bottom of the inning when Dexter Fowler hits a 2-2 offering hard that bounces off of Ryan Gennett’s chest for an error. Starlin Castro draws a walk, yes that’s right folks Castro draws a walk. Oddly enough he has been so much better than expected in this department. Anyway Rizzo hits a single into right that scores Dexter and puts Castro on third. Garza does not hold the runner on and Rizzo steals second just ahead of Lucroy’s throw. After a quick trip to the mound by the pitching coach the inning is over quickly with the score tied at one each after an inning.

Both pitchers settle in and not much happens for either team until the bottom of the fifth inning. Arrieta hits a grounder that Elian Herrera boots for a leadoff error. Fowler moves the runner over to second and he is still there with two outs. Rizzo then hits one high and deep into the right field power alley. This one hits just under the basket and takes a funny bounce and by the time the ball is back in the infield Rizzo is on third with a triple!

Garza is clearly frustrated and grooves a fastball that Kris Bryant does not miss. This one is into the left field seats for a two run bomb! The crowd is really getting into this one now and even though the inning ends quickly afterwards the Cubs now have a 3-1 lead after five innings of play.

That was the score as we headed into the bottom of the seventh inning with Garza still in but starting to tire. The visitor’s bullpen in full work mode after Castro pulls a fastball down the left field line that just stays fair for a home run. Finally, Garza digs his own grave as he walks two straight batters with two outs and the manager has no other choice to remove his starter. Adrian Houser is brought in and he walks the next batter. With the bases loaded and two outs Austin Jackson gets a hanging curve ball and mashes this one hard to center field. Shane Peterson is going back, back…… and makes a great running catch at the ivy to end the inning, but the Cubs now lead 5-1.

And that would be the final score as neither team did anything else. For the Cubs, Jake Arrieta goes the distance, and picks up his fifth win of the year and is 5-1 with a 2.94 ERA. Kris Bryant hit his 5th homer of the year, and Starlin Castro hit his second.

For the Brewers, Matt Garza pitched well, but ran out of gas. He is now 2-2 with a 4.38 ERA.

Around the horn:

Melvin Upton of the Padres leads the league in OPS at 1.200
Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers is toasting the NL with a 12.99 strikeouts per 9 innings and has been in double digits in all four of his starts this year.
Jose Altuve of the Astros leads the majors with a .421 batting average

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Scott Fennessy: Pirates beat Cubs, move into first place

332px-IMG_6787_Neil_WalkerThe Cubs and Pirates meet again as the Pirates look to continue their winning ways after yesterday’s solid victory. Tonight’s game sees Jay Happ against Kyle Hendricks. The Pirates jump on young Kyle instantly. Gregory Polanco, who has feasted on Chicago pitching so far this year gets a single and scores on Andrew McCutchen’s RBI double via the hit and run. McCutchen has really punished pitching so far and could be an MVP candidate at this pace.

Hendricks gets the next two hitters and the inning is over. Happ gets a perfect first inning and neither team can get much going. The Cubs had a couple of rallies in the second and third that came up short and while Pittsburgh was able to pile up a pitch count on Hendricks, were not able to do anything else until the fifth inning.

Oddly enough, it’s the light hitting pitcher Jay Happ who gets things started. Hitting a weak grounder that somehow gets between Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. One out later he is on second base when Polanco strikes again with a single up the middle and Happ scores and Polanco holds as the ball is cut by Castro. Polanco steals second base as Miguel Montero’s throw was a bit high, but Hendricks gets the next two hitters to end the rally.

Happ finally gets a bit of a hot streak as he strikes out the side in the bottom of the fifth inning, giving him four in a row. The Pirates finally take control in the top of the sixth inning. Neil Walker, who has quietly become a bit of a catalyst for the team and on first with a single when a frustrated Kyle Hendricks gives in to Pedro Alvarez who crushes a towering two run homer into the family section of the left field seats for a two run jack. Hendricks gets out of the inning, but the Pirates now have a commanding 4-0 lead at the half way point.

The Cubs look like they are going to make a game of this in the bottom half when the now resurging Dexter Fowler hits a single to right with one out and moved to second with two down. Rizzo, who has been scuffling pretty badly of late gets his second hit of the night and Fowler gives the Cubs their first run of the game. Kris Bryant walks, but is stranded and the rally dies quickly. The Cubs do keep it a bit closer though, trailing 4-1 as we head to the seventh inning.

Jason Motte comes in and does not fare well at first. McCutchen gets his second double of the game and scores on Walker’s two out single. The inning ends with the Pirates on top by four runs now 5-1.

The visitors keep the pressure mounting as the bottom of the order gets a series of singles and Jody Mercer scores on Sterling Marte’s single and the lead is now 6-1 as the inning finally ends.

The Cubs give the offense another go in the bottom of the eighth inning with one out. Fowler rips a triple into the power alley in right, and the surprisingly dependable Starlin Castro singles sharply to center field for an RBI. Rizzo walks, but Bryant whiffs to stop the rally and the Cubs are now down by four. Tommy Hunter is summoned to make his first appearance of the year, and while he struggled a bit kept the Pirates off the board for the first time in five innings and they make their last chance to come back.

Happ has been a bit wild late in the game, but the manager wants to see if he can close this one out. Miguel Montero gets a leadoff walk and was on second with two outs when Addison Russell puts a charge into a 2-2 slider and this one is gone! Into the shrubbery (how dare you say that to a woman!) for a two run homer. The manager instantly pops out of the dugout and brings in Mark Melancon, who had been warming up after Montero’s walk and he strikes out pinch hitter Javier Baez to end the game and pick up a cheap save.

For the Pirates it was all good news at the plate. Walker’s return seems to have energized the lineup and four hitters had two hits each. For Happ who gets the win it was a bit of a struggle, walking four and allowing 6 scattered hits, including Russell’s blast, but he gave the bullpen a rest and the Pirates move into first place by percentage points over the Dodgers, who have not played today.

For the Cubs, another disappointing night for the bullpen, Motte looked terrible again, and while Hunter did not get scored on, he was saved by a crucial double play. But Fowler seems locked in, and if Rizzo and Bryant can get more consistent with their hitting they could really go on a tear.

Around the horn:

Mark Trumbo of the Mariners went 4-5 with a two run homer as Seattle gets a rare win over the Rangers, 7-5.

Pitching has been a bit dominant of late. Although the Tigers lost another game late, starter Anibal Sanchez ties the record for longest no hit bid by a D pitcher at 4.1 innings. He had a perfect game broken up by Torii Hunter’s single. Torii is limping into retirement at a .216 clip.

The Angels needed every bit of Garrett Richard’s terrific evening. Richard took a no hitter into the 6th inning and allowed just two hits overall as the Angels beat the A’s 2-0. Both hits were by Steve Vogt, who has been on fire after being injured on opening day. He is hitting .353 with a pair of homers since his return.

[photo credit]

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Scott Fennessy: Pirates extract revenge on Cubs

457px-Andrew_McCuthen_during_Spring_Training,_March_8,_2016Wrigley Field
Chicago, IL
April 27, 2015

The Cubs return home after a terrific home stand and face the Pirates in the opening game of the series. Tonight’s game features a solid matchup between Gerrit Cole (2-1) who lost to Chicago last time out on an Anthony Rizzo homer late in the game. He faces Jon Lester (3-0).

The Pirates score first, and Lester did most of the work for them. He was unusually wild, walking two hitters, hitting a batter and threw a wild pitch that allowed a run to score. Catcher Miguel Montero had a conversation with his hurler and gets the next two hitters, but the Pirates get a 1-0 lead, and honestly Lester should be glad it was not a lot more.

The wild bug must be in the air tonight as Cole also struggled in the first inning. He walked Dexter Fowler, hit Rizzo, which lead to a heated exchange between the two and the umpire issued warnings to both teams. Miguel Montero singled but Fowler was nailed at the plate as the inning ends with the Pirates still holding a 1-0 lead.

The score was still the same as we head to the fourth inning, and while neither pitcher seems to have good control tonight Cole is starting to game command of his breaking ball while Lester seems to be having “one of those nights”.

Francisco Cervelli rips a one out double off the left center field door, and it looked like the Cubs could still get out of the inning but Gerrit Cole slips a two strike grounder that is just out of Javier Baez’s reach for an RBI single. Fowler makes a strong throw but Cervelli was off with the pitch and slides in just ahead of Montero’s tag. Cole had moved to second on the throw and he scores on Sterling Marte’s single to right. Lester gets the third out, but the lead for Pittsburgh is now 3-0.

The Cubs go down quietly in the fourth, but the Pirates continue to hit. (probably remembering last week’s whippings laid on them) Jung Ho Kang draws a one out walk. The bullpen is now in action as Neil Walker, returning from a brief DL stint hits one that Starlin Castro boots and runners are on the corners.

Pedro Alvarez hits a single to center and Kang scores. Montero comes to the mound again as the bullpen is not ready yet. Jordy Mercer ends Lester’s terrible night with an RBI double into the left field corner and two more runs score. Brian Schlitter comes in to finish the inning, but he Pirates are well ahead now with a 6-0 lead.

Cole finally gets control of the strike zone and the Cubs are pretty much toast at this point. Schlitter is replaced by C.J. Edwards who really gets hit hard in the sixth inning. After striking out Marte he grooves a pitch that Gregory Polanco powders for a solo homer to left field. Andrew McCutchen singles and is erased in a fielder’s choice by Kang, and Kang moves to third on Walker’s first hit of the evening. Alvarez hits a soft single to center that scores another run and the inning ends shortly afterward with the Pirates now leading 8-0.
That was still the score in the bottom of the ninth when Chris Coghlan hits a two run shot to finally put the Cubs on the scoreboard, but the final ended up Pittsburgh 8, Chicago 2. The Cubs are still ahead of the surprisingly strong Phillies, but the Pirates move into third place.

For the Cubs pitching it was not all bad, as Rafael Soriano and James Russell each chip in a scoreless inning.

Andrew McCutchen is still the heart of this team, hitting .406 with 6 HR and 20 RBI, but Jung Ho Kang is quietly hitting .314.

Around the horn:

Matt Garza of the Brewers had a great night by anyone’s standards, but for a D starter, going the distance and allowing just 1 run on three hits is a masterpiece.

Clayton Kershaw is starting to go on a roll. After a 10 strikeout performance last time out he strikes out 15 as the Dodgers beat the Padres 6-1 in San Diego.

Just a week ago Zach Duke of the White Sox set the consecutive strikeout record. The previous record had stood for 4 years. It took Danny Salazar of the Indians a week to break it. He struck out 7 straight against the tough Kansas City Royals, who have been playing better ball lately.

[photo credit]

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