While the Cubs’ busy weekend in Cincinnati wasn’t everything they hoped for (it really never is), a few good things may have come out of this weekend. On Saturday, reports surfaced that Starlin Castro and the Cubs had reached an agreement on a long-term deal – $60 million for seven years.
Soon after, the Cubs, Castro and his agent denied that a deal was done. However, Castro told the Chicago Tribune that he liked the reported terms of the deal. He has expressed in the past that he wants to be a Cub for a long time, and locking the 22-year-old up for seven more years would be huge for the organization in its quest for a championship.
On the field, however, things didn’t go quite as well for the Cubs collectively, though there were some individual milestones.
In Game 1, Travis Wood didn’t exactly make a triumphant return to the Great American Ballpark. In addition to committing the Cubs’ two errors, Wood made it only five innings, giving up nine hits, seven runs (six earned) and three homers. The Cubs fell short offensively, despite racking up 11 hits, three of which belonged to Luis Valbuena, who hit a solo home run. Castro and Wood were responsible for the Cubs’ other two runs, but it wasn’t enough to make up for Wood’s errors on the mound, and the Cubs lost 7-3.
In the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, Jeff Samardzija, arguably the Cubs’ most reliable pitcher right now, took the mound and got some insurance early with an Alfonso Soriano two-run home run. That homer gave Soriano his 1,000th RBI, making him the sixth player in major league history to reach 1,000 RBIs, 400 doubles, 350 home runs and 250 stolen bases. Soriano also got his first career hit off Reds’ closer Aroldis Chapman, and eventually scored on a Welington Castillo blooper to left.
But those three runs weren’t enough to hold off the Reds. Samardzija gave up a two-run homer to Xavier Paul, and two more home runs to Todd Frazier and Miguel Cairo. Samardzija only made it five innings, reminiscent of his previous shorter outings, and gave up six hits on four runs, though he did strike out five in a 5-3 loss.
The Cubs must have fed off of Soriano’s earlier career milestone, as it was a memorable night for Brooks Raley and Brett Jackson in the second game of the doubleheader. The young Raley recorded his first major league win, going just over five innings. He gave up five hits on four runs (three earned), walked two and struck out four. Raley was also part of a more awake-looking Cubs offense, as he notched his first career hit in the second.
At the plate, the Cubs showed some spark, and even Jackson was able to crank out his first career home run (he also struck out three times, but we’ll let it slide on his big night). Castro also excelled, recording three hits, including a double and a triple. Valbuena and Adrian Cardenas added doubles. The Cubs, up 8-2 at one point, almost let their lead slip away. And while the Reds made it interesting and got within a run late in the game, David DeJesus gave the Cubs some insurance with a solo home run in the ninth.
For the series finale, troubled hurler Chris Volstad took the mound, and for a minute, it looked like his awful 23-game losing streak might come to an end. But he didn’t start off well, and gave up a 1-1 tie (the Cubs’ run came off a DeJesus ground-rule double), allowing three more runs to score in the fourth. However, the Cubs made a comeback in the sixth, scoring on a sacrifice fly by Soriano and a Castro single. Then, in the eighth, Soriano earned another RBI, grounding out and allowing DeJesus to score and tie the game 4-4.
But unfortunately for the Cubs, Shawn Camp gave up a triple to Paul to lead off the ninth, which was followed by an RBI single by Ryan Hanigan to win the game. The ball never even reached Steve Clevenger’s glove in the ninth, as both hitters made contact on the first pitch. The Cubs lost 5-4 and Volstad extended his winless streak to 24.
The Cubs hope to turn things around when they face the fourth-place Milwaukee Brewers this week, who are five games ahead of them in the NL Central.
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