MILWAUKEE -- Anthony Rizzo smacked a three-run homer with two outs in the eighth inning and rookies Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber each drove in a run in the ninth to lift the Cubs to a 5-2 victory over the Brewers on Thursday night.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. Brandon Curry is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
MILWAUKEE -- Shortstop Starlin Castro was back in the lineup on Thursday and still the subject of trade rumors, although Cubs manager Joe Maddon did his best to dispel them.
Maddon had met with Castro on Tuesday night after pulling him from a game in a double-switch and giving him a breather on Wednesday. His message was that not playing had nothing to do with a possible trade.
By the time the Cubs and Brewers square off on Friday at Miller Park, the non-waiver Trade Deadline will have come and gone. But Brewers manager Craig Counsell, who will send rookie Taylor Jungmann to the mound to oppose Chicago's Jason Hammel, doesn't believe that having multiple players involved in trade rumors has affected his team negatively.
"I'll say this again: I think our guys, the names who supposedly are out there, have done an excellent job of doing their job at 7 o'clock every night and doing their jobs in the clubhouse," Counsell said before Thursday's series opener. "I can't imagine them handling it any better."
MILWAUKEE -- Catcher Miguel Montero, examined by a hand specialist in Chicago on Thursday, said he's ready to go. Manager Joe Maddon wants to check with the medical staff but expects that Montero will need some rehab games.
Montero has been on the disabled list since July 12 with a sprained left thumb. He's been rehabbing in Arizona, and hitting for at least a week there. On Thursday he underwent another MRI to make sure the thumb is healed.
CHICAGO -- Jon Lester struck out a season-high 14 batters across eight innings as the Cubs defeated the Rockies on Wednesday, 3-2, to take two of three games in the series at Wrigley Field. Lester became the first Cubs pitcher since Mark Prior in 2004 to throw 14 strikeouts, helping Chicago improve to two games above .500 in July.
Lester finished one strikeout shy of his career high, with at least one K in every inning, including six straight early on. He allowed five hits and one walk in his two-run performance to pick up just his sixth win of the season.
CHICAGO -- Jon Lester doesn't forget July 31. It's his son Hudson's birthday. It's also the day Lester was traded from the Red Sox, which had been the only team he'd played for, to the Athletics a year ago.
"Last year made for an interesting birthday," Lester said after a dominant performance in the Cubs' 3-2 victory over the Rockies on Wednesday.
CHICAGO -- Kyle Schwarber had a different perspective in Wednesday's 3-2 win over the Rockies at Wrigley Field. Instead of being behind the plate, he was in left field, making his first start in the outfield for the Cubs. He only caught one fly ball, and that was hit by Charlie Blackmon to end the eighth inning -- and Schwarber used both hands.
"I just wanted to secure the catch with two hands," Schwarber said. "I didn't want it to squirt out with one."
CHICAGO -- Neil Ramirez sneezed on Sunday and felt a sharp pain on his left side. The right-hander now is on the disabled list because of what's being described as abdominal soreness, which he felt warming up Tuesday night.
"Abdominal soreness via the sneeze -- I don't know where it's all at," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Wednesday.
CHICAGO -- DJ LeMahieu had three hits, including an RBI double and a triple, and Nolan Arenado smacked a two-run double to power the Rockies to a 7-2 victory over the Cubs on Tuesday night and even the series at one win apiece.
This was the Rockies' first game after Troy Tulowitzki was traded to the Blue Jays, and they got off to a quick start, sending all nine batters to the plate in the first inning and scoring four runs against Chicago right-hander Dallas Beeler.
CHICAGO -- The Cubs are third in the National League Wild Card race. What if they don't make a deal by Friday's non-waiver Trade Deadline? Manager Joe Maddon is OK with that.
"If you look at the group we have, the big thing there is to get more out of what we have," Maddon said on Tuesday. "There is more. ... There's a lot left in the tank offensively for us in the next two months. If we can get everybody to play offense to the level we're capable of, there's a lot of offense."
CHICAGO -- When reliever Jason Motte warned 80 kids from two Chicago Boys and Girls Clubs on Tuesday about the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs, one boy asked if there are other ways to get bigger physically.
CHICAGO -- During Saturday's game against the Phillies' Cole Hamels, the Cubs' Kris Bryant hit two long fly balls that reached the warning track. Hamels finished with a no-hitter. But on Monday, Bryant's fortunes turned out a whole lot better.
The rookie belted a walk-off, two-run homer with two outs in the ninth to power the Cubs to a 9-8 victory over the Rockies, who had scored four runs in the top of the inning.
One look at Kyle Schwarber screams "catcher." At 6-foot, 235 pounds, Schwarber has the fairly stout, wide-bodied look of a guy that could earn a nice living as a big league catcher. But that may not become his ultimate position. His bat is solid, and his offense is Major League ready. However, he still needs work as a backstop. Perhaps, he'll end up as an outfielder, but the Cubs seem set at those positions.
Schwarber went to Middletown High School (Ohio). He was a star linebacker on the football team. Even with an outstanding batting average, he wasn't selected in the First-Year Player Draft following graduation. He did, however attend Indiana University, and his bat made a tremendous statement.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
CHICAGO -- About five hours before first pitch Monday, Cubs manager Joe Maddon, hitting coach John Mallee and Starlin Castro were in the batting cage on the field, trying to find a way to get the shortstop back on track. Castro entered the game against the Rockies batting .139 in July.
"I just wanted to go out there and reinforce what they've been talking about, show some confidence directly to Starlin," Maddon said. "It was a good workout and I like what [Castro] did. We'll see if he can carry it over into the game."
CHICAGO -- Kris Bryant belted a two-run walk-off homer with two outs in the ninth Monday night to power the Cubs to a 9-8 victory over the Rockies, who had scored four runs in their half of the inning.
CHICAGO -- Getting swept by the Phillies and falling further back in the Wild Card standings hasn't changed how Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein approaches Friday's non-waiver Trade Deadline.
"We'd really like to [make a deal], but it's impossible to say," Epstein said Monday. "If we do something on the bigger end, it will involve players who will help us beyond this year. If we do something on the smaller side, it will probably be more for a rental player.
If we had to pinpoint the one theme of this 2015 season that stands out above all others, it's unquestionably the dominating impact and the infusion of youth on the Major League scene. Never was this more evident than on Monday night when 23-year-old Cubs rookie Kris Bryant cracked his first career walk-off homer into the Wrigley Field bleachers to give the Cubs a dramatic 9-8 win against the Rockies.
And just an hour or so before Bryant's blast landed, the mere suggestion that the Dodgers might consider trading 24-year-old Yasiel Puig turned social media upside down.
Backup catcher gives bullpen a break in second career appearance on mound
By Greg Garno
CHICAGO -- There are two baseballs in their own glass cases on the top shelf of catcher David Ross' locker. One came after he threw a perfect eighth inning on May 9 against the Brewers. The other was waiting on his chair when he arrived in the Cubs' clubhouse on Sunday.
For the second time this season, Ross threw a perfect inning of relief, this one in the ninth inning of an 11-5 loss to the Phillies. But this time, Ross added a home run in the same frame.
CHICAGO -- When the Cubs began their weekend series, they were in line to make the playoffs as the second National League Wild Card team. After Chicago was swept by the last-place Phillies, the Giants have jumped ahead in the Wild Card standings. Fans may be panicking, but not manager Joe Maddon.
"You win the first night here [on Friday], and all of a sudden, we're printing tickets for the playoffs," Maddon said after the Cubs lost, 11-5, to the Phillies on Sunday. "It didn't play out that way."
CHICAGO -- Aaron Nola didn't need to throw a no-hitter to shut down the Cubs on Sunday at Wrigley Field. Maikel Franco and Ryan Howard each hit two-run homers and Domonic Brown had four RBIs to back Nola, who picked up his first big league win in his second career start as the Phillies romped, 11-5.
Nola gave up five hits, including a two-run homer by Addison Russell in the eighth, over 7 2/3 innings for the win to help the Phillies post their third sweep this season, and first on the road. They're now 8-1 since the All-Star break.
CHICAGO -- When Kris Bryant flied out to left field in the first inning Saturday, he thought the ball had a chance to land in the bleachers. Same thing with the ball the Cubs' rookie hit to center off the Phillies' Cole Hamels with two outs in the ninth. But that ball ended up in center fielder Odubel Herrera's glove to end the game and preserve Hamels' no-hitter.
"The wind changed directions after [batting practice]," Bryant said Sunday. "It could've been a completely different game. ... The wind is a big factor here, and I'm slowly learning that."
CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon believes Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo were unable to take advantage of the All-Star break and rest, and it's showing in their batting averages, which have been dipping.
"We have to get them to play through this moment," Maddon said. "That's all I'm seeing is we have to somehow get them freshened up."
CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon has seen Cole Hamels pitch well. The lefty beat Maddon's Rays in Game 1 of the 2008 World Series, and he posted a quality start but did not get a decision in the Phillies' win in Game 5.
CHICAGO -- If this was Cole Hamels' last start with the Phillies, it was a beauty. A prime target for teams looking for starting pitching prior to Friday's non-waiver Trade Deadline, the left-hander threw a no-hitter in the Phillies' 5-0 victory over the Cubs on Saturday at Wrigley Field.
CHICAGO -- Cubs rookies Kris Bryant and Addison Russell have most likely never dealt with the struggles the two are going through this month. If they need any advice, all they need to do is talk to teammate Chris Coghlan.
Coghlan won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2009 with the Marlins, but he hasn't matched the .321 average he posted that season. Bryant was named to the NL All-Star team this year, and he was batting .297 on June 13. But he was batting .194 in July entering Saturday, while Russell was batting .208 this month.