Cubs eye 7th straight W behind Arrieta

Cubs eye 7th straight W behind Arrieta

The Cubs and Cardinals renew their rivalry in a three-game set beginning on Friday at Wrigley Field as both teams battle for position in the National League Central race. Chicago has won six of the first nine meetings between the teams, and it is riding a six-game winning streak following the All-Star break.

The Cubs could also be without Kris Bryant, as he suffered a left pinkie sprain against the Braves on Wednesday. He is considered day-to-day, and X-rays showed no fracture in his finger.

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Jaylon Thompson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Inbox: Is backup backstop on Cubs' list?

Beat reporter Carrie Muskat answers questions from fans

Inbox: Is backup backstop on Cubs' list?

How important is the need to acquire a veteran backup catcher before the Trade Deadline? Both Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and manager Joe Maddon have described Willson Contreras as a "young veteran," having just won a World Series -- but do you think they'll make a move? Alex Avila seems to be the only name I'm hearing.
-- Evan J., Libertyville, Ill.

The Cubs could make a move, but it would be to acquire a more experienced catcher as a backup and not to replace Contreras. Both Epstein and Maddon have praised rookie Victor Caratini, who was promoted when Miguel Montero was designated for assignment, and the only thing he's lacking is experience. Contreras is the No. 1 catcher, and he's thrived in the cleanup spot, batting .333 there. He's also 9-for-22 (.409) with two homers, three doubles and seven RBIs since the All-Star break.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Jon Paul Morosi

Cubs show interest in dealing for Darvish

Chicago among clubs monitoring market for rotation help

Cubs show interest in dealing for Darvish

The Cubs have inquired to the Rangers on the availability of ace Yu Darvish, according to sources, and a trade match between the teams is more plausible than it would've been entering the All-Star break.

Consider what has transpired since then:

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Jon Paul Morosi is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

At Baez's camp, fun, games and fundamentals

Youngsters get up close and personal with Cubs infielder

At Baez's camp, fun, games and fundamentals

EVANSTON, Ill. -- Lost in the crowd of more than 450 youngsters at the Baseball ProCamp sharing his name, Javier Baez bounced around from station to station until one small child finally grabbed his attention.

"Javy," the child shouted. "Your bat is on fire."

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Scott Chasen is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

Will rest of NL Central react to surging Cubs?

Will rest of NL Central react to surging Cubs?

Don't ask Jose Quintana about the Cubs' first-half problems. All they've done since acquiring him from the White Sox is win.

This 6-0 run for the Cubs since the Quintana trade is exactly what a president of baseball operations or a general manager hopes will happen when they make a trade.

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Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cubs secure sweep with sixth straight win

Cubs secure sweep with sixth straight win

ATLANTA -- As the early portion of the season's second half has unfolded, the Cubs have altered the National League's playoff picture and begun the surge many have long anticipated they would make. The defending World Series champions captured their sixth straight victory and completed a three-game sweep with Wednesday afternoon's 8-2 win over the Braves at SunTrust Park.

"We won six in row, and we have this momentum," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "I guess, synonymously, the vibe has been different. The vibe and energy has been great, and I want to see that continue."

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Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Jaylon Thompson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Bryant day-to-day after exiting with finger sprain

Third baseman injures left pinkie on attempted slide into third base

Bryant day-to-day after exiting with finger sprain

ATLANTA -- The Cubs breathed a sigh of relief on Wednesday afternoon after receiving an injury scare regarding third baseman and reigning National League Most Valuable Player Kris Bryant.

In the first inning of an 8-2 win against the Braves that secured a series sweep and the Cubs' sixth straight victory, Bryant injured his left pinkie finger on a slide into third base. He exited the game and was later diagnosed with a sprain. An X-ray revealed no fracture, and Bryant is considered day-to-day.

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Jaylon Thompson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Lackey validates spot in revitalized rotation

Activated from DL earlier Tuesday, Cubs righty tosses 5 solid innings for first win in a month

Lackey validates spot in revitalized rotation

ATLANTA -- As the Cubs are evaluating how to move forward with a revamped starting rotation, John Lackey knew he had to prove his value as a key contributor to the staff.

Lackey pitched with confidence in his return from plantar fasciitis in his right foot. He also left a good impression as he went five innings, allowing just one run in the Cubs' 5-1 victory against the Braves on Tuesday night at SunTrust Park. It was his first start since July 5, and his first win since June 18.

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Jaylon Thompson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rising up: Cubs power way to 5th straight win

Rising up: Cubs power way to 5th straight win

ATLANTA -- Though this season's first half did not evolve as well as the Cubs had hoped, their perfect start to the second half has provided indication they could once again have some fun in October. The defending World Series champs matched a season-best five-game winning streak with Tuesday night's 5-1 win over the Braves at SunTrust Park.

After rain delayed the start of the game for 2 1/2 hours, Javier Baez recorded three hits and teamed with Willson Contreras to homer off Sean Newcomb during a four-run third inning that proved decisive for the Cubs, who now sit just 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Brewers in the National League Central race.

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Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Jaylon Thompson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta and covered the Cubs on Tuesday.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Hendricks near return after strong rehab start

Cubs righty tosses 5 hitless innings, targeting next week after at least one 'pen session

Hendricks near return after strong rehab start

ATLANTA -- After throwing five hitless and scoreless innings in his second rehab start at Double-A Tennessee on Monday, right-hander Kyle Hendricks knew he was ready for a return to the Cubs' starting rotation.

"I felt so much more comfortable than in my first start," said Hendricks. "I felt right out there facing hitters, and felt mechanically right. My rhythm felt good, and I executed many more pitches. Now I feel confident and ready to go."

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Jaylon Thompson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Bryant Cubs' Heart and Hustle Award winner

Bryant Cubs' Heart and Hustle Award winner

The Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association revealed the 30 preliminary winners of the 2017 Heart and Hustle Award on Tuesday. The honor is the only one voted on by former players, and is bestowed each year upon the active player who most represents a passion for the game of baseball, and best embodies the values, spirit and tradition of the game.

Past winners of the Heart and Hustle Award include David Eckstein (2005), Hall of Famer Craig Biggio (2006, 2007), Grady Sizemore (2008), Albert Pujols (2009), Roy Halladay (2010), Torii Hunter (2011), Mike Trout (2012), Dustin Pedroia (2013), Josh Harrison (2014), Anthony Rizzo (2015) and Todd Frazier (2016).

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Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Lester bests Braves as Cubs win fourth straight

Lester bests Braves as Cubs win fourth straight

ATLANTA -- A little more than a week later, Jon Lester and the Cubs have distanced themselves from the frustration they carried into the All-Star break. The veteran left-hander helped the defending World Series champs remain perfect in the second half with Monday night's 4-3 win over the Braves at SunTrust Park after an hour-long rain delay before first pitch.

"We got a good feeling as our pitchers are coming out dominating and our hitters are having really good at-bats," Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. "It is a good formula."

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Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Jaylon Thompson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta and covered the Cubs on Monday.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Schwarber tumbles over wall after foul grab

Schwarber tumbles over wall after foul grab

ATLANTA -- Best known for his big bat, Kyle Schwarber made the highlight reels for a tumbling catch on Monday night.

The Cubs catcher-turned-outfielder made a running catch in foul territory, diving and finding himself upside down in the stands at SunTrust Park in the sixth inning of Monday's 4-3 win over the Braves.

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Jaylon Thompson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta and covered the Cubs on Monday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Lester does it all to keep Cubs rolling

Lester does it all to keep Cubs rolling

ATLANTA -- If the Cubs are to make a deep run at the National League Central crown, they are going to need Jon Lester to return to his dominant ways.

He did just that on Monday in the Cubs' 4-3 win against the Braves, as he shut down a hot offense for seven innings. He only allowed one run on three hits and struck out six batters. It was a far cry from his prior two starts, in which he posted a 14.29 ERA in 5 2/3 innings pitched.

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Jaylon Thompson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta and covered the Cubs on Monday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Maddon: Heyward 'as good as I've seen him'

Maddon: Heyward 'as good as I've seen him'

ATLANTA -- After an injury-riddled first half of the season, Jason Heyward feels like he has turned a corner in his return to the Cubs' lineup.

Heyward has been solid since his July 4 return from a left-hand abrasion that sidelined him on the 10-day disabled list. He also missed time in early May with a right finger sprain.

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Jaylon Thompson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta and covered the Cubs on Monday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Quintana strikes out 12 in Cubs debut

Left-hander, acquired via trade on Thursday, twirls 7 scoreless frames

Quintana strikes out 12 in Cubs debut

BALTIMORE -- Jose Quintana admitted he was a little nervous before his first start with the Cubs on Sunday, yet the left-hander looked like the calmest player on the field.

Quintana struck out a season-high 12 batters and gave up three hits over seven innings in the Cubs' 8-0 win over the Orioles, which completed a sweep of the Interleague series. It was quite a debut.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Red-hot Contreras declares Cubs 'are back'

Catcher keys post-break sweep of Orioles with 8-for-14 series

Red-hot Contreras declares Cubs 'are back'

BALTIMORE -- After helping the Cubs score 27 runs in three games against the Orioles, Willson Contreras declared: "We are back. We're back to where we were last year."

Contreras has done his part to provide the spark. The catcher started all three Interleague games, and went 8-for-14, including a career-high four-hit game in Sunday's 8-0 win. The All-Star break was key.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Almora, Machado share laugh on HR trot

Almora, Machado share laugh on HR trot

BALTIMORE -- When the Cubs' Albert Almora Jr. homered to lead off the third inning on Saturday night, he said something to Orioles third baseman Manny Machado as he trotted past him. Whatever it was made Machado laugh.

Almora and Machado grew up in Miami and starting playing baseball together when they were 3 and 5 years old, respectively. They were on the same teams until they were 15, and on Saturday, they were together on a Major League field for the first time.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Q&K: Quintana fans 12 in dazzling debut win

Q&K: Quintana fans 12 in dazzling debut win

BALTIMORE -- Jose Quintana made a great first impression on the Cubs, who did their best to welcome him. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo each belted two-run homers and rookie Ian Happ smacked a two-run double to back Quintana in his debut, an 8-0 Interleague victory on Sunday over the Orioles at Camden Yards.

"This one is special for me because it's the first one with the Cubs," said Quintana, who received a celebratory cold-water shower by his new teammates after the game. "I just want to help this team."

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Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com based in Baltimore and covered the Orioles on Sunday.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Arrieta dominates in first return to Baltimore

Former Oriole hopes 4-hit outing can be springboard with Cubs off to hot 2nd-half start

Arrieta dominates in first return to Baltimore

BALTIMORE -- Jake Arrieta ate at his favorite breakfast spot on Saturday, then toured his old hangouts in Baltimore, showing his two young children where he used to live. He capped his homecoming with a win that could be a sign of things to come.

Making his first start at Camden Yards since the Orioles traded him to the Cubs in July 2013, Arrieta held Baltimore to four hits and two runs over 6 2/3 innings in Chicago's 10-3 Interleague win.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cubs' bats stay hot behind Arrieta to top O's

Cubs' bats stay hot behind Arrieta to top O's

BALTIMORE -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon wasn't panicked about his team's first half, confident that Chicago would be able to turn it on when it mattered most. And while it's only two games into the second half, Maddon's club has rewarded that trust.

The Cubs' offense -- which got homers from Albert Almora Jr., Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell -- brought forth another big night to back starter Jake Arrieta in Saturday's 10-3 series-clinching win over Baltimore at Camden Yards. The victory puts the Cubs back at .500 (45-45), as Chicago scored 19 runs in the first two games of the series, mashing eight homers.

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Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Maddon: Aug. 1 'key date' for 2nd-half surge

Lester welcomes Quintana to Cubs' staff; Lackey on track to start Tuesday

Maddon: Aug. 1 'key date' for 2nd-half surge

BALTIMORE -- Mark your calendars, Cubs fans. Manager Joe Maddon said Aug. 1 is the day when it's time to start the second-half push.

"The first half, I was concerned about doing that too early," Maddon said on Saturday. "It doesn't make any sense. Why wouldn't you want to? Because the guys were fatigued from the last two years, and I thought if you get the whip out too soon, you'll be done by the middle of August. That's my experience. What proof do I have? Nothing, but I've done it before."

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Paulino spins gem for South Bend

Paulino spins gem for South Bend

Rafael Devers put his entire skillset on display while leading Pawtucket to a 7-4 win over Syracuse in his Triple-A debut on Saturday.

Devers, the No. 12 overall prospect (Red Sox's No. 1), was a perfect 4-for-4 at the plate and also showed off his defensive ability with an impressive bare-handed play at third base.

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William Boor is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Russell wins it after Cubs' 8-0 lead vanishes

Russell wins it after Cubs' 8-0 lead vanishes

BALTIMORE -- If the Cubs are going to have a chance to defend their World Series championship, they're going to need a lot more offensive nights like Friday.

Chicago's bats, down across the board in 2017, came alive in the second-half opener. Four early home runs staked the Cubs to an eight-run lead, and after the Orioles chipped away, Addison Russell delivered the fifth and final blast to give Chicago a 9-8, rain-delayed win in Baltimore.

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Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Refreshed Cubs get 2nd half off to good start

Refreshed Cubs get 2nd half off to good start

BALTIMORE -- During the All-Star break, Anthony Rizzo went on a boat trip to Bimini, Javier Baez enjoyed family and the beach in Puerto Rico, and Jake Arrieta returned home to Austin, Texas. Collectively, the Cubs hit the re-set button on the season.

"I like the look in the guys' eyes," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said prior to a 9-8, Interleague win over the Orioles. "I think everyone is refreshed and ready to put the first half behind us as well as being accountable for it."

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Quintana arrives with Cubs in Baltimore

Quintana arrives with Cubs in Baltimore

BALTIMORE -- When Joe Maddon met on Friday with his newest starter, Jose Quintana, the manager encouraged the left-hander to be himself and pointed out that the Cubs don't have many rules. Maddon also told Quintana this was a great opportunity to have an impact on the Cubs in the second half.

"When you say that, some guys give you the wrong look," Maddon said. "He was very good with that thought and very comfortable with that thought. You're always concerned about who accepts pressure, and I thought he accepted it really well."

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Epstein keeping options open before Deadline

Floro optioned to Triple-A; Butler to the bullpen; Hendricks on the mend

Epstein keeping options open before Deadline

BALTIMORE -- Now that the Cubs got a head start on the other Major League teams by trading for Jose Quintana on Thursday, are they finished making deals? The non-waiver Trade Deadline is July 31.

"I think right now, we're taking a step back, take a breath, try to understand our roster and payroll dynamic," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. "We'll still be active with phone calls this month. Anything we might want to accomplish this winter, it's good to take a look and see if we can get a head start now.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cubs bolster rotation by acquiring Quintana

Club sends 4 prospects to White Sox, including Jimenez and Cease

Cubs bolster rotation by acquiring Quintana

CHICAGO -- The Cubs got a jump on teams looking for starting pitching now and in the future by acquiring Jose Quintana from the crosstown White Sox for top prospects Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease plus two other Minor Leaguers.

Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said the deal was not done as a reaction to the first half, which finds the defending World Series champions 5 1/2 games behind the Brewers in the National League Central.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Pick 'em: Cubs' rotation or Sox prospects

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Pick 'em: Cubs' rotation or Sox prospects

After the White Sox and Cubs agreed to a blockbuster deal in which the Cubs acquired the secret-ace Jose Quintana for a haul of prospects -- including Roy Hobbs-cosplayer Eloy Jimenez -- Chicago is set to be more powerful than ever before. 

With the Cubs' young stars still fresh off a World Series title and the White Sox collecting top prospects like baseball cards, the two clubs look set to have a stranglehold over the rest of the league for the next decade. 

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