Cubs get best of Bucs in first '16 meeting

Cubs get best of Bucs in first '16 meeting

PITTSBURGH -- The last time the Pirates and Cubs took the field at PNC Park, Chicago beat up on Pittsburgh's ace and stifled the Bucs' bats en route to a National League Wild Card Game victory. The circumstances may have been different, but the script was largely the same in the Cubs' 7-2 win on Monday night.

The Pirates jumped out to an early lead on Andrew McCutchen's homer, but the Cubs struck back quickly and decisively, pounding out six runs and chasing Cole before he could get out of the fifth inning. Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist each drove in a run in the third inning, and David Ross led a four-run fifth by driving in two runs and instigating a delayed double steal that brought home another run.

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George Von Benko is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Cubs on Monday.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.

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

Dominant Arrieta wins NL Pitcher of Month

Dominant Arrieta wins NL Pitcher of Month

The awards keep coming for Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta.

The 2015 National League Cy Young Award winner has carried his brilliance into this season, and on Monday, he was named the NL Pitcher of the Month.

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Cash Kruth is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Alyson Footer

Nothing contrived about Cubs-Pirates rivalry

Talented clubs battling to be top team in NL Central, and also aren't the best of friends

Nothing contrived about Cubs-Pirates rivalry

PITTSBURGH -- For a rivalry to really work, a few elements have to be in order: Both teams have to be good, they have to have a lot on the line every time they play, and they have to -- at least between the lines -- not like each other very much.

The Cubs and Pirates appear to fit all of the above criteria and, with that in mind, boy, has this National League Central rivalry become a doozy.

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Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Szczur (right hamstring) to undergo MRI

Szczur (right hamstring) to undergo MRI

PITTSBURGH -- Cubs right fielder Matt Szczur exited Monday's 7-2 win against the Pirates with tightness in his right hamstring after scoring in the fifth inning.

"We will have him get an MRI in the morning," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "In the morning we will find out more. We don't know [the severity of the injury]."

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George Von Benko is a contributor to MLB.com based in Pittsburgh. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Ross holding down fort with Montero on DL

Veteran backstop seeing increased playing time due to injury to starting catcher

Ross holding down fort with Montero on DL

PITTSBURGH -- With catcher Miguel Montero on the disabled list due to lower back issues, 39-year-old David Ross has been pressed into more duty behind the plate for the Cubs.

Ross sat out Sunday with Tim Federowicz getting the start. Federowicz was called up on Thursday.

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George Von Benko is a contributor to MLB.com based in Pittsburgh. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Arrieta returns to scene of Wild Card shutout

Arrieta returns to scene of Wild Card shutout

Jake Arrieta, the National League Pitcher of the Month for April, will take the mound Tuesday night at PNC Park, the first time he has pitched in Pittsburgh since his win over the Pirates in last year's NL Wild Card Game.

Arrieta was asked if being at PNC Park brings back memories of the 4-0 shutout he pitched to help the Cubs advance to the NL Division Series.

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George Von Benko is a contributor to MLB.com based in Pittsburgh. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Mike Petriello

Playing deeper, Fowler a more effective defender

2015's shallowest center fielder has moved back 17 feet

Playing deeper, Fowler a more effective defender

Sometimes, you have to dig deep into the numbers or read between the lines of public comments to find hints about changes players and teams plan to make. Maybe it's the unexpected decision of an entire team to turn their plate approach upside down, or to load up on curveballs. Perhaps it's the obvious addition of a new pitch, even when the player insists he hasn't done anything.

And sometimes, they make it extremely easy on you. We knew going into the season that the Cubs planned to move their outfielders deeper. How did we know? Because manager Joe Maddon told Cubs.com exactly that during Spring Training:

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Mike Petriello is an analyst for MLB.com and the host of the Statcast podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cubs prep for theme trip, show off silly suits

Leopard print, hot pink early favorites among NL Central leaders

Cubs prep for theme trip, show off silly suits

CHICAGO -- Javier Baez had three suits to chose from Sunday, including a leopard print and a camouflage pattern. Dexter Fowler showed up in hot pink shorts with a matching short sleeve jacket that he accented with a black t-shirt and black shoes. Adam Warren had a colorful Rubik's cube-patterned jacket and slacks.

It's all part of the Cubs' first theme trip this season, which manager Joe Maddon called "a minimalist zany suit trip." Everyone must wear some part of the suit every day during the quick three-game series in Pittsburgh or face a $100 fine.

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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.

Lackey rebounds with 8 strong innings

Veteran right-hander allows three hits, fans two in Cubs' loss to Braves

Lackey rebounds with 8 strong innings

CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon saw John Lackey having a discussion with Braves catcher Tyler Flowers in the bottom of the fifth inning of Sunday's 4-3, 10-inning loss and didn't feel the need to intervene. Maddon knows Lackey can handle things himself.

The conversation was about the Braves' fifth inning and Kelly Johnson's at-bat. Lackey had not given up a hit over four innings, and Johnson, who led off the fifth, tried to bunt. The ball went foul. The next pitch from Lackey was a little high and sailed to the backstop. Johnson then lined the next pitch to left for a double and the first hit off the Cubs' right-hander.

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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.

Russell redeems error but Cubs fall in extras

Russell redeems error but Cubs fall in extras

CHICAGO -- Nick Markakis hit a sacrifice fly with one out in the 10th inning Sunday to lift the Braves to a 4-3 victory over the Cubs, who had rallied to tie the game in the ninth. With the win, Atlanta snapped a seven-game losing streak against Chicago.

Daniel Castro singled with one out in the Braves' 10th against Hector Rondon, and reached third on Mallex Smith's single. Castro then scored on Markakis' fly ball to left.

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

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.

Cody Stavenhagen is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago.

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

Bryant returns after testing right ankle

Bryant returns after testing right ankle

CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon waited inside Sunday, holding off on announcing his lineup while Kris Bryant tested his mildly-sprained right ankle.

Bryant spent the morning at Wrigley Field working with Cubs trainers, starting with a run of warmups. Then he simulated fly ball routes. He ran back, then forward, then mimicked running in on a ball and throwing home, looking smooth and healthy despite the wet outfield grass. Bryant and trainer PJ Mainville eventually walked back inside and into Maddon's office to deliver good news.

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

Cubs approach club records in memorable April

North Siders tie mark for wins in first month, Rizzo finishes third in RBIs

Cubs approach club records in memorable April

CHICAGO -- Rain on Saturday ruined the Cubs' attempt to set a franchise record for most wins in the first month of the season. Chicago finished April at 17-5, which is tied with the 2008 team for the most wins in an opening month.

The Cubs also have a 2.39 team ERA, the lowest in the opening month of the season since the 1985 team had a 2.16 ERA in April. Chicago's starters have 17 quality starts, tied for the Major League lead, and the bullpen has totaled 53 innings, fewest in the big leagues.

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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.

Maddon picks 'zany' first theme trip for '16

Cubs manager: Players must wear eccentric suits on upcoming trip to Pittsburgh

Maddon picks 'zany' first theme trip for '16

CHICAGO -- Last year, the Cubs wore pajamas on the flight back from Los Angeles and players could wear shorts to Miami. The first theme trip this year will be Sunday when they travel to Pittsburgh for a three-game series, and it will be what manager Joe Maddon called "a minimalist zany suit trip."

"It's not your typical Hugo Boss thing, not Italian cut by any means," Maddon said Saturday. "Mine will feature tulips."

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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 come alive late to rally over Braves

Cubs come alive late to rally over Braves

CHICAGO -- Anthony Rizzo smacked a tiebreaking RBI single with one out in the eighth inning and Matt Szczur followed with his first career grand slam to lift the Cubs to a 6-1 victory over the Braves on Friday at Wrigley Field. With the win, the Cubs are now 17-5 and off to their best start since the 1907 team was 18-4 in its first 22 games.

"In a game like today, you believe you're going to win it somehow," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

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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.

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

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

Szczur's slam punctuates Cubs' comeback

Szczur's slam punctuates Cubs' comeback

CHICAGO -- Matt Szczur has a rock on a shelf in his locker that he touches every day. It's a reminder of a parable called "The Story of the Stone Cutter" the Rev. Rob Hagan, an associate athletic director at Villanova, taught Szczur during his days there. The message is to keep grinding, and good things will happen. And as he's done every day, starting in Spring Training, Szczur touched the rock on Friday. And good things happened.

Szczur provided the highlight in an eighth-inning rally when he smacked his first career grand slam to power the Cubs to a 6-1 victory over the Braves. It was a victory for the bench players.

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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.

Warren G tries hand at 'Take Me Out to the Ball Game'

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Warren G tries hand at 'Take Me Out to the Ball Game'

At Wrigley Field, the seventh-inning stretch is historically a time for a well-beloved figure or visiting celebrity to lead the crowd in singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." Warren G (you know him from "Regulate") gave it a shot during Friday's 6-1 win against the Braves and it went … well, you can decide for yourself how it went. Just check out the video above to hear his very unique rendition. 

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Patience at plate paying dividends for Cubs

Patience at plate paying dividends for Cubs

CHICAGO -- When the Cubs' coaching staff talked about having a better approach at the plate this spring, the players listened. And it's paying off. Chicago already has three games of at least 10 walks, and it leads the Majors in free passes. How different is that from years past? From 2010-15, the Cubs had a total of three 10-walk games.

"What you're seeing early in the season is a lot of these young guys growing up and maturing as hitters when they're able to not only take some good hacks but hold back a little bit from that and make sure they're getting the ball right where they want it," Ben Zobrist said Friday. "They're maturing as hitters. Everybody goes through periods when you're better at that or worse at that. Early in the season, compared to what some of these guys did last year, they've been exceptional and made great leaps and bounds as far as their patience at the plate."

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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 react to Gordon's PED suspension

Cubs react to Gordon's PED suspension

CHICAGO -- Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist was caught by surprise when he learned early Friday that fellow second baseman Dee Gordon was guilty of using PEDs.

"The bigger the star, the more upsetting it can be," Zobrist said when told about Gordon, the reigning National League batting champion, who was suspended 80 games for violating Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Gordon tested positive for exogenous Testosterone and Clostebol.

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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.

Arrieta's home scoreless streak ends at 52 2/3

Arrieta's home scoreless streak ends at 52 2/3

CHICAGO -- For the first time in what seems like forever, Jake Arrieta didn't look sharp, yet he still got a win and became the first Cubs pitcher to open a season 5-0 since Hall of Famer Greg Maddux in 2006.

"All I can say is he's human," Cubs catcher David Ross said.

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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 cruise over Brewers behind Arrieta

Cubs cruise over Brewers behind Arrieta

CHICAGO -- Johnny Vander Meer's record is safe. Jake Arrieta did not throw another no-hitter and his scoreless-innings streak at home ended, but the right-hander did get the win in the Cubs' 7-2 victory over the Brewers on Thursday at Wrigley Field.

"All I can say is he's human," catcher David Ross said of Arrieta, who is the first Cubs pitcher to go 5-0 in his first five starts since Greg Maddux in 2006.

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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.

Cody Stavenhagen is a reporter for MLB.com and covered the Brewers on Thursday

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

Montero placed on DL; Cubs add Federowicz

Veteran catcher sidelined with persistent back pain

Montero placed on DL; Cubs add Federowicz

CHICAGO -- Miguel Montero has had back problems before that were so painful he couldn't walk. The Cubs catcher has been bothered by lower back stiffness since the weekend, and on Thursday, he was placed on the disabled list, retroactive to Monday.

"It's a little tight," Montero said on Thursday. "It's not fair for me to go out there and try to push it harder and be even worse for the rest of the year."

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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 among top prospect performers Thursday

Pirates prospect continues to impress while Boston outfielder stays hot at the plate

Almora among top prospect performers Thursday

With Jameson Taillon's impressive start to the 2016 season, you would never suspect that he hadn't pitched competitively since '13.

The Pirates' No. 4 prospect (No. 51 overall) improved to 2-0 on Thursday, firing seven innings of one-run ball for Triple-A Indianapolis in a win against Norfolk. Taillon scattered five hits and issued two walks in the outing, which was his longest of the season for the Indians.

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Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Alyson Footer

Arrieta, Bryant, Maddon earn Esurance Awards

Arrieta, Bryant, Maddon earn Esurance Awards

CHICAGO -- The Cubs' series with the Brewers at Wrigley Field this week included anticipation and impatience, mixed with a slew of accolades for one nearly unhittable pitcher.

Anticipation stemmed from Jake Arrieta's pending encore performance following his no-hitter against the Reds last week in Cincinnati. Impatience likely crept in for Cubs fans who had to wait an extra day to watch Arrieta pitch after his scheduled outing against the Brewers on Wednesday was washed away by rain.

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Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cubs opt to keep prospect Contreras in Minors

Cubs opt to keep prospect Contreras in Minors

CHICAGO -- With Miguel Montero going on the disabled list because of lower back stiffness, the Cubs could have promoted Willson Contreras, but manager Joe Maddon said he hoped to see the highly touted prospect later in the season.

The Cubs opted to call up Tim Federowicz, 28, from Triple-A Iowa to take Montero's spot on the active roster. Contreras, 23, ranked No. 2 on MLB.com's list of Top 30 Cubs Prospects, was batting .375 in 14 games at Iowa.

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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.

Baez fine with part-time role for Cubs

Maddon says infielder understands value he provides off bench

Baez fine with part-time role for Cubs

CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon has told Javier Baez that someday he'll be in the lineup every day in the big leagues. But right now, Baez has accepted his role as a pinch-hitter and defensive sub, something he might not have been able to do a year ago.

"He understands his role," Maddon said Wednesday. "He knows he'll be an everyday player at some point, but for right now, he knows this is his way to be in the Major Leagues and how valuable he is to us."

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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.

Happ among top prospect performers Wednesday

Indians' No. 3 notches three extra-base hits, Rangers' No. 29 prospect strikes out 11 in one-hit shutout

Happ among top prospect performers Wednesday

Bobby Bradley is on a roll right now, and his hot hitting continued on Wednesday.

Baseball's No. 90 overall prospect (Indians No. 3) helped Class A Advanced Lynchburg to a 12-6 win over Winston-Salem by going 3-for-5 with a home run, a pair of doubles and three RBIs. Bradley's three-run homer was part of a 10-run fifth inning for the Hillcats, who erased a 4-1 deficit.

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Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Triple effect: Russell's big hit propels Cubs

Triple effect: Russell's big hit propels Cubs

CHICAGO -- Addison Russell smacked a tiebreaking, two-run triple with two outs in the sixth inning and Anthony Rizzo drove in his team-leading 22nd run with a double to lift the Cubs to a 4-3 victory over the Brewers on Tuesday night. With the win, the Cubs improved to 15-5, their best start since the 1907 team began 16-4.

The cold and Milwaukee's Jimmy Nelson helped to stymie the Cubs, who began the night averaging 6.26 runs per game, tops in the Majors.

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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.

Cody Stavenhagen is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago.

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