Contreras' slam leads Cubs' HR show in Cincy

Contreras' slam leads Cubs' HR show in Cincy

CINCINNATI -- On a chilly and blustery Saturday afternoon, the Cubs' bats provided plenty of heat with three home runs and a 12-8 victory over the Reds that gave Chicago its first four-game winning streak of the season. Meanwhile, Cincinnati has dropped four games in a row, and seven of nine, to drop to a .500 record at 9-9.

The first-place Cubs (10-7) took a 3-0 lead on lefty starter Cody Reed after three batters with Anthony Rizzo's three-run homer. The Reds answered in the bottom of the first with Joey Votto's three-run homer and a solo shot by Eugenio Suarez -- both against Jake Arrieta. Suarez added a second solo homer, off Cubs reliever Justin Grimm, in the eighth, while Votto added a fifth RBI with a ninth-inning double to finish a triple shy of the cycle.

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Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Andrew Call is a contributor to MLB.com based in Cincinnati and covered the Cubs on Saturday.

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

Maddon: Heyward's adjustments 'very effective'

Outfielder homers for second straight game; adds stellar defensive play

Maddon: Heyward's adjustments 'very effective'

CINCINNATI -- Last April, Jason Heyward was the new kid on the block. This April, he is just one of the guys.

Well, not exactly. He's one of the guys who has been one of the stars of the first month of the Cubs' season. Heyward blasted a three-run home run Saturday, his second in as many games, and made a key defensive play during Chicago's 12-8 win over Cincinnati at Great American Ball Park.

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Andrew Call is a contributor to MLB.com based in Cincinnati and covered the Cubs on Saturday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Reds tease Cubs fans with 'Bandwagon Cam'

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Reds tease Cubs fans with 'Bandwagon Cam'

There's no fault in losing to the Cubs. After all, that's a team loaded one-to-nine with sluggers and stars coming off a World Series championship.

So, though the Reds lost an extra-inning heartbreaker on Friday and went down, 12-8, in a slugfest on Saturday, they at least won the hearts and minds of those in attendance thanks to their Bandwagon Cam. 

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La Stella to Minors as Cubs keep 8 in 'pen

La Stella to Minors as Cubs keep 8 in 'pen

CINCINNATI -- Chicago manager Joe Maddon gave another endorsement to the eight-man bullpen concept Saturday when infielder Tommy La Stella was activated from the bereavement list and optioned to Triple-A Iowa.

"I kind of like it," Maddon said of carrying an extra pitcher instead of an extra utility player. "I prefer eight guys if possible. There is greater potential negative impact to beating up your bullpen than being caught short on the bench."

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Andrew Call is a contributor to MLB.com based in Cincinnati and covered the Cubs on Saturday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Veterans' day when Lackey, Arroyo duel

Veterans' day when Lackey, Arroyo duel

It's safe to say the starting pitchers will be a couple of crafty veterans Sunday when the Cubs and Reds wrap up their three-game series at Great American Ball Park.

Cincinnati will send 40-year-old Bronson Arroyo (1-2, 8.40 ERA) to the mound against Chicago's 38-year-old John Lackey (1-2, 4.00) as the Cubs go for the sweep and a fifth straight win.

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Andrew Call is a contributor to MLB.com based in Cincinnati. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rizzo HR helps Cubs to another dramatic win

Rizzo HR helps Cubs to another dramatic win

CINCINNATI -- In 2016, the Cubs won 15 of 19 games vs. the Reds. They also won 15 of the previous 19 games at Great American Ball Park the past two seasons. That trend continued on Friday, but it was far from easy as the game went 11 innings before a 6-5 Cubs victory.

Reds reliever Michael Lorenzen had a three-run lead and was one out away from notching a six-out save in the ninth inning. That was until his first-pitch fastball was scorched for a three-run home run into the right-field seats by Anthony Rizzo to make it a 5-5 game. Until that moment, the Cubs were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

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Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Andy Call is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Cubs on Friday.

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

Down, but not out: Rizzo comes through in 9th

Down, but not out: Rizzo comes through in 9th

CINCINNATI -- Yep, he's Anthony Rizzo for a reason.

The Chicago first baseman and No. 3 hitter was 0-for-3 with a walk Friday night when he stepped to the plate in the ninth inning with two outs, two on base, and the Cubs trailing Cincinnati, 5-2. Reds right-hander Michael Lorenzen was working his second inning and Wandy Peralta, Cincinnati's only left-hander, was warmed up. Cincinnati manager Bryan Price decided to stick with Lorenzen.

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Andy Call is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Cubs on Friday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Happ hits seventh homer for Iowa, leads Minors

Happ hits seventh homer for Iowa, leads Minors

No pitcher has been more dominant than Class A Columbia's Merandy Gonzalez to begin the season. That trend continued on Friday night, as the Mets' No. 14 prospect extended his scoreless innings streak to 20 2/3 by tossing seven frames in a win against Lexington.

Gonzalez allowed just three singles and struck out a season-high seven batters en route to his third win in as many starts for the Fireflies. He retired nine consecutive batters at one point before setting down the final seven he faced to finish with 88 pitches (64 strikes).

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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.

Russell hitting ball harder this season

Russell hitting ball harder this season

CINCINNATI -- Addison Russell says he isn't obsessed with statistics. But he was OK with this one.

According to Statcast™, Russell was leading all Major League players with 26 batted balls with an exit velocity of 95 mph or more through Wednesday and was leading the Cubs with an average exit velocity of 92 mph per batted ball.

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Andy Call is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Cubs on Friday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Full circle: Rings mean World to Cubs scouts

Blitzer, Lofrano, Servais thrilled to experience long-awaited championship with Chicago

Full circle: Rings mean World to Cubs scouts

CHICAGO -- They've spent more than 90 years combined looking for the players who would help the Cubs win a World Series. They've endured razzing from their peers and sympathy from friends after each losing season. They've been on the road so much, they've lost track of the miles and hotel nights. But this week, Billy Blitzer, Bob Lofrano and Mark Servais were like little kids on Christmas morning.

The three longtime scouts finally received a World Series ring, each personalized with their name. Most important to them -- it has the Cubs' logo on 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.

Szczur's Game 7 painting auctioned for $35K

Bricks and Ivy Ball raised more than $2.2 million for Cubs Charities

Szczur's Game 7 painting auctioned for $35K

CHICAGO -- Outfielder Matt Szczur's painting of the final out of Game 7 of the World Series was auctioned off for $35,000 at the Cubs' Bricks and Ivy Ball, held Wednesday night at Navy Pier. The event raised more than $2.2 million for Cubs Charities.

Szczur was surprised at how much his painting garnered. He posted on Twitter: "Honored and humbled that my first painting was auctioned off for $35,000 for such a great cause. Thank you @cubs and cubs charities for allowing me to give back and be a part of something special."

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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.

Watch David Ross dance to 50 Cent on 'Ellen'

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Watch David Ross dance to 50 Cent on 'Ellen'

For his third "Dancing with the Stars" routine earlier this month, David Ross completed a remarkable transformation from World Series champion and Chicago folk hero to the fifth member of the "Magic Mike" gang. There was a lot of leather. Even 50 Cent was involved. 

Just a few weeks later, Ross and his dance partner Lindsay Arnold have heard the voice of the people, and on Thursday they appeared on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" to give them what they want: namely, lots more fake abs. After a brief discussion of how much fun he's had on the show so far (and how much he misses hanging out with his former Cubs teammates), Ross and Arnold took to the floor.

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Cubs rally late with Russell's walk-off homer

Cubs rally late with Russell's walk-off homer

CHICAGO -- For the second straight game, the Cubs rallied for a win. Kris Bryant hit a game-tying RBI single in the ninth and one out later, Addison Russell smacked a walk-off, three-run homer Wednesday to lift the Cubs to a 7-4 victory over the Brewers and take the series.

"It's been an emotional week," manager Joe Maddon said of the Cubs' first homestand of the year in which they raised the championship banners and received their rings. "I like where we're at and what we're doing."

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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.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

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

Cubs fan bursts into tears with a trip to Wrigley

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Cubs fan bursts into tears with a trip to Wrigley

Seeing your favorite team in their home stadium for the first time as a child is a quasi-religious experience. Many of us can probably remember everything -- the weather, the taste of the hot dogs, which utility infielder either gave you the greatest of victories or the worst of losses. Sadly, before the age of cell phones, there was no proof of your reaction when you were gifted with tickets. 

That's not a problem for this young Cubs fan. Kolt, a 9-year-old Cubs fan, was rewarded for his hard work with two tickets to Wrigley Field to see the Cubs play the Cardinals. Fortunately, his sister captured footage of his amazing reaction: 

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Walk-off win epitomizes Cubs' resiliency

Walk-off win epitomizes Cubs' resiliency

CHICAGO -- Engraved on the Cubs' championship rings is the phrase, "We never quit." It was their motto last season as they won 103 games and eventually the World Series. That may be the theme for 2017 as well.

For the second day in a row, the Cubs rallied for a win as Addison Russell smacked a walk-off three-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning Wednesday to beat the Brewers, 7-4. On Tuesday, the Cubs had to rally from a 5-0 deficit for the 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.

Cease unhittable in start with South Bend

Cubs' No. 3 prospect fires six no-hit innings

Cease unhittable in start with South Bend

Dylan Cease has shown improvement in each of his three starts for Class A South Bend this season. On Wednesday, the Cubs' No. 3 prospect was untouchable as he fired a career-high six innings without allowing a hit against Great Lakes.

Cease, ranked 71st on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list, retired 11 of the final 12 batters he faced in the outing before departing after 92 pitches (55 strikes). He walked three and struck out seven, including five swinging strikeouts.

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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.

Hendricks seeking 'balance' amid slow start

Hendricks seeking 'balance' amid slow start

CHICAGO -- Kyle Hendricks is a slow starter, and he knows that. But it doesn't make it any easier for the Cubs' right-hander to deal with how his 2017 season is going so far.

Hendricks walked four, matching a career-high, and lasted five innings in the Cubs' 7-4 come-from-behind win over the Brewers on Wednesday. The Major League ERA leader last year, Hendricks has a 6.19 ERA in three starts.

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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.

Cease lights out in win

Cease lights out in win

Class A Advanced Palm Beach right-hander Junior Fernandez put his tough start to the season behind him in a truly dominant manner on Wednesday night, retiring the first 19 batters he faced en route to tossing eight scoreless innings to pace the Cardinals in a 7-0 shutout of Tampa.

The win was the first of the season for the Cardinals' No. 10 prospect, who allowed one hit and one walk, while striking out six and generating nine ground-ball outs.

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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

Anthony Castrovince

Ring presentation especially poignant for Baez

Ring presentation especially poignant for Baez

Their paths crossed quickly, but their stories are now intertwined.

Had Javier Baez succumbed to his sorrow and let it distance himself from his dream, his wonderful performance that helped the Cubs win their first World Series title in 108 years would not have been possible. And had Grace Davis not maintained her awesomely optimistic outlook in the face of serious medical difficulty, she would not have been there to give Baez his championship ring.

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Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Maddon changes Cubs' rotation

Lester to open series against Reds on Friday, while Arrieta will start Saturday

Maddon changes Cubs' rotation

CHICAGO -- The Cubs tweaked the rotation for their upcoming series against the Reds, which means Jake Arrieta won't pitch at Great American Ball Park on the anniversary of his second no-hitter, and Jon Lester won't face the Red Sox in Boston.

When the season began, Arrieta followed Lester, but the two were flipped after an off-day, April 6. Now, Lester will open the Cubs' series on Friday against the Reds, which will set him up to face the Pirates. But it will mean that he misses an Interleague series against his former team, the Red Sox, April 28-30. Lester has not faced Boston since he was traded in 2014, and he last pitched at Fenway Park on Sept. 24, 2014.

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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.

Gold Glove winner Rizzo honors coaches

Gold Glove winner Rizzo honors coaches

CHICAGO -- When first baseman Anthony Rizzo was presented with his first Gold Glove award prior to Tuesday's game, he called two of the Cubs' coaches, Gary Jones and Franklin Font, out of the dugout to pose for photos with his trophy.

"It was unbelievable," Font said Wednesday. "The way he did that for 'Jonesy' and me, we really appreciate it. What [Rizzo] did last night before the game was amazing."

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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

Phil Rogers

Rogers: 5 reasons Cubs are better than start

World Series champions feature strong rotation, crafty manager

Rogers: 5 reasons Cubs are better than start

CHICAGO -- Got a problem with the Cubs? I thought I had something until I talked to manager Joe Maddon on Wednesday.

Kyle Schwarber, if you haven't noticed, isn't your prototypical leadoff hitter. Maybe he's the reason the Cubs scored three runs or fewer eight times already -- well, not Schwarber himself (who doesn't like Schwarbs?), but Maddon batting him leadoff.

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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.

MLB.com Columnist

Alyson Footer

Anthem singer Vincent receives WS ring

Anthem singer Vincent receives WS ring

CHICAGO -- John Vincent was already on an emotional roller coaster last January when he received a phone call with news -- happy news -- that he wasn't expecting. And he couldn't believe he was hearing.

The call was from Cubs manager of game and events production Jim Oboikowitch, who informed Vincent, a Wrigley Field fixture as a regular anthem singer, that he would be receiving a World Series ring from the team.

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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 storm past Brewers, halt 4-game skid

Cubs storm past Brewers, halt 4-game skid

CHICAGO -- Not only did the Cubs stop Eric Thames' homer streak, but they snapped their skid as well.

Kyle Schwarber and Miguel Montero each hit two-run homers, pinch-hitter Albert Almora Jr. delivered a two-run single in a four-run sixth and the game-winning run scored on a wild pitch to lift the Cubs to a 9-7 victory Tuesday night over the Brewers at Wrigley Field.

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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.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

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

After rough weekend, 'pen bears down

Maddon says confidence is key for Cubs' relief corps

After rough weekend, 'pen bears down

CHICAGO -- Joe Maddon felt a lot better about his bullpen Tuesday night. The Cubs had blown a save in three straight games against the Pirates over the weekend, and couldn't stop the Brewers on Monday, but all was well in a 9-7 victory over Milwaukee as five pitchers combined for 5 1/3 innings of relief to help end a four-game losing streak.

Closer Wade Davis, who has yet to allow an earned run in seven appearances, pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his third save in three opportunities.

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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.

CF tandem of Almora, Jay invaluable

Maddon plans to use both as much as possible

CF tandem of Almora, Jay invaluable

CHICAGO -- It's tough to explain the Cubs' center-field situation. It's not a platoon exactly between Albert Almora Jr. and Jon Jay.

"Both of these guys together make a wonderful center fielder," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said after Tuesday's 9-7 victory over the Brewers. "I'm hoping it stays that way. We have to figure out how to get both incorporated. That's the best for everybody."

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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.