Epstein's focus unchanged despite tough stretch

Cubs looking for rotation help, veteran bat at Trade Deadline

Epstein's focus unchanged despite tough stretch

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.

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

Castro searching for way out of slump

Shortstop entered Monday's game hitting .139 in July

Castro searching for way out of slump

CHICAGO -- About five hours before first pitch Monday, Cubs manager Joe Maddon, hitting coach John Mallee and Starlin Castro were in the batting cage, trying to find a way to get the shortstop back on track. Castro entered Monday's 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."

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

Ross pitches perfect ninth, homers for Cubs

Backup catcher gives bullpen a break in second career appearance on mound

Ross pitches perfect ninth, homers for Cubs

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.

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Greg Garno is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Optimistic Maddon riding out rough stretch

Cubs swept by Phillies at home, but manager likes club's energy

Optimistic Maddon riding out rough stretch

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."

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

Cubs hit 3 homers, but Hammel gets tagged

Cubs hit 3 homers, but Hammel gets tagged

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.

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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. Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cubs shake off no-no, treat it like normal loss

Hamels' effort marked first no-hitter against Chicago since 1965

Cubs shake off no-no, treat it like normal loss

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."

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

Maddon: Sluggers need to get back on track

Maddon: Sluggers need to get back on track

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."

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

Maddon, Cubs impressed by 'special' Hamels

Phillies lefty strikes out 13, walks two in no-hitter at Wrigley Field

Maddon, Cubs impressed by 'special' Hamels

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.

A DomiNoNo has been delivered: Win free pizza

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

Cubs victim of Hamels' no-hitter

Cubs victim of Hamels' no-hitter

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.

A DomiNoNo has been delivered: Win free pizza

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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. Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Young Cubs can look to experienced Coghlan

Former NL Rookie of the Year encourages struggling Bryant, Russell

Young Cubs can look to experienced Coghlan

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.

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

Maddon will keep basing closer on matchups

Cubs manager impressed with Motte, but still plans to use committee

Maddon will keep basing closer on matchups

CHICAGO -- Jason Motte has recorded five of the Cubs' past eight saves, but he's not the team's closer. Manager Joe Maddon says he will continue to go with matchups in save situations.

Motte was unable to convert a save opportunity on Friday for the first time this season, but Maddon had nothing but praise for the right-hander.

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

Lester gets no-decision despite effective start

During stretch of sub-.500 opponents, Cubs' ace won't adjust based on record

Lester gets no-decision despite effective start

CHICAGO -- Jon Lester didn't look at the Phillies' record before he took the mound on Friday, which was Day 8 of the Cubs' 17-game stretch against sub-.500 teams. That doesn't matter to the left-hander.

"They're still big leaguers," Lester said. "They're still the best players in the planet. They're there for a reason. They haven't quit, you saw that today."

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

Two HRs support Lester, but 'pen falters late

Two HRs support Lester, but 'pen falters late

CHICAGO -- Cody Asche hit a game-tying double in the ninth inning and Jeff Francoeur smacked a two-run homer with two outs in the 10th to lift the Phillies to a 5-3 victory Friday over the Cubs in front of 41,230 at Wrigley Field.

The Phils tied the game at 3 with one out in the ninth against Jason Motte when Freddy Galvis tripled and scored on Asche's double. It was Motte's first blown save of the season. In the 10th, Cesar Hernandez singled and two outs later Francoeur connected against Rafael Soriano for his ninth home run.

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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. Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Shawn Johnson gets engaged after throwing first pitch

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Shawn Johnson gets engaged after throwing first pitch

Shawn Johnson is Mike Trout-levels of accomplished. At the age of 23, she has won: An Olympic gold medal, three Olympic silver medals and one season of "Dancing with the Stars" (she appeared on another All-Stars season, in which she placed second). That's a lot of stuff to tell the hypothetical grandkids about before the age of 25.

And on Friday, she added one to the list.

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Hoyer: Second-half 'solutions are within'

Cubs general manager considering moves prior to non-waiver Trade Deadline

Hoyer: Second-half 'solutions are within'

CHICAGO -- A year ago at this time, the Cubs had already made most of their moves prior to the non-waiver Trade Deadline, including the blockbuster deal that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Athletics. But last season, Chicago was out of contention in July. This year, the club is in the mix for a National League Wild Card spot, and general manager Jed Hoyer's conversations with other teams are more from a buyer's perspective.

"There's a very long week to go, and I think things will probably go up and down a few times in that stretch as far as supply and demand goes," Hoyer said Friday. "There are three, four, five teams actively assessing their situation on a day-to-day basis, and that's the nature of the second Wild Card.

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

Happ takes BP at Wrigley; called up to Class A

No. 9 overall Draft pick promoted to South Bend after batting .283 in 29 games

Happ takes BP at Wrigley; called up to Class A

CHICAGO -- The moment was fleeting. Stretching for five minutes, fielding fly balls for 10 and then 25 swings of the bat. Then, just like that, Ian Happ's visit to Wrigley Field was over, and his trip through the Minor Leagues was ready to continue.

Happ, the Cubs' first-round pick in this year's Draft, was called up to Class A South Bend, but he took batting practice and got a taste of the big leagues on Friday. Drafted ninth overall, the second baseman/outfielder showed off some of the power that made him coveted by Chicago.

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Greg Garno is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Maddon plans to keep youngsters fresh

Cubs manager wants to avoid playing Schwarber in outfield

Maddon plans to keep youngsters fresh

CHICAGO -- Don't expect to see Kyle Schwarber in the Cubs' outfield any time soon. Manager Joe Maddon likes what he sees of the youngster at catcher, plus he wants to keep the rookie -- and the other rookies -- fresh for a potential postseason appearance.

"We intend to play an extra month this year, and if you want to wear somebody out, go ahead, but it will come back and bite you," Maddon said Friday.

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

Schwarber wants to be known as catcher first

Schwarber wants to be known as catcher first

CHICAGO -- You know Kyle Schwarber can hit, especially in his home state of Ohio. But the key to the Cubs rookie sticking is whether he can catch, and a four-day boot camp in January helped the 22-year-old take a huge step toward being a big league catcher. It also was one more opportunity to show off his hitting.

Tim Cossins, the Cubs' Minor League field coordinator, hosts the defense-centric minicamp, and this year, he invited three players, including Schwarber. When the youngster arrived, he wanted to get started immediately, so they went to a junior-college field in Santa Rosa, Calif. Schwarber loosened up with a batting-practice session, then belted a monster shot over a fence that almost hit a patrolling campus police car.

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

Bryant No. 2 among most popular jerseys; Rizzo ranks No. 10

MadBum, Bryant debut in Nos. 1-2 spots on Most Popular rankings

Bryant No. 2 among most popular jerseys; Rizzo ranks No. 10

The Most Popular Jerseys rankings, traditionally dominated by Derek Jeter before No. 2's exit last year, have a new and younger look with Giants ace Madison Bumgarner and Cubs rookie third baseman Kris Bryant making their debuts on the list at Nos. 1-2, respectively.

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association released the top 20 rankings on Thursday, based on sales of Majestic Athletic jerseys at the MLB.com Shop from Opening Day through last week's All-Star Game presented by T-Mobile.

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Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cubs erase five-run deficit to stun Reds

Cubs erase five-run deficit to stun Reds

CINCINNATI -- The Cubs scored six unanswered runs to pull off a 6-5 victory over the Reds on Wednesday at Great American Ball Park to earn a split of a day-night doubleheader and the four-game series. Cincy won the twin-bill opener, 9-1.

Pinch-hitter Taylor Teagarden provided an RBI single to center field off Reds closer Aroldis Chapman in the top of the ninth to snap a 5-5 tie. Before that, Cincinnati's bullpen had worked five scoreless innings. Chapman's personal scoreless streak ended at 14 innings over 13 games.

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Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. Robert Bondy is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Teagarden beats Chapman for game-winning hit

Teagarden beats Chapman for game-winning hit

CINCINNATI -- On Tuesday night, Taylor Teagarden was called on as a pinch-hitter with the bases loaded in the 11th inning. He struck out to end the threat.

On Wednesday, he was called on in a similar situation, and this time he came through with a game-winning single. Facing arguably baseball's best closer in Reds lefty Aroldis Chapman, Teagarden sent a 101-mph fastball back up the middle to score Anthony Rizzo from third base and complete the Cubs' 6-5 come-from-behind victory in a doubleheader nightcap.

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Robert Bondy is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cubs' bullpen answers call in Cincy

Cubs' bullpen answers call in Cincy

CINCINNATI -- The Cubs didn't get much out of starting pitcher Dallas Beeler, but the bullpen was there to answer the call, holding the Reds scoreless for the final seven innings in a 6-5 victory over the Reds in Wednesday's doubleheader nightcap at Great American Ball Park.

After being roughed up for five runs in the second inning, Cubs manager Joe Maddon elected to pinch-hit for Beeler in the third. The move paid off when Kris Bryant singled in a couple of runs to tie the game at 5-5, and it also worked out on the mound.

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Robert Bondy is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Price-Maddon chess match goes Cubs' way

Price-Maddon chess match goes Cubs' way

CINCINNATI -- The Reds losing a 6-5 game to the Cubs in the nightcap of Wednesday's doubleheader certainly fell square on the shoulders of starting pitcher Tony Cingrani. After all, it took only a half-inning for the left-hander to blow the 5-0 lead he was given in the bottom of the second.

But a key decision by manager Bryan Price also backfired during the Cubs' third-inning rally. With three runs already in for Chicago, there were runners on second and third base with two outs when Price elected to have Cingrani intentionally walk David Ross with starting pitcher Dallas Beeler due up next.

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Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cubs win thanks to weird bases loaded 1-3-2 putout

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Cubs win thanks to weird bases loaded 1-3-2 putout

There was a lot of baseball to be played in Cincinnati on Wednesday. Like, a lot. After the Reds bested the Cubs 9-1, in the first game of a doubleheader at Great American Ball Park, both teams suited up for round two.

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Half of Kyle battery solid in Game 1 loss

Half of Kyle battery solid in Game 1 loss

CINCINNATI -- In what could have been his final home start as a Red at Great American Ball Park, Mike Leake made it a smooth one. Leake dealt eight innings and got plenty of support in the Reds' 9-1 victory over the Cubs in Game 1 of a day-night doubleheader on Wednesday.

Leake, widely speculated to be moved before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, gave up one earned run and four hits, with no walks and six strikeouts. Two of the hits were singles by red-hot Cubs rookie Kyle Schwarber. But after Schwarber's one-out hit in the third inning, Leake retired his final 17 batters in a row. He has not lost a start to the Cubs since April 21, 2012. Since then, Leake is 5-0 in nine starts vs. Chicago.

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Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. Robert Bondy is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Coghlan gives Phillips taste of own medicine

Coghlan gives Phillips taste of own medicine

CINCINNATI -- Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips is known for making outstanding defensive plays to rob opponents, but on Wednesday, he was on the opposite end of it thanks to Cubs left fielder Chris Coghlan.

In the Cubs' 9-1 loss, Phillips was robbed of an extra-base hit in the seventh inning, when Coghlan made a full-extension diving snag in left field.

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Robert Bondy is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Maddon ejected in 4th for arguing balk call

Maddon ejected in 4th for arguing balk call

CINCINNATI -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon was ejected by first-base umpire Adam Hamari in the bottom of the fourth inning of a 9-1 loss against the Reds in Game 1 of the doubleheader at Great American Ball Park on Wednesday.

Maddon came out to argue with Hamari after Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks was called for a balk. Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart was sent to second base, and Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo was upset with the call. After Rizzo argued, Maddon came out to talk with Hamari, and the skipper was eventually thrown out of the game.

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Robert Bondy is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Home-cubbie king: Rookie's homers rile Reds

Cincinnati-area product Schwarber belts tying, go-ahead shots to lead Cubs over Reds

Home-cubbie king: Rookie's homers rile Reds

CINCINNATI -- Cubs catcher Kyle Schwarber grew up in nearby Middletown, Ohio, as a Reds fan, looking up to a number of current and past Reds players. He said he knew of and followed Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier, among other Reds legends such as Johnny Bench, Barry Larkin and Ken Griffey Jr.

On Tuesday, under the bright lights of Great American Ball Park, he made sure they knew of him as well. With the Cubs trailing the Reds by two runs in the top of the ninth, Schwarber rocketed a four-seam fastball from J.J. Hoover to deep right field to tie the game. The two-run homer sent the game to extra innings, and he topped that with a solo shot in the 13th inning to lead the Cubs to a 5-4 victory.

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Robert Bondy is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.