Lester K's 14 as Cubs take series from Rockies

Lester K's 14 as Cubs take series from Rockies

CHICAGO -- Jon Lester struck out a season-high 14 batters across eight innings as the Cubs defeated the Rockies on Wednesday, 3-2, to take two of three games in the series at Wrigley Field. Lester became the first Cubs pitcher since Mark Prior in 2004 to throw 14 strikeouts, helping Chicago improve to two games above .500 in July.

Lester finished one strikeout shy of his career high, with at least one K in every inning, including six straight early on. He allowed five hits and one walk in his two-run performance to pick up just his sixth win of the season.

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Greg Garno is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

At home with Cubs, Lester set for stretch run

Lefty boosts Chicago with 14-K performance at Wrigley Field

At home with Cubs, Lester set for stretch run

CHICAGO -- Jon Lester doesn't forget July 31. It's his son Hudson's birthday. It's also the day Lester was traded from the Red Sox, which had been the only team he'd played for, to the Athletics a year ago.

"Last year made for an interesting birthday," Lester said after a dominant performance in the Cubs' 3-2 victory over the Rockies on Wednesday.

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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 adjusting to life in the outfield

Rookie makes one catch in left field in finale win over Rockies

Schwarber adjusting to life in the outfield

CHICAGO -- Kyle Schwarber had a different perspective in Wednesday's 3-2 win over the Rockies at Wrigley Field. Instead of being behind the plate, he was in left field, making his first start in the outfield for the Cubs. He only caught one fly ball, and that was hit by Charlie Blackmon to end the eighth inning -- and Schwarber used both hands.

"I just wanted to secure the catch with two hands," Schwarber said. "I didn't want it to squirt out with one."

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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.

Ramirez to DL in flurry of moves for Cubs

Chicago adds Medina, Rowen to bullpen; Beeler optioned, Baxter DFA'd

Ramirez to DL in flurry of moves for Cubs

CHICAGO -- Neil Ramirez sneezed on Sunday and felt a sharp pain on his left side. The right-hander now is on the disabled list because of what's being described as abdominal soreness, which he felt warming up Tuesday night.

"Abdominal soreness via the sneeze -- I don't know where it's all at," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Wednesday.

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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.

Amid rumors, day off, Castro meets with Maddon

Amid rumors, day off, Castro meets with Maddon

CHICAGO -- Starlin Castro, puzzled after being pulled from a game in a double switch, met with Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who assured the shortstop that he wasn't being traded.

Castro was lifted in the seventh inning on Tuesday night, and then told he wasn't starting on Wednesday. The shortstop wanted -- and got -- an explanation.

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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.

Arrieta, Cubs out to even score with rival Brewers

Arrieta, Cubs out to even score with rival Brewers

The Cubs look to stay in the hunt for the National League Wild Card berth as July winds down, but they'll have to do so against a Brewers team that has had success against Chicago this season.

The Brewers play host to Chicago for a four-game series beginning Thursday, with Milwaukee already leading the season series, 4-2. Milwaukee took two of three from the Cubs the last time in early May, outscoring its NL Central opponents, 21-13.

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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.

Cubs fall to Rockies after Beeler falters

Cubs fall to Rockies after Beeler falters

CHICAGO -- DJ LeMahieu had three hits, including an RBI double and a triple, and Nolan Arenado smacked a two-run double to power the Rockies to a 7-2 victory over the Cubs on Tuesday night and even the series at one win apiece.

This was the Rockies' first game after Troy Tulowitzki was traded to the Blue Jays, and they got off to a quick start, sending all nine batters to the plate in the first inning and scoring four runs against Chicago right-hander Dallas Beeler.

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Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page. 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 OK if Cubs don't make any deals

Maddon OK if Cubs don't make any deals

CHICAGO -- The Cubs are third in the National League Wild Card race. What if they don't make a deal by Friday's non-waiver Trade Deadline? Manager Joe Maddon is OK with that.

"If you look at the group we have, the big thing there is to get more out of what we have," Maddon said on Tuesday. "There is more. ... There's a lot left in the tank offensively for us in the next two months. If we can get everybody to play offense to the level we're capable of, there's a lot of offense."

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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 host kids as part of PLAY campaign

Cubs host kids as part of PLAY campaign

CHICAGO -- When reliever Jason Motte warned 80 kids from two Chicago Boys and Girls Clubs on Tuesday about the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs, one boy asked if there are other ways to get bigger physically.

"Milk," Motte said.

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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 'wakes up' Cubs with dramatic blast

Rookie hits walk-off HR to beat Rockies Monday night

Bryant 'wakes up' Cubs with dramatic blast

CHICAGO -- During Saturday's game against the Phillies' Cole Hamels, the Cubs' Kris Bryant hit two long fly balls that reached the warning track. Hamels finished with a no-hitter. But on Monday, Bryant's fortunes turned out a whole lot better.

The rookie belted a walk-off, two-run homer with two outs in the ninth to power the Cubs to a 9-8 victory over the Rockies, who had scored four runs in the top of the inning.

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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.

MLB.com Columnist

Bernie Pleskoff

Scouting profile: Kyle Schwarber

Scouting profile: Kyle Schwarber

Background
One look at Kyle Schwarber screams "catcher." At 6-foot, 235 pounds, Schwarber has the fairly stout, wide-bodied look of a guy that could earn a nice living as a big league catcher. But that may not become his ultimate position. His bat is solid, and his offense is Major League ready. However, he still needs work as a backstop. Perhaps, he'll end up as an outfielder, but the Cubs seem set at those positions.

Schwarber went to Middletown High School (Ohio). He was a star linebacker on the football team. Even with an outstanding batting average, he wasn't selected in the First-Year Player Draft following graduation. He did, however attend Indiana University, and his bat made a tremendous statement.

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Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Castro's extra work pays off in wild win

Shortstop snaps 0-for-9 skid with two-run single in Monday's win over Rox

Castro's extra work pays off in wild win

CHICAGO -- About five hours before first pitch Monday, Cubs manager Joe Maddon, hitting coach John Mallee and Starlin Castro were in the batting cage on the field, trying to find a way to get the shortstop back on track. Castro entered the game against the Rockies batting .139 in July.

"I just wanted to go out there and reinforce what they've been talking about, show some confidence directly to Starlin," Maddon said. "It was a good workout and I like what [Castro] did. We'll see if he can carry it over into the game."

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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 hits walk-off blast to lift Cubs

Bryant hits walk-off blast to lift Cubs

CHICAGO -- Kris Bryant belted a two-run walk-off homer with two outs in the ninth Monday night to power the Cubs to a 9-8 victory over the Rockies, who had scored four runs in their half of the inning.

The Rockies got another shock after the game as five-time All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and pitcher LaTroy Hawkins were reportedly traded to the Blue Jays for four-time All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes and prospects.

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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. Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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.

MLB.com Columnist

Anthony Castrovince

Rizzo, Bryant named to list of Top-25-and-Unders

Rizzo, Bryant named to list of Top-25-and-Unders

If we had to pinpoint the one theme of this 2015 season that stands out above all others, it's unquestionably the dominating impact and the infusion of youth on the Major League scene. Never was this more evident than on Monday night when 23-year-old Cubs rookie Kris Bryant cracked his first career walk-off homer into the Wrigley Field bleachers to give the Cubs a dramatic 9-8 win against the Rockies.

And just an hour or so before Bryant's blast landed, the mere suggestion that the Dodgers might consider trading 24-year-old Yasiel Puig turned social media upside down.

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Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.

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.