Cubs don't expect repeat of last year's pitching problem
Throw out Wednesday night's start.
The Cubs and pitcher Jeff Samardzija would love to do just that after the Los Angeles Angels crushed their way to a 13-2 victory at Wrigley Field.
Samardzija suffered his second straight rough start, and this one was pretty ugly: 42⁄3 innings pitched, 9 hits, 9 runs and 4 home runs.
Starting pitching is the main reason the Cubs have been approaching respectability. Samardzija has been part of that for most of the year.
We'll see what happens after the all-star break.
The Cubs seem hopeful and confident they can avoid a repeat of last year's second half.
They traded starters Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm at the end of July, right after Matt Garza went on the disabled list. Because it was Samardzija's first full year as a starter, they shut him down in early September.
All of those moves sent the Cubs careening toward a 101-loss season. Down the stretch, they were running out the likes of Jason Berken, Justin Germano and Chris Volstad to start, along with rookies Chris Rusin and Brooks Raley.
"In some ways, that was a pretty unusual situation," said Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer. "There's no question the pitching staff that we ran out there in September was short.
"We feel a lot better about that. We have a little more depth in the minor leagues. We're not as concerned about that. It was hard to watch. Part of it was circumstantial."
The Cubs could deal more pitching this year. Garza is the prime candidate to be traded.
"There's obviously a lot of incoming phone calls," Hoyer said. "There's a lot about Matt, obviously, but a lot about other players on the team, too. I think in general in the game, phone traffic has picked up.
"I feel there's a lot of interest in our players. The team is playing well, and a lot of our individual players are playing well. I think that's a big part of it."
If Garza goes, he'd be the second pitcher dealt from the rotation. Hoyer traded Scott Feldman to Baltimore last week. The Cubs have replaced Feldman with Carlos Villanueva, who returned to the rotation after a stint in the bullpen.
Raley (who pitched in long relief Wednesday) and Rusin each has more experience this year. The Cubs also acquired right-hander Jake Arrieta in the Feldman trade.
So things figure to be better and not so hard to watch if Garza goes.
"There's no question," manager Dale Sveum said. "Having Arrieta, having Baker sitting there ready to go in a few weeks, if everything goes well.
"Obviously, we plugged Villanueva into one of those spots already. Yeah, there's obviously no question we're going to be much more equipped than last year."
As for Samardzija, he was blunt about Wednesday.
"You can't really sugarcoat it too much," he said. "They kicked my (butt) today, and that's just the way it goes."
Cubs scouting reportCubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field
TV: Comcast SportsNet Thursday; WGN Friday; FOX Saturday; ESPN Sunday
Radio: WGN 720-AM
Pitching matchups: The Cubs' Edwin Jackson (5-10) vs. Jake Westbrook (5-3) Thursday at 7:05 p.m.; Carlos Villanueva (2-4) vs. Joe Kelly (0-3) Friday at 3:05 p.m.; Matt Garza (5-1) vs. Lance Lynn (11-3) Saturday at 6:15 p.m.; Travis Wood (6-6) vs. Adam Wainwright (12-5) Sunday at 7:05 p.m.
At a glance: The Cubs are 2-4 against the Cardinals this year, 1-2 at Wrigley Field. The Cardinals have moved back into first place in the NL Central with a 54-34 record entering Wednesday. They get it done with a balanced offensive attack: Yadier Molina leads the team in batting average (.344 entering Wednesday). Carlos Beltran led in homers (19), Allen Craig in RBI (71) and Matt Carpenter in on-base percentage (.393). The Cardinals as a team were first in runs and OBP and second in slugging, while the Cubs were sixth in runs, 13th in OBP and fourth in slugging. St. Louis pitchers were third in the NL in ERA (3.34), while the Cubs were seventh (3.81).
Next: Colorado Rockies at Coors Field, July 19-21
-- Bruce Miles