The upcoming trade deadline is creating uncertainty for the Chicago Cubs, but the club resumed play after the All-Star break in impressive fashion.
Now Chicago seeks to defeat the lowly Arizona Diamondbacks for the second straight day when the teams meet again Saturday as part of a three-game series in Phoenix.
The wheeling and dealing of Cubs players began Thursday when Joc Pederson was dealt to the Atlanta Braves. A recent 11-game skid has led to Chicago leaning toward being a seller prior to the July 30 trading deadline.
That leaves All-Stars like third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant and closer Craig Kimbrel as possible players on the move as the Cubs creep close to the deadline.
But there weren’t any on-field distractions in the series opener when Chicago produced a solid 5-1 victory.
Pinch hitter Jason Heyward hit a two-run homer and Anthony Rizzo and Patrick Wisdom hit solo blasts. Right-hander Kyle Hendricks continued his fine season by winning his 10th straight decision.
“These guys just came out and played nice baseball,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “We got the starting pitching, we got timely hitting, the big home run by Riz when they tied it up and obviously the pinch-hit home run by J-Hey was nice. It was just a good baseball game.”
While it seems like Chicago (45-46) is on the verge of giving up on making a playoff run, Ross hasn’t reached that conclusion.
He sees opportunities for the Cubs to get back into the hunt even though they sit eight games behind the first-place Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central.
“There’s this doom and gloom over the last two weeks that I don’t know really paints the picture of our first half,” Ross said. “If those two weeks when we look up at the end of the season is the worst part of our season, I think we’ll be in a pretty good place.”
Arizona also will be moving players prior to the deadline as it sputters through a disastrous season. In fact, the Diamondbacks shipped veteran catcher Stephen Vogt to the Atlanta Braves after Friday’s game for 25-year-old Rookie League infielder Mason Berne.
More moves will surely be on the way as the Diamondbacks own the worst record (26-67) in the majors and have lost 54 of their last 65 games.
Arizona left eight runners on base Friday to continue its offensive slumber. The contest marked the 19th time this season that the Diamondbacks scored one run or fewer in a game.
Josh Rojas drove in the Diamondbacks’ lone run with a third-inning double. Rojas and Christian Walker each had two hits.
Arizona will activate right-hander Zac Gallen (1-4, 4.17 ERA) from the 10-day injured list to start Saturday’s game. Gallen was out with a strained right hamstring.
Gallen was injured during a July 2 start against San Francisco in which he allowed three runs and five hits over two innings while losing his fourth straight decision.
The 25-year-old knew he was ready to return after throwing a bullpen session on Thursday.
“I don’t think the pitch count will be crushed too much,” Gallen told reporters before Friday’s game. “It should be fairly close to normal.”
Gallen has never previously faced the Cubs in 36 career starts.
Right-hander Adbert Alzolay (4-9, 4.66) will get the call for Chicago and the 26-year-old has served up 18 homers in just 77 1/3 innings.
Alzolay has lost five straight starts and has allowed nine homers during the stretch. He has a 7.15 ERA during the span.
Alzolay, who is making his 22nd career start and 26th appearance, is facing Arizona for the first time.
–Field Level Media