Coghlan has been leading by example

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
3:16
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO – A day after his monster Saturday afternoon that included a pair of home runs, all Chris Coghlan was thinking about is how to repeat the formula.

The former rookie of the year, who has been reborn with the Chicago Cubs this season, knows what it’s like to see a run of success evaporate quickly so he won’t relax after a little thing like a four-hit day.

He was on top of the world in 2009 with the Florida Marlins, batting .321 over 128 games to finish not only with the National League rookie of the year award, but a handful of MVP votes as well. Three years later his struggles had him back at Triple-A for most of the season.

Set free by the Marlins last year when he was non-tendered, it has been a redemption year for Coghlan, and his 4-for-4 day with a go-ahead home run in the eighth inning Saturday was just a small example. He entered Sunday’s game batting .283 with a .349 on-base percentage and has proved himself to be a valuable piece moving forward.

“I would just say that it is a blessing because they don’t come around (often),” he said about his season. “We have 10 games, nine games left, however many it is and I really just want to finish the year. But when you do think about it, I’m just grateful that I have been able to stay healthy and that I had an opportunity.

“I tell people they don’t come around, they don’t hand them out for free and you don’t get them as a gift, you have to earn them. I am grateful for the Cubs giving me the opportunity and I’m just trying to run with it and finish the year strong.”

The curious thing about Coghlan is that he has seen enough around the game and certainly been through plenty to be, at the very least, a cautionary tale, for young players about what can go wrong. After all, he experienced the most exasperating injuries of all in 2010 when he hurt his knee while throwing a shaving-cream pie into the face of a teammate while celebrating a victory.

Yet for all of his experience, he finds it hard to see himself as a veteran leader.

“I wouldn’t consider myself a veteran,” he said. “I don’t even know what my service time is now but this is maybe my fifth or sixth season. I think that is something that guys that play eight, 10, 12 years. Those are veteran guys that have been around, seen a lot. I just consider myself trying to establish myself and, yeah I may have more years and I may look like that because we’re so young.”

That youth is why the 29-year-old Coghlan qualifies as a leader, especially on a club with the 22-year-old Jorge Soler and the 21-year-old Javier Baez beginning to emerge.

“There are things that I think I can bring just because of the things I have been able to see,” Coghlan said. “Even with the young career I have had, and I am still young, I have been fortunate to see a lot of things, good and bad. I can share those, but I don’t consider myself a veteran.”

Team leaders never are selected anyway. Their roles are inherited from a combination of success, hard work and an ability to contribute year after year.

“I think it’s important,” Coghlan said about leaders who are able to show the benefit of a solid work ethic. “I think any team that wins has those guys. I don’t know who those guys are going to be or if we have them here. That’s not my decision right now. That’s totally for the front office. But I know that every team that wins has those guys.

"When I was young (with the Marlins) we had guys like Ross Gload, Wes Helms, Nate Robertson that really helped me. They are able to tell you things to be able to expect. In your ignorance and youth, you’re still going to do the same things even when they tell you, but hopefully you don’t have to spill the same blood and you can learn before you have to go through it yourself.”

In lieu of speed, Renteria will take smarts

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
1:28
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- While team speed at the top of the order seems to be an obvious target for the Chicago Cubs this winter, manager Rick Renteria would be satisfied with improved base running.

In that sense, Renteria would be less dependent on personnel added by the front office and more reliant on what he and the rest of the coaching staff can impart on new and returning players during spring training.

“I think one of the things that we’re talking about right now is how we would like to go into spring training next year and try to get some skill work that will help us develop a better sense of how we need to advance on the bases,” said Renteria, who admitted that the subject came up with his staff Sunday morning.

“But it’s not just us. You see it a lot in baseball. There are a lot of different things that go on on the bases that you kind of scratch your head about and we’re hoping that just as part of the process we continue to develop our skills on the bases beyond the speed.”

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Coghlan shows (again) he belongs

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
5:05
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO – Chicago Cubs outfielder Chris Coghlan has been around too long and struggled too much since winning Rookie of the Year in 2009 to assume anything is guaranteed for him next season. But after a signature day for the left fielder in a come-from-behind 8-7 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday, the Cubs would be foolish not to bring him back.

"It’s definitely one of those days where everything goes right,” Coghlan said after hitting two home runs and getting on base five times. “If you play long enough you have some days where the wind is blowing out and you get some balls in the air.”

[+] EnlargeChris Coghlan
AP Photo/Andrew A. NellesChris Coghlan reached base five times Saturday and hit the go-ahead home run.
He’s selling himself short. It was a great performance. Coghlan hit a solo home run out to left in the first inning, added a single and double in his next two appearances and then walked in his fourth time at the plate. With the Cubs trailing 7-6 in the eighth, Coghlan topped off his day with a two-run shot to right off reliever Brian Wilson.

“When we made the move and he came (to the Cubs) he wasn’t inserted immediately into the lineup,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He just kept chipping away and putting himself in a good place.”

Coghlan wasn’t even on the 25-man roster when the season began. He signed a minor league deal and then worked his way to the majors as other outfielders such as Junior Lake and Ryan Kalish struggled while Justin Ruggiano and Ryan Sweeney dealt with injuries. The door opened for Coghlan.

“When they do open the door you have to kick it down,” Coghlan said.

He’s made the most of his opportunity, raising his batting average to .283 after Saturday’s 4-for-4 afternoon. He’s one home run shy of a career high and he's played solid defense lately. But more than anything, he’s getting on base. With on-base percentages dropping fast in baseball – the average is .314 this year – Coghlan is up to .349. That’s huge for a Cubs team that has been missing that ingredient.

“In general that’s a good on-base percentage, (even) in a high-end year (in that category),” Renteria said. “He’s done a great job at the top of the lineup, a great job.”

Coghlan's OBP is a little lower leading off, but overall he’s looked better there than his assumed competition for the top spot going into next season. Arismendy Alcantara hasn’t proven to be a classic leadoff hitter, as he’s shown more power -- he also homered on Saturday -- than the ability to get on. It means the job could be Coghlan’s to lose going into next season.

“I have zero say,” Coghlan stated. “I have no idea what they are going to do. Anything can change good or bad in a blink of an eye. Really I’m a testament to that.”

Coghlan went from getting on-base 39 percent of the time when he won Rookie of the Year to just 21 percent in 2012. He showed a few signs of life for the Marlins last year before the Cubs picked him up. He’s beginning to flourish again.

“I just feel blessed for the opportunity,” he said. “They don’t come around.”

The Cubs own his rights for several years and Coghlan can go to arbitration for the first time after this season. With the Cubs' prospects still figuring things out, the 29-year old is a perfect fit for the moment. He’s earned the chance going into 2015. His huge day on Saturday may have sealed that fate.

“I do know it was one of the better days I’ve had in the big leagues,” Coghlan said.

Puig's Flying Catch

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
4:43
PM CT


video

Yasiel Puig covers major ground and makes a spectacular diving catch, getting Jorge Soler out in the Dodgers' 8-7 loss to the Cubs.

Coghlan HR leads Cubs over Dodgers, 8-7

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
4:10
PM CT
video

CHICAGO -- Chris Coghlan hit two homers, including the go-ahead two-run drive off Brian Wilson in the eighth inning, and the Chicago Cubs rallied to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-7 on Saturday.

The Dodgers were looking to build on a 3 1/2-game lead over San Francisco in the NL West after clinching a playoff spot for the fifth time in nine years on Friday.

Instead Los Angeles blew a five-run lead and wasted a pair of homers and five RBIs by Adrian Gonzalez.

The Dodgers were up 7-2 in the seventh, but the bullpen couldn't hold the lead.

J.P. Howell gave up an RBI single to Anthony Rizzo and a three-run homer to Arismendy Alcantara, making it a one-run game.

Wilson (2-4) came on in the eighth and things just got worse from there.


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Rapid Reaction: Cubs 8, Dodgers 7

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
3:55
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
videoCHICAGO – The Chicago Cubs beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-7 on Saturday afternoon. Here’s a quick look at the game.

How it happened: Chris Coghlan hit his second home run of the game in the eighth inning to give the Cubs their first lead of the day. The Cubs left fielder went 4-for-4 with a walk and three RBIs. Arismendy Alcantara hit a three-run home run in the seventh inning to draw the Cubs within one after Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez hit two home runs to pace the visitors to an early 6-1 lead. Gonzalez homered in the first and third innings off Cubs starter Felix Doubront, who lasted only 2 1/3 innings. Coghlan homered to lead off the bottom of the first, then singled, doubled and walked in his next three plate appearances before he homered again. The Cubs tallied once in the fourth, when Logan Watkins brought home Luis Valbuena, but a diving catch by Yasiel Puig in the fifth on a Jorge Soler drive halted a potential Cubs rally. A sacrifice fly in the seventh brought home the Dodgers' final run, and Anthony Rizzo singled home Coghlan in the bottom of the inning before Alcantara went deep.

What it means: It’s a signature game for Coghlan, whose eight home runs are one shy of his career high. The former 2009 rookie of the year isn’t slowing down at the end of the season and was a triple short of the cycle while getting on base in all five plate appearances. He has also played a solid left field all week. There’s no reason to believe Coghlan won’t be back next year in some capacity -- most likely as the opening day left fielder -- as the Cubs are still looking for guys who can get on base. Coghlan did just that and more on Saturday.

What’s next: Game 4 of the series takes place Sunday with Jacob Turner (5-10, 6.20 ERA) on the mound for the Cubs. Reliever Jamey Wright (5-4) will start for the Dodgers, who plan to use a by-committee approach to Sunday's game.

Getting on base could be Jorge Soler's real strength

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
9:00
AM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- Throughout his short career, Chicago Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler has been reaching different milestones with his offensive production. For example, he’s the first player since 1942 to record an RBI or extra-base hit in his first eight career games, and he’s the second Cub to produce 11 or more RBIs over that same time frame.

There have been other accomplishments over Soler's first 17 games -- through Friday's 14-5 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers -- but none might be more impressive, or more important, than this one: He’s just the third Cubs rookie -- and first since 1943 -- to reach base in 16 of his first 17 games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

[+] EnlargeJorge Soler
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesJorge Soler's ability to get on base has buoyed the Cubs' overall standing in that department since his arrival.
A first-inning, run-scoring triple Friday off Clayton Kershaw gave Soler that distinction, and it matters more than the other ones because these Cubs still have huge trouble getting on base. It’s been the missing ingredient in Chicago's offense.

“What he does bring is a very mature, professional approach at the plate,” manager Rick Renteria said after Friday’s game. “Very disciplined approach. In some instances it’s how he’s been developed, in other instances he has a gift.”

The Cubs need more players with that gift, as they rank 28th in baseball in on-base percentage this season. That has to change if the Cubs are going to compete in the standings anytime soon -- and indeed, with Soler leading the charge, Chicago is 16th in September OBP. That’s a start.

“He’s performing actually to the numbers he’s brought with him from the minor leagues, which is not typical,” Renteria said.

There isn’t much that is typical about Soler’s game. Like fellow Cuban standout Yasiel Puig, Soler is a potential five-tool player. The Cubs right fielder was asked who’s a better player.

“He is,” Soler smiled, then said through an interpreter of the Dodgers outfielder, "he’s been in the big leagues longer.”

That might be the only reason Puig is better right now, because Soler is bigger and stronger. That will pay off.

“I think Soler’s pop is pretty different than a lot of guys,” former teammate Darwin Barney said. “The way he backspins the ball.”

Combine that “pop” with his ability to get on base and the Cubs might have a star in the making. As impressive as the big hits have been, his .397 on-base percentage is even better. And considering the home run potential the Cubs have, that on-base potential might be even more important than any other aspect to Soler’s game.

“It’s working very favorably right now," Renteria said simply, "and we hope it continues."

A day of firsts for catcher Lopez

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
6:41
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- When Chicago Cubs starting catcher Welington Castillo injured his rib in the first inning of Friday's 14-5 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, it opened the door for rookie Rafael Lopez to take over.

The only problem? All world lefty Clayton Kershaw was on the mound.

"We actually faced him in a rehab start at the beginning of the year in Double-A," Lopez said after the game. "It was really cool."

It was even cooler when Lopez earned his first major league RBI, first hit and first walk all against the likely Cy Young winner in the National League. Lopez, a 16th-round draft pick in 2011, had a memorable day.

"I was definitely surprised to get back in there so quickly," Lopez said of Castillo's quick exit. "Even though we came out on the wrong end of the stick, it was a good experience; something I'll remember the rest of my life."

He says he'll give the ball he hit to center for a first-inning sacrifice fly to his mother, and he'll frame his third-inning single off Kershaw and give it to his father. But not before teammate John Baker tried to fool him by pretending to throw the ball into the stands after it came back to the dugout.

"He told me he pulled the switcheroo," Lopez said. "I should have expected that."

Baker threw a different ball to the fans, saving Lopez's first hit for the rookie.

Single-A on the move
Lopez's former team, the short season Boise Hawks, will move to Eugene, Oregon as the Cubs complete their Class-A affiliate restructuring. The Cubs signed a deal with the Eugene Emeralds that runs through the 2016 season.

The Cubs already announced single-A teams formerly in Daytona Beach, Florida, and Kane County, Illinois, have moved to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and South Bend, Indiana, respectively. The prevailing reasons are an upgrade in facilities and in Daytona's case, better weather.

The Cubs' short season Class-A team plays from mid-June until the end of August.

Jackson's fate was sealed before meltdown

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
6:08
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs pitcher Edwin Jackson still believes in himself, but he might be the lone person in town with those feelings. It wouldn’t be a shock, by any means, if Jackson pitched his last game in a Cubs uniform Friday in their 14-5 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers -- though right now he's scheduled for one more start this season.

The lasting memory for him could be not getting out of the first inning as he gave up five runs on four hits and a walk. One hit left the park, a three-run home run by Matt Kemp.

“It’s been a pretty sloppy year, to say the least,” Jackson said after seeing his ERA balloon to 6.38.

Jackson hadn’t pitched in a month because of a minor injury, and with the hype surrounding mound opponent Clayton Kershaw going for win No.20, it was the righty’s chance to prove he still has something left in the tank. Instead, Kershaw led 6-0 before he even took the mound.

“It wasn’t necessarily the outing we were looking for from Edwin today,” manager Rick Renteria said. “We have to sit down and talk about and then see where we’re at. It would be difficult for me to say how we would be heading into the winter.”

Can it be anywhere besides moving on from Jackson at this point? It’s probably best for him and the team – though it will cost the Cubs up to $22 million, no matter how they get rid of him. That’s what he’s owed over the next two years.

“I can definitely take the good with the bad,” Jackson said. “I can accept and man up to what I’ve done. I’m not trying to run or hide from anything I’ve done on the field.”

It’s not like Jackson wants to go play golf for the next few years. He wants a shot at turning things around. And maybe he deserves one, just not with the Cubs. It’s becoming painfully obvious a change of scenery is the least Cubs brass can do for him -- and the fans. Back-to-back years of a near plus-5.00 ERA -- and in this case a plus-6.00 ERA -- usually gets you moved out of town, no matter what a contract says.

“It’s super easy to get negative in the game of baseball,” Jackson said. “You have to stay believing in yourself.”

In a way, Jackson has made this an easy decision for the Cubs. This isn’t about fan negativity or finding a sabermetric peripheral for him, as some were doing after last season. This is about moving on from a bad situation. It may be no one’s fault but baseball fate, but trying to salvage something here would be a waste of time and energy. Things are too far gone for Jackson, especially in a situation where the Cubs are trying to develop a winning culture. Luckily, he’s been a good citizen through his trials and tribulations.

“It may seem far-fetched and some people may not think so, but I still think my best years are to come,” Jackson said. “I really don’t care what anyone else thinks, it’s a matter of going out and proving it. I still believe I will do that.”

It just can’t be with the Cubs. But you knew that by now.

Top Stats to Know: Kershaw wins 20th

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
6:25
PM CT
By ESPN Stats & Information
ESPNChicago.com
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Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesKershaw's day ended early, but he still picked up his 20th win


Clayton Kershaw earned his second career 20-win season in a 14-5 Los Angeles Dodgers win on against the Chicago Cubs on Friday, becoming the first MLB pitcher with 20 wins this season. Kershaw threw five innings, allowing three earned runs (all in the first inning) and striking out nine batters. It was his shortest start since June 8, when he threw five innings in a rain-shortened win over the Colorado Rockies. Here’s what you need to know about Kershaw’s dominant season and some exclusive clubs he’s joined with this win.

Kershaw wins 20 again
Clayton Kershaw’s second career 20-win season makes him the fourth Dodgers pitcher with multiple 20-win seasons since the franchise moved to Los Angeles in 1958. Sandy Koufax leads all L.A. Dodger pitchers with three 20-win seasons while Claude Osteen and Don Drysdale each have two.


Kershaw gets to 20 quickly
Kershaw got his 20th win in his 26th start of the season, becoming just the sixth pitcher in the expansion era to accomplish that feat according to Elias. Four of the previous five pitchers to do so won the Cy Young Award that season, with Juan Marichal as the lone exception in 1968.

Kershaw limits scoring
Friday marked the 25th time in his 26 starts this year that Kershaw allowed three runs or fewer. Kershaw currently is on pace to finish the season with the highest percentage of starts where he allows three runs or fewer in the last 100 years according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Entering this season, Dwight Gooden’s 94.3 percent of starts in 1985 was the highest percentage, but Kershaw currently sits at 96.1 percent.

Kershaw has big strikeout numbers
Kershaw struck out at least nine batters in a game for the 15th time this season, snapping a tie with David Price for the MLB lead. Kershaw’s 15 games of at least nine strikeouts is the most in a season by a Dodgers pitcher since Koufax had 21 in 1966.
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CHICAGO -- Clayton Kershaw became the majors' first 20-game winner and A.J. Ellis hit a pair of two-run homers, leading the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 14-5 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Friday.

Kershaw (20-3) pitched five shaky innings in his shortest start in 3 1/2 months, but the NL West-leading Dodgers roughed up Edwin Jackson on their way to a 13-hit attack that included four homers. Matt Kemp hit a three-run shot in Los Angeles' six-run first, and Yasiel Puig added another three-run homer in the sixth.

The Dodgers improved baseball's best road record to 48-31 and will clinch a postseason berth if Milwaukee loses in Pittsburgh on Friday night. They began the day with a 2 1/2-game lead over San Francisco in the division.

Jackson (6-15) recorded just two outs in his first appearance since he was placed on the disabled list last month with a right lat strain. He was charged with four hits and five runs in his fourth consecutive loss.

Los Angeles batted around during its biggest first inning of the season. Kemp's drive to left was his sixth homer this month and No. 22 on the year. Juan Uribe then chased Jackson with an RBI single before Ellis went deep for his second homer of the season.


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Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 14, Cubs 5

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
4:54
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
video


CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers 14-5 on Friday afternoon. Here's a quick look at the game.

How it happened: Edwin Jackson didn't get out of the first inning, giving up five runs on four hits and a walk. Matt Kemp hit a three-run home run and later A.J. Ellis hit a two-run shot off reliever Eric Jokisch. It was 6-0 before Clayton Kershaw took the mound and he gave up three first-inning runs when Anthony Rizzo doubled home one, Jorge Soler tripled him home and then Rafael Lopez hit a sacrifice fly. Ellis homered again off Jokisch in the third and then the Dodgers put up another six runs in the sixth, all off Dan Straily. Yasiel Puig homered while Hanley Ramirez and Carl Crawford had RBIs.

What it means: The final nail might have just gone in the coffin of Jackson's career as a Cub. If the team is actually trying to win starting next year they can't possibly give him a chance to start again, not after seeing his ERA balloon to 6.38, by far the worst in the league among regular starters. He's been throwing batting practice to the opposition for most of two seasons. It's as simple as that. Kershaw won his 20th game though the Cubs made him work for it as he threw 106 pitches in just five innings. If not for Jackson's early meltdown they had a chance to beat the favorite for both the Cy Young and MVP awards this season. The Cubs' young hitters squared up enough balls to do some damage.

Lopez in relief: Lopez took over for Welington Castillo, who left the game with a rib injury. The rookie catcher earned his first hit, walk and RBI, all off Kershaw.

What's next: Game 3 of the series takes place at noon CT Saturday when Felix Doubront (4-5, 5.00) takes on Roberto Hernandez (8-11, 4.06)

Wellington Castillo suffers injury

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
3:25
PM CT

CHICAGO -- Cubs catcher Welington Castillo was pulled from Friday's game against the Los Angeles Dodgers due to a left rib contusion.

Castillo was struck by a foul ball in the first inning on Friday. A trainer and manager Rick Renteria went to check on him, but Castillo managed to finish the top of the first.

"He's being evaluated," Renteria said after the Cubs' 14-5 loss. "They took him to the hospital to get an X-ray or MRI to clear out anything. We'll know more tomorrow (Saturday)."

Rafael Lopez hit for Castillo in the bottom half, and then stayed in the game to catch.

Castillo is hitting .238 with 11 home runs and 42 RBIs this season.


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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Jake Arrieta
WINS ERA SO IP
9 2.65 157 149
OTHER LEADERS
BAS. Castro .292
HRA. Rizzo 31
RBIA. Rizzo 74
RA. Rizzo 85
OPSA. Rizzo .900
ERAT. Wood 4.86
SOJ. Arrieta 157