News and notes after Cubs swept in Saturday doubleheader
Ian Happ returned to the lineup and promptly hit a pair of homers.
That was the highlight of the day for the Cubs, as they dropped both games of Saturday’s doubleheader against the second-place Cardinals.
St. Louis won the first contest 4-2, with Happ’s homers serving as the Cubs’ only offense. In Game 2, the Cardinals jumped out to an early lead against spot starter Colin Rea and never looked back as the Cubs lost 5-1.
After missing the last game-and-a-half, Happ sent the second pitch he saw off the scoreboard in right field and added another solo shot — this time to the opposite field — in the 5th inning.
Adbert Alzolay got the ball for the Cubs in Game 1 as the 29th man. He started out strong, working around a jam in the 2nd inning and striking out 3 batters the first time through the lineup. But in the 3rd inning, the Cubs couldn’t complete an inning-ending double play, allowing the Cardinals to score the tying run. Alzolay walked the next 2 batters to force in another tally.
In the second game, Rea gave up 2 homers in the 2nd inning and then 3 straight hits to lead off the 3rd before giving way to Duane Underwood Jr. Rea was charged with 4 runs over his 2 innings of work Saturday.
“I felt like I could’ve come in and set the tone and got us off to a good start in the second game and I didn’t do that,” Rea said.
Beyond Happ’s homers, the only other Cubs run of the day came on a David Bote RBI groundout in the 5th inning of Game 2. The Cubs tallied 3 hits in the nightcap — a double by Jason Kipnis, a single by Nico Hoerner and a single by Jason Heyward.
“It’s not a lack of effort or concentration,” Hoerner said of the offensive struggles on the day. “One ball falls here or there or bounces your way, we have a different day. … I promise no one’s trying to strike out and everyone’s focused and prepared and that’s all you can ask for.”
The Cubs hold a 2.5-game lead over the Cardinals in the NL Central with Sunday and Monday as the final head-to-head matchups between the two squads.
—The Cubs designated outfielder Steven Souza Jr. for assignment in between games Saturday, selecting Tyson Miller from the South Bend roster to help add pitching depth for the nightcap of the doubleheader. Souza started the first game of the doubleheader and struck out in both of his plate appearances. On the season, he was hitting .148 with 15 strikeouts in 31 plate appearances.
“We needed an arm and just feels a little bit like we’ve acquired some players with a similar skillset as him,” Ross said after the game. “Just hadn’t been able to use him with coming off an injury and then a rough game in Pittsburgh and then the first one tonight. It seemed like the right move for a group.”
The Cubs signed Souza, 31, as a free agent in the offseason to provide outfield depth and another veteran presence in this lineup. He just returned from the injured list Tuesday after missing two weeks with a hamstring strain.
During his time in Chicago, Souza drew positive reviews from his teammates and coaches for his energy and that was on full display in Saturday’s game when he combined with Jason Kipnis to provide the most GIF-able moment of the season to date:
—The Cubs also claimed infielder Ildemaro Vargas off waivers from the Minnesota Twins Saturday. Souza’s DFA opens up a spot on the 28-man roster for Vargas, a switch-hitting 29-year-old who can play all over the infield.
“Vargas brings us another skillset that we don’t really have a lot of — versatile utility guy,” Ross said.
He has 136 big-league games under his belt, including 18 this season with the Twins and Diamondbacks.
Vargas has a career .255/.284/.385 slash line (.669 OPS) with 7 homers and 34 RBI. He hit .293 with a .746 OPS over 12 minor-league seasons.
—In yet another roster move, the Cubs released pitcher Jharel Cotton Saturday. The Cubs acquired the 28-year-old right-hander in a minor trade with the Oakland A’s over the winter, but he spent the entire season in South Bend prior to his release.