MLB Insiders: Chicago Cubs

Erik Bedard

The Pirates open a three-game series with the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on Monday night. Lefty Erik Bedard will toe the rubber for the Bucs. The Cubs will counter with right-hander Justin Germano.

The Chicago Cubs have captured five straight home series after taking one against an NL contender to open this six-game homestand.

They'll welcome another one of the league's top teams to Wrigley Field on Monday night in the start of a three-game set against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Chicago (42-58) improved to an NL-best 12-3 at home since June 25 after winning the final two games of a weekend series against St. Louis. Anthony Rizzo hit his first career walk-off homer with a two-run shot in the 10th inning in Sunday's 4-2 victory.

These teams are meeting again after the Cubs outscored Pittsburgh 9-4 in taking two of three at PNC Park last week.

The Pirates' Erik Bedard (5-11, 4.32 ERA) was a hard-luck loser in a 2-0 defeat in the opener of that series. He struck out 11 and allowed one run and two hits over seven innings.

Bedard has not pitched since that outing because the Pirates (58-43) inserted the newly acquired Wandy Rodriguez into their rotation Saturday in Houston. Bedard, who has never pitched at Wrigley Field, has yielded one run and four hits over 13 innings against Chicago this year.

The Pirates' four-game win streak ended Sunday. They continue to lead the wild-card race, but fell three games behind NL Central leader Cincinnati.

Garrett Jones homered, extending the club's streak with at least one to a team-record 19 straight road games. The Pirates lead the majors with 72 road homers.

Pittsburgh took two of three in all three visits to Wrigley last year, homering nine times as McCutchen and Neil Walker each went deep twice.

The only Pirates hitter with more than one at-bat against right-hander Justin Germano (0-1, 3.00) is shortstop Clint Barmes, who is 2 for 4. Germano will pitch Monday for Chicago in his first start since Oct. 3, 2010, with Cleveland.

Germano's lone previous appearance for Chicago came July 21 when he allowed one run over three innings at St. Louis.

Everybody and everything with the Cubs seems to be on hold until the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline.

"Tuesday at 3 o'clock it will be fine not that I know the time and everything," joked manager Dale Sveum before the Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 4-2 Sunday at Wrigley Field.

Although the Cubs say there has been no undue anxiety over the impending deadline, a good number of players have had their names tossed about in rumors.

Pitchers Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza have been talked about the most, and the Cubs have utility players such as Reed Johnson and Jeff Baker who might draw interest as extra men on a contender.

On the bright side, there's always the curiosity factor of what the Cubs might get back in any trade. The new brass, led by president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer, has said it would like to add young pitching to the minor league system.

Until anything happens, the Cubs will just ride it out.

"You don't dwell on any of it because it is what it is," Sveum said. "If it happens, then I'll be curious the guys we get in a trade. Sometimes, they're two or three years away or maybe a year away or already ready. But when all that stuff happens, of course you're curious. But you want it to go away, too."

NOTES, QUOTES

--1B Anthony Rizzo hit the first walk-off home run of his career in the bottom of the 10th inning Sunday, an opposite-field drive into the left-field bleachers. "This is the best," said the first baseman who turns 23 on Aug. 8. "This is something I've always dreamed of doing since I was a little kid. I've never done it before, not in minors, not in Little League, not ever. So this is awesome." It was Rizzo's seventh homer of the year. He went 3-for-4 to raise his average to .333.

--RHP Justin Germano will start Monday's series opener against the Pirates at Wrigley Field. The Cubs need a pitcher to fill the spot of RHP Matt Garza, who is recovering from triceps cramping. Germano, obtained recently from Boston, started most of this season at Class AAA Pawtucket. "He's not going to light up a radar gun or anything," said manager Dale Sveum. "But he's got great arm speed on all his off-seed pitches. He'll change speeds on a slow curveball, anywhere from 68- to 75-78-mph curveball, changeup. Sinks the ball. Keeps the ball down. Just kind of crafty, as much as anything, but has command of four pitches."

--RHP Matt Garza has played long toss and is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Monday as he recovers from right-triceps cramping. The Cubs are hopeful Garza can start during the upcoming weekend series at Los Angeles. Garza hasn't pitched since July 21, when he had to leave after three innings because of the cramping.

--LHP Paul Maholm worked 6 2/3 innings Sunday, giving up four hits and one run. He became the first left-handed starting pitcher in modern Cubs history to have six consecutive starts, going at least six innings and giving up one or few runs. He said he was aware of it for one reason. "Not until you guys bring it up," he said. "I just try and go out there, and you battle throughout the game. I just go out there as long as I can as hard as I can and be aggressive and try to get ahead and get some groundballs. Fortunately the last month or so, it's been working out pretty well."

--2B Darwin Barney got a partial day off Saturday. He came back Sunday by going 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles. "He gets tomorrow off, too, I told him," said manager Dale Sveum. "You're going to get three hits every other day that's not true. I did say that, but I was just kidding." Barney was OK with the joke. "It's funny when he says that," he said. "You don't know if he's serious or not. If he gives me a day off and I can get three hits the next day, I'll take it."

BY THE NUMBERS: .333, 7 and 17 -- Since being recalled from Class AAA (Des Moines) Iowa on June 26, 1B Anthony Rizzo leads National League rookies in batting average, home runs and RBI.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Sometimes I guess I feel like my mom could be my agent because she always has an idea where I'm going to go, but I never end up anywhere. I might have to fire her." -- OF Reed Johnson on speculation he might be traded.

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