The Rundown: Cubs Steal 5 Bases in 4th Straight Win, LHP Daniel Schlereth Signs MiLB Deal, Masahiro Tanaka to DL Again

I’m not sure what I’ve been watching. This doesn’t seem like the Cubs to me, but I like it.

The Cubs stole five bases last night in their 6-2 win over the Pirates. It was their fourth victory in a row.

This is the Cubs’ first four-game win streak since I started writing these news roundups last September, and it’s definitely the best baseball I’ve seen them play in a very long time.

The difference in baserunning that Joe Maddon has brought to the Cubs is amazing. Four of the five stolen bases last night came in one inning, when the Cubs pulled off two double steals.

And doesn’t it seem like every time Maddon calls for a hit-and-run, it either results in a base hit or it keeps the Cubs out of a double play?

Adding a guy like Dexter Fowler certainly helps with the baserunning, but it’s more than that. Anthony Rizzo, who stole his sixth bag last night, has already surpassed his stolen-base total from last year.

In addition to the baserunning, the plate approach continues to impress. Fowler reached base with three more hits and Starlin Castro added three hits of his own.

Even on an “off” night for Rizzo, he still managed to walk and score a run. He also worked a great at-bat in the first inning, seeing 10 pitches and ultimately striking out on a pitch that should have been called a ball.

This overall strong approach at the plate once again helped the Cubs knock out the opposing pitcher early — Jeff Locke only lasted 3.2 innings.

My favorite part about these recent wins, and I touched on it a bit yesterday, is that the Cubs are putting on impressive performances at the plate without hitting the ball out of the ballpark.

I am sure this is not an accident. I have no doubt the Cubs front office and Joe Maddon have analyzed trends and realized games early in the season need to be won in this manner.

Well, it’s working. Keep it up. And once that weather heats up…look out, every other team in baseball.

Lake’s debut

After being called up from Triple-A on Monday, Junior Lake got the start in left field yesterday with a lefty on the mound. He went 2-for-5 with an RBI and run scored.

Carrie Muskat reported before the game that OF Chris Denorfia’s hamstring isn’t 100 percent.

I honestly don’t mind seeing a guy like Lake or Matt Szczur in the lineup ahead of Denorfia. I’m assuming his role with this team is more of a veteran leadership one.

Other notes

* Tennessee Smokies’ Albert Almora was placed on the seven-day disabled list with a possible concussion, and the Cubs promoted Jacob Hannemann from High-A Myrtle Beach to Double-A. Hannemann responded in a big way last night, going 3-for-4 with a home run, two runs scored and a stolen base. The outfielder is an interesting story. Drafted by the Cubs in the third round in 2013, Hannemann doesn’t have as much baseball experience as others his age (he’s 23). This is because he delayed his college enrollment by two years to embark on a Mormon mission.

* Kyle Schwarber added a double and homer (his fourth) for the Smokies in their 7-6 win over Chattanooga.

* Arismendy Alcantara had a triple and two home runs in a Triple-A Iowa double-header last night. Let’s hope that gets him going and we can see him back up with the big club soon.

* The Cubs have signed LHP Daniel Schlereth to a minor-league deal, according to Mark Gonzales. Schlereth, son of ESPN football analyst Mark Schlereth, last appeared in the big leagues in 2012 with Detroit. He has a career 4.35 ERA in 94 appearances.

* Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka is heading back to the disabled list with a right forearm strain. Hate to see this, but puts into perspective how risky big-time contracts for starting pitching can be. Could end up being a blessing in disguise that the Cubs lost out on Tanaka to the Yankees two offseasons ago.


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