The Rundown: Arrieta and Bullpen Hold Down Nationals, Denorfia Begins Rehab and Could Be Up Next Week, Christian Villanueva HRs in 4th Straight Game

The Cubs came out swinging in last night’s game, or rather “taking,” as they loaded the bases and forced in a run with a walk in the first inning — all with no outs.

Starlin Castro then worked a great at-bat that ultimately ended with a familiar outcome: a 6-4-3 double play. It scored another run to make it 2-0, but it was a deflating play and felt like a wasted opportunity.

And as it would turn out, the first inning was the extent of the Cubs’ scoring for the night.

Thankfully and miraculously, that was all they’d need.

Jake Arrieta was sharp last night, going six innings and giving up one run and six hits. He struck out eight.

Perhaps the biggest moment of the game occurred in the 7th, after Justin Grimm allowed the first two batters to reach. But then Grimm, James Russell and Jason Motte got out of the inning unscathed.

Another shaky 9th inning from Hector Rondon ended with catcher David Ross picking off Clint Robinson at first base. Ross also threw out two would-be base stealers throughout the game. Huge, but probably overlooked. This is the reason the Cubs went out and signed Ross.

Denorfia begins rehab

Remember when we heard that Javier Baez was playing third base at Iowa and thought it was a no-doubter that he’d be up with Chicago soon?

Well it sounds like OF Chris Denorfia may get the call instead, according to Patrick Mooney. Denorfia began his rehab assignment in Double-A Tennessee yesterday and went 1-for-3 with two runs, a double, an RBI and a walk. Denorfia is working his way back from a hamstring injury.

Hot-hitting Iowa Cubs

The Iowa Cubs’ offense keeps rolling. Arismendy Alcantara had an interesting line: He went 1-for-2 with a double, two runs scored and three walks. Oh, he also had two stolen bases. I’d love to see an effort like that up with the big-league club.

Third-base prospect Christian Villanueva (but playing first with Javier Baez at third) has homered in four straight games, after hitting another one last night. He has seven on the year.

Villanueva came to the Cubs along with Kyle Hendricks in the Ryan Dempster trade in 2012 (looking like a pretty good trade at this point). He has been known for his defense, but this year the bat is coming around.

It’ll be interesting to see what the Cubs do with Villanueva — whether he contributes in the majors or is used as a trade piece.

Other notes

* A nice look by Jayson Stark at Joe Maddon’s thought process behind batting the pitcher eighth. The most interesting info here is the rationale for batting Addison Russell ninth — helps with his development by not exposing him to too many at-bats, but not sticking him in front of the pitcher. Theoretically he sees better pitches with Dexter Fowler hitting behind him.

* A day after being told by Joe Maddon that his show-boating actions on Wednesday were “not cool,” Junior Lake did not hesitate to flip his bat after drawing a bases-loaded walk in the first inning. It was actually a great at-bat from Lake, who is surprising me with his play so far this year. I’m almost ready to start getting excited about him. He also added a bunt single and stolen base later in the game.


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