LEADING OFF: Red-hot Cubs visit Giants, Yanks’ Cole vs. Rays

Sports
Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo, Ian Happ

Chicago Cubs’ Javier Baez (9) points to the fans as he celebrates his two-run home run off San Diego Padres relief pitcher Miguel Diaz with Anthony Rizzo, left, and Ian Happ in the seventh inning of a baseball game Wednesday, June 2, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

A look at what’s happening around the majors today:

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CUBBIES IN CONTROL

The surging Chicago Cubs are headed west for a series in San Francisco having won three straight and nine of 10. The NL Central leaders have limited opponents to three or fewer runs in 12 of 13 games, a trend they’ll try to continue with right-hander Zach Davies (2-2) on the mound.

The Giants have won six of eight and continue to be a surprise contender alongside the Dodgers and Padres in the NL West. Anthony DeSclafani (4-2) is set to pitch the series opener against Chicago.

COLE THING

Yankees ace Gerrit Cole (6-2) faces the Rays for the first time since dominating the AL East leaders last month, when he struck out 12 over eight innings in a 1-0 victory. Cole’s 1.78 ERA is tops in the American League, and his 97-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio was best in the majors entering Wednesday.

Tampa Bay plans to start left-hander Ryan Yarbrough (2-3) in the finale of the four-game series.

NOT ENOUGH NATS

The Nationals are scrambling for starting pitching after right-hander Stephen Strasburg was placed on the 10-day injured list Wednesday with a neck sprain. Strasburg flew to Washington to be examined after he complained of tightness in his shoulder and neck in Tuesday night’s 11-6 win over the Braves. The 32-year-old was pulled after only 1 1/3 innings.

Strasburg’s injury adds more stress to an already thin Nationals rotation. Left-hander Jon Lester started Wednesday night on only three days’ rest.

Manager Dave Martinez said he and his staff were “banging our heads now trying to figure out something for Sunday” when Strasburg was scheduled to make his next start at Philadelphia.

STICKY SITUATION

Major League Baseball is cracking down on the use of foreign substances by pitchers in the minor leagues at a time when it’s widely believed illicit grip aids are commonly being used without consequence in the big leagues.

MLB has suspended four minor league pitchers — two in the White Sox system, one with San Francisco and another with Texas — after umpires ejected them for having illicit sticky stuff. The use of homebrewed tacky substances — mixtures often involve sunscreen and rosin — is suspected to have spiked in recent seasons as pitchers have learned the extent to which illicit sticky stuff can increase the spin rates on their pitches, making them more effective.

Many believe the proliferation of those foreign substances is partially responsible for baseball’s offensive freefall.

The league increased its monitoring of baseballs in the majors this season in an effort to suppress use of foreign substances, but that investigative work hasn’t led to any suspensions.

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