The Rundown: Lester K’s 14 Rockies, Neil Ramirez to DL, Cole Hamels Reportedly Traded to Rangers

With the Cubs being swept by the last-place Phillies last weekend and losing in lackluster fashion on Tuesday, they needed Jon Lester to take the reins and be the ace they’re counting on. He delivered.

Lester struck out an impressive 14 Rockies in eight innings to give the Cubs a 3-2 victory — and a series win as well. The strikeouts were the most by a Cubs starter since Mark Prior struck out 16 on Sept. 30, 2004. Do yourself a favor a don’t look up how that game ended up.

I was surprised to hear it has been that long since a 14-strikeout game, but it just goes to show how impressive Lester’s performance was. He dominated.

Here’s hoping Jake Arrieta can string together something similar in his start today against the Brewers.

Roster moves

The Cubs made a bunch of roster moves yesterday, ignited by Neil Ramirez heading to the disabled list. Ramirez is experiencing an abdominal strain caused by a sneeze (of all things). So that explains why he was unavailable on Tuesday night. It has been a rough year for Ramirez.

Tuesday night’s starter Dallas Beeler, who struggled again mightily, has been optioned to Triple-A Iowa. Coming to Chicago from Iowa are right-handers Yoervis Medina and Ben Rowen. Medina hasn’t been great for the Cubs this year, albeit in limited action.

Rowen, a submariner, was signed to a minor-league deal on July 4. He had been in the Orioles system before that.

Lineup changes

Kyle Schwarber made his first start in left field yesterday, with David Ross catching Jon Lester. This move had to be expected at some point.

It’ll be interesting to see where Joe Maddon decides to play Schwarber on a day-to-day basis. But with the Cubs basically unable to hit their way out of a paper bag, Schwarber’s bat is needed in the lineup as much as possible.

Starlin Castro was on the bench yesterday, leading to rampant trade speculations. Castro also was removed from the game on Tuesday in favor of a double-switch.

Joe Maddon said before the game yesterday that he spoke with Castro about getting the day off, and clarified that he wasn’t being traded, according to Jesse Rogers.

It sure was funny timing for a benching, and the clarification does not mean that Castro for sure will not be traded before Friday.

Hamels is heading to Texas

After months of speculation on where Phillies ace Cole Hamels would be traded, we finally have an answer. The Rangers have reportedly traded for Hamels in exchange for catching prospect Jorge Alfaro, outfielder Nick Williams and pitchers Jake Thompson, Alec Asher and Jerad Eickhoff.

The Rangers are also giving up pitcher Matt Harrison to offset some of the money on Hamels’ contract.

It’s a big haul for the Phillies, as they receive a number of high-level prospects. And the Rangers receive one of the league’s best pitchers, without having to give up Joey Gallo.

The AL West race should be pretty fun down the stretch.

Crying in baseball

Multiple reports last night had the Mets trading pitcher Zach Wheeler and shortstop Wilmer Flores to the Brewers for outfielder Carlos Gomez.

With news circulating that the deal had been completed, things shifted to New York, where Flores was sent back out to play shortstop, clearly shaken by the news. Flores has been with the Mets organization since he was 16.

The Mets took a lot of heat — why wouldn’t they just take him out of the game for crying out loud?

Well, after the game, manager Terry Collins explained that he hadn’t been notified of a trade, so he didn’t want to remove Flores.

Collins must’ve been in a tough spot. He had to have known something was up, but with no official word, I can understand why he didn’t make the move. He’s trying to win games. It turns out that Flores heard about the trade from fans.

Then things got even weirder, as the trade fell apart:

The logical explanation for the trade not going through would be the Brewers not liking what they saw from Wheeler’s medical records. The young pitcher is coming off Tommy John surgery.

But then Ken Rosenthal tweeted that it was actually the Mets who backed out — because of concerns with Gomez’s hip.

It was a very strange turn of events. I’m certainly glad the Cubs weren’t one of the teams involved.

Other notes

* After waffling for the past week, the Tigers will be listening to offers on LHP David Price and outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, according to Jayson Stark. Last week the Cubs had been linked to Price, but it doesn’t sound like that’s going to happen. Should be interesting to see what is given up for him, however. My guess is he ends up with the Dodgers.

* Anthony Rizzo hit his 17th home run of the year yesterday. It was his first homer since July 7. That’s pretty hard to believe, but it makes sense considering how bad the Cubs’ offense has been lately. When Rizzo and Kris Bryant aren’t hitting for power, the offense is likely going to struggle.

* Catcher Miguel Montero, on the disabled list with a sprained left thumb, says he is ready to get back behind the plate, writes Patrick Mooney. Montero admits he isn’t 100 percent. You have to love his determination and leadership. With Montero back, I’d expect to see more Kyle Schwarber in the outfield. The Cubs can’t send him down at this point.

* The almost-forgotten Tommy La Stella made his rehab debut with the Tennessee Smokies yesterday. Playing second base and hitting fifth, La Stella went 1-for-2 with two runs scored.

* Javier Baez struck out three times yesterday, but also walked, stole a base and scored a run. The possibility of having both Baez and La Stella back as options for the Cubs has me pretty excited. Stay healthy, guys.

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