Cubs Plan On Mauling Yankees In Double Header

The Cubs will play as Ernie Banks famously said, “Let’s play two.” today. They will celebrate Jackie Robinson today. Call them what you will, I’ve got a few choice words for those maligned Yankees, but they deserve the respect and admiration as being the class organization that they are.

Jason Hammell will get the ball in the first game and Travis Wood goes tonight. Right now, the Cubs sit last place in the Central but don’t let that fool anyone because the Cubs have shown some resilience in the young season. Guys like, Bonifacio, Rizzo and Castro have all played extremely well considering the circumstances. Coach Renteria has shown that he’ll stand up for the players by calling for the replays and challenges even going so far as to get tossed out of the game at one point.

Are the Yankees going to be tough?

“They’re a perennial powerhouse and find a way to win, and the organization is committed to their players. That’s how they do it,” Hammel said. “That being said, there’s still a way to beat them. I’ve faced them many times and had some success. You just have to keep the ball down there.”

The two clubs aren’t that much different in their record. The Cubs are 4-8 while the Yankees are sitting with a record of 7-6

—Mark

Jackie Robinson, the Cubs and the Feds

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We talk about “Game Changers” you know the players like Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Paul Goldshmidt and Andrew MCutchen. These are guys that are big hitters and superstars nobody else in the game today. With a single hit, catch and just plain old work ethic excites fans and teammates alike. We can have players like Babe Ruth, Stan Musiel, Ernie Banks and Ted Williams, but there will never be another player in the history of the game like Jackie Robinson.

Not only did Jackie Robinson break down barriers, but he signalled to everyone that baseball is everybody’s game. Today, Major League Baseball pays tribute by wearing number 42 on every jersey across the league. The Cubs play the Yankees wearing number 42 on the old vintage Chicago Feds jersey.

Thank you Jackie for making baseball the game it is today.

Cubs Have Only One Thing Left To Do, “Win The Whole Thing”

I really didn’t see this one coming. Last night’s victory came down to the Duke of Welington Castillo and his three run rocker into the stands. A nice souvenir that one. 6-3

“Welington got a good fastball, got a pitch up to hit and did a nice job with it,” Rick Renteria said. “I don’t think he was thinking too much in terms of innings. I think he just wanted to get in there and do his job and he got a good pitch to handle, and he drove it out of the ballpark.”

There’s a question circulating from the bleachers and that is, “What are they going to do with Jose Veras?” I even heard that some people are yelling, “We want Marmol back!” No, I made that one up. Veras is 0-2 so what should the Cubs do? Yeah, it’s not even a month into the season so hopefully he can iron out the kinks, but if I were Renteria, I’d be keeping someone on standby.

The Cubs were lucky to squeeze out that victory, but they fought back which if anyone has anything nice to say about the 2014 edition of the North Siders is that they’re gutsy and similar to the 1988 Cleveland Indians with Ricky Vaughn on the mound. Wait a minute.

The fact that the Cubs took game one away from the much despised St. Louis Cardinals is a great victory that will carry forth into today’s matchup when Carlos “The Villain” Villanueva takes on the great Adam Wainwright. This is the key game in the series. Yesterday, I said that if the Cubs can take the series away from the Cardinals it would be a turning point for the team this year but really, if they can beat Wainwright then the Cubs, who are four games behind the surprising Brewers can remain in the hunt for the Central.

With Emilio Bonifacio’s amazing young season, the Cubs must decide what to do with Gold Glove winner, Darwin Barney. Do they trade him or keep him. All clichés point to Dancing With The One Who Got You There and Bonifacio is the guy this season so they’ve got to use him.

“I’m still getting used to finding ways to get myself prepared during the game,” Barney said. “In the past, off-days were to rest. Now, I have to find a way to be mentally prepared for that first at-bat, which could be a big at-bat in the game. For me, that’s the mindset I’m taking. I’ve got a ‘C’ on my chest, and we’re trying to win as many games as I can.”

Darwin Barney is quite a guy and he’ll help out the team any way he can.

—Mark

Cubs Show Heart But Pirates Battle Back

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The one thing that nobody can take away from the Chicago Cubs and that is they keep everything exciting. Having a 4-0 lead going into the seventh inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates was not an easy task to do, but somehow the Cubs managed to do it. Then a funny thing happened. The Bullpen took over.

Travis Wood pitched a great game with nine strikeouts.

“He did a great job,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said of his lefty. “We sent him back out there (for the seventh), and it was going to be if a guy gets on, he’s done.”

Yup, I think that was great leaving Wood out there. If Renteria shows faith in his pitchers, they’re going to get the job done as witnessed tonight.

These one run games are killing me. I can’t stand the pressure and it’s apparent the Cubs need some juggling around to fix this problem, but now for the good stuff.

“This year, it’s closer in every game, more intensity in every game,” Starlin Castro said. “We’ve got energy in the dugout that we can tie the game or win the game. It’s tough sometimes to lose a game like that. It’s tough, but that’s the game.”

Yes, Mr. Starlin Castro went 3-4 and whatever he’s doing, keep doing it buddy cause it’s working.

Tonight is going to be a tough one for sure. The Cubs face the arch nemesis, St Louis Cardinals when Jeff Samardzija gets the start against Joe Kelly. This is the first time that Rick Renteria will see the rivalry between the two clubs.

The Shark is eying his first win of the season and it’s n ot going to be an easy task against the birds. To me, this will be a turning point for the Cubs. if they can hold their own against the Cardinals, and perhaps take the series, then it could turn around their season.

“I see these guys work every day and I know what they’re doing,” Samardzija said after his last start, speaking of the Cubs’ hitters. “If it was a different situation and I thought they were lazy, it’d be different. Guys come to work every day and do everything they can. It’s early in the season and we’ll keep going, keep pushing and figure this out.”

The Cubs may not be there in talent yet, or that’s not fair, they’re not where they want to be because we all know that they’ve got quality guys out there. What I mean to say is they’re a hard working team with a lot of hustle so far this season.

Exciting things to come.

Believe it.

—Mark

Cubs Loot The Pirates

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Mike Olt has been up and down so far in this young season but last night he found his groove knocking out a homer on his second hit of the season. Yup, we’ll take it. The Chicago Cubs have certainly got Pittsburgh’s number this season. They played them close in the last series and can go for the series win today. This would be a huge victory for the Cubs, morally and in the standings. With the win, it would put the Cubs one game under .500 and that’s not a bad place to be for these Cubs.

Adding to Olt’s home run was Junior Lake bashing one out into the stands. Sure, it’s nice to see Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro hitting, that’s their role for the club, but having guys like Lake, Olt and Bonifacio getting in on the action is a good sign for the team. They’ve played aggressive this season so far.

“You want to get the seven, 12, 100 hits that Bonifacio got,” Anthony Rizzo said, exaggerating slightly. “It’s a long season, we went through a long season last year, and you know two weeks aren’t going to make or break your season. It’s nice to rack up some hits early.”

With Mike and Starlin picking up their games this week, Olt might find that spot at third, perhaps a few more games will help, but it’s going to be interesting.

Another player that is vying for that, “Impact” player status is Jason Hammel who notched his second win of the season. Three hits over seven innings of work is not too shabby.

“I got my first taste of Wrigley, and I hope it’s much kinder next time,” he said. “When the wind is howling out you’ve got to keep the ball down, and I made three mistakes today, and they all left the yard. I think a couple of those are outs in other ballparks, but you still have to keep the ball down.” Hammel said.

The Cubs are onto something.

Believe it!
—Mark

Starlin Castro Goes Deep—Twice!

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There were a lot of things that happened in yesterday’s loss. A lot of good things. There were a lot of bad things as well but no point in dwelling. It looks like Starlin Castro read my post yesterday and is starting to incorporated it at the plate. He hit two huge home runs for the Cubs, one was a three run demon in the third to bring the Cubs to tie it at 4-4.

“He’s just starting to get into a rhythm,” Rick Renteria said. “He’s got some guys getting on base ahead of him. He’s seeing a lot of good at-bats from his teammates. He’s making a real good conscientious effort of bearing down and doing his thing.

Speaking of Rick Renteria, he became the first manager ejected from the game this season after arguing his case with Umpire Jeff Nelson.

All right, so Starlin is catching fire at the plate, but what about his defense and base running? There was an instance where he was running from second to third and then he crossed over the line. What should have been an easy safe at third turned into an out. Yeah, he’s got to work on that.

The pitching? Last year, the pitching worked out for the Cubs, but it’s starting to look the opposite. Personally, I didn’t think the Cubs needed to use all those guys on the mound. To me, it’s showing a huge gaping hole. Given, it’s still early so a pitcher needs to find their groove, but maybe it’s time to look elsewhere.

“They came out aggressive and I left a lot of balls out over the plate, which is a bad combination,” Edwin Jackson said. “Our team did a great job coming back and fighting back. At the end of the day, I have to do a better job of getting the ball down and executing pitches, especially when your team comes back and gives you runs.”

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I like Edwin because he’s accountable for himself. He’s a mature pitcher and he’s just getting warmed up.

The Cubs showed a lot of heart and determination. This season has proven that the Cubs are a much different team than last year and players like Emilio Bonifacio, who had another great game padding his numbers, are just going to improve.

Now, “Let’s get some runs, Cubbies!”

Believe It!

—Mark

Cubs Go On The Offensive.

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It’s almost like deja vu today when the Cubs face the Pirates. This time it’s on home turf and this time Emilio Bonifacio is on a tear. So, who would have thought that Emilio Bonifacio, a late addition to the club, would set everything on fire and be the sleeper player on the Cubs this year. I didn’t think that did you? So what’s wrong with this picture?

Bonifacio is well in front with 14 hits on the team. There’s a two way tie between Anthony Rizzo and Junior Lake for second with 6 hits. Keep this in mind when you consider that last year his total hits were 102 hits playing in 136 games. Ladies and Gentlemen, that’s MVP caliber stats. Now, if he keeps up the pace. He’s a switch hitter and that’s a valuable player to have on the Cubs.

“It would be impossible for us to believe he would maintain the clip he had through the Pittsburgh series but when he gets to the plate, he tries to work the count, he tries to get on, and when he gets on base, he wants to wreak havoc on the pitchers and the opposition,” said Cubs manager Rick Renteria. “It’s good for him to be part of our club.”

His OBP is .548 a great number for a leadoff hitter. This begs the question of, “What is wrong with the other players?” The Cubs have 3 RBI’s on the season from Anthony Rizzo and Ryan Kalish. Arizona Diamondbacks Mark Trumbo has 13. It doesn’t mean much right now, because Arizona isn’t doing too well and the Cubs well, the Cubs are the Cubs. However, watch those numbers in July and see the difference in the standings between the two clubs. The Cubs need to score runs. The good news is that Bonifacio is tied for the lead in hits. The bad news in that statistic is it doesn’t mean jack if the Cubs leave the runners stranded.

In a perfect world, Bonifacio in the leadoff ripping the leather off the ball. He’s a base stealer so this is good news. Next up is Starlin Castro would be an extra base hitter and then Anthony Rizzo would send the leather off of the ball into orbit. There’s your runs right there.

The problem as we are seeing is the two key guys in Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo have been less than stellar in their performance. I think it’s still too early to worry about it, but Rick Renteria should at least feel a little concerned with their performance. Bonifacio can’t and won’t continue his pace, the Cubs need help from their big guns.

Believe it!

—Mark

Villanueva Has Strong Start for Cubs

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The Cubs deserve a much needed day off today after an 8-3 dismantling of the woeful Phillies. Everything went right for the Cubs in the victory. Ryan Kalish collected three RBI’s, Emilio Bonifacio continued his quest to represent the Cubs at the All Star game and Carlos Villanueva had a stellar day on the mound for the Northsiders.

Now the bad news. Starlin Castro. He’s slowly playing a better game but his error on a chance for a double play, but bobbled the ball and the Phillies loaded the bases. These are things that can be fixed. If Rick Renteria hasn’t started pulling his hair out yet, he might start to.

Emilio Bonifacio made a nice grab and leap proving he’s no slouch on defence.

“That went from a moment of head down to a very excited, ‘I can’t believe we had somebody play there,’” Villanueva said of Bonifacio’s play in the fifth. “The inning before, we make an error, and the next inning, we have somebody there. It’s a crazy game. Today it worked for us. Sometimes you’re upset at the shift, sometimes nobody complains.”

In fact, it was hugs all around when Rick Renteria hugged Villanueva after his performance. I believe this is the right attitude the Cubs have to have in the dugout. Maybe not so much a huggy feely type, I mean C’mon, those, “Lovable losers” is going way too far, but maybe a positive feeling might help with player’s morale this season because as we know, this one’s going to be a very long one for sure.

“He’s a big hugger,” Villanueva said of the rookie manager. “He worked his magic on me.”

Jose Veras struggled in the closer role and almost cost it for the Cubs. It happens, at least this early in the season, but I’d prefer Pedro Strop in that role.

—Mark

Cubs Looking For First Home Win

Go Cubs Go!

Go Cubs Go!

It’s great to see Wrigley Field back. Sure the Cubs lost their home opener and things got slightly better yesterday in the 2-0 loss to the Phillies, but it’s stuff that we weren’t all ready expecting, right? We had a great day despite the Cubs loss. Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and the pride of Canada Fergie Jenkins singing Take Me Out To The Ball Game made it awesome. Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies provided the backbone and an excellent job as usual.

In particular, yesterdays loss had some shining spots for Emilio Bonifacio and Starlin Castro. Both Bonifacio and Castro had great days with Bonifacio getting two hits and Castro three hits. Is it time to brand them a nickname? Not yet.

The Cubs are a more exciting team this season than in a while. Bonifacio’s strength on base and Anthony Rizzo attempted bunting yesterday. The Cubs are trying to find ways to win, plain and simple.

“It’s OK if it’s a broken record — you keep repeating it and you keep talking about it,” Rick Renteria said. “You never stop talking about it until you start to understand it and get a good feel for it. A lot of it is more games, just keep getting in more games. I know we didn’t come up with a victory today, but for me, it was a ballgame we were in the whole way.”

Maybe the Cubs should use this season as a practice season for when the prospects come up? The Cubs have to cure that Runners In Scoring Position problem they have. There’s the broken record right there. Once they fix that problem, they might be contenders because they’ve got the talent and hey, it’s great seeing Starlin hitting the ball again. They’ll be singing a different tune.

Carlos Villanueva gets the start today.

Yup, “Baseball season is underway, so you better get ready…”

Believe it.

Mark

Cubs Win! Junior Lake’s Wardrobe Malfunction and Partying Like It’s 1914

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The Cubs win! Emilio Bonifacio did it again. He’s become a force to be reckoned with. I was a little skeptical having him hit leadoff, but Starlin Castro hasn’t found his groove yet and well, Emilio Bonifacio has just taken over and gone above and beyond all expectations.

“He’s on fire and hopefully he continues,” Rick Renteria said of Bonifacio, now 11-for-16 for the season. “We’re seeing a lot of guys have good at-bats. We had some balls hit well. We’re on the right track.”

He’s gone to bat 16 times and 11 hits. Wow!

Third baseman Mike Olt grabbed his first home run of the season. Expecting many more, Mike.

So, Junior Lake looked funny yesterday wearing the other Cubs road jersey instead of the one he was supposed to be wearing. No, he wasn’t charged with an error.

This is it! The day Cubs fans rejoice, the home opener has arrived and let the festivities begin. Dust the barbecue off and grab your favourite steak, beverage and snacks. Today, the Cubs face the Phillies and there’s a bit of awkwardness happening. Ryne Sandberg will be sitting in a Phillies uniform probably going to tip his cap to the fans as they celebrate one hundred years at Wrigley Field.

“Wrigley Field is a special place to me and my career, so going back there and going back in this capacity [as Phillies manager], I’m very anxious and excited about that,” Sandberg said.

Anyone have any opening day traditions? Do you skip work and invite friends over? Tail Gate? This is a great day because it herald’s in spring and the return of baseball to Wrigley Field. It’s been a long winter so this is as sweet as it gets.

“It’s not so much the eagerness to get there, but the season is moving forward, and it’s going to be nice to be in our home ballpark,” Renteria said. “It’s going to be an exciting moment for all of us. Like I’ve said, it’s still baseball.”

So polish up your,”Go Cubs Go” and “Take Me Out To The Ball Game”

Holy Cow!!!

Believe It!

–Mark

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