Chicago Cubs starring Mike Olt charm the Snakes

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The Cubs just accomplished this season for the first time; a series win. Sure, it was over the lowly Arizona Diamondbacks with a humiliating defeat 9-2, but a win is a win just the same.

So, what about Mike Olt? He crushed the ball with a three run homer and making his case for a regular starter.

“We’ve talked about him gradually getting into that role,” Rick Renteria said of the third baseman. “Do I plan on playing him tomorrow? Yes. Everything is very calculated. I’m going to throw him out there and let him run with it a little bit. We’re still measuring everything, but he’ll be in there tomorrow.”

The Cubs are easing Olt into that everyday player. He’s not there quite yet, but so far this season, he’s proving that he can be the difference the Cubs need.

“I definitely did a lot of work to get myself ready and I feel I’m ready for the task and will build off the last couple games and go from there,” Olt said.

There’s another player in the Cubs lineup that is an unsung hero this year and that is Luis Valbuena. I don’t talk about him much but he’s providing a steady leadership that the Cubs sure can use. He went 2-4 yesterday in the leadoff spot. He’s getting the job done amidst the Anthony Rizzos and the steadily improving Starlin Castro, who by the way, made an awesome grab and throw to first base.

This is an important win for the Cubs because if they can sweep the Diamondbacks tomorrow, it can build the confidence when the Cubs face Milwaukee Friday. It won’t get any easier folks.

Today, the Cubs will be celebrating in style when Jeff Samardzija gets the ball and the Cubs will wear the Chicago Feds jerseys in commemoration of Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday.

–Mark

Cubs Rattle Arizona

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Chicago Cubs

Look out Miguel Cabrera, you have some competition from Travis Wood for MVP. Yesterday, the Cubs annihilated the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-1 in front of a rain soaked crowd at Wrigley Field.

Yes, it’s that Travis Wood who did it on the mound and at the plate. He struck out nine and hit a three run homer. Travis Wood?

Oh yeah! Don’t forget that RBI double.

“It feels good that they respect you up there and you’re doing your job,” Travis Wood said. “Anything I can do to help the team and help myself out there. I’m not just out there in the nine hole to fill a spot. You have to try to be as best you can.”

I buy into that philosophy as well. Who says that a pitcher is just there to bunt and move a runner? There’s nothing in the rule book about that, is there? In fact, the Cubs need as much help as they can, so why not?

“He’s a guy who’s kind of a steady Eddie, who goes out there and does his thing and has been getting better every year,” Rick Renteria said. “It was a nice outing for him today.”

The Cubs are now in a position to win their first series of the year which would do wonders considering they’re the only team in the majors to not win one this season.

Hey, did you see a familiar face in the broadcast booth? Mr. Bob Brenly was back in the booth doing the seventh inning stretch. Does, “Awkward” come to mind?

I wanted him to yell out,” Let’s get some runs Cubbies!”

Somehow, they didn’t need him to tell them that.

Believe it.

–Mark

Cubs Hit Wall Against Reds

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After cruising to an 8-4 victory against the Reds on Saturday, it was like the Cubs said,”All right, it’s your turn today.” as they stumbled 8-2.

No matter how anyone sticks a fresh coat of paint on it, the fact is the Cubs continued to struggle at getting runners in scoring position. They’ve got the talent, but winning is going to be hard to come by if they’re not scoring runs.

“That’s what wins ballgames, right there, is two-out hitting and doing the little things right and getting guys over,” Mike Olt said. “Once we can start doing that — and we’ve had games when we’ve done that and those are games we’ve won. We have to continue to grind and we’ll figure it out.”

It’s a nice way of saying,” We didn’t get the job done and boy, we sure could use a guy like Javier Baez”

All right, that was a little presumptuous, but you can’t fault a guy for trying.

Jose Veras is on his way back to the closer role and saw limited action yesterday in the seventh. I’m not convinced he’s their guy just yet. He’s been struggling this year. The Cubs could be looking elsewhere.

“Today, as lopsided as the score might have been, we still had second and third in the ninth,” Rick Renteria said. “From the seventh through the ninth, we ended up getting on base and swinging the bat. Obviously we didn’t score enough but it wasn’t like they quit.”

No, they didn’t quit, but they didn’t win either. look, I’m not expecting them to win the whole thing this season, but if they continue to improve and show fans that guys like Bonifacio, Rizzo, Castro and Olt, all right, I still like Junior Lake, can be the guys of the future, then we’ll be happy.

Tonight, the Cubs take on the Diamondbacks and it should be an easy series win for the Northsiders.

Believe It.

—Mark

Have The Cubs Red The News?

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All right, so the Cubs had it bad yesterday. Losing 4-1 against the division rivals Cincinnati Reds is a hard one to take.

The good news is Jeff Samardzija tied a major league record and for the Cubs, it wasn’t a bad record. The Shark had two putouts in an inning and Anthony Rizzo tied for most assists in an inning by a first baseman.

So you see, not all was bad with the loss. Now, going into the game the Cubs hadn’t scored in 24 innings. I don’t know about you guys, but a team doesn’t win championships like that. Plus, when your ace pitcher hasn’t won since August 24, that’s ten starts for all you folks keeping score at home; there’s a problem. The problem doesn’t lie with Jeff because he’s been playing pretty good ball.

“I concern myself more with the way we approach the game,” Rick Renteria said. “If our approach is good and we’re really focused on what we’re supposed to be doing both at the plate and in the field, I’m good with it. Today, I think we were a little sloppy in general, and Jeff really kept us in the ballgame throughout.”

No, I’m not talking about Jeff Samardzija. I’m talking about that little guy stuck between second and third base. Yeah Starlin, you’re having a bounce back season and I’m happy for you, but try not wearing that blue balaclava under your ball cap and you might just not drop some balls. I know it’s cold in Chicago, but I’m Canadian and it gets just as cold. Put your toque on in the dugout and then take it off when you get out on the field. Don’t forget your long underwear. I’m just trying to help.

“We’re not playing a fifth-place team,” Jeff Samardzija said of the Reds. “They’re a complete team. They can hit, they can play defense, they can pitch. … When you play the Reds, Cardinals and Pirates and the Brewers now, you’ve got to bring your ‘A’ game and play clean defense and put some runs on the board and pitch well if you want to win games.

That’s what the Cubs are having trouble with right now is putting some runs on the board. If you read yesterday’s post, you’ll know who can help with that.

Back to you, Theo.

Believe it.

—Mark

Cubs Could Use Javier Baez Now, Mr. Epstein

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If the Cubs have any hopes in competing this season, I think they should call up Javier Baez. He’s a fan favourite and was tearing it up in Spring Training. Imagine the youth movement on the team with Junior Lake, Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo and Baez? Yes folks, they might not be playoff bound, but fans would surly clamour to the Ivy Field this season not only to share in the centennial bash, but to witness some deep long balls.

The question remains though, Is Javier Baez ready?

I’m sure Baez would answer with an enthusiastic, Yes!

All right, management doesn’t want to rush him and I sympathise with them, but consider the draw he’d be? Listen, I like Darwin Barney but his days are numbered. The Cubs can get someone decent in return.

Javier Baez is on the injured list but when he gets back, the Cubs need him. The excitement he brought in Spring will only continue this season. He needs a real test and it’s not in Triple A. To be honest, I’m glad the Cubs pencilled Mike Olt in for the season, but out of the two, I really did think that Javier Baez was the guy they would keep in the season instead of him. You know, out of the two.

Theo Epstein needs to keep his job. He has to infuse some sort of shot into the team to prove to the fans and critics alike that his rebuilding plan is working. Calling up Javier Baez would be a great start and a vote of confidence in him that he’s doing the right thing.

Javier Baez only has a sprained ankle, it’s a minor injury and should heal well. if the Cubs do call him up, they’ll have to make sure he has limited playing time and that’s ok with me. We know he can hit the long ball. I mean those things are rockets. He was tearing it up in Iowa before getting injured and all he needs to do once he gets back is play a few games and then get called up.

Theo, if you’re reading this, the Cubs need Baez. Now.

Believe it!

—Mark

Tanaka, The One That Got Away.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at New York Yankees

I have a theory about everything that went wrong with yesterday’s double header in New York:

The Cubs are saving the Yankees for their return gig at Wrigley Field next month. Yup, that’s what I’m sticking too.

So, in the first game of the double header, the Cubs watched in awe at the one that got away in the form of Masahiro Tanaka, that Japanese ace the Cubs almost signed in the offseason. He struck out ten over eight innings, that’s pretty darn good if you ask me.

“He threw well,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. “His split had tremendous dive. He can elevate to change your eye level. He can work both sides of the plate.”

The Cubs had a great chance in the seventh inning off an Anthony Rizzo bunt that put two on with nobody out but Schierholtz sent one up the gut that bounced off Tanaka’s glove. The play went under review and he was out at first.

Was it a lesson on how good the Yankees can be with Tanaka or just how much the Cubs still have to learn this season.

The truth is that the inexperienced Cubs didn’t stand a chance against the Yankees. Anthony Rizzo had a pretty good day, but the more I see Nate Schierholtz, the more I think he’s not the same player he was last year.

The Cubs have a day off before facing the Reds tomorrow at Wrigley Field. It’s not going to be an easy one either for the Cubs.

“I don’t want to say that has anything to do with it,” Renteria said of the conditions and timing. “The reality is both teams play in it. [On] the off-days, we still worked, we still got in here and were able to hit. Today, they took batting practice on the field. No, we just weren’t able to put anything together.”

—Mark

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

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