Cubs Have Flashbacks

Cubs Mariners Baseball

Not only was it “Throwback” Saturday, but it was also a throwback to a time when the Chicago Cubs can pull out last minute heroics as they went on to beat the Seattle Turks, I mean Mariners in the 11th inning 5-3.

Alfonso Soriano provided his ninth home run of the season and Starlin Castro notched his fourth home run but it was the throwback play of Alfonso Soriano that gave the Cubs the win.

Cubs “new” closer, Blake Parker garnered his first career save yesterday and might have sealed the deal as to who will be the next Cubs closer after the Cubs gave Carlos Marmol his walking papers earlier this week.

“It’s a position I’m comfortable in, for sure,” Parker said. “Going out there in tight situations is where any competitor wants to be. When it’s a close game and for all the marbles and everything’s on the line, usually that’s when most people are at their best. Gregg’s done a great job all year, and I’ll go out and compete no matter what role I’m in.”

As July waits in the wings, the Cubs continue to have more questions than answers. Who will be dealt come the trade deadline on July 31 and who will remain as the Cubs closer? Even though Kevin Gregg’s name has been whispered among the people in the know, could he stay with the Cubs? I would like to see him hang around for at least another season, but I doubt that will happen. Dale Sveum was pretty excited about Blake Parker’s play yesterday.

“He showed me a lot today,” Sveum said of the right-hander. “That’s a nice asset, to know it wasn’t a deer in the headlights in that situation in the big leagues.”

It’s just one game, but it could very well have signalled a vote in Blake Parker’s direction. now, instead of trading Kevin Gregg for another prospect, the Cubs could get a young arm. We’ll have to wait and see once the list of available players is out.

One thing is for certain, Alfonso Soriano played in the DH spot yesterday and it’s looking very likely that he’ll be heading to the American League very soon.

The Cubs look to close out the series today before heading to Oakland to square off against the Athletics on Tuesday.

Game time today is 4:10 eastern time and Edwin Jackson is looking for his fourth win of the season.

—Mark

Cubs Come Up Short Against The Mariners

chicago-cubs-v-seattle-mariners-20130629-025804-895

It was close but the Chicago Cubs couldn’t hang on for the win and watched the Seattle Mariners beat them 5-4 after 10 innings.

Travis Wood had a great game almost completing seven innings and striking out six but it was his support staff that couldn’t come through.

James Russell had his fifth blown save this year.

“The outcome is the outcome,” Travis Wood said. “I wish I would’ve had it, but it is what it is. They played a good game, and so did we. Things are going to turn around at some point and we’re going to start winning these games.”

Darwin Barney continued his errorless streak and now sits at 64.

So the story continues with the Cubs this season. It’s learning curves and close ones. Great pitching and some good plays, but it’s the end of the games and the ability to shut things down that have plagued the Cubs throughout the 2013 season. The Cubs are second in the National League with extra base hits, but they’re not able to capitalize on those opportunities.

Are they a young team with bursts of genius in them? Nobody can use that card all the time and pretty soon the Cubs will have to drop the, “Rebuilding” moniker from their media releases, newspaper and other sources.

There will come a time when the team is competitive and a force to be reckoned with. I’m happy that the Cubs don’t do the manager shuffle like some teams do when things don’t go their way. It’s stability and continuity that win championships.

“We’re out there, giving everything we’ve got,” Wood said. “Things are going to turn around at some point. We’ll start winning these games and not falling short.”

I love this club a lot and take great joy in watching those occasional bursts of brilliance in their play, but for the rest of the season, the Cubs shouldn’t panic and I don’t feel that Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Dale Sveum are the types to do that. Make a couple of trades at the deadline. perhaps it’s Garza that has to go, but do they trade for draft picks? No. Their farm system is excellent and the prospects will be there. Now is the time to grab that quality player who can help the team finish those games. Someone who’ll score on those extra base hits or someone who can drive home those RISP’s-Geez, that sounds like an investment strategy.

The Cubs and Mariners retro jerseys circa 1909

The Cubs and Mariners retro jerseys circa 1909

The “Shark” Jeff Samardzija takes to the mound as the Cubs and the Mariners turn back the clock all the way back to 1909 with their throwback Saturday. They’re sharp looking jerseys! Game time is 7:15 eastern.

–Mark

Cubs Give Milwaukee Taste of Their Own Brew

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Milwaukee Brewers

As trade winds are blowing for Matt Garza and possibly others, the Cubs gave Milwaukee a taste of homebrew when they handed them a 7-2 beating at Miller Park.

“It’s a blast when they spot you with seven (runs) before the fifth inning,” Garza said. “My job was just to put up a zero every time we scored and not let them get any momentum.”

Garza was exceptional in the win gaining 10 strikeouts in the game. With the win, the Cubs take their first series win at Miller park since 2010.

There are many questions as the trade talks loom over certain player’s heads. Even though Matt Garza is great trade bait, I don’t want to see him dealt because he can provide much needed leadership in the rotation. He’s gotten back from his injury and has played extremely well so it would be a shame to see him go. on the other hand, I think if I had to pick between Nate Schierholtz or Garza being traded I’d go with Garza and only because I think the Cubs would get a good market value in the trade depending on what is available.

“Obviously there are a lot of calls this time of year. We have a number of guys performing really well, including some guys who are under contract or under control for years to come. So it’s not like we’re rushing out to trade those guys. We owe it to the organization to see if there is something that makes us a lot better.” said Theo Epstein.

Ok, so I’ve touched on this before but the Cubs are second in the National League with Extra Base Hits at 247 going into the game, so why aren’t they higher in the standings? You’d think that extra base hits would equal more runs. Discuss.

on the plus side, Dioner Navarro walloped a three run home run which was his 7th of the season in the third inning to give the Cubs a 6-0 lead. He played a heck of a game.

The Cubs try to continue their winning ways today when they meet the Mariners. Game Time is 7:10 Pacific.

–Mark

Roll Out The Barrels

Chicago Cubs v Milwaukee Brewers

It was too close for comfort last night, but the Cubs held on in the ninth inning to grab a 5-4 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Cubs closer Kevin Gregg recorded his twelfth save of the season but it happened in dramatic fashion after giving up a home run to Juan Francisco and a Rickie Weeks double.

Whew!

“You have a calm [with Gregg], because you know he’s not going to implode with walks and stuff like that,” Dale Sveum said. “They’re going to have to get their hits to beat him. The times that he’s given up a run, they’ve hit the ball. He doesn’t walk guys. He knows how to pitch. He knows, ‘If I throw strikes, they have to get hits to beat me.’ We’ve seen many closers over the years do a nice job just because they don’t walk anybody.”

Tony Rizzo celebrated his one year anniversary by getting the winning run, congratulations Tony.

This game almost felt like a playoff game because the Brewers and the Cubs play each other very hard. Unfortunately, the Brewers have come out on top most of the time.

So where are the Cubs after last nights victory? This time last year they were 27-49 as compared to 32-44. Not a bad improvement but they’re getting better. Last night’s nail biter also proved that the Cubs can hang on to those wins in the ninth. Even if they did get lucky.

That’s what this season has been all about really. Tweaking the team bit by bit for when the prospects finally get their chance in the big leagues.

The Cubs try to close out the series today with a win when Matt Garza gets the call. Game time is 2:20 pm eastern

–Mark

No Miller Time For The Cubs

Edwin Jackson

Just as I wrote a post about Nate Schierholtz, he goes and does it again hitting his 11th home run of the season but the Cubs fell short 9-3 against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Edwin Jackson had a rough outing on the mound watching six runs score after six hits. Now that’s rough.

I don’t think it had anything to do with how Edwin pitched but having one bad inning probably shook his confidence a bit.

“I put myself in a position to get out of that inning with one run and still a 3-2 game, and I wasn’t able to put those guys away,” Jackson said. “The balls were up, or too much over the plate with two strikes.”

It was a pretty ugly game for the North Siders. See, this is where Edwin might need to take a break for a game or two to build up his confidence again. I see Starlin Castro was rested for the game.

The Cubs continue with the series today. Scott Feldman is on the mound to face Yovani Gallardo. Game time is 8:10 eastern.

In other news:

The Cubs have designated Carlos Marmol for assignment. it’s bittersweet for me to see him go. I think Carlos is one of the most terrifying closers in the game when he’s on, but this year either he’s lost his enthusiasm or maybe the stuff just ain’t there anymore. I don’t know.

Carlos ranked third on the all time list in saves for the Cubs with 117.

“Obviously, he hasn’t had the slider he had when he first was closing, so it’s more difficult to close out games, but there’s something there that can still help people and maybe a change of scenery can help,” Dale Sveum said.

All right, I haven’t touched on this too much but I’m glad Ian Stewart is gone. Perhaps it was inevitable, but in this day and age, Twitter has become a valuable resource for professionals and Ian Stewart was not acting in a professional way. Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein made the right call in this situation.

“The decision was for the two sides to part ways,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. “It allows Ian to potentially continue his career somewhere else, and for us, I think it was the right time to go in a different direction.”

Case closed.

–Mark

Who is Nate Schierholtz?

nate schierholtz
As we go into this upcoming series against the Milwaukee Brewers, I thought I’d take a look at one of the Cubs best players this season, Nate Schierholtz.

Nate came to the Cubs from the Phillies last December for a one year 2.2 million dollar deal.

I wouldn’t have thought that Nate would have made the big impact that he has made on the club, but here he is at the end of June and batting .296 and is a candidate to represent the Cubs in the 2013 All Star Game in New York. if that’s a hint to get out and vote for Nate, I don’t know what is.

“I signed here because I knew I’d have a chance to play here more than I have in the past,” Schierholtz said. “My goal is to go out and help the team win and get on base and drive in runs. That’s something I’ll continue to work on. I’m just happy that I’ve been given this opportunity.”

Schierholtz is second on the team in home runs with 10 just behind Tony Rizzo who has 12. He is also second in batting average with .296 behind Ryan Sweeney.

What’s so interesting about Nate is he’s only played 63 games as compared to Starlin Castro who has played 73.

Even though he doesn’t lead the team in the offensive categories, he has been outstanding with the Cubs this year.

Do the Cubs trade him? I don’t think so. He’s 29 years old and when the Cubs prospects start coming up, he’ll be in the lineup on a regular basis. Let’s face it, Alfonso Soriano is having a great season but his days are numbered. Nate will become a great veteran presence on the club to prospects Brett Jackson, Jorge Solar, Albert Almora, Javier Baez and Kris Bryant.

So, I say keep Nate Schierholtz because he’ll be one of the great keys to the future Cubs and the road to the World Series.

—Mark

Sweeney is Out of This World

sweeney

It could easily have been the Sweeney Cubs vs the Houston Astros yesterday at Wrigley Field. Ryan Sweeney collected his third home run and added six RBI’s as the Chicago Cubs went on to rout the Houston Astros, 14-6.

“You’re talking about a guy that sees pitches,” Dale Sveum said. “He’s a heck of an outfielder. The key thing that we don’t have in the organization is left-handed bats. He brings that facet to our game.”

Jeff Samardzija earned his fifth win of the season as he fought hard for seven innings. I highly doubt Samardzija’s name will be brought up when it comes to the all star game next month but even though his numbers aren’t in the top, he has been outstanding for this team. I really do hope that The Shark and Nate Schierholtz receive some mention.

A 14-6 dismantling is a rare accomplishment these days for the Cubs and much of the credit has to go to Ryan Sweeney who has really stepped into David Dejesus’s shoes since Dejesus was injured.

“I got into some good hitter’s counts,” Sweeney said. “We had some runners on base on second and third. The first couple of weeks I haven’t been so good with runners in scoring position, but the last couple of games I have tried to focus on that and get those guys in.”

Aw Shucks.

It was also nice to see Tony Rizzo add four runs including his twelfth home run of the season.

“It’s going to test our character from here on out, and we’re all in this together,” Rizzo said. “We all have got to pull for each other and have each other’s back. That’s for any team you go on. If you don’t have each other’s back, then get out of here.”

I think though the improvement of RISP 6-11 yesterday is the key. You have to move the runners and it showed against the Astros. Yeah, I know the once mighty Astros are struggling this year, but it’s against these teams that the Cubs can try and mix things up and have fun against. Don’t get me wrong Astro fans, but for a team like the Cubs with a lot of young players it’s yesterday’s games that will show what the future can bring.

The Cubs have an off day before heading to Milwaukee to face the Brewers tomorrow. Edwin Jackson gets the start and game time is 8:10 eastern.

—Mark