Cubs Snag Marlins. Travis Gets The Wood Out. RIP Tony Gwynn

Tony-Gwynn

If there’s a lesson that we can all learn about the passing of San Diego Padres legend Tony Gwynn, is that not only is baseball fun, but it is a magical game. Yesterday, Tony lost his battle with cancer at the age of 54 and somewhere, right now, there’s one amazing Hall Of Fame game happening.

As if to prove a point on the magical abilities of America’s favourite past time, Cubs ace Travis Wood notched an RBI double a day after taking a win to lead the Cubs past the Miami Marlins in extra innings 5-4.

“Any time you’re grinding it out and everybody’s running out of pitchers and everybody is running out of players, to pull it out is outstanding,” Wood said. “I’ve always hit growing up and out of high school. I didn’t have three or four years of college, but I stuck with it. Like I’ve said before, it’s part of our job as a starting pitcher in the National League, so I practice that and try to be as best as I can.”

Now the Cubs can look forward to today and take a back to back road series win. With the Cubs sitting seven games back in the wild card chase, things might not be looking as dismal as fans first thought going into the 2014 season.

The Cubs are playing good ball of late. Sometimes they register in the win column and sometimes it’s a loss, but keeping it close and fighting for that win in every game is key.

Believe it!

—Mark

Cubs Celebrate Father’s Day With Road Shutout

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Philadelphia Phillies

The Chicago Cubs shut out the Phillies 3-0 yesterday and with that win, ushered in the first road series win of the season. So why isn’t the Cubs standout guys Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro higher in the voting for the All Star Game next month? Would it be fair to say that it is because they play for the Cubs? Perhaps. Rizzo sits behind Paul Goldschmidt in homers with 14. If he continues with the outstanding play, we could see Anthony overtaking Paul in All Star voting. That would be a big victory if that could happen so get out and vote often for Anthony Rizzo, he deserves to be there this year.

Starlin Castro is narrowly keeping up with Troy Tulowitzki of the Colorado Rockies, who by the way is quietly discovering new ways of winning. I think there’s a conspiracy going on with the Cubs. They’ve got a top first baseman and shortstop that may go unnoticed next month in All Star voting. Does anyone remember a few years ago when the Cubs had 8 players? Wow, that was 2008 and seems a long time ago.

Ok, so speaking of home runs, what’s going on with third baseman, Mike Olt? He continues to crush the ball, but swings at everything that comes his way. It could be rookie jitters or it could be something else altogether.

“We know we have a guy that when he barrels the ball, can obviously drive it,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. “But he is still a young man that’s working on who he is.”

With 60 strikeouts at 145 At Bats, has Alfonso Soriano returned?

The Cubs are in Miami tonight and even though they’re riding a one game winning streak, the Cubs are looking good, all right; they’re looking better and they’re seven games back of a wild card spot.

“We’re playing good ball right now,” Travis Wood said. “We’re not looking sloppy, we’re making plays, we’re hitting, we’re moving runners over. It’s all you can ask for, really.”

Stranger things have happened.

Believe it.

—Mark

Cubs Get Their Phillies

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Philadelphia Phillies

The Cubs needed that win last night in Philadelphia. Not because they have a shot in the standings for any mid season drive towards the playoffs, but simply they got hammered by the Pirates. Not so against the Phillies. In fact, Jake Arrieta garnered nine strikeouts and is clearly the Cubs ace this season. If the Cubs can’t be beat the Phillies then who can they beat?

“Looked like his ball had a lot of life,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. “He was obviously commanding the zone. Made some pitches when he needed to. Got us through seven innings and did a really good job.”

The other kid who did a great job and continues to do an amazing job this season is Starlin Castro. “Kid Castro” chipped in a two run shot in the fourth inning to receive his ninth homer this year.

Is this season a breakout year for the Cubs or is it a resume padding one for the North Siders? I have to admit, I took a running start and jumped on the Mike Quade and Dale Sveum bandwagons, but watching the passion of Rick Renteria this season has made me see the error in my ways. Quade always looked confused reading the lineup cards and Sveum reminded me of a bad hangover I once had. I think Renteria has come out of the dugout more this season then the other two combined. It says a lot when a manager sticks up for his guys and approaches the difficult duties of a Cubs Manager with a smile. When was the last time a Cubs Manager smiled?

It’s not a trivia question.

Believe it.

—Mark

Cubs Under Construction

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates were just that good. Or by saying that Jeff Samardzija didn’t get run support is stating the obvious in a 4-0 loss. Did I not say that this season will have its ups and downs?

“Jeff had really good life to his pitches, but his command didn’t seem to be as good as he has been previously,” Rick Renteria said. “Balls were coming back over the plate a little bit. It was something that you could see based on the results. I’m sure he didn’t feel very good about his outing today. It wasn’t that he didn’t have good velocity — he had great velocity, but I think his command was off.”

It would be a better statement by classifying this season as a “Work In Progress” you know, those annoying Orange and yellow vested workers with ROAD CLOSED signs and holding a STOP sign as you make your way to work in a rush hour frenzy? You know how it always happens during summer months?

This is your 2014 Chicago Cubs.

Sometimes the road is rippled and there’s the awful jackhammer grinding above the 7AM news that you’re trying to hear, but then before we know it, the roads are smooth again and we all know how awesome that road is to drive on.

So folks, deal with the construction signs because once it’s over, it’ll be great.

Believe It

—Mark

Cub’s Anthony Rizzo Sinks Pirate’s Ship

Chicago Cubs v Pittsburgh Pirates

What happened in last night’s game against the Pirates was nothing short of amazing. You see Anthony Rizzo the Cub’s first baseman, came into his own and proved to us and critics alike, that he is the guy that’s going to turn this historic franchise around. Yes, that former San Diego Padre turned the piece of Maple stick into syrup by crushing the ball and sending it a few rows from heading into Steel Town.

But wait!

He wasn’t finished there. Rizzo collected three RBI’s in the Cubs 7-3 victory. He was practically a one man show. This is what happens when the Cubs are getting the runs in–they win.

“I just feel very confident and that’s everything in this game,” Rizzo said. “I don’t care what anyone says. Whether your mechanics are good or bad, if you’re feeling confident at the plate, it makes a huge difference.”

Yet, despite the great game and the great season that Rizzo is putting together, you won’t see him in the starting lineup for next month’s All Star Game. Believe me, I voted for him numerous times and I’m still getting flack from friends and family alike for using their email address.

Does he deserve to be in the lineup? There’s no doubt that’ll he be the Cubs rep for this year’s Best Player Showcase mid summer classic.

What’s not to like about Mr. Rizzo? His Foundation, http://www.rizzo44.com/ is a reminder that cancer strikes more than the patients.

A great guy, a great ball player and a future hall of famer.

Believe it!!!

—Mark

Cubs Run Out Of Luck Against Pirates

Even though Starlin Castro had a great game, it was Starling Marte that brought the entertainment. That was one heck of a rundown yesterday that Starling Marte got caught in. Just in case you missed it, here it is:

Edwin Jackson has been uneven this season, although he’s been far better than he was last season.

“I just have to make a better pitch,” Jackson said. “I have to do a better job of mixing it up instead of getting beat on the same pitch twice [to McCutchen]. You feel good and you let the guy on their team who’s the threat beat you twice.

So, was it the Cubs fault that they lost? Or was it just a case that they played against Andrew McCutchen, the reigning MVP.

Now, the other pondering question is that the Cubs are brutal on the road. How can they fix this? 10-22 on the road. I think if there was anyway a team could choose, they’d rather have a better record on the road than home. It’s just common sense.

Believe It

—Mark

Cubs Turn Back Time And Look Forward To A Bright Future

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There are two ways someone can take yesterday’s loss against the Marlins; “Meh? it’s the Cubs.” or “the more optimistic approach of, “You know what? they fought hard and came back.”

That’s the approach I’ll take. The score was close. A one run game where the Cubs rallied and Nate Schierholtz got a triple in his decidedly heralded return to form in a 4-3 loss.

“The energy is at a pretty high level right now,” Cubs starter Jake Arrieta said. “It’s kind of a contagious thing. Once we get rolling and get a few in a row, it just kind of breeds confidence with everybody in the clubhouse. That’s kind of what we need moving forward to be able to carry over some of that momentum to the following day and the following series.

The question that begs to be answered is, “Will the Cubs call up Bryant and Baez?” To tell you the truth, I don’t really think it’s necessary. The chemistry within the roster is making for a compelling story this season. Get the players to gel and ease into that transition with the prospects. I’m enjoying what the Cubs are doing right now.

‘‘We played good, and hopefully we stay like that on the road,’’ said Castro.

Hey, what did you think of those nifty throwbacks? It’s difficult to decide what is the best of those retro jerseys but yesterday’s vintage 1942 was sharp! I think that one was my favourite so far.

So, not only is the team looking sharp, but they’re on a role and although they couldn’t cap their first six game winning streak since 2008, they’ll take the five game run and head into Pittsburg with confidence and swagger. Lovable losers no more, the 2014 edition of the Chicago Cubs are starting to resemble a machine that needs a little grease to keep the momentum running.

Believe it.

—Mark

Cubs Feel The Lake Effect

MLB: Miami Marlins at Chicago Cubs

Are the Cubs for real? Junior Lake, yes that Junior Lake who fell into the kind of obscurity that Starlin Castro fell into last season came back yesterday and almost took the cover off of the ball twice as the Chicago Cubs went on to defeat the Miami Marlins, 5-2.

Oh yeah, then there’s the Shark. Jeff Samardzija, who’s having one of the best seasons of his career that may or may not be seen in that awesome marble hall in upstate New York one day. This of course, is after he leads a bunch of super charged young ballplayers to that hallowed space in baseball yore. Yes, it was his tenth quality start in thirteen and you know, he won yesterday. Boo freakin’ Ya!

“I love how we’re playing,” Samardzija said. “We’ve got an edge, but we’re having fun, and that’s important for a young team. Everybody’s doing their job. Every time I go out there, 33 times a season, I want my team to feel like we have a really good chance to win that day. That’s my job.”

So after yesterday’s victory, the Cubs have won five in a row and currently have the best winning streak in baseball. I have to say, I never saw this coming. Eleven hits yesterday to Miami’s five and the reason? Emilio Bonifacio banging in his first home run of the season.

“The reality is the confidence is there, but we all understand that every single day you go out there, you’ve got to play the game,” Rick Renteria said. “You don’t want to get too high, and ride it as long as you can, pick each other up, keep believing in each other. In the long run, hopefully, it’s something that’s sustainable and we keep moving forward.”

Moving forward is what the Cubs have been doing. Sure, they’re not going to win every game but when that confidence that Renteria speaks about is in full swing, then great things will happen.

Believe it!

—Mark

Cubs, Rizzo Win Fourth Straight

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It wasn’t the World Series but the victory celebration at the end of yesterdays win over the Miami Marlins sure had the feeling of something special. Anthony Rizzo delivered the walk off victory for the second day in a row powering the Chicago Cubs to a 5-3 win.

“I think they’re playing with a lot of confidence right now,” Rick Renteria said. “I think they’re continuing to pick each other up. I think they’re starting to feel and know that they can do this.”

Yes, the Cubs have cruised to their fourth straight win and now sit 10 games back in the National League Central. Sure, it’s wins over teams like the Mets and the Marlins but according to experts and fans alike, the Cubs weren’t supposed to be anything but a doormat to opponents, “Welcome to the friendly confines, raise a pint to our one hundredth and have a win while you’re at it.” That was the type of season they were supposed to have.

Aren’t they still having that type of season? You might ask.

The answer of course, is yes. Things are slightly different and it all points to the team. Let me quote arguably the most famous underdog film of all time Rocky.

“He doesn’t know it’s a damn show! He thinks it’s a damn fight!” Duke says to Appollo.

Now, I want all of you fine folks to remember this quote at the end of the season because the 2014 Chicago Cubs could put together some kind of underdog season.

“I’m always confident on those situations,” Rizzo said. “You put some good swings on the ball and things happen. It was a breaking ball and I hit it pretty high, and with the wind blowing you never know. That’s baseball.”

That is baseball. Nobody can ever tell which way the wind will blow, especially at the Friendly Confines. Logic states, (so do statistics)that the Cubs will be high up in the draft next season, but what if for a second, the Cubs continue their winning ways? That for some miraculously unexplained reason that they go on a huge winning streak and turn things around just like the Los Angeles Dodgers did last season. It could happen.

Sport Stories are things of legends, situations and myth. Imagine for a moment that there was no Billy Goat, no black cat in the on deck circle, no Bernie Mac singing “Champs” instead of Cubbies and of course, the biggest myth of all, Steve Bartman(as I make the sign of the cross at the mere mention of his name).

Steve Goodman said it best,

“They got the power, they got the speed
To be the best in the National League
Well this is the year and the Cubs are real
So come on down to Wrigley Field”

If my three year old knows the words to this song, then maybe the rest of us should sing these lines loud and proud for the remainder of the season because it would be fitting that in the one hundredth year of one of baseball’s most infamous ballparks that a 24-34 Chicago Cubs team can turn things around and win the whole freakin’ thing!

Believe it!

—Mark