Cubs Take First Game Against Soaring Orioles

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If Javier Baez decided that baseball wasn’t his thing and he switched careers to take up boxing, we all know he’d go down swinging, but man, he’d have a killer knockout punch. Yesterday, the Cubs clobbered the Baltimore Orioles 4-1 with Baez and Luis Valbuena hitting the ball hard and long. The Orioles are playoff bound so the win was all that more sweet. I was kind of hoping the Cubs would do the Toronto Blue Jays a favour but the Jays lost 8-0, and that’s a whole different train wreck all together.

Maybe the Cubs win was a result of Jake Arrieta out to prove his old Orioles something, or the Cubs are starting to be that good.

“There was a little more to it, being your former team,” Arrieta said. “After the first inning, it was just business as usual. It was nice to face those guys. It’s good to see a lot of them again — it’s been a while.”

Forget golf being a Gentlemen’s game, baseball is all class. If that was Arrieta’s way of being nice to former teammates, I’d hate to see him mean.

Then there was Baez’s out of the park rocket. if he can cool his swinging, there’d be more of those launching over the heads.

“You want to see every one of that kid’s at-bats,” Arrieta said of Baez. “It’s starting to get to the point, even though it’s so early in his career, that nothing surprises me with what he does at the plate. Everyone knows when he connects with that swing, he’ll hit it a long way. I don’t know if many of his home runs will touch the seats here, honestly.”

This is an important series for the Cubs. They have nothing to gain in the standings, but beating a first place club like the Orioles isn’t just a confidence booster, but more of an accomplishment and like that Gentlemen’s game, they’re playing against themselves. The season’s still got plenty of games left and let me tell you, I’m excited for the post season, but I’m all ready dreaming of next year.

My wife Mary Beth asked me recently, “Are the Cubs all you think about?”

“They day we were married, I won the World Series.”

Believe it,

—Mark

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Cubs Fall Off Slippery Slope

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In probably one of the oddest games in memory, the Cubs held on to win Wednesday’s game on Thursday. What? you might be wondering. Long story short for those who are just tuning in, the Cubs game on Wednesday was rained out, the Cubs were awarded the victory but the San Francisco Giants appealed and rightfully so, because it ended early. So, they played the rest of the game yesterday before their regularly scheduled ball game. The Cubs won the shortened game 2-1

“I’d be lying to you if I didn’t tell you that we wanted to close it out, especially since everybody tried to do everything possible to get it in,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said.

We wouldn’t want you to lie, Rick.

Now, for the encore. The Cubs lost the second game by a score of 5-3. I have to say I like Justin Ruggiano. Even though he and Welington Castillo garnered home runs each, they still provide some much needed relief for Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro and Javier Baez. Like I said, this season is an audition for next year.

“Every ball they seemed to hit just seemed to go right down the line,” Travis Wood said. “They had a lot of doubles, and doubles score runs.”

Ah, so that’s the secret to success. Doubles Score Runs. So, what about those RISP’s ?

“Stranded RISP’s will never score runs.” Canuck Cubbie said.

Today’ll be a tough game against the Orioles. The Cubs need to win it for the Blue Jays. Yes, the Canuck Cubbie has a soft spot for the Blue Birds. Obvious reasons of course. Plus, Jake Arrieta has something to prove to the Orange Birds.

I’m excited for this one.

Believe it.

—Mark 

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Could This Be Jackson’s Last Stand For The Cubs?

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It’s hard to put a positive spin on the Cubs 8-3 loss to the Giants last night, especially when Edwin Jackson is on the mound. However someone can spin it, Edwin Jackson lost. They had the hits 11 to the Giants 14 but leaving those runners on base killed the Cubs chances. It wasn’t all Jackson’s fault, but if management doesn’t do something now with the struggling pitcher, their integrity will be in question going forward. Remember Jose Veras? The Cubs cut ties with him early and somewhere down the line, they’ll have to do the same with Jackson.

“No one wants to be moved, but if it happens, it happens,” Jackson said about a potential shift to the bullpen. “The only thing you can do if you don’t like it is go out and pitch your way out of jams. Like I said, you just have to relax and have fun and get back to having fun. And tonight was an example of absolutely not doing that.

Yes, but Edwin are you going to pitch your way out of a 52 million dollar jam? Those things stick to the rye bread in the breakfast of franchises and leave a mess long after the jam’s been consumed.

On a happier note, Chris Valaika crushed the leather from the rubber in his first dinger of the season and Luis Valbuena added one in the eighth.

I think it’s time Edwin goes to the bullpen. They can bring up Dan Straily and give him the practice he needs. Hey listen, I was a fan of Edwin Jackson, but it’s a business they’re running and the Cubs are on the verge of something special and don’t need a distraction like Jackson. He’s not a starter.

Believe it

—Mark

 

Cubs Rain Down A Win Over Giants

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Sometimes you just have to take what you can get. Last night in front of a drenched crowd at Wrigley Field, the Cubs did just that winning 2-0 over the San Francisco Giants. They don’t call it the Windy City for nothing as the ground crew tried to cover the field, but after four hours, the game was called.

“We tried to wait as long as we possibly could because the Giants were in a pennant race and because we felt an obligation to do that,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. “I was talking to the umpires a lot tonight and [president of baseball operations Theo Epstein] was talking to MLB, trying to make it so we can play this game the way it should be played. Obviously that didn’t happen and it’s unfortunate.”

Anthony Rizzo continued to swing the hot bat, notching  his 29th home run of the season. So, what do the Cubs do at this point? They could be spoiler to everyone else in the hunt or they could go for the .500. Hey, they’re only fifteen games under. That many wins under this team is certainly attainable.

“These guys are going out here every single day to try to prove to the other team that they belong here with them,” manager Rick Renteria said Tuesday. “I’ll be honest, I think I’m really happy with the way we continue to play the game — even against some of the better clubs. Have we had some hiccups along the way? Yeah. Is this a good place for us to be at right now? Damn right. We need to embrace this and play the game and show everybody that we’re moving forward and we’re growing.

Well, let’s not get carried away there Rick. These guys are professional athletes and they don’t need to prove anything to anyone. They’re in the Show!  The Cubs are a good team now and they’re only going to get better. I’d argue the Baez, Rizzo, Castro order is one of the best in baseball.

I just hope the Cubs don’t do #TheIceBucketChallenge just because of those gosh darn pesky curses. Donate, but just don’t dump that bucket. You know, curses and all.

Believe it.

—Mark

Cubs Take Mets To School

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You know, it’s a real treat when Kyle Hendricks plays. I’m not taking anything away from the other starters, but in yesterday’s win over the Mets, the Cubs looked and felt like winners as if they were playoff contenders. In other words, they looked good. Yes, the Cubs showed the Mets what a couple of rookies can do for a club. 4-1, baby!

The unfortunate part about these late call ups is the ineligibility for MVP’s or Cy Youngs. Don’t jump all over me for even suggesting Javier Baez and Kyle Hendricks in the same breath with these awards, but imagine, what if?

What if they played all season long? Would Anthony Rizzo be looking at 48 Home Runs instead of the still awesome 28? How many of those rockets would Javier Baez be sending out into the stands? What about Starlin Castro?

“Having a lot of young guys coming up, we’ve played together for a long time, so it makes it more comfortable and it’s easier to play — you feel more comfortable out there,” Hendricks said.

Well gosh, that makes a whole lot of sense. These rooks have been playing together a lot in the well documented “Farm System Supreme” that the Cubs have been touting for quite some time now. Even though children are putting their backpacks at the door and school bus drivers are cleaning their machines, I’m glad Cubs fans are getting a chance to have a glimpse at the future.

The key issue is control and patience. The all ready awesome Kyle Hendricks needs to reel it in a bit. He’s got many years ahead of himself.

Javier Baez will learn his patience but man, am I glad he’s getting his chance.

“Over the long haul, he understands that if he’s swinging at pitches that are really unhandable, they’re going to keep [throwing them], for sure,” Renteria said. “He’s 21 years old. He’s learning.”

Believe it.

—Mark

Castro powers Cubs To Victory Over Mets

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Well, as the old saying goes, “A win is a win.” Even though Jake Arrieta didn’t receive the victory over the New York Mets yesterday, the Cubs got the 2-1 win and that is why baseball is the team sport that it is.

So, here’s the difference between the Starlin Castro of last year and the one who takes to the field this season. Yesterday, Starlin Castro got a ninth inning home run to give the Cubs the eventual win. How good is that  you might say? Well, Starlin Castro would have swung at anything or if he was out in the infield, “OH look, there’s a monarch butterfly.”

Not Starlin Castro of this year. Nosiree Bob. This one waits for pitches, communicates with other players and focuses entirely on what happens at the plate. In other words, this is the Starlin Castro the Cubs dreamed he would be.

“That was a big one,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. “When he hit it, it came off his bat, and we were hoping it would get away from [the right fielder] — and it just carried enough to get out. That was a big at-bat for him, big at-bat for us.”

Or perhaps it’s Rick Renteria that’s put the change in Castro. The communication driven Renteria isn’t the laid back Morning After/Night Before looking Dale Sveum. Do you honestly think Sveum would have challenged all those calls this year?

There’s also the triple threat of Baez/Rizzo/Castro that’s sending fear into opponents that wasn’t there last year.

But wait! Could we possibly see Jake Arrieta at the All Star game next season? it might happen. Even though the Cubs would love to rest their new ace a little bit, he’s liking the challenge this brings.

“I want to make every start that I have lined up throughout the end of September,” Arrieta said. “If something comes up, I guess that will be addressed. I’d love to stay in the mix and finish out on a high note.”

Although a post season has as about as much chance as Jim Morrison walking the streets of Paris, I think the Cubs should still compete until the end of the season. I’d love to see the new kids as well, but really what difference is it going to make? The off season will be here before long and then what?

I’m predicting a .500 season for next year.

Believe it.

—Mark

Straily Struggles For Cubs

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As debuts go, there are great debuts like Guns N Roses, “Appetite For Destruction” with its searing guitars and howling vocals and then there are the kind of debuts which aren’t as well known. Dan Straily’s debut last night after being acquired from Oakland was one he would have liked to get back.

“It felt pretty new until I got going,” Straily said. “Once I started playing catch, it was another day of baseball. All day today, it felt pretty new. The excitement of getting to pitch for a new team and all that good stuff that goes along with it. It’s just not the way I want to finish.”

Ah, but such is life with the Cubs in August. The call ups and debuts. Experiments and mishaps. Now, don’t get me wrong, this is all good. We all know and expect great things from the Cubs soon but last night’s game was tough.

“I’m sure we’ll see him again,” Rick Renteria said. “He gave us a good look.”

Their record, 52-70 resembles my golf score, but thank God this isn’t golf.  The Cubs are continuing with the call ups by bringing Matt Szczur. A guy with a batting average of .292 in July.

Baseball’s a long season, ask my wife about that one, so it makes sense for the Cubs to revaluate the team to see what works and what doesn’t, give some of the guys a rest and when you’re not in a race, there’s no point risking any kind of injury.

The Cubs have some major decisions to make and I wouldn’t want to be in Theo Epstein’s or Jed Hoyer’s shoes at all. Optioning Junior lake to Iowa was definitely the right choice. Being the arm chair manager that I am, Lake was awesome last year and provided a much needed boost but taking a year to figure out what kind of player he is shows that last year’s excitement was just that.

“Any time you have someone who has been with you as long as he’s been with us, and you send him down late, it’s obviously disappointing,” Renteria said, “but I think he understands he’ll get some at-bats and he knows he’ll be back.”

I doubt it.

Speaking of Edwin Jackson…

Believe it.

—Mark