Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks Pitches a Beauty

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As we all know, there’s something exciting percolating on the Northside. Last night, Kyle Hendricks and the Chicago Cubs beat the Cincinnati Reds by a score of 3-1. They not only beat the Reds, but swept them. Sure, the Cubs haven’t been mentioned in a playoff race since 2008, but the impact of sweeping a division rival this late in the season shares the same feeling.

“I just feel comfortable here, I guess, and in front of the home fans,” Hendricks said about pitching at Wrigley. “It’s not like I’ve pitched bad on the road but the home environment — it’s always nice pitching at home and getting wins in front of your fans.”

Yes, the former Minor League Pitcher of the Year pitched another gem for the upstart Cubs. Hendricks has only given up six runs in just over 35 innings of work. My only criticism of Kyle Hendricks is his delivery. It sure ain’t pretty but there’s a lot of trickery involved in that pitch. Kind of reminds you of Mad Dog, eh?

So as the season winds down, the Cubs have a lot to be thankful for and fans have a lot to cheer for next season.

“I came in just trying to learn and see what big league hitters and big league baseball overall was about,” Hendricks said. “I definitely learned a ton the second half of the year and was able to have success, too, and that’s ultimately what I was hoping for.”

Wait though, the Cubs are 68-84. Far from respectable, but a long way from last season and exceeding everyone’s expectations. The thrill of seeing Kyle Hendricks, Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, and Arismendy Alcantara has been incredible. There have also been surprises like Chris Coghlin, Neil Ramirez and Chris Valaika. We can safely say that the future of the Cubs is in good hands.

Now here’s a chance to play spoiler again. The Cubs go into the weekend facing the Los Angeles Dodgers. With the San Francisco Giants nipping at their heels, can the Cubs do it?

Anything’s possible.

Believe it.

—Mark

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Cubs’ Rizzo Gives Fans Chance To Dream

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Welcome back Anthony Rizzo, we missed you. Let me ask you this question; If this were a feature film, who would play Mr. Anthony Rizzo? Channing Tatum? I think that would be a nice fit into the role.

After a scoreless eight innings, the All Star first baseman stepped up to the plate and well, then the magical happened.

Rizzo hit a walk off home run to help the Cubs beat their division rivals 1-0. It was beautiful. It was the reason why thousands of children across the world stay out a little later in the summer.

“First pitch, I was taking all the way, just to see his arm,” Rizzo said of his at-bat in the ninth. “The second pitch, I just let loose, and fortunately put a good swing on it.”

Anthony Rizzo was on the disabled list for the last eighteen games with lower back tightness but wow, what a comeback!

You see baseball is a magical game. It’s a pilgrimage to take that trip to Cooperstown. There’s a serenity walking through the marble hall and reading those plaques. This is the reason every summer, children stay out a little later when the last red light splits the horizon. A chance to dream of having a nickname like, “The Man of Steal”.

Last night, Anthony Rizzo returned to the Cubs lineup. Earlier this season, he promised a child a home run and he hit two.

Last night, Anthony Rizzo hit one for us.

The Dreamers.

Believe it.

—Mark

Cubs Get Tripled Up

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The Cubs are seeing triple. Wow, it’s amazing what the Cubs can’t do when three of their best players are away for a variety of reasons. The Cubs hit into their first triple play since 2000 against Montreal. Wow! it’s almost poetic to think about it in that way.

“I thought I was going to beat the throw,” Szczur said. “It was close. I put a good swing on it and tried to get out of the box as fast as I could. Wrong time to hit it hard, that’s for sure.”

As God is my witness, I thought turkeys can fly.

And as the mythic proportions the game of baseball can take on, the Cubs couldn’t gain ground after that.

“I don’t allow our guys to put their heads down,” Rick Renteria said. “That’s just a play that happened. We were still in the lead. That’s baseball.”

Yeah Rick, but it’s also baseball when two all stars aren’t playing and you’re left juggling the lineup with a handful of rookies. Don’t worry, I’m on your side but the holes showed.

Speaking of that, should Rizzo and Castro return? I don’t think there’s any point left in them coming back to the lineup. We know that Starlin wants to play a few games before the end of the season, but resting up for next season to be a hundred percent is the better option in my opinion.

2015 is going to be a great year.

Believe it.

—Mark

Cubs Run Into A Not So Jolly Roger

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It wasn’t too long ago when I said that the Pittsburgh Pirates seem to have the Cubs’ number but they bid it again by cruising to a 7-3 victory over those cuddly north side bears. Despite a couple of rookies banging out some long balls in the forms of Javier Baez and the Amazing Arismendy Alcantara, the Cubs turned in a mediocre performance.

“The hope is that the knowledge they’re gaining and the things they have to do in terms of adjusting as to how the pitchers are attacking them, they’ll grow,” Rick Renteria said. “It’s impossible for me to look into a crystal ball and say it won’t happen again. We have to allow that to play itself out. Their skill sets are very good skill sets. We’re hopeful they can play well at the Major League level.”

Maybe that’s the key? Perhaps we were a little hopeful that Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara,  and Jorge Soler would lead the Cubs into that hallowed place where few ballplayers have gone before(actually, it’s just a little old town in upstate New York).

Maybe a little too premature?

One thing is a given; this isn’t the same team that took to the field in April. Remember, there was a disgruntled Jeff Samardzija and a closer called Jose Veras, who I think was unceremoniously dumped. Ah, but then there was the Strange Case of Edwin Jackson. A player with a skill set that’s pretty deep but for some reason just can’t connect on the mound. What will the Cubs do with him next year? Is there a taker for him? Exciting times to be a Cubs fan and a player looking for a new place to hang a uniform.

The 2014 season has of course, produced its ups and downs with the successful debuts of the rookies, but Starlin Castro’s resurgence as a superstar has captured the imaginations of everyone going forth into next season.

“This is a great season for me,” said Castro, who is batting .292. “I think I can improve more than what I’ve done. I want to be healthy, I don’t want to go into the offseason not playing. I want to play — if it’s three games, I’ll play three games.”

There you have it folks, the difference in Starlin Castro. The guy who once walked to the dugout because he wasn’t aware of how many outs there were is now becoming that leader.

But why three games, Starlin?

Believe it.

—Mark

Cubs Season In Toronto

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I’m glad that’s over. It’s hard to believe that just over a month ago, I foolishly predicted the Cubs would sneak into a Wild Card position on the basis of how well the rookies were playing. All right, I was wrong. That series against the Blue Jays proved just how far things need to improve with the Cubs. The Toronto Blue Jays who are in a Wild Card chase picked apart the Cubs in an 11-1 lopsided win. In total, the Blue Jays outscored the Cubs 28-3.

“I’d love to be able to explain to you exactly what’s going on the last five or six days, but stuff just happens,” manager Rick Renteria said. “We have a well-needed day off and we’re leaving for Pittsburgh, and hopefully we’re able to recover and get something started Friday.”

Kyle Hendricks was decent but in the end he wasn’t any competition for the Melky Cabrera less Blue Jays. You can blame it on the absence of Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, hell, blame it on the astro turf, but in the end if a team can’t compete without their star players, they don’t have a snowball in Miami’s chance at the post season.

“For me personally, I’m just going to move on,” he said. “As a team, we have to take it, get away from the being-at-the-field every day routine. It’s a day to relax, get away from the park and come back Friday.”

The good news in yesterday’s lopsidedness was Jorge Soler scuffing the leather and sending the ball into the echo laden Rogers Centre for his fourth Home Run in twelve games. Now that’s awesome.

Believe it.

—Mark

Cubs Feeling Blue After Loss To Jays

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There was a lot that happened in last night’s match up against the Toronto Blue Jays and Chicago Cubs. Javier Baez reached base but despite going 2 for 3 and collecting eleven hits, the Cubs couldn’t capitalize. That folks, is how far the Cubs have fallen since Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro hung up their jersey’s until next season due to injuries.

Was it Jake Arrieta’s fault? Nope. It was their bullpen. Neil Ramirez had his cage rattled by Joey Bats and you know what? that’s OK because Jose Bautista is a future hall of famer and the Blue Jays are a hungry team in search of that ominous Wild Card spot.

“That was probably the worst game we’ve played all year,” Renteria said. “These men know that there are a lot of things that we have to do, but certainly staying in a big league ballgame is one of those things that requires a lot of commitment in terms of bearing down, really continuing to play the game and being aware of the whole circumstance.”

Seeing Rick Renteria in the fuming after another Cubs error made me nervous. I wouldn’t have wanted to be in the Cubs locker room after the game.

The Cubs need Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. They need them bad, because Javier Baez’s slump can be connected to their injuries. There’s not that many games left and believe me, I wish the Cubs could have snuck in. Mr. Al Yellon, you were right my humble sir.

“No one likes losing the way that game ended up developing,” Renteria said. “And it really did just steamroll. It would be foolish of us to ignore it. You talk about it. And they’re bright young men, capable of taking information and putting themselves in a position where they can regroup and get back after it.”

Tonight Kyle Hendricks will try to avenge the losses.

Believe it.

—Mark

The Great White Northside

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The Cubs rolled into Hogtown last night and well, the Toronto Blue Jays put on a Stro, Man. That was bad I admit it. The worst part came when my now infamous words, “This ball has second deck written all over it.” I have witnesses seconds before Jose Bautista made one fan happy. 8-0

“It’s one of those situations where you’re trying to make a pitch that if he doesn’t swing, you put him on, and if he does he’s probably out,” Turner said. “And like I said, I didn’t execute when I needed to. It’s a big moment in the game. That’s on me. If we get through that inning from where we’re at, it’s a totally different game.”

My allegiance was split last night because the Jays are in a Wild Card chase and so I was kind of happy they won. Just a bit. Jacob Turner pitched ok last night, it was just the Jays were hitting him deep on just about every one.

Well, then there was Marcus Stroman, the rookie pitcher for the Jays who deserved the Complete Game. I always say, if you want to measure the pure awesomeness of a pitcher, look at their Complete Games and that’ll tell you how good they are. 

“His ball was moving. He had everything working,” said Valaika, who also struck out twice. “It was more than just his fastball. First time around he was getting ahead with that fastball and then later in the game he started flipping that slider in. He had great stuff and great fastball command and kept us off-balance all game.”

Believe it.

—Mark