Cubs Forced To Walk The Gangplank

Anthony Rizzo Tosses helmet

Well that was the toughest loss yet this season. The Cubs surrendered to the Pirates 8-1 as Kyle Hendricks gave up three walks during five innings of work.

The hardest part was the Cubs ended their four game winning streak.

“I threw pretty well overall, to be honest with you. I had my sinker back, which is the No. 1 key I was working on this week, so I was happy with that,” said Hendricks, who struck out six. “They just had a good approach tonight at the plate, honestly. Laid off some good pitches. That fifth inning just too many pitches, too many deep counts.”

Put any kind of spin on it, “It’s a character building game” but there’s plenty of baseball left. Tonight is an off night for the Cubs and they’ll need before they face the woeful Brewers which should help the Cubs keep pace of the Cardinals.

The good news is that Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Jorge Soler, Chris Coghlan, Miguel Montero, Dexter Fowler, Tommy La Stella and Kris Bryant have snagged All Star votes this season. It’s been awhile since the Cubs have had bona fide All Stars without the “token’ player spot on the team. It’s well deserved.

“With 11 games, I don’t feel like I’ve done much to earn that yet,” Bryant said. “I play the game to win, not to get those type of awards. It definitely is something pretty cool.”

What a cool guy! Humble as hell!

All right, so the ongoing debate whether the Cubs tampered with the Tampa Bay Rays in the hiring of Joe Maddon, has been put to rest. The verdict?

They didn’t.

“We’re glad the process is over,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said on Wednesday. “The entire time, we encouraged them to be thorough. Obviously, there was no wrongdoing.”

The Cubs saw a window of opportunity and they took it, it’s as simple as that.

“From my perspective, obviously, there’s zero hard feelings,” Maddon said. “These are my guys for many years. Without the opportunity they gave me, I wouldn’t be sitting here right now, and I’ll always be grateful for that.”

Yeah, there might be some bitterness and I still feel horrible for Ricky Renteria who I still think will end up in Montreal.

Believe it

Cubs Are Attitudinal Against Pirates

Chicago Cubs Attitudinal

Some of the most under the radar pickups can provide the most bang for the buck. I’m talking about Dexter Fowler. Last night,Fowler collected three hits and two RBI’s as the Cubs routed the Pirates 6-2. The reason I say this is in wake of Jon Lester and Joe Maddon signing during the off season, Fowler has emerged as a bona fide star (not that he all ready wasn’t) and an anchor to the team. Look who hits behind him too.  It’s a ferocious lineup.

The Cubs are one back of the Cards which poses the question, “How will the Adam Wainwright injury affect the Cubs?” Watching Wainwright get injured is equivalent to Renoir breaking a finger. Yeah, that’s how good the guy is. Coming from a Cubs fan, there I said it.

Part of the Cubs success is their small ball tactics. Getting on base and moving the runners has proven to work. I’ve talked about this before but it’s true.

“A lot of this is attitudinal,” Maddon said. “It’s things you want to get done in a Spring Training setting. I think part of it is they’re not concerned about making mistakes now. I don’t want them just to run for running’s sake — pick the right spot. If the math adds up, go ahead and try, and if you’re out, you’re out. If you try to run against the math, that’s not so good and not so smart. We’re not going to do that.”

Ah, the ever quotable Maddon. Love it! Forget #LetsGo the Cubs new one is #Attitudinal and the Cubs have plenty of it.

“I don’t ever want to be one-dimensional,” Anthony Rizzo said. “I don’t want to be just a hitter, I want to do it all. That’s how we lead this team by example. We go first to third, we break up the double play, we run out ground balls. It’s doing everything, all the little things.”

That’s the difference with the team this season, the little things that are getting done. Then again, when a team has the guys that the Cubs have, those little things turn into Big Things.

Believe it.

Cubs Fight Off Pirates

Chicago Cubs Pittsburgh Pirates

So now that the Cubs are exploring their winning ways, they’ve decided to work on their finesse. Yesterday, the Cubs robbed the Pirates(C’Mon that’s some of my best stuff!) 4-0. Jason Hammel made it through eight scoreless innings and the main theme of this young season with the Cubs is I think, mutual respect. The guys like each other and their playing well.

Take Miguel Montero.

“It’s easy to catch a guy when they throw the ball where it’s supposed to go,” said Montero, who was behind the plate. “You don’t have to be a genius to call the game. This guy was throwing the ball good today. He kept getting ahead in the count and when he fell behind, he came back and made his pitches. This was the best I’ve seen him. It was fun catching him. It’s always fun when they make pitches, and today, he was really good.”

But then there’s the modesty coming from Hammel.

“Miggy and I are on a pretty good rapport now,” Hammel said. “He keeps putting down fingers and I follow him around. He’s making it pretty easy.”

Ah, they make it sound so easy.

The new guy on the block, Addison Russell made his Wrigley debut in front of his parents. Now, I don’t know about you guys, but speaking as a parent myself; there would be no greater feeling than seeing your child play at one of baseball’s shrines. Although he went one for three, Russell really was the star of the game.

“Me getting called up on the road was a little easier than getting called up here on the first day, just because of all the media and everything,” Russell said. “On the road, everything was so chill, and I got brought into this kind of easy. I’m thankful for that.”

So, is all the hype surrounding the Cubs real? It looks like it and in many ways, you can tell the success of the team by the way Starlin Castro is playing. He’s playing really well.

“I’ve always thought Starlin was a really, really good player,” Epstein said. “His defense took a big step forward last year and he’s carried it over into this year. He gets a little chance to hide in the lineup now. He doesn’t have to be the focal point for the opposition. He’s playing really good baseball on both sides. I’m proud of him.”

So are we.

Believe it

Cubs Respect 90

Chicago Cubs win

As April quickly comes to a close, was anyone surprised by the Chicago Cubs quick start? Yesterday, they beat the Reds 5-2 and took two games in the series.

Now, I’ve talked about the support of the guys not with the last names Rizzo, Bryant,and Soler, but maybe you can put Starlin Castro into that mix of players who are quietly leading the team. Of course Miguel Montero and Chris Coghlan have been doing a bang up job, but Joe Maddon’s philosophy (one of many) is to Respect 90 and it seems like Castro has bought into that fully.

“That moment bleeds into the rest of your game,” Maddon said. “Everything he’s doing right now, I always believe in the complementary effects of everything we do. If there’s a good baseball karma, he’s created that by the way he’s gone about his business. More than anything he did, I loved that run in the ninth today.”

Running hard through the bases is a funny concept for me to grasp because if I were a manager, I’d be telling the players to do that all the time.

Work the bases.

The games aren’t won with how many souvenirs fans get or keeping an eye on Hank Aaron’s record, no, baseball is won by the bases. So, it always feels absurd when managers try to present this concept as something revolutionary. That being said, the Cubs are doing a terrific job so far of getting men on base and bringing them in.

That’s how Addison Russell is playing. He’s getting key hits to bring those guys in. Yesterday, he delivered a major three run double to help chip in with the victory.

“I’m just understanding the whole process,” Russell said. “It may be overnight, it may take a few games, it may take a few at-bats. I’m trying to stay patient and stay with my approach and just believe in my talent.”

So, with the tight NL Central race, the Cubs are two back of the Cards and poised to keep it close all season.

Things are just getting started.

Believe it.

Cubs Dismantle Big Red Machine

Starlin Castro Chicago Cubs

Remember when I talked about yesterday, the guys in the bottom of the order stepping up? Well, now it’s Jonathan Herrera’s turn at the plate. Yesterday, the Cubs came from behind in extra innings to defeat the Reds 7-3. Another huge difference this year is the Cubs are getting on base. They’re getting on base but they’re moving well when on the bases. No more, getting on first and waiting. This season, Anthony Rizzo’s stealing, Castro’s stealing and of course, Kris Bryant is well, Kris Bryant.

“I’ve always really thought highly of a team that can win in extra innings on the road. That really indicates you’re totally focused on the game in its entirety. That’s always been my measuring stick of a good team. Everybody participated, and you can truly classify that as a team win.” Joe Maddon said.

It’s those guys like Herrera and Chris Denorfia that’ll get the Cubs into the post season.

“The thing I really appreciated about him in Spring Training, because I actually focused on this, was that even when he wasn’t playing or was on the bench, he was always upbeat,” Joe Maddon said. “He didn’t know his status, didn’t ask about his status, but kept coming out and doing his job.

So, what about Jon Lester? When is it his turn to find his groove? He showed improvement but I’m starting to think it’s just the adjustment to the National League. He’s been around long enough, he knows what he’s doing and yesterday there were signs that he’s finding his mark.

“The thing that’s been plaguing me is the continued baserunners,” Jon Lester said. “I got a better feel for my cutter tonight and was able to make some offspeed pitches, which is obviously key against this team. I’m learning. New league, new faces, new guys. I’m kind of figuring it out as we go and keep adjusting.”

Adjusting is the keyword here. For Jon Lester and Cubs fans everywhere. The team is only 2 and 1/2 back of the Cardinals. Folks, it’s been a long time since the Cubs have kept pace with that team. It gets me excited to think that the ol’ rivalry can pick up again this season. Then I started to daydream a bit.

What if the Cubs played the Red Sox in the World Series? It could happen. However, if that happens I’d have to call my buddy Stephen King to take him to a game.

Believe it.

Cubs and Pirates Duke It Out in Rival Fashion

Chicago Cubs

It was a game the Cubs should have won but instead it was the Pirates turn to fight back to a 5-4 victory in yesterday’s midday game. It was the first time this season the Cubs have lost back to back games and are the last team to uh, achieve that.

It was one of those games that the Cubs should have won, but I’ve got a sneaky feeling that these two teams will be battling each other out all season long. It was that kind of game.

“I have no complaints about our team right now. We got beat today. They came back and beat us. We probably took the first two away from them, they took the last two away from us and that’s how the division is going to play this year. That’s just baseball there. At the end of the day, if you’re sitting here, when your team plays with that kind of heart and determination on a nightly basis, you’ll take it.”Manager Joe Maddon.

He’s right. I have no complaints about yesterday’s defeat. The team continued to get awesome playing from their depth guys like Chris Denorfia’s hall of fame worthy grab. The Cubs haven’t had that kind of play in recent years, but the guys like Chris Coghlan, Miguel Montero,and Dexter Fowler have proven that the Cubs are a force to be reckoned with. Maybe Maddon’s willingness to have three catchers in Montero, Welington Castillo and David Ross has proven an effective strategy?

So, I like it when pitchers go deep into games. I’ve admired a pitcher’s ability to be an Iron Man in the game. To me, a complete game is the key statistic in any club’s capabilities to go deep into the playoffs. This is another reason to appreciate Kyle Hendricks.

“We’re obviously not performing as we should as a whole,” Hendricks said of the rotation. “I can only speak for me, specifically, but getting deeper in the games as a staff, in particular, and keeping the team in the game, we have to start putting up some lower numbers overall. It’ll come. It’s still early and we’re still getting that feel. It’s starting to come around.”

It’s that kind of attitude that makes a pitcher bring out the Pledge and the dust cloth for a new trophy on the mantle.

Believe it.

No Joy In Mudville For Cubs

Chicago Cubs Pittsburgh Pirates

“There was no joy in Mudville that day” The Cubs fell short last night 4-3 to the Pirates. However, that being said, there were some great moments in the game including a real seventh inning stretch of sleet.  Kris Bryant had an opportunity to play the outfield.

“Why not?” Bryant said. “I actually like center a lot better than the other two because you don’t have to deal with the hooks of a righty smashing one down the left-field line, or a lefty smashing one down the right-field line. It was cool out there. Center field is fun.”

There it is. the tone that was missing in a lot of last season and before, optimism. Now, speaking of optimism, let’s talk about Addison Russell. He notched his first major league hit last night. A drive up the middle, and even though it wasn’t a gamebreakinig connect, it’s out of the way and he can concentrate on other things.

“It feels really good to get that first one out of the way,” said Russell, “We’ll just have to see where we go from here.”

There was some bad news with Dexter Fowler. He was yanked after two innings due to a tightness in his groin. It could have been the weather or something else but it doesn’t appear to be too serious.

“We’ll see how it feels when I wake up Thursday morning,” Fowler said. “I stole a base and stuff after [he felt it]. It didn’t really bother me running too much. It just started tightening up a little bit.”

The Cubs are playing a matinee today and I’ll tell you, I would love to see MLB have more day games in April. It look pretty damn cold out there.

So then there’s Edwin Jackson. Who would have thought that he’d be pretty darn good in the pen? Yeah, I guess the cries for his head will stop because it seems like the pen is the place to be for him.

“Jacks is starting to take to it,” Maddon said of the right-hander’s switch after eight seasons as a starter.

Believe it.

Cubs Show Teeth Against Pirates

Starlin Castro Pittsburgh Pirates Chicago Cubs

This season seems like the kind of year that you can start off every post with,” Kris Bryant pulled through to—” and it would garner attention. Last night was no different in the Chicago Cubs come from behind winner 9-8 over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

When both Len Kasper stated that these kind of victories would seem less likely last year, Starlin Castro chimed in by saying,

“Talking with Chris Coghlan, we said we wouldn’t win that game last year or the year before,” Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro said. “We quit last year. If we were losing after seven innings, we quit. Now, we never quit. If we get extra innings, we play hard, we never quit.”

To go one further Starlin, this year you’re not quitting after two outs and heading to the dugout. Whatever you did in the offseason, it’s working. It’s fair to say that you’re having a pretty good year this year.

Going 3 for 5 last night including a homer and an incredible hop and bounce over third base that is the kind of play that can only happen in little league, Starlin Castro was all over the game.

There’s also the kind of fear that would make Nolan Ryan shake in his shoes if he were to face Jorge Soler, Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant. I mean if they’re this good now, imagine in the middle of the summer when they’ve had a chance to gel? We need a nickname for the trio.

“The strength of our lineup is that we believe anyone can do it at any time,” Anthony Rizzo said. “We’re really happy with the way we’re grinding out at-bats early. We’re making pitchers work — that’s what we want to do every time, every at-bat be stressful for the pitcher.”

When people would ask me what are the odds of the Cubs this year and I told them they are going to be special, they can’t believe it. Maybe I’m being over optimistic, and it’s still early, but you have to admit that the Cubs are looking good. They’re a 1/2 game out of first and it might be April still but that looks awesome to me.

Addison Russel had a rough debut but if he’s anything like Kris Bryant, well, good times ahead indeed.

Believe it

Kris Bryant Powers The Cubs To Victory

Chicago Cubs,  Kris Bryant

Yesterday’s game against the Pirates started thirty minutes later than intended. Good things come to those who wait. Well, the Cubs waited again after an unfortunate incident when a fan was injured by a deflected ball behind home plate. Last I heard she was doing as well as can be expected. It was scary.

Now, for any of those fans that were wondering about when Kris Bryant would show up, needn’t worry any longer. He crushed an inside-the-park-sort-of-a-homerun-we-think-it-was-a-homerun type of play which scored three.

The cool, calm and collected demeanour of Kris Bryant almost jogged around the bases until he was caught in a run down between third and home but managed to dodge weave and bob his way into home plate. The Cubs went on to beat the Pirates, 5-2

“Coming out of Spring Training, it just seemed like he was that guy,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Bryant. “He’s not going to be overly impressed or concerned or enamored or starry eyed. He’s just going to come play baseball, and that’s what he does.”

So now that Kris Bryant is carving out his path in the Big Leagues, the Cubs have decided that Addison Russell, the next kid shouldn’t be left out. He’ll be in for today’s game.

“We’re just trying to give him that opportunity to play there,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said before Monday’s game about Russell’s move from shortstop to second. “Personally, I like guys like that playing a bunch of different spots in the Minor Leagues if you can. You never know where the need will be on the Major League level.

It’s not the best circumstances as Arismendy Alcantara is being sent down for more conditioning and training which I understand, but the game is a tricky game and sometimes no matter how good a player is, if their focus isn’t quite there, the confidence goes out the window.

One thing is for certain though, this season’s edition of the Chicago Cubs has got to be the most exciting season in a long time. I love the base running, I love the way Anthony Rizzo is stealing and I love the unpredictability of Joe Maddon. Everyone’s game is elevated this year.  Maybe it’s a shift in the way the game is played? Maybe it’s a eulogy for the Alex Rodriguez crush em’ out of the park mentality? (The sooner Rodriguez is gone the better.)

There’s amazing baseball happening on Chicago’s Northside this year but fans have known it for quite some time.

Believe it.

Lesters Struggles Continue, But Cubs are On A Role

Jon Lester, Chicago Cubs, Chicago Tribune

If we’re talking about teamwork, let’s talk about the glove throwing play by Jon Lester, then again, they probably don’t talk about that move in little league, now do they? Long story short; Lester couldn’t get the ball out so he just tossed the whole glove to Anthony Rizzo. Hey, why not?

His struggles however, are still there. So far, Lester has allowed 12 runs in 15 innings. Ugh. If this were June and July, I think Cubs fans would have a need to be worried, but give Lester the benefit of the doubt, Wrigley Field isn’t exactly the most friendly place in April. He’ll get there.

“Obviously, the results aren’t there. We obviously go out there to win the game, and that’s the results we want, and that’s not there. But when you sit back and evaluate, it was better. Not there, but better.”Lester said.

With the Cubs losing another tough one 5-2 to the San Diego Padres, the one thing anyone can say about the Cubs is that they’re keeping it tight in the games. They battle back and are competitive which I think was one of their goals at the start of the season. Things will improve but still think about this one, Rizzo, Soler, Bryant and Castro that’s a lot of skill. Plus Coghlan and Montero are providing some pop at the plate and then there’s OBP specialist, Dexter Fowler. The Cubs have some depth. As they take these losses on the chin and hang in through April, there’s only good times ahead.

Believe it.