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.