Good teams win ball games but great teams find ways to win in close games. Yesterday, the Chicago Cubs did just that as Matt Szczur found a way to help his team come through and defeat the Atlanta Braves 6-1.
It was a Grand Slam. It was his first career Grand Slam. It was magnificent.
It was fitting that Szczur connected with the ball during the game. He’s the type of guy the Cubs rely on in these situations. The type of guy who fills in when others are injured, and the type of guy who provides that depth that the Cubs are proud of on the team.
“He’s kind of a manager’s, a coach’s dream player,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He stays ready, he’s very versatile. There’s so many good things about him. The last step for him was for him to realize he belongs in the Major Leagues and he could do this. You could hear it conversationally. He talks differently. He’s more confident. … Once you know it, you can do well here.”
But then maybe it’s the excitement of being in the Cubs organization this season. There’s an electricity that carries itself throughout the clubhouse and connects with the players. Could it make the player more focused and able to go yard in a bases loaded situation?
“I want to be the best guy off the bench,” Szczur said. “I feel it’s the same thing for everybody else on the team. We just want to make an impact.”
If there is an Achilles Heel on the Cubs team this season, then it’s got to be Jon Lester. I’m not talking about his pitching. We know he’s got the stuff of champions, but it’s that inability to throw to first that is wreaking havoc on a Cubs rotation.
In the seventh inning, Lester struggled with a bunt off of Erick Aybar and he never recovered.
“No matter what I say about the bunt in that inning, nobody’s really going to believe what I say,” Lester said. “You know, I never had a handle on it. I fielded it. The ball kind of rattled around in my glove and I reached for it twice and didn’t have a handle on it. I ate it. You can believe me or not on that. But there’s no point in rushing a throw when I don’t have a handle on the throw.”
I believe him, but the question everyone needs to ask is why?
Why does Lester have problems throwing to first and how can he fix it? Without knocking the guy, I don’t understand how a pitcher with one area of concern, can’t seem to get a grip on the problem?
It’s early in the season, but I’d bet a dime to a Loonie that Lester will be a reason the Cubs might not hoist that shining trophy in October.