Cubs Beat Dodgers, Wood Becomes Hero On Memorial Day

Travis Wood

There was no better day to become a hero than on Memorial Day. Travis Wood was the hero  for the Chicago Cubs in their 2-0 victory over the LA Dodgers.

After Cubs starter Jason Hammel left the game after a couple of innings due to cramping, Wood stepped in.

“I looked in the dugout and I saw [Wood] and I pointed at him, and he said, ‘Me?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, let’s go,'” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “That’s how his day began.”

Travis Wood was literally sitting on a couch when he got the call.

“It was early [in the game],” Wood said. “I always come in for the first couple innings, watch the game. Luckily, we have the live [TV] feed. I was out there [in the dugout] before I was needed. I figured they needed somebody so I ran out. I heard ‘Cahill’ so I started to run back in to get [Trevor] Cahill, and then I thought they might change their mind, so I came back out and they ended up changing their mind.”

One of the greatest things happened yesterday that contributed to the victory, and that was Kyle Hendricks complete game the other day. I’ve been a big advocate in pitchers going deep into games. it gives bullpens the much needed rest and when pitchers get their rest, well good things happen. Yesterday was one of those good things.

“I believe what he did set it up for the rest of the bullpen,” Maddon said. “The rest of the guys were very efficient. They saw Travis go out there and do it, so here comes ‘Grimmer’ and here comes ‘Stroopy’ and here comes ‘Ronnie.’ Good pitches, good location, good stuff, but Travis set the tone for the whole thing.”

That’s where the craftiness of Maddon comes in. A well managed game can get those guys in the games and executing the pitches wile using the bullpen to their full capacity.

“Nothing prepares you for it, at least they give you as much time as you want to make sure you’re loose,” Wood said. “But we played a great game through and through and our bullpen nailed it today.”

Tonight’s going to be a big game when Jake Arrieta takes to the mound looking for his tenth straight victory of the season and going for an MLB record 24th straight win dating back to last season. Arrieta tied the record set by Kris Medlin in 2012.

Believe it.

Cubs Sweep Phillies. Twenty Games Above .500

Ben Zobrist

CHICAGO, IL – MAY 28: Ben Zobrist #18 of the Chicago Cubs hits a run scoring double in the 1st inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field on May 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 607678467

 

It’s a cliche to say that “On Paper” when a team is amazing but in the Chicago Cubs case, they’re exactly that. putting things from paper into action can seem daunting but then the Cubs are proving that a team can have both.

Take Ben Zobrist. On paper, he’s pretty awesome but on the field he takes it to the next level of awesomeness, so it’s fitting then that after an extremely hot May, Zobrist was exceptionally hot at the plate. So far, he’s second in batting average in the league.

Not bad for a 35 year old.

“I’m trying to figure out myself if I can keep this up, to be honest,” Zobrist said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a month where I’ve hit this well and just kind of all the way around. You just try and keep it going. That’s all I’m trying to do — doing the same things, the same drills, trying to manage my body well and have good at-bats. I didn’t have great at-bats today outside of the ball I hit out. It’s just a daily grind. You just keep working and try to have quality at-bats.”

The Cubs defeated the Philedelphia Phillies 7-2 and now their winning streak sits at five games.

So, just how good are the Cubs? Well, they’re 20 games over .500 That’s pretty darn good if you were to ask me. In fact, it’s scary to think that the Cubs have swept the Angels, Reds, Brewers, Pirates and Nationals this season. Two of those teams are contenders.

”Many times you’ll see a team not have the same sense of urgency on sweep day after you’ve won the series,” Joe Maddon said. ”I really like that our guys aren’t satisfied with just winning a series.”

He’s got a point about that. I believe that a team has to not put the nail in the coffin of opposing teams but come September, every game matters. So series sweeps I think are far more important than just winning series. It can be an intimidation factor.

John Lackey improved to 5-2 on the season and let me tell you that I think he’s become a far better pitcher than I thought he’d be for the Cubs.

“When (Lackey) grabs a lead he’s almost a perfect pitcher to have pitch because he treats every inning like it’s 0-0,” said  Joe Maddon. “He just keeps going after you (and) he ran with that lead extremely well.”

The Cubs are starting a series with the always dangerous LA Dodgers. I say dangerous because arguably Chase Utley is the best player in the game today. The Cubs won’t get the opportunity to face Clayton Kershaw .

“It’s just the way the cookie crumbles,” Maddon said. “Sometimes teams miss Arrieta. [Kershaw] is really good and I got to appreciate it over the last couple years that I’ve seen him more consistently. The game we had here last year with the lights going out, that was really fun. He is exceptional. I always want us to compete against the best. To save that for a little bit later in the season, I’m OK with it.”

Believe it.

Hendricks Is Completely Awesome

Kyle Hendricks

Joe Maddon’s always been a little hesitant in keeping Kyle Hendricks late in the games but yesterday was a different story as Hendricks enjoyed his second complete game of his career and the Chicago Cubs went on to defeat the Philadelphia Phillies 4-1

“I didn’t want him coming out of that game,” Maddon said.

For a young pitcher to toss a complete game is an extra special moment in their career. It ranks up there with no hitters, shutouts and yeah, that elusive perfect game. I’ve always maintained that the judge of a great pitcher is the complete games they throw. I’m certain that there’ll be many more complete games in Hendrick’s future.

“That was probably the coolest part was standing there for the ninth,” Hendricks said. “I had to tell myself that much more to keep it simple, stay within myself and make pitches.”

Hendricks isn’t one of the most finest type pitchers in the game, but in many ways he’s like the Keith Richards of the Cubs. Of course you can lose the cigarette and the cackle, all right stay with me for a moment; there’s a lot more going on with Hendrick’s pitches than meets the eye. He doesn’t dazzle you with how fast he can hurl or his number of strikeouts. He just quietly gets the job done efficiently and a workmanlike fashion.

“What you saw today – that’s what you could get out of him,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s 88-89 (mph) with the really good changeup and he broke out the hooks a couple times. But he’s good against lefties and righties when everything’s working. And he can keep the ball on the ground, which is really important in this ballpark. Right now, what you’re seeing, to me, is not a reach by any means. This is what he can look like very, very consistently.”

If Hendricks has suddenly found his groove and becomes an ace in the making, he stays pretty humble.

“I’m pretty confident, but it doesn’t really matter much,” Hendricks said. “All that matters is going out there and making pitches. It’s back to work this week, (throw) my bullpen, stay where I’m at in my lane and keep the ball down with some angle.”

I’ve come around to the fact that Maddon’s mantra for Dexter Fowler is “You go, we go” is working. Yesterday, Fowler got everything going with his second leadoff home run this season. One of the best leadoff hitters in the game, it marked his 16th leadoff HR of his career.

John Lackey gets the ball today as he looks to sweep the Phillies and extend the Cubs winning streak to five games. Game time is 2:20

Believe it

 

 

Cubs leave Phillies Wet Behind Their Ears

Chicago Cubs

It was a wet one but the Cubs brought it home.

After a disastrous road trip, the Chicago Cubs have come back in full force.  Yesterday afternoon, the Cubs beat the Phillies 6-2 and showed their power throughout the win.

Jorge Soler put a dent in that shiny new scoreboard with the longest home run by a Cub this season at a whopping 461 feet.

“That home run right there would be really pleased on any given par five to hit that particular drive,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “That thing was far — loud and far. He’ll keep doing that. He’s getting some confidence. You can see it, the way he’s moving. His confidence is just riding right now. All these guys will keep getting better.”

Say what? All these guys getting better? Say it ain’t so, Joe. These guys are all ready good. Soler just needed to find his groove.

Another great thing that happened yesterday was David Ross reached his 100th career home run. This is his final year or farewell tour which a lot of them have been doing. It’s great to see him hit that milestone.

“The boys were excited, I was excited,” Ross said. “My favorite part while this has been going on is rounding second base and looking in the dugout. It makes me smile every time seeing everybody so happy for me and counting down for me. They’re as happy as I am. That makes me feel good.”

One thing that would make another player feel real good is getting out of his own slump. Anthony Rizzo has been in a doozy of a slump going 3-35. He took a game off and Kris Bryant filled those big shoes at first base.

“I’m anticipating a good result, so that moving forward later in the season, maybe do the same thing again,” Maddon said. “‘Cause it really does rest those guys up.”

The Cubs have now won three in a row, but their awesome start is catching up to them. Pittsburgh is closing in with 4.5 games back. It’s way too early in the season to be panicking but the Cubs road to the World Series is far from ending.

Believe it

 

Cubs Win, Arrieta on Record Setting Run

Chicago Cubs

If the game of baseball is filled with peaks and valleys, then Jake Arrieta is striving to reach his peak. Does he even have one? The Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 9-8 but not only were they victorious but Arrieta became 9-0 for the 2016 season.

Impressive, right?

Well, there’s more. Arrieta tied a MLB record set by Kris Medlin. The Cubs have won 23 straight games when Arrieta is on the mound. Is it too early to be whispering Arrieta and Cooperstown?

He’s in pretty good company with a WAR of 8.0 this season.

Most WAR From Age 29 On
PITCHER WAR, 29+ YEARS CAREER WAR PCT. HOF?
Randy Johnson 96.7 1993-2009 104.3 92.7% Yes
Phil Niekro 92.9 1968-1987 97.4 95.4% Yes
Lefty Grove 88.1 1929-1941 109.9 80.2% Yes
Roger Clemens 85.1 1992-2007 139.4 61.0% No
Gaylord Perry 78.4 1968-1983 93.7 83.7% Yes
Pete Alexander 76.1 1916-1930 117.0 65.0% Yes
Cy Young 72.7 1901-1911 170.3 42.7% Yes
Warren Spahn 72.3 1950-1965 92.6 78.1% Yes
Curt Schilling 68.6 1996-2007 80.7 85.0% No
Greg Maddux 63.9 1995-2008 104.6 61.1% Yes
Dazzy Vance 63.0 1922-1935 62.5 100.8% Yes
Bob Gibson 62.6 1965-1975 81.9 76.4% Yes
Walter Johnson 60.0 1917-1927 152.3 39.4% Yes
Eddie Plank 59.7 1905-1917 86.5 69.0% Yes
Nolan Ryan 58.4 1976-1993 83.8 69.7% Yes
Red Faber 56.4 1918-1933 68.4 82.5% Yes
Tom Seaver 54.5 1974-1986 106.3 51.3% Yes
Jack Quinn 54.5 1913-1933 59.0 92.4% No
Carl Hubbell 53.2 1932-1943 67.8 78.5% Yes
Tom Glavine 52.7 1995-2008 74.0 71.2% Yes
Kevin Brown 52.4 1994-2005 68.5 76.5% No
Mike Mussina 50.1 1998-2008 82.7 60.6% No

The Cubs have now won two in a row against the Cardinals and seem to be getting back on track after the horrendous road trip.

“I came out and felt really good,” Arrieta said. “My timing was as good as it’s been all year. They put some good swings on some pitches. The cutter down to Randal Grichuk that he hit out in the second wasn’t a bad pitch. He put a good swing on it. Same thing with Matt Adams. I had a manageable pitch count to pitch in the game a little longer, but I got extended in the fifth. They had a good game plan coming in,” he said of the Cardinals. “It’s a good thing our offense was productive today.”

It’s fitting though that Arrieta ends the road trip with a huge victory. The Cubs now can go back to Wrigley Field on Friday to start a homestead against the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday knowing that perhaps the worst part of the season is behind them and they can hit the reset button.

“Sometimes the game’s going to get you,” Returning outfielder Jason Heyward said. “You say ‘turn it around,’ but we’re doing OK. Right now, we’re not by any means complacent, but it’s a part of the season. You’re going to go through ups and downs. You’re going to go through stretches where the other team just has a better night than you do.”

Believe it.

Have The Cubs Started Hibernating Again?

John Lackey

As the losses add up, it’s hard not to think that maybe the Chicago Cubs need to mix things up. In many ways, there’s that old cliche in sports that after another loss especially last night’s matchup against the much despised St. Louis Cardinals, the RedBirds shouldn’t have won the game 4-3. In fact, a walkoff home run against a superb  Adam Warren stings a lot.

After John Lackey‘s awesome outing, it was a case of a couple of home runs doing the Cubs in.

“They’re a good team,” Lackey said. “We have to worry about ourselves. They’re kind of irrelevant. If we play our game, we’ll be OK.”

I wouldn’t go that far. The Cubs are losing ground in the Central after the loss and now have lost three in a row. I believe you can officially declare the Cubs in a slump, maybe a rut. I don’t know?

“We pitched well, we had good at-bats — unable to drive in a run obviously really hurt us, but it’s another good baseball game,” Manager Joe Maddon said. “Games like that you say, ‘Our pitchers only made one or two mistakes, and they beat you,’ and it’s true. They hit two mistakes out of the ballpark, and we lose.”

Are the Cubs playing overconfidently or has the other teams figured them out? Sure, last night the Cubs shouldn’t have lost the game, although I have to tread lightly by saying that. We know that any team on any given night could lose in a heartbeat. The secret for the Cubs to get back on track is for Anthony Rizzo to start hitting again. You can trace the Cubs, uh, slump back to when Rizzo stopped being Anthony Rizzo.

“Balls really not falling for me at this moment,” Rizzo said. “It’s a little frustrating for me. I think I’ve been really good with my approach.”

And that happens.

I guarantee that once Anthony Rizzo starts hitting again, the Cubs are going to get out of the funk that they’ve slipped into. The good news is that now’s the time to get the wrinkles out and make those mistakes because October comes quickly and the Cubs need to get that momentum back.

“It is frustrating a little bit,” second baseman Ben Zobrist said after the game. “It’s still so early. We weren’t thinking too high of ourselves. We know it’s a long season. We just have to get back to the grind again.”

Believe it.

Cubs Lose Second Straight Series

Joe Maddon

Should we start panicking? The Cubs are having a bit of a slump at the moment losing 7 of their last 11 games. They’re still first overall but does this mean that the mighty Cubs have some flaws? Last night saw the Cubs lose 1-0 against the San Francisco Giants and their second straight series loss.

“This is a snapshot. It’s May,” Joe Maddon said. “I want to be the best team in baseball but it doesn’t matter if you are now. After the last game has been played, that’s when I want to be the best team. Right now it creates wonderful conversation. It’s up to us to sustain it.”

Doggone it, he’s right. It’s only May. However, it is only may but when a team gets off to a great start the way the Cubs did and expectations are running high, it’s these slumps that have a cause for concern. Not the Oh My God, the season’s ruined type of alarm bells, but perhaps it’s time that they readjust their lineup. Mix it up a bit, you know?

During last night’s game, Javier Baez was called out at first after an attempted bunt but it looked like he was safe.

MLB Rule 7.08 states “a runner’s base path is established when the tag attempt occurs and is a straight line from the runner to the base he is attempting to reach safely.”

I’m not entirely sure though that this was the case in the Baez play. There were a few choice words from Maddon.

“I really don’t understand the call at all,” Maddon said after the game. “I really don’t. The point is he didn’t really get way out there.”

It was a tough loss for sure. Kyle Hendricks pitched well. Tonight, the Cubs look to find their winning ways again when they travel to arch rivals the St. Louis Cardinals. If there’s any series for the Cubs to turn around their fortunes, then it’s this one. John Lackey gets the start against his former team.

In other news, RP Neil Ramirez was DFA. He’s had a tough start to the season even though his numbers have been a respectable 2.20 ERA, 10.74 K/9 and 4.27 BB/9 in 65 1/3 innings of work.

“Neil has had a really wonderful young career with the Cubs,” Maddon said. “It’s hard to do that. Hopefully he’ll have a better opportunity to play somewhere else.”

Believe it.