Anthony Rizzo Leads Cubs Past Reds

Chicago Cubs

That was a wild and wacky series against the Cincinnati Reds but the Cubs managed to provide the fireworks. With the 2016 All Star game fast approaching, the Cubs will hopefully close out the first half of the season displaying their dominance over the New York Mets and then a weekend series against the Pittsburgh Pirates (which we’ll be at Sunday’s game!)

So, the Cubs beat the Reds 9-2 with Anthony Rizzo getting a three run inside the park home run.

“Right when it hit off of him, it kicked in,” Rizzo said. “Turned on my speed and turned the jets on. Yeah, even if [third-base coach Gary] Jones is holding me up there, I was probably still just going to truck through it.”

It was also great to see Albert Almora banging his first career home run. So far, he’s hitting.286 and has helped out tremendously with the injury to Jorge Soler.

“I didn’t know it was going to go over the fence when I first hit it,” Almora said. “I just knew I hit it well. It was a pretty exciting feeling, helped the team out.”

Kyle Hendricks had a tough day but still only managed to give up a couple of runs in 6 2/3 innings. Yesterday was one of those days when you chalk it up to, “We’ll take the win.” His record is 6-6 with an ERA of 2.76 I’m hoping that he’ll be pitching in the Pirates series next week. If I had to pick my favourite player for the Cubs it’d be him. I’ve marvelled at his control and changeup. He’s the type of pitcher who’ll hit his peak in about four years.

“I thought his last two innings were his best stuff,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Combination of his command really got better, his aggressiveness in the zone got better and it looked like he normally does in the beginning part of the game. He was really good today.”

His ability to pick apart the zone is one of the best in the game. I always look forward to him pitching.

Ok, speaking of great players, the All Star voting ends tonight. Get your votes in! Let’s get David Ross into the All Star Game!

Believe it.

Baez Blasts Grand Slam, Cubs Win In 15

Chicago Cubs

One thing I’ve learned since Joe Maddon has come over to the North Side is that he’s unpredictable. Last night’s victory over the Cincinnati Reds was a huge 15th inning Grand Slam by none other than Javier Baez. It was a crazy game where even Travis Wood played in the outfield.

“The grand slam obviously was huge just to really build that cushion to permit us to more comfortably go into that last inning, because I had no idea what was going on,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

It was certainly a pitcher’s duel as Cubs’ ace Jon Lester gave up one run over 7 2/3 innings. It was that tense. Red’s John Lamb was just as stingy as Lester giving up only two runs over 6 innings of work.

As we all know a 15 inning me can get really weird, I mean the whole idea of baseball is absurd if you get right down to it. Somebody kneeling behind a crouched individual swinging a piece of maple only separated by inches while staring down a 98 MPH piece of rubber wrapped in leather? So when a relief pitcher comes into a game and is told to take his place way out by the warning track, that’s insane. In hockey you never hear the coach yell at Sydney Crosby,”Hey kid, you’re playing in nets.” That just doesn’t happen, but baseball? Yeah, it does.

“We were naked, we were so naked,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Here’s the thing, you do stuff like that, when I went out to [put reliever Travis Wood in left field] originally, the infielders were kind of giggling, they kind of liked it. So when you get into a game like that that’s really stressful, everybody’s trying so hard, everybody wants to win. It’s, in a perverse way, to lighten the mood a little bit and so they all kind of dug that.”

But it just wasn’t Wood playing in the field, it was Pedro Strop and Spencer Patton. I’ve never seen it before.

Just like the other night was all about Kris Bryant, last night belonged to Javier Baez. Imagine that there was some point when Baez was considered for a trade, but the way he’s been swinging the bat and playing third base, well he’s just turned out to be the guy the Cubs have been relying on lately.

“I was just trying to have a good [at-bat],” Baez said. “I had the pitcher in front of me. They were looking for a double-play ball. He hit it pretty good to first and the only choice he had was to come to the plate and then I came up.”

Believe it.

Kris Bryant Makes History

Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs’ Kris Bryant runs the bases after hitting a three-run home run off Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Dan Straily in the fourth inning of a baseball game, Monday, June 27, 2016, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

There’s something about witnessing great things in sports. Sure, folks discuss ad naseum the growing salary of “High priced athletes”. There are times when I get a little frustrated with it myself. Then there are times like last night’s 11-8 victory over the Cincinnati Reds that I get a little giddy. Kris Bryant became the first ball player in the modern era to hit 3 Home Runs and collect two doubles in a game. It’s an outstanding accomplishment and trust me, since I’ve become a parent, I appreciate these events more and more.

“The best game of my whole life, obviously,” Bryant said. “To hear that, there’s so many good players in this game, it’s just, I feel so fortunate, so thankful for this opportunity to play on a stage like this every day, and I give it my all and I make the most of every opportunity I get. To hear that, it keeps you coming back.”

This puts Bryant up there in Cubs lore with the likes of Ryne Sandberg’s Game. So, as Bryant channels Sandberg or even Roy Hobbs from the Natural, the best part about Bryant is his character. He’s one of the few ball players who treat the game with the respect it deserves, carrying it with humility and competitiveness.

“He doesn’t flamboyantly dunk the basketball, he doesn’t spike the football, and he doesn’t flip the bat,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s a man for all ages.”

The fact that the Cubs have been struggling recently, it’s poignant that Bryant be the guy who carries them out of their slump. The race is getting tighter and despite the closeness between the teams like San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers, the Cubs still lead the Majors with a record of 49-26. Should the Cubs pull off a miracle and go on to win the big prize or even if they don’t, it’s moments like this that fans will remember most about this season.

“I don’t know what happened tonight,” Bryant said. “The last couple of weeks haven’t been what I wanted, so I figured I’m due. Throughout my life, I’ve always been that way, whereas when I’m struggling, I tell myself I’m ready for a big game. I guess tonight was the night.”

Oh, you better believe it!

 

 

Marlins Make Cubs Catch of The Day

Joe Maddon

It’s official, after yesterday’s 9-6 loss to the Miami Marlins, the Chicago Cubs, who now have dropped five of their last six—Are in a slump.

That’s right, I’ve said it and that’s exactly what it is. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not throwing in any towel and this Cubs fan certainly isn’t falling off of any bandwagon, but call it what it is and that’s all right.

“We did some really good things early, and John [Lackey] just did not have his best day — that’s all it came down to,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We scored plenty of runs. That’s a good offensive day for us. When we normally score that many runs, we’re going to win the game.”

This is all true. John Lackey didn’t have his best outing of the season. To be fair too, the Cubs have been suffering from a lot of injuries to their key players. So, despite those injuries, the Cubs have been doing fairly well.

“Today we did play offensively well enough to win that game,” Maddon said. “We just didn’t have our typical pitching day.”

Even with Anthony Rizzo returning to the lineup, it goes to show you just how important pitching can be.  Sure, they can swing the bats and put up the runs, but when pitching falters, that can be deadly.

Now I’m not blaming Lackey for the loss because it’s a team effort, but we do have to admit that there’s something not gelling lately with the Cubs.

The good news?

With the trade deadline coming up at the end of July and the All Star break in a couple of weeks, the Cubs aren’t about to blow things up. The young players like Albert Almora and Willson Contreras have contributed greatly to the cause, but I have a feeling that the Cubs only need to regroup and they’ll be all right.

So, I’ll leave it with the man who says few words;

“To start off with an infield hit … I have to do better than that,” John Lackey said. “Four runs should be enough to win that game.”

Believe it

“Clutch” Contreras Does it Again For Cubs

Willson Conteras

And so a losing streak ends and (hopefully) another one will begin again. Last night, the Chicago Cubs upset the Miami Marlins 5-4. last season it was the rookie Kris Bryant who stole the imaginations of Cubs fans around the world. This year, it is the incredible Willson Contreras who is called up and working our imaginations again. Both Bryant and Contreras homered in the first inning boosting Contreras’ total since the call up to three.

“It’s like oxygen. He’s absolutely necessary,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “What he’s done over the last couple days and the life he’s brought to the group. It’s absolutely necessary. He has been the catalyst the last couple days.”

The catalyst is the right word for Contreras. I forgot to mention he got the game winner as well. Not only has he stepped up in the absence of Anthony Rizzo but he’s playing like a veteran behind the plate.

“He looks like an established big league hitter,” Kyle Hendricks said. “He just hits balls hard. It’s really fun to watch. To be that young and come up and do it, it’s unbelievable. And we need it right now.”

My favourite pitcher Hendricks, got roughed up after he pitched into a grand slam off of Justin Bour. Hendricks recorded his first no decision since May 11. He left the game tied, grabbing five strikeouts. His change up remains amazing.

Another injury to the Cubs, this time to Ben Zobrist who was hit in the seventh inning and won’t play today.

“It’s been a tough week, having guys go down,” Zobrist said. “It’s not been easy on anybody. It was a good game tonight and everybody battled. You need everybody on the roster at this point. That’s what makes it such a team game. We need every guy on the roster. These kind of wins are good for us.”

Did you see Javier Baez‘s catch?

Believe it.

 

Are The Cubs Slumping?

David Ross

There’s a campaign to elect David Ross into the All Star Game #VoteRoss and judging from yesterday’s game, that campaign is growing all the time. Ok, despite the 4-2 loss against the Marlins.

David Ross cracked his sixth of the season proving once again that Father Time need not be invited to these games. Ross’s home run tied up the game but with starters out from injuries, the Cubs didn’t have a comeback miracle.

“There’s some young guys here and it shows at times, but I think there’s a lot of talent and we’re trying to figure out how to play best as a team,” Ross said. “It’s just a little rough patch. There’s a reason that the guys who were starting and are injured were starting. We have to hold down the fort until they get back.”

With newcomer Willson Contreras at first due to Anthony Rizzo out due back tightness.

“This is totally different than it was before,” said Rizzo, who may need more than one day to heal. “We’re just being smart and being cautious about it.”

Was Contreras nervous about filling in for the big guy?

“I have no problems playing first base,” Contreras said. “Once they told me, ‘You’re playing first base,’ I said, ‘OK, I’m ready to play first base. No problem with that.’ I want to play every day, I want to do the little things to win the game, to make the playoffs, to make the World Series. I’ll do everything for my team.”

So, the Cubs have lost four in a row. Are they slumping? Are injuries piling up or is the grind of the season finally getting to the fearsome Cubs of the North Side? Their projected win total is slipping from 114 to 107 of the season. Their chances of eclipsing the 2001 Seattle Mariners is slipping away.

Is it fair to say that all these stats make up a great team or is it the final product of winning the big one? I’m on the side of finally winning the big prize. Of course, the Cubs have had their history of losing seasons and failing to come through. We all know the history.

We’ll have to wait and see.

Believe it.

 

Cubs Get Swept By Hated Cardinals

Miguel Montero

Things got ugly for the Cubs yesterday in their 7-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. The bad news was Jake Arrieta left the game after five innings. Sure, the Cardinals swept the Cubs but is it time for panic?

The games were tight and played every bit as hard as a rivalry should be played but in the end there’s only one winner and this time it was the Cardinals.

“They came in and just beat us,” Anthony Rizzo said. “To get back into a race, you have to beat the teams ahead of you, and that’s what they did. We’re in a good position leaving here, but getting swept at home from a division rival is not ideal.”

To show you how competitive these two clubs are, the Cardinals have not swept the Cubs at Wrigley Field since 1988.

Wow!

No, it’s not the ideal situation the Cubs wanted to be in. If you wanted to pull the adversity card, then now’s the time to play it and not say in September when teams are getting ready for the playoff crunch.

I don’t believe so. Every team goes through this period at this time of the season.

“It’s a game of adjustments,” Arrieta said. “I have to take it in stride and learn from it and go back to work tomorrow and combat the things that teams have done against me recently. It’s an easy fix. I think the byproduct will be very positive.”

Another thing that I thought about and I could be wrong but the rivalry between these two clubs is fierce so both teams are under a very sharp microscope.  Speaking of being under the microscope, Miguel Montero left the game due to a knee injury.Not

“All the tests are good, he felt fine,” Maddon said after the game. “As of right now, I don’t anticipate anything wrong with him.”

Lately Montero has been in a transitioning role as mentor to Willson Contreras who’s continuing his hot streak with the bat after yesterday’s home run.

“Great at-bat again,” Maddon said. “Works good at-bats. The kid wants to stay here.”

Believe it.