Cubs Welcome Back Heyward

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs sure are glad they’re out of Colorado and that Miller Lite went down smooth for  Joe Maddon after the Cubs beat the San Diego Padres 5-1 . There were many reasons for the Cubs to cheer about and it just wasn’t the victory. Jason Heyward put one into the stands and so did Kris Bryant, oh and wait, Addison Russell continued doing his Addison Russell thing by connecting on a home run to add to his total of 13 for the season.

“Just watch me over the course of the year,” Russell said. “The numbers may not be great, but I contribute to my team every single day. We all have each others’ backs and we’re pushing forward.”

His numbers aren’t as colourful as Bryant or Rizzo’s but he’s been a threat on both sides of the ball and I’m confident that he’s in the top 5 shortstops of the National League. If he gets overlooked by folks, it’s only because he didn’t win a rookie of the year or he’s young. He was an All Star and rightfully deserved it. His defensive skills are unparalleled.

“It’s just instinct,” Russell said. “Try to get in the best position, try to track the ball, anticipate where it’s going to be hit. It’s just instinct.”

Much criticism has been piled onto the shoulders of Jason Heyward after signing that huge contract in the offseason. While nobody questions his defensive abilities, the tough Cubs crowd at Wrigley (and in Canada) have not been too kind about his plate work.  When the rest of the team is doing well, it’s no wonder that folks call out their prized stud. Baseball is a finicky game that way, I guess. When you’re playing well, everyone is your friend but when things go south they turn on you. So it was great to see that home run last night. Get that elephant out of the ballpark and hopefully, an end to his slump.

“Everybody’s cheering their butts off for him,” Cubs pitcher Jon Lester said of Heyward. “We know how important he is to this team, not only offensively but in other areas. We know how hard he’s working and how he’s grinding and how he’s going about his business. There’s not a more professional guy who I’ve been around than him. … That dugout was more than ecstatic for him to make that good swing.”

There’s six weeks to go to the playoffs. The big moment that all Cubs fans have been waiting for and nervously growing their fingernails. This year the Cubs have created something extraordinarily special. The division is pretty much a lock, playoff rosters are still up in the air. I can tell you this much that it’s been a great year and as the nights feel crisper, the sadness of another summer passing and the thrill of autumn baseball looms.

Believe it.

 

Advertisements

Cubs Stumble Against Rockies

Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs’ Addison Russell follows through with his swing after connecting for a solo home run off Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Jorge De La Rosa in the seventh inning of a baseball game Sunday, Aug. 21, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

A baseball season is filled with its fair share of peaks and valleys. Yesterday, the Cubs fell to the Rockies 11-4. Hey, it happens to the best of us. There was a bright spot in the loss; Addison Russell. He notched two home runs in the loss and at the ripe old age of 22, arguably the best defensive shortstop in the game, has been the secret weapon of the Cubs all season long.

“If Addison played here right now, he’d probably have at least 25 homers, quite frankly, and be approaching 100 RBIs,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “From what I’ve seen all summer in Wrigley Field, there’s such an amazing advantage offensively here. What you saw today, he’s done that a lot with the wind bringing the ball back in. In his brief Major League career, he’s playing at the top of his game right now.”

The thing I’ve always noticed about the Colorado Rockies which I’m sure some of you will dispute, is that they are one of the toughest teams to play against. When they’re bad, they have a tendency to find ways to spoil the party for other teams. Those rare occasions when they’re awesome, they discover new ways to suck. If I were a betting man, I’d stay far away from the Colorado Rockies.

Do you agree?

This was the first series that the Cubs lost since the All Star Break, I don’t think it’s too much cause for concern especially heading into San Diego and facing baseball’s most travelled pitcher and five inning specialist Edwin Jackson where hopefully the Cubs can get back on track but it’s those west coast trips that can mess everything up just ask the Griswolds.

“That’s the kind of game I don’t dwell on for very long,” manager Joe Maddon said afterward from his office. “Once you guys leave here, I promise you I’m going to crack open a Miller Lite, grab something to eat and look on Trip Advisor to find somewhere for us to eat tonight in San Diego.”

Jason Hammel who has been the darling pitcher of the Cubs in the second half did not enjoy the same day that Addison Russell did. He got lit up really badly which raised his ERA from 0.95 to 2.17 which proves that baseball can’t always be the marathon long season. Things can change with one game.

“We gave them too many opportunities,” Maddon said. “They had to get six outs, Jason did, in the first inning, and that’ll wear you down a bit. Had we just caught the ball today, he could’ve had a different view about it early in the game. We came out first and third, popout, homer, but then we started making too many mistakes. That really put Jason behind the proverbial eight ball.”

Tonight’s a new series in a new town and a fresh start. Ah, baseball is a forgiving game.

Really Joe,  Miller Lite?

Believe it.

Cubs Peaking Over Rockies

Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Mike Montgomery delivers to Colorado Rockies’ David Dahl in the first inning of a baseball game Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The Chicago Cubs dominated the Rockies in a 9-2 victory while trying to make a case for the accolades to continue in Kris Bryant‘s career after he took the cover off of the ball for his league leading 31st home run of the season.

“There’s still a lot of season left, but for me, I just kind of went into this year working on making a little more contact, and I think having that approach has allowed me to tap into more power,” Bryant said. “I’ve always been the type to hit the ball in the air and hit home runs, so if I’m going to be able to make more contact, I just think more home runs are going to result from that.”

But like every win, it starts with pitching. Mike Montgomery, who was placed in the rotation after John Lackey went to the DL, did 4 1/3 innings of work with 5 strikeouts. The Cubs need this kind of pitching when their regulars go down to injury. Although he did’t get the win, Joe Maddon is confident Montgomery can step in again.

“He has great command of his off-speed pitches, and the fastball has been located really well. A very good curveball, and a nice changeup off that and with that a two-seam fastball that runs and gets the ball on the ground and a four-seam fastball that he can strike you out with. He’s got really good command of everything right now, but the thing that’s impressive is the ability to throw a breaking ball for a strike.” Maddon said.

If the Cubs are peaking, then they’ve certainly have it going at a good time. The MVP race is picking up steam and there’s no shortage of Cubs in the mix. The Cubs have a lot of depth and they could wind up with their first 100+ wins since 1935 but in the end the only thing that matters is the World Series.

Today, Jason Hammel takes to the mound with hopes that the Cubs will win this series against the always tough Colorado Rockies. Game time is 4:10 EST

Believe it.

 

Cubs’ Bryant Homers His Way To History

Kris Bryant

It was the Kris Bryant show yesterday at Wrigley Field as the Cubs put another victory into the win column and a big sweep over the Milwaukee Brewers 9-6. It was easy to see that this future hall of famer is only going to get better. Yesterday, Bryant notched 2 HR and 5 RBI’s on route to becoming Chicago Cubs’ fifth player to reach 30 home runs in a season while still being 24 or younger.

“He’s a great player,” Cubs starter Jake Arrieta said of Bryant. “He’s been able to play a lot of different roles, especially defensively, for us, and he’s one of our biggest role players. To see what he’s continued to do and do what he did today is not a big surprise. [Anthony] Rizzo is a tremendous player and pretty much our MVP every year, but Kris is a special guy.”

He’s not too far off base there. Every team needs a dynamic duo. Mantle and Maris, Canseco and McGwire, Rizzo and Bryant. The MVP race heated up with “Bryant’s Game” and fans will forever debate which one was better but don’t tell Bryant any of that,

“You really take it at-bat by at-bat,” Bryant said. “It’s good to start the day off with a hit — it gets you going a little bit, gets your confidence going. You look at the scoreboard and see 3-for-3 and 4-for-4, that’s one of those days that you don’t have too often. For me, I don’t feel like this too often, but today was one of those days when I was really locked in.”

The normally humble player usually shrugs off those type of accolades but it’s all right to bask in that huge accomplishment. As for the pick of who should win the MVP between the two?

“I think they’ll be fine,” Maddon said. “I’ve watched them interact. KB, if he has an ego, I haven’t seen it. This guy comes to play every day, and he doesn’t react any differently. Rizz is probably a little more animated. I want to think they’d root for each other in that particular moment. I honestly do.”

There’s only one piece of hardware that Anthony Rizzo and Bryant want and that’s waited elusively for more than a hundred years.

Believe it.

Cubs Give Fans Reason To Believe

David Ross

Sometimes the Chicago Cubs make it look too easy. Yesterday’s 6-1 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers was one of those kind of games. Jon Lester led the Cubs with his 13th win of the season and now owns a 7-2 home record. This is the guy, who in the winter of 2014, the Cubs held a big press conference announcing that,

“I want to win…I believe in the plan that they have in place right now for the future of the Cubs.”

A year and a bit later, the Cubs are 6-0 in the last six Lester starts. I’ve never been a huge fan of his style but I have to call it what it is, the guy’s been outstanding this season.

After throwing for 6.2 innings, Lester’s night was done and he walked off the mound to an elated Wrigley crowd.

“You don’t want to be the loose link in the chain,” Lester said. “You want to keep pressing along where you’re not the guy and they go, ‘He stinks,’ and you’re letting the other guys down. I just try to stay in my bubble and go out and pitch well and give my team a chance to win. I don’t know if you look at that as being competitive, or not wanting to stink.”

But the fun didn’t just stop with Lester, Jorge Soler collected a three run home run that almost past the crowd and onto the streets behind. It’s fantastic to see Soler getting back in the swing of things since his return. He now has 7 home runs in his last 25 games.

Then there’s David “Grampa” Ross, who connected for a home run and got the crowd cheering on his swan song season.

“We’re just playing good baseball,” Ross said. “It’s nice to be healthy. [Soler] being back is a big piece. We don’t look at it as a long stretch of wins. We come in every day to compete that day against who we’re facing.”

There’s no doubt that this has been one of the most exciting seasons in Chicago Cubs history. It’s been the first season in a long time that fans weren’t just happy that the team is winning, it’s becoming dangerously close to expecting the team to be dominant which is not always the best way to go about things. My family is busy clearing off space in the house for talismans and other lucky charms for the October run. Yes, it’ll be heartbreaking should the Cubs fail to win the World Series but consider this; It doesn’t matter that the last time they won the big one, Ford was rolling off the Model T. What matters is that sports fans will have a chance to gather at the pub, the ballpark or at houses to witness history. A lot of fans cringe when playoffs come around because of the band wagon folks who display colours of the “Cool” team of the moment but these are the fans that will share in what could be the sporting world’s most celebrated victory. I’ll tell you right now that this October will be one to remember. It’s not about whether the Cubs win it all, but the unity they’ll bring in an October that fans will talk about for a long time to come.

Believe it.

 

 

Cubs Sweep Brewers, Rizzo Should Have Been In Rio

Chicago Cubs

CHICAGO, IL – AUGUST 16: (EDITOR’S NOTE: Alternate crop) Anthony Rizzo #44 of the Chicago Cubs makes a catch for an out against the Milwaukee Brewers while standing on the wall during the fifth inning in game two of a double header at Wrigley Field on August 16, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)

After yesterday’s double headed sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers, in the first game 4-0 and the second 4-1, it’s hard not to imagine Ernie Banks’ ear to ear smile which I’m sure hasn’t left his face this season. It was his kind of day. The sun was shining, the 41 000 faithful soaking it all up at Wrigley Field. Yeah, that was day.

Game 1

Whatever rest the Cubs needed during the All Star Break has paid off in dividends. Not only did the Cubs add to their shutout total of 11, but are 22-8 since the break. Folks, that’s what breaks are for. Trevor Cahill got the win, boosting the starting pitching to 9-0 this month.

“He’s a really good athlete,” manager Joe Maddon said of Cahill, who may get another start, depending on what the Cubs decide to do regarding John Lackey, who has some soreness in his right shoulder. “Did you see his swings when he fouled the ball back? Covering first base, he did a nice job of that. He’s a good athlete. He bounces around out there really well. He handles himself at the plate.”

Game 2

When it comes to Jason Hammel, sometimes enough doesn’t get said, but he’s 13-5 and won six straight games, proving he’s one of the hottest pitchers in the game.

“When he fell behind, he made pitches when he had to,” Cubs catcher David Ross said of Hammel. “He was throwing strike one, being aggressive. I think that’s a better lineup than people give them credit for.”

He’s in the same league as Kyle Hendricks. Nothing fancy just getting the job done and throwing strikes.

This was the first time since 1964 that the Cubs have swept a Milwaukee team in a doubleheader.

In a doubleheader filled with highlight reels, the one that’ll be given consideration in Rio was Anthony Rizzo‘s jumping on the concrete barrier to snag a ball.

“Just that he would stick the landing,’ Maddon said. “I was hoping for at least a 9.5 from the Luxembourg judge. It was a great play. He did a nice job of getting there. … He knows the wall, he knows that area. He did a great job. It was a big play.”

They should put a sign there calling it, “Rizzo’s Wall” It’s not the first time he’s made one of those grabs.

“I looked up there and the ball was still pretty high and I had time to get up there and make the play,” Rizzo said. “I surprised myself that I caught the ball, to be honest. It’s one of those fun plays — if you make it, you look great, and if you don’t, you look like a fool.”

So now it brings me to Aroldis Chapman. First off, it was extremely inappropriate to be playing that Prodigy song,  “Smack My … Up” and the DJ was rightfully dismissed, but what bothers me so much is how could someone do something so incredibly stupid? I would love to be working at Wrigley Field right now and this guy took it for granted.

It’s hard not to marvel at Chapman’s speed on the mound. Downright breathtaking. Overtime I’m watching him pitch, in the back of my mind he’s still not the best role model for my son.

Though Ernie Banks is smiling every 103MPH pitch and exhaling when it crosses the plate.

Believe it.

 

Cubs Bullpen Stumbles and Dexter Fowler For MVP

Baseball

Even the the mightiest teams can lose. Last night’s 6-4 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals was an especially tough one to take. What started out as a classic pitcher’s duel, ended with John Lackey being yanked in the 7th inning with tightness. I could feel Joe Maddon’s stomach churning during that walk to the mound to tell Lackey he wasn’t going to play anymore.

“His shoulder stiffened up and that was it,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “He tried to talk me out of it, and I was not going to be talked out of it. I’m sure he’ll tell you he’s going to pitch his next start. That’s possible. I just don’t know anything yet.”

He’s worn the red cap and knows what these series are like. That was tough on him to come out of the game, but he did.

This is where the problems occurred. Justin Grimm took over and struck the batter out but when usually hard throwing and reliable Hector Rondon took over, the time off due to injury wasn’t kind to him.

“Today, I came in with the ball up and I didn’t have my best command and I didn’t mix in my breaking balls,” Rondon said. “Today, they got me.”

If there was the weakness in the tough Cub exterior, then it has to be the bullpen. It’s great that the Cubs have that cushion to fall back on. Their lead is 12 games ahead of St. Louis and they’ve still got some breathing room over the Nationals but nobody said this would be easy. It would be better if the Cubs duked it out right until the end and went to the Big Series clawing their way to the top.

Of course loading the bases with nobody out and not capitalizing like they did in the seventh is not a good situation. I’m sure those Mercedes and Ferraris parked outside had their Key Fobs pressing auto start with a big tanned Econoline following them in the rearview after the game.

“Offensively, we do need to do better in those particular moments and get those add-on runs on later in the game,” Maddon said. “That was a big moment, bases loaded nobody out, and they got out of it.”

The Cubs wanted to sweep the Cardinals. It wouldn’t have mattered if the Cubs only won 38 games and the Cardinals 75 or vice versa. The Cubs let these two games slip from their paws and perhaps the Cardinals showed them up but one thing is certain; the Nationals will put the pin in the Cubs fairy tale year balloon come October.

“You always take that split, but when you get in position to grab more than that, that’s the part you don’t necessarily like,” Maddon said. “But we played well. Every time we play well, even if we lose, I’m OK.”

They did play well. Kris Bryant‘s triple, Anthony Rizzo‘s home run and Willson Contreras‘ hustle were all out on display, but the irony is that this season the Cubs pitching is what’s keeping them in the games and it’s exactly the pitching that could end it for them.

Does anyone else think Dexter Fowler should be considered for MVP?

Believe it.