Cubs Showing That Everybody’s In

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This could be the dawn of a new era for the Chicago Cubs. While the last couple of years has showcased the hitting side of the Northside powerhouse, this year’s version has high lighted a more streamlined lower scoring edition. In yesterday’s 2-0 shutout win over the Brewers, the Cubs, perhaps they’re getting older, a more patient group.

“When you can play somebody in your own division eight times and do well, that’s always a boon,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “They came in winning eight in a row. I have a lot of respect for them. We didn’t beat up their pitching, either. Don’t be deceived here. They pitched really well, too. They played really well, too. We just happened to pitch a little better in the series.

“They’re a very good ballclub, and we just happened to get them this time around,” Maddon said. “They’re never to be taken for granted.”

Having five shutouts in a month against the same team, I wouldn’t blame them if they took things for granted. The Cubs are 1/2 game back of division leaders Pittsburgh Pirates  and the record setting debut of Nick Kingham  

The Cubs pitching was so good over the Brewers that their last four pitchers allowed only 1 earned run.

“It’s pretty cool to be part of it,” Tyler Chatwood said. “You don’t want to be the guy left behind, so I think everybody’s kind of pushing each other and I think that’s what good rotations do.”

So even if their bats fell silent, the Cubs pitching took over and now we can safely say that the Cubs are looking more and more like the team promised at the start of the season. The team has been inconsistent. They win one, lose one and the order and the rotation has been all over the place. It’s great to see them finally coming together. Perhaps, it’s the team getting older, more seasoned and coming into their own but as Ben Zobrist becomes the elder statesman for the club, Chicago has to remember that their ticket to respectability was all ready punched that magical night in Cleveland. Theo Epstein helped build it in a Kevin Costner kind of way, but the rest is on the team to continue that legacy. We’re finally seeing it this season.

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Cubs Get Crafty With Brewers

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The Cubs have won three in a row after yesterday’s 3-0 shutout of the Brewers. Jose Quintana put on a masterful display in front of the chilled Wrigley crowd. With the win, the Cubs are slowly climbing to the top of the National League Central division.

“You have to be able to win games like that, low-scoring games,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We had not been able to early on, we just weren’t pitching well enough, and now we are. I know it was beautiful blue skies, but it was cool out there and the wind was severe. Today’s game was pretty much determined by the elements.”

Perhaps that was the reason of the Cubs struggles early on this April. The good news is that May is around the corner, great weather is coming and the Cubs will be able to gain some valuable ground when they face the Cardinals next weekend.

The Cubs have the Brewers number with four shutouts this season.

“I felt good,” Quintana said Saturday after his best outing of the season. “My stuff was really good. I’m happy we are winning. Tomorrow, we will try to keep going.”

The great thing about the win is that Quintana went deep in the game. Seven innings, that’s the magic number that I believe pitchers should be able to perform at in order for their respective teams to effectively get to October.

Over the past week, the Cubs rotation has been able to do just that and while allowing their bullpen to be healthy and ready to finish.

It was also great to see Kris Bryant back in the lineup after missing four games due to his concussion.

“It was nice to be back out there,” Bryant said. “It was just another ballgame. I felt really normal. It’s really weird: You take four games off, you feel like you’re a little behind.”

The ironic thing is the Cubs were winning while he was nursing his head. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want him to be off again but this is Cubs nation and weird things happen.

“It kind of puts things in perspective a little bit, because we’re out there and everybody wants to get hits and RBIs and home runs and feel great about themselves,” Bryant said. “When something like that happens, you have to take a step back and realize that this game could be taken from you really quick and really soon and unexpectedly. It’s really important to enjoy the game as much as you can.”

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Darvish Proves Critics Wrong

 

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If this is the Yu Darvish that the Cubs had hoped would show up when they signed him, then I guess fans will have to accept it. Yesterday, the Cubs beat the Brewers 3-2 and Darvish was good even though he didn’t get the win.

“I thought he worked the mental game extremely well,” Maddon said of Darvish. “He was right on with everything. He developed a great routine. Pitchers with that special kind of ability, you just get out of your zone somehow and you need to be reminded about a couple things. I promise you, he keeps doing that, look out.”

Ok, to be fair and I really don’t have experience being the highest paid player in the room, but it must be incredible difficult with all the pressure placed on him to succeed. I’ve been a critic myself but who knows? Perhaps management saw something in him that we don’t see.

“[Maddon] really takes care of me,” Darvish said through his interpreter. “He thinks a lot about me. In today’s outing, there was a similar situation as in the previous game. Because I spoke with Joe, I was able to overcome it and kept going.

“He talked [in Cleveland] about not worrying about the previous pitch or what happened in the past, and concentrate on the pitch I was going to throw,” Darvish said. “Basically, it was, ‘Don’t worry about what happened in the past.'”

That’s exactly what he has to do. Yesterday, after a shaky start, he turned it around and garnered eight strikeouts. That’s impressive. My theory is that he’s been used to the LA sunshine and Texas heat. Once it gets warm in Chicago, Darvish will start rolling.

It’s funny that the Cubs rotation has been their undoing this season. High expectations were placed on the pitching and, in fact, it was going to be their saving grace but so far it’s been the hitting that’s really worked well.

“Regardless of where I am, no matter where I’m at, I hear the supporting fans,” Darvish said. “That really cheers me up.”

Both Hendricks and Darvish were consistent in their games and that’s a great sign of things to come.

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Cubs’ Hendricks Stoic Effort

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It’s not even the end of April  and Kyle Schwarber has all ready knocked seven home runs. Yup, the Cubs defeated the Brewers 1-0 in front of the Wrigley faithful.

The Professor  Kyle Hendricks took to the mound and masterfully executed seven scoreless innings.

“That’s a product of when my focus was, just make a good pitch,” Hendricks said. “Every pitch, just on to the next pitch. I was just in a really good mindset today — one pitch at a time.”

He’s pretty focused every time, but that’s just my opinion.

If you noticed an absence at third base yesterday, Kris Bryant stayed on the bench for a third straight game. I’m not too worried about his absence affecting the Cubs because more than likely it’s just precautions but;

“I’m listening to what his needs are right now,” Joe Maddon said. “I’m making sure that the medical procedures are being followed so that we do everything right. It’s never going to be a unilateral decision on my part to insist that he plays, ever. I’m listening to K.B., the doctors, trying to do the right things and get him back out there. It’s early. I really feel strongly that he’s going to be fine, but I don’t want to push it.”

With research into these injuries, I think more teams have shifted away from playing them too soon whether it’s more than likely a minor injury or not. He’ll be back.

Speaking of getting back, Yu Darvish takes to the mound today in search of his first win. The high priced hurler has struggled this season, causing fans to scratch their heads and wonder if the Cubs front office made a big mistake in signing him.

“This guy’s good. This guy’s going to show it. He’s going to show up,” Maddon said, “and the thing (is) as a manager, as a coach, I’m just trying to get him to respect this pitch and then respect that next pitch, but don’t try to over-evaluate it or make it more complicated than that because your stuff, I don’t know, top 10 in baseball probably.”

I’m not saying anything against Darvish’s stuff but there’s a reason why a guy like Hendricks who makes a paltry $760 000 is ahead of a 126 million dollar arm in the rotation.

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Cubs Show Moxy But Not Enough

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The Cubs, without Kris Bryant in the lineup, were downed by Cleveland 4-1. They went into the game facing a hot pitcher in Trevor Bauer, who by weird stroke of stupidity, I benched in our Fantasy League.

Go figure?

“I didn’t think we were up there just swinging without a plan,” Joe Maddon said. “But [Bauer] is on top of his game right now. They kept coming back [to the dugout] saying, ‘He is throwing the ball exactly where he wants to.'”

The bats couldn’t get anything into the air, but on the mound, Jon Lester rebounded to have a solid outing.

“I feel like we’re just kind of at that point where we need to put like three games together,” Lester said. “I feel like we’re just trying to get over that hump with that third game, and it’s kind of rolling from there. We’ve been playing well, but we’ve had some ups and downs on both sides of the ball.”

Um, I’ve been saying that all April. Yes, the Cubs are having a see saw kind of Spring and it might work but chances are, they’ll need to do exactly what Lester has indicated, and put together three wins in a row. Listen, we all want them to dominate, so perhaps they need to win a couple of series in a row to stay relevant come August.

Yesterday’s game was a different beast altogether. The Cubs could have/should have come out victorious but the end resulted in Cleveland just getting all the really good knocks.

“Whoever says solo homers can’t beat you (is wrong), I guess,” Lester said. “The only pitch that was a bad decision on my part — and I shook to it — was the pitch to Guyer. The other two, Lindor goes oppo and a ball on the ground that Encarnacion hits out. That’s the game, unfortunately.”

Andrew Miller got injured and that wasn’t enough for the Cubs to take advantage of? I also believe that Anthony Rizzo needs to get going. He’s their “Unofficial” leader in the clubhouse and when he returns to form, the Cubs should be getting back on track.

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Schwarber Hot In Cleveland

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The Cubs mauled Cleveland 10-3 It was the Kyle Schwarber show with two home runs and the Cubs offence was on display in the onslaught. According to the stats, Schwarber feels really good  at Progressive Field going 15-30 including three home runs.

That’s pretty crazy.

“I always thought this was a good park to hit in,” Schwarber said with a shrug. “It’s been a good start so far. Always trying to get better. Had a guy on third with less than two outs and didn’t get him in. That’s a free RBI there. And I want to pick those up.”

Yes you do Kyle. There’s an old adage somewhere, perhaps there should be one but home runs don’t win ball games, RBI’s do.

That being said, Schwarber’s legend was cemented in the 2016 playoffs. In case you folks don’t remember, he came back from a season injury only to hit .412 that post season. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Schwarber loves Cleveland.

“He’s from Ohio, right?” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Schwarber. “Obviously, he sees the ball well here. The first time he showed up it was his premiere. That was all adrenaline. The World Series was adrenaline. And right now he’s been swinging the bat well. So he shows up in Cleveland at the right times.”

Kris Bryant missed yesterday’s game from the injury he suffered in Colorado. There’s no cause for alarm. I hope he’s all right.

“He wanted to see the doctor and do all the normal stuff,”  Maddon said. “I think he’s fine. He just has to work through some things.”

The Cubs are finally past the .500 mark and gaining a little bit of the momentum back after their shaky start to the season. It’s a long season, but the Cubs’ record sits at 11-9 not perfect but two games back of Milwaukee, and I have it on good faith that the Cubs won’t allow the Brewers to take the division.

Today, Jon Lester gets the ball. His arm’s getting loose and he’s coming off a shutout win over St. Louis. Warm weather is here and the Cubs are getting it together!

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Cubs Bryant Leaves Game

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Even though the Chicago Cubs can’t go on much longer winning one game then losing the next, there have been unsung heroes in just about every game they’ve played so far this season. In yesterday’s 9-7 win over the Colorado Rockies, it was Albert Almora‘s defence skills that were on display.

Almora’s glove has been all over the outfield. He’s proven to be “The Guy” in the field and has come into his own with his acrobatics.

“I’m just trying to prevent some runs from scoring,” Almora said. “In this kind of field, you have a lot of room to run. I was just trying to be in the right spot at the right time. I just wanted to go get it. I was going to give it all I had. Even if I didn’t think I had a great chance, I was giving to give it my shot, and it just fell in the glove.”

Oh yeah, and he’s humble as well.

On the downside, Kris Bryant left the game after getting knocked in the head with the ball. He looked a little shaken and was helped to the clubhouse.

“Apparently, he’s fine, as good as could be expected,” manager Joe Maddon said after the game. “I’ve not heard anything awful, but they’re still watching him. I have not heard the word concussion yet, so hopefully very good.”

Hopefully, he’ll be all right and will be back in the Cubs’ lineup soon.

Today is an off day before the Cubs travel to Cleveland. The Cubs need the rest. April 2018 hasn’t been kind to them with a 10-9 record. There’s been plenty of ups and downs and “Strangeties” that have plagued the team. The signs are there for the Cubs to turn the corner and we know about last season’s catch up after the All Star break but unfortunately that tired the team out.  The Cubs inconsistencies will continue for a bit but they’ll find their groove and if Javier Baez continues the way he’s going, well it could end in an MVP season for El Mago.

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Cubs’ Darvish Was Good But Meltdown’s Continue

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There’s logic and science when a team wins one and loses the next game. At the end of the season, the record will always be .500. Numbers don’t lie. The good news in the Cubs 5-2 loss to the Rockies is Yu Darvish regained some of his game. The Cubs and Darvish looked good through the fifth inning.

“I treat every pitch every batter the same, regardless of how many outs I have,” Darvish said through translator Daichi Sekizaki. “Every game, it’s after the fifth inning when I get out of rhythm. I think that could be solved by using more off-speed pitches. In the last couple of games, I’ve been using fastball, slider, fastball, slider, so maybe more of the slower pitches such as the curveball to maybe overcome that problem.”

Because he’s my favourite player, Darvish should study Kyle Hendricks. They should travel together, hang out and study each other really well. Did the Cubs get a lemon of a deal with Darvish? His meltdowns have become common practice and in a game where pitchers are expected to get at least six innings of work in, Darvish has yet to make an impact this season.

“I expect him to pitch more deeply into games,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “I wanted to give him a chance to pitch through that [the jam in the fifth], but the command escaped him. Command of his fastball was not what it needs to be.”

The Cubs signed Darvish to be their ace. He needs to improve if the Cubs want to be there in the fall.

Because baseball is like the comfort food of sports, yesterday’s game also featured an, “Aw shucks” moment when David Bote, a Denver native played his first big league game. Sure, he didn’t suit up for his hometown Rockies but he did receive applause when he hit a double.

“I was born two days before their Opening Day here in Colorado, so I grew up watching Dante Bichette, Andres Galarraga, Troy Tulowitzki, Brad Hawpe, Todd Helton, all those guys,” Bote said. “It’s the same stadium, but it’s fun knowing you belong there, you’re going to work there, instead of going there for entertainment.”

If he’s going to get some more playing time, then he’s got Ben Zobrist‘s big shoes to fill.

“Because of his bat, he can play all over the place,” manager Joe Maddon said before the game. “He’s a second baseman by trade, but he played some really good third base for us in Spring Training. You can throw him at shortstop if you want, and outfield. Here’s the thing with a guy like him. We have a nice team, but if his bat’s ready and there’s a need, you want to be able to say, ‘Bring him on up.”

If my number’s are correct, then the Cubs are going to win today with Jose Quintana set to take the ball. They have a good team but they also can’t continue to win/lose every game. Good weather’s coming.

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Cubs Show That Everybody’s In

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Those folks in the Cubs front office sure know what they’re talking about when they thought up  #EverybodyIn and the Cubs go out and deliver a 16-5 beatdown on the Rockies last night. Kyle Hendricks got off to a shaky start but settled into a groove nicely.

“It was still a battle the whole way,” Hendricks said. “Deep counts, a lot of pitches, able to get through it, I guess. You saw a lot from our lineup today, really. That’s what won the game. They gave me two right away, I give three right back. For them to stay on those at-bats, come back and get that many runs for me, that was the ballgame.”

Yeah, it was. I’ve always said that Hendricks will never be that “Perfect Game” pitcher but his craftiness and techniques win him those ball games. Yesterday he proved that after giving up those runs, he stays calm and keeps his poise to get back into the game.

As for “El Mago”, give him the MVP all ready, why don’t you?

“I’m seeing the ball right when [the pitcher] releases it,” Javier Baez said of his recent tear that finds him hitting .400 (14-for-35) with three doubles, a triple, six homers, and 16 RBIs over his last eight games. “I’m not trying to go [opposite field], but a lot of hits are being hit that way. I’m just trying to stay to the middle, keep the same approach and keep doing my routine.”

His slide into second kept managers pumping more sunflower seeds into their mouths but sometimes, you just have to go for it. I don’t believe any manager is going to try and change Baez’s game.

“When the whole group adopts a method, and they feed off one another, and they’re capable …” manager Joe Maddon said, interrupting himself as he analyzed the offensive outburst over the last two games. “… These guys have been to the World Series, they’ve won one, they’ve been in the NLCS every year, they know what’s going on. But I’ve often talked about, the one area — we have not had mature at-bats. We can’t say we’re inexperienced anymore. We have experience, but we’re still young. We have to get rid of that youth involvement in the at-bat and we’ll play some really nice baseball.”

That’ll come. We’re all ready seeing guys like Kyle Schwarber settle down at the plate a bit. On the other side, Baez has got such a pure swing that patience won’t help him too much. He’s got to play the game he’s meant to play.

So, it’s finally so good to see Everybody In after their disastrous start to the season. Hopefully, this is a sign of the baseball to come.

“You are going to see everyone play,” Maddon said. “I hate to disappoint people, but everyone is going to play. And they’re all going to play well. I promise.”

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Cubs Bring El Mago

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A lot of good things happened yesterday as the Cubs defeated the St Louis Cardinals 8-5 in front of a dry crowd under sunny skies. Yup, that was a good ol’ fireball the Cubs played under.

“Good approach, good at-bats,” Joe Maddon said of the Cubs’ 14-hit attack, which involved using the entire field. “It is so fun to watch. Keep your launch angles, keep your exit velocities, give me a good at-bat. Those were really good at-bats. Staying inside the ball, using the whole field — I promise you if they stay on that path, balls will still go out of the ballpark at the pace they’re capable of. With that, you’ll see better situational hitting, you’ll see higher batting averages, on-base percentages. I loved our approach today.”

Or the Cubs just really suck at playing in the rain. Plus, the Cubs got back to the basics and played small ball. Get on base and move the runners. Sounds pretty simple but for some reason, when players reach the big leagues, they see the back of the yard and there’s a big target where they try to hit the ball deep. That’s good and all but getting runners home and loading the bases is the fundamentals they need. The Cubs finally did that yesterday.

“It is [an art form],” Maddon said. “It’s just good hitting. We worked really good at-bats. I’d love to stay with that if we can. Use the whole field.”

The other advantage of April baseball is that teams have a long road ahead of them and they can experiment. Mix up the order and move the players around. Javier Baez is swinging a hot bat so far so why shouldn’t he do it? He batted second and looked good there.

“That’s good to know,” Baez said when told about Maddon’s motives. “I was trying to stay focused on the same approach, same swings. I didn’t get excited, but that’s one of my goals is to end up there in the lineup. I feel great, I’m still seeing the ball really good. I chased a few pitches today, but I took good at-bats.”

Love him or hate him, Baez has become the exciting player the Cubs hoped he’d be. In a world of high salaried performers, Baez shows up at the plate looking like that kid in the sandlot hitting a home run for the very first time. He looks like that all the time.

“The guy’s an exciting ballplayer,” Chicago’s Kyle Schwarber said of Baez. “I feel we’re always talking about Javy Baez. I’m not going to get tired of it. He’s a heck of a ballplayer and a lot of instincts and he’s a leader and he’s fun to watch.”

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