Cubs Prove Too Much For Pirates

Jason Heyward

Baseball can be a lonely game. I’m not talking about the player staring at the pitcher in a game 7, bases loaded, two out, bottom of the ninth type of loneliness. No, in last night’s Chicago Cubs 14-3  blowout of the Pittsburgh Pirates, there was a loneliness that crept into the beautiful PNC Park around the mid innings when you can practically hear every fan that was left to watch the onslaught. The heckling and the whistling were on full display like ancient Greek theatre’s call and response.

Last night was the kind of game the Cubs should be playing on a regular basis. Jason Heyward won’t crush the ball the first time he sees the plate everytime, but guys like him and Addison Russell, who had a career high four hits, need to be consistent in every game.

“It’s great but it’s not over,” Heyward said. “It’s one game at a time. This game is hard, it’s not easy, and you’re always going to be humbled. It’s great to see hard work pay off but I have to keep going because that’s the way the game goes.”

It isn’t easy when you’re the player who makes a Gajillion dollars and underperforms. So I’m glad to see Heyward doing well this season. As for Russell? Well, one of baseball’s under appreciated players is consistent. He’s turning into the guy who someday could win an MVP.

“I expect to hit every first inning,” Russell said. “We have guys that grind out at-bats from their first at-bat until their last at-bat. Guys will get on somehow, some way. And guys with big knocks along the way.”

So the Cubs haven’t digressed this season but rather matured a little bit perhaps and the style of play isn’t always, like last night, going to knock out of the park every game. The more I watch them this year, I’ve decided that the wins might not always be pretty but they’ll win.

Kyle Schwarber will have to get used to the outfield. Even though he certainly wasn’t a weak spot in the Cubs lineup last fall, he might just be the weakness in the field this season. I think he’ll be better than us bleacher bums think he’s going to be but the growing pains will still be there.

“It’s not easy to just move people around,” Joe Maddon said. “The ball always moves toward the line, whether it’s a righty or left-handed hitter. It’s a different method of thinking on the other side of the field. Can he do it? Of course, he can do it.”

With the order pretty much solidified for the season, I’m hoping for Kyle Hendricks to showcase his stuff for the season. Perhaps the spring training wasn’t enough. Once the warm weather kicks in.

“Overall, still just need to kind of find that groove and lock it in,” Hendricks said. “My mechanics have been a little off, I’ve noticed, the last two weeks or so. I ramped up my throwing, so maybe throwing more has caused that. I just got to find the right balance right now. I just don’t feel strong out there, so I got to get my arm strength and feel like I can step on it (and) get the velocity back. And then from there, my changeup will just play off it.”

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Russell’s Walk Off a Thing of Beauty For Chicago Cubs

Addison Russell

How much more can the 2017 edition of the Chicago Cubs keep coming back in games? Yesterday they did just that, a come from behind walk off three run home run from Addison Russell to steal the win from the Milwaukee Brewers 7-4.

“I was just trying to put the ball in play, something over the middle of the plate to start me out,” Russell said of his at-bat in the ninth. “[Feliz] threw me two sliders away, and I was looking for something a little more in. He threw a fastball.”

Oh the modesty. He absolutely crushed that ball. So, that’s two come from behind wins in a row. It’s a dangerous way to start a season. All though the Cubs are proving their worth with these wins, it’s inevitable that time will run out. As the season wears on, the Cubs might be riddled with injuries and exhaustion.

“It’s one of those ugly wins but we’ll take it any day of the week,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “It is the resiliency, it is the fact that we do not quit. It’s on the ring. We don’t quit. It’s on the ring, man, and that’s a perfect example today.”

He’s right but where was Kyle Hendricks? The ERA leader last year, is noticeably absent on the mound with a 6.19 ERA this season. It could be cold weather or a slow start but he has to get his mechanics going. He walked four batters and only lasted five innings. Not that I’m too worried because he’s the type of pitcher who studies the game with all its’ nuances.

“We went in with one game plan, and we noticed they were sitting on a few of the things we were trying to do,” Hendricks said. “I didn’t realize it right away. By the time he came over to me, we could talk about it and find out where we wanted to go with the game plan. I got better contact in the later innings. I still need to find that groove and lock it in.”

So, the Cubs can talk all they want about resiliency but the main issue is in the games they lost, well, they just looked lost. The honeymoon is over, baseball season is underway. They’ll have to hear that familiar song a lot more if they want another parade.

“You definitely want to go into Cincinnati with the sense we can come back in any part of the game,” Russell said. “That’s what we did today. Just don’t give up. That’s the type of style that we play.”

The style the Cubs should be playing is Javier Baez‘s leaping air catches and reaching for the tag, Anthony Rizzo‘s Rizzo Wrap snags, Hendrick’s controlled mechanics and Kris Bryant‘s Long Ball. You see where I’m going with this?

“That was an unbelievable win today,” Hendricks said. “There’s been a lot going on. A lot of outside factors pushing against us, so to be able to focus on the game and get big wins … these teams we’re playing are coming for us. The target is on our backs.”

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Cubs Shutout Dodgers With Help From Wrigley Weather

Chicago Cubs

It goes to show you what a day can make. Just one day removed from all of the pomp and pageantry of getting their rings and the wind blowing out at Wrigley Field, the Cubs got right back to business with a dominant display of just how they deserved that sparkling jewelry. They defeated the Dodgers 4-0 with Brett Anderson recording the shutout. It was almost as if Anderson, who is the only Cubs player on the roster to not have won a World Series was trying to prove he belongs on the team.

“A lot of envy, especially now being the only guy on the active roster without a World Series ring. That’s not fun. It gives me, personally, that much more incentive to do my part and fill the holes going forward.” Anderson said.

The one problem I have with this year’s squad is Kyle Schwarber. The Cubs have a dilemma with him being in the outfield. His skills on defence are not the greatest but as we know he’s no slouch in the hitting department, there’s the problem of To Keep Him or Not To Keep Him? I believe he’s destined for a DH role somewhere soon. It could be this year year or next and it’ll be sad to see him go.

On the other hand, he’s learning the outfield. His overturned bobbled catch off the sprouting ivy was certainly brilliant and flashy but he’s nowhere in the same department of Jason Heyward nor may never be.

“If I’m going to make a mistake, it’s going to be an aggressive mistake, not a passive mistake,” Schwarber said. “The ball’s to the wall, and you’re trying to make a play, and no one can second-guess you.”

Yesterday kind of proved the curse theory at Wrigley Field. It was the wind all these years that messed up chances and opportunities. Whether it’s hitting or defence which ever way the wind blows will guide which way the game will be played.

“It’s just Wrigley for you,” Schwarber said. “There are going to be those days when you don’t know what’s going to happen with the ball, and you have to approach your at-bats the same.”

Both Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell got their first home runs of the season during that weird weather day at Wrigley. In particular Russell’s HR.

“That ball was mangled,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

It practically left some lucky fans a souvenir outside the park.

On a side note, I believe that part of the excitement and importance of the Cubs winning the World Series is they’ve finally inked their place alongside the greats like Boston, New York and the Detroit. No more are they the team that are pushovers, with that win, they’re forever taken seriously. That 2016 team is a legend in sports history that will be forever enshrined in our hearts and imagination.

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Heyward Getting In The Swing Of Things

Cactus League

When the Cubs play the White Sox, it always makes for interesting games. No matter how good one team is or how bad the other is, when the two duke it out, they play each other hard. Yesterday’s game ended in a 4-4 draw.

Both Addison Russell and Wilson Contreras connected with their first home run of the season, even if it doesn’t count for much it means something for players trying to find their groove before the official season begins.

“It was good to get back in a game and face some competition that’s not your own guys,” Brett Anderson said after making his first start in over a year. “Hopefully, now I can get used to being in a routine every five days and multiple outings.”

One of the best parts about spring training is seeing these fresh faces like Anderson vying for their spot in the rotation. For Anderson’s case, he was off for a year with a back injury.

“He’s not trying to re-invent the wheel,” Anderson said of Pitching coach Chris Bosio. “It’s more trying to limit the pressure on my back and a mild mechanical adjustment so I don’t land on my heel as much and land on the ball of my foot or my toes so it’s not such a whiplash affect. It’s small things. He’s said he likes what my pitches do.”

This is probably going to be the most interesting season for the Cubs and their fans. It’s the first time in over a century that the pressure is on. The Cubs will receive their championship rings on the April 12th game. Call Joe Maddon superstitious but he has no plans on wearing the shiny reminder.

“I don’t wear that,” Maddon said Monday. “I gave [my] 2002 [ring] to my mom [Beanie]. She has it. [Wife] Jaye has 2008. So, 2016, I don’t know — my inclination, I’ll talk to Jaye about it [to see] if she wants to hold onto it or if she wants to give it to my mom.”

So as the Cubs do their best to prepare for the crucial season to define their legacy, another player looking to rebound from a not so spectacular season behind the plate is Jason Heyward. He’s changed his approach at the plate with a new swing.

“His hands are working so much better,” Maddon said. “Our game, as a hitter, is played between your fingertips and your elbows. Guys who get a little bit long, a little arm-y — we call it the ‘military swing’, they get a little bit arm-y. Get it? So, if you can engage from your elbows to your fingertips and use your hands and wrists — they used to talk about Hank Aaron — that’s where it happens. That’s what I’m seeing. A lot of it has to do where you start. He’s starting in a manner that promotes, for me, better hand usage.”

I think it’s going to work for him but maybe not so much Joe’s Dad jokes.

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Cubs Force Game 7. Tonight, One Drought Will End

World Series

The Chicago Cubs accomplished the near impossible in their 9-3 demolishing of the Cleveland Indians to force a game 7 tonight. They came back from a 3-1 series hole to tie it. When young Addison Russell hit his grand slam, the packed Cleveland crowd fell silent and suddenly, the hearts of Cubs players beat a little faster. In fact, Russell became the second youngest player in the history of the game to hit a grand slam in a World Series. Geez, they have stats on everything.

“I think tomorrow we’re going to come to the clubhouse with a lot of confidence and a lot of energy,” Russell said. “Game 7, it’s a kid’s dream.”

Tonight, one team will hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy. Tonight, the Chicago Cubs have the chance to end the longest championship drought in sports history. It’ll be one of the most watched sporting events in the history of broadcast television.

No pressure.

Joe Maddon’s decision to move Kyle Schwarber to the number 2 position proved to be the difference in the game. It provided a cushion for Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo to do their Bryzzo things. They did. Each got a solo home run and the Cubs never looked back.

The head scratching began when Maddon made the call to the pen in the seventh for Aroldis Chapman. Why would he call Chapman with the Cubs having such a huge lead?

“I mean, seventh inning there because they came up, the middle of the batting order was coming up — Lindor, Napoli, Ramirez possibly — all that stuff,” Maddon said. “So I thought the game could have been lost right there if we did not take care of it properly.”

So here we are Game 7 tonight. This is the night that every Cubs fan has been waiting for. It’s fitting that Kyle Schwarber will bat probably second. It’s stunning and thrilling that Aroldis Chapman has pitched more than he has in such a long time. He might be tired, he might not. Is he ready?

“One hundred percent,” Chapman said through Cubs translator Mateo Moreno. “Last game? Of course, yes. I’m ready for whatever he asks me. I don’t recall [throwing so many pitches]. It’s only mental. It’s the seventh game, the reason they brought me here.”

Kyle Hendricks gets the start. My favourite player in baseball’s most important game. Baseball’s ERA leader for the season and NLCS hero over the Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw has an opportunity to go into the history books. It’s fitting it should end this way. Whether the Chicago Cubs win or lose tonight makes no difference. They fought back in the World Series to be at this point. Underdogs to the end. That’s the Chicago Cubs way.

“Anybody who plays this game grows up dreaming of winning a World Series,” Kris Bryant said. “You know, we get to play in a Game 7. That’s pretty special.”

We get to watch the Chicago Cubs play in a game 7, that’s pretty special too.

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Cubs Prepare For Greatest Comeback In World Series History

World Series

The Chicago Cubs are in deep. last night, the Cubs fell to the Cleveland Indians 7-2 and have a 3-1 deficit in the World Series. It seemed that for everything the Cubs did, the Indians answered back . That’s October baseball. The real question is, Can the Cubs come back?

“We know we have to win out,” Chicago’s Kris Bryant said. “If we want to get to the last game, we have to win the first one, then the next one. It’s one game at a time, don’t change anything, have fun, smile, just be ourselves.”

He’s partially right. If you’re going to play that cliche, then yeah, it is one game at a time. The good news is that next up is Jon Lester tonight, then Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks. Now is not the time for the Cubs to panic. Within a 24hr period, they’ll have to reconnect with the team that won 103 games and reach down deep and play ball. They can come back in this series. They’ve had 16 three game winning streaks this year. Of course, none of them were against this Cleveland Indians team. Only five teams in World Series history have come back from a 3-1 hole.

1985 Kansas City Royals

1979 Pittsburgh Pirates

1968 Detroit Tigers

1958 New York Yankees

1925 Pittsburgh Pirates

So you see, it’s not impossible. If there is any team in baseball capable of staging the greatest comeback in post season history, it’s these 2016 Chicago Cubs.

Why?

They’ve gotten to know this Cleveland team. Joe Maddon is going to keep things loose in the locker room by not allowing players to report until 90 minutes before the game. Hey, they know what’s at stake and I feel that if they try to do too much at this point, it might throw the equilibrium way off balance.

“They’re all trying to hit a grand slam with nobody on,” Miguel Montero said of the Cubs’ young hitters. “It’s not going to happen. We need to take our walks. We need to be a little bit more patient at the plate. We need to play small ball. … We’re all trying to launch the ball 110 miles per hour off the bat, launch angle, whatever. No, we need to get a freaking ground ball through a hole. As simple as that.”

There you have it. Small ball. Forget Bryant’s home run capabilities, get Dexter Fowler on base, move the runners and perhaps lay down a bunt.  They key is exactly what Montero said. Guys like Javier Baez, Addison Russell and Willson Contreras have to keep the ball on the ground because if the Cubs win tonight, it goes back to Cleveland where the DH rule applies and you know what that means?

Kyle Schwarber is back in the game.

“We have to have a one-game winning streak tomorrow,” manager Joe Maddon said. “And if we do that, I really would be feeling pretty good about going back to Cleveland.”

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Cubs Get Ready For Game One of World Series

Chicago Cubs

Today is the start of a journey that’s been 108 years in the making. The Chicago Cubs are four wins away from ending sport history’s longest drought. Suddenly, everyone is a Cubs fan. There’s also word that injured Babe Ruth lookalike Kyle Schwarber will make his return to the Cubs after missing out the 2016 season due to an injury in April.

“To have another young guy here who has a track record of hitting home runs, who is a threat, who, when you see his name in the lineup, there’s some scariness to that — we can’t wait to have him back,” Chicago’s Addison Russell said. “I’m a big Kyle Schwarber fan. I love what he does; I can’t wait until he gets here.”

He’ll more than likely fill the Designated Hitter role.

Yes, things have gotten a lot more exciting in recent days. The World Series schedule will be jammed and I’ll be lucky enough to get some sleep in the next couple of weeks. With the Cubs in the World Series, it’s easy to overlook some of the odd statistics about the Cubs for example when Dexter Fowler steps up to the plate he’ll become the first African American to play for the Chicago Cubs in a World Series. That’s unbelievable.

“That’s crazy,” Fowler said Monday. “It’s crazy to even think about that, because you look back and you look at your parents, my parents weren’t even alive then. It’s a lifetime. It’s awesome to be the pioneer, the first one.”

Even Schwarber is the Cubs post season home run leader with five. He only played one season!

So, as nerves get steadied, Jon Lester gets the ball tonight 8pm. This is what fans and players have waited their lifetime to be a part of. For the casual baseball fan or observer who is tuning in for the first time wanting to witness history in the making, “Where were you when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series?” This is it. The hardest trophy to win in sports (Yes, even harder than the Stanley Cup my fellow Canucks), two deserving teams locked in a pitcher’s showdown or a batter’s paradise. No World Series has ever been won on Wrigley Field soil, that fabled and mythical place where everything and everyone is friendly.

If you don’t know what’s going through fan’s minds right now, here’s Bill Murray

“I think I cried a little bit.

“There was a feeling … where I just felt the whole building, the whole room, just the relief and the sense of wonder that it was really happening.

“And I just felt for everyone, for every Cub fan and everyone in Chicago that’s been waiting, and all over the world, who have been waiting for this moment.

“I just thought some sort of prayer was being answered.

“It’s exciting. If you don’t know what it’s like to wait your whole life for the team you root for to win, you can’t explain it.

“To root for a team that never won, it’s character building.”

That’s Chicago Cubs baseball.

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