Cubs Wake Sleeping Giants

Chicago Cubs

If there are things that can make a Cubs fan nervous are extra inning games during October. Last night, the Cubs duked it out with the Giants and let me tell you folks, it wasn’t supposed to happen like that. The way it was supposed to happen was the Cubs were supposed to sweep the Giants and take a break before meeting either the Nationals or the Dodgers in the NLCS.

That’s the way it was supposed to happen.

Instead, the Cubs fell to the Giants in extra innings 6-5. After the Cubs had a very shaky 8th inning where the Cubs watched as their 3-2 lead evaporated at the hands of October’s even year darlings. I could tell that things were going to unravel the moment I saw Aroldis Chapman walking to the mound. Six more outs? For a guy that can throw 105MPH, that is really a tough thing to ask of him.

Now, before I harp all over the loss, there were some amazing things that happened. Jake Arrieta was almost his old self and I swear that beard isn’t real. He puts that on before practice and looks at that stare in the mirror. It’s not real folks, but last night proved that fearing the beard is what it’s all about. He got a home run off of Madison Bumgarner that put the Cubs up 3-0. Between Travis Wood and Arrieta, Maddon should move them up to cleanup.

“I just wanted to put a nice, easy swing on it and try and find the barrel,” Arrieta said. “That’s what I was able to do. It put us in a good spot. We had a chance to win the game, but they made some plays and swung the bat really well to turn the tides in their favor.”

Also, there was Albert Almora‘s catch in the bottom of the ninth that secured the extra innings clash. It was a catch of beauty.

Kris Bryant‘s two run home run to send the game into extra innings was huge.The only outcome greater than that would have been if they won. Playoff baseball at it’s best.

“It was a fun [game] to be a part of even though we didn’t win,” Bryant said after the longest game in Cubs’ postseason history. “We gave it all we’ve got. Great at-bats, one through nine, and from our pitchers, too. It was just a great game.”

In the end, he’s right. An amazing game that can be savoured even though the Cubs lost. Although, if they were down two games and still lost, I’m sure us Cubs fans would be singing a different song.

The Cubs and the Giants clash again tonight and the champagne better be chilled.

Believe it.

Cubs Return To Winning Ways

Kyle Hendricks

There’s no place like home. Dorothy was right when she clicked her heels three times and it sent her home sweet home to Kansas. The Cubs are like Dorothy’s tale when they went off to Queens and was faced with adversity only to discover that home is where the heart is.

Yesterday, the Cubs faced division rivals Cincinnati Reds. Sure, the Reds aren’t doing so well but a friend of mine once said that playing a par three makes himself look and feel a lot better about his golf score. In many ways, the Reds are like that golf score.

The Cubs beat them 10-4 and it made them feel a lot better about the drubbing in New York.

“We had a tough stay in New York City, and the Mets played really well against us, and we came out today and got our offense going,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

Kris Bryant leads the National League with his 12th home run of the season but left the game after a collision in the fifth inning with Albert Almora. He left the game with a bruise but is likely to be back today.

“It was my fault, I take full responsibility for that,” Almora said. “I can’t hear anything, and I don’t want to see a ball drop out there. I called it at the end, but it was too late.”

Starter Kyle Hendricks picked up the win, his seventh of the season. In his unassuming old style way of playing, Hendricks picked apart the Reds offence with his command and has now won his last four starts.

“He’s a wonderful, classic example of not having to throw 90 some miles an hour to be effective,” Maddon said. “Furthermore, he’s right-handed. Most of the time, when you get a guy effective in the high 80s to low 90s, he’s normally a left-handed pitcher with a great changeup. It’s not often you see a right-hander doing what he’s doing. Give him credit. He’s been spot on with his command.”

I’m disappointed that my family won’t be able to see Kyle Hendricks pitch on Sunday when we make our trek down to Pittsburgh to see the game. I was crossing my fingers it’d happen but now it seems unlikely he’ll get the start. Here’s hoping we can bump into him before the game.

To me, Hendricks is the most dangerous in the Cubs rotation. Opponents know what to expect when they face the other guys, but Hendricks is different.

“He picks those corners and has a good mix,” shortstop Addison Russell said. “You have a certain plan against Kyle, and he mixes up the plan. He’s got great stuff.”

Believe it.

 

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.

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

Cubs Rookie Mistakes Look Good

Albert Almora

Whether it was the infectious enthusiasm of the 22 year old Willson Contreras or the rivalry between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs last night but there was definitely something different in last night’s 3-2 loss to the Cardinals.

All right, I’m going to add here that the Cubs didn’t really lose as per say because as tight games go, this was one of the best.

I even forgave Albert Almora for trying to move to third base. It was close, the Cubs needed a runner in scoring position(even though Almora was all ready at second) so why not try to go for it. it was, after all in the ninth inning.

“I have no problem with Albert,” Maddon said. “Molina made a really good play, and they made a good tag. I never want to coach the aggressiveness out of that young man. I think he’s been playing great. They made a good play. His judgment might have been impacted by the fact the ball hit the umpire in the foot.”

He’s right, I truly believe that coaching the aggressiveness out of these young players is absolutely the worst thing managers and coaches should do. Yeah, ok they lost last night but come October, those skills that these young guys acquire now will surely come in handy when the temperatures dip and they can barely see the bases through the foggy breath of those third base guys.

“I made an aggressive move and it cost us the game today,”  Almora said. “I feel like I let my team down today. It’s a tough one to swallow.”

Not so fast. Last night, it might have felt he let the team down but the Cubs have two more to win against their rivals. I’ll tell you right now that all that fist pumping and energy from the kids is a great thing. it’s the promise of the premise that Theo Epstein has been preaching to the city of Chicago and us Cubs fans throughout. The team’ll go on learning curves, they might win a whole bunch of games but there’ll be mistakes, bumps in the road and in the end it’ll be worth it.

Contreras threw Matt Carpenter out in the ninth at second. It was awesome to see that and  it was just the beginning. These kids have paid their dues in the minors and they’re fully prepared for the “Show”. It was a beautiful throw.

“That had some hair on it and it was absolutely accurate,” Maddon said. “You look into the crystal ball in the future, and you’ll see a lot more of that. He’s a game changer where the other team won’t go.”

Believe it.

Cubs Prove The Kids Are All Right

Albert Almora

As much as baseball is a team sport, it’s also an individual effort. Last night, Albert Almora Jr. had his moment to shine and go down in Cubs lore with an RBI double. The Cubs rookie broke a 3-3 tie in the ninth and the Cubs went on to edge the Washington Nationals 4-3.

It’s the stuff of of films.

“You try to stay calm for that,” Almora said after the game. “That’s the biggest thing. Knowing I belong and wanting to come through for the guys right there. Just trying to stay calm and do my job.”

In what is probably the biggest series so far against the Nationals, Almora is humble enough to know that it’s not all about him. Even as the other Cubs “new guys” like Kyle Schwarber, who in last year’s playoffs kept his cool under pressure along with Addison Russell and 2015 Rookie of The Year Kris Bryant have all carried themselves well which doesn’t always occur on young teams.

“The guy has been up here for five minutes, and he’s not passive,” Joe Maddon said. “A really interesting game of baseball. The Giants were a team we had to earn our stripes against. The Nationals are the same kind of team.”

He’s not kidding either. Last night was a huge game for the Cubs and like I said yesterday, it could be a potential playoff preview. The other thing that impressed me so much were the Cubs ability to stay focused in the ninth. Of course, a team doesn’t have a record of 44-19 without remaining cool. Another thing to look at is it’s the middle of June and the team has remained strong even through a mild road slump last month and injuries to Jorge Soler and Kyle Schwarber.

“I did it for [John] Lackey,” Almora said. “I did it for [Pedro] Strop, I did it for [Hector] Rondon, for [Travis] Wood, for all those guys. I did it for Ross as well. I could go on and on. I’m trying to be a team guy.”

As the trade deadline approaches, the rumours are heating up about Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller becoming Cubs but as I’ve written here, I remain steadfast in my opposition against Chapman becoming a Cub. It’s not going to be right for the Cub’s Way in the clubhouse no matter how good he is.

The Cub’s bullpen did a fine job last night with Hector Rondon recording 5 outs. They’re still fresh and although they don’t have that 104MPH fastball that Chapman has, they know the team’s chemistry and that’s all that matters.

“I told them, if they want to put me in for three innings, I’m sure I can go,” Rondon said. “I don’t care what inning he puts me in.”

Believe it

Cubs Win Series over Phillies, Lead All Star Voting

John Lackey

There’s no denying the Chicago Cubs pitching staff, they’re awesome. Yesterday’s 8-1 victory and series winner over the Philadelphia Phillies proved that point. John Lackey pitched seven shutout innings giving up only three hits.

“The whole game was set up because John Lackey pitched as well as he did,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “He knows what he’s doing out there. He does different things with hitters to really set them up. … There’s no way to sit on him. He’s very unpredictable and he’s very smart.”

Albert Almora showed why he belongs in The Show after a beautiful throw from his outfield spot to get Odubel Herrera out at home. Later, the rookie singled, driving Anthony Rizzo home and then on the next play, made it home himself.

“Both of them felt really good,” Almora said. “Both were key parts, I felt, to the game. I’m just happy to help the team out.”

It’s not like his presence isn’t being felt either.

“It’s new, so he’s still in that ‘happy-to-be-here’ stage,” Maddon said. “But I just like the way he’s going about his business, in the batter’s box, around the rest of the guys. … He’s going to be a very good Major League baseball player.”

The Cubs are going to be represented well at this year’s All Star Game. Have you voted yet? In fact, the Cubs lead in the infield. It’s going to be an exciting All Star Game if you’re a Cubs fan. What I’d like to see though is a purely stats driven selection process. Us fans are the reason why the MLB keeps going. Not only do I shell out cash for ball caps, MLB.TV and we’re making a road trip to Pittsburgh next month to see the Cubs play but when it comes to All Star voting selection, I would like to leave it to the stats. Now that being said, I just asked if you’ve voted. Maybe only a few fan vote ins in the future.

The Cubs get a day off today before heading to Atlanta to begin a series with the Braves.  Jason Hammel gets the start.

Believe it.