Cubs Mess With Texas

John Lackey

The Cubs lost to the Texas Rangers 4-1 yesterday but they won the series and it’s a huge victory over the American league leading team in wins. The Cubs also learned a valuable lesson in the series; Jason Heyward needs to learn how to hit better. If the Cubs want playoff success, his behind the plate work needs to improve. Whether it’s tweaking his swing or pushing him farther down the order, I don’t know but something needs to improve.

“He’s honestly been, and I’ve said this before, the most unlucky fellow,” Maddon said. “Well-struck balls at people all year. That’s a game changer in that particular moment — line drive right at the first baseman. What else can you possibly do?”

No matter Heyward’s playing, it boiled down to pitching. Cole Hamels was on target, so for the Cubs to take two was a great achievement.

“That’s a really good team,” manager Joe Maddon said of the Rangers. “We won two out of three against a really good team. You had really good pitching, good starting pitching. You look at their lineup, and you look at those names and the numbers and what they’re capable of, and they’re a very good offensive club also. To take two out of three here post-break is pretty impressive. That’s exactly what you’re looking like in the postseason, those kind of teams.”

Just as the Cubs finish the series with the Rangers, they go back into the fire with their nemesis New York Mets, today. They have to win this one. Last year they beat them seven times in the regular season but were stymied in the playoffs. This is a big series and I’d go out on a limb to say it’ll be the biggest of the season.

“I didn’t even know, to be honest, that we were playing the Mets,” Cubs center fielder Albert Almora Jr. said. “It’s another team. … We just have to take care of the next series.”

As the trade deadline ticks closer, the rumours are heating up that Andrew Miller might end up a Cub. He’s heard them too and is even willing to play the outfield should the Cubs sign him just like Travis Wood and Pedro Strop.

“I’m not surprised that (manager) Joe Maddon did it,” Miller said. “It seems like he’s at the center of stuff like that all the time. But it’s pretty cool and shows how athletic pitchers can be, so it’s good to have relievers out there. I think I can probably field OK. The pressure of a game situation might stress me out a little bit, but as long as I don’t have to have any at-bats, I think I’ll be all right.”

Believe it.

 

 

 

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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

Kris Bryant, Addison Russel and Javier Baez sent down.

Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs, baseball

Kris Bryant has to wait a little longer.

There’s a consensus going around that not everyone is excited about the “demotion” of Kris Bryant. I’m in that camp myself and feel his output this spring was exceptional and worthy of a spot on the Opening Day roster. He led the majors this spring in home runs. Does that not qualify?

Yes.

But whatever the reasons, it was a club decision.

“I could be in this game for a long time and not send down three players that talented on the same day ever again,” Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Monday. “Those three are pretty good.”

Along with Bryant, Javier Baez and Addison Russell were sent down. Let’s face it, Javier didn’t look good this spring. There are few people who would disagree that Baez needed plate discipline if he wants to play in the majors, but he needs more work.

As for Addison Russell, well, he just needs more playing time.

“Everybody is conscious of it,” New York Yankees lefty reliever Andrew Miller said, via Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. “Hey, we have a chance to make a lot of money in this game, but the rules are the rules. If that works in the Cubs favor, and the Cubs are a better team for that, they’re entitled to (use the rule to their favor). We negotiated that. It’s the reality of what our collective bargaining agreement says.”

And there you have it. It’s purely a financial thing and to tell you the truth, I would have done the very same thing had I been in Epstein’s shoes.

I mentioned in previous posts about the Cubs having good problems and this is an example of those problems. The team has too much depth.

“Today is a bad day for baseball,” the MLBPA said. “I think we all know that even if Kris Bryant were a combination of the greatest players to play our game, and perhaps he will be before it’s all said and done, the Cubs still would have made the decision they made today. This decision, and other similar decisions made by clubs will be addressed in litigation, bargaining or both.”

But wait you say, Perhaps if this were twenty years ago would the Cubs have made the same decision?

Who knows.

“The only thing Kris did to contribute to the story was play really well, and that’s what we want our players to do,” Epstein said. “No hard feelings at all. Scott was doing his job for his player. He’s an agent, so he has a right to choose how he wants to get his point across. I can just control what I can control.”

Believe it.