Cubs Treat Castro Like a Starlin

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs were one out away from winning the ballgame. It was a game celebrating the contributions of Starlin Castro and the presentation of the rings to Aroldis Chapman and Adam Warren but like I said, the Cubs were one out away from sealing the deal. Instead, the Cubs lost in the ninth to the Yankees 3-2 off a home run by Brett Gardner.

“We were short in the bullpen,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “That was [Rondon’s] game. From the side, it looked like really good stuff. It’s an unfortunate choice where he threw it. That’s probably the only pitch that Gardner could’ve hit out, and we gave it to him, and that’s what happens in our game sometimes. Otherwise, I thought he had a good fastball and made some good pitches.”

If there ever was a game that got away from the Cubs, it was yesterday afternoon’s heartbreaker. Kyle Hendricks pitched a beauty of a game going scoreless after five innings. It was the kind of game Hendricks needed in order to get back on track after a slow April lowering his ERA to 3.51

On the other side of the ball, Jason Heyward turned a couple of double plays in the first inning and the sixth inning. Heyward is one of the elite players in the league with the glove.

“You try to do what you can,” Heyward said. “You try to be in the right spot at the right time, and expect the worst out there.”

But the day belonged to Starlin Castro. A standing ovation and a chance to honour the shortstop that ushered in the new generation of Cubs players. Sure, he might not have won the World Series with the club, but his contributions (sometimes gaffes) cannot be denied.

“I think it’s a really emotional day for me to come back here, to play against the team that gave me my first opportunity to be a baseball player,” Castro said. “I feel happy to get here and compete against them.”

Castro has blossomed with the Yankees. That makes me feel good because I remember that home run he got at his first At Bat all those years ago. He’s a true example of a player that just didn’t fit into a team’s plans.

“I’m a big Starlin fan and really enjoyed our time together,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “I was really impressed with him based on how he was so accountable. I love that in any player, any human being. When we took him out of the shortstop role without any specifics, he didn’t cry, didn’t blame anybody.”

Not putting the blame on anybody has put Starlin Castro in a tie with Mike Trout for most hits in the American League.

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Cubs Force Game Six in Thrilling Win

Wrigley Field

There’s no denying that Joe Maddon is baseball’s most creative manager out there, but last night at Wrigley Field, with the Chicago Cubs down 3-1 in the series, he pulled the most creative stunt to date; Aroldis Chapman‘s entry into the seventh inning. The creativity worked. Eight outs later, and the Cubs defeated the Cleveland Indians 3-2 and force a game 6 in Cleveland.

“That was our best opportunity,” Maddon explained. “I thought right now, based on the bullpen usage recently, he’s actually kind of fresh. He hasn’t been overused in the last part of this season nor throughout the playoffs. So, again, with him, like a lot of relief pitchers, late-inning relief pitchers, you want to talk in advance of the moment. We did. So he was definitely aware of what may happen tonight.”

I’ve always thought of Chapman as a three out pitcher as we’ve witnessed earlier in the postseason. He has a tendency to get into trouble if he’s stretched out for at least six outs.

“I always appreciate it if they let me know that I’m going to pitch more than the ninth inning,” Chapman said. “I physically prepared myself to come in as early as possible.”

The Cubs are facing elimination. It sucks, but there’s no use in sugar coating it. The big bats have to come out and in the fourth inning they did. Kris Bryant led off with a home run and the faithful at Wrigley roared. Anthony Rizzo didn’t want to be out done by his Cub  brother and connected with a double one At Bat later. Addison Russell launched a single and then, in his final Wrigley Field appearance, David Ross sacrificed a fly ball in order to get the  three runs in. Jon Lester was brilliant through six innings.

“It’s a grind,” said Lester, who threw 90 pitches allowing two runs and four hits while walking none and striking out five. “I mean, that’s what postseason … that’s what makes it fun at the same time.”

That’s what they pay him the big bucks for.

“There’s not a crazy sense of urgency, but certainly we want to get some runs there so that they’re not going to go to [Andrew] Miller and Allen with the lead,” Bryant said. “For me, I wasn’t going out there trying to hit a homer or anything like that. It was, ‘Have a good at-bat,’ and it’s nice that it went over the fence. Obviously, I haven’t been swinging the bat too great, but it was nice to kind of get one to kind of help us all out.”

So there you have it. The Cubs are sort of back in the series, although I’m hesitant to say that facing elimination. They go back to Cleveland tomorrow with Jake Arrieta on the mound and the DH rule in effect. I think normally this wouldn’t fare in the Cubs favour but with the way Kyle Schwarber‘s been swinging, it could be the series changer. The Cubs were down in their series against Los Angeles and look how that turned out?  The Cubs are in good shape. They’re two wins away and I’m confident that if they win Tuesday, they’ve got the series.

“From an entertainment perspective, if you’re a baseball fan or looking to become a baseball fan, it was wonderful tonight, outstanding. But I like to believe we’re going to catch or gain some momentum from this game going back over there.”

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Chicago Cubs. We Believe.

Chicago Cubs

The Chicago Cubs have been in this position before. A 3-2 NLCS series lead. That was thirteen years ago and we know the outcome. There was blame put on this poor guy so unjustly criticized for hoping to catch a souvenir, instead catching hell and shame.

Tonight is different. The Cubs have earned this right to be here. They finished the season with the best record in baseball, fought back from adversity in this NLCS and now they can entertain the thought of advancing to their first World Series appearance since 1945.

Baseball fans across the world will be tuned in tonight, holding their breaths, praying for hope. This game will beat you up, staying up well past bedtimes and coming into work as if you’ve caught the red eye from Los Angeles back home to Sweet Chicago.

Celebrities can crash White House briefings all they want declaring their love for Chicago’s North Side darlings but in the end, once 8PM eastern hits, it’ll be Kyle Hendricks on the mound in front of 48 000+ faithful who will have his back because baseball is a lonely game. There’s only one player on one base at one time. One batter facing one pitcher waiting for a 90MPH piece of rubber and leather to come hurling towards him like a planet expecting a meteor to change history.

2016 could go down as one of the strangest years in history. Donald Trump could be President of the United States of America and the Chicago Cubs might be World Series Champions. I’ll let you digest that for a moment.

“Don’t anyone tell you that it’s just a game.” few truer words have been sung. Yesterday morning I tried to wake my son up for school, he’s six years old and getting up at 7AM is hard sometimes when it doesn’t require cartoons and Shreddies. I whispered in his ear,

“The Cubs won.”

He raised one finger, his eyes still closed, “One win away.” then he went back to sleep.

Tonight, the Chicago Cubs can punch their tickets to the World Series. In order to do that they must play like kids. No pretence, no knowledge that the pitcher they’re facing is the best in the world. Pure sandlot ball. The belief that when that ball connects with maple, it’s going to go far. There’s no other pitcher I’d rather have on the mound than Kyle Hendricks. He’s earned the start.  He’ll need to go deep into the game allowing Aroldis Chapman to do his thing. That’s it.

You see, the Chicago Cubs have escalated into something more than a baseball team. If they win tonight and advance to the World Series, it’ll mean that everything we teach to our children will be true. If they believe in something, it’ll happen.

Wrigley Field is a place like no other. We all can’t be there tonight but for those who haven’t been there, like Vedder said, “I’m sorry for you” the smells of freshly cut grass, hot dogs and sticky beer. The sounds of Pop! as baseballs get tucked into gloves and the sun’s heat,  the comfort food of the soul.

Ernie Banks knew it. Ron Santo believed it. Eddie Vedder is right.

We’re going all the way

Tonight, “Let’s Play Two”

Believe it.

 

 

 

Cubs Take NLCS Lead, One Win From Destiny

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs are one win away from a place they haven’t been since 1945, the World Series. Last night, Jon Lester and the rest of the Cubs shut down the Los Angeles Dodgers with an 8-4 victory to take a 3-2 series lead. The stage is set for a sixth game showdown between regular season ERA leader Kyle Hendricks and three time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw at Wrigley Field on Saturday.

“To go back home with the advantage is really important,” Ben Zobrist said of the Cubs’ 3-2 lead in the series. “You have to feel good about our chances against Kershaw on Saturday. We like our chances.”

The Cubs bats have figured out the Dodgers’ pitchers at the right time. Addison Russell was the hero last night after hitting a two run home run to give the Cubs a 3-1 lead in the sixth inning. This is a young team that love to hit.

“Right there, that situation, just trying not to do too much,” Russell said. “I was just trying to find some gaps. I was looking for something up in the zone to drive. First pitch slider a little bit low. Second pitch was a slider, but it was elevated and I put the barrel on it, and it kind of went. But just rounding the bases, it was pretty exciting. Pumped up. Not only for myself, but for the team, and that little cushion that Jonny had to go forward from that, and I felt really good.”

It energized the team and dialled in Jon Lester’s seven innings of pitching. That’s what the Cubs needed was deep pitching to give their bullpen a rest.

What this all means now is that the Cubs have today off before going to Wrigley Field, back home where no World Series championship has ever been won and face the league’s most dominant pitcher. This weekend could very well be the most exciting weekend baseball has ever seen. Will Bill Murray be in attendance should the Cubs extend till Sunday?

There’s a few question marks going into the weekend. Jason Heyward needs to move down in the order. Heck, I’d put David Ross in front of him. He should not hit behind Addison Russell. Pedro Strop should not be used. Finally, Aroldis Chapman looked human in the ninth giving up two runs.

This is a different ball team going into Saturday’s classic. Things have changed since the last time they faced Kershaw. If Kyle Hendricks puts the ball where he wants it, then the Cubs should get the pennant.

“Obviously, [this] feels good,” Joe Maddon said Thursday night. “You’d much rather go home under those circumstances than any other, and you want to get it done as quickly as possible. It’s going to be a formidable event. Our guys will absolutely be ready for the moment, I promise you that. It’s great. The city of Chicago has got to be buzzing pretty much right now.”

Believe it.

 

 

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 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 Won’t Break Curse If They Sign Chapman

Jason Heyward

The Cubs are off to their second best start in team history after a 6-0 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. It also seems that Wrigley Field is becoming more of the place where good things happen for the Cubs. Their record at home is a fantastic 21-7.

What’s impressing me so much this year is the pitching of John Lackey. At first I wasn’t sure if he’d fit into the rotation being an older pitcher but man, what a job he’s been doing. Yesterday was no exception. He pitched shutout baseball for 6 2/3 innings.

“I take a lot of pride in being somebody you can count on, somebody who takes the ball and somebody who goes deep into games and somebody who you know what you’re going to get.” Lackey said.

We all know that the Chicago Cubs have been marred by a history of curses,

Black Cats

Chicago Cubs

and just plain old WTF’s but this season is different. There’s a hint of respectability and a transition from the “Lovable Losers” to potential World Series Champions. Having the worst drought in professional sports history is a huge albatross to hang around the neck so without possibly hurting the cause, I’m going to that place where few Cubs fans fear to go;

Are the 2016 Chicago Cubs the best team in history?

  • They are on pace to win 111 games.
  • They are leading in All Star Voting
  • They have a Cy Young winner in Jake Arrieta
  • 2015 NL Manager of The Year in Joe Maddon
  • 2015 NL Rookie of The Year in Kris Bryant

The odds of winning the World Series are in their favour. So, I’m not jinxing anything here by posing this next question.

Should the Cubs sign Aroldis Chapman at the deadline? There’s a rumour about it.

Listen, I’m not a big fan of guys like Chapman who do bad things.  The integrity of the game lies in the fact that players come to the games and compete well and off the field are great human beings. There’s no denying that Chapman has pedigree being the hardest hurler in the majors. I don’t think there’s a place for him in the clubhouse, just my gut talking but there might be some bad mojo happening should the Cubs pursue him.

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