Chicago Cubs Staring History In The Face

Chicago Cubs

Tonight’s game in Cleveland is poignant in many ways. The Chicago Cubs are down in the World Series 3-2. They’re underdogs. Despite having the best record in baseball all season, the Cubs at this point in the season are true underdogs; and they like it.

Yesterday, I pointed out which teams were the ones that came back in their series to go on and win but today, I’m going to tell you exactly how the Chicago Cubs are going to win. Yes, I said win. I am a Cubs fan and even if they lose, they’ll still win.

Why?

There’s always next year.

It would have been nice to win it at Wrigley Field. The Cubs were tied in the series. All they had to do was go back to Wrigley and win three straight. BOOM! done History has been rewritten, Bill Murray gives Joe Maddon the biggest hug he’s ever had and becomes the celebrity spokesman for Kleenex.

Things aren’t that simple in Wrigleyville. Here we are in game 6 at Progressive Field in Cleveland a day after all spirits rose to walk the earth, including curses and dead goats. Tonight, the Cubs have their reigning Cy Young winner on the mound. Who better to stare down batters a day after Halloween than Mr. Fear The Beard himself, Jake Arrieta.

“We know if we lose we go home,” Arrieta said. “We’ve won three in a row many times this year, even more than that.”

Forget about tomorrow, the Cubs concentrate on tonight and get the job done. They know what they have to do. There’s no speech Joe Maddon could give that the players don’t all ready know in the back of their heads.

“Getting back to Cleveland with Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks rested and Kyle Schwarber back in the lineup presents itself differently,” Maddon said. “I think everything changes at that point.”

This is how it’s going to play out. There’ll be no shutouts, no hitters or perfect games. Arrieta’s pitch count will be between 85 to 90 before handing the ball over to Aroldis Chapman. You see, there won’t be an opportunity for set ups because Arrieta will be focused and his pitches will be controlled. He will go 8 1/2 innings of lock down baseball. There you have it.

Under strange circumstances, Schwarber was made for this series. At Progressive Field the Cubs will look to his bat for guidance.

“I don’t know there’s anybody in the league that can do that,” Ben Zobrist said. “It’s really, really difficult to wake up and get out of bed after six months … and be a great hitter like he is.”

Yes, Schwarber will be the home run kid tonight. The bats will be out tonight after been woken up on halloween. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo will contribute and lead this team where no other Chicago Cubs team has been in over 100 years.

“It’ll be nice — especially there,” Anthony Rizzo said of getting Schwarber’s left-handed bat back. “It’s a shorter porch to right. It’ll be warmer. He’ll have good at-bats and he’ll be ready for them.”

Believe it.

 

Cubs Down 1-0 In Series. That’s All Right

World Series

There’s a reason that these two clubs are playing in the most important series in baseball. Both teams are lights out dominant on both sides of the plate. In last night’s 6-0 shocker at the hands of the Cleveland Indians, the Chicago Cubs didn’t look sharp but then again, Corey Kluber is the best ace the Indians have on their roster and he made the Cubs pay a hefty price for those World Series tickets.

“We knew [the Indians’ formula] going in,” Cubs catcher David Ross said about facing Kluber, Miller and Allen, “but I think the moral of the story is we got to see those guys on Day 1. Hopefully, that will pay off later.”

Blubber had eight strikeouts over three innings. When that nasty stuff is thrown over the plate, it will befuddle batters if they haven’t faced it before. Jon Lester looked awkward trying to figure out Cleveland’s batters after a frustrating bottom of the first inning where he walked two batters and loaded the bases that resulted in a 2-0 lead.

“I didn’t throw strikes,” Lester said. “There’s no beating around the bush. It’s not like I all of a sudden forgot how to throw a strike, I just didn’t throw a strike. I didn’t get ahead, didn’t execute pitches. It can’t happen. It’s not acceptable.”

Now, it may seam that I’m harping hard on the Cubs after that game but there were signs that it wasn’t all bad. Ben Zobrist hit into the gap for a double and the return of Kyle Schwarber was welcomed as he was a mere two feet from sending the ball over the wall but instead settled for a double.

“We put really good at-bats up against these guys,” Schwarber said. “We just didn’t come up with the knock when we needed to, but that’s baseball. I can hound myself for not getting a knock against Miller with two guys on, but it’s baseball. You just have to move on to the next day.”

This is game one. There’s no locker room rant or talk that’s going to get them amped up for game two. These guys are here for a reason and if that’s the best that Cleveland’s got, then the Cubs should adapt well in game two. Getting Kluber out of the way was a blessing. The way I look at it, the Cubs started slowly in the NLCS as well. I wouldn’t call this a hole but rather an opportunity for the Cubs to “feel out” the opposition. This is the magic of the World Series. These teams don’t know each other very well and in a way, sends a message regarding Inter-league play and perhaps limiting it.

Tonight, Jake Arrieta gets the call and he has to be focused and sharp. The reigning Cy Young winner will find his control and settle the Cubs down.

“I think what you really learn with the more experience you get in the postseason is the finer details,” Arrieta said. “Controlling the running game, not allowing mental mistakes to — not allowing your opponent to capitalize on your mental mistakes. Because, obviously at this point in the season, the team that makes the fewest mistakes typically wins the ballgames.”

Believe it

Chicago Cubs Advance To NLCS

NLDS Champions

In what will go down as one of the most thrilling playoff games in MLB history, the Chicago Cubs came from behind in the 9th inning to win the NLDS three games to one and a final score of 6-5.

To tell you I was starting to get worried yesterday was an understatement. The Cubs sure didn’t look like that behemoth team that won 103 games during the regular season.Their bats fell silent. Where was Anthony Rizzo or Kris Bryant? No, it was up to David Ross to provide any of the long ball excitement in game #4. I’ll tell you though, I’ve gained so much respect for Javier Baez. He’s been the spark plug for the team providing what Fox analysts described as “Not humanly possible!” stuff by the second baseman. He’ll surely be an MVP candidate this post season.

“He was incredible,” Pedro Strop said. “Javy can do anything. He owned this series. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Baez got the game winning hit in the ninth to put a damper on the Giants series.

John Lackey settled into a groove but it was Matt Moore’s steady workmanlike approach that kept the Cubs at bay. Now, it may sound like I’m heaping so much praise on the Giants but call it what it was, playoff baseball. The Cubs caught a break in the ninth with that rally.

“We’ve had several games that feel like that during the season but when you do it in the postseason, it gives you a whole ‘nother level of confidence late in the game,” said Ben Zobrist, who delivered a key RBI double in the ninth. “Once [Kris Bryant] and [Anthony Rizzo] got on, you kind of felt like, something good is going to happen here. Really, the last two nights, that’s what the Giants have done, they’ve put great at-bats together, rallies together. Tonight was our night.”

That “Something good” was Willson Contreras who crushed a two run single. You could see it on his face and who better to do it than the rookie? A symbolic gesture to the Cub’s Way and the brass in head office who built this team.

The Cubs needed this kind of adversity. I was hoping for a Mets/ Cubs matchup in the NLDS but in hindsight, this was the series that the Cubs needed. They haven’t been tested to this degree all year and the San Francisco Giants taught these young Cubs what playoff baseball is all about. One streak comes to an end but hopefully a new tradition begins and a curse finally brought to rest.

“We don’t quit,” Joe Maddon said. “That’s really what it comes down to. You hear that all the time, everybody says it, but you have to actually live it. And I have to tell you, I’ve seen it so many times from this group. That’s a big part of our philosophy. And I like to keep things simple, and that’s simple. … We just play 27 outs.”

Believe it

Cubs Looking Forward To A Long October

Anthony Rizzo

If there’s one thing we learned in the Chicago Cubs 7-4 loss to the Cincinnati Reds is that Ben Zobrist is on fire. Last night he picked up another home run to make it three in the last couple of days. I think though, the real star of the day was Jon Lester. Even though he didn’t get his 20th win of the season, he proved to be a workhorse and notched his 200th inning pitched, which was his goal from the start of the season. His ERA is 2.44, which will make it tough for this afternoon’s pitcher Kyle Hendricks when it comes to Cy Young voting.

The Cubs will wrap up this magnificent season today knowing that they lived up to expectations. With the potential to finish with 103 wins, this year’s Cubs is one of the best.

“I don’t want to sound like a [jerk] or anything, but we haven’t done anything yet. The 100 wins are great. We’ve had a lot of personal achievements. The big thing for this team is we’re consistent. We show up every day ready to play, and that’s huge, especially with the young group we have. That’s a hard thing to learn at a young age. … What it comes down to, this season isn’t anything unless we do what we showed up in Spring Training to do and win a World Series. The 100 and whatever wins is great, all the personal stuff is great. This is go time now. Now we have to live up to the expectations and the hype.” Lester said.

He’s right. The Cubs do show up ready to play. They’ve stayed relatively healthy through the season and it’ll pay dividends Friday. They’ll have plenty of rest and yesterday’s lineup was probably a glimpse into the lineup for Friday.

“I think we’ve been doing a nice job,” Joe Maddon said. “I’m happy with what we’re doing now. It’s not about this. It’s about four days off (before the first playoff game) — that’s the bigger concern.”

Today is fitting that Kyle Hendricks will end one of the Cubs most historic seasons. Although he won’t see too many innings, it’s symbolic that the he kind of lead the Cubs into the post season.

“Now it’s go time,” Lester said. “This is the real season now. You play 162 to get to now. It’ll be completely different when you step on that field Friday with that crowd. I’m sure it’ll be electric. This is playoff baseball — that’s when it becomes a lot of fun and every pitch is do or die.”

Believe it

 

Cubs’ Ben Zobrist Hits Two Home Runs

Ben Zobrist

This is the final weekend of the 2016 regular season. The Chicago Cubs trounced division rivals, the Cincinnati Reds 7-3. It almost seemed like the Cubs were sending a message to the other playoff bound teams that they’re not going to show any mercy a week from tonight.

Ben Zobrist banged out a couple of homers in the game following some downtime. The results worked.

“Getting a few results, hitting the ball harder, driving the ball a few times in the last week has really helped,” said Zobrist. “Regardless of whether you make the playoffs or not, you want to finish the season strong and try to click on all cylinders at the last game.”

It’s important to finish the season strong because it keeps the engines working. I’m still a little leery about the Cubs getting a week off before the NLDS. I don’t know if that’s too much rest but in Ben Zobrists’s case it worked out well. Look at what he did last year in Kansas City’s run?

“That’s why you want to give them some time down,” Maddon said. “That’s what it can look like. The everyday major league player, people have no idea how difficult that is to do. Plus, he’s 35 years old.”

Maddon’s onto something. Despite high performance training facilities, the baseball season can appear long even though it’s the same length as an NHL season, the difference can be that hockey players play every other night while ball players have to be on just about everyday so when it comes around to October, the body’s going to wind down.

“Sometimes, you just feel like you’re just surviving for parts of the season,” Zobrist said. “The last couple weeks, knowing that we’ve clinched, and knowing some of these games weren’t going to matter all that much, I definitely tried to make a concerted effort to maintain an element of competitiveness and try to have good quality at-bats and not cash anything in. I think everybody in the clubhouse is trying to do that now. I’m consistently making adjustments. You’re going to have to do that in the postseason, too.”

The post season begins Tuesday for the Wild Card teams and it couldn’t come soon enough. The Cubs will begin play next Friday. It’s a new season filled with hopes, dreams and sometimes; heartache. Some people all ready have inside knowledge on the outcome,

Tattoo

While others choose to keep their fingers crossed for fear that a temptation of fate would cause irreparable harm to our great great great grandchildren’s yellowed W Flags.

I’m here to set the record straight on curses. There are none. The 2016 Chicago Cubs team is one of the best in history and someday they’ll be enshrined in upstate New York. They may or may not come out as champions but people will remember this team, this year and the way Joe Maddon and the rest of his Cubs captured the hearts of fans everywhere. There will be poetry written about this team like their last glory years of the early 20th century:

Baseball’s Sad Lexicon

These are the saddest of possible words:
      “Tinker to Evers to Chance.”
Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
      Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
      Making a Giant hit into a double—
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
      “Tinker to Evers to Chance.”
Best of all, people might even forget there’s an election going on.
Believe it

Cubs Say Goodbye To Legendary Vin Scully…At Least Till October

Jon Lester

So here’s the deal. The Chicago Cubs could face the Los Angeles Dodgers in October and man, if the 1-0 loss didn’t get that much more important. Sure, the Cubs are still first place overall and the offensive juggernaut in the MLB, but that doesn’t mean a thing come October and quite frankly, I’m worried.

The game pretty much ended on a miscommunication play from Javier Baez to Ben Zobrist.  It happens, but those kind of miscues aren’t going to fly in the playoffs. It could be the difference between a series victory or, well yeah, you know.

“It’s a tough play and it’s a reaction play and it’s a feel play,” Zobrist said, “but if we communicate ahead of time, he knows right away when he catches the ball, to go to first base with it. He can’t field the blame on himself, it’s everybody out there. It’s myself. I really feel it’s more my responsibility being the older guy out there. He’s still very young and playing all over the place and sometimes we can all get a little lackadaisical with our communication when we’re in those various positions. We have to stay on that and try to do better next time.”

The Dodgers make me nervous. They’ve always done that. We remember the last time these two teams faced each other in the post season and the outcome, right?

I think baseball is so much about communication. From yelling, “Lefty!” and doing the shift to knowing where any of the players traditionally hit to, it’s all about the communication.

“He has as much instinct for the game as anybody I’ve ever been around,” Maddon said of Baez. “He just misread the moment right there. I’d like to believe they’ll communicate in the future so when Zo’s way over, that ball’s hit right there, I know I’ve got to go to first base.”

In fact, I’d go out on a limb to say that you can have the worst ball team in the world but if you communicate, you’ll win games. Of course having the worst ball team means that they’re not communicating in the first place.

On the other hand, the Cubs did play good ball. Jon Lester pitched well and despite the blunder, the game was a showcase for what could be October.

“There’s worse spots to be in — 14 games up in almost September is not a bad spot to be. I thought we played good baseball today. We pitched really well, extremely well. Just a couple mistakes that we’ll learn from, which is good. That’s all you can ask for. I thought we played really, really good baseball. We have to get a guy in from third the last two days — that may have cost us a ‘W’ here or there but that’s baseball.” David Ross said.

Vin Scully

A neat part of the series was being able to hear the immortal Vin Scully broadcast the game. He’s retiring at the end of the season in case you weren’t aware and he’s been doing it for 67 years.

 

“He’s just a different human being,” Joe Maddon said. “I really feel fortunate that I have been able to exchange a handshake and have a photograph. That’s like the window to the world up there when you sit up in his booth and he talks about the purple mountains majesty and how it reminds him of that. You think if you’re watching at home, that’s his perspective and that’s his view that he’s describing for so many years.”

Believe it.

Maybe There’s Something To Cubs’ Superstitions

Kris Bryant

All right, perhaps there’s something to superstitions when it comes to Chicago’s storied baseball team. Last night’s defeat of the Los Angeles Angels 5-1 was their eighth straight victory and their 70th win of the season. Folks, the last time they accomplished 70 wins this fast was 1945-the last time they made it to the World Series.

It’s an amazing turn of events since the All Star Break. The Cubs are 12-4 in interleave play this season. It bodes well for the playoffs. The fact that veteran starter John Lackey is settling in lately, really provides stability in the rotation. Collecting his ninth win of the season, Lackey pitched eight innings giving the bullpen a little break and further lowering the Cubs ERA to 2.58, the best in baseball. What Lackey brings to the North Side is experience, emotion and that winning attitude. When he says he’s here for the jewelry, he means it.

“That’s who he is,” Maddon said. “He’s always been that guy. He’s not going to be out there smiling. He’s going to be upset with umpires. He’s going to be upset with his manager. He’s going to be upset with teammates on occasion. That’s just who he is. And when you know that, it’s OK. You love having him on your team.”

On a young squad, the Cubs need to be told when they’re good and when they’re not so great. Lackey doesn’t mince his words.

“You can’t stifle him,” Ben Zobrist said of his emotional teammate. “He’s definitely got to have some emotion out there. He’s been great. That emotion carries over to the rest of the team too. You have to be on your toes out there. He’s one of the biggest competitors on this team.”

One of the downfalls of being on a stacked team like the Cubs is that sometimes there’s no room for good players and they’re forced out of the lineup. This is the case with Tommy La Stella. La Stella decided to return home than play for Triple A Iowa. This isn’t being a poor sport, I don’t see it that way. In an age where players are traded almost on a yearly basis, guys like La Stella are loyal to their respective clubs.

“We’re trying to understand where he’s coming from, empathize with him, give him his space,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said Tuesday. “He’s 27 years old and dealing with this on a somewhat public stage.”

There’s no question of his worth and he wants to be a part of the Chicago Cubs organization. He’s a good ballplayer and wants to be a part of the Cubs journey to the World Series.

“Everybody that walks through those doors, we’re happy to have them,” right fielder Jason Heyward said. “Especially someone like La Stella, who contributes so much even when he isn’t playing. He’s a guy that spoke up during the game, rooting us on and things like that. Stuff like that is missed. If you see someone like that, who brings that every day, when he comes into the clubhouse, you welcome him back with open arms every time.”

“It’s a reflection of where I am in my life and my career,” La Stella said. “I told them, ‘I know you have a business decision to make.’ I completely understand where they’re coming from. I don’t fault them for making that choice one bit. They’re doing what’s in the best interest of the team. I understand that 100 percent.”

Believe it.