Chicago Cubs Turn Things Around On Reds

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The Chicago Cubs finally did it. They beat the Cincinnati Reds 8-7 in a contest that saw them down by five runs going into the fourth inning but then El Mago, Javier Baez, hit a a game tying RBI single and the “Never quit kids” launched their comeback.

“That’s what we do,” Baez said. “That’s what we do, we fight to the end. We’ve been coming back since 2016, we’ve been doing this. We just have to realize who we have in our lineup. It doesn’t matter how many runs we’re down. I think we can do a lot of damage if we turn the page to the next guy.”

I’m not sure if it’s what they do or they’re just a damn good ball club but one thing is for certain that good teams find ways to win and even though the Cubs had a tough April, and yeah, you better believe I was one of those fans that had their doubts about this club,  they’re looking like that team from a couple of years ago.

The downside to the victory occurred when Tyler Chatwood got a big Boo from the crowd, I know that delivering as many walks as he does, it’s bound to take its toll on everyone but man, it’s going to be tough for him to rebound from his shaky season.

“You never want to hear that,” Joe Maddon said. “I understand when the fans get frustrated. When you’re sitting in the dugout and know the guy as well as you do, it’s frustrating to us. He’ll tell you he probably thought he might have deserved it. Heck, I’ve gotten booed taking pitchers out of games, I’ve gotten booed walking out to take a pitcher out of a game. I think it means somebody cares.”

That’s a good way of spinning it, but Chatwood has been less than stellar this season.

So on July 17th, the MLB All Star game happens at National Park in Washington. The pomp and pageantry go along with it but is it time to make it count again? I’m glad it doesn’t count for home field anymore that was ridiculous and we all know the Cubs were robbed in 2016 but I’m a huge fan of the game and if they got away from fan voting and stuck to just picking the players on statistics alone, would that be more relevant? Or what if they just had a couple of players chosen by fans only? One thing is for certain, Javier Baez will be there.

“How could you not have him on the All-Star team? How could you not want him on the All-Star team? That’s what we’re attempting to showcase Major League Baseball-wise to draw young fans into the game are players like Javy. He has mass appeal. People want to see Javy at this game. They see him in the World Baseball Classic and he’s very popular there. I have to believe, I want to believe, he’ll get on that team somehow. You can look at numbers all you want, but that’s what people want to see, they want to see Baez play baseball.” Maddon said.

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Cubs Stymied By Reds

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You have to hand it to the Cubs, they can’t seem to beat the Reds or are the Reds really that good? Yesterday, the Cubs tried desperately to make it seven in a row but fell short in the 3-2 loss.

“You look at the numbers on the stat sheet and they’re pretty good up and down, and the bullpens, too,” Joe Maddon said of the division’s pitching staffs. “[The Reds’] bullpen is a lot better than it had been, Milwaukee, ourselves, etc. The pitching is good in this division. But so is the offense. It’s turned out to be a tough division.

“It’s very strong, which is good. I want that. I want us to play in what’s hopefully considered the best [division] in baseball. That should bring out the best in your players on a nightly basis.”

It does bring out the best in this tight division. It’s also been a tough Wild Card race as well. Going into the break, the Cubs will have to finish strong.

“Look where we’re at — we’re in a good spot and right there. We have what we feel like is the best baseball to be played.” Mike Montgomery said.

He’s right. Although baseball is a peculiar game. Why can’t the Cubs beat the Reds? The Reds could be playing spoiler down the road if the Cubs can’t pick it up.

The real question concerning the break is who the Cubs are going to pick up, if they’re going to get anyone to solidify an all ready potent team?

“You’re always looking to fortify and add a little bit, and you always have Plan B and Plan C in case of injury or bad performance,” Epstein said. “There’s no way we’re going to go out and acquire starters the caliber of a locked-in Kyle Hendricks or a locked-in Jose Quintana. The majority of our answers lie within, that’s for sure.”

The struggle does come from within. I’m confident Hendricks will turn the corner but what about Yu Darvish? His critics are real and perhaps he’s the one who needs to carry the rest of the team on his back?

“I just want him to be well,” Maddon said. “That’s what I talked to him about specifically. ‘It’s not about rushing. Just get back out there. Get back in your routine. Get back in your work. Then, as this plays, we’ll get you back out there. Of course, we want you back sooner rather than later, but if biology’s not going to permit it, it’s not going to permit it.'”

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Reds Sweep Cubs For First Time Since 1983

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Well, that was a disaster now, wasn’t it? Yesterday, the Cubs were swept by the Cincinnati Reds in a game that saw the Cubs with a five run lead heading into the sixth inning, but watched it dwindle and then downright disappear as the Reds went on to beat them 8-6.

The bullpen watched it all go wrong.

“I came in there to stop the bleeding and I wasn’t able to do it,” Pedro Strop said. “All the work my team did before to put those runs up there. … This is a tough one to swallow. Coming down the stretch we weren’t playing well. We lost three games and that one, we should have gotten that one, to start a new rhythm.”

Yes, it’s a tough one to swallow, especially yesterday’s loss.  Jason Heyward drove in two runs and you know, I’m excited for him this year. He’s been playing well and to see the sweep, all his hard work went for nothing really. The Cubs need to regroup as they head out to Los Angeles to face the Dodgers. Do they change their game plan? Will we see Kris Bryant back in the lineup?

“He’s been battling it, but I really felt like giving him [Saturday] off would be fine for today,” manager Joe Maddon said. “I talked to him and [head athletic trainer] P.J. [Mainville] afterwards and it’s still a little ratty — it’s just not right. There’s no sense in pushing that. I don’t think it’s going to be for long. I also thought he might be fine for today, so it’s a day-to-day kind of thing.”

He’s the type of player you’d want to tread lightly with. This loss is the first series sweep by the Reds over the Cubs since 1983. This doesn’t bode well for Chicago’s Northside Heroes.

“We beat the Dodgers two out of three [last week], and we’re the best team since the 1927 Yankees,” Maddon said Sunday morning before the latest loss. “Then Cincinnati beats us for three days, and all of a sudden, it’s doom and gloom. I cannot live my life that way.”

No, that’s the truth. The Cubs have to definitely regroup and figure out what went wrong in Cincinnati because when it’s all said and done, this weekend series will either go on to bite them in the ass or make it’s way to Cooperstown and forever be known as,” Cincinnati Incident”

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Cubs Thought Turkey’s Could Fly

Reds 6, Cubs 3

The Chicago Cubs up and down 2018 season continued last night with a 6-3  loss to the Cincinnati Reds. Let me repeat that; the Cubs lost to the Reds.

The Reds?

The Reds are last place in the Central, 15 games out of the top spot and in no position to contend for the fall classic.

But—

They’re winners of their last 8 out of 10 games and the Cubs got snake bit.

“We haven’t played great here,” manager Joe Maddon said. “We’ve played two of our least impressive games in about a month. It’s just not been us playing our typical game. We grab a lot of energy off our defense; we needed to grab some off our offense. If we start hitting, we’ll start doing what we’re supposed to do. We’ve got to be more consistent at the plate.”

Or is it something else entirely when it comes to the Big Red Machine? I mean Anthony Rizzo failed to tag a player during a rundown. He tapped him on the head and the ball dropped from his glove.

Weird.

It seemed nobody was on their game last night except Kyle Schwarber who banged out a two run home run in the fourth to give the Cubs the lead and add to his home run total of the season.

“Schwarber’s getting different — he’s getting different in a good way,” Maddon said. “He’s handling the ball up in the zone a lot better. He’s not missing it. He’s looked really good.”

Perhaps Schwarber’s hitting his stride or perhaps it’s the hometown crowd but I maintain that the “Sultan of Schwarb” will continue to improve his game or perhaps his eerie resemblance to the Bambino will have even more great things down the road?

“I still want to be able to string some things together,” Schwarber said. “Obviously, I put a good swing on the ball today. I want to be able to still go up there and have good at-bats and put up a quality at-bat. I want to work the at-bat and get my pitch, and when I do get my pitch, drive it.”

So, the Cubs haven’t been playing well in Cincinnati and have fallen two back of the surging Brewers, will they find their mojo today when Luke Farrell makes his first start of the season today. I mean, nobody wants to lose a series to the Reds.

Right?

“One pitch just changed the game,” Jose Quintana said. “It was a battle. We needed this game.”

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Darvish Gets First Win As Cub

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Yu Darvish got his first win as a Chicago Cub. In the weirdest division in baseball, the Cubs are 1.5 games back of leader Milwaukee. Of course, it’s a three way tie. That’s just the Cubs way. Darvish’s win was music to Joe Maddon’s ears. The Cubs beat the Reds 6-1

“The difference [with Darvish] was, after the first inning, he really started to gain command of his fastball,” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon. “Then the slider becomes even more difficult. If he was in a different spot in the batting order, I probably would have let him go back out for the seventh. … My take on him is when he gets into a rhythm out there, it’s almost like he stops thinking and just starts pitching.”

My thinking is maybe he should stop thinking more often.

JK Yu

After a harrowing incident walking the pitcher, Anthony Rizzo went to calm him down.

“I was trying to calm myself, letting the frustration come out,” Darvish said through his interpreter about that moment. “I was thinking of saying something out loud, to get it out of my system, and Rizzo came over and said the same thing, ‘You look very frustrated. Let’s keep it together.'”

While we’re on the subject of firsts, the Cubs hit back to back home runs for the first time this season. Also, yesterday’s game was the first time that Kyle Schwarber was ejected. He argued a call that he thought should have gone the other way.

“I flipped my bat and said it was high, and I said a choice word in there,” Schwarber explained. “I don’t want to show him up. I wasn’t looking at him. And then he just threw me out, and that’s when I kind of lost it, because I didn’t think that ejection was necessary.”

So, as a “Glass Half Full” kind of guy, now that Darvish has his first win under his belt, the Cubs are looking up. They have an off day today before a series with Cleveland on Tuesday. If Darvish keeps winning, then there’s only one way up.

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Cubs Get Divine Intervention In Cincy

Folks, this could very well be a blessing in disguise for the Chicago Cubs. The rain out quite possibly just saved their bullpen. When a lot of people were enjoying cooked ham and family, the Cubs were revelling in two extra inning games to kick off the 2018 season.

That’s not a great way to start the season now is it?

“We’ll stay in line,” Maddon said prior to the game. “We’re looking for an off-day to get the bullpen right, so we’re counting on that being tomorrow. That’s my bigger concern.”

I like Maddon’s thinking, it’s hard not to when he’s got that kind of resume. Stay the course on the mound, cause we know that outside of Darvish’s not so incredible debut in a Cubs’ uniform, the rotation has been quite solid.

Maddon’s going to give Zobrist a chance in the leadoff tomorrow in Milwaukee with Ian Happ expected to resume his spot at the top of the order by the Cubs home Opener on Monday.

“This team’s going to be just fine, offense is going to be just fine,” said Happ. “There are a lot of really good hitters. Not everybody’s meshing right now. Not everybody’s swinging it well. We will get to the point where everything clicks. We’ll see some big numbers. It’s just a matter of time.”

We all know from the past what happens when the Cubs get rollin?

So, speaking of the home opener, what’s on the menu at your party? We’re thinking of sausages with all the peppers and onions maybe picking up some Goose Island and airing out the barbecue. Yeah, that sounds awesome.

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Cubs In Tough Spot After Loss To Reds

Reds 1, Cubs 0

If Managers pushed panic buttons this early in the season, then there might not always be great teams down the road. The other reminder that I keep telling myself is that the season is nearly a week old, but man, the Cincinnati Reds? The Cubs lost 1-0 and have struck out 58 times this season, that my friends is a National League record.

Not good, but April has only just begun.

“We’re not going to ride the rollercoaster as hard as everyone else outside,” Anthony Rizzo said. “We have a good group. If you look at back of the bubblegum card, it kind of speaks for itself. The more you get in those situations, the better off you are.”

I do look at baseball cards, love em and my Kyle Hendricks rookie card sits proudly on display down in the man cave. Numbers don’t lie and striking out 58 times is not a good thing when the season isn’t a week old. I know, I know I just said that but it kind of needs repeating. The old adage of leaving scorers on base and of course, not hitting is probably the main reason why teams don’t always make the playoffs.

“Contact,” hitting coach Chili Davis said afterward with a half-smile. “We’d like to see a lot of good contact. There’s some guys, you’re not just going to turn them into contact-type hitters. I don’t want them to lose their aggressiveness at the plate. We have too good of hitters for me to panic at all.”

He’s right and Anthony Rizzo is right. Ahem, Kyle Schwarber? These guys are decent hitters, if not some of the best in the game; so who knows what the problem is this early in the season?

“I’ve talked about it for how many years now?” manager Joe Maddon asked rhetorically. “We have struck out a lot. It has been exacerbated by the 17-inning game but we have struck out a lot. We have to do better. We have to move the baseball. We talked about it all camp. We talked about it the last two years. I believe that we will, but right now, we’re not.”

There’s those pesky late inning games last weekend that tore the exhaust pipe off of the Cubs, so it’s no wonder that they’re out of sorts.

‘‘We’ve been shut out pretty much three out of six games,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘We’re going to hit. We’re a very good offensive club. It’s just what’s going on right now. I’m not going to make any excuses. We should have done better, but we’re going to do better.’’

They will. They’re going to get better, if there’s any team that has the talent to turn things around, it’s these Cubs.

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Cubs Cruise To 9-0 Win Over Reds

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So the Chicago Cubs are in the post season and today is the last day of the 2016 campaign. Yesterday, the Cubs defeated the Cincinnati Reds 9-0 in what really amounted to a practice against the Washington Nationals.

One thing that I have to understand is Kyle Schwarber. Earlier in the season I suggested that he might be on the trade block (or should be really) but here it is in late September and Schwarber cranks out his 30th dinger of the season.

“Having been sent down during the course of the season, things not going his way, give the guy high marks for perseverance,” Joe Maddon said. “I think overall, the year has been very successful for him. It’s not easy being sent back after all the success he had. I think maybe my expectations I portrayed were too high, and I should’ve considered that he did not play at all last year.”

Again though, I think what he did in last year’s run was phenomenal and probably caught everyone, including myself off guard. He was sent down to the minors for a tune up but as we know, has rebounded nicely since his return.

“This is my favorite time of the year,” Schwarber said. “This is when things come to the nitty-gritty. This brings out the best in everyone. You saw when we were playing Milwaukee and St. Louis, those were some hard-fought games. It was a playoff atmosphere. We’re going to be going into Washington, and it’s going to be some hard-fought games, two really good pitching staffs going at it, and two really good offenses and defenses and good bullpens. You’re going to be in for a grinder series, and it’ll be fun.”

So the Cubs haven’t decided who will start game one of the NLDS. Will it be Kyle Hendricks or Jon Lester? As much as I like Hendricks, I’m going to give the nod to Lester on this one. He’s got the experience all though he’s been playing a little off recently, he’ll rebound into the true playoff performer he is.

“I don’t make those decisions,” Lester said. “If they chose to make me Game 1, that’s a huge honor, huge responsibility to put on your shoulders and go out there and try to get your team off to the best start. If I’m in any of the other games, I’ll go out and compete just like I would any other start.”

The Cubs will have their hands full with the Nationals.  The North Siders are on a roll but the Nationals will give them all they can handle.

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Cubs Winning Streak Continues

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The phrase, “Turn at the right time” is synonymous throughout the sporting world. It’s a term associated to a team or a player that does all the right things going down the stretch of the regular season. You can attach that phrase to the Cubs but the only caveat being they’re playing teams that are struggling more than the Cubs.

Does it count?

In last night’s 9-3 massacre of the Cincinnati Reds, the Cubs extended their winning streak to five games. With home run contributions from Kyle Schwarber and Tommy La Stella, the Cubs are doing all the right things at the right time, if you wanted to through cliches around.

“You can struggle in the second half or you can learn from your mistakes and get better,” winning pitcher Mike Montgomery said after the Cubs moved 11 games over .500 for the first time this season. “Now it’s all about getting into the playoffs. We’re completely over last year.”

Hey Mike, I was over last year in April. All right, I still get a little choked up every time I see this:

 

What got me is that there is no other team in professional sports that triggers emotions quite like the Cubs. Their championship brought a nation together in a common unspoken bond. There were nods as we passed people on the streets, a few fist bumps and the, “I was rooting’ for your Cubbies”

Yeah Mike, I’ve put last year behind me too.

This weekend is Player’s Weekend. It’s a weekend where players across the league can have a little fun and celebrate everything that is awesome with the game that is woven in a nation’s fabric. There will be tributes from players to those that helped them throughout their careers and they’ll wear funky jerseys displaying nicknames such as “Cutch” , “Joey Bats” and “KB”. With all the excitement, I’m disappointed that Kyle Hendricks will be wearing “Hendo” as his nickname. I figured it might be “Prof” or Professor but seeing that these nicknames are representing the Little League spirit, I can see why they chose “Hendo”

“The fans will get to know more about you this way,” Javier Baez said. “They can find out why or how you got the name. I’m sure it’ll be a fun weekend.”

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Cubs Roar Back To Defeat Reds

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The Cubs are on a streak. Yes, they’re having a four game winning streak after their 13-9 take down of the Cincinnati Reds but their post all star break record is 23-12. Not too bad especially being their mantra has been to find ways to win. It’s especially convincing.

Even after Ben Zobrist was late to the party and having to rent a car to get to Cincinnati but when Zobrist showed up, man, he showed up.

“I should have been here a lot earlier,” Zobrist said, managing a half-smile after the game. “I was told I make enough money and should have booked a [private jet], which is probably true, but I guess I’m cheap. I learned my lesson.”

In fact, it was such an unusual game that Anthony Rizzo played third after Kris Bryant injured his wrist after an errant pitch.

“He’ll put that on his Twitter bio: Third baseman,”Kris Bryant said.

The Cubs are back to playing Cubs baseball, loose, fun and precise. This is the time of year when teams that don’t stand a chance in the standings, their home park is an empty mess. It’s so empty that like last night in Cincinnati, you could hear the ball echoing off of the seats after each home run.

No, the Cubs are in great shape heading into the final push for the playoffs. After the Reds, it’s the Phillies with a season ending playing their division rivals who will be very difficult to overcome. The National League Central has been such a tight race this year that a Cubs spot in the playoffs might not seem solidified.

In reality, the Cubs are pacing for an 87 win season. We all know that predictions and stats don’t necessarily mean a thing when it comes to the sport. Anything can happen and the Los Angeles Dodgers, despite owning a record of 89-35, can still collapse in the post season. It’d be nice to have the Cubs dominate again this year, but that’s not reality. Guys like Zobrist are just hitting their stride at the right time.

“I keep telling him, ‘I wanted to keep you rested for this time of the year. This is your time coming up, September/October,'” Maddon said. “This is his time of the year. He’s trending properly right now. Even if he’s not hitting, he’ll accept his walk for the next hitter. Putting him in the middle, he’s surrounded by guys that will drive him in.”

He’s the reigning World Series MVP and that has to count for something, right?

“I think the best of my season is ahead of me,” he said. “I have been feeling a lot better, so I’ve been doing a lot more work in the cage and stuff that I hope starts showing up on the field a little more. It’s been coming.”

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