Rusin Shuts Out Cardinals

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It may be late in the season and the Cubs don’t really have anything to play for but spots on the team for next year. If that’s the case, then Chris Rusin is making a strong case for himself as the Chicago Cubs handed the St. Louis Cardinals a 3-0 victory last night.

“His ball can move so much that he can get swings and misses at some balls that are quite a ways out of the zone,” Dale Sveum said. “But he makes the ball move. He keeps the ball down.”

Chris Rusin pitched six shutout innings and was the first Cubs pitcher to achieve that feat in St. Louis going way back to 1979 when Ken Holtzman went seven innings.

Junior Lake will most likely continue to be in a Cubs uniform next year, but his late season heroics have provided Cubs fans with something to believe in. It could be next year or the year after that but last night, Lake came through in the seventh inning to drive Wellington Castillo home. Later on it was Anthony Rizzo’s turn to bring Darwin Barney and Junior Lake home with the score.

This is the area that the Cubs have struggled with all season long. Maybe they don’t have the pressure this late in the season and it’s practice, but RISP is what winning teams can do. It’s always a great matchup when the Cubs play the Cardinals and the games usually mean something even when they don’t.

The Wild Card is out of reach but do the Cubs still have a chance to make it to .500? Their record is 51-64. It’s a long shot and the season is quickly fading away, but perhaps one last miracle shot at respectability?

“As a team, we can definitely get better, myself as well,” Anthony Rizzo said. “But we got to keep giving ourselves the situations.”

They still have plenty of time to practice up for next season. Carlos Villanueva gets the start tonight. Game time is 7:15 eastern.

–Mark

Donnie Murphy Powers The Cubs to Win Over Phillies

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What a night it was for Chicago Cubs’ newcomer, Donnie Murphy. Last night, Murphy banged two home runs into the stands as the Cubs downed the Phillies 5-2.

“I was just thinking base hit right there,” Murphy said of his ninth inning at-bat in a 2-2 tie. “But in a count 3-1, he didn’t want to put another guy on. I faced him [Tuesday] night. Thankfully, I knew he had a little giddy-up on his fastball.”

This was Murphy’s third home run since Sunday since being called up from Triple A.

Players like Murphy and Junior Lake continue to show the strength of the Cubs’ farm system and Triple A. The team’s chances of a wild card spot are all but gone, so to see the stellar play of these guys this late in the season is encouraging to the Cubs’ faithful.

“Each time I get called up, I’m not as nervous anymore,” said Murphy.

Cubs catcher Dioner Navarro was taken off of the field after a collision with Chase Utley. He’s listed as day to day.

“I don’t think anything was wrong or anything,” Dale Sveum said. “He was blocking the plate, guys have the right to do that. That’s what you want your guys to do, to do everything they can to get home plate.”

It was a convincing win and in light of the current PED scandals going on, it was good to see an “Old Fashioned” win the hard way. Grinding it out and sticking to it late in the game.

The Cubs look to continue their winning ways when Jeff Samardzija faces Ethan Martin. Game Time is 1:05 eastern.

—Mark

Cubs Lose 1-0 To The Dodgers

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As the one run losses pile up, the Chicago Cubs are glad to be past those surging Dodgers. Yesterday, the Cubs fell to the Dodgers 1-0.

A main problem with the Cubs this season is to win these close games despite playing decent ball. I think it would be different if in the majority of these games, the Cubs turned them into ,”The Cub Follies” but for the most part, I’ve enjoyed watching these guys compete every game.

“Obviously we want to bring our fans at Wrigley wins,” pitcher Carlos Villanueva said. “We get the fan support, and coming from other teams that I have been on … the fans don’t really come out like here. It’s a special thing. You feel the fans behind you and you feel them rallying behind you.”

Maybe that’s the problem as well. Fan support can only go so far. We’d like to see some wins put up too. I’d be foolish to think that players coming into Chicago believe that because of the Cubs rich history that it’s all about, “The Lovable Losers” title that’s been woefully attached to this club. Every guy who puts on the Cubs uniform believes that they can win.

This year has been great for watching the team. It’s a turning point for the team and seeing the young guys like Junior Lake and now Logan Watkins. There’s no other way to put it, I’m stoked for their future.

Right now though, it’s those one run games they must win.

“We didn’t have a whole lot going on [offensively], but that was obviously a chance, bases loaded with one out, and we didn’t get the job done again,” Dale Sveum said. ” … We got shut out three times in seven games at home. We scored two in another one. So it’s very difficult, obviously, to win unless you’re scoring runs.”

The Cubs will enjoy a break before heading to Philadelphia to take on the Phillies tomorrow. Edwin Jackson gets the start. Game time is 7:05 eastern.

—Mark

Cubs Run Into The Artful Dodgers

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Will Jeff Samardzija stay or go? This is a tough question and it’s got to play on the Shark’s mind. Yesterday, the Cubs took it on the chin as the too good to be true Los Angeles Dodgers handed the Cubs a 3-0 loss. The Dodgers are this years Cinderella team, well, sort of. We knew they were going to be good but they didn’t get into gear until about a month ago.

“That’s what happens when you’re hot and have the kind of pitching they have, and bullpen,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “And obviously two (hitters Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez) who are super hot over the last month. And you mix in the other pieces and you have a pretty nice combination.”

Runners in Scoring Position continued to plague the Cubs yesterday but to be fair to the Cubs, the Dodgers are on the verge of greatness. Is Yasiel Puig capturing lightning in a bottle or is he the real thing?

“You’ve got to give a little credit to their lineup, too,” Jeff Samardzija said. “You can’t go in there just throwing the ball right down the middle; they’re going to make you pay for it. There were times where I was trying to be a little too fine, but that was intentional.”

Wellington Castillo had a great chance in the eighth inning with the bases loaded and a full count but it wasn’t to be.

So with contract talks and lineup shuffles, the Cubs are doing all the right things and all that’s left is to capitalize when runner’s are on base. I think they can do it.

The Cubs try to wrap up the series and salvage a win today when Carlos “The Villan” Villanueva gets the ball. Game time is 2:20 eastern.

–Mark

Cubs Jump Into The Lake

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Ok, so it didn’t go as planned. Yesterday, the Chicago Cubs fell to the Los Angeles Dodgers, 6-2. It wasn’t pretty and although 2013 All Star Travis Wood was on the mound, it was his worst start of the season.

Sure, not so long in the past, the Cubs and the Dodgers shared the same record, but this isn’t a few weeks ago and this is the Dodgers who signed every freakin’ player with a batting average over .300 during the off season.

The Dodgers chased Wood after four innings.

“You can’t have five walks, especially with the team they are over there,” Wood said.

So, the Cubs had a rough outing against the Dodgers and Travis Wood, well, wasn’t Travis Wood yesterday, but things weren’t so bad for the Cubs yesterday. Let’s talk about Junior Lake.

I’m sure there; are tons of Cubs fans out there jumping into the Lake. See what I did there? Instead of saying, “Jumping on the band wagon, I switched it and said Lake.” I got a million of them.

There’s a great reason why we should all be “Jumping into the Lake”

Junior Lake got four hits yesterday and not since Wrigley Field was a toddler way back in 1916 has a Cubs player got two four hit games in less than twenty games. Is that incredible?

“I feel so good,” Lake said through a translator. “I see the results of [the work] I do before the game, pregame. Again, I feel so great [about that].”

“I told Dale when he came up here, ‘He’s going to do things on the baseball field you haven’t seen before — both good and bad — until he fully develops and matures,'” Theo Epstein said on Friday. “But it’s going to be fun to watch and it’s great to see this ball of clay being formed before your eyes.”

The Cubs will continue to see that ball of clay form as Junior Lake and the Cubs try to stop the Dodger Express today. Jeff Samardzija gets the call to the mound. Game time is 4:05pm

—Mark

Cubs Seeing Double

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Double Headers are tough to swallow. Yesterday, the Cubs lost 6-5 in the first game and 3-2 in the second game. There was a play late in the second game that kinda frustrated me as well as just about every Cubs fan across the land. It was Starlin Castro’s dropped ball that could have potentially saved the game for the Cubs. With the two losses, the Cubs record in one run games stands at 15-30 in National league Central games.

“Castro made an effort, and the ball didn’t stay in his glove,” Dale Sveum said.

I’ll tell you how it could have stayed in his glove, Starlin should have been in front of the ball. Ah well, today’s a new day.

It’s these one run games that the Cubs need to win. Let me tell you, the blown save in the second game could have been the fault of crappy work of the umpire. There should have been some strikes there, Ump! David Dejesus hit what I think is one of the finest singles I’ve ever seen in the ninth inning. Good Work!

The great news to take away from the game is Jake Arrieta. His debut game with the Cubs since the Scott Feldman trade was pretty damn good.

“There were a little first-game jitters there,” Arrieta said. “But I got under control after that point and was able to command the ball pretty well. Not a lot of strikeouts tonight, but I was able to force a lot of contact, which is always a good thing.”

He played six great innings keeping the score to one run. I hope they don’t keep him down in Triple-A for too long.

“I was very happy with the trade and the opportunity to come over to this organization and be a part of a group of young guys,” Arrieta said.

Edwin Jackson will try to salvage a win for the Cubs when he faces Willy Peralta tonight. Game Time is 8:05pm

—Mark

Cubs Get Brewed

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The trade deadline is drawing near, actually it’s only a couple of more days and Jeff Samardzija’s name has been tossed around. nobody is safe in a Cubs uniform these days. You can take that anyway you want.

Last night, the Cubs fell to the Brewers 5-0 in a game that was lost in the ninth inning. The Cubs headed into the ninth in a scoreless tie but that’s where the wheels fell off. To be fair, the Brewers got a couple of good hits off of Carlos Gomez, Jeff Bianchi and Rickie Weeks. it was one of those games.

“That was a good ballgame,” Brewers Manager Ron Roenicke said. “Samardzija pitched well. Kyle pitched really well. I didn’t know if we were going to score anywhere.”

For most cases it was. Samardzija pitched a great game making a case for a possible trade which I hope doesn’t happen. In fact, I kinda hope the Cubs don’t make any more moves because this team is getting something going. They’re 48-56 so .500 isn’t out of the question and neither is a Wild Card position. Although, they’d pretty much have to win every game.

“‘Sveumer’ is a consistent dude,” said starting dude Jeff Samardzija, who threw seven scoreless innings. “Every time he comes to the park, he has one goal in mind and that’s fielding a lineup that has a chance to win the game. He does a great job instilling that confidence in every player that that’s our goal. On top of that, with this roster we have, there’s a lot of scrappy guys who can play the game.

That’s the thing about the 2013 Chicago Cubs; it’s those “scrappy” guys like Nate Schierholtz, The Shark and hell, I’d throw Junior Lake and David Dejesus in the mix. It’s a solid team with some building chemistry.

Did the Cubs lose to the Brewers because of bad playing? not exactly. It was tight defence with an unlucky ninth that did it for the Cubs. With the exception of that almost bare handed catch by Samardzija that went through the glove of Starlin Castro which was sloppy.

“You’ve got to score runs to win,” Sveum added. “That’s the bottom line.”

The Cubs will get that chance today when Carlos Villanueva goes for his third win of the season. Game time is 2:20pm
—Mark

Travis Lays The Wood

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It hasn’t been done in twenty years, but yesterday the Chicago Cubs swept the defending World Series champions San Francisco Giants 2-1. Travis Wood collected a home run and so did Wellington Castillo.

“I swear to God, just before he hit that, I was remembering (Yovani) Gallardo winning a game here by himself with a home run off Randy Johnson,” Dale Sveum said, who was with the Brewers at the time. “Sure enough, (Wood) hits a home run. I think he’s the best (hitting pitcher) that can handle good pitching too. Gallardo was really good, but Wood handles good pitching and lays off stuff and takes good swings at almost everything.”

So where did all this inspiration come from? is it because the Cubs are playing really good baseball? is it because they’re out to prove something?

They won because their beloved leader Alfonso Soriano collected his first home run with the New York Yankees.

“It’s always a little different, especially when you lose a guy like Soriano,” Wood said. “He was one of our hottest bats, probably the hottest bat at the time. He’s the leader on the team and he’s been here the longest. It was sad to see him go, but I think he had a pretty solid day today. We just have to pull together and string some wins.”

The best part about this series win though is they did with by one run in each of the games. Sure, my nails are shorter than they were before the weekend and our son asked me a hundred times, “Is that Starlin Castro, Daddy?” but this is a start in the right direction. This also proves that the Cubs are maturing as a team by winning the close ones and battling back in these games. The San Francisco Giants aren’t playing like the champions they were but by the Cubs beating them, it’s a great moral booster because they beat the champs and that goes a long way.

“I can’t remember playing or (managing) this kind of a trip on the West Coast,” Sveum said, lumping Colorado and Arizona in with California. “To win six out of 10 on the West Coast, no matter how good of a team you are, is one of the hardest things to do.”

The Cubs are heading home now and getting ready for a very big series against the Braun-less Brewers. They have a chance to gain some valuable ground in the Wild Card race. The Shark, Samardzija gets the start. Game time is 8:05.

–Mark

Cubs Maul Giants

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It’s better late than never. The Chicago Cubs are finally heating it up. last night, Nate Schierholtz destroyed the ball in the ninth inning with a home run for the ages to give the Cubs a 1-0 win over the defending World Series champs, San Francisco Giants.

Why should the Cubs look towards next season? A lot of folks might think they should, but I’m in the category of, “Let’s see what we got” The Cubs played really well and the trick that got them the win was they played hard and fought their way to the win.

“It was an exciting game,” Nate Schierholtz said. “It reminded me of playing here when we played one-run games every night. They’re nail-biters.”

All the pieces were there. Chris Rusin stayed in for seven scoreless innings and being replaced in the eighth inning for Pedro Strop.

“Rusin was phenomenal,” Dale Sveum said. “He had his sinker working and got a bunch of ground balls and made the strikes when he had to. He did a heck of a job.”

So, why are the Cubs playing good tight baseball? Do they want to be spoilers for Wild Card bound teams or are they out to prove that they’re not as bad as people are claiming?

“We’ve got a lot of guys in here who don’t give up,” Schierholtz said. “One of the things instilled in us in spring training was hard work and running balls out and not ever giving up. That’s one of the biggest things a winning team does. You don’t always have to have the best players to win a championship.”

There is a very real possibility of the Cubs getting the Wild Card. maybe that’s the reason, maybe not. With Philadelphia losing seven in a row and Washington the only threat, the other teams aren’t looking so hot right now. It’s still highly unlikely the Cubs will get there, but the way they’re playing right now, it could happen.

The Cubs look to sweep the series this afternoon when Travis Wood faces Tim Lincecum. Game time is 4:05 eastern.

–Mark

Alfonso Soriano is a Yankee

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This was Alfonso Soriano’s last game in a Chicago Cubs uniform. It was a game he didn’t play in and the Cubs lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks 3-1. Kind of fitting don’t you think?

The truth is that the Cubs were outmatched last night against Kirk Gibson’s Diamondbacks, but in the end, this was all about Alfonso Soriano.

“I always respect the fans, always play hard for the fans, because I know they love the team and like to see the team doing well,” Soriano said. “I always tried to do my best playing for the Cubs and tried to be a champion here. It didn’t happen, so I hope it happens in the future. Now I have to think about my new team.”

Now it’s official, the Chicago Cubs are Theo Epstein’s team.

Alfonso Soriano started his Cubs career in 2007 and has been the anchor for the team through some tumultuous times. He didn’t end the curse, he couldn’t bring the Cubs their first World Series since 1908 but he was a leader in the clubhouse for younger players and when his bat struck the ball and the ball soared past the pitcher’s mound out into left field over the ivy and sometimes into one Ball Hawk’s lucky glove on the streets outside Wrigley Field; it was a reminder to keep the faith. Good times are ahead. We will win again.

“We got everybody together to say our goodbyes,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “It’s emotional for all of us. You don’t usually gather teams together that often when people are traded to say goodbyes. That just shows the kind of person he is.”

I think for me the one thing I’ll miss most about Soriano is the swagger and confidence he showed after hitting one of those dingers. it was that look of,”Yeah, that’s not coming back” he’d toss the bat and strut his way to 1st base. If you haven’t seen it, watch for it. Very cool.

It’s easy to critize star players when they’re not playing well and I’m one of those guys. When Soriano was hot, he was gold, but when he wasn’t playing well and dropping balls; well, I’m ashamed to say it, but he was public enemy number 1. I think he knew it too because no matter the critic, Soriano always seems to bounce back with one of those trademark streaks.

“I think they’re making the right decisions,” Soriano said. “They have a lot of young talent, and I hope that talent progresses and helps them become a champion. The front office is very smart and I think they know what they’re doing.”

I’m going to miss you Fonzi.

—Mark