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 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.”

Believe it

Cubs Win, Now It’s Sweet Home Chicago!

Anthony Rizzo

Last night’s win was a must win situation for the Chicago Cubs and they delivered. The Cubs sent payback to Cleveland with a 5-1 victory and now head home to Wrigley Field for Game 3 on Friday. The series is tied and the next three are in Chicago. How sweet is that? On a night which saw Kris Bryant receive the Hank Aaron award, the Cubs delivered.

Jake Arrieta restored the order by pitching the longest no hit in a World Series since 1969 with 5 2/3rd innings of zero hits. Arrieta’s been seeking a new contract worth 150 million stretched through seven years. He’s going to make it tough on the Cubs but first things first, that’s a World Series ring.

“I knew I hadn’t given up a hit all the way to the sixth,” Arrieta said. “That’s really not the focus in a game like this. You really want to try to continue to pile up outs as often as you possibly can. Whether they get a hit or not really doesn’t affect the way you continue to approach that lineup, especially with a five-run lead.

“I wanted to stay aggressive and continue to allow these guys to put the ball in play on quality pitches in the bottom of the strike zone, and that was the mindset throughout, regardless of whether I gave up a hit or not.”

The first inning was beginning to look like game one’s struggles when Cleveland loaded the bases which led to the announcers suggesting that the addition of Willson Contreras over Miguel Montero, who’s backstopped Arrieta through the majority of the season, wasn’t the wisest decision by Joe Maddon. It got Arrieta out of his comfort zone but Contreras’ arm is stronger than Montero’s so he’d be more able to throw runners out at second.

Kyle Schwarber has pretty much shaken off any signs of rust,  but there’s one question that needs to be answered going back to Chicago for the next three games where National League rules will apply.

Where to put him?

He’s been in the designated hitter role but will Maddon stick him in the outfield or pinch hit? Does he give up Jason Heyward‘s defence for Schwarber’s offence? Tough decision which will be answered soon.

So the Cubs head back to Wrigley Field for Friday’s game three. Folks, there hasn’t been a World Series game on Wrigley Field soil in 71 years. The place will be packed and full of energy, we’ll see Bill Murray crying and one of baseball’s hallowed grounds just soaking it all in.

Game time is 7:30 eastern with Kyle Hendricks on the mound.

“It’s going to be incredibly special,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s the finest venue there is in professional sports, and maybe in all of sports.”

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

Cubs Trail In NLCS. Need Miracle Against Dodgers

Joe Maddon

The Chicago Cubs are in head scratching mode. How do they solve the Los Angeles Dodgers after falling behind in the series 2-1?  The Dodgers beat the Cubs last night 6-0 in what looked like the Cubs were left wondering about the Dodgers. The Cubs shuffled their lineup, they’ve cleared the Clayton Kershaw hurdle but still those powerful bats that rocked opponents all season have fallen.

“We’re just not hitting the ball well,” Joe Maddon stated. “We’re doing the same kind of routines, the work is the same, the batting practice is the same, or the lack of it is the same, and we’re just not getting the results right now. There is really no excuse. We just have to pick it up quickly.”

Time’s running out and the Cubs have got to start those bats swinging. Are they too patient, cautious at the plate? Or where is that creativity? One thing is for sure, they look flat at the plate. With the exception of Kris Bryant‘s two hits, the Cubs aren’t producing any serious offence.

“It happens,” Jake Arrieta said of the Cubs’ offensive struggles. “It’s not ideal to happen in the postseason in these sort of games, but these things are possible at any moment in any game. Our guys are prepared. When a guy makes good pitches like Rich did, along with their bullpen, it’s going to be tough on us.”

It’s not supposed to happen in the playoffs. Maybe sometime in August, early September perhaps the bats get silenced while fatigue sets in, but during the playoffs. Fire, man. That’s when everything changes. Aces become legends and hitters turn into heroes. It’s not that the Dodgers are an excellent team, but during this NLCS, they’re looking very much like a team that won 103 games during the regular season, not the Chicago Cubs.

Look, going down 2-1 in a series isn’t the end of the world. Slumps do happen and it can take a Javier Baez line drive or an Anthony Rizzo home run to change directions.

“Belief is very powerful, and we all have that here,” Kris Bryant said. “The peaks and valleys sometime make you go crazy, but we have more games to play.”

John Lackey gets the start tonight. The grizzled veteran is going to have to muster up all his wealth of experience to pull a gem from his glove for this one. Yup, the Cubs will need to pull out all the stops tonight. Put in Jason Heyward and his outstanding defence. I would put David Ross behind the plate with his competitive fire and get creative. Lackey’s going to have to grind it out tonight. Go late in the innings and show the Dodgers that Texas fire because tonight, more so than any other night is what playoff baseball is all about.

“This is a different situation,” Bryant said. “I feel like last year their pitchers just beat us. Right now we’ve had some chances. We’re only down 2-1. Last year at this time, we were down three. That’s obviously not good.”

Anthony Rizzo will be the hero tonight.

Believe it

Chicago Cubs Try To Get Bats Going In LA

Chicago Cubs

This is a different Chicago Cubs team than in the past. I mean, the recent past past. The Cubs are nestled into Los Angeles and in a few hours will be heading down to the park to take in some BP and get the show going for tonight.

Why would I call it a show? Because the last time Jake Arrieta pitched against the Dodgers, a no hitter broke out. I doubt that’ll happen tonight but now that the Cubs have gotten over that giant hurdle called Clayton Kershaw, they can focus on the prize. Sunday’s loss was good for the team. Hopefully it gave them some perspective on what wasn’t working and what was working right. What isn’t working is the bats.

“We’ve just got to get back to our plan,” Addison Russell said. “Get back to playing Cubbie baseball. Grinding at-bats and extend that pitcher a little bit. Try to get in that bullpen a little earlier.”

Yeah Russell, you’re 1 and 22 this post season. Time to get that bat rolling again. By no means have the Cubs been slouches on pitching and defence, but what got them to this point were the bats. Kris Bryant‘s possible MVP season was due in part to 39 HR. They should change the batting order move up Javier Baez and put Ben Zobrist in the number 2 spot.

“I have considered different thoughts,” Joe Maddon said prior to the Cubs’ workout Monday. “Like I said, when you get to this point, you’ve got five games left to really make it right, as opposed to 75 to make it right. There is a difference with that. There are certain things you’d do in the middle of the season in order to move something along, not just during the playoffs.”

I’m a little worried about Arrieta’s pitching and control issues he’s had this season but if anyone can turn the Cubs’ fortunes around, it’s Arrieta. The Cubs fortunes haven’t really been turned around after just one loss but this is the NLCS and every one run loss can be humiliating to any team. It can knock off their equilibrium. Look what’s happening to the Blue Jays? I’m still stunned along with the rest of Canada.

“So, to be even here [in the series], we like our chances moving forward,” Arrieta said. “Obviously, our lineup stacks up just about as good as anybody’s. We’ve got our health with us, which is great. We like playing in this park.”

So, the Cubs are three wins away from being in the World Series. A spot they haven’t been to since 1945. Beatlemania and Elvis Presley’s pelvis weren’t even a thought.

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.