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.

 

Advertisements

Cubs Go Streaking. Edwards Gets Ovation

Carl Edwards Jr.

When people talk about team chemistry or specific times for teams to “gel”, well the Chicago Cubs nine game winning streak is a perfect example of a team getting it done at the right time. Last night, the Cubs swept the Los Angeles Angeles 3-1 in front of an enthusiastic crowd at Wrigley Field. The All Star Break had been kind to the Cubs and last night’s starter Jason Hammel, who is now 5-0 since the Summer Classic, has a record of 7-1 in 11 home starts. Yes, you can say the Confines have been certainly friendly.

“I’ve never been on a team this good before,” Hammel said. “It’s kind of silly to go out and watch the guys do their work and how consistent they are. You know something good is going to happen, you really do. We expect to win, and if you don’t, you turn the page.”

It’s staggering to think that the Cubs (along with the Nationals) are the only teams with three pitchers knotting 12 wins or higher.

There was a moment in the game where the present met the future when young Carl Edwards Jr. stared Mike Trout and Albert Pujols down by keeping the ball away from the Angels’ heavy hitters. The fact that there were two runners on and nobody out would have chased any young reliever from the mound but Edwards proved fearless in the eighth inning.

“I just pulled my hat down more, so I don’t see their faces,” Edwards said.

There was a scary moment when Pedro Strop slipped and Javier Baez accidentally stepped on his left foot. Strop had to leave the game but is undergoing an MRI to asses the damage.

Today is a different beast altogether. Sure, the St. Louis Cardinals have been outclassed this year by the North Siders but that doesn’t mean that the intense rivalry these two clubs share won’t heat up when the series kicks off. This 4 game series should be a testament to the shift in the National League Central Division. The Cardinals are playing spoiler to the Cubs winning streak and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

“From a baseball purist’s perspective, we’re playing baseball well. You’re getting great starting pitching and timely hitting and extraordinary defense. That’s a nice formula to win at any level. Our guys are coming out ready, nobody’s taking anything for granted. We’re going day by day — I’m loving all that.” Maddon said.

Believe it

Cubs Win The Tight Ones Too

Chicago Cubs

It’s amazing to think that going into the 2016 MLB season, Cubs fans were on a high with Jake Arrieta‘s Cy Young winning performance last year. Although, Arrieta’s pitched really well, he’s shown fans that he’s human. Last night, the Cubs behind Jason Hammel beat the Miami Marlins 3-2 in front of a raucous Wrigley Field crowd. It was Hammel’s eleventh win of the season, setting a career high. This is the second time in his career that Hammel has collected four straight wins.

“As long as we keep taking care of our business and not looking outside to see where other teams are located, nothing else matters. If the surge is now, if the surge is in September, if we surge all the way from August through September to October, that’d be great. We’ll just keep going one game at a time.” Hammel said.

It goes to show you that when pitchers are working hard on the mound, the results will happen. The Cubs are 12-6 since the All Star game and won five straight series at home. If you can’t win at home, you’re not going to win anywhere else.

Sometimes I lay in bed at night and think what the Cubs could have been like if Dexter Fowler didn’t go on the disabled list(Naw, he doesn’t really keep me up at night). What would the Cubs record be like? Last night he went 3 for 4 and has scored a run in his last five games. He truly is the master OBP with .403 and when it comes to triples nobody can touch him with 69 since 2009.

“Dexter got the whole thing rolling,” Joe Maddon said. “When he plays at that level, he picks everybody else up and it accelerates everybody’s confidence, hitting-wise. He’s a nuisance to the other team.”

The other impressive thing that I noticed about the Cubs is they haven’t been going yard in a while, last four games to be exact. So, it’s been the small ball that’s taking over. Man, that’s going to provide dividends come October. Look at the way Kansas City handled everyone else? There’s also the resurgence of Jason Heyward who has hit in his last eight games.

There’s two months left of baseball, or the equivalent of rounding second base. The Cubs are getting key performances from their low key guys and getting the wins in one run games 14-16. This is the way baseball should be played.

Also, Willson Contreras has proven that he’s the Cubs catcher of the future. He went 2 for 3 and has gained the respect of pitchers.

“He’s a great kid — I love him,” Hammel said. “He basically has gotten better every start I’ve worked with him. The game calling, the blocking — he’s even coming up to me and giving me hugs. He saw that I was frustrated coming out early and he’s like, ‘Hey, nice job.’ He’s got kind words, wise words beyond his young years. I was very proud of him.”

Believe it.

 

Cubs Beat Rangers, Take Series.

Javier Baez

They say it could have been the potato chips, but whatever Jason Hammel ate during the break paid off yesterday with the Cubs 3-1 over the Texas Rangers.

“For my cramps, if it’s a chronic thing, [the doctor] said, ‘Potato chips,’ because they have a lot of potassium and the sea salt helps retain water,” Hammel said. “So I focused on that over the break and ate a lot of potato chips, and I think it turned out pretty well. Potato chip prescription … that’s what I’m going to try to go with.”

I knew it was the dill pickle flavour.

So it appears that the Cubs woes are behind them. In this series with Texas, the Cubs are providing the fireworks and once again showing fans why this team did so well in the early months. If “Respect 90” was the buzz word in the first half, Joe Maddon’s phrase for the second half of 2016 is confidence.

“It’s all about confidence,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We’re the same group, a little more rested at this particular time. You’re seeing pitchers throwing the ball where they want to. Everything’s sharp. Of course, it’s good to get off to a wonderful start post All-Star.”

To be fair, the Rangers aren’t exactly having a great time these days. They’ve lost 11 of 14 games and in the ultra competitive race to the finish, the Rangers are quickly slipping out of contention with Houston gaining traction.

A player that doesn’t get enough attention is Matt Szczur. Maddon pulled Hammel in a pinch hit situation and Szczur came through to put the Cubs up 3-1. The Cubs marquee players get a lot of the attention but it’s guys like Szczur who come through in these potential game breaking situations and help put the team ahead.

“It’s tough to do that job,” Jason Heyward said. “He and [Tommy] La Stella, they don’t play every day, but they give you good at-bats every time. They grind it out. It’s not about the result with them, you just want to know they’re going up there trying. They put the team first and they prepare, so it’s awesome to see it pay off.”

It is awesome because it’s those type of players that’ll propel the Cubs through the playoffs. We know Anthony Rizzo will always be Anthony Rizzo in the big games, which he did yesterday when he connected with a two run double but Matt Szczur, who likely won’t make the hall of fame, but I can guarantee that someday he’ll be the answer to a trivia question about the Chicago Cubs and a World Series.

Believe it.

Cubs Get Embarrassed By Braves

Chicago Cubs

There’s no other team in baseball that’ll be glad for the All Star Break then the Chicago Cubs. They’ll be thankful for the much needed rest. Last night in a makeup game against the Atlanta Braves, the Cubs lost 4-3 in extra innings.

Some might say, “They played a hard fought game” or “It was close” but of course, they’d be fooling themselves into thinking the Cubs were in the game. They didn’t stand a chance against the Braves. The Cubs were down 2-0 until the 8th inning when both Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo got hit and took their respective bags. After Ben Zobrist connected with an RBI double and Willson Contreras lined a triple, the Cubs were back in business taking a 3-2 lead.

This is the Cubs remember?

Atlanta bounces back to tie it and send it into extra innings. Folks, there’s no way the Cubs should have lost that game. They’ve now lost three in a row and dropped 7 of their last 8. There’s certain teams you can’t lose to. The Reds, Braves and let’s throw in the A’s (Ok, let’s not say the A’s because I like them but you get what I mean.) There’s something terribly wrong with the Cubs right now. They’re not a bad team but the cracks in the cement at Wrigley Field are getting bigger and bigger, so much so that my mother’s back is getting sore.

It’s frustrating because Jason Hammel pitched extremely well but left the game in the 6th inning due to a hand problem. The Cubs are still the Cubs but I’m starting to think that maybe this mighty 2016 team hasn’t paid their dues just yet. They got off to an incredible start and it seemed like every other team has caught on to their dominance and figured them out.

“It was a tough game. We fought back and did the little things. We have to think about tomorrow now. This is in the past, it’s over. We have to think about Pittsburgh.” Willson Contreras said.

Well Willson, you should have blown out the Braves. You should have went in with the attitude of,”Welcome to Wrigley Field this is how we get things done now go back to hot freakin’ Atlanta you don’t belong on the same diamond as our amazing team”

The Cubs aren’t going to be thinking about Pittsburgh. They’re going to be thinking about the long ride and encouraging words from manager Joe Maddon. Hell, they might have a pyjama day on the plane and when they get to Pittsburgh there might be some magic tricks and some Lemurs to pet.

My family and I are making the trek down from our nook in Canada to Pittsburgh for Sunday’s game. We’ll be 20 rows back of third base. The slump will end.

Believe it.

Cubs Preview October

Anthony Rizzo

Well that was exciting! The unofficial preview to October ended in spectacular fashion despite the North Siders dropping the season series to the Washington nationals by a score of 5-4 in extra innings.

“Neither team wants to lose, both teams are totally invested — it was fabulous,” Joe Maddon said. “Of course, I wanted to win the game. Regardless, I was very happy to be part of that game today. It tells me a lot about our group and why I feel really, really strongly about our group in the future. That had a lot of strong indicators.”

The Cubs get an off day today to according to the schedule but it could easily be considered a great day to recoup and lick their wounds with a hard fought series like that. The way the Cubs battled back in yesterday’s game was nothing short of incredible. You had Anthony Rizzo‘s two run rocket in the ninth and then Addison Russell wanted in on the fun in the 12th inning, hitting an RBI single.

“They’re the two best teams in baseball going at it, exchanging punches,” Jason Hammel said of the series. “It was exciting. We had our chances to do it and they answered back, and that’s what you’re going to get out of two teams who know how to do something and create something that’s not there. We had our chances and they answered late.”

If it’s that tired cliche of “That’s the kind of loss a team should take, then yesterday was it.    They were two young teams hungry for the win and it felt like an old sandlot game, or perhaps a chess match. The only glaring concern was the bullpen. We know that help is coming in the form of Joe Nathan and Brian Matusz, plus there’s the trade deadline. if the Cubs can shore up some arms after the deadline, then there’s no telling where this team is headed in October. Heck, we even can look into the future a bit and guess it is th Washington Nationals.

“I don’t want to — I guess I will say it,” Anthony Rizzo said. “It kind of had that playoff feel. You can’t ever take anything for granted there. That was a fun game. A crazy game. The type of games you see in October.”

Believe it

 

Cubs Stunned By Braves

Dexter Fowler

There are days when a 41-18 team look mighty invincible, and then there are days when they’re mere mortals. Yesterday was a day that the Chicago Cubs looked “Normal” after a sting defeat to the Atlanta Braves 5-1.

Even though Jason Heyward  is an incredible defender, there’s a reason why he’s not up there with his pal, Dexter Fowler in the All Star voting, and that is because you have to be good on both sides of the plate. Heyward went 0-4 with three strikeouts. Now to be fair, the Atlanta Braves, with whom I have such great disdain for which could go back to my days when I was a kid and reruns of Family Matters were pre-empted to bring you Braves baseball on TBS.

I don’t like the Braves.

Cubs’ starter Jason Hammel was out pitched by Braves starter Bud Norris, who pitched a really good game.

“That’s baseball — baseball’s a crazy game,” Hammel said. “On any given night, any team can win. A lot of people say you’re only as good as the starting pitcher on the mound that night, and he was better.”

Or it could be a case of David stunning Goliath which heaped some high praise from Cub’s Manager, Joe Maddon.

“I mean, the guy just pitches really well whenever I’ve seen him,” Maddon said. “I’ve not seen him pitch poorly, ever, I don’t think. He should actually paste my picture underneath the bill of his hat.”

It’s these kind of losses that worry me this season. Yeah, the Cubs are still 9 games in front of their arch nemesis St. Louis Cardinals and well ahead of the pack in the Major Leagues but to lose to a team that has less than half of the wins is not so much embarrassing like Hammel said it’s a crazy game, but they should dominate those games.

Hey, it’s great to see Chris Coghlan back with the team. He made his debut Friday and is a welcome addition to the club. He’s an amazing player who can fill various roles with the Cubs. I remember he was pretty bummed when the Cubs dealt him in the winter.

“When you have relationships with friends and you haven’t seen them for a while, then you see them and you smile and hug and it feels like you haven’t skipped a beat,” Coghlan said.

He was a huge part of last year’s 97 win campaign and now with injuries to Jorge Soler and Tommy La Stella, the Cubs could use the familiar face.

“It’s amazing how things work out,” Coghlan said. “It was crushing for me and my family. The best thing about the whole thing is I get to come back here. It’s the best team in baseball.”

It’s almost like they’re getting the band back together

Believe it