Russell’s Walk Off a Thing of Beauty For Chicago Cubs

Addison Russell

How much more can the 2017 edition of the Chicago Cubs keep coming back in games? Yesterday they did just that, a come from behind walk off three run home run from Addison Russell to steal the win from the Milwaukee Brewers 7-4.

“I was just trying to put the ball in play, something over the middle of the plate to start me out,” Russell said of his at-bat in the ninth. “[Feliz] threw me two sliders away, and I was looking for something a little more in. He threw a fastball.”

Oh the modesty. He absolutely crushed that ball. So, that’s two come from behind wins in a row. It’s a dangerous way to start a season. All though the Cubs are proving their worth with these wins, it’s inevitable that time will run out. As the season wears on, the Cubs might be riddled with injuries and exhaustion.

“It’s one of those ugly wins but we’ll take it any day of the week,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “It is the resiliency, it is the fact that we do not quit. It’s on the ring. We don’t quit. It’s on the ring, man, and that’s a perfect example today.”

He’s right but where was Kyle Hendricks? The ERA leader last year, is noticeably absent on the mound with a 6.19 ERA this season. It could be cold weather or a slow start but he has to get his mechanics going. He walked four batters and only lasted five innings. Not that I’m too worried because he’s the type of pitcher who studies the game with all its’ nuances.

“We went in with one game plan, and we noticed they were sitting on a few of the things we were trying to do,” Hendricks said. “I didn’t realize it right away. By the time he came over to me, we could talk about it and find out where we wanted to go with the game plan. I got better contact in the later innings. I still need to find that groove and lock it in.”

So, the Cubs can talk all they want about resiliency but the main issue is in the games they lost, well, they just looked lost. The honeymoon is over, baseball season is underway. They’ll have to hear that familiar song a lot more if they want another parade.

“You definitely want to go into Cincinnati with the sense we can come back in any part of the game,” Russell said. “That’s what we did today. Just don’t give up. That’s the type of style that we play.”

The style the Cubs should be playing is Javier Baez‘s leaping air catches and reaching for the tag, Anthony Rizzo‘s Rizzo Wrap snags, Hendrick’s controlled mechanics and Kris Bryant‘s Long Ball. You see where I’m going with this?

“That was an unbelievable win today,” Hendricks said. “There’s been a lot going on. A lot of outside factors pushing against us, so to be able to focus on the game and get big wins … these teams we’re playing are coming for us. The target is on our backs.”

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Cubs Learn Humility in Loss To Brew Crew

Chicago Cubs

In the Chicago Cubs 2-1 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers last night, the Cubs learned a lesson in humility. It’s great that they got it out in the open early in the season but could spell trouble down the road.

Brett Anderson delivered his first start of the season with a cool steadiness only giving up one run and five hits over five and some change.

“Anderson was outstanding,” manager Joe Maddon said. “It looked like everything was working from the side. I thought he and [catcher Willson Contreras] played well together. When you pitch well, we normally expect to win that game.”

On the down swing, Javier Baez took an elbow to the eye when he and Jason Heyward collided in the outfield chasing after a ball. He went down hard and even though the Cubs have erased curses in the past, it was exactly one year to the day that Kyle Schwarber busted up his knee and left for the season.

“It looked like it was going to start swelling. He said he was all right, but I didn’t feel good about it,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He insisted he was good, but I wasn’t convinced. I’m certain he’ll be fine by tomorrow.”

They say old habits die hard but even Heyward doesn’t want to be reminded of the anniversary.

“Stop. I’m just saying,” Heyward said when a reporter brought up the anniversary. “He said he was OK. Hopefully, he’s OK tomorrow.”

There is good news in all of this, Kris Bryant notched his first hit of the season after going 0-14 getting a single in the fifth but the reigning NL MVP shouldn’t worry about any kind of slump. The notoriously slow starter will eventually find his groove and get back to striking fear in opponents across the nation.

It almost seams pointless at this stage of the season to be looking at the standings but here I am gazing at the standings and seeing the Cincinnati Reds sitting on top of the NL Central, a game up on the Cubs worries me just a little bit. I don’t like the Reds. It could be their scorching Red uniforms or just they’re dull. I would rather have the Pirates a game up on the Cubs instead of the Reds.

So, I’m going to just chalk up the Cubs sluggish start to their swings being out of whack and I’m confident they’ll be able to turn up the heat soon. Perhaps I’m expecting too much from the champs too soon or I’m waiting for the movie based on their historic run. The Cubs want to build a dynasty and in order to do that, they must settle down and get back to playing Cubs baseball before the curse broke.  Of course, Monday could be another story when baseball officially begins with the home opener.

Kyle Hendricks gets the start today in his season debut. Game time is 2:10 Eastern.

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Cubs Prepare For Greatest Comeback In World Series History

World Series

The Chicago Cubs are in deep. last night, the Cubs fell to the Cleveland Indians 7-2 and have a 3-1 deficit in the World Series. It seemed that for everything the Cubs did, the Indians answered back . That’s October baseball. The real question is, Can the Cubs come back?

“We know we have to win out,” Chicago’s Kris Bryant said. “If we want to get to the last game, we have to win the first one, then the next one. It’s one game at a time, don’t change anything, have fun, smile, just be ourselves.”

He’s partially right. If you’re going to play that cliche, then yeah, it is one game at a time. The good news is that next up is Jon Lester tonight, then Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks. Now is not the time for the Cubs to panic. Within a 24hr period, they’ll have to reconnect with the team that won 103 games and reach down deep and play ball. They can come back in this series. They’ve had 16 three game winning streaks this year. Of course, none of them were against this Cleveland Indians team. Only five teams in World Series history have come back from a 3-1 hole.

1985 Kansas City Royals

1979 Pittsburgh Pirates

1968 Detroit Tigers

1958 New York Yankees

1925 Pittsburgh Pirates

So you see, it’s not impossible. If there is any team in baseball capable of staging the greatest comeback in post season history, it’s these 2016 Chicago Cubs.

Why?

They’ve gotten to know this Cleveland team. Joe Maddon is going to keep things loose in the locker room by not allowing players to report until 90 minutes before the game. Hey, they know what’s at stake and I feel that if they try to do too much at this point, it might throw the equilibrium way off balance.

“They’re all trying to hit a grand slam with nobody on,” Miguel Montero said of the Cubs’ young hitters. “It’s not going to happen. We need to take our walks. We need to be a little bit more patient at the plate. We need to play small ball. … We’re all trying to launch the ball 110 miles per hour off the bat, launch angle, whatever. No, we need to get a freaking ground ball through a hole. As simple as that.”

There you have it. Small ball. Forget Bryant’s home run capabilities, get Dexter Fowler on base, move the runners and perhaps lay down a bunt.  They key is exactly what Montero said. Guys like Javier Baez, Addison Russell and Willson Contreras have to keep the ball on the ground because if the Cubs win tonight, it goes back to Cleveland where the DH rule applies and you know what that means?

Kyle Schwarber is back in the game.

“We have to have a one-game winning streak tomorrow,” manager Joe Maddon said. “And if we do that, I really would be feeling pretty good about going back to Cleveland.”

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Chicago Cubs Are Going To The World Series

#FlyTheW

What should have been the most raucous of celebrations in sports history is somehow filled with quiet reflection. It wasn’t supposed to end like this, there was supposed to be a curse attached to this near mythical baseball team. They were supposed to blow it but somehow, some way, the Chicago Cubs changed history. They righted a wrong and for baseball fanatics and casual observers alike, on October 22 2016 the Cubs became 2016 National League Champions.

Last night will go down in Chicago Cubs history as one of the most thrilling games ever played at Wrigley Field. The Cubs beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 and advance to the World Series for the first time since 1945.

The Professor Kyle Hendricks not only won the ERA title but pitched a gem. In the biggest game of his life to date, he not only pitched seven innings of shutout baseball but he went up against the greatest pitcher in the game Clayton Kershaw, and taught him a lesson he’ll never forget.

Wrigley Field is Hendricks ‘ classroom.

“It doesn’t really seem like reality around here,” said a champagne-soaked Hendricks. “There’s so much going on around here. I’m just trying to soak in the snapshots right now, so I can remember later.”

It was fitting that Hendricks was on the mound. He took apart the Dodgers inning by inning with “old school” tactics by keeping the ball down and not allowing the Dodgers access to those three bags in the infield.

Chicago Cubs

Both Javier Baez and Jon Lester won playoff MVP and rightfully so. Baez was unstoppable on defence and behind the plate. Lester? Well, he was Jon Lester doing Jon Lester things.

People everywhere will remember where they were the night the Chicago Cubs won the 2016 National League pennant. I was surrounded with my wife, family and friends we haven’t seen in a while. It was fitting that our friends came for a visit because Chicago hasn’t seen the pennant in quite a while.

The Cubs are only four wins away from a place they haven’t been since 1908. This isn’t over by a long shot but for a day we can all rejoice knowing that we’ve witnessed something very special.

“Getting to the World Series is a big accomplishment,” said the manager Joe Maddon. “Of course, winning it would be even greater than that. But I still believe that, in seasons to come, people are going to believe more easily now. They’re not going to look for the next shoe to drop. They’ll believe that something good is going to occur, as opposed to something bad.”

The Chicago Cubs are going to the World Series.

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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.

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Cubs Get Stymied By Clayton Kershaw

Chicago Cubs

For all of those people who like saying that “Watching baseball is like watching paint dry” did not tune into the Cubs NLCS. It’s been edge of your seat pitching duels and just watching Javier Baez strut his stuff is pure magic. last night, the Cubs were literally stymied by the Los Angeles Dodgers 1-0. Three time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw dismantled the Cubs batting order pitch by pitch. As a Cubs fan it was tough to watch, but as a baseball fan, it was like watching a magician carving up the assistant in the box trick.

Kyle Hendricks was impressive in his return to the mound after getting hit in the throwing arm in his last start. The Dodgers only got one run off of him and that came at the hands of an Adrian Gonzalez long ball. No, Hendricks was solid and showed us a peek into what could be a Hall of Fame career. Did he learn anything from Kershaw?

“He was impressive,” Hendricks said. “Watching a lot of it from inside, he wasn’t missing any spots, mixing his pitches well, keeping us off balance — that’s the kind of game I was trying to pitch. It was fun to go against him and a tough one to lose.”

The toughest part about losing that game is how silent Bryzzo’s bats have been. Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant haven’t got the hits. Rizzo has only collected 1 hit out of 24 playoff At Bats, while Bryant, who is a front runner for League MVP isn’t hitting well either.

“I’m trying to get six, seven, eight hits at one time,” says Rizzo. “I’ve done that before in my career and it doesn’t work, so you just go about the process, keep grinding and keep battling”.

Even guys like Addison Russell has been somewhat absent during this post season 1 for 22, stretching back to the regular season. So the Cubs have their issues. Sure, Miguel Montero hit that grand slam, but it really should have been Anthony Rizzo or Kris Bryant’s job to do that. Javier Baez? well, there’s nothing wrong with him. He’s been outstanding.

“It’s very nice to be in this moment with young players,” Joe Maddon said. “It’s really nice two consecutive years to be in the Championship Series with a very youthful group. Again, putting your scout’s cap on, it bodes well for the future. Of course, I want it to happen right now and get to that next round.”

Which poses another interesting option; Since the Cubs’ bats have fallen silent, the NLCS will go down to management. Joe Maddon will have to rely on his craftiness with bullpen shuffling, player swapping and good ol’ fashioned creativity to get past the NLCS.

“No, you have to continue to play through the bad lie,” Maddon said. “That’s just — it is what it is. You stay with your guys. Dodgers have good pitching. Cubs have good pitching. I’m sure they’re saying the same thing about some of their guys right now too.”

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Cubs Take Game 1 on Montero’s Grand Slam

Chicago Cubs

Hollywood can’t write this stuff better than what happened in the bottom of the eighth inning last night in Game 1 of the NLCS. Miguel Montero hits a grand slam with two out to put the Cubs up 7-3 before Dexter Fowler scripted it with a back to back home run to make it 8-3. The Cubs finished with an 8-4 win.

“Obviously, after the first pitch, I’m looking something middle, middle in, and he threw me that slider,” Montero said. “It was a really good pitch to hit, and I missed it. And in my mind, I was like, ‘oh, my God, I missed that.’ That was a perfect pitch to hit. But you have to step out of the box and just pull yourself together and try — all I was trying to do was get a base hit. Don’t strike out right here. Get a good pitch and try to put the ball in play and make something happen.

“But to be honest, in the back of my head, I was like, ‘I want that slider back,’ because it was such a good pitch to hit,” Montero said. “And I guess he heard me because he threw it back, and luckily I hit the ball pretty good.”

After the two strikes, the FS1 commentators were saying how Montero “Could be a hero tonight in game 1” Two strikes, two out and Boom!

Wow, the Cubs have a way of answering the call and providing the fireworks. It almost didn’t happen that way.

Jon Lester who pitched a great game, was yanked in the 6th inning and he looked upset.

“It is what it is,” he said. “I don’t get paid to make decisions; I get paid to pitch. So that’s his decision to make. … Would I have liked to have gone out for the seventh? Absolutely. But you got to understand the situation and put yourself kind of [into] what the manager’s trying to do.”

Did anyone catch Javier Baez’s steal home that erupted Wrigley Field? It was the first time a Cubs player achieved this feat since 1907, when Jimmy Slagle stole home. If the Cubs do go on and win the World Series, Javier Baez has got to be Playoff MVP.

“I went a little bit too early,” Baez said. “But I saw him ready to throw the ball, and I didn’t want to get in a rundown, so I just kept going home.”

But if it got the ire of Joe Maddon, he didn’t let it show.

“Give Javy credit for what he did,” Maddon said. “One percent or less of all Major League players would have done what he did. Honestly. He’s just that good on the bases. Sometimes he’s going to look bad because he’s going to make what appears to be a mental mistake. But he had that all plotted out. That’s purely good baseball instinct by a kid that’s a baseball player.”

That’s what makes baseball the great.

Tonight will be the most important game for the Cubs this post season. Clayton Kershaw vs Kyle Hendricks. If the Cubs can get by Kershaw and go up 2-0 in the series, the momentum will be on their side. Kershaw has pitched 4 times in the last 10 days but he’s the league’s best. Hendricks though, is the Professor.

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