Cubs Down 2-1 in World Series. They Will Win Tonight.

Chicago Cubs

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Billy Williams threw out the first pitch and Bill Murray sang the seventh inning stretch. The first World Series game played on Wrigley Field soil was in fitting style, a loss.

The Cleveland Indians blanked the Chicago Cubs 1-0 in game three to take a 2-1 series lead. Nobody could blame Kyle Hendricks for getting into a tough situation early on. By keeping the Cubs into the game by not allowing a run and still not finishing the fifth inning, says a lot about how the game went.

“I wasn’t sharp, but they had a good game plan against me,” Hendricks said. “They were laying off some good pitches, putting together good [at-bats]. I didn’t have the feel today for myself, so I just had to battle through it.”

Of course he didn’t have the “feel” because in reality, last night’s game was centre stage for Chicago and sports. If there was anyone who needed to take the mound, it was Hendricks.  His cool demeanour and always thinking stance kept the excited crowd calm. However, the Cleveland pitching dictated the events. Josh Tomlin kept the ball away from the explosive bats of the Cubs. If there are curses to be had, then blame the fact that the wind was blowing out and the game ended in a one run victory.

“It’s rare that you see those conditions, and it’s a 1-0 baseball game,” Joe Maddon said. “But that’s how it works out sometimes. … From our perspective, we got out of the zone way too much. We’ve got to get our strike zone organized again for tomorrow night’s game.”

It’s easy to think that every game is a must win game, but tonight is exactly that. John Lackey gets the call and he’ll have to be razor sharp, competitive and bring his temper because Corey Kluber is his opponent. The Cubs will have to run the pitch count, get some foul tips and really work the count against Kluber. The long ball need not apply tonight regardless if the wind blows out or not. The Cubs have been shutout four times this post season and still end up in the World Series. So they’ve faced great pitching and their bats haven’t erupted lately, big deal! Tonight, it’s grind it out, sandlot baseball. Get mean, get dirty and if Anthony Rizzo has to draw a walk by getting hit, so be it?

“This is why you play the game,” Lackey said. “This is why I’m still playing at this stage of my career, at this age. I’m trying to win championships and trying to be a part of something special.”

Yeah, tonight’s going to be the game that decides which way the Cubs are going. I predict that if the Cubs win tonight, they’ll win it all. I know it’s a bold prediction but when you think about it, their #4 guy going up against Cleveland’s #1 if he wins and guys like Kyle Schwarber and Rizzo come through, well history will be rewritten.

Believe it.

Cubs Give Dodgers a Little R & R

Anthony Rizzo

I’m not bragging, but yesterday I predicted that Anthony Rizzo would have a big game and now we know the truth; he reads the Canuck Cubbie everyday, takes the words to heart and applies all my finer points of baseball to his game.

Yeah, right.

The Cubs played “Cubbie baseball” as Addison Russell puts it, by crushing the Los Angeles Dodgers 10-2 and tying up the NLCS at two games a piece. If anyone were just tuning into the series from the ALCS, they’d never have known that Russell and Rizzo were in the midst of a slump.

“This is a big win, for sure,” Rizzo said. “To even up the series, we have a chance to take another one here [Thursday] and go home with a 3-2 lead. In a way, this is just one game and we know it’s going to be a quick turnaround, but this was definitely a big game for us.”

It was a huge game fore sure. If the Cubs lost last night, they’d have been in a hole of 3-1. Yeah, they could have bounced back tonight with Jon Lester on the mound but then they’d have to face Clayton Kershaw. Instead, the win guarantees a return trip to Wrigley Field and an opportunity to win it all at home. I said the Cubs needed a miracle, and last night it looked like they had Angels in the outfield.

“It should help their confidence, there’s no question about that,” manager Joe Maddon said. “When you’re going through the moment they were, it’s a confidence issue. It always is. So going into [Thursday], I know when they show up at the ballpark, there’s going to be a good bounce about them. Probably going to see the ball better, slow things down a little bit.”

While Rizzo borrowed Matt Szczur‘s bat to get his three hits and a homer, Russell relied on something else to get his homer and three hits. I don’t know what it was, but keep using it.

John Lackey was yanked in the fifth inning but pitched well. He got into trouble by walking a couple of batters and that’s when the bullpen took over. You can clearly see that Lackey wanted to stay in. The tough Texan wanted that win and I do believe he was the spark that fired up the Cubs who are two wins from their first World Series appearance since 1945.

“How I feel personally is irrelevant now,” Lackey said. “It was a great team win and good to see our guys swing the bats.”

Lackey is known throughout the baseball world for his fiery personality and he didn’t disappoint. After a few questionable calls, Lackey raised his hand up to his chest, signalling to the umpire if that’s how high the strike zone should be. He’s a fierce competitor who isn’t afraid of telling anyone how he feels. He pretty much set the stage for tonight’s tie breaker with Jon Lester on the mound.

“What you’ve seen so far. It’s been a pretty interesting series to this point,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “I did not expect it to be such a lopsided victory for us today. Although [the Dodgers] had theirs yesterday. Like I said, it’s two out of three right now. We know it’s at least going back home at some point. [Thursday] will be a pretty nice day to come out on top and going back home, having to win one of two. We’ve been pretty good at Wrigley all year.”

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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

2016 Chicago Cubs, Best Cubs Team Ever?

Kris Bryant

Sep 26, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant (17) celebrate his two run home run with left fielder Chris Coghlan (R) against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the sixth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

I’m going to argue right now that the Chicago Cubs 6-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates means something. Sure, there are naysayers who think that a team in the Cubs position would have nothing else to play for and the Pittsburgh Pirates should just look towards next year for rebuilding. This series means something.  The Cubs need to keep focused and the machine well oiled because October isn’t going to be any kind of cakewalk.

John Lackey got the start on the mound last night. He pitched five pretty decent innings and when it comes to the post season, he’s going to be key. Lackey is the pitcher I’m worried about if only because he’s the older guy and he’s stubborn. He might want to stay in a little past his due date should a game go south, but on the other hand, when he’s on his game, there’s few that can match him.

“He’s thrown a lot of innings. He’s pitched extremely well,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “I think he’s been really good.”

Last night was a case of two teams going in different directions. When players like Chris Coghlan hit a three run triple, it’s going to be that kind of depth that will propel the Chicago Cubs through the post season.

Another thing that’s going to be the difference in the post season is Kris Bryant. He’s the guy that can be shuffled through the lineup and play 3rd base or the outfield, or just about anywhere Maddon’s going to put him. This has been one of the many strengths and keys to the Cubs’ success this season. The thing is that Bryant has been pretty good at every spot he’s put in.

“Versatility is great, but if you’re not doing a good job at the position, it doesn’t really matter,” Bryant said. “I just try to be that unselfish player who is willing to move around and do whatever I can to help.”

If the Cubs are going to be successful in the post season (which is 108 years in the making) then Bryant’s play has to shine. He’s been their best player all year and although Maddon is famously saying that when “Fowler goes, we go” in reference to leading off, I’m going to make the case that when Bryant is on his game, the Cubs are unbeatable.

“I’m looking forward to the four days off [before the playoffs begin],” Bryant said. “That will be great — just kind of decompress before the craziness starts and the most fun time of the year. Enjoy those days and get ready to go.”

Yeah, when I think about this season, I think about the bond that this team has. Bryant and Anthony Rizzo have been the leaders and the pitching staff has been the best in baseball, it’s been a good year and it’s only going to get better.

Believe it.

 

Cubs Magic Number Is Two!

Kris Bryant

The Cubs are after the prize. Only three more victories and they’ll have 100 wins. It’s monumental, it’ll be their first 100 win season since 1935. Now, I’m not one for hexes or curses, Superstitions, yeah. The Cubs made the World Series in 1935. So, after last night’s 9-2 series sweep over the Cincinnati Reds, they’re one step closer to destiny.

“That’s a number I’ve never achieved on the win side,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of the goal to reach 100. “I’ve achieved it on the loss side. Achieving that doesn’t feel good. That was my first year as a manager with the Devil Rays. We exceeded 100 that year.”

Well, if it makes you feel better Joe, the Cubs have reached that total too and it doesn’t feel good for the fans either. The Cubs’ magic number is 2 after last night.  The thing that was really impressive about last night’s win was the plays of Ben Zobrist and Miguel Montero. Zobrist who had three hits and an RBI. Montero contributed with his hot bat getting three hits and three RBI’s, these two players are peaking at the right time.

“This is where you talk about September provides its own energy,” Maddon said. “These guys are not fatigued. They’re actually very excited and they’re really doing a lot of good things.”

The win was good for John Lackey. The veteran hurler is slowly finding his groove and the Cubs will need his presence in October to back up the big three in Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jake Arrieta.

“Lackey’s pitched in a lot of big games,”Maddon said. “John’s definitely not afraid of it. John kind of likes it. I’ve been there and seen it, both sides. He’s the kind of guy that, if you’re around him, he’s going to promote courage or fearlessness among the people he’s around.”

The big guy will intimidate and hunker down this fall. There’s been many warnings about the Cubs playoff chances, one being the Toronto Star but this year feels different. Most of the players don’t know about the curses. They’re here for one job and one job only.

“For me, this year is a completely different attitude from last year,” Kris Bryant said. “To clinch so early and have this time to work on stuff and just kind of tune up for what we hope to be a long playoff run, we’re very fortunate for that. Me, I’m just trying to stick with a good approach and not let the numbers on the scoreboard get to me.”

Bryant collected his 38th home run of the season and his race for Home Run King against Nolan Arenado.

“I don’t really watch the home runs, where they go or anything, but certainly this is one of the best parks to hit a home run in, just because you can hit it onto the street there,” Bryant said. “It’s been a really fun year, so to say that any home run onto Waveland, you get used to it, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it. It’s a lot of fun.”

If the Cubs finish first, there’ll be a lot more fun on Waveland.

Believe it.

 

Cubs Need To Worry a Bit

Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher John Lackey reacts after giving up a home run to Houston Astros’ Alex Bregman during the third inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Never back a hungry beast into the corner. That’s how the Houston Astros beat the Chicago Cubs yesterday 2-1. With two teams on the opposite ends of the spectrum, one all ready in the playoffs and the other battling for a Wild Card position, the Cubs just couldn’t get it done with runner’s in scoring position.

“We need to move the baseball with runners in scoring position or just move it in general,” manager Joe Maddon said after the game. “The strikeout is something we’ve worked on to knock down. And we have.”

It could have been Maddon was resting players but then again, players like Jorge Soler has to come through in order to make it through October. Who knows? Perhaps Maddon doesn’t care about the end of September with the huge lead in the standings?

One thing that concerns me is the Cubs small ball. We know they can send rockets into the stands and that’s fine during the regular season, but the playoffs are different. Playing long ball will help a team get to the post season, but it’s small ball that wins series and gets your name on trophies.

“It doesn’t really matter if there is a man on base or if there isn’t a man on base, I’m going to try and attack the ball and try to get a hit no matter what,” Jorge Soler said through the team interpreter. “I’m not really thinking about that. I’m worried about caring about driving the ball and getting it out to the outfield.”

The good news about was the Cubs lost a one run game. It’s not the ideal way to lose but they kept it close. On the flip side, they should have won the game by getting runners in.

“We play that game often, man,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We had all those one-run games back at home in that last homestand. That’s the kind of game we play all the time, and I love it.”

I mean the Cubs went 0-10 with runners on base. With an offensive juggernaut like the Cubs, that’s going to prove unacceptable in the playoffs. They must get those runners in.

The Cubs are in a bit of a hitting slump. Three games in a row where they didn’t score more than two runs isn’t acceptable. Ah who am I kidding? Perhaps I’m expecting too much from the North Siders. It’s September, the players need a little rest before October and slumps happen.

“I believe that hitting is a little bit contagious,” Cubs designated hitter Miguel Montero said. “When we get a couple guys going, I think the whole offense is going to get going. Nothing to worry about. Guys seem to be putting good at-bats together. They just have to find holes, get in good counts, work the pitching.”

That’s always the most diplomatic thing to say when a team goes through slumps. All though it’s more representative of Casey At The Bat by Ernest Thayer

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
the band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
and somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
but there is no joy in Mudville — mighty Casey has struck out.

Obviously, Jorge Soler hasn’t read the poem.

Believe it

 

Cubs Peaking Over Rockies

Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Mike Montgomery delivers to Colorado Rockies’ David Dahl in the first inning of a baseball game Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The Chicago Cubs dominated the Rockies in a 9-2 victory while trying to make a case for the accolades to continue in Kris Bryant‘s career after he took the cover off of the ball for his league leading 31st home run of the season.

“There’s still a lot of season left, but for me, I just kind of went into this year working on making a little more contact, and I think having that approach has allowed me to tap into more power,” Bryant said. “I’ve always been the type to hit the ball in the air and hit home runs, so if I’m going to be able to make more contact, I just think more home runs are going to result from that.”

But like every win, it starts with pitching. Mike Montgomery, who was placed in the rotation after John Lackey went to the DL, did 4 1/3 innings of work with 5 strikeouts. The Cubs need this kind of pitching when their regulars go down to injury. Although he did’t get the win, Joe Maddon is confident Montgomery can step in again.

“He has great command of his off-speed pitches, and the fastball has been located really well. A very good curveball, and a nice changeup off that and with that a two-seam fastball that runs and gets the ball on the ground and a four-seam fastball that he can strike you out with. He’s got really good command of everything right now, but the thing that’s impressive is the ability to throw a breaking ball for a strike.” Maddon said.

If the Cubs are peaking, then they’ve certainly have it going at a good time. The MVP race is picking up steam and there’s no shortage of Cubs in the mix. The Cubs have a lot of depth and they could wind up with their first 100+ wins since 1935 but in the end the only thing that matters is the World Series.

Today, Jason Hammel takes to the mound with hopes that the Cubs will win this series against the always tough Colorado Rockies. Game time is 4:10 EST

Believe it.