Cubs Give Solid Outing But Fall Short

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Sure the Cubs squandered a 2-1 lead going into the eighth inning to eventually lose 4-2 to the Reds but on there were some great signs of life in a performance by Jake Arrieta.

“I felt like I had good tempo, really good sequences,” Arrieta said. “The only trouble I got into, I got out of in the fifth (after the first two batters reached) by making some really good pitches. In the sixth, I tried to do a little too much, tried to overthrow and missed some spots.”

I’ve always been hit or miss with Arrieta. He was brilliant when he won the Cy Young, but faltered a bit the following season. He’s a good if not great pitcher but inconsistent. He’s having a good year, and that’s great for the Cubs but there’s so many better pitchers in the game.

So, the Cubs lost and really it could be tagged onto that attempted steal in the ninth by Jon Jay. It was a poor decision but hey, you have to try, right? Suck it up and come the next game.

“He went on his own,” Maddon said. “He’s thinking they’re playing behind. He’s thinking they’re not going to throw. They did.”

One thing I’ve learned in my years of watching baseball is that they’ll always have those mistakes. It happens.

So, I’ve got these mixed feelings about Player’s Weekend  

Kind of on the fence with this one. I’m not totally convinced it’s going to work, It could be a novelty thing or a marketing grab. It’s for the kids which is great but more likely a marketing opportunity to squeeze out some more cash from us unsuspecting blokes. We’ll be in Philly tomorrow to watch Kyle Hendricks and the Cubs and I’m looking forward to that. We hope to get there early and snag an autograph or two.

Maybe I’m cynical about the whole idea, but in the end it’ll be fun and give fans a chance to be more personable with their favourite players.

“Miami is the city that raised me,” Jay said. “I have a lot of pride in that city. I learned a lot of life lessons there that made me who I am today.” on his 305J nickname.

Believe it

 

Jon Jay Leads The Way For Cubs

Cubs 15, Reds 5

It’s always hard coming back from a vacation where my family and I did the whole Clark Griswold road trip adventure, and in many ways that’s how I feel about the Cubs late season push for the playoffs. Last night, the Cubs simply pounded division rivals Cincinnati Reds in a 15-5 debacle that saw a few moments where the team just were like the team of last season. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo with back to back home runs and Jon Jay almost hitting for the cycle.

“Give us credit — offensively, some really good at-bats,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We have to tighten it up on defense. I don’t want to be ‘Debbie Downer,’ but we’ve got to be tighter on defense.”

I was glad to see Jon Jay in the lead off spot. He’s an underrated player who always comes through and last night felt like a playoff game if only to see Jay hit for the cycle which he came close but just a little short missing on the home run.

“Everyone kind of mentioned it — ‘Take a shot, take a shot,'” Jay said of his teammates’ advice for his last at-bat. “We got the win, so it’s cool.”

It almost feels like Jay’s the David Ross of 2017. The guy you’re cheering for and the feel good story of the year. Let’s just hope he’s not on Dancing With The Stars after the season’s over.

“He’s done a lot of other little things, talking to younger players,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “He does a nice job of mentoring. He wants to play, loves to play and likes what’s going on. He’s definitely stirred our drink.”

The Cubs are in great shape as the season winds up. Their next 13 games are against last place teams, so without explaining the obvious, it’s an important step on the road to the post season.

Their next series in particular is going to be interesting for me because the Toronto Blue Jays are coming to town and my family are divided in their loyalties. During last night’s broadcast, Len Kasper mentioned that Don Cherry of Hockey Night in Canada fame will be singing the seventh inning stretch so it’s going to be pretty cool seeing that. However, there was a little debate on what is Cherry’s favourite hockey team, is it the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Boston Bruins? I say it’s the Boston Bruins. Although he works for the CBC and cheers for the Maple Leafs, his heart is with the Boston Bruins. Cherry is a Canadian icon and I hope Len gets a chance to ask him what his favourite team really is and settle this debate once and for all.

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Cubs End First Half The Right Way

Chicago Cubs

There’s always something unfair in sports. There are winners and losers. It’s definitive and decisive in the results and yesterday, the Chicago Cubs had their definitive ending to the first half of the 2017 season in a 14-3 loss to their division rivals Pittsburgh Pirates. It was a poignant score at the end of the first inning, a 10-0 inning chasing exit for Jon Lester.

“I think people just want to get away, get away from this, get away from the grind. [The Cubs’ record] is not for a lack of effort, it’s not for a lack of preparation. It is what it is. Take four days to regroup, refresh and show up Friday ready. I think the big thing for us is to play good baseball, play solid baseball. Forget the record, forget the batting averages, our ERA, and just get back to playing good sound baseball. The talent on this team will speak for itself.” Lester said following the game.

This is true. of course their record doesn’t fully represent what this team can do. Just like any other sports cliche but that one applies to the 2017 Cubs. They’re good, we know it and they know it. So what happened to them in the first half? Well, lets’ see:

These are just a few of the low lights that have occurred so far this season with the Cubs. If this were any other season or any other Chicago team, fans would be staying away from Wrigley’s sacred ground. The truth is that people still believe in them.

“I’m still very confident,” Maddon said. “I believe in our guys and I’m eager to see us coming out of the break.”

If this were any other year, big changes would be happening. Maddon would be out of a job, trades would happen but this is the Chicago Cubs. They’re World Series Champions and possibly poised to be World Series Chumps if they continue playing the way they’re doing.

The fitting end to the first half couldn’t be better. Last year, the Cubs faced the Pirates in the series before the break, and it signalled a turnaround to their mini slump. They went on a tear after the All Star break and never looked back. Could this be the same?

Of course it’ll be one of the greatest turnarounds in professional sports history. I can read the headlines now:

“The Chicago Cubs Win The World Series After Posting Sub .500 first half” It certainly can happen with someone like Joe Maddon in the dugout. They have an easy schedule. Perhaps Cubs fans were so used to losing that we forgot how to get used to winning?

“If I had a reason, I would’ve fixed it out there,” Lester said. “Unfortunately, it’s never a good time to have a bad start. I really don’t know — I don’t know what to say to make it better, to give you a reason. It kind of speaks for itself. It’s embarrassing.”

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Cubs Split With Rays

Jon Jay

Yesterday’s game continued to show the good and the bad of this year’s Cubs. In their 7-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, it was the Cubs rookie Ian Happ hitting a two run single that boosted the Cubs past a tie.

“It was a more complete game,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We were down 3-0, but I felt good about it. It’s just that things weren’t going our way. That batted-ball-in-play statistic has to come back to us at some point. The ball’s been hit hard but at people. We’ve got to keep fighting through it.”

Then along comes Jon Jay with his second home run in, well, a long time. The Cubs have struggled all year for reasons that have become perennial head scratchers after the success last year. The two things that haven’t been struggling is Happ and Jay. Now, I’ve got this theory that it has something to do with Joe Maddon. He’s been great with the young guys, especially last season but this year the team isn’t quite so young. They’re veterans now and perhaps that’s Maddon’s achilles; he’s not as good with veterans. Perhaps the Cubs shouldn’t have won last season.

So the All Star break is coming up and unlike last season, the Cubs are kinda watching from the dugout. Wade Davis the only representation besides Joe Maddon and Kris Bryant might get the vote in but in reality the Cubs haven’t deserved the right to appear in the annual classic and I’m all right with that. It’s not as much a popularity contest as it is showcasing the best of the best. While Anthony Rizzo is putting up decent numbers, the Cubs just aren’t there this season.

“I cannot dispute that,” Maddon said. “So many went last year. The last two years have been long years. Our guys have been going after it pretty hard. I’m not disappointed in regards to that.”

The Cubs had seven players in the classic last year. So maybe this is a good thing that will build momentum in the second half. There’ll be some key players returning from injuries, Jason Heyward is back and Kyle Hendricks is poised for a return soon. Whatever happens to the Cubs in the second half, the results will be good. This year is kind of like a team building season. How would they deal with a championship or is this the beginning of another century drought?

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Cubs Have Finger Hovering Over Panic Button

Kyle Hendricks

You know I’m going to write about the positive takeaways in the Cubs 3-0 loss to the Rockies. You know that I’m going to send raves Kyle Hendricks way even though he was charged with three earned runs.

“Just one of those days for us,” Hendricks said.

That about sums up the Cubs woes this season. In fact, it’s been an up and down year for the North Siders. It could be the World Series hangover affecting their season or other teams have caught on to their system. I don’t know.

“You saw the more awkward swings against Kyle today,” Maddon said. “You saw the taken strike, the swing and miss, so he was looking a lot more normal today than he has in a while, and especially here against this team. I thought he was outstanding.”

For the most part he was but in the end, the Cubs are 17-17. I can’t help but feel frustrated for Maddon and the Cubs. For the players that are struggling, he puts them in the leadoff. Last year they had Dexter Fowler. Yesterday, they switched up Kyle Schwarber for Jon Jay and the result was less than stellar. Jon Jay went 0-4. I feel they should just stick with one batter but the problem is that the batter in question is Schwarber. He’s not a lead off hitter. I like the guy and he struck playoff magic after almost a year off from the game. He’s destined for the American League.

“[Ben] Zobrist would be the likely candidate,” Maddon said. “Then you start stacking lefties, which is what I don’t want to do. It feels good this way. It’s not about Schwarber hitting leadoff, he’s just not hitting like Schwarber yet. That’s all.”

Will the real Schwarber show up? Listen, I’m not trying to be hard on the team but their .500 showing so far is not indicative of the kind of numbers this team is capable of putting up. We all know that. Or is it?

There’s a new kid in town Jeimer Candelario and he’s hitting cleanup. The kid went 0-4 which is to be expected until he finds his legs.

“He was playing that well in Triple-A,” manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s not an anomaly. We’ve seen him in Spring Training, we saw him last year. He can be a very, very good player. I’m very comfortable with him in the cleanup spot. Switch-hitter; his OPS is 1.000 on both sides, or better. He’s off to a good start in the season, so why not?”

Why not? The Cubs might have to mix it up and be unpredictable. Sure, I’d love for them to head back to the big game but I’d love even more to see them just as competitive as last year and provide the kind of awesome baseball that they’re capable of playing.

“This is our worst baseball right now,” Kris Bryant said. “Not hitting the panic button at all. We know the talent we have here. It’s exciting. We’ve had a tough schedule here, long games, rain delays, that can affect you, but excited to have an off day and get back to it.”

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Cubs Get Humiliated By Phillies

Brett Anderson

We don’t live in a perfect world we know that. In a perfect world, the Cubs would be beating their chests while other teams try to take away what is theirs. So far this season, the Cubs have put that trophy on a table and tell all teams who pass through Wrigley Field,” We had our turn, now’s your time. It’s your time.”

In last night’s stinging 10-2 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, the Cubs looked more like the team Theo Epstein inherited and less like the one who steamrolled back against the Cleveland team in the World Series.

“I’m not trying to rationalize anything — we had a horrible night — but I think the takeaways are stretching out pitcher Mike Montgomery and Kyle Schwarber getting behind the plate a little bit,” Maddon said.

If this is the sound of a manager that’s worried about his team, I’m expecting big changes coming up. Schwarber behind the plate? Let’s face it, the experiment of Schwarber hitting leadoff isn’t working out as well as everyone hoped it would. Whether the addition of Schwarber behind the plate in the late innings of the game signalled a change was on the horizon, it’s anyone’s guess.

“You look around baseball, right now the best teams in baseball have seven or eight losses,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “What we did last year [starting 25-6] is the anomaly. Realistically, you expect your team to grow and get sharper as the season goes along, and I think that’s going to happen with us.”

It won’t happen if they don’t make changes to the order. Whether it’s Jon Jay, Ben Zobrist or Addison Russell in the leadoff spot, it’s worth a look.

Brett Anderson had a night he’d like to forget. He gave up seven in just over an innings worth of work. perhaps the Friendly Confines hare getting too friendly?

“There were no positives to gain from this outing,” Anderson said. “I have five starts, and I’m averaging three or four innings a start, which is embarrassing from my perspective. Hopefully going forward I can pitch better and give us a chance.”

Last year’s April start wasn’t an anomaly at all. The Cubs, for whatever reason known to them, bonded together and came out and crushed all competition. Whether it was the Dexter Fowler factor or some other magical ingredient, it’s true, the Cubs need to mix it up a bit.

“I could not be happier with the group right now, with the way guys are going about their business,” he said. “It’s just going keep getting better.”

Believe it.

Cubs/Red Sox Play The Game Right

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs only play the Red Sox every few years. There’s an argument against interleague play but I don’t see it. Even though the Red Sox won the weekend matchup from their step brother’s in the National League, the Cubs/ Red Sox provide so much in favour of the rich history of Major League baseball, that it would be a shame to see it go.

Kyle Hendricks got off to a shaky start in the 6-2 loss, he settled into a nice groove and I think he’s going to just get better as the season wears on.

“We came out of the gates so hot last year,” Hendricks said. “That was a special phenomenon. Usually this is more what you expect [in April], guys finding their ways into their roles. To be able to still win ballgames is a good sign. We’re not clicking on all cylinders. Once that starts happening, getting in the middle of the year, everybody will start rolling.”

Like Hendricks said, in a way the other teams have should that the Cubs are human in April after all. Yet, despite the mediocre start, there were signs in the Boston series that the Cubs are settling into their groove. Jon Jay had a nice trip around the bags to score at home. He’s a veteran with a good eye on what’s happening at the plate and doesn’t necessarily wait for the base coach’s instructions.

“With everything that happened this month and being on the road a lot, I’ll take what we did right now and get on back home and try to build upon it. There’s not a negative to be found for me.” Joe Maddon said.

The bullpen has come around. look at the work of Carl Edwards Jr. He was practically lights out last night, striking out two. The lanky pitcher was throwing laser beams but if it wasn’t for the mistake costly eighth, the Cubs would have easily won that game.

Then, of course, was Kris Bryant‘s long ball tribute yet again to his parents. The way I look at this series of two teams paying homage to broken curses is that this could very well be a preview to the World Series.

“This is good for the industry,’’  Joe Maddon said . “This has been playoff-like baseball with two really good teams playing the game properly.’’

The two oldest parks in the majors, two curses broken; Now, imagine they meet in the Fall classic? That would be historic. However, there’s plenty of baseball left to play.

Believe it.

Cubs Send Out The Sultan of Schwarb

Chicago Cubs

In the Cubs opening series win yesterday with a score of 6-4, the Cubs proved something; Everybody talks about the “Good ol’days” when legends like, Williams, Koufax and Ruth played but I guarantee in years to come there’ll be guys on this Cubs squad that people will sit in front of their plaques in Cooperstown, deep in thought taking in those “Good ol’ Days” or some dad telling his son about the man who wore those infamous spectacles.

Why?

Kyle “The Sultan of Schwarb” Schwarber crushed a two run homer yet again adding to his Babe Ruth comparison. First it was the ball that landed on the scoreboard and then it was the Comeback where he went 7-17 after spending a year off with an injury that would have derailed any other mere mortal’s career perhaps. Yet yesterday, Schwarber continued to build his legend.

“It was a good team win right there,” Schwarber said. “[John] Lackey battled his butt off. He gave us six quality innings. For things to kind of go our way there with Yadi and the ball sticking on the the chest protector, [then] a good at-bat by Jon Jay. I was able to get a good pitch and drive it.”

There’s something about the sound a bat makes when it connects on a home run hit ball. In many ways, someone could compare it to perfection. That right moment where everything in the universe is aligned and it connects to make that CRACK! I’ll tell you folks, if you’ve never been to a ballgame and heard that sound, you know the moment the ball leaves the stick and the direction of the batter’s eyes it’s gone.

“I was just more looking for a good pitch,” Schwarber said. “If it was a slider or fastball, whatever it was, I just wanted to jump on it. He’s a good pitcher. To get behind on guys like that, sometimes you just don’t want to do it. My approach is I’m going to be selective-aggressive. I got my pitch from pitch one, and was able to put a good swing on it.”

With the retirement of David Ross, John Lackey takes over the “Grampa” role. Yesterday, he proved he was their workhorse pitcher and leader on the mound. It wasn’t the prettiest of wins, giving up six and allowing four earned runs but as they say, a win is a win.

Tonight, the Cubs will square off against divisional foe, Milwaukee Brewers. Brett Anderson gets the start in a series which will showcase the season debut of Kyle Hendricks.

Then Monday, the banners come up.

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