Cubs Win Fifth, Sit On Top NL Central

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Well, the Chicago Cubs have won five in a row. After their 3-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies, the Cubs now stand alone on top of the National league Central. In a month that saw the Cubs get off to a shaky start and struggle with starting pitching, key injuries and extreme cold temperatures, your friendly northside neighbourhood blue cuddly bears have now broken out of their hibernation and have begun to roar.

“We made mistakes we normally don’t make,”Joe Maddon said. “You would think giving them all those extra outs would not turn out in our favor. Give our relievers a lot of credit.”

It wasn’t pretty but a win is a win. Jon Lester lasted 5 and some changeout they managed to squeak out the win. Perhaps it was the Cubs shortened inclement weather schedule that was to blame but now the Cubs are baseball’s hottest team and just before you can say, “Holy Cow!” the Cubs have a shot tonight at becoming the first team in the “Live ball” era to win six in a row while giving up fewer than three runs. Who better than to be on the mound than Kyle Hendricks.

Right?

Even though Lester left the game, Luke Farrell, the son of John Farrell (Toronto Blue Jays/Boston Red Sox) stepped up and sealed the deal. While lester didn’t go deep into the game, the positives were there with Farrell getting the win. It showed Maddon and the team that the bullpen can keep fresh and Farrell will hopefully be able to deliver some more opportunities this season.

“We’ve been going back and forth,” Farrell said. “He was pumped. Mom, too. Family, brothers — it’s something we can all share. This is my first time pitching as a Cub at Wrigley, and the adrenaline I felt pitching in front of fans like this on a Monday night is pretty amazing.”

Yeah it is pretty amazing and it was amazing that Kris Bryant was back in the game doing what Bryant does best and delivering key plays like in the sixth inning when he scored the tie breaking run.

“I thought he looked great at the plate the very first at-bat back,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Bryant. “I think he looks fine. … I have not seen anything negative at the plate.”

So far, May’s proven to be quite positive.

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Cubs Show Moxy But Not Enough

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The Cubs, without Kris Bryant in the lineup, were downed by Cleveland 4-1. They went into the game facing a hot pitcher in Trevor Bauer, who by weird stroke of stupidity, I benched in our Fantasy League.

Go figure?

“I didn’t think we were up there just swinging without a plan,” Joe Maddon said. “But [Bauer] is on top of his game right now. They kept coming back [to the dugout] saying, ‘He is throwing the ball exactly where he wants to.'”

The bats couldn’t get anything into the air, but on the mound, Jon Lester rebounded to have a solid outing.

“I feel like we’re just kind of at that point where we need to put like three games together,” Lester said. “I feel like we’re just trying to get over that hump with that third game, and it’s kind of rolling from there. We’ve been playing well, but we’ve had some ups and downs on both sides of the ball.”

Um, I’ve been saying that all April. Yes, the Cubs are having a see saw kind of Spring and it might work but chances are, they’ll need to do exactly what Lester has indicated, and put together three wins in a row. Listen, we all want them to dominate, so perhaps they need to win a couple of series in a row to stay relevant come August.

Yesterday’s game was a different beast altogether. The Cubs could have/should have come out victorious but the end resulted in Cleveland just getting all the really good knocks.

“Whoever says solo homers can’t beat you (is wrong), I guess,” Lester said. “The only pitch that was a bad decision on my part — and I shook to it — was the pitch to Guyer. The other two, Lindor goes oppo and a ball on the ground that Encarnacion hits out. That’s the game, unfortunately.”

Andrew Miller got injured and that wasn’t enough for the Cubs to take advantage of? I also believe that Anthony Rizzo needs to get going. He’s their “Unofficial” leader in the clubhouse and when he returns to form, the Cubs should be getting back on track.

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Cubs Get Happ-y in Milwaukee

 

Cubs 5, Brewers 2

“We never quit” has been an ongoing saying within the Cubs organization for a couple of years now, well, since they won the World Series. In yesterday afternoon’s 5-2 9th inning heroics over the Milwaukee Brewers, the Cubs looked like that team that doesn’t quit. Jon Lester hit a sacrifice bunt, now that’s a true non-quitter!

Ian Happ strikes out a lot. He also comes through when it counts, yesterday was no different.

“You’ve just got to keep working,” Happ said. “It’s the reason why we play this many games and it’s a game of averages, because there’s going to be some ups and downs. Hopefully this is going to be the biggest of the downs and I’ll get back going on a normal pace.”

He was the big reason the Cubs turned the corner. Yeah, I’m liking this rivalry a lot. Rivalries over time and situation, the Milwaukee/Cubs rivalry is getting exciting and we’re going to see a good one today.

“We always fight,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We’ve been unable to get the big hit. It was nice for ‘Happy’ to get off the schneid there. Big at-bat. Loved that it went to left center, that’s a good sign as opposed to being pulled. That’s a huge at-bat right there. And of course, Jonny Lester. That could not have been placed more perfectly. We’re playing well. We’re just not getting hits when we need it.”

They are playing well. Whether it’s a miscue or just an unlucky break, the Cubs have managed to claw their way through the month and manage to stay within the pack. It’s great news that Yu Darvish bounced back in this game from his Cubs debut as well.

“Darvish was tremendous,”  Maddon said after the game. “He hit a groove in his delivery. Once he gets to that point, heads up, because he’s going to throw strikes exactly where he wants to. That’s exactly where he was at by the time we had to take him out.”

Also, Brandon Morrow picked up his first save with the club. You know what? It felt like yesterday’s game was the game that dusted off the regular season dust and got them into a sync for the months ahead–I hope. So, what was with the umpire picking on Victor Caratini? There were more than a few missed calls with the guy, I don’t know I’m going to keep my eye on that in the future, it could be the Milwaukee crowd or just a coincidence. Another thing I’ve been meaning to ask is what’s with the foggy atmosphere in Milwaukee?

So, with the series finally today(I’ll be keeping an eye on the Masters as well)the Cubs are gearing up for their home opener tomorrow. What’s on the menu and how do you celebrate it?

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Cubs Shut Out Brewers In Style

Cubs 8, Brewers 0

Nobody can say that, “It’s only April” anymore, the Chicago Cubs and the rest of the league are well into the 2018 season. Even though the Cubs/ Brewers series seemed a little lopsided on paper, the Cubs weren’t going to take anything for granted, especially their newish arch rivals. Last night, the Cubs opened the series with an 8-0 destruction of the Brewers.

“When you make mistakes on defense and the other team takes advantage, it normally does hit you in the solar plexus a bit,” Maddon said. “Javy’s had that kind of experience on the bases. He’s always heads up. If you watch him, he’ll look behind as he’s running to see what’s going on. Going back in the day, you’d see [Willie] Mays do that a lot. [Baez] has got extraordinary instincts on the bases.”

There were a lot of miscues and mistakes that the Cubs took advantage of especially Javier Baez who can read plays like very few can in the MLB. It helped a bit when the Brewers committed error after error. I’m not saying they played poorly but the Cubs capitalized on just about every opportunity brought their way.

“Javy never ceases to amaze people with what he’s able to do on the basepaths, let alone everything else,” Jon Lester said. “He’s always going to play the game aggressively, and it’s always going to work out for us. I think the slide was more impressive than him reading that ball and getting home. That’s always a nice thing to have on your side.”

The run for home is something Cubs fans would love to see more of this season.

“I had a good jump and the ball took a little bit to get to him and he speeded up a little bit,” Baez said. “Right before I stepped on third base, I turned and [Cain] bobbled the ball, so I kept going. They let me run the bases how I want to. I obviously have fun out there. If you pay attention to where you need to be and wherever the sign’s coming from, you know everything. At that moment, I was reacting to the play and hustling down the line.”

Last night’s win was an excellent chance to dust the dirt from the pants and get back in form. I loved the lineup last night and seeing Ian Happ back at lead off was a welcome return. The other player that looked really good was Ben Zobrist. Maddon has a thing for Zobrist and last night showed why.

“He’s been seeing pitches,” Maddon said. “He’s been hitting the ball hard. Putting him and (Ian) Happ in front of KB and (Anthony) Rizzo, I thought it might help a little bit to feed those two. And then you move everybody else down, which isn’t a bad thing. Zobrist has really looked good at the plate so I thought it was wise to get him back up near the top.”

It was a very wise decision. The other decision is what to do with Jason Heyward?

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Cubs Find No Joy In WrigleyVille

Part of the beauty of baseball and any other sport for that matter, is that there has to be a winner and a loser. To say that the Cubs shouldn’t have been in the NLCS this year would be wrong. They won their right to qualify for the World Series but last night’s 11-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers showed fans , sport writers and the Cubs brass just about everything they needed to know about what went wrong with the Cubs during the first half of the season. It also should everyone just how mismatched the Cubs/Dodgers series was in the first place.

“It’s a disappointing season that we didn’t go to the World Series,” Chicago pitcher Jon Lester said, “but whenever you get on the plane to go home or get in the car to go home, you have to look at the positives, and the positives are we gave ourselves a chance. It didn’t happen this year. We got beat by a better team. You’ve got to tip your hat sometimes.”

There’s that tipping of the hat again. No, the Cubs shouldn’t tip their caps. They should be saying ,”Thank you” to the Dodgers that this was done in five games. It was fitting that a three time Cy Young winner was facing a pitcher, who’s name wasn’t Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks or Jon Lester. It was Jose Quintana. A pitcher that looked like a deer in headlights after the first inning.

“The better team won over the course of these five games. They played really well. They kind of out-pitched us and everything else. So give them credit. Dave Roberts and their entire staff, I just want to say, ‘Congratulations.’ [We] know what it feels like coming off of last year — we were celebrating versus them in this exact same spot. So they’ve had themselves a spectacular year, and I want to wish them all well in the World Series.” Joe Maddon said.

As I do too. They dominated the Cubs in every category. When the guys like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant can’t get it done; then there’s problems. Someone asked me yesterday what my prediction was for last night’s game, and I told them,

” You have a three time Cy Young winner going against a team without their best starting pitcher, their top guys in a hitting slump and a closing ace that’s unavailable; David had better odds against Goliath”

Which they replied,”That was a story and David won”

“No, this is baseball and numbers don’t lie.”

Of course, I was hoping the Cubs would in some miracle, win and move on but in a way, I’m glad the season is over. The Cubs need to lick their wounds and concentrate on next year. I’m proud of the team, their accomplishments and look forward to spring again. When everything is new and hopes and dreams are a clean slate.

“As a team, we know it’s an accomplishment to get to where we’ve gotten to,” Ben Zobristsaid. “But after what we experienced last year, this is less than what we wanted this year. At the same time, you have to recognize how tough a year it was for us. We kept battling and were able to win our division and win the Division Series to get here. I think the Dodgers were just better. They played a phenomenal series and we didn’t. We have to keep our heads up. We kept battling together and stayed together.

Casey At The Bat

by Ernest Thayer

The Outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play.
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, if only Casey could get but a whack at that –
We’d put up even money, now, with Casey at the bat.

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a lulu and the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey’s getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despis-ed, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and the men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile on Casey’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ’twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance gleamed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped-
“That ain’t my style,” said Casey. “Strike one,” the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore.
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted someone on the stand;
And its likely they’d a-killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew;
But Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, “Strike two.”

“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered fraud;
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate;
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate.
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.

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.

#ThatsCub

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Cubs Down 2-0 in NLCS. Head Back To Wrigley

If the Chicago Cubs go on to lose the NLCS then it’ll be on Joe Maddon’s shoulders. There I said it. I say this after the Cubs were downed by the Dodgers 4-1 and now the Dodgers have a two game lead going to Chicago on Tuesday.

Sure, Kris Bryant‘s bat has gone silent, in fact, the rest of the team has been quiet in this series. Nobody can blame it on stellar pitching because both rotations have been in a state of flux. The fact is that Jon Lester should have stayed in for another inning or even a couple more outs. Carl Edwards was good for another few outs and well, Brian Deunsing was pitching really well, so I don’t quite understand what went wrong there? Oh wait, I’m sure everyone’s scratching their heads over the use of John Lackey. The guy has never pitched back to back games in his life.

“I really just needed him for the save tonight,” Joe Maddon said. “He had limited pitches. It was one inning only, and in these circumstances, you don’t get him up and then don’t get him in. So if we had caught the lead, he would have pitched. That’s it.”

Now, I’m glad Wade Davis wasn’t used, he’ll be fresh for Tuesday at Wrigley Field. Here’s hoping it’s cold in Chicago and Yasul Puig’s tongue sticks to the bat. Any recommendations of a rule change to aluminum?

“It’s their guys versus our guys,” Addison Russell said. “We’re playing to win. I feel like the competition just steps up a little bit because each pitch is more crucial, each swing, each play. An error can be the deciding factor of winning or losing. A bad pitch can be the decision of winning or losing. That’s really what I like about it.”

It’s really going to come down to the Cubs scoring more runs and Maddon not playing hot potato with his bullpen. Kyle Hendricks gets the start on Tuesday. He’s well rested and he needs to put up a performance for the ages, at least seven innings. Carl Edwards Jr relieves him and then it’s Wade Davis’ turn to shine.

“All you’re focused on is making pitches,” Hendricks said recently. “That’s my job and it never changes — no matter regular-season game, postseason game, no matter who you are facing on the other side of the mound. My focus is to go out there, make good pitches, rely on my preparation which I’ve done all year long. But when it comes down to it, when those lights turn on, you just have to execute pitches better than the other guy.”

The Cubs have been down in a series before and fought back, we know this and we know the results. They needed that win in LA, but not all is lost. They win three at Wrigley and take one back in LA. Easy Peasy, right? Bill Murray will be there to cheer them on and the momentum is clearly in the Cubs corner.

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Exhausted Cubs Take One On The Chin, And A Bill Murray sighting.

We knew going into the NLCS that it wasn’t going to be a cake walk. The Los Angeles Dodgers had an amazing season and of course, if it wasn’t for the first half, the Cubs would have given them a tough go at first overall. Last night’s exhaustive 5-2 loss came as no surprise.

“[The Dodgers] won 100-plus games for a reason,” the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo said. “They have a really good bullpen. It’s just about bringing those guys into the strike zone. They don’t really have guys who give in.”

Neither do the Cubs. There is good news about yesterday’s game. If the Cubs play their cards right, they probably won’t have to face Clayton Kershaw again, although we know that nothing is written in stone.

Two things that did the Cubs in was the play at the plate where Willson Contreras allegedly blocked the plate, it was the right call but it wasn’t done intentionally. Both players were doing their jobs. Unfortunate yes, but the Cubs should rebound tonight.

Why?

Jon Lester.

“I have all the faith in the world,” Joe Maddon said. “You have to trust your guys. You have to trust the conversation and I do. Jonny said he feels great, so Jonny’s pitching. And furthermore, this time of the year, these kind of battle-tested guys under these circumstances — they look for these moments.”

I do too. The Cubs were beat because of their thrilling series to the Nationals. They were exhausted beyond compare and up against the well rested Dodgers, it was inevitable that the Cubs lost game 1.

“Right now, I think the biggest difference is we have to get our bullpen in order,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “That’s probably the biggest difference between both seasons — that we have to be able to hold small deficits or small leads in the middle and then hopefully get to [Wade Davis] in a positive situation. I think standing out right now, their bullpen is pretty firm, and we have to really get our feet back on the ground.”

Tonight is what I’d call a do over. Lester is a competitor and a pro. A big difference in the outcome.

Oh, that other thing that beat the Cubs was the weirdness of Yasiel Puig. His bat flip was justified but I think he’s a pariah to the Dodgers. In a post game interview, Puig said it wasn’t his first career post season home run, when in fact, it was.

Ah well.

Hey, recognize this guy?

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people standing

He was spotted near where I live in Kingston. The pizza joint is called The Pizza Place    Now, it’s always thrilling seeing Bill Murray in the crowd at Wrigley and I’m assuming that he’ll be there when the series returns home.

Tonight, 8 O’Clock the tides will turn in the series.

“It’s a series, so we just have to come at it the same way and just not panic, really. Just go in with the same mindset and just be ready [on Sunday]. I think we’re going to come in here with clear minds and an upbeat attitude and ready to get after it.” Addison Russell

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