Despite Catch of The Year, Rizzo And Cubs Stymied By D’Backs

Chicago Cubs v Arizona Diamondbacks

If there’s one word to describe Anthony Rizzo, it has to be, “Amazing” and you better believe it’s a damn cliché when I say the “Amazing” Anthony Rizzo or Captain Amazing. Because folks, that’s exactly what he is, amazing.

Sure the Cubs lost yesterday. The Diamondbacks poisoned any chance of the Cubs making the Wild Card but that will forever be known as “The Catch” Why? Because in true Cubs lore, only a player like Rizzo could destroy a Rawlings, make a catch like that, tie the lead in the National League in home runs and still end up losing the game.

Cubs eventually succumbed to the D’Backs 3-2

“We need to just win,” Rizzo said. “It’s another close game. We keep fighting and we’re in a position to tie it up. We didn’t come through, but we have to keep grinding.”

So, is it just another curse for the Cubs? Since the trade, they’re 11-13. Coincidence? Or is it just a case of a struggling team. Emilio Bonifacio will be back soon and Arismendy Alcantara made the first cut so you know what that means? Darwin Barney and Nate Schierholtz are most likely on the move. Or what about Junior Lake? He could be sent down. In baseball, anything can happen.

“We’re well aware trades will continue to take place and guys will be shuffled in different positions and get experience across the board and they’ll fit guys in certain situations,” Jake Arrieta said. “That doesn’t take away from our mindset of going out there and trying to win every series.

It could sound like a broken record. It might be a cliché taking one series at a time but I tell you, these are just growing pains. Theo Epstein’s plan is a year away from fruition. It’s working. Cubs fans aren’t the most loyal fans in sports; they’re the most patient.

106 Years? Pretty soon we’ll be saying “Last year’s World Series Champions”

Believe it.

—Mark

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Diamondbacks Rear Their Ugly Head Against Cubs

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Arizona Diamondbacks

Last night’s game wasn’t pretty. Sure, Castillo’s home run was awesome and Starlin Castro going 2 for 4 showed promise but for some reason, the lowly Diamondbacks seem to own the Cubs. I don’t know why that is, but numbers don’t lie and since the “Big” trade of Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, the Cubs have lost 10 of their last 12. Yes, Arizona beat up on the Cubs 9-3.

That’s disgusting. There’s no getting around that. I do have sympathy for the Cubs but they should have won those last two games against Arizona. However, “Should” has been scratched out, deleted and wiped from the books of baseball. It just simply does not exist. I’ve looked it up. You do the same.

I thought about not writing a post about last night’s game, but old habits die hard.

“For me, once we lost Hammel and Jeff, it’s a big gap to fill in the rotation,” Travis Wood said. “For sure, I really want to go out and give seven, eight innings as strong as I can every time and so far it hasn’t been happening. Like I said, I promise we’ll get there.”

He should know. There was a point in last night’s game when Welington Castillo went to the mound to have an old tete a tete with Wood, but you know that hurler just didn’t want to come out of the game. He’s been a struggling warrior all season and guys like him will turn their game around.

I’m holding out hope that Theo Epstein will pull the trigger and bring Baez up to get his feet wet. It’s inevitable because I’m confident Darwin Barney and possibly Nate Schierholtz will be packing their locker soon.

Folks, believe me when I tell you that good times are coming for the Cubs. Anthony Rizzo is in a position to lead the National League in Home Runs and although he went hitless last night, Arismendy Alcantara has got that explosive potential to be an all star.

“We still have to have conversations to see how we’ll go. It’s one of those situations where it’s still day-to-day.” Rick Renteria said.

All right, I was singing Mike Olt’s praise at the start of the season, but he’s faltered and gone cold. I think the Cubs shouldn’t make a quick decision on his future but he might be one of those sleeper players that a couple of years down the road might mature into something great.

Believe it.

—Mark

There’s Always This Year For Cubs

There’s a trade deadline fast approaching. Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel have all ready headed to the west. So, do the Cubs make another move? Well, the Cubs have a lot of holes to fill but deciding who will stay and who will go is going to be harder than finding the wins in the left column of the standings.

It shouldn’t be that hard of a choice. There’s a lot of players to choose from. Let’s start with Darwin Barney. A great defender considered one of the best in the majors and I’ll bet a dime to a dollar that he’s a great guy to boot any team will be glad to have him. Does he fit in the Cubs plans? No. His plate contributions haven’t been up to snuff this season and the Cubs have a well publicized stockpile of talent waiting in the wings. DARWIN BARNEY-TRADE

Nate Schierholtz is another guy who has stalled this year. He’s been getting better but not the same player he was a year ago. He’ll be gone.

Now for some of the difficult decisions. Junior Lake. After an explosive debut last season, the Lake’s run dry. He’s frustrated with his play and that’s a tough spot to be in because the talent is still there and he’s young so it wouldn’t benefit him or the Cubs to be in a situation where his confidence is not there. I’d shop him.

The team will have to make room for Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler and Javier Baez. Fans have been waiting a long time for them and soon it’ll be that time.

It’s a great time to be a Cub and unless you’re Edwin Jackson with an embarrassing contract hanging over your head, this time next year the Cubs will be in the hunt. Fans across the nation and beyond(with the exception of those pesky Cardinals) should wish them well.

But wait. Didn’t they say that last year? “There’s always next year” has become a mantra in the blue pinstripes and red “C” but next season the Cub will grow into a bear and it will be playoff hunting season.

Believe it.

—Mark

Cubs Lose And Other Cliches

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It’s easy to forget that there’s a whole team when a player like Arismendy Alcantara comes along and captures the imaginations and starry eyed dreams of a potential post season(not this year)but can anyone blame us Cubs fans for buying into this wonder kid who put a dent in the books by collecting his first career Home Run? Don’t blame us. The kid is awesome, but beware a sophomore slump AKA Junior Lake.

Yesterday was a frustrating game by all accounts. One part maddening, and another part inspiring. I love Jim Deshaies banter with Len Kasper. They have one of the toughest jobs in sports. Trying to be neutral about a team going through challenging times and remaining optimistic about their future. Hey, that’s me!!!

Even though the Cubs lost to the Braves, there were a lot of good points. The Cubs fought back in late innings which is a sure sign of a team on the rise. What once was a struggle with Runners In Scoring Position is now a challenge to win from behind. There’s still the problem with RISP, but the Cubs are clearing a hurdle.

“For myself, I’m not happy with it at all,” Travis Wood said. “A lot of stuff to improve on. A lot of stuff to do better in the second half. … Every year is different. It’s kind of what I’ve taken into spring — that you’re never going to be the same as you were last year. Nothing is ever going to go the same way it did. It’s just a new year, different challenges, and you’ve got to overcome them.”

The Cubs have a strong front end with Chris Coghlan, Arismendy Alcantara, Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro. How will the Fantastic Four carry the momentum in the second half or will we see sightings of Javier Baez, Kris Bryant or Jorge Soler?

“I’m having fun,” Alcantara said. “I just try to do my job. If they want me to stay here, I will. It’s not my decision.”

“Dance with the one who got you here” is the cringing cliché, but even in a limited role, Arismendy will help. The Cubs are in a great position to try new things out and just go for it all. I’m excited about the second half.

For now though, we have two All Stars to watch!!!!

Believe It,

—Mark

Cubs In A National Fog

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It may have been foggy at Wrigley Field last night, but the Cubs saw everything clearly, carving out a 5-3 win over the Washington Nationals.

Cubs’ sensational pitcher Travis Wood struggled and was yanked in the sixth, but the great thing about yesterday’s win was that the Cubs managed to put some runs on the board and not rely solely on pitching.

Justin Ruggiano cranked a two run double in the seventh. You don’t hear his name often but Ruggiano has been steady and going through the rest of the year, could provide an anchor to a possible Wild Card spot. For those interested, the Cubs are now 8.5 back. Some readers may think the Cubs don’t have a shot, but you never know, do you?

“It was nice to help out,” said Ruggiano, who missed time this season with an injury and posted his first-multi RBI game since April 23. “You always feel like hitting in front of [Anthony] Rizzo, you’re going to get pitches to hit. You want to make sure you swing at strikes when hitting in front of Rizzo because he’s been on fire. In my mind, he’s an All-star, he’s been an All-Star.”

As usual, the team of Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro continued their successful bid for a spot in the All Star Game. Rizzo went 3-4 while Castro chipped in with two RBI’s.

Junior Lake literally hit the wall and was taken out of the game. There appears to be no sustaining injury and should be back in the lineup soon.

So, the Cubs are on last year’s pace with a record of 33-44 The question of, “Are they the same team?” No. The Cubs have some new faces, but they’re playing with a whole different vibe then last year. The games are closer and when the team does lose, they’re fighting back and getting some pretty decent pitching. They may or may not get a Wild Card spot, but are laying the groundwork for future stars Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, Javier Baez.

Other detractors might think that the Edwin Jackson experiment has failed, but maybe he was overpriced but every now and then he can show flashes of brilliance.

All right, the Edwin Jackson experiment failed.

Believe it.

—Mark

Cubs in Pirate’s Davy Jone’s Locker

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So, my campaign to bring Stephen King to a ball game is off to a sluggish start. I still haven’t heard any news back from the horror master, but then again, I didn’t expect to anyways. Aw c’mon, like you didn’t think it was a good idea?

Speaking of horror stories, see what I did there? The Cubs lost a heartbreaker against their divisionary foes, The Pirates 2-1. it was an important series for the Cubs to win but now they plunged deeper into Pittsburgh’s Davy Jone’s locker also known as The Wild Card Race, where the Cubs sit at 8.5 back. Impossible? No. Welington Castillo is back and that should boost the team morale. Plus, those nifty throwbacks. Man, they look good.

“I’m proud of these guys, because they’re trying to — this is a very tough division and these are the games that you’re starting to fight, you’re starting to feel yourself, and we didn’t just come out and lay down,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. “We kept playing, and we just fell short.”

That pretty much sums up yesterday’s loss. Plus, the fact that the Cubs went 0-6 in RISP kinda contributed to the defeat.

The good news is that Jason Hammel pitched very well and continues to get better.

“It’s just another 2-1 loss; there’s a lot of close ball games, but we’re playing well,” Hammel said. “We just can’t scratch and claw those runs that we need. It’s just a matter of learning how to do that, and that’s what’s going to make this team a winner.”

Although I don’t believe that’s entirely true. Like a lot of transitional teams(Rebuilding is such a cliché), the Cubs will have games where their pitching is great and defence is off or hitting is on the mark. of course, championship calibre teams have all working on just about every game. That’s a no brainer and in the Cub’s case, that’s all right.

I could say that it’s just awesome when the Cubs win a game or I could say it’s amazing when the Castro and Rizzo hit it long but I would be fooling myself. I want the Cubs to win. I want Nate Schierholtz to stare down the pitcher. I want to marvel in the youthful enthusiasm of Junior Lake. What about Luis Valbuena giving that familiar sideways peace sign to the eye? I want to see Jeff Samardzija smile once in a while and Pedro Strop to be lights out awesome. The reality of course, is that the pitching staff has been good, sometimes incredible.

just like I dream about hanging out with Stephen King at a Red Sox game, I dream more of the Cubs winning the whole damn thing.

Believe It.

—Mark

Cubs Betting On Wild Card

Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs

There wasn’t a more fitting ceremonial pitch than having Wayne Newton chuck it over the plate.

That was a huge win for the Chicago Cubs. It seems that the Pirates always have their number, but yesterdays 6-3 win was important in so many ways. First off, it was the Cubs eleventh win in June. Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo are doing what their contracts are telling them to do. Hit the ball and hit it often. Castro exceeded last year’s home run total of ten.

“This is the best I’ve felt about this team since I’ve been here,” said first baseman Anthony Rizzo. “Everyone is just kind of starting to expect to win games now. We always did, but everybody’s starting to come in with that swagger.”

No truer words have been spoken about this team. So let me talk about the other players who have contributed significant roles on this club that has the best record since May 17. Yes, there’s Luis Valbuena who quietly is getting things done against the star power of Rizzo and Castro but what about Chris Coghlan’s home run and Neil Ramirez’s commanding strikeout against reigning MVP Andrew McCutchen? Is it too early to say that these Cubs are for real? Would I be putting a curse on the storied franchise? Naw, there’s all ready one of those on the team.

So, despite the off field situation with Jeff Samardzija, who could be a Cub when they get it together or he could be pitching somewhere else, the Cubs are playing good ball.

“I think everything in this game is contagious, whether it’s positive, negative, hitting, defense, offense,” Chris Coghlan said. “I think we’re having more team at-bats, if that makes sense. I think you see guys grinding them out, and I think the confidence is getting higher just because of more offensive output. I think the pitching has been really dominant the whole year, and I think offensively we’ve been more consistent and allowed us to win more.”

It’s easy to forget Junior Lake, Nate Schierholtz(who is, ahem, on the upswing) Justin Ruggiano and Mike Olt in this 2014 edition of the Bad News Bears but maybe just maybe a 6.5 game back Wild Card Race isn’t that far back. What do you think?

Believe It?

—Mark