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

Cubs Can’t Get Samardzija a Win

Chicago Cubs v Miami Marlins

There’s a rumour going around that the Cubs have been talking with ace starter Jeff Samardzija about a possible contract extension. Last night’s difficult loss against the Marlins looked like it was a possible resume addition for the one they call The Shark. The Cubs lost 6-5

The problem with the game was that the Cubs played well. Is it some voodoo hex on the Cubs(duh?) that Samardija only has two wins this season and yet his ERA is below 3.00 What? Only in Wrigleyville can stuff like this happen.

“It’s the way it goes,” Samardzija said. “I go out and pitch and keep doing my job and keep making improvements. I really like how the ball has been coming out the last couple times. … You pitch deeper in the games, and you have a better chance to win the game.”

Although Samardzija wishes he will stay a Cub, winners want to win. It’s that competitive spirit born within these athletes that they want to win it all. I certainly don’t blame Jeff for wanting out of Chicago for greener pastures but I don’t entirely think it’s true. He’s been in Chicago for some time now and I believe he’s just as excited as the rest of us about the future of the Cubs. When that future happens is in Theo Epstein’s hands.

“There’s really nothing to talk about,” Samardzija said. “I told my agent early after Spring Training that I wanted to go out with no distractions and pitch. As far as I’m concerned, nothing has changed. I’m going out to do my job with no distractions. You have to win these ballgames, so you have to prepare for your team.

I think the question the Cubs should be asking themselves is what kind of team do they want to be. Are they going to be a pitcher’s team or an infield team? Guys like Jake Arrieta, Travis Wood and Jason Hammel are quality guys that could back up Samardzija. Ok, ok, Edwin you’re included as well. Although it would be nice to have a pitcher like Adam Wainwright on their team, it would be a huge sacrifice and next to impossible.

There’s a lot of talent on the club. Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Luis Valbuena, Mike Olt, Junior Lake and Emilio Bonifacio have all led the charge this season and provided some quality games that is a precursor to next season when the kids come up.

Believe it.

—Mark

Cubs Feel The Lake Effect

MLB: Miami Marlins at Chicago Cubs

Are the Cubs for real? Junior Lake, yes that Junior Lake who fell into the kind of obscurity that Starlin Castro fell into last season came back yesterday and almost took the cover off of the ball twice as the Chicago Cubs went on to defeat the Miami Marlins, 5-2.

Oh yeah, then there’s the Shark. Jeff Samardzija, who’s having one of the best seasons of his career that may or may not be seen in that awesome marble hall in upstate New York one day. This of course, is after he leads a bunch of super charged young ballplayers to that hallowed space in baseball yore. Yes, it was his tenth quality start in thirteen and you know, he won yesterday. Boo freakin’ Ya!

“I love how we’re playing,” Samardzija said. “We’ve got an edge, but we’re having fun, and that’s important for a young team. Everybody’s doing their job. Every time I go out there, 33 times a season, I want my team to feel like we have a really good chance to win that day. That’s my job.”

So after yesterday’s victory, the Cubs have won five in a row and currently have the best winning streak in baseball. I have to say, I never saw this coming. Eleven hits yesterday to Miami’s five and the reason? Emilio Bonifacio banging in his first home run of the season.

“The reality is the confidence is there, but we all understand that every single day you go out there, you’ve got to play the game,” Rick Renteria said. “You don’t want to get too high, and ride it as long as you can, pick each other up, keep believing in each other. In the long run, hopefully, it’s something that’s sustainable and we keep moving forward.”

Moving forward is what the Cubs have been doing. Sure, they’re not going to win every game but when that confidence that Renteria speaks about is in full swing, then great things will happen.

Believe it!

—Mark

Cubs Can’t Tame Cardinals

Chicago Cubs v St. Louis Cardinals

You can’t have Runner’s In Scoring Position with one out and end up leaving them stranded. Championship calibre teams don’t do that. If it were two out, then maybe, just maybe that happens.

For the Cubs, leaving runners stranded is a normal occurrence. Of course it shouldn’t happen, but it does. They’re young and inexperienced. Then again, Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo are the exception on the team. They’re doing their respective jobs and it’s about time.

So what should the Cubs do with Nate Schierholtz? I like the guy but you know it just might be time to move on. it’s no secret he’s struggling this year. He’s fourth on the team in At Bats with 121. That’s great, right. Some of you nice folks might even think What’s wrong? Well, Junior Lake has 106 with 27 hits compared to Nate’s 24. He’s fourteenth in OBP to Lake’s ninth spot. Here’s the kicker, Nate has 32 strikeouts. He’s not having a good year folks.

Is it time to make a deal or call someone up? Do the Cubs write off this year or as Jason Hammel says,

“You’ve got to look at the positive,” Hammel said. “We’ve played a lot of good ballgames. We’re not getting blown out. It’s not ugly games. It’s one or two pitches here or there, or one or two timely hits that we haven’t gotten. It’s not like we’re just laying down. It’s obviously frustrating, but I think we’ve played pretty good ball.”

Well if that’s what you want to call it Jay. He’s not lying, but he’s not exactly telling all the truth. Hammel was taken to school in the second inning which is another thing I harp on. Pitchers shouldn’t be that bad that early.

The Cubs need help and now’s the time to make a change.

Believe It.

–Mark

Cubs Feast on Cardinals

MLB: Chicago Cubs at St. Louis Cardinals

In a perfect world, yesterday’s deconstruction of the much maligned Red Birds of St Louis by the hands or paws of the Chicago Cubs would constitute a mauling of immense proportions. It wasn’t just a feast, but a buffet ending with a 17-5 humiliation.

This my friends, is what the Cubs will look and play like in a year or two. Mark my words, geez, I sound old. First off, they should change Junior Lake’s name to Ocean because driving in six runs is equivalent to a Tsunami which you won’t find in a Lake. Secondly, Mike Olt. Sure, his average is a paltry .187 but man, the rook has some serious pop in the hickory. Hits a grand slam one day a homer the next and now this? If he keeps it up, there could be a Rookie of The Year award in the future. He leads rookies with 8 home runs and 19 RBI’s

“That’s what makes baseball so much fun,” Olt said. “You never know what’s going to happen. We came out aggressive today and carried through the whole game.”

With the Cubs, no truer words could ever be spoken.

Ok, maybe the Cubs aren’t there yet like Renteria said, but with Olt, Rizzo and Castro those things will come.

“When we get to the field, we want to win,” Junior Lake said. “If we’re positive, we can make the adjustments and get a win like today’s.”

—Mark

—Mark

Cubs Clip Cardinal’s Wings

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Well that makes it three in a row for the Chicago Cubs. Yesterday, the Cubs walloped the Cardinals 3-0 to take the series and much more importantly, win their first series of the season. To boot, it breaks a fourteen straight series loss.

Now, I don’t want to sound like a “told you so” type of guy but in this case I feel it’s necessary as written in my post, https://mlblogscubden.wordpress.com/2014/04/30/for-the-cubs-when-it-rains/

So, the Cubs continue to prove me wrong especially Junior Lake after hitting his sixth home run this year. It was really his day, but it was also Jake Arrieta’s moment after making his first start this year.

“I think a lot of it had to do with pitching back at Wrigley for the first time,” Arrieta said. “It’s pretty special pitching here. After I played catch and got in the bullpen, it was kind of business as usual.”

Arrietta had 5 1/3 scoreless innings and striking out seven batters. I’d say that’s a pretty decent return to the fold, wouldn’t you?

The best news about this victory, and I don’t need to tell anyone the importance a win over the Cardinals can be in the windy city is but it takes much needed pressure off of Skipper Rick Renteria. Personally, I don’t think he’s under any pressure but that, “Whew!” feeling must have been overwhelming as he jogged from the dugout to the field to congratulate the boys.

“We’re swinging the bats with some production,” Renteria said. “I think we’re playing pretty good defense and the starting pitching has done a pretty good job of keeping us in the ballgame. It doesn’t hurt that to this point, the bullpen has stabilized a little bit. They’ve done a nice job when we’ve asked them to do what they’ve needed to do.”

The Cubs can go for the series sweep today when they face Lance Lynn. Cubs Pitcher Jason Hammel leads the charge.

Any bold predictions?

–Mark

Cubs Ruffle St Louis’s Feathers

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The best pitcher in the game got rocked yesterday by the Chicago Cubs. Adam Wainwright and the St Louis Cardinals took a beating 6-5.

In truth, the score should have been wider but this was the Cubs and they were playing the Cardinals. Anthony Rizzo blasted a home run and drove in two as he led the charge. The Cubs looked good and either the Cardinals took it easy or underestimated Chicago’s talent, and I can see just how easy that would be, or the Northsiders proved finally that they’ve got the talent to compete.

“He’s made a very conscious effort of trying to control the strike zone,” Rick Renteria said of Rizzo, who batted .233 last season. “With two strikes especially, he’s been really battling. He’s just trying to not do too much. He choked up and just tried to put the barrel on the ball — he’s a very strong man. If he puts the barrel on the ball with a decent swing, he can hit the ball out of the ballpark.”

I’ll tell you as well that once the great weather finally gets here and the Ivy turns to green, we’re going to see Anthony Rizzo put the barrel on the ball a whole lot more.

“It’s definitely going to create a buzz around our division and the league, knowing that the Cubs have those power arms,” said Rizzo, who started things off with a two-run homer in the first, then walked four times. “We’ve just got to score runs and let our pitching do the rest.”

The month of April had a lot of growing pains but like I said yesterday, if the Cubs can take this series, it’ll turn a corner for the team.

Naysayers will squawk and let them, but guys like Starlin Castro, who went 3-4 yesterday, love to play. Once they get into their rhythm, there’s no telling what kind of players these guys will be.

So, the Cubs have Emilio Bonifacio, Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro taking the lead but I have to say that Junior Lake is disappointing me. Either pitchers have caught on to what he’s all about or he just continues to swing at anything. He needs work and patience.

—Mark