Cubs Steal Game From Cardinals

Cubs 5, Cardinals 2

Just like that, after a pair of losses, the Cubs magically returned to steal a win from the St. Louis Cardinals last night 5-2. The key to the victory was Kyle Hendricks striking out eight batters but going seven innings in order to do it, plus his pitch count barely creeped over a hundred.

“My mindset was better, [I was] aggressive in the strike zone,” Hendricks said. “Even in the first inning, I made a couple bad pitches. After that, mechanics settled in, I started repeating it better. It’s just bringing the two together, repeating my mechanics from the first pitch in the first inning but keeping that same mindset, being aggressive in the strike zone, getting quicker outs. I still got in some 3-2 counts but the mindset was better.”

Since his trade to the Cubs four years ago, Hendricks’ best asset has been his mind. He’s calm under pressure and able to collect them after a loss by trying to understand and study his mechanics and get back to work. This win reassures me that, perhaps he truly is back to his old self.

The other thing as well is that guys like Ben Zobrist, when he’s contributing, the Cubs are unstoppable. So last night, he had four hits, almost hitting the cycle and had a nice grab in the seventh to help Hendricks with the win. Zobrist has been one of the best “Clutch” guys in the business.

Wait.

There’s also the second half experiment of Anthony Rizzo in the leadoff spot. Three home runs since the break. Not too shabby.

“We don’t have the prototypical leadoff guy, we don’t have that speed burner to set the whole thing up so don’t try to force it,” Joe Maddon said.

The Cubs need to strike while the iron is hot and continue with the experiment as long as it works.

The Cubs are still clinging to the top spot in the National League and with Cole Hamels set to make his debut against Pittsburgh on Wednesday, the Cubs will see if the acquisition will work out.

“I do think we have enough but we need to get certain people healthy,” Maddon said. “I’m not talking about just getting to the playoffs, you want to play that last game. Among Morrow, Darvish and K.B., could you make three better acquisitions this time of year? It’s impossible. That’s the goal is to get those guys out here.”

Once the Cubs can get those guys back in the lineup, the stretch is preparing its’ way for the most exciting time of the year.

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Hendricks Beat By High Pitch Count

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The Cubs need their pitchers to go deep into games. It’s not a suggestion, it’s a must. Last night, Kyle Hendricks was ousted in the fifth even after he posted eight strikeouts. It wasn’t a bad outing by the Professor but his pitch count was way too high over a hundred and it wasn’t enough as the Cubs got beat by the Diamondbacks 5-1

“We’re talking about it with the whole staff in here — everybody, even the guys working behind the scenes — and trying to figure out if we’re falling into tendencies, patterns and what to do to get bad contact,” Hendricks said. “We have to do better in the 1-1 count. Just getting outs on three pitches — that has to be the focus. It’s frustrating and a slower process than we hoped.”

Times running out. I think one of the problems for Hendricks is batters are more patient with his style of throwing. He doesn’t have many pitches to choose from and perhaps during the off season, he might pick up a new pitch.

“I thought my stuff was good today, but it was the same story — I have to put guys away quicker, get quicker outs,” Hendricks said. “It’s a little frustrating. I felt I made one bad pitch, the 0-2 to Jon Jay was terrible. Otherwise, it was pretty good pitches they got some hits on. My stuff is there. My sinker feels good. I have to stick to what I’m doing.”

I thought for sure the Cubs would be able to gather momentum after the break, but it hasn’t been the case.

Although Kris Bryant is out with a sore shoulder, he hasn’t had the best season either and    that hasn’t helped the team either.

“He’s sore,” Maddon said. “I have to be proactive with that. I want to make sure that we’re not pushing him too hard right now.”

So the Cubs have a few spots where they’re inconsistent and perhaps they’re going to make something of it at the deadline but as of July 25th, they’re not quite ready for the post season. Don’t get me wrong, most pieces are there but pitching needs to rebound or they won’t get far.

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Cubs Rally To Beat Cardinals

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The Cubs have their 31st comeback victory of the season after defeating the St Louis Cardinals 9-6 in front of the hometown crowd.

“The thing I want to believe is that we avoid fatigue early,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “That would be the best way to describe it. That’s been intentional, from my side of things. Is that the reason? I don’t know. That’s always been the sheet of music I’ve worked from, to not beat up guys early.

It must have worked considering that Darvish is on the DL and his return, although imminent, there’s no real date set. The Cubs have managed to be swinging the bat well despite Kyle Hendricks less than stellar performance. I hope it’s just “one of those years” that he’s having because things aren’t looking too well for The Professor.

“It was a little bit of a battle tonight,” Hendricks said. “But I actually felt pretty good. The action on my fastball was good most of the time. I really felt I only made one bad pitch, on the home run (to Tommy Pham in the second).”

That could be but he ran the pitch count high and even the greatest pitchers would have a tough time adjusting to a 27 pitch first inning. That being said, there’s something very wrong with the Prof this year in the first inning.

“I still have a lot of faith,” Maddon said of the Cubs’ rotation. “Yu [Darvish] is hurt, but otherwise they’re not, and that’s where I take a lot of solace and encouragement — that they’re not injured. They definitely haven’t thrown too many innings. I still think there’s a lot to look forward to.”

But there’s no denying the offensive outbursts of the Cubs bats. They’re getting production from just about everyone and it’s nice to see Ian Happ hitting the ball well. last night he connected with a two run homer which contributed to the comeback.

“We’ve had a lot of them,” Happ said of the Cubs’ ability to rally. “They’re definitely fun and enjoyable for the fans, but we’d enjoy a few games where we start up and finish up. It’s just a good baseball team. There’s a lot of ways to score runs, and we do a good job of staying with it.”

Let’s hope they stay with it until the end of October

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Baez and Schwarber Tune Up For Home Run Derby

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In what appears to be quite likely a tune up for the Home Run Derby, both Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez propelled the Cubs to a 11-6 victory over the San Diego Padres with a home run each as they padded their lead in the National League.

“We’re running out of [superlatives],” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Baez. “I like the way he’s going about his business. He’s playing the game right, playing the game hard, playing the game smartly. He’s just playing the game of baseball. I don’t think he has an analytical bone in his body. … He’s absolutely fun to watch.”

As if April never happened, the Cubs find themselves in sole possession of first place with one game to go before the mid summer classic.

“This year I’ve been consistent with my work, with my routine, being here early,” he said. “I’m the type of guy that I like to take my time during my routine, so I like to get here early and there are already a few people here. Working is the thing that is getting me here and doing some good this first half.” Baez said.

Kyle Hendricks enjoyed a win as well even though it was at times, a shaky performance by The Professor. While he’s got to figure out why he gives up first inning home runs, Hendricks is looking forward to the second half.

“It’s good to be at the top,” Hendricks said. “The Brewers are a great team behind us. There’s no days off in the second half. We have to play the same baseball we’ve been playing.”

The Cubs are in a great spot. With the return of Yu Darvish expected very soon, the Cubs will have their rotation bolstered.

“I think we’re surprised,” Cubs General manager Jed Hoyer said of Darvish’s injury. “Other than the Tommy John [surgery he had], he’s been a guy who takes the ball and has been really durable. I think this is a blip. I think it’s a moment in time and he’ll get back to that place where he’ll give us six, seven innings of quality baseball.”

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Baez Pulls Out The Magic in Extra Innings

 

Is there anything that Javier Baez can’t do? In the tenth inning, Baez stole second base and then took advantage of a couple of errors to run home and score. The Cubs went on to beat the San Diego Padres 5-4 and take first place in the National League Central.

“At this point, it’s really not even surprising to us, and it’s crazy to say that,” Chicago’s Anthony Rizzo said of Baez’s daredevil baserunning. “It’s fun. His instincts, his baseball instincts, are taking over the whole game and people are noticing it more than ever. That’s who he is, and he continues to keep getting better.”

I’m a huge fan of his style of playing. It’s the way the game should be played and proves that the small ball is the most exciting.

If the Cubs go on to not win the big trophy with all those awesome shiny flags, then 2018 will be best remembered as the year Javier Baez became “El Mago” and brought magic to Wrigley Field. He’s an all star this year and who knows? perhaps an MVP.

So the trade deadline is coming up and the Cubs need to add a player, who are they going to add? They need pitching. Unless Yu Darvish comes back and does something outstanding and crazy good, the Cubs are going to look for better pitching. I’m suspecting that we could see Tyler Chatwood involved in a deal.

If anything the Cubs are finding their rhythm heading into the break. Today’s game with Kyle Hendricks will be a sign of things to come. He was lights out in his last game and hopefully he’ll be able to carry the momentum going forward after the break.

“We’re in a much better position than we were last year at the same time. We’ve done better overall, in regard to our hitting approach. Our starting pitching has to ascend. There’s still things we have to work through. Of course, I’d like to be — you always want to be in first place. … [The Brewers] have been playing well and they’re tough. I like the way we’re trending. There aren’t a whole lot of tired guys out there.” Maddon said.

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Hendricks Pitches Gem Despite Loss

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You know? I think Kyle Hendricks must be filled with bad luck this season. Either he can’t get run support in some games, batters hit everything off of of him or like in last night’s 2-1 extra inning loss to the San Francisco Giants, no matter how amazing he pitches, he can’t get the win.

“It was a much better feeling out there,” Hendricks said. “The fastball command was finally there and it just opened up the rest of the game for me. Willy [catcher Willson Contreras] and I were just really on the same page, mixing pitches, keeping them off balance, and that’s the game I have to play.”

Hendricks went deep in the game, he did everything right by going nine innings. That’s what the Cubs need from him but if a team is going to lose, then that’s the way to lose in extra innings and executing everything to the way it was planned.

“That’s the outing we’ve been looking for with the hitting that we’ve been doing recently,” Joe Maddon said. “Going forward, that becomes contagious sometimes, when you’ve got a guy that pitches like that. I really believe you could see that version of Kyle most of the time for the rest of the season.”

He’s right. If Hendricks pitches that way the rest of the season, he’ll turn it around. It’s a funny game where the slightest angle will throw everything off.

“I knew what was wrong, and what I’ve been trying to work on. It was still inconsistent. It’d be one good, one bad, I couldn’t repeat it. Today, in the third inning, something just clicked and I was able to repeat one after another. So that was a really good feeling.” Hendricks said.

Congratulations to Javier Baez, Jon Lester and Willson Contreras on being voted to the All Star team. Well deserved, Baez has been having a career year while Lester is doing the things that Lester does by having 11 wins this year.

“To watch them blossom over the last couple of years, to see what Javy’s gone through from this crazy swinger to a much more controlled game of baseball, and Willson, on the other hand, he’s pretty much fought, fought, fought his way,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Now he is the best catcher in the National League. I think he’s the best catcher in baseball.”

It’s hard to argue with that. Javier Baez has been enjoying his breakout season.

“He’s probably my favorite player to watch,” Lester said of Baez. “I’ve got to play with and in front of some really good infielders in my career and I think Javy has surpassed all those guys.”

Believe it.

 

 

Cubs Find Way To Maul Tigers

 

 

Cubs 5, Tigers 3

In the Theo Epstein years, the Cubs ‘ mantra has always been to never give up. They’ve lived by that code and continued those words in yesterday’s 5-3 win over the struggling Detroit Tigers.

“The approaches are paying off now, we’re getting some opposite-field hits,” said Jason Heyward, who collected his 13th multi-hit game in his past 30 contests. “The weather warming up, they’re getting hot. Hitting is contagious, too. You get a couple guys going there, and it translates through the whole lineup.”

The day got off to a shaky start with Kyle Hendricks‘ unusual season. He gave up another home run and his unusually “off” season continued.

“It’s very unfamiliar from the dugout, watching it out there,” Joe Maddon said.

The normally steadfast pitcher wasn’t able to go deep in yesterday’s game.

“It’s obviously frustrating,” Hendricks said. “I have to stick with what I’m doing and my cues, and hopefully it’ll click.”

Perhaps the second half of the season, Hendricks will be able to pull it together.

There’s no denying the Cubs’ confidence is at an all time high. They’re getting out of jams and coming from behind to get the wins.

“When you get to that point and you get that kind of confidence going, you don’t want to nick it,” Maddon said. “It’s the residue of our starting pitching not being what it normally is. We’re giving up more early runs from our starters that we didn’t anticipate that happening. But such a tightly knit group, they’re there to pick everyone else up.”

They’re a game back of Milwaukee in the National League Central race. Things are looking great but I hope Hendricks gets everything sorted out. I’m kinda worried. Has everyone caught on to him, it’s not like he throws heat so his arm can’t be gone. We’ll see after the All Star Break.

“Everything is believable,” Maddon said

Cubs Dodge LA With Split

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What a difference between games. The other night, Kyle Hendricks had a game he’d like to forget and then yesterday, the Cubs demolished the Dodgers 11-5. Chalk it up to Albert Almora‘s home run that really opened everything up for the Cubs.

“We were using the whole field,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We’re talking about power and ‘oppo’ and ground balls up the middle. It was a really great approach. Albert pretty much provided the knockout punch with the homer.”

When things go well for the North Siders, they go really well. So why is it that the Cubs manage to stay in the race despite their uneven play? It seems like one game they’re up and one they’re down. They lose five and then bounce back with a huge win yesterday. I’ve said all along that the key to the Cubs success  lies entirely on Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant‘s shoulders.

“It’s that part of the season when things aren’t going your way and you get frustrated a little more,” Rizzo said. “A day like today is nice to be able to come in, and I put in some work in the cage. I just want to stay consistent. My biggest thing is consistency, which is what I’ve shown over the last few years so I want to get back to having consistent at-bats every time.”

The other concern I have is Kyle Hendricks. He’s not playing well and in Wednesday’s game he wasn’t entirely horrible, but something is off with him.

“I’m just searching right now,” Hendricks said. “It’s just bad. Mechanics, I’m trying to focus mentally and going pitch to pitch, and I’m doing that, but something’s just off.”

The odd thing is that even though his game isn’t his usually stoic excellence, his numbers aren’t that terrible(excluding Wednesday’s game) If anyone can turn things around, it’s him.

With the All Star Break coming up soon enough, the Cubs have an opportunity to put things together and reflect on the first half of the season. The Good, The Bad and well you get the idea.

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Heyward Hits Back

Cubs 6, Cardinals 3

Jason Heyward launched his fourth home run of the season as the Cubs won the series from the Cardinals last night with a score of 6-3. it wasn’t the prettiest game but the Cubs did it.

“Love it,” Joe Maddon said of the clutch hitting. “Listen, that is my No. 1 priority offensively. Homers will come. Pitchers throw homers. When hitters try to hit homers on all the pitches thrown to them, the results are normally bad. Let pitchers throw you home runs. Be in position to hit the ball hard with two strikes. Understand they’re not giving you that pitch to drive out of the ballpark. Why not adapt? That’s where the action will come back into the game, that’s where you’ll get more movement, that’s where you’ll get the entertainment you’re looking for.”

On the pitching side of things, Kyle Hendricks snapped a  three game losing streak. He’s had problems giving up home runs but also has never let it get to him too much, he’s been able to bounce back and deliver solid outings, which is his MO.

“A couple years in the big leagues has helped that,” Hendricks said. “If it was early in my career, I might have a different thought process. It’s one of those things. I’m battling and getting really hurt when I make a bad pitch. There’s nothing I can do, I can’t get it back. That’s where my focus is now — the next pitch.”

But last night’s game was all really Heyward. He’s settled in this season and finally been able to quiet the naysayers. It’s been a rough go for Heyward since joining the Cubs a few seasons ago.

“What was that a 99, 100 mile an hour fastball? He got to it easily,” Maddon said. “He’s the guy that’s really ascended among the group. He’s made all the difference by hitting second and providing some big hits in the latter part of the game. He’s really good as the game gets in progress.”

So, the two big names were Hendricks and Heyward. The run support was there for Hendricks and Heyward came through in the clutch. A couple of other heroes were Ian Happ and Willson Contreras with two out RBI’s. Folks, those are the kind of plays that win ballgames in October.

The Cubs close out the series tonight on Father’s Day which I know most baseball loving Dad’s will be watching tonight. Bring out the blue bats and enjoy.

I’m going golfing today.

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Cubs End Winning Streak But Face Tough Week

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Yesterday’s game was a tough loss. It could have been the foggy conditions but the 7-1 loss was taken on the chin. Kyle Hendricks pitched decent but gave up a home run to Josh Harrison. It was one of the shortest games for Hendricks this season.

The Cubs took Hendricks out of the game in the fifth for a chance to get some runs on the board. It didn’t quite work out the way they wanted too but that’s baseball.

“Got a chance to get on the board and you’ve got to take it,” Hendricks said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t work out, but nine times out of 10 with Tommy that’s going to work.”

“It was all set up,” Maddon said. “We’ve got the best pinch-hitter in the league coming up, and he just happens to hit into a double play, which is going to happen on occasion. Kyle did his job, everything was right there, we just did not get the hit.

“National League, baby. He was taken out of the game on a National League move. American League, he’s going back out.”

The Cubs open up a series in Milwaukee tonight and it won’t be pretty. Everyone says that this is the most important series of the season, or at least I do, but in this case it has to be true for the Cubs. They’re half a game behind the Brewers for the National league Central, they’re in a heated rivalry this season with them and it’s in Milwaukee.

“I think the best way to approach when you’re playing really good teams within your division is to not get too farsighted,” Joe Maddon said. “This is the micro time, man. It’s about Monday. Then it will be about Tuesday. Then it will be about Wednesday.”

As much as I think Joe Maddon is the most awesome manager in the game, his grasp of the obvious is just too, well, obvious. It’s going to be a tough week because after the Brewers series, the Cubs will have a day off before heading to St. Louis to face the Cardinals. This will be the week that will define the rest of the Cubs’ season.

“Maybe that they might be coming for us a little harder. They know the outcomes of this season so far,” he said. “But again, being in our division, regardless of what’s happened, it’s going to be thrilling, competitive [games] no matter what. We know we’re going to get their best, and we’ve just got to go up there and keep playing good baseball.”

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