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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Cubs Display Courage In Elimination Game

The Chicago Cubs on the brink of elimination, at home, fought off the Los Angeles Dodgers to force a game 5 tonight. Yesterday, the Cubs launched three home runs on their way to a 3-2 victory. It wasn’t easy but starting pitcher Jake Arrieta struck out 7 over  7 and Javier Baez launched two home runs, while Willson Contreras contributed a monster of a moon shoot to help the Cubs win the game.

“You’ve got this many fans on their feet, pulling on the same side of the rope,” Arrieta said. “It breathes some added energy. I’m thankful they came out and had the energy they did. It really helped us tonight. “It’s not an ideal situation, but I’ve been in this situation before and I enjoy it.”

It’s also a situation where Arrieta might have pitched his last game for the North Siders, but if it is, the former Cy Young winner will go out on a high note.

The game wasn’t without controversy after Curtis Grandson swung at a pitch and the ball bounced on the ground but Grandson thought it was a foul tip, so the Dodgers argued and the call was overturned.

It wasn’t.

The crowd knew it and well, so did Joe Maddon and that’s why after he argued, he was tossed from the game.

“The explanation was eventually — eventually it turned into hearing two sounds. Not one of them saw a foul tip or heard — thought it was a foul tip. It was based on two sounds, which I totally cannot agree with that process whatsoever. When you have 40-some thousand people, it’s late in the game. The other sound could have come from some lady screaming in the first row. I have no idea. I can’t buy that process,” Maddon said.

The umpire admitted his faux pas afterwards, but if the Cubs lost the game on that call, then there would have been even more controversy and that wouldn’t have been good at all.

So, tonight the Cubs will send Jose Quintana to the mound to face Clayton Kershaw in another loser stay home, which in this case won’t be that far. It’s going to be tough facing the best pitcher in the game but this is why the Cubs brought Quintana in.

“That guy’s been pretty dang good for us and I know he’s going to go out there and battle for us, that’s for sure,” added outfielder Kyle Schwarber. “We’re really looking forward to having him out there.”

On a sombre note, on Tuesday, leader singer Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip passed away from glioblastoma  at the age of 53. He was considered by many as the poet laureate of Canada. Downie  and the Hip wrote many songs about our nation and were essentially the Rolling Stones of Canada. They never made it big on the Stateside but were even bigger in the hearts of many Canadians. It’s not uncommon to hear their music blasting from car speakers every summer, in fact it’s a tradition and last night during a candle light vigil in Springer Market Square, it was no different. For me, their music and his words are a reminder of my college years or just about every party I went to, there was a Hip tune playing.  In honour of Gord’s passing and to give the Cubs a little courage, taken from the 2004 Grey Cup:

 

Courage,

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Cubs Shutout Dodgers With Help From Wrigley Weather

Chicago Cubs

It goes to show you what a day can make. Just one day removed from all of the pomp and pageantry of getting their rings and the wind blowing out at Wrigley Field, the Cubs got right back to business with a dominant display of just how they deserved that sparkling jewelry. They defeated the Dodgers 4-0 with Brett Anderson recording the shutout. It was almost as if Anderson, who is the only Cubs player on the roster to not have won a World Series was trying to prove he belongs on the team.

“A lot of envy, especially now being the only guy on the active roster without a World Series ring. That’s not fun. It gives me, personally, that much more incentive to do my part and fill the holes going forward.” Anderson said.

The one problem I have with this year’s squad is Kyle Schwarber. The Cubs have a dilemma with him being in the outfield. His skills on defence are not the greatest but as we know he’s no slouch in the hitting department, there’s the problem of To Keep Him or Not To Keep Him? I believe he’s destined for a DH role somewhere soon. It could be this year year or next and it’ll be sad to see him go.

On the other hand, he’s learning the outfield. His overturned bobbled catch off the sprouting ivy was certainly brilliant and flashy but he’s nowhere in the same department of Jason Heyward nor may never be.

“If I’m going to make a mistake, it’s going to be an aggressive mistake, not a passive mistake,” Schwarber said. “The ball’s to the wall, and you’re trying to make a play, and no one can second-guess you.”

Yesterday kind of proved the curse theory at Wrigley Field. It was the wind all these years that messed up chances and opportunities. Whether it’s hitting or defence which ever way the wind blows will guide which way the game will be played.

“It’s just Wrigley for you,” Schwarber said. “There are going to be those days when you don’t know what’s going to happen with the ball, and you have to approach your at-bats the same.”

Both Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell got their first home runs of the season during that weird weather day at Wrigley. In particular Russell’s HR.

“That ball was mangled,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

It practically left some lucky fans a souvenir outside the park.

On a side note, I believe that part of the excitement and importance of the Cubs winning the World Series is they’ve finally inked their place alongside the greats like Boston, New York and the Detroit. No more are they the team that are pushovers, with that win, they’re forever taken seriously. That 2016 team is a legend in sports history that will be forever enshrined in our hearts and imagination.

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Cubs Ring In Loss As Winners

World Series

It wasn’t that Cubs starter John Lackey, was awful. No, after giving up a questionable, a home run and a verbal beat down on the umpire, Lackey settled into a groove that was quite impressive. In the end, he struck out 10 but it wasn’t enough as the Cubs fell to the Dodgers 2-0.

“The first pitch might have been a strike, or was a strike, and I think that threw him off a little bit,” manager Joe Maddon said of Lackey. “Once he regrouped, he was outstanding after that.”

Who could blame the Cubs for losing either? I mean the Dodgers were stunned in the NLCS last fall and then having to endure a banner raising that was over a hundred years in the making, I’d be a little ticked off as well.

To be fair, there were a few long balls that would have sent some fans home happy but when the wind is blowing in, it doesn’t matter how hard the ball’s hit it just won’t clear the ivy.

“Wrigley got us, man,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s part of the game here. We know that. Toles crushed his — that was low enough and the trajectory was better.”

It was an evening to remember despite the loss. Some lucky fans were chosen to hand out the rings to their heroes and you can tell by the looks on their faces that it was an honour to shake the hands of Chicago’s dream team that ended curses and finally allowing long suffering fans a chance to move on.

“I think it’s the perfect method to do this tonight,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of the fan presentation. “The folks who are part of the ceremony, they will never forget tonight, and even the folks sitting in the stands watching.”

Sure, it might be meaningless for a bunch of high paid athletes to receive 108 diamond studded rings but what I noticed with the players and the fans is that there was a feeling that last night’s moment was bigger than anyone there. None of the players, owners and yes, Len Kasper and JD took the moment for granted. It was the first time in Wrigley Field and Chicago Cubs history that rings were presented.

“It truly represents quite an accomplishment, and it’s something we’ll have for the rest of our lives,” Maddon said.

David Ross threw out the first pitch and sang the stretch which was probably difficult for him watching his former teammates in the heat of battle. It was a classy gesture to see Jon Lester catch for Ross.

“I couldn’t control my emotions,” Ross said. “The day built up on me. I was excited to get here. I felt like I was a kid coming to his first Major League game. Even watching the game from the stands, it was the first time I ever did it. It was really, really cool. I felt like a kid out there. It came out in my walk, my skip, my high-fives.”

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Cubs Raise Flags As Rizzo Walks Off In Style

Chicago Cubs

In true Chicago Cubs fashion, there was a rain delay on Opening Night at Wrigley Field. There couldn’t have been a more appropriate way to kick off the home opener than that. After the lengthy delay, fans got their chance to usher in the new season and congratulate their heroes.

The Cubs were introduced to a roaring crowd and then out by the scoreboard, it was legends Ryne Sandberg and Ferguson Jenkins raising the championship banners, but wait; the 2016 World Series champion Chicago Cubs, together raised their own banner. The fans were glad of the rain delay because it was hard to tell if there were drops of rain on their cheeks or tears.

“I’ll remember this day for as long as I play baseball,” Anthony Rizzo said. “That pregame ceremony, I really didn’t think — the Cubs did an amazing job. Videos, the tribute. It was amazing.”

From the Rocky theme music in the introduction of the players to the raising of the banners, it was hard for anyone not to love the Cubs last night. Heck, they even cheered on David Ross’s dance number from the dugout!

“I told the boys, I was going to punt tonight and watch the game from center field — what a view,” Rizzo said. “I’ve been up there, but with all the fans, there’s a lot of energy. You see Ryno and Fergie and Billy raise the previous championships and the pennant, and to be up there and raise ours, that banner, it’s history forever.”

World Series

But celebrations aside, there was also a ballgame to be played. The Cubs beat the LA Dodgers 3-2 by a walk off in the ninth inning with two out with team leader and flag raiser Anthony Rizzo getting the hit. They better add that walk off as an easter egg or bonus feature on the Blue Ray edition of the as yet untitled film of their World Series win. Ya, just can’t write anything better.

“It was a special night,” said Jon Lester, who pitched six solid innings. “Definitely something that’ll go down in my book as something that I’ll remember for a long, long time.”

Looking back, I think that the real reason the Cubs won the World Series is their character. They like each other and although Dexter Fowler has moved on, the mantra that Joe Maddon bestowed upon him, “You go, we go” rings true for the whole team. It hasn’t changed. They’re all in this together.

“I was fortunate to be part of the process,” Rizzo said. “I don’t know how you top tonight, but then you get the ring. I think it will be amazing.”

We’ll all remember it Anthony,

Believe it.

 

 

Cubs Come So Close For Arrieta

Chicago Cubs

You’ve heard of that expression, “All Good Things Must End?” Well, in the Chicago Cubs case, they’re talking about Jake Arrieta‘s streak of 23 wins. Arrieta was, well, he was Jake freakin’ Arrietta in yesterday’s 5-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. To be fair, the bullpen got tangled up against the explosive bats of the Dodgers.

“We did it to them last night, and they came out and shut us down tonight,” Arrieta said. “You play this game long enough, you’re going to lose a game here and there. It was a good streak, and we’ll get started on something else.”

The seventh inning was worth the price of admission alone when Arrieta got out of a bases loaded situation. I have to admit though, Jake had me worried up until that point. His pitches were low and he was breaking a sweat.

“Jake was really good and had really good command,” Manager Joe Maddon said. “He had great movement [on his pitches]. He had a tremendous night. It’s unfortunate we couldn’t get a run. It took a no-hitter and a one-hitter to beat Jake.”

Yeah, it sucked that the Cubs didn’t get the win for Arrieta, but all that’s going to matter in the end is that the Cubs keep their eye on the prize of a World Series berth. Streaks will come and go with the possibility of breaking more records. After all, baseball is more than the player.

“We did it to them last night, and they came out and shut us down tonight,” Arrieta said talking about the bullpen’s awesome job Monday. “It comes down to a couple pitches here and there, a couple at-bats here and there that really decide the game. It was just a situation where we couldn’t get much going offensively. We’re going to have those nights.”

Of course the good news is that the Cubs won’t be facing Clayton Kershaw in this series. Tonight, Jon Lester takes to the bump hoping to avenge the loss and stick it to the Dodgers.

“What’s today? May 31? The whole season is about May 31. Then the whole season will be about June 1. Then the whole season will be about June 2. To clump anything negatively in advance of a moment … Anxiety lives in the future. If you want to live that way, you’ll be an anxious person your entire life.” Maddon said.

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Cubs Sweep Phillies. Twenty Games Above .500

Ben Zobrist

CHICAGO, IL – MAY 28: Ben Zobrist #18 of the Chicago Cubs hits a run scoring double in the 1st inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field on May 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 607678467

 

It’s a cliche to say that “On Paper” when a team is amazing but in the Chicago Cubs case, they’re exactly that. putting things from paper into action can seem daunting but then the Cubs are proving that a team can have both.

Take Ben Zobrist. On paper, he’s pretty awesome but on the field he takes it to the next level of awesomeness, so it’s fitting then that after an extremely hot May, Zobrist was exceptionally hot at the plate. So far, he’s second in batting average in the league.

Not bad for a 35 year old.

“I’m trying to figure out myself if I can keep this up, to be honest,” Zobrist said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a month where I’ve hit this well and just kind of all the way around. You just try and keep it going. That’s all I’m trying to do — doing the same things, the same drills, trying to manage my body well and have good at-bats. I didn’t have great at-bats today outside of the ball I hit out. It’s just a daily grind. You just keep working and try to have quality at-bats.”

The Cubs defeated the Philedelphia Phillies 7-2 and now their winning streak sits at five games.

So, just how good are the Cubs? Well, they’re 20 games over .500 That’s pretty darn good if you were to ask me. In fact, it’s scary to think that the Cubs have swept the Angels, Reds, Brewers, Pirates and Nationals this season. Two of those teams are contenders.

”Many times you’ll see a team not have the same sense of urgency on sweep day after you’ve won the series,” Joe Maddon said. ”I really like that our guys aren’t satisfied with just winning a series.”

He’s got a point about that. I believe that a team has to not put the nail in the coffin of opposing teams but come September, every game matters. So series sweeps I think are far more important than just winning series. It can be an intimidation factor.

John Lackey improved to 5-2 on the season and let me tell you that I think he’s become a far better pitcher than I thought he’d be for the Cubs.

“When (Lackey) grabs a lead he’s almost a perfect pitcher to have pitch because he treats every inning like it’s 0-0,” said  Joe Maddon. “He just keeps going after you (and) he ran with that lead extremely well.”

The Cubs are starting a series with the always dangerous LA Dodgers. I say dangerous because arguably Chase Utley is the best player in the game today. The Cubs won’t get the opportunity to face Clayton Kershaw .

“It’s just the way the cookie crumbles,” Maddon said. “Sometimes teams miss Arrieta. [Kershaw] is really good and I got to appreciate it over the last couple years that I’ve seen him more consistently. The game we had here last year with the lights going out, that was really fun. He is exceptional. I always want us to compete against the best. To save that for a little bit later in the season, I’m OK with it.”

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Jake Arrieta Makes History With No Hitter

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When the Cubs snap a losing streak, they do it in style, don’t they? Jake Arrieta throws his very first no hitter and now leads the  Majors with 17 wins.

How sweet is that?

“It’s tough to put it into words,” Jake Arrieta said. “You think about it all the time, and as a kid, and you see other guys around the league do it and you want to be a part of that. It’s not only special for me and my family and friends, but the organization and my teammates.”

It gets better. Kris Bryant crushed another home run on his way to possibly that coveted Rookie of The Year title. You know, the only award a player can win once in their career.

The Cubs beat the Dodgers 2-0 to win the rubber game. With Arrieta reaching the 17 win plateau, the last time a Cubs pitcher did that was 2008 and we all know happened that year, don’t we?

So, Jake Arrieta is having a banner year. He’s almost reached his win totals in two seasons with Baltimore.

“As I’ve matured and gotten older, I’ve developed an understanding that what happens in the pregame and the bullpen doesn’t dictate anything leading into the game,” Arrieta said. “Once you get in between the lines, just execute. That’s the only focus. That’s the mindset I carried into games.”

Jake’s become the quiet leader among the Cubs this season. He’s brought the level of maturity with him that the young Cubs have needed. He can reach 20 wins this season, but most importantly, with his winning style, the Cubs will reach the post season and quite possibly cement their position for years to come.

“He was outstanding. I told him I’m proud of him,” Miguel Montero said. “He worked his butt off and he works harder than anyone in the game. That’s his reward right there. Hopefully more to come.”

There’s often talk about jinxing a no hitter,”You’re not supposed to say it”

I don’t believe in jinxes or curses. However, if you’re not supposed to talk about a no hitter, I might just not mention anything about another certain milestone.

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Cubs Get a Little Mixed Up Against Dodgers

Chicago Cubs

Things got tough for the Chicago Cubs in last night’s loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-2. The relationship that a pitcher has with the catcher came to the forefront when Miguel Montero caught for Jon Lester for the first time this season. For those not in the know, David Ross normally catches for Lester but is away for family reasons.

“We probably haven’t worked enough together to have 100 percent confidence,”Miguel Montero said of Lester. “That’s OK and understandable. For the most part, I think we were on the same page.”

The Cubs didn’t play a bad game because they were leading 2-1 going into the seventh but it came down to the mister between Montero and Lester. It doesn’t really matter because those things can be fixed.

“Balls were finding holes,” Jon Lester said of the seventh. “They were either hit a little too hard or a little too soft. The good thing is, I don’t have to go back to the drawing board. My stuff was there. Location was there, stuff was there, velocity was there. Everything was there. Now it’s a matter of a little bit of luck going my way and maybe the outcome is a little different.”

The Cubs have struggled a bit on the west coast trip with a four game losing streak. They still hold the wild card spot but their hopes are fading if they want to catch the St Louis Cardinals.

Jake Arietta gets the call tonight.

On Tuesday, the Cubs are expected to bring Javier Baez back when they face the Reds.

“I would say he’s probably sooner rather than later, probably a first-wave kind of guy, because there’s a lot things he can do to help you win right now,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

Baez, who was the Cubs 2011 pick has had an up and ride with the club.  He’s missed time with a finger injury but has shown a lot of pop in his bat lately with Iowa. He’s a dangerous hitter and will bolster the lineup. In many ways, this is almost the “Dream Team” that the Cubs have projected.

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Cubs Get Tough Loss against Last Playoff Nemesis

Chicago Cubs

One thing you can say about the Chicago Cubs (All right, there’s plenty but this is just one) They never make things easy on themselves. Yesterday’s 4-1 loss against their most recent playoff nemesis the Los Angeles Dodgers was a lesson in humility.

Then again, it’s games like these facing opponents such as Clayton Kershaw arguably the best thrower in the game that the Cubs need.

“You can put those pitchers against the most veteran teams out there and they’re going to look like they’re taking people to school,” Anthony Rizzo said. “This is good — it’s a good test. There’s pitching all throughout the game, but to face this consecutively like we are — I’ve never been there, but I know it’ll be a grind every game [in the postseason], and that’s what we’re doing.”

Anthony Rizzo launched his 26th home run of the season in the loss. It’s not going to be an easy September. The Cubs face the Cardinals and the Pirates. After the Dodgers the Cubs will get a much needed breather when they’ll face the Reds.

“These are games we’ve got to win,” Cubs starter Jason Hammel said of facing ace pitchers. “When they’re on their game, they’re going to be tough to beat. I could say the same thing about our five starting pitchers. It is what it is, and tonight, Kershaw was better.”

September is going to be an interesting month. Fowler’s back and with the possibility that Javier Baez could see some action, my only concern is the Cardinal’s series. I still believe that the whole Cubs year will come down to the last day of the baseball season.

“They’re not robots,” Maddon said of his roster. “They’re young. They’re learning. I have no issues. I just want us to learn from our experience.”

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