Get Ready For The Second Half

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As the Cubs prepare to tackle the Colorado Rockies tonight in Colorado; Junior Lake, will be joining the team to replace the injured Brian Bogusevic. A little bit of the future in the making. The .295 hard hitting 23 year old will be making his first start this year.

I feel like it’s Opening Day again. It’s a fresh start for the Cubs and I hope they’ll bring up more Triple A players. It’s interesting to note that Alfonso Soriano leads the team in both home runs and stolen bases. Who was the last Cub to do that? Sammy Sosa. Hopefully, that’s the only time I’ll write that name.

Will Matt Garza sign with the Texas Rangers? Who will the Cubs get in return? Pretty exciting times. According to Fox Sports, Rangers prospects, C.J Edwards and Mike Olt’s names have been tossed around. I think it’s a good potential move for the Cubs if they should obtain these guys from the Rangers. I’m a big fan of getting prospects up and into the game. I think if they go after a quality player in a trade with Alfonso Soriano, the Cubs will be set. It might be in 2015 when the team is back up to 90 wins, but I’ve got a good feeling about it and it begins tonight.

—Mark

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Hunt For A Wild Card Continues For The Cubs

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Coming off a 3-0 shellacking over the St. Louis Cardinals and an outstanding effort by Edwin Jackson, the Chicago Cubs tried to continue their winning ways but lost a close one 3-2 yesterday.

The Cubs are playing good ball these days and Starlin Castro has turned a corner and stepped it up in the last couple of games going 2 for 3 yesterday. He also got a home run.

“I feel aggressive and feel like I trust myself and good things will be happening,” Starlin Castro said. “You just let your talent do its job and keep working. It’s frustrating sometimes because you’re working hard and the things that are supposed to happen don’t happen. It’s hard.”

Carlos Villanueva gave it his sixth quality start of the season and continued to be an anchor in the bullpen. He got rid of the last 12 batters.

So, the Cubs chances for a Wild Card spot is slipping away, but they do have a chance at .500 ball. Is it possible?

“Obviously it’s realistic. We’re only nine games away from it right now,” manager Dale Sveum said. “It takes sometimes a couple of weeks to roll off a really, really good streak. We can do that with the starting pitching we have.”

Now, if guys like Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo and Alfonso Soriano can keep it up, I don’t see any reason why they can’t do it. There’s a lot of pop on this team and exciting times ahead with the Cubs after they made it official by signing top pick, Kris Bryant.

“This has been a dream of mine and I’m very happy to be a Cub,” Bryant said.

I hope he’ll get there soon, but baseball tends to move their players through the process slowly and I can’t blame them, but I do feel teams should put draft picks and prospects up to the big leagues every now and then so they can get more of a feel of the game. They do it in hockey so why not baseball?

In any case, great times ahead for the Cubs and Matt Garza looks to lead the Cubs into the right direction as he and the Cubs continue the series with the Cardinals today. Game time is 8:05 eastern.

–Mark

Chicago Cubs Leave White Sox Out To Dry

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Whenever the Cubs play the Chicago White Sox, something interesting happens; The Cubs play them hard. Last night, the Cubs pounded the White Sox and hung them out to dry 8-2.

Since all the trades that have been happening, I’ve made a case for Matt Garza to stay with the organization and last night’s performance by the ace pitcher may have provided enough proof that he should be the one to anchor their rotation.

“I think it’s picking up where I left off last year,” Garza said. “I just needed a couple starts under my belt and I’ll be right back in this thing, and I fully believed that.”

Matt Garza is a pretty intense guy and the type of player who wants to win all the time. unlike former pitcher Carlos Zambrano whose hot headedness often led to disruption in the clubhouse, Matt Garza gets excited and tries to rally his teammates. Folks, I don’t know about you, but the Cubs could use some enthusiasm from time to time.

Let’s talk about Alfonso Soriano. He’s the guy who has been in trade talks since 2009 at the least. He’s got a monster contract and it’s inevitable he’ll be shopped by the trade deadline of July 31.

He’s the guy I love to hate and he’s playing awesome! Last night, Fonzi destroyed the ball in the sixth inning giving him his 13th home run of the season.

“If they want me to stay here, I stay here. But if they don’t want me to, the door is open. I’ve had a good time. I just play one day at a time and enjoy my time.” Soriano said.

If he does end up staying with the organization, he could have to take a pay cut. At least that’s the most honorable thing to do and the Cubs could go out and sign a cheap quality free agent.

You’re making me a believer Alfonso!

Ok, Starlin Castro is in a slump. His numbers are down and what are the Cubs going to do with him? Well, the Cubs chances of making the post season are about the same odds as me being invited to the White House for a glass of Honey lager with President Obama to discuss the Cubs vs the White Sox.

Two things can happen: The Cubs can bench Castro in favour of a young prospect getting a shot at the big leagues or the Cubs should trade Starlin Castro. If Starlin’s going to develop into the kind of player the Cubs thought he was going to be, then now is the time to do a move like this.

Tonight, the Cubs host the LA Angels. Game time is 8:05.

How about that beer Mr. President?

—Mark

Every Story Needs a Villan

Scott Hairston was traded to the Washington Nationals for a pitching prospect following yesterday's game against the Pirates.

Scott Hairston was traded to the Washington Nationals for a pitching prospect following yesterday’s game against the Pirates.

Not only did the Cubs win yesterday, beating the smoking Pittsburgh Pirates 4-3, but Scott Hairston, who belted a home run, was traded to the Washington Nationals for a Class A pitching prospect.

“I was happy to contribute today, and it was nice getting the win,” Hairston said.

Carlos Villanueva got things rolling but it was a team effort because the bullpen was utilized. Hector Rondon, newcomer Pedro Strop, James Russell and Blake Parker all contributed in yesterday’s performance.

“You always don’t dwell too much about it, because I had to pitch out of the bullpen,” Villanueva said of thoughts of returning to the rotation. “I threw in some key situations out of the bullpen. I threw in the eighth inning a couple of times. It’s in the back of the mind, but you’ve got to get people out whenever you put me in.”

I have a feeling that we’re going to see a lot of shuffling and musical chairs for the rest of the season when it comes to the mound since the departure of Scott Feldman.

The Hero of The Day goes to Dioner Navarro, who got a walk off sacrifice to seal the deal after Anthony Rizzo and Alfonso Soriano got on base. Tony Rizzo scored.

So, where do the Cubs go from here? I see the Hairston trade as a positive move. In fact, I kind of anticipated it. It makes sense. Hopefully, they won’t have to trade Garza.

The only bad thing about yesterday’s victory was Darwin Barney’s errorless streak came to an end, but it was better to end the streak on a winning note.

“(The ball) hit my middle finger straight on,” Barney said. “It popped up on the lip (of the infield grass) and took a turn on the outfield grass. That’s what you have to deal with. That’s what outfielders deal with every day with the ball snaking like that. I will have to work on that.”

The Cubs don’t have far to go today as they travel cross town to meet their city rivals, the Chicago White Sox. Matt Garza gets the ball and game time is 8:10pm

–Mark

Cubs Go For Series Win On Fourth of July

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Happy 4th of July my American friends and readers! Have fun and celebrate!!!

Matt Garza was awesome as he lead the Chicago Cubs to 3-1 victory that saw the North Siders get 12 hits. Yesterdays stellar pitching performance may have been an audition for another club, or it could be a case for Garza staying with the Cubs after this month. One thing is for sure, the Cubs are 11 1/2 back of the wild card but last night they played like they want to win it all. Now, that’s baseball.

“We’re scratching and clawing our way back,” Garza said. “I think we’re in one of the toughest divisions now. Going to keep playing and keep going and see where it ends up.”

Kevin Gregg recorded his 14th save of the season and Luis Valbuena garnered his seventh home run in the win.

There’s a great quote in Rocky when Appollo Creed’s trainer turns to him and says,

“He doesn’t think it’s a show, he thinks it’s a damn fight!”

The Cubs are in a similar situation right now. They’re 11 1/2 back of the Wild Card and are in position to beat the Athletics and take the series today. They’re a much improved ball club over last year so really they’re exactly where management and Cubs fans expect them to be. The rest is just gravy.

“Our two biggest problems obviously are (lack of hitting with) men in scoring position and closing out games with the bullpen,” manager Dale Sveum said. “Those are things we’ve got to get better at.”

Dale Sveum is right on the nose with that. Although, they’re two of the most crucial things in the game, the Cubs are a much better team than last year. Why can’t they drive runners home and why do they lead the league in blown saves with 17?

After the initial shock of seeing Scott Feldman being traded, it’s making a little more sense in the Cubs are gaining a much needed boost with power pitching in Pedro Strop and Jake Arrieta.

So, a new season starts today on your Independence Day, the 4th of July! Let’s celebrate with Travis Wood and the Cubs as they try to take the series from the Athletics. Game time is 4:05 eastern.

–Mark

Feldmania No More & The Cubs Get An Athletic Workout

Alfonso Soriano blasts a three Run Homer.

Alfonso Soriano blasts a three Run Homer.

Yesterday was a busy day for the Cubs. Beloved starting pitcher Scott Feldman, was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for Pedro Strop and Jake Arrieta.

When I first heard the news I was stunned. I thought it would have been Matt Garza being traded but he could still go before the deadline of July 31.

“I don’t think this team improves by trading Scott Feldman,” Jeff Samardzija said. “He was one of our better pitchers. He’s thrown a lot of innings, a solid dude, a solid guy in the clubhouse.

It’s too early to tell but in some ways I agree with Jeff because I didn’t see this one happening at all. However, I do trust Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer’s decision. They get paid to study the game and I’ll bet a Toonie to a Loonie that they’ve got a trick up their sleeve.

“It’s never easy to give up a guy who has performed well for you, but to have two power arms is important.” Jed Hoyer said.

The Cubs didn’t stop there. Carlos Marmol went to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Matt Gurrier and some draft picks.

This deal was a little less surprising. Marmol was overstaying his welcome in Chicago and for some strange reason, he wasn’t throwing them like he used to a couple of years ago. It’s too bad because I thought he has a lot of talent, but I’m glad he gets a chance for a fresh start in Los Angeles. They’re a team that is still very much in it and acquiring Marmol could be the key that will turn it over for the Dodgers. Break a leg Carlos!

“The decision [to designate him] really came down to it that he had become a distraction. It became hard to pitch as well as he could, because every time he threw two balls, he’d get booed, and I don’t think that’s easy for anybody.” Hoyer said.

So, with the new acquisitions, does it make the Cubs a better team? We’ll have to wait and see, but I can tell you that this season has been really exciting to watch and every change that happens is good at this point.

Now, onto Oakland—

It was a valiant effort by the Chicago Cubs as they lost their first visit to Oakland, 8-7. Chris Rusin was called up in place of Scott Feldman but was replaced in the bottom of the fourth by Carlos “The Villan” Villanueva.

After the Cubs led 7-5, it was a home run off of James Russell by Derek Norris that sealed the win for the Athletics. The Cubs lost the momentum after that.

“You go to sleep and start a new day,” Russell said. “That’s the thing about baseball. You get your butt kicked one night and you get to wake up and do the same thing all over again.”

I wouldn’t call yesterday’s game a butt kicking because the Cubs went toe to toe against the Athletics proving that there is something special percolating within this young Cubs organization.

“It’s almost comical to see this happen every single night,” Dale Sveum said. “We have the lead and get beat by guys who sometimes hardly even hit home runs. Norris had one at-bat off a left-hander in 15 days and beats us with a three-run homer.”

Alfonso Soriano had another huge game for the Cubs hitting a three run home run in the fourth inning. Way to go Fonzi!

Matt Garza gets the start today as the Cubs are looking for redemption against the Athletics. Game time is 10:05pm eastern.

—Mark

Cubs Come Up Short Against The Mariners

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It was close but the Chicago Cubs couldn’t hang on for the win and watched the Seattle Mariners beat them 5-4 after 10 innings.

Travis Wood had a great game almost completing seven innings and striking out six but it was his support staff that couldn’t come through.

James Russell had his fifth blown save this year.

“The outcome is the outcome,” Travis Wood said. “I wish I would’ve had it, but it is what it is. They played a good game, and so did we. Things are going to turn around at some point and we’re going to start winning these games.”

Darwin Barney continued his errorless streak and now sits at 64.

So the story continues with the Cubs this season. It’s learning curves and close ones. Great pitching and some good plays, but it’s the end of the games and the ability to shut things down that have plagued the Cubs throughout the 2013 season. The Cubs are second in the National League with extra base hits, but they’re not able to capitalize on those opportunities.

Are they a young team with bursts of genius in them? Nobody can use that card all the time and pretty soon the Cubs will have to drop the, “Rebuilding” moniker from their media releases, newspaper and other sources.

There will come a time when the team is competitive and a force to be reckoned with. I’m happy that the Cubs don’t do the manager shuffle like some teams do when things don’t go their way. It’s stability and continuity that win championships.

“We’re out there, giving everything we’ve got,” Wood said. “Things are going to turn around at some point. We’ll start winning these games and not falling short.”

I love this club a lot and take great joy in watching those occasional bursts of brilliance in their play, but for the rest of the season, the Cubs shouldn’t panic and I don’t feel that Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Dale Sveum are the types to do that. Make a couple of trades at the deadline. perhaps it’s Garza that has to go, but do they trade for draft picks? No. Their farm system is excellent and the prospects will be there. Now is the time to grab that quality player who can help the team finish those games. Someone who’ll score on those extra base hits or someone who can drive home those RISP’s-Geez, that sounds like an investment strategy.

The Cubs and Mariners retro jerseys circa 1909

The Cubs and Mariners retro jerseys circa 1909

The “Shark” Jeff Samardzija takes to the mound as the Cubs and the Mariners turn back the clock all the way back to 1909 with their throwback Saturday. They’re sharp looking jerseys! Game time is 7:15 eastern.

–Mark