Cubs Prepare For Greatest Comeback In World Series History

World Series

The Chicago Cubs are in deep. last night, the Cubs fell to the Cleveland Indians 7-2 and have a 3-1 deficit in the World Series. It seemed that for everything the Cubs did, the Indians answered back . That’s October baseball. The real question is, Can the Cubs come back?

“We know we have to win out,” Chicago’s Kris Bryant said. “If we want to get to the last game, we have to win the first one, then the next one. It’s one game at a time, don’t change anything, have fun, smile, just be ourselves.”

He’s partially right. If you’re going to play that cliche, then yeah, it is one game at a time. The good news is that next up is Jon Lester tonight, then Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks. Now is not the time for the Cubs to panic. Within a 24hr period, they’ll have to reconnect with the team that won 103 games and reach down deep and play ball. They can come back in this series. They’ve had 16 three game winning streaks this year. Of course, none of them were against this Cleveland Indians team. Only five teams in World Series history have come back from a 3-1 hole.

1985 Kansas City Royals

1979 Pittsburgh Pirates

1968 Detroit Tigers

1958 New York Yankees

1925 Pittsburgh Pirates

So you see, it’s not impossible. If there is any team in baseball capable of staging the greatest comeback in post season history, it’s these 2016 Chicago Cubs.

Why?

They’ve gotten to know this Cleveland team. Joe Maddon is going to keep things loose in the locker room by not allowing players to report until 90 minutes before the game. Hey, they know what’s at stake and I feel that if they try to do too much at this point, it might throw the equilibrium way off balance.

“They’re all trying to hit a grand slam with nobody on,” Miguel Montero said of the Cubs’ young hitters. “It’s not going to happen. We need to take our walks. We need to be a little bit more patient at the plate. We need to play small ball. … We’re all trying to launch the ball 110 miles per hour off the bat, launch angle, whatever. No, we need to get a freaking ground ball through a hole. As simple as that.”

There you have it. Small ball. Forget Bryant’s home run capabilities, get Dexter Fowler on base, move the runners and perhaps lay down a bunt.  They key is exactly what Montero said. Guys like Javier Baez, Addison Russell and Willson Contreras have to keep the ball on the ground because if the Cubs win tonight, it goes back to Cleveland where the DH rule applies and you know what that means?

Kyle Schwarber is back in the game.

“We have to have a one-game winning streak tomorrow,” manager Joe Maddon said. “And if we do that, I really would be feeling pretty good about going back to Cleveland.”

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Cubs Take Game 1 on Montero’s Grand Slam

Chicago Cubs

Hollywood can’t write this stuff better than what happened in the bottom of the eighth inning last night in Game 1 of the NLCS. Miguel Montero hits a grand slam with two out to put the Cubs up 7-3 before Dexter Fowler scripted it with a back to back home run to make it 8-3. The Cubs finished with an 8-4 win.

“Obviously, after the first pitch, I’m looking something middle, middle in, and he threw me that slider,” Montero said. “It was a really good pitch to hit, and I missed it. And in my mind, I was like, ‘oh, my God, I missed that.’ That was a perfect pitch to hit. But you have to step out of the box and just pull yourself together and try — all I was trying to do was get a base hit. Don’t strike out right here. Get a good pitch and try to put the ball in play and make something happen.

“But to be honest, in the back of my head, I was like, ‘I want that slider back,’ because it was such a good pitch to hit,” Montero said. “And I guess he heard me because he threw it back, and luckily I hit the ball pretty good.”

After the two strikes, the FS1 commentators were saying how Montero “Could be a hero tonight in game 1” Two strikes, two out and Boom!

Wow, the Cubs have a way of answering the call and providing the fireworks. It almost didn’t happen that way.

Jon Lester who pitched a great game, was yanked in the 6th inning and he looked upset.

“It is what it is,” he said. “I don’t get paid to make decisions; I get paid to pitch. So that’s his decision to make. … Would I have liked to have gone out for the seventh? Absolutely. But you got to understand the situation and put yourself kind of [into] what the manager’s trying to do.”

Did anyone catch Javier Baez’s steal home that erupted Wrigley Field? It was the first time a Cubs player achieved this feat since 1907, when Jimmy Slagle stole home. If the Cubs do go on and win the World Series, Javier Baez has got to be Playoff MVP.

“I went a little bit too early,” Baez said. “But I saw him ready to throw the ball, and I didn’t want to get in a rundown, so I just kept going home.”

But if it got the ire of Joe Maddon, he didn’t let it show.

“Give Javy credit for what he did,” Maddon said. “One percent or less of all Major League players would have done what he did. Honestly. He’s just that good on the bases. Sometimes he’s going to look bad because he’s going to make what appears to be a mental mistake. But he had that all plotted out. That’s purely good baseball instinct by a kid that’s a baseball player.”

That’s what makes baseball the great.

Tonight will be the most important game for the Cubs this post season. Clayton Kershaw vs Kyle Hendricks. If the Cubs can get by Kershaw and go up 2-0 in the series, the momentum will be on their side. Kershaw has pitched 4 times in the last 10 days but he’s the league’s best. Hendricks though, is the Professor.

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Cubs Celebrate Division Title

Miguel Montero

The man who struggled all season long and was in danger of missing out in October came through yesterday. Miguel Montero clobbered the ball in the 10th inning with a home run and give the Cubs a 5-4 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Then the party started.

“This is what we work for,” Montero said after spraying champagne in the clubhouse and dancing with his teammates. “A lot of people play for many years in the big leagues and never get that chance to experience something like that. It’s a great experience and great feeling. I’m proud of every single guy on the team.”

The Cubs officially clinched the National League Central Division yesterday in style. Everybody was talking about it being inevitable but for the Cubs to clinch this early is still a remarkable achievement. For the players, the Chicago Cubs hardworking staff who tirelessly work their butts off every game day to ensure that all of us fans have the ultimate experience at one of baseball’s most hallowed grounds, and us fans, it was pure bliss seeing the Flying W wrapped around the players in their celebratory photo shoot. Hell, Theo Epstein watched from the stands.

“Normally we’re in a suite and it’s very standard type of deal, where we’re watching the game and keeping an eye on things. To enjoy the real Wrigley Field and sit out there, feel the breeze, be among the fans, have a beer, it was wonderful. Even better than I thought it was going to be.” Epstein said.

Anyone who’s had the privilege of going to Wrigley Field agree with what he said. There’s a rumour going around that David Ross walked the neighbourhood after Thursday’s loss in search of the Giants/Cardinals game. When he found a spot to cool his jets with a beer, the bartender recognized him and proclaimed, “Shots all around!”

That’s what the Chicago Cubs have meant to the fans in Chicago and abroad. It’s been such a cool season and they can very well coast the rest of the way, but why should they? The next step is first overall.

In fact, it was extremely fitting that the Cubs won in that way. To come from behind and a walk off home run. That’s the Cubs’ way.

“The camaraderie, the chemistry, even hanging out outside the field, it’s really a close bunch of guys,” pitcher Kyle Hendricks said. “It’s a special group of guys. We have veteran leaders, and a lot of great young players who just put the work in. Humble guys, all they want to do is come to the ballpark and win.”

Come to the ballpark and win. That’s a great attitude and one that was very different a few years ago. It was a few years ago when the Cubs just wanted to compete with the best, but now it’s to win.

“This is unique,” Maddon said. “I’d heard it before — [a player told me] everybody should be a Cub at some point in their Major League existence if they had the opportunity. There’s nothing like it. … To play here under these circumstances, in this ballpark, with these fans is different in all the best ways.”

Believe it.

 

Chicago Cubs 2016 Central Division Champions!

Chicago Cubs

Congratulations Chicago Cubs on becoming the 2016 Central Division Champions!

It wasn’t the best way to clinch the National League Central Division but after the Cubs lost to the Milwaukee Brewers 5-4 they had to watch the St. Louis Cardinals. That’s right, the Cubs watched the Cardinals lose to the San Francisco Giants 6-2. There were no champagne corks bouncing off of the ceiling, no plastic laid on the dressing room floors and no goggle wearing Jake Arrieta shaking a bottle and spraying Jon Lester but they’re in.

“It would have been wonderful to do that for the fans right there,” Maddon said. “We were unable to do so. That’s part of the uncontrollable nature of the game.”

They’ll have to hold on to the celebrations for another day, that’s all. As for their loss to the Brewers, the Cubs played a good game despite the score. Jorge Soler was ready to party after sending a rocket into the stands for a take home in the second but the Brewers bounced back.

“Last year was exactly the same,” Cubs catcher Miguel Montero said after Thursday’s game. “Regardless, we have to come back tomorrow and win the ballgame. We’ve been playing good enough to not quit now. We want to keep rolling.”

There’s no need to rest on laurels after the the clinch. You see, one of the pesky parts about the now important All Star Game is that the winner gets home field advantage during the World Series. I like the idea,but the Cubs won’t have it this season because of the American League winning the summer classic. However, the Cubs have an opportunity to gain home field advantage if they can snag first overall. The magic number is 10 for that. Any combinations of wins/losses by the Cubs or the Washington Nationals will secure that advantage.

“The Cardinals won 100 games last year,” Lester said. “No matter what you do during the season, it’s nice, it’s fun, it’s the process, but what matters here is another month. What this team will be remembered for is next month, not during the season and how many wins and all that stuff.”

Leave it to Jon Lester to bring us down to earth. He’s right. Next month is a whole new ballgame. It doesn’t matter that the Chicago Cubs have been in first place all but one day this year. When the team that pops champagne at the end of October hoists that trophy, it’s going to be about what they did in October. The pitching, the offence and the error free defence that will get them to the end of the month. The acrobatic grabs Anthony Rizzo made this year mean nothing now.

“To be this young, to be this good, that’s the part that’s a little bit different to me,” Maddon said Thursday. “That’s the part that really stands out. … Everybody’s saying how good we are, and that’s wonderful, but I’m telling you, these guys are going to get better. They are that good. They deserve every moment they’re going to have this season, but they are going to get better. They just need more experience. As they gain more experience, we are going to get better.”

Believe it.

Cubs’ Hendricks is a Rock Star

Kyle Hendricks

Kyle Hendricks is damn good. In many ways, he’s like that rock star that doesn’t go all Eddie Van Halen over the mound, instead, he’s more like Keith Richards getting it done during the game. Nothing fancy, nothing spectacular but always satisfying.

Yesterday, the Cubs beat the Milwaukee Brewers 7-2 in a comeback win that played the foundation for a truly great finish to September. There’s only three weeks left until the post season and the way Kyle Hendricks pitched yesterday and like his BA in Economics from Dartmouth, he was efficient.

“I don’t think there’s any doubts,”Miguel  Montero said. “Is anybody having a better year than him? Probably he doesn’t have as many innings as other guys, but that’s not his fault. He goes out there and gives you his best. The way he’s been pitching, I don’t see anyone pitching as good as he’s been.”

He only garnered six strikeouts but he befuddled those six batters and laid the groundwork for the Cubs glorious comeback thanks to Montero and Chris Coghlan. Those every other day players that came through when it matters. Each collecting two hits but providing that late rally to seal the win for Hendricks.

“It’s a little bit harder when you don’t play every day and your timing is a little bit off,” Montero said. “What am I going to do? I can’t put pressure on myself trying to get four hits in one at-bat, because it ain’t going to happen. I go out there and have fun, and if I get hits, good, and if I don’t, I still have to go catch and call a good game.”

It’s awesome to think that Kyle Hendricks has the lowest ERA in the game at 2.07 and that he could wind up with that Cy Young award. It’ll be good for the game if he does. Quietly unassuming but showing up to work when it’s his turn in the rotation, Hendricks is getting a lot of attention from other teams about his performance.

“He’s pitching at a very high level,” Brewers Manager Craig Counsell said. “He’s become great at what he’s been good at. He’s a challenge. He’s able to manipulate the baseball, command the baseball.”

He’s bringing the science of the game back. I’ve been telling my wife about this guy since he started a couple of years ago, reminding her of how good he is every time he wins(Sometimes I wake her up just to let her know). The Bleed Cubbie Blue has been gushing about him all along as well and every now and then we tip our cap each other’s way,”We knew it all along” If the Cubs do go on to have a storybook finish, it would be fitting if Hendricks won the MVP. That unsung hero quietly getting it done.

Believe it.

 

Cubs Beat Pirates in Thrilling Way

Miguel Montero

 

Heroes come in the most unlikeliest places. Last night, the Cubs beat the Pirates 8-7 with Miguel Montero‘s hot bat off of the bench in the 13th inning. They battled back, they fought hard and the game ended this morning. These two teams play each other hard, if it were a Wild Card contest it would be a classic.

“Look at how they played tonight — it must have been the onesies,” Maddon said. “If you’re flying on a charter airplane, and you have onesies on, you feel better the next day.”

It had to be the onesies but you’d never catch me in one of those things. Jake Arrieta had a great game. He had a hit, almost had a home run, battled a 14 pitch At Bat before striking out and was involved in a rundown where he got the always thrilling Starling Marte out at home. This is why I’m opposed to the designated hitter role. When pitchers are as involved in the game as Jake Arrieta is, there’s no easy outs. Anything can happen and becomes a much more thrilling game.

“The resiliency of our team was incredible,” Chicago starter Jake Arrieta said. “Just a crazy ballgame all the way around. So many things happened.”

See, here’s the other crazy thing about the game which makes it so endearing; Javier Baez made a mistake in the final Dodgers game and the Cubs lost but last night in the series opener at Wrigley Field against the Bucs, he had 4 hits including a triple in the 12th inning. Baseball is a game of redemption. When they say that every game is different, put the loss behind and move on, well they mean it.

“We’re not going to stop playing hard. This is a team that’s trying to win the World Series and we’re not going to give up, no matter how many runs we’re up or down. I saw [Montero] getting ready, and I said, ‘It’s going to be you.’ Baez said.

You can also say that about Jorge Soler, whom a lot of people wrote off this season and he almost ended up as trade bait, but last night’s home run in the ninth inning tied his totals from last year at 10.

If last night’s game was an indication of how the Cubs could do in the playoffs, well they’ll be tough. I think their goal for September is to reduce those pesky errors by the young guys and focus on small ball. It’s a cliche, I know it but it’s true, “Get the guys on base and bring em’ home” or as I like to say, “The long ball will get you into the post season but it’s the small ball that’ll win you the series.”

“That was a goofy game, boy,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

Believe it.

 

 

 

 

Cubs Walk Off Thriller Stuns Marlins

Chicago Cubs

If you’re a Chicago Cubs fan, and I know most of you who follow the Canuck Cubbie do at least have a passing interest in the lovable North Siders, you’ll probably agree that yesterday’s 5-4 walk off victory over the Miami Marlins will go down as one of the season’s most thrilling wins.

“A big part of that rally at the end of the game is just our fans, purely,” Maddon said. “So much energy. Long day for us — it was a hot day out there, sunshine, we’ve got to get on the road, all those mental factors. I just want to recognize them.”

The ninth inning wasn’t just about the fans, the ninth inning was all about the depth of the once not so mighty baseball club that has turned around in the last couple of years to become the leading contender for October’s most coveted hardware.

It was Miguel Montero, Javier Baez and Dexter Fowler who set up the comeback in the ninth with Matt Szczur trotting home for the win. However, John Lackey pitched his 16th quality start of the year, it was also his third in a row and he went 2 for 2 recording his first multi extra base hit game of his career.  Sure, he didn’t get the win, but the grizzled veteran sums it up on what the expectations and goals of baseball’s longest suffering team are up against.

“Fair expectations? We’re trying to win a World Series. I didn’t come here for a haircut,” Lackey said. “I came here for jewelry.”

I think he wanted the win.

So the Cubs swept the Marlins. They have a day off before heading to Oakland to face the constantly rebuilding Athletics. The Cubs need a sweep and should be able to collect valuable distance from the rest of the National League Central. Normally, I love the races until October but this season is extraordinarily different; the Cubs need to dominate the Central and prove just how good they are.

“We just never quit,” Chicago’s Ben Zobrist said. “As a team, that’s kind of a mantra, and that’s something all good teams have to believe when they’re down that they can come back and win games, and this series was true for us to believe that for ourselves. When you get in those situations again, everyone believes they can do it again.”

Also, this next series should see an end to the Cubs homerless streak which sits at five games.

The Cincinnati Reds had the “Big Red Machine” of the 1970’s, so what should the newly powerhouse Cubs be called?

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