Cubs Lose Final Home Stand Of Season

Anthony Rizzo

 

This wasn’t the way the Chicago Cubs were supposed to finish out the 2016 season at home, with a loss? The Professor Kyle Hendricks took the loss against those always frustrating Milwaukee Brewers at a score of 3-1. Despite a great game where the hurler struck out nine, the Cubs struggled to get runs.

“Here’s a guy who we have not supported run-wise a lot this year,” Maddon said. “He definitely pitched well enough to win. It’s just unfortunate. He didn’t have his best stuff, but nine punchouts and two runs over six innings is a pretty good day.”

Maddon’s right. There was no run support for the pitcher and when it comes to October, this could prove extremely frustrating for the North Siders. The Cubs rank 10th in Batting Average with runners in scoring position. Those aren’t great odds when it comes to the post season. This is an area of concern that’s plagued the Cubs before and you know something? It’s not going to get much better going forth unless they change their approach.

“We’re always trying to win. We’re always trying to do what we can approach-wise and get our pitch to hit. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances of the game are. We’re playing for ourselves, playing for each other and playing for home-field advantage in general. We respect the game. We haven’t done anything yet.” said  Jason Heyward.

That may be so, but it doesn’t explain how a team could lose to a bottom feeding division rival this late in the season. This is the time of the year when playoff teams should be warming up towards October. Am I mad?

Yes.

The Cubs should have had that series. Milwaukee is terrible, and the Cubs should have ran up the score against them, unleash the beast and practice stuff that they could have done next month.

“The game is not an easy game. You’re going to run into teams playing well,” Heyward said. “People would be talking about the Brewers making a push to make the playoffs if this was the first half. Sometimes there is less pressure on a team and they play better when they have nothing to lose.”

The Cubs are clawing their way to the top. it’s not enough for them to just finish at the top of their division, they must win first in the National League.

“It’s important to win,” Heyward said, looking at the question more in the abstract. “They don’t fly a ‘W’ for no reason. We don’t celebrate every win out here for no reason. That’s the bottom line, it’s important to win. If you go out there every day as if you’re going to put your best foot forward, then you don’t have to worry about anything else. That’s been the biggest thing, to kind of keep it where we don’t have to think too much. If you want to win, that means you want to keep the best record in baseball.”

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 Feeling Crappy After Loss To Brewers

Justin Grimm

It’s funny because Matt Garza was the pitcher I loved to hate when he played with the Cubs and after the Cubs 1-0 loss last night at the hands of Garza and the Brewers, he’s still the guy I love to hate. It could be his cockiness or it could be the way that when he’s good, he’s amazing but when he stinks, well, he just damn well stinks.

The Cubs magic number is 9. Anthony Rizzo clobbered his 29th home run of the season but it wasn’t enough. Maybe it’s Milwaukee that pitches the Cubs fits.

“If we get a couple right there and get it rolling, it would’ve been different for Garza tonight, and we didn’t,” Maddon said.

As much as baseball is a game of skill and fundamentals, it’s still a game of luck and chance. A bad bounce here and it’s a completely different game.

Take for instance Justin Grimm. He left the game due to illness. It might have been the flu or perhaps, something he ate but I’ve never seen anything like it before and sorry about that Justin but I have to laugh at what Coach Maddon said.

“What happened was I did not want him to soil himself on the mound,” Maddon said. “He’s telling me he could get through it. He was ill, you could see the difference in his stuff — he was ill. We got him out.”

Yikes!

Despite the loss, the Cubs are poised to take their division. Although these are the Cubs, fans are certain that they’ll capture their first division title since 2008. For the first time in a long time, expectations are high that this is the year to end all droughts.

“This is something that I think is sustainable for many years to come, based on what we saw last year, what we’re seeing this year,” Maddon said. “And the majority of these guys are really young. It’s not like you’ve got a bunch of long-in-the-tooth whitebeards. It’s not. The guys are real, and they’re good, and a lot of them are going to continue to get better.”

Tonight, the Cubs are off. They’ll need the rest before series against the Astros, Cardinals Brewers again then the Reds. As proven in Milwaukee, nothing is a given but it’s a fairly easy stretch going into October. If you are one of the fortunate few to snag playoff tickets, I’ll be there with you in spirit sending all the cheers from abroad.

Believe it

Cubs Hammel Had Better Nights

Anthony Rizzo

If ever there was a rough night for a Cubs pitcher, then it was last night in their loss to the Milwaukee Brewers 12-5. Jason Hammel got roughed up pretty badly allowing 5 runs in the first inning alone.

“Too many pitches up in the zone,” Hammel said. “I didn’t set the tone for us early. This one is on me, and obviously, it doesn’t sit well. We’re fortunate to have a comfortable lead now, and we’ll just brush this off now and move on.”

The Cubs Roberto Clemente nominee, Anthony Rizzo tried to get things going for the Cubs by belting his 28th home run of the season but it turned out to be one of those nights where things couldn’t get going for the mighty North Siders but the Brewers just had Hammel’s number.

“Usually, if they’re going to get him, it’s going to be early in the game,”Joe  Maddon said. “When he gets deeper in the game, he normally settles in. … I thought he righted himself, and it didn’t play out.”

So, what does this mean for Hammel and the Cubs going forward into October, should they switch up their rotation?

“It’s not an audition — he’s got 14 wins this year,” Maddon said. “He’s had a nice season. Everybody has bad moments. I don’t worry about things like that.”

I’m not worried about Hammel for the playoffs. Sometimes thinks don’t click and that’s what last night added up to for the veteran pitcher.

“The story of the tape for me this year is when I’m bad, I’m really bad,” Hammel said. “The overall body of work is really good. I’m not going to beat myself up. I’ve had a pretty good run against these guys, and they were due for one.”

There’s a great article from Sports Illustrated and the Cubs Post Season chances for this year. In it, Tom Verducci suggests that this year’s team may be one of the best ever. I’d have to agree. I think, myself included, people are biting their fingernails or walking on eggshells when it comes to this team because of their history but when you look at how good the 2016 team has been, the question can quickly turn to, “Why not”?

For those Cubs fans who have waited patiently (you know who you are) and those Cubs fans who are jumping on board, well one thing is for sure and that is 2016 is a great time to be a Cubs fan. I know my family is busy thinking about post season parties and get togethers. Everywhere I go lately, there’s been folks giving me the nod when they see my Cubs cap. “This is their year” or “We’re with you” it’s really, really cool.

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’ Bryant Homers His Way To History

Kris Bryant

It was the Kris Bryant show yesterday at Wrigley Field as the Cubs put another victory into the win column and a big sweep over the Milwaukee Brewers 9-6. It was easy to see that this future hall of famer is only going to get better. Yesterday, Bryant notched 2 HR and 5 RBI’s on route to becoming Chicago Cubs’ fifth player to reach 30 home runs in a season while still being 24 or younger.

“He’s a great player,” Cubs starter Jake Arrieta said of Bryant. “He’s been able to play a lot of different roles, especially defensively, for us, and he’s one of our biggest role players. To see what he’s continued to do and do what he did today is not a big surprise. [Anthony] Rizzo is a tremendous player and pretty much our MVP every year, but Kris is a special guy.”

He’s not too far off base there. Every team needs a dynamic duo. Mantle and Maris, Canseco and McGwire, Rizzo and Bryant. The MVP race heated up with “Bryant’s Game” and fans will forever debate which one was better but don’t tell Bryant any of that,

“You really take it at-bat by at-bat,” Bryant said. “It’s good to start the day off with a hit — it gets you going a little bit, gets your confidence going. You look at the scoreboard and see 3-for-3 and 4-for-4, that’s one of those days that you don’t have too often. For me, I don’t feel like this too often, but today was one of those days when I was really locked in.”

The normally humble player usually shrugs off those type of accolades but it’s all right to bask in that huge accomplishment. As for the pick of who should win the MVP between the two?

“I think they’ll be fine,” Maddon said. “I’ve watched them interact. KB, if he has an ego, I haven’t seen it. This guy comes to play every day, and he doesn’t react any differently. Rizz is probably a little more animated. I want to think they’d root for each other in that particular moment. I honestly do.”

There’s only one piece of hardware that Anthony Rizzo and Bryant want and that’s waited elusively for more than a hundred years.

Believe it.

Cubs Give Fans Reason To Believe

David Ross

Sometimes the Chicago Cubs make it look too easy. Yesterday’s 6-1 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers was one of those kind of games. Jon Lester led the Cubs with his 13th win of the season and now owns a 7-2 home record. This is the guy, who in the winter of 2014, the Cubs held a big press conference announcing that,

“I want to win…I believe in the plan that they have in place right now for the future of the Cubs.”

A year and a bit later, the Cubs are 6-0 in the last six Lester starts. I’ve never been a huge fan of his style but I have to call it what it is, the guy’s been outstanding this season.

After throwing for 6.2 innings, Lester’s night was done and he walked off the mound to an elated Wrigley crowd.

“You don’t want to be the loose link in the chain,” Lester said. “You want to keep pressing along where you’re not the guy and they go, ‘He stinks,’ and you’re letting the other guys down. I just try to stay in my bubble and go out and pitch well and give my team a chance to win. I don’t know if you look at that as being competitive, or not wanting to stink.”

But the fun didn’t just stop with Lester, Jorge Soler collected a three run home run that almost past the crowd and onto the streets behind. It’s fantastic to see Soler getting back in the swing of things since his return. He now has 7 home runs in his last 25 games.

Then there’s David “Grampa” Ross, who connected for a home run and got the crowd cheering on his swan song season.

“We’re just playing good baseball,” Ross said. “It’s nice to be healthy. [Soler] being back is a big piece. We don’t look at it as a long stretch of wins. We come in every day to compete that day against who we’re facing.”

There’s no doubt that this has been one of the most exciting seasons in Chicago Cubs history. It’s been the first season in a long time that fans weren’t just happy that the team is winning, it’s becoming dangerously close to expecting the team to be dominant which is not always the best way to go about things. My family is busy clearing off space in the house for talismans and other lucky charms for the October run. Yes, it’ll be heartbreaking should the Cubs fail to win the World Series but consider this; It doesn’t matter that the last time they won the big one, Ford was rolling off the Model T. What matters is that sports fans will have a chance to gather at the pub, the ballpark or at houses to witness history. A lot of fans cringe when playoffs come around because of the band wagon folks who display colours of the “Cool” team of the moment but these are the fans that will share in what could be the sporting world’s most celebrated victory. I’ll tell you right now that this October will be one to remember. It’s not about whether the Cubs win it all, but the unity they’ll bring in an October that fans will talk about for a long time to come.

Believe it.