Kyle Hendricks Teaches Mets A Lesson

 

Kyle Hendricks

Kyle “The Professor” Hendricks teaches the New York Mets a lesson in the Chicago Cubs 6-2 victory.

It was throwback day at Wrigley Field and no better way to celebrate it than having Kyle Hendricks pitching a gem while channeling Greg Maddux and Anthony Rizzo digging deep into the vaults for his impression of Ryne Sandberg as the Chicago Cubs defeated the New York Mets 6-2 in front of a packed Wrigley Field.

Hendricks has quickly and quietly earned his place as the Cubs ace this season. Did anyone see that coming? He turned in his ninth victory of the season while striking out seven in six shutout innings. Is it too late to for a Cy Young nomination? Just kidding, Stephen. To give you an idea of just how good this kid has been, Hendricks is leading the majors with a 0.72 ERA since June 19th. The “Professor” has really been teaching lessons on the mound.

“I’m really just focused on what I can control,” Hendricks said. “Lately, that’s been simplifying everything. I feel good with my mechanics. I feel good with the rapport I’ve had with Willson [Contreras] and Miggy behind the plate. It’s just picking up where I left off every start.”

Wrigley Field has been very kind to the Cubs. Chicago has the best home record in the National League and Hendricks has the second lowest ERA at home with 1.36, the only one better is Clayton Kershaw.

I can go on all day about Kyle Hendricks, but there’s another hero in Anthony Rizzo. He blasted two home runs, boosting his season totals to 24. When Rizzo goes yard, the Cubs are 18-4.

“Even if they go out just over the yellow line, it’s just as good,” Rizzo said. “It did feel good. I just put good swings on the ball, and that’s really all I wanted to do.”

Rizzo is tied with Nolan Arenado for the National League lead in RBI’s with 71. While he’s one short of Kris Bryant for the team lead in home runs, the duo of Bryant/Rizzo evokes fond memories of the Bash Brothers of the late 1980’s. Talk about a throwback!

The MVP race is going to be too close to call this year.

“I’m just glad we played well,” Joe Maddon said. “We’ve played six really good games since the break. That’s the part that stood out to me.”

The Cubs also made a trade yesterday grabbing Mike Montgomery and Jordon Pries from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Dan Vogelbach and Paul Blackburn.

The Cubs have a much needed day off before taking that hop, skip and a jump to Milwaukee to take on the Brewers tomorrow.

Believe it.

Cubs Can’t Frame Arrieta Masterpiece

Kris Bryant

The Cubs should have won that game. it’s a cliche I know but it’s true. They should have won it twice but instead succumbed to the New York Mets 2-1 in front of over 41 000 fans at Wrigley Field. That’s right, those fans witnessed the worse loss the Cubs have had this season.

First, Jake Arrieta pitched his finest game in over a month. Allowing one run in seven innings of work, the stoic hurler shut down twelve batters between the first and fifth innings. You can’t get much better than that. Jake is back! Not to mention his pitch count was incredibly low. In 27 pitches, he notched 25 strikes. Folks, that’s the fastest mark to 25 by any pitcher this season.

“That’s when I’m at my best, when I’m challenging guys right away from the first pitch and putting them on the defensive side and making them swing the bat,” Arrieta said. “I expect to pitch more like this as far as the aggressiveness and keeping the ball down in the strike zone.”

Things were going well for the Cubs up until the ninth inning when they had a bases loaded nobody out situation. In a perfect world, Matt Szczur should have stepped up, tapped the plate with dust and dirt clouding the air and staring down Jeurys Familia, the King of Clutch, Hail Szczur cracking that leather sphere into the stands, a grand slam sending some little kid who might be up past his bedtime, home with a souvenir.  Instead, he hit to first base.

That’s what legends are made of but this is the Cubs, where “There’s always tomorrow” is forever enshrined in the clubhouse. It would have been a perfect ending to a close game. It would have been awesome if Kris Bryant, who was waiting in the wings were to do his thing and surpass his home run total of 25 but he hit into a double play and what should have been, never was and the fans took the RedLine home a little disappointed.

“We had a chance late and didn’t get the hit when we needed to,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Everybody did what they were supposed to do. We weren’t able to score that winning run. A bloop hit right there, we’re all very happy going home, jumping up and down. That doesn’t mean we didn’t play well.”

Another area that the Cubs did extremely well in was stolen bases. Chicago has stolen a base in four straight games. Could this be the beginning of a new style of play?

Today, my favourite pitcher and hopefully yours, Kyle Hendricks will try to turn things around. He hasn’t given up an earned run this month and is going for his fifth win.

Believe it

Cubs Go Downtown With Mets

Anthony Rizzo

There’s no denying that when Anthony Rizzo is hitting home runs the Cubs are going to win ballgames. There’s a reason why he’s tied Giancarlo Stanton for most home runs in the National League since 2013 with 108. That’s a lot of moon shots. Last night, the Cubs captain collected his 22nd home run of the season, a three run shot to help the Cubs down the Mets 5-1 in front of a packed Wrigley Field.

“He’s got that level of ability offensively, defensively, driving in runs — he’s the anchor of the group. … A lot of the other guys grab attention, and Anthony just keeps doing what he does. He’s almost like old news because he’s 26 going on 27. But this guy is the anchor of the group.” Joe Maddon said.

Another known fact is that when a pitcher goes deep into a game the way Jon Lester did last night when he went 7 2/3 innings, teams will win ballgames.

“Better location, better stuff — that’s really it,” Lester said. “I was up a lot in New York, and they were swinging the bats really well and they made me pay for it. I got the ball back down, got my cutter back in play, and got a lot of quick outs. There’s a few things in there that I needed to dust off as far as a little bit of rust delivery-wise. It hurt me throughout the game as far as the walks, kind of rhythm stuff.”

Lester’s had a tough July after being named NL pitcher of the month in June when he had a 4-0 record but this month’s seen stuff like giving up five runs during that Pittsburgh series last week. A veteran learns from his mistakes.

The real gem of the night belonged to Matt Szczur, whose substitute prowess has pretty much given him a position of his own where teams will be clamouring for his services in the future. Last night, the “Mighty” Matt had his first three hit game.

So, you wanna know why the Cubs won last night? It’s those little things that got the job done.

“He stays ready,” Maddon said of Szczur. “Here’s a guy who’s been playing sporadically but he’s always ready, He’s always engaged. There’s never a pout. He’s a wonderful team player. His football background probably helps with that. They understand the team concept.”

Just as the veteran guys were getting things done, Willson Contreras learned an important thing about the power of Yoenis Cespedes’s arm when he threw 206 ft to get Contreras out at home. It was an impossible play by any mere mortal’s arm, but Cespedes welcomed Contreras to the Show with that rocket.

The funny thing about this year’s Cubs is that despite the slump before the break, they still own the best run differential in the majors  with +144 and the lowest ERA at 3.06. If the Cubs can keep getting quality production from their supporting staff like Szczur, they’ll own October as well.

Believe it.

Cubs Met Their Match in New York

New York Mets

Happy 4th of July to my American friends!

That was a series, Cubs fans will likely forget. The Chicago Cubs were walloped 14-3 yesterday. They have now lost four in a row. in a series that saw catcher Miguel Montero get the call to the mound, the repeat of the NLCS was ugly.

Very ugly.

When position players take to the mound, that has got to be one of the worst things to happen to pitchers. Starting pitcher, Jon Lester lasted only 1 1/3 innings.

“I hate seeing position players up there,” Lester said. “You never want to see position players on the mound.”

In a series that was dubbed,”Revenge” it turned into one of those monster flicks from the 1950’s like Creature From The Black Lagoon or Tarantula! yeah, that’s more like it. The one where they terrorized a town, but the only thing that’s more terrifying than the monster is the bad acting.

“It’s terrible. It’s just bad,” Montero said of the series. “They overplayed us, simple as that. We didn’t play good enough, we didn’t hit good enough, we didn’t pitch good enough. It was a sloppy performance for us. It’s simple.”

This series was like that. It was supposed to be a giant blue bear cub stomping Queens, but in the end, it turned out to be this guy doing all the damage.

New York Mets

I mean c’mon really?

It seems the Mets have the Cubs number lately. In fact, I’m just going to stop talking about that Mets/Cubs series. I used to have a soft spot for them, perhaps sympathy but since last October it’s different.

“It was a rough weekend — give the Mets credit,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “They really swung the bats well, and of course, they always pitch well. They got us this time, they got us last year at the end of the season. For me, it’s keep moving it forward. This is an easy game for me to forget about.”

The Cubs pitching was first going into the series, but they got roughed up and beaten badly, outscored 24 runs in just 16 innings. Hey, it was bound to happen, right?

“I feel they didn’t miss a mistake the whole series,” he said of the Mets. “Sometimes you run into a buzz saw like that. By no means is that an excuse for today, I have to do a better job getting some outs one way or another.”

They were outscored 32-11 in the series!

Today is July 4th and the Cubs begin a series against the Cincinnati Reds. They hope to turn things around and get back on track with Kyle Hendricks on the mound.

Believe it!

Cubs Woes Continue in Loss To Mets

Chicago Cubs

If there are curses in baseball, then everyone has to talk about a curse based on the New York Mets. It seems that the curse was put on last fall when these two clubs faced each other in the NLCS. Last night, the Cubs had their ace on the mound and even the mighty Jake Arrieta couldn’t lift the hex between the two teams as they fell 4-3 and now have lost their third straight game.

“Poor performance on my end,” Arrieta said. “The command wasn’t great, the stuff wasn’t very good. Overall, just didn’t give the effort my team needed tonight. I needed to be more of a stopper and put a stop to the bleeding. In the fourth, gave up a few more hits than I would’ve liked.”

Although on opposite ends of the spectrum, Arrieta’s struggles of late compared to Kris Bryant‘s success(tied for the lead in the majors in home runs with 23) can add to the Cubs slump. Nobody said this season’s going to be easy, so when the reigning National League Cy Young winner is not playing with his best stuff by not completing six innings of work in his last three starts, it’s tough not to worry.

“It’s frustrating for me,” he said. “I expect a lot more out of myself, and to let it continue for three, four starts is not something that I like to see happen. … I just need to do a better job of being aggressive early in the count and forcing the issue.”

But with the Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants nipping at their heels, what can the Cubs do? They certainly can’t send him down to Triple A to work on his pitches. Maybe they can shuffle the rotation around or possibly give him a few more days off? The fact remains that the dude needs to get back in sync. Something’s off with him and he needs to find out the problem. We’ve seen him at his best and the Cubs need him back in his form before September rolls around.

“He’s like a metronome, man,” Joe Maddon said. “He just keeps doing the same things. If you were to speak to Jake tomorrow, I promise you he would be the same guy as when he won [nine] games in a row. He’d be the same cat. I have all the faith in the world he’ll correct it. In the meantime, nobody’s perfect, man.”

There’s no question that this is the toughest part of the baseball season. It’s a week before All Star break. With a 162 game schedule, even the mightiest of arms get tired, eyes get blurry on the swings and muscles begin to ache. The Cubs will end this slump.

“I don’t think there’s a big cause for concern,” Arrieta said. “Every team, regardless of if you’re in first or last place, every team has those spells where you might struggle a little bit and things aren’t going as well as you’d expect. From my perspective, individually, it’s one of those spells for me. I’m resilient, I’ll bounce back. I’ll get to the point where I was early in the season and last year soon. This won’t continue. It’s frustrating it has gone for this long of a period. We’ll make it right.”

Believe it.

Cubs Come Up Short Against Mets

Jose Peralta

It was supposed to be sweet revenge but in the series opener, the Chicago Cubs came close to vindication but fell to the New York Mets 4-3. Daniel Murphy wasn’t there anymore, that famous Cubs slayer and perhaps, the Cubs thought they could catch a break. Both Kris Bryant and Javier Baez homered for the Cubs but in the end, they just couldn’t catch a break.

“He punished that ball,” Maddon said of Bryant’s home run.

While Kris Bryant and Javier Baez are on a tear, it’s the rest of the Cubs that aren’t able to make contact like they did in April.

“Our primary problem last year was our inability to make contact against a group of [their] pitchers that were really on top of their game,” Maddon said. “For the most part, we were really good this April at making contact. May was not as kind, June we’re falling backwards. We have to get back to where we were in April. That’s my biggest concern.”

Now to be fair, Dexter Fowler was a huge part of the Cubs contact issues. He’s nursing a hamstring but should be back in the lineup in a week or two. In the meantime, we know that it’s up to the young Cubs players like Albert Almora, Willson Contreras and Javier Baez to shoulder the load in Fowler’s absence. That could have been part of the problem with the Cubs contact issues.

Now let’s go to the other side and look at starting pitcher John Lackey. He’s a fierce competitor so when he was yanked in the seventh with a runner on first and only one out. Maddon decided to make a pitching change.

“Yes, I was pretty surprised on that one,” Lackey said. “In the fifth inning, I lost the feel for a little while. I kind of lost command of my fastball for a couple hitters. The sixth inning, I got it back going. I had a runner on first with an out. I was pretty surprised.”

Getting a 6 ft 6 Texan pissed off is not a wise thing to do, but he took it in stride.

The Cubs look to rebound in the series today when they face the Mets at 7:07. Jason Hammel gets the call.

“We don’t really remember much that happened here last year,” Bryant said. “We know the feeling of getting eliminated and getting swept. I think we’re on to bigger and better things. Different year, different players, different attitude here.”

Believe it.

 

Cubs Feel Lucky in Vegas

Las Vegas

They say, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” but everybody knows that the annual Vegas game is something to look forward to every spring. Last night, the Chicago Cubs defeated the New York Mets, 5-1.

This is Kris Bryant‘s home town and he didn’t disappoint knocking in the run that would eventually guarantee a Cubs victory.

“I love this city. I have good memories from playing club ball to high school.” Bryant said.

Who doesn’t love that city?

As for Bryant, he’s looking to capitalize on an amazing rookie campaign last season which garnered him Rookie of The Year honours.

“It was a really good year for me and a lot of good things coming my way,” Bryant said. “There were a lot of opportunities and I’m grateful for them. I can’t put into words what last year was like. It was so much fun for me.”

He’s got to remember that because the pressure is on despite Joe Maddon’s mantra of “The Pleasure is the Pressure” There’s always going to be pressure on the player’s, especially Bryant but one thing I’ve seen from him last season is that coolness and maturity that doesn’t always transcend to the majors the way a lot of managers would like.

Kris is different.

“What Joe says a lot is ‘pressure is a privilege,'” Bryant said. “We wouldn’t want to be in any other position. We’re all embracing the situation we’re in. No pressure — we’re out here having fun. We know we have a pretty good team this year and we have to go out and play now.”

Speaking of pressure, Jake Arrieta has a lot to live up to this season as well, but like Bryant, there’s a coolness and calmness about him that probably contributed to his Cy Young in a record breaking 2015 season.  Coming off blister problems, Jake is ready for Opening Day.

“It was a record in all of baseball ever, so to say I’m going to have those numbers again is probably not realistic, but they’re going to be good, I know that,” Arrieta said.

The thing is that the team realizes the pressure and yet, there isn’t too much pressure surrounding the team at all. Nobody expects them to win in 2016. We know they’ll be good and it will be a fun season. They’ll go deep into the playoffs and should they come up short of the World Series, who cares? It’s a fun experience growing with the team.

“It’s something that’s hard to repeat,” catcher Miguel Montero said. “That could be the best year of his career. Even if he comes up and wins 18 games and has an ERA of 2.20 or 2.30 or 2.50, that’s a really good year, that’s Cy Young numbers right there, and people may be a little disappointed because of that? I don’t think you can be disappointed in that.”

Believe it.