Chicago Cubs Advance To NLCS

Last night was one of the most frustrating games I’ve ever seen. The Chicago Cubs are NLDS Champions and advance to the NLCS to face the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers after a 9-8 victory sending the Washington Nationals golfing for another year.

“I would say this is the most fun I’ve had playing in a baseball game, and it ranks right up there with winning the World Series,” Addison Russell said.

You know, he’s right. It would come close to winning the World Series, I mean he should know, right? It seemed both the Cubs and the Nationals expired their pitching order respectively in an attempt to thwart each other and win the NLDS. Neither starting pitcher could get it done with Kyle Hendricks or Gio Gonzalez. To give you an example about how weird the game was, Hendricks threw seven strikeouts and Gonzalez had six. If this were any other game, those would be decent numbers but not last night; The Cubs wanted to go on to their third NLCS while the Nationals haven’t won a series in 36 years (going back to the Expos)

“This was such a tough series, just a dogfight,” said Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks, who started the series’ opener and finale. “You’ve got to tip your hat. That club on the other side is really, really good. Lot of tough ballplayers over there. Top to bottom, they’re just so deep. We’re just lucky we were able to come out on top.”

Luck being the key word. This series truly would have gone the other way and normally I cringe when athletes “Tip their cap” to their opponent but in this case, it’s justified. I’ve never been more nervous watching a ballgame then last night.

“Really anxious, almost bemused at some of the things that were happening in that game,” said Theo Epstein, the Cubs’ president of baseball operations. “It was kind of a surreal game. We got all those runs with only one big hit to drive in runs, and then it was a matter of just holding on, finding a way to get 27 outs. It seemed impossible at times.”

Trust me Theo, it looked impossible from this end as well. When they say a pitcher’s duel, they included when the pitcher’s performances were sub par as well. If there were a way to get 27 outs without throwing strikes, this was the game.

“That’s one of the most incredible victories I’ve ever been part of,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Under the circumstances, in the other team’s ballpark, after a tough loss at home [in Game 4], to come back and do that, give our guys all the credit in the world.”

The NLCS begins tomorrow night. I hope the Cubs have one of their” fun days” and try to relax because one thing that this year’s edition of the post season has shown us is that the Cubs are out to prove last season wasn’t just plain old luck. However, the Dodgers are rested and the Cubs’ machine is well oiled.

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Cubs Hang On, Take Series Lead 2-1

After Saturday’s 6-3 heartbreaking loss, the Cubs were poised for a rebound. Yesterday, the Cubs proved that they’re still the reigning champs no matter if they make it through to the World Series or not by clawing their way to a 2-1 scrappy victory over the Nationals.

“It’s just an attitude, an attitude we’ve had on this team since I came up,” Kyle Schwarber said of the Cubs’ mantra. “I remember in ’15, we had the same attitude — we’re not going to quit — and we’d just got swept in the [NL Championship Series]. We’re not going to quit.”

Fingers were crossed after Schwarber couldn’t catch a routine ball to the left field wall and then proceeded to bobble the ball after he was unable to scoop it up. So, when it came time to congratulate everyone, Schwarber was the most relieved of all the players.

“Schwarber works his butt off, literally, to get better in the outfield,” Joe Maddon said. “And here’s the thing about that: That’s a routine play. That’s not over the top and that’s not an exceptionally great play, and it’s something that he knows he can make 11 out of 10 times.

“I have such faith in the fellow and the guy and his work ethic and how much he cares. After the game, all the guys are going up to him, every one, and reinforcing him. … He’s going to continue to get better on defense. But you’ve got to love his heart, man.”

There’s even Bill Murray singing the seventh inning stretch which has now become a fall favourite of having Murray sightings at Wrigley Field. Now, that’s all heart.

So now the Cubs are in position to advance to the NLCS tonight with a win. Game time is 5:30 EST with Jake Arrieta set to take to the mound. With the LA Dodgers upsetting Arizona, it could be the rematch of last season and I hope it’s the same outcome.

“We’ve got to be in attack mode. There’s no relaxing just because we’re up in the series. I’m a big, big believer in, you know, travel-day wins. You’ve got to get that win on a travel day because it makes everything better. The flight’s better, the morale is better. [Tuesday] we have a chance to seal it up here at Wrigley Field, and I expect our fans to be insane, just like they always are, and we’ll be ready to go.” Anthony Rizzo said.

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Kyle Hendricks Outstanding In NLDS Game 1

Sure, if somebody were to compare last night’s performances by the starting pitchers Kyle Hendricks and Stephen Strasburg, the edge would have to go to Strasburg. But, and that’s a big one, when it came down to sheer control, domination and command the better pitcher was Hendricks.

Of course, I’m bias on that one. You knew that of course.

The Cubs opened their NLDS series against the Washington Nationals with a 3-0 victory. If this was any indication of how the post season is going, then a road victory is surely that much more awesome.

“Going up against a tough pitcher, tough team in their home park, I don’t know if anyone really expected us to win, and we pulled it out,” Kris Bryant said. “Winning the first game is always important, but in a five-game [series], it’s more important.”

Yes, it is Kris. His bare handed grab at third to throw at first was one of the many highlights of the game.

So, when Kyle Hendricks came into the league back in 2014, he mostly flew under the radar and even up to last year’s World Series win, Kyle retained his unassuming style. Now, after last night’s Lecture On How To Pitch by the Professor Hendricks, I believe that his name will come up with some of the greats. Granted, I may be jumping the gun a little too soon (and in true Cubs fashion, I probably just jinxed the damn team) but admit it, the kid’s on fire.

“I think I’m just a laid-back guy, but you’re definitely feeling it,” Hendricks said. “The energy there in the stadium and crowd was pretty cool, but we’ve played some big games, even down the stretch in our division. We’ve had good atmospheres where we’re playing, so we were ready to take that adrenaline on and use it to our advantage.”

The kid tells the truth, the Cubs have been smoking hot coming down the stretch and you know, they might have to include a director’s cut of the film that’s being planned and add an extended version with this year’s post season.

Hendricks did just Hendricks things by carving out the strike zone and being cool and methodical under pressure.

“That’s why we call him Professor,” Chicago second baseman Javier Baez said about Hendricks. “He knows what he’s doing.”

One of my favourite games was the NLCS when Hendricks shut down Clayton Kershaw and for me, that was the game that solidified his potential Hall of Fame status.

“Joe Maddon has always been there for me,” Hendricks said. “They have instilled a lot of confidence in me ever since I came here. Even when I first came up, I had a bad year in 2015 and they stuck with me. So it’s been that way for a long time. But to get this nod for Game 1, just to try to set the tone for the team is huge. I just wanted to go out there, like I said before, and just do my part to give my team a chance to win.”

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Cubs Cruise To 9-0 Win Over Reds

Image result for chicago cubs

So the Chicago Cubs are in the post season and today is the last day of the 2016 campaign. Yesterday, the Cubs defeated the Cincinnati Reds 9-0 in what really amounted to a practice against the Washington Nationals.

One thing that I have to understand is Kyle Schwarber. Earlier in the season I suggested that he might be on the trade block (or should be really) but here it is in late September and Schwarber cranks out his 30th dinger of the season.

“Having been sent down during the course of the season, things not going his way, give the guy high marks for perseverance,” Joe Maddon said. “I think overall, the year has been very successful for him. It’s not easy being sent back after all the success he had. I think maybe my expectations I portrayed were too high, and I should’ve considered that he did not play at all last year.”

Again though, I think what he did in last year’s run was phenomenal and probably caught everyone, including myself off guard. He was sent down to the minors for a tune up but as we know, has rebounded nicely since his return.

“This is my favorite time of the year,” Schwarber said. “This is when things come to the nitty-gritty. This brings out the best in everyone. You saw when we were playing Milwaukee and St. Louis, those were some hard-fought games. It was a playoff atmosphere. We’re going to be going into Washington, and it’s going to be some hard-fought games, two really good pitching staffs going at it, and two really good offenses and defenses and good bullpens. You’re going to be in for a grinder series, and it’ll be fun.”

So the Cubs haven’t decided who will start game one of the NLDS. Will it be Kyle Hendricks or Jon Lester? As much as I like Hendricks, I’m going to give the nod to Lester on this one. He’s got the experience all though he’s been playing a little off recently, he’ll rebound into the true playoff performer he is.

“I don’t make those decisions,” Lester said. “If they chose to make me Game 1, that’s a huge honor, huge responsibility to put on your shoulders and go out there and try to get your team off to the best start. If I’m in any of the other games, I’ll go out and compete just like I would any other start.”

The Cubs will have their hands full with the Nationals.  The North Siders are on a roll but the Nationals will give them all they can handle.

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Chicago Cubs Advance To NLCS

NLDS Champions

In what will go down as one of the most thrilling playoff games in MLB history, the Chicago Cubs came from behind in the 9th inning to win the NLDS three games to one and a final score of 6-5.

To tell you I was starting to get worried yesterday was an understatement. The Cubs sure didn’t look like that behemoth team that won 103 games during the regular season.Their bats fell silent. Where was Anthony Rizzo or Kris Bryant? No, it was up to David Ross to provide any of the long ball excitement in game #4. I’ll tell you though, I’ve gained so much respect for Javier Baez. He’s been the spark plug for the team providing what Fox analysts described as “Not humanly possible!” stuff by the second baseman. He’ll surely be an MVP candidate this post season.

“He was incredible,” Pedro Strop said. “Javy can do anything. He owned this series. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Baez got the game winning hit in the ninth to put a damper on the Giants series.

John Lackey settled into a groove but it was Matt Moore’s steady workmanlike approach that kept the Cubs at bay. Now, it may sound like I’m heaping so much praise on the Giants but call it what it was, playoff baseball. The Cubs caught a break in the ninth with that rally.

“We’ve had several games that feel like that during the season but when you do it in the postseason, it gives you a whole ‘nother level of confidence late in the game,” said Ben Zobrist, who delivered a key RBI double in the ninth. “Once [Kris Bryant] and [Anthony Rizzo] got on, you kind of felt like, something good is going to happen here. Really, the last two nights, that’s what the Giants have done, they’ve put great at-bats together, rallies together. Tonight was our night.”

That “Something good” was Willson Contreras who crushed a two run single. You could see it on his face and who better to do it than the rookie? A symbolic gesture to the Cub’s Way and the brass in head office who built this team.

The Cubs needed this kind of adversity. I was hoping for a Mets/ Cubs matchup in the NLDS but in hindsight, this was the series that the Cubs needed. They haven’t been tested to this degree all year and the San Francisco Giants taught these young Cubs what playoff baseball is all about. One streak comes to an end but hopefully a new tradition begins and a curse finally brought to rest.

“We don’t quit,” Joe Maddon said. “That’s really what it comes down to. You hear that all the time, everybody says it, but you have to actually live it. And I have to tell you, I’ve seen it so many times from this group. That’s a big part of our philosophy. And I like to keep things simple, and that’s simple. … We just play 27 outs.”

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Cubs Wake Sleeping Giants

Chicago Cubs

If there are things that can make a Cubs fan nervous are extra inning games during October. Last night, the Cubs duked it out with the Giants and let me tell you folks, it wasn’t supposed to happen like that. The way it was supposed to happen was the Cubs were supposed to sweep the Giants and take a break before meeting either the Nationals or the Dodgers in the NLCS.

That’s the way it was supposed to happen.

Instead, the Cubs fell to the Giants in extra innings 6-5. After the Cubs had a very shaky 8th inning where the Cubs watched as their 3-2 lead evaporated at the hands of October’s even year darlings. I could tell that things were going to unravel the moment I saw Aroldis Chapman walking to the mound. Six more outs? For a guy that can throw 105MPH, that is really a tough thing to ask of him.

Now, before I harp all over the loss, there were some amazing things that happened. Jake Arrieta was almost his old self and I swear that beard isn’t real. He puts that on before practice and looks at that stare in the mirror. It’s not real folks, but last night proved that fearing the beard is what it’s all about. He got a home run off of Madison Bumgarner that put the Cubs up 3-0. Between Travis Wood and Arrieta, Maddon should move them up to cleanup.

“I just wanted to put a nice, easy swing on it and try and find the barrel,” Arrieta said. “That’s what I was able to do. It put us in a good spot. We had a chance to win the game, but they made some plays and swung the bat really well to turn the tides in their favor.”

Also, there was Albert Almora‘s catch in the bottom of the ninth that secured the extra innings clash. It was a catch of beauty.

Kris Bryant‘s two run home run to send the game into extra innings was huge.The only outcome greater than that would have been if they won. Playoff baseball at it’s best.

“It was a fun [game] to be a part of even though we didn’t win,” Bryant said after the longest game in Cubs’ postseason history. “We gave it all we’ve got. Great at-bats, one through nine, and from our pitchers, too. It was just a great game.”

In the end, he’s right. An amazing game that can be savoured even though the Cubs lost. Although, if they were down two games and still lost, I’m sure us Cubs fans would be singing a different song.

The Cubs and the Giants clash again tonight and the champagne better be chilled.

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Cubs Looking To Wrap Up NLDS

NLDS

The Toronto Blue Jays swept their first series in history and move on to the ALCS and for Canadians, it couldn’t have been a more Happy Thanksgiving then seeing Russell Martin have the game winning hit that sent Josh Donaldson home.

The Chicago Cubs and Jake Arrieta are making plans to head to the NLCS if they can wrap up their series against the San Francisco Giants tonight. Arrieta will be facing Madison Bumgarner at 9:38 pm eastern. We all know that Arrieta is the reigning National League Cy Young winner but this year, the emergence of Kyle Hendricks and the solid Jon Lester have pushed Arrieta into the three spot on the depth chart.

“I’ve had these moments in the past, and it’s just something you really want to relish and try to embrace and enjoy as much as you can,” said Arrieta, who went 2-1 with a 3.66 ERA in three postseason starts last year. “You play the long season — regular season — to get to this moment, to have these types of opportunities, and you prepare and you move forward accordingly and try to take care of business. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

Tonight’s game is part of the puzzle that Theo Epstein has put together. The dramatics will be intense and I’m sure Bill Murray will be dancing in the stands. Joe Maddon is the perfect manager for tonight’s game. He’s loose and intense, fun and strict all wrapped up and sporting those Buddy Holly frames.

“There’s a power in letting the guys be free and play kind of without any restraints and thinking [about] things,” David Ross said. “He wants you to kind of just play the game, almost like in Little League. When you make mistakes, which we have done all year, you learn from them, try to teach and move on. These guys continue to grow. … There’s a continual growth, and that stems from Joe.”

That’s exactly what he brings to the table. Looking at guys like Kyle Hendricks who looks almost like he should still be playing Little League, the Cubs team is deceptive. However, tonight the Cubs are going to have their hands full against a Giants team that’s struggling to remain in the series and although Arrieta hasn’t had his best season after his award winning 2015 campaign, he’s focused, rested and ready.

“Well, from a numbers perspective, I would have liked maybe to be a little bit better,” Arrieta said on Sunday. “But at the same time, [I] took the ball every five days, had a lot of great things throughout the season to be excited about. … I’ve prepared the same way from start to finish and really like the process and trust the stuff moving forward, and know that it’s more than good enough to have a lot of success for this team in the postseason.”

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Cubs Strike First In NLDS After Baez Hits Big.

Chicago Cubs

One thing is for certain after the Chicago Cubs 1-0 win over the San Francisco Giants in the NLDS last night; nothing is for certain.

All the Cubs celebrities were well represented with an exuberant Bill Murray hanging out with fans and blowing a gasket after Javier Baez‘s home run. Then there was Pearl Jam singer and Chicago Cubs balladeer Eddie Vedder hanging with Theo Epstein in the suites.

The Cubs aren’t going to have an easy time against the Giants, even after the North Siders 103 victories during the regular season. Last night, it didn’t matter. Both the Cubs’ Jon Lester and the Giants’ Johnny Cueto were locked in a pitcher’s duel that went on until the bottom of the eighth inning when Javier Baez hit a rocket into the basket on the outfield wall to break the 0-0 tie.

“I don’t think it’s any coincidence that he ended up hitting a home run because of what he had done in his earlier at-bats,” Joe Maddon said. “He was up there working good at-bats. He wasn’t trying to do too much. Even the home run, I mean, it wasn’t his ‘A’ hack, but it was in an area that he can do that with, so he didn’t try to force something.”

The Cubs are now 10 wins away from baseball’s ultimate prize but win #1 didn’t look like it would be a wrap when the leadoff hitter reached base. I thought Lester was off to a shaky start but once the Opening Night jitters were swept away, Lester sunk into his groove.

“That leadoff guy is so important in the playoffs, but just in baseball in general,” David Ross said. “That concerned me early on. But once he started locking in and settling in — and he hadn’t pitched in a while in this atmosphere. I don’t care what you say. That was a great atmosphere there tonight, and I had butterflies getting out there and getting going.”

When the Cubs inked Jon Lester a couple of years ago, I was worried about him getting it done, but last night Lester and Epstein almost shared a smile knowing full well that it was the very reason he was brought in for on nights like Friday. The playoffs and the road to the World Series.

“I think some guys, when the lights shine the brightest, they’re better,” David Ross said. “It’s just a fact. I’ll take him any day of the week in any game, especially in the postseason. I’m putting my money on Jon Lester.”

You can put my money on Baez too.

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Cubs Anxious To Get The NLDS Going

NLDS

Today is the day the Chicago Cubs begin their quest for baseball immortality. A trophy that has eluded the fabled franchise for more than a hundred years. Under normal circumstances, expectations would be low, “Hey, we’re just happy to be here” is no longer a phrase spilling from the mouths of young Cubs. This year is different, the Cubs are the best team in baseball and are expected to end droughts, make grown men drop their beer and cry when the team wins it all at the end of this month.

Are the Cubs ready?

“Yes,” Cubs catcher David Ross said. “[It’s like] the cooped up dog in the house all day and the owner gets home. We’ve been running around the house for too long and we’re ready to get out on the field and play some catch and hit and throw and be a part of everything we get to watch on TV. We’re excited. I was up late last night watching the game. As soon as it was over, I was like, ‘OK, I can’t wait until we get our turn.'”

Game time is 9:00pm tonight and Jon Lester takes to the mound, rightfully so. He’s a veteran and his playoff experience brings its own pedigree with the catcher Ross.

“The biggest thing is I know what Rossy is bringing tomorrow, he knows what I’m going to bring and I think we have a way of communicating to where we can talk each other off a ledge if we need to or pump each other up if we need to,” Lester said yesterday. “It’s a good working relationship and, like I’ve said before, he knows how to push my buttons and I know how to push his and we try to get the best out of each other. We’ll try to ride that wave again tomorrow.”

The playoffs always comes down to great pitching and the Cubs have had that great pitching all year.

“A lot of is based on recent productivity,” Joe Maddon said. “The fact that Jon has nailed it, Kyle has nailed it. But they’ve also been very good at home where Jake’s also been good on the road. And John Lackey doesn’t care where he pitches.”

The Giants are going to be tough to beat. In fact, should the Cubs don’t get past this round, it’s going to be caused from a curse or fate, it’s what I believe. The curse of the Cubs or the recently anointed “even year” of the Giant. I want to see good baseball. Naturally, I want to see the Cubs win it all but this is the time of year when those hefty contracts are cashed in.

“It’s nice to have the days off,” Kris Bryant said. “I think a lot of us feel recuperated. Our bodies feel good. It’s just a matter of getting going. I’m sure there’s going to be some nerves and some anxiousness there early on.”

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Cubs Will Have a Giant Hurdle in The NLDS

NLDS

The Chicago Cubs NLDS is all set to go tomorrow. They’ll be squaring off against the San Francisco Giants after they defeated the New York Mets 3-0 last night. I was hoping for a Mets/Cubs series more for payback than anything and that it is an even year for the San Francisco Giants. We know what that means, right?

“It’ll be a fun time in Chicago — that’s what it’s been all year,” Chicago’s Jason Heywardsaid. “We don’t take it for granted. It’ll be a good time and we’ll have some fun with it. This is what you play for, you want to be on this stage. Don’t ever forget it or take it for granted, just have fun.”

I’m always leery about the Giants. It’s almost like they play possum all year and then wake up in the post season. The good news is that the Cubs beat the Giants in the regular season but the Giants, as we know, have won World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014. Do you see the pattern there? I’m not going to go into detail about the Cubs history in the playoffs but last year, the Cubs beat the Mets in the regular season and look what happened?

“This is 2016, so [the Giants] are going to be tough to beat, no doubt,” Anthony Rizzo said.

In a way, it’s best for the Cubs to be facing the Giants. If they haven’t faced adversity this season, then they’re going to get their fair share of it in the NLDS. The Cubs are a strong team and it’s going to be a tough series. It might not be a sweep, but the Cubs should and will come out of it on top.

We know that President Obama is a proud Chicagoan and a staunch White Sox fan, but will he be cheering for the Cubs on their quest? Press Secretary Josh Earnest has said,

“It’s been a long time coming, and Cubs’ fans have been waiting a long time for a team that looks like this. And there’s a reason that they are considered by just about everybody the favorites to win the World Series,” he said. “But you know, this is — the playoffs and baseball are exciting. And I know the president is looking forward to tracking their progress through the playoffs.”

So there you have it, sort of. It’s almost sacrilegious to wish away today, but Friday can’t come soon enough for this Canadian Cubs fan. Today though, we’ll be watching the Toronto Blue Jays try to get past the Texas Rangers. Game time is 4pm eastern. I’d love to see a Jays/Cubs World Series.

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