Cubs Win Series over Phillies, Lead All Star Voting

John Lackey

There’s no denying the Chicago Cubs pitching staff, they’re awesome. Yesterday’s 8-1 victory and series winner over the Philadelphia Phillies proved that point. John Lackey pitched seven shutout innings giving up only three hits.

“The whole game was set up because John Lackey pitched as well as he did,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “He knows what he’s doing out there. He does different things with hitters to really set them up. … There’s no way to sit on him. He’s very unpredictable and he’s very smart.”

Albert Almora showed why he belongs in The Show after a beautiful throw from his outfield spot to get Odubel Herrera out at home. Later, the rookie singled, driving Anthony Rizzo home and then on the next play, made it home himself.

“Both of them felt really good,” Almora said. “Both were key parts, I felt, to the game. I’m just happy to help the team out.”

It’s not like his presence isn’t being felt either.

“It’s new, so he’s still in that ‘happy-to-be-here’ stage,” Maddon said. “But I just like the way he’s going about his business, in the batter’s box, around the rest of the guys. … He’s going to be a very good Major League baseball player.”

The Cubs are going to be represented well at this year’s All Star Game. Have you voted yet? In fact, the Cubs lead in the infield. It’s going to be an exciting All Star Game if you’re a Cubs fan. What I’d like to see though is a purely stats driven selection process. Us fans are the reason why the MLB keeps going. Not only do I shell out cash for ball caps, MLB.TV and we’re making a road trip to Pittsburgh next month to see the Cubs play but when it comes to All Star voting selection, I would like to leave it to the stats. Now that being said, I just asked if you’ve voted. Maybe only a few fan vote ins in the future.

The Cubs get a day off today before heading to Atlanta to begin a series with the Braves.  Jason Hammel gets the start.

Believe it.

 

Cubs Call Up Almora and Hendricks Shines in Loss

Kyle Hendricks

Even in losing causes, the Chicago Cubs find ways to compete and keep the score close. This is what happened in last night’s 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Kyle Hendricks was yanked after the fifth inning and striking out six batters. He still pitched well but Joe Maddon saw something.

“I didn’t want to take him out,” Maddon said. “I just saw a real low scoring game there and I wanted us to have an opportunity to score. Almora gave us a good at-bat. I was just trying to get a point or two on the board right there, and that’s the reason why I did it. Kyle could have pitched seven, eight, nine innings tonight. He was throwing great.”

I’ve always had the feeling that we haven’t seen Hendrick’s best stuff yet. Do you guys get that?

What every Cubs fan and of course, Albert Almora were waiting for was the Cubs highly touted pick to make his debut and last night the kid had his chance. Though he didn’t get a hit, the 22 year old was excited for the opportunity.

“It’s a dream come true,” Almora said. “Twenty-two years old, and I’ve been playing baseball since I was 4 years old. This is what every kid dreams about.”

Just like Field of Dreams.

So, even though the Cubs lost, it was a good loss to to take. Almora had his call up, Hendricks pitched well and the Cubs kept it close.

“Listen, I have nothing to complain about,” Maddon said. “This was a really good baseball game tonight. The people at the ballpark were entertained, and there was a lot of drama at the end. What can I say, man? It was a really good baseball game.”

John Lackey will try to get the series victory this afternoon at 1pm

Believe it.

 

Cubs Could Land Joey Bats

Jason Heyward

The Cubs won their 40th game of the season. They reached that milestone with the help of Jason Heyward, whose May wasn’t that spectacular but June has given the outfielder something too cheer about.

“We just kept the proverbial grinding out of the at-bats,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We scored enough runs, we caught the ball on defense. We’ve had great starting pitching. You score six runs and have to fasten your seat belts in the ninth.”

So, there’s been a lot of talking about how the Cubs are on pace for a 116 win season but here’s how MLB is steeped in too much lore. Anything can happen. The Cubs could go on a major losing streak and other teams can tear it up. Sure, the fastest to the 40 win mark was the Seattle Mariners in 2001, but in the end  it doesn’t matter. Being on pace and doing it are two different things entirely. If anything, fans should concentrate on the pitching staff.

  1. Jake Arrieta, 1.80
  2. Jon Lester, 2.06
  3. Jason Hammel, 2.14
  4. Kyle Hendricks, 2.84
  5. John Lackey, 2.88

Those are pretty impressive and perhaps Kyle should change his name to Jim or something. Lester’s having a great year and last night’s eight shutout innings in the 6-4 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies is making me a believer.

“I feel more comfortable this year,” Lester said. “As the year went on [last season], you could really see Joe open up and become more Joe. We had a little bit more fun once we started winning. That just carried over to this year. … Everybody feels more relaxed this year.”

He still has trouble tossing the ball to first but I guess who cares as long as he keeps grinding away.

There’s rumblings about Jose Bautista coming down to the North Side at the trade deadline. He would be a good fit but he’d also come with a whopping price tag. With Kyle Schwarber down and now Jorge Soler walking off the field in yesterday’s game, this could be a reality.

“Hammies, once you do that, it’s something that really does follow, hopefully not to a severe degree,” Maddon said. “I was a really good hamstring puller. I was one of the best. So I know what it feels like, and I know what the recovery’s like. It’s more painful than breaking something.”

So whether the Cubs cruise to a 116 win season or not, there’s no denying that this has been a special year so far and baseball fans everywhere are taking notice of the “Cubbies”. It’s still a long way to October and the trade deadline hasn’t happened. Not being cynical, just–

Believe it.

Cubs Sweep Phillies. Twenty Games Above .500

Ben Zobrist

CHICAGO, IL – MAY 28: Ben Zobrist #18 of the Chicago Cubs hits a run scoring double in the 1st inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field on May 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 607678467

 

It’s a cliche to say that “On Paper” when a team is amazing but in the Chicago Cubs case, they’re exactly that. putting things from paper into action can seem daunting but then the Cubs are proving that a team can have both.

Take Ben Zobrist. On paper, he’s pretty awesome but on the field he takes it to the next level of awesomeness, so it’s fitting then that after an extremely hot May, Zobrist was exceptionally hot at the plate. So far, he’s second in batting average in the league.

Not bad for a 35 year old.

“I’m trying to figure out myself if I can keep this up, to be honest,” Zobrist said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a month where I’ve hit this well and just kind of all the way around. You just try and keep it going. That’s all I’m trying to do — doing the same things, the same drills, trying to manage my body well and have good at-bats. I didn’t have great at-bats today outside of the ball I hit out. It’s just a daily grind. You just keep working and try to have quality at-bats.”

The Cubs defeated the Philedelphia Phillies 7-2 and now their winning streak sits at five games.

So, just how good are the Cubs? Well, they’re 20 games over .500 That’s pretty darn good if you were to ask me. In fact, it’s scary to think that the Cubs have swept the Angels, Reds, Brewers, Pirates and Nationals this season. Two of those teams are contenders.

”Many times you’ll see a team not have the same sense of urgency on sweep day after you’ve won the series,” Joe Maddon said. ”I really like that our guys aren’t satisfied with just winning a series.”

He’s got a point about that. I believe that a team has to not put the nail in the coffin of opposing teams but come September, every game matters. So series sweeps I think are far more important than just winning series. It can be an intimidation factor.

John Lackey improved to 5-2 on the season and let me tell you that I think he’s become a far better pitcher than I thought he’d be for the Cubs.

“When (Lackey) grabs a lead he’s almost a perfect pitcher to have pitch because he treats every inning like it’s 0-0,” said  Joe Maddon. “He just keeps going after you (and) he ran with that lead extremely well.”

The Cubs are starting a series with the always dangerous LA Dodgers. I say dangerous because arguably Chase Utley is the best player in the game today. The Cubs won’t get the opportunity to face Clayton Kershaw .

“It’s just the way the cookie crumbles,” Maddon said. “Sometimes teams miss Arrieta. [Kershaw] is really good and I got to appreciate it over the last couple years that I’ve seen him more consistently. The game we had here last year with the lights going out, that was really fun. He is exceptional. I always want us to compete against the best. To save that for a little bit later in the season, I’m OK with it.”

Believe it.

Hendricks Is Completely Awesome

Kyle Hendricks

Joe Maddon’s always been a little hesitant in keeping Kyle Hendricks late in the games but yesterday was a different story as Hendricks enjoyed his second complete game of his career and the Chicago Cubs went on to defeat the Philadelphia Phillies 4-1

“I didn’t want him coming out of that game,” Maddon said.

For a young pitcher to toss a complete game is an extra special moment in their career. It ranks up there with no hitters, shutouts and yeah, that elusive perfect game. I’ve always maintained that the judge of a great pitcher is the complete games they throw. I’m certain that there’ll be many more complete games in Hendrick’s future.

“That was probably the coolest part was standing there for the ninth,” Hendricks said. “I had to tell myself that much more to keep it simple, stay within myself and make pitches.”

Hendricks isn’t one of the most finest type pitchers in the game, but in many ways he’s like the Keith Richards of the Cubs. Of course you can lose the cigarette and the cackle, all right stay with me for a moment; there’s a lot more going on with Hendrick’s pitches than meets the eye. He doesn’t dazzle you with how fast he can hurl or his number of strikeouts. He just quietly gets the job done efficiently and a workmanlike fashion.

“What you saw today – that’s what you could get out of him,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s 88-89 (mph) with the really good changeup and he broke out the hooks a couple times. But he’s good against lefties and righties when everything’s working. And he can keep the ball on the ground, which is really important in this ballpark. Right now, what you’re seeing, to me, is not a reach by any means. This is what he can look like very, very consistently.”

If Hendricks has suddenly found his groove and becomes an ace in the making, he stays pretty humble.

“I’m pretty confident, but it doesn’t really matter much,” Hendricks said. “All that matters is going out there and making pitches. It’s back to work this week, (throw) my bullpen, stay where I’m at in my lane and keep the ball down with some angle.”

I’ve come around to the fact that Maddon’s mantra for Dexter Fowler is “You go, we go” is working. Yesterday, Fowler got everything going with his second leadoff home run this season. One of the best leadoff hitters in the game, it marked his 16th leadoff HR of his career.

John Lackey gets the ball today as he looks to sweep the Phillies and extend the Cubs winning streak to five games. Game time is 2:20

Believe it

 

 

Cubs leave Phillies Wet Behind Their Ears

Chicago Cubs

It was a wet one but the Cubs brought it home.

After a disastrous road trip, the Chicago Cubs have come back in full force.  Yesterday afternoon, the Cubs beat the Phillies 6-2 and showed their power throughout the win.

Jorge Soler put a dent in that shiny new scoreboard with the longest home run by a Cub this season at a whopping 461 feet.

“That home run right there would be really pleased on any given par five to hit that particular drive,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “That thing was far — loud and far. He’ll keep doing that. He’s getting some confidence. You can see it, the way he’s moving. His confidence is just riding right now. All these guys will keep getting better.”

Say what? All these guys getting better? Say it ain’t so, Joe. These guys are all ready good. Soler just needed to find his groove.

Another great thing that happened yesterday was David Ross reached his 100th career home run. This is his final year or farewell tour which a lot of them have been doing. It’s great to see him hit that milestone.

“The boys were excited, I was excited,” Ross said. “My favorite part while this has been going on is rounding second base and looking in the dugout. It makes me smile every time seeing everybody so happy for me and counting down for me. They’re as happy as I am. That makes me feel good.”

One thing that would make another player feel real good is getting out of his own slump. Anthony Rizzo has been in a doozy of a slump going 3-35. He took a game off and Kris Bryant filled those big shoes at first base.

“I’m anticipating a good result, so that moving forward later in the season, maybe do the same thing again,” Maddon said. “‘Cause it really does rest those guys up.”

The Cubs have now won three in a row, but their awesome start is catching up to them. Pittsburgh is closing in with 4.5 games back. It’s way too early in the season to be panicking but the Cubs road to the World Series is far from ending.

Believe it

 

Cubs Win, Arrieta on Record Setting Run

Chicago Cubs

If the game of baseball is filled with peaks and valleys, then Jake Arrieta is striving to reach his peak. Does he even have one? The Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 9-8 but not only were they victorious but Arrieta became 9-0 for the 2016 season.

Impressive, right?

Well, there’s more. Arrieta tied a MLB record set by Kris Medlin. The Cubs have won 23 straight games when Arrieta is on the mound. Is it too early to be whispering Arrieta and Cooperstown?

He’s in pretty good company with a WAR of 8.0 this season.

Most WAR From Age 29 On
PITCHER WAR, 29+ YEARS CAREER WAR PCT. HOF?
Randy Johnson 96.7 1993-2009 104.3 92.7% Yes
Phil Niekro 92.9 1968-1987 97.4 95.4% Yes
Lefty Grove 88.1 1929-1941 109.9 80.2% Yes
Roger Clemens 85.1 1992-2007 139.4 61.0% No
Gaylord Perry 78.4 1968-1983 93.7 83.7% Yes
Pete Alexander 76.1 1916-1930 117.0 65.0% Yes
Cy Young 72.7 1901-1911 170.3 42.7% Yes
Warren Spahn 72.3 1950-1965 92.6 78.1% Yes
Curt Schilling 68.6 1996-2007 80.7 85.0% No
Greg Maddux 63.9 1995-2008 104.6 61.1% Yes
Dazzy Vance 63.0 1922-1935 62.5 100.8% Yes
Bob Gibson 62.6 1965-1975 81.9 76.4% Yes
Walter Johnson 60.0 1917-1927 152.3 39.4% Yes
Eddie Plank 59.7 1905-1917 86.5 69.0% Yes
Nolan Ryan 58.4 1976-1993 83.8 69.7% Yes
Red Faber 56.4 1918-1933 68.4 82.5% Yes
Tom Seaver 54.5 1974-1986 106.3 51.3% Yes
Jack Quinn 54.5 1913-1933 59.0 92.4% No
Carl Hubbell 53.2 1932-1943 67.8 78.5% Yes
Tom Glavine 52.7 1995-2008 74.0 71.2% Yes
Kevin Brown 52.4 1994-2005 68.5 76.5% No
Mike Mussina 50.1 1998-2008 82.7 60.6% No

The Cubs have now won two in a row against the Cardinals and seem to be getting back on track after the horrendous road trip.

“I came out and felt really good,” Arrieta said. “My timing was as good as it’s been all year. They put some good swings on some pitches. The cutter down to Randal Grichuk that he hit out in the second wasn’t a bad pitch. He put a good swing on it. Same thing with Matt Adams. I had a manageable pitch count to pitch in the game a little longer, but I got extended in the fifth. They had a good game plan coming in,” he said of the Cardinals. “It’s a good thing our offense was productive today.”

It’s fitting though that Arrieta ends the road trip with a huge victory. The Cubs now can go back to Wrigley Field on Friday to start a homestead against the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday knowing that perhaps the worst part of the season is behind them and they can hit the reset button.

“Sometimes the game’s going to get you,” Returning outfielder Jason Heyward said. “You say ‘turn it around,’ but we’re doing OK. Right now, we’re not by any means complacent, but it’s a part of the season. You’re going to go through ups and downs. You’re going to go through stretches where the other team just has a better night than you do.”

Believe it.