Cubs Steal Game From Cardinals

Cubs 5, Cardinals 2

Just like that, after a pair of losses, the Cubs magically returned to steal a win from the St. Louis Cardinals last night 5-2. The key to the victory was Kyle Hendricks striking out eight batters but going seven innings in order to do it, plus his pitch count barely creeped over a hundred.

“My mindset was better, [I was] aggressive in the strike zone,” Hendricks said. “Even in the first inning, I made a couple bad pitches. After that, mechanics settled in, I started repeating it better. It’s just bringing the two together, repeating my mechanics from the first pitch in the first inning but keeping that same mindset, being aggressive in the strike zone, getting quicker outs. I still got in some 3-2 counts but the mindset was better.”

Since his trade to the Cubs four years ago, Hendricks’ best asset has been his mind. He’s calm under pressure and able to collect them after a loss by trying to understand and study his mechanics and get back to work. This win reassures me that, perhaps he truly is back to his old self.

The other thing as well is that guys like Ben Zobrist, when he’s contributing, the Cubs are unstoppable. So last night, he had four hits, almost hitting the cycle and had a nice grab in the seventh to help Hendricks with the win. Zobrist has been one of the best “Clutch” guys in the business.

Wait.

There’s also the second half experiment of Anthony Rizzo in the leadoff spot. Three home runs since the break. Not too shabby.

“We don’t have the prototypical leadoff guy, we don’t have that speed burner to set the whole thing up so don’t try to force it,” Joe Maddon said.

The Cubs need to strike while the iron is hot and continue with the experiment as long as it works.

The Cubs are still clinging to the top spot in the National League and with Cole Hamels set to make his debut against Pittsburgh on Wednesday, the Cubs will see if the acquisition will work out.

“I do think we have enough but we need to get certain people healthy,” Maddon said. “I’m not talking about just getting to the playoffs, you want to play that last game. Among Morrow, Darvish and K.B., could you make three better acquisitions this time of year? It’s impossible. That’s the goal is to get those guys out here.”

Once the Cubs can get those guys back in the lineup, the stretch is preparing its’ way for the most exciting time of the year.

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Cubs Hammer Carpenter and the Cardinals

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One of the flaws of the game today is the inability of most pitchers going deep into a game. On average, pitchers last around 5-5 1/2 innings. Yesterday, Jose Quintana went seven innings on the way to a 7-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

“He got better as the game progressed,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Everything kept getting sharper. It looked like there was more jump on the fastball at the end. We needed him to go more deeply in the game and he did. I saw him getting better per hitter.”

Pitchers going deep in theory, works. It doesn’t always turn out that way but on paper a pitcher should last seven innings, bring in the relief and then the closer.

In a perfect world(just not a perfect game) this is the way it should roll out. Yesterday’s match up worked out for the North Siders. It was also aided by Kyle Schwarber‘s bat.

“It shows the resilience of this team and we’re not afraid to be down and fight, scratch or claw our way back into the game,” Schwarber said. “That’s been our M.O. this season. If we’re down, we know we’re not out.

Oh c’mon Schwarbs, that’s been the Cubs M.O for a few years now. In fact I wouldn’t chalk it up to the Cubs clawing their way back, more like they just have a really good team and that’s what really good teams do.

“Wrigley was really loud [Saturday] night, the loudest I’ve heard in awhile. You’ve got the doubleheader, passionate Cubs fans, passionate Cardinals fans. It got really loud. It’s always fun playing them because the fans are so into it. You play a team five times and you’re usually sick of them after the third day, but it’s just fun playing them.” Anthony Rizzo said.

Five game series are few and far between, throw in July temperatures a rivalry and there you have it – – the makings of a great series.

With the Cubs in the top spot in the National League and third overall behind Boston and Houston, the Cubs should be in a great spot for the post season. If they can pick up some pitching for the stretch then they’ll have the pieces to move well in October.

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Carpenter Carves Up Cubs

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It could have been worse, like an 18-5 loss but thankfully the Cubs got beat last night by an easier score of 6-3. It wasn’t bad at all with the exception of Matt Carpenter who was out hunting bear in this series.

“We’re seeing this guy probably at the best moment of his life as a baseball player,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

The Cubs had the lead going into the sixth inning but it happened in the seventh when Carpenter took the cover off of the ball. That home run marked his sixth consecutive game with a home run. It’s pretty hard to beat a guy who’s in the zone like Carpenter.

It was nice to see Anthony Rizzo with four hits but in the end, it all came down to Carpenter. Although Javier Baez was yanked out of the game along with Maddon on a call that was questionable, it probably hurt the Cubs chances with Baez in the locker room.

“I didn’t think I said anything to disrespect anyone,” Baez said. “It was a pretty close call. I only asked for [Little] to check with the umpire at first. [Little] didn’t say anything. I threw my helmet and he threw me out for no reason — I guess for my helmet [toss].

“My message — we’re not animals. Sometimes we ask, ‘Where was the pitch?’ or if it was a strike. They want to come at us like we’re offending them. I think we can talk the things out. If you disrespect somebody, then you get ejected. I don’t think there was anything there to get ejected.”

I kinda disagree with Baez on this one. Yeah, it was a close call but when it all comes down to the umpire’s job, it should be the umpire making the decision, not the player. My reasoning is simple; If the player’s are allowed to make game decisions, then it overrides any judgement calls by the umpires. What would be the point of having an umpire in the first place, right? All they would have to do is check the replay on every pitch. That would suck.

“I told [Little] to kick me out because I was not going to leave under those circumstances,” Maddon said. “As an umpire, you have all the right to kick a guy out if he’s belligerent, obnoxious, profane, and Javy was none of that.”

Rightfully so. Maddon’s got to stick up for his players at all times whether it’s right or wrong. However, I will maintain this position forever, the beauty and magic of the game will always be on the final call by the umpire. Players will go down in history and all the way to the hall of fame based on whether there should have been a certain call on a particular call.

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Cubs Rally To Beat Cardinals

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The Cubs have their 31st comeback victory of the season after defeating the St Louis Cardinals 9-6 in front of the hometown crowd.

“The thing I want to believe is that we avoid fatigue early,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “That would be the best way to describe it. That’s been intentional, from my side of things. Is that the reason? I don’t know. That’s always been the sheet of music I’ve worked from, to not beat up guys early.

It must have worked considering that Darvish is on the DL and his return, although imminent, there’s no real date set. The Cubs have managed to be swinging the bat well despite Kyle Hendricks less than stellar performance. I hope it’s just “one of those years” that he’s having because things aren’t looking too well for The Professor.

“It was a little bit of a battle tonight,” Hendricks said. “But I actually felt pretty good. The action on my fastball was good most of the time. I really felt I only made one bad pitch, on the home run (to Tommy Pham in the second).”

That could be but he ran the pitch count high and even the greatest pitchers would have a tough time adjusting to a 27 pitch first inning. That being said, there’s something very wrong with the Prof this year in the first inning.

“I still have a lot of faith,” Maddon said of the Cubs’ rotation. “Yu [Darvish] is hurt, but otherwise they’re not, and that’s where I take a lot of solace and encouragement — that they’re not injured. They definitely haven’t thrown too many innings. I still think there’s a lot to look forward to.”

But there’s no denying the offensive outbursts of the Cubs bats. They’re getting production from just about everyone and it’s nice to see Ian Happ hitting the ball well. last night he connected with a two run homer which contributed to the comeback.

“We’ve had a lot of them,” Happ said of the Cubs’ ability to rally. “They’re definitely fun and enjoyable for the fans, but we’d enjoy a few games where we start up and finish up. It’s just a good baseball team. There’s a lot of ways to score runs, and we do a good job of staying with it.”

Let’s hope they stay with it until the end of October

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Cubs Get Shut Out On Father’s Day

Cardinals 5, Cubs 0

How great would it have been if the Cubs completed the sweep on Father’s Day of the St. Louis Cardinals? Two rivals, one on the way up, and the other, just being there. The Cubs lost 5-0 and remain a half game back of the Brewers.

A scary incident occurred when Javier Baez left the game after being hit by a pitch.

“I’m fine,” Baez said. “It’s just really sore. It got me really good right on the elbow. I thought the pain was going to go away right away, but it kind of numbed my whole arm and even my ribs. We’ve been icing it. It feels pretty sore, but I know I’m good.”

There was nothing funny about that. The Cubs haven’t hit as many home runs as they have in the past but they’ve made contact more. Home Runs are exciting but give me guys on base any day then going yard. Now, don’t get me wrong; going yard is incredible to see it’s not everything.

“I think it’s something we have to evaluate over a little bit of a longer period of time,” general manager Jed Hoyer said regarding the Cubs’ reduced power. “We haven’t hit as many home runs, and in theory that’s concerning, but it’s a small sample. Let’s look later on and see where we’re at.”

It’s not the Cubs biggest worry. You can spin any cliche you want but a win is a win. Last night, the Cubs couldn’t manage a run and that happens from time to time. They’re stringing together the wins when it counts and staying with the pack.

“We’re all out there trying to do our jobs and put ourselves in the best position to win a baseball game,” Kyle Schwarber said. “Getting on base is the simplest form of that.”

If the Cubs go on to compete this fall, it’ll be a more well balanced team than the 2016 World Series guys.

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Heyward Hits Back

Cubs 6, Cardinals 3

Jason Heyward launched his fourth home run of the season as the Cubs won the series from the Cardinals last night with a score of 6-3. it wasn’t the prettiest game but the Cubs did it.

“Love it,” Joe Maddon said of the clutch hitting. “Listen, that is my No. 1 priority offensively. Homers will come. Pitchers throw homers. When hitters try to hit homers on all the pitches thrown to them, the results are normally bad. Let pitchers throw you home runs. Be in position to hit the ball hard with two strikes. Understand they’re not giving you that pitch to drive out of the ballpark. Why not adapt? That’s where the action will come back into the game, that’s where you’ll get more movement, that’s where you’ll get the entertainment you’re looking for.”

On the pitching side of things, Kyle Hendricks snapped a  three game losing streak. He’s had problems giving up home runs but also has never let it get to him too much, he’s been able to bounce back and deliver solid outings, which is his MO.

“A couple years in the big leagues has helped that,” Hendricks said. “If it was early in my career, I might have a different thought process. It’s one of those things. I’m battling and getting really hurt when I make a bad pitch. There’s nothing I can do, I can’t get it back. That’s where my focus is now — the next pitch.”

But last night’s game was all really Heyward. He’s settled in this season and finally been able to quiet the naysayers. It’s been a rough go for Heyward since joining the Cubs a few seasons ago.

“What was that a 99, 100 mile an hour fastball? He got to it easily,” Maddon said. “He’s the guy that’s really ascended among the group. He’s made all the difference by hitting second and providing some big hits in the latter part of the game. He’s really good as the game gets in progress.”

So, the two big names were Hendricks and Heyward. The run support was there for Hendricks and Heyward came through in the clutch. A couple of other heroes were Ian Happ and Willson Contreras with two out RBI’s. Folks, those are the kind of plays that win ballgames in October.

The Cubs close out the series tonight on Father’s Day which I know most baseball loving Dad’s will be watching tonight. Bring out the blue bats and enjoy.

I’m going golfing today.

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Bryant Breaks Slump

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Nobody needs to explain the importance of divisional series in Major League Baseball.

Nobody.

Especially not Kris Bryant who busted out of his slump in a big way. In fact, he saved it for the St Louis Cardinals as the Cubs defeated the redbirds 13-5 in the opening of a three game series.

“When we come here and play the Cardinals and see the red and blue and the fans going crazy, it does make it a little different,” Bryant said. “We realize it’s going to be a dogfight from here on out with the Brewers and Cardinals. It’s nice to start off the series with a win.”

Says the guy who crushes a two run homer. His first since May 15th

“I know there’s going to be plenty more times in my career when [I have a homerless streak], and it’s all part of the journey,” Bryant said. “As much as we hate it as players, everybody goes through it at some point in their careers. It’s nothing new to me. On the surface it might look like everything has been peachy and pretty easy for me, but it never felt easy.”

There will be but I hope it’s not going to happen for the rest of the season. The Cubs are a game and a half out of first in the Central. It’s turning into a tough season. The Cubs have been there before. They’ve felt the losing and the winning. I’m never going to say that the Cubs winning last night was a corner turner but when they play the Cardinals and the Brewers, it’s always exciting.

“I think the biggest thing we can do is when stuff like [the losses] happens, these guys show up the next day like it never happened,” Jon Lester said. “I think that’s what’s key. You can dwell on it that day, that night, but the next day, when you show up to the field … it’s hard, but you try to leave it behind you and get after it on that particular day. We did that today. Guys had great at-bats. Obviously, when you’re able to hit the ball over the fence, that helps.”

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Cubs Blame It On The Rain

Cardinals 4, Cubs 3 (14 inn.)

It must have been his chance encounter with Ozzie “The Wizard of Oz” Smith at Target but Dexter Fowler crushed his first career walk off in the 14th inning to lift the Cardinals past the Cubs 4-3.

I thought I’d lead in with that because it sounded better than the Cubs lose their fifth straight. I wish Fowler was still with the Cubs.

“We’re not hitting the ball like we can,” Joe Maddon said. “We’re not scoring any runs. The pitching has been good enough to have a really good streak going, but we’ve been void of hard contact. It’s a lot of softly hit balls on the infield and not driving the baseball, and that’s pretty much it. Luke gave up a homer, but we just have to strike the ball with more consistency.”

The mantra around baseball and especially Cubs fans, has been “Just wait, the Cubs will get going” but it’s more than that, the Cubs struggles are real. Any team can lose five straight, that’s a slump, but the Cubs have been on a spiral the whole season.

“We’re trying,” Javier Baez said. “We’re still not completely hot. We’re going to keep battling and making adjustments. The season is pretty long. I think we just have to make adjustments, step by step.”

How many adjustments do they have to make before they consider the fact that something is broken right now and needs fixing. Now, before I throw in the towel and say that the Cubs suck (Forget the one I said yesterday) they’ve shown flashes of brilliance. Of course Baez has been playing an outstanding season but even the electricity he’s brought early on has fizzled a bit.

“[The rain delays] were awkward. We’re pretty good with the rain. It was a long game, we didn’t get any hits, and neither did they. Both sides were out of pitching. We were one pitch away and didn’t get it. Nobody feels worse than Luke does. He was one pitch away from getting a save, and it didn’t happen. You move on, and that’s exactly where I’m at.” Maddon said.

It’s about the only thing the Cubs can do.

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Cubs Stink in Extra Inning Loss To Cardinals

Cardinals 8, Cubs 6 (10 inn.)

It went into extra innings, ten to be exact. The Chicago Cubs used to be a team that, “Always found a way to win” but lately after their fourth straight loss, the Cubs have suddenly found a lot more ways to lose. In yesterday’s 8-6 loss to rivals St. Louis Cardinals, the Cubs gave up more walks.

This might come across as a maudlin tribute to their former glorious 2016 season but the head scratching continues.

We’re not as good as we can be,” Joe Maddon said of the Cubs’ defensive efforts. “We hold ourselves to a really high standard defensively, and when we make a mistake, it jumps at you.”

As well as they should. These are former champs who have been making uncharacteristically weird mistakes that have happened this season. There’s no excuse now that it’s May or that Yu Darvish needs time to adjust.

This is it.

This season, the Cubs were tapped to have the best rotation in baseball. Yesterday, Tyler Chatwood blew a 4-0 lead by giving up walks and a hit by pitch. Score was tied and came out of the inning, but walked the next batter in the fifth.

“There is no reason for that fourth inning to happen right there,” a frustrated Chatwood said. “Just throw the ball over the plate and let them get themselves out. It’s just me beating myself right now.”

It’s easy for me to point this out and rail against the team, I’ve never played pro ball. The Cubs play this season has been nothing short of inconsistent. We’ve watched them string some wins together and briefly on top of the Central but now watch as they’re 2.5 back of the Cardinals. The real question is why?

The other question is how much more can Joe Maddon take and how can he keep sticking up for their sometimes atrocious play?

“It’s delivery-related because he’s pretty tough,” Chicago manager Joe Maddon said. “I just think he needs to find that rhythm.” on Chatwood’s 3.31 ERA

I’m one for a glass being half full but the Cubs haven’t exactly stunk nor have they been that good.

“I had trouble locating my fastball all inning, really,” Brandon Morrow said. “My arm was a little alive today and I was flying open and I was having trouble getting it down the entire inning.”

Hey, even the normally solid Morrow looked human.

There’s no other way to put this but the Cubs stink. I’ve said it, someone had to, it might as well be me. Sometime, this season there are going to be changes at the manager level. It’ll either be a talking to or a revaluation of the situation but as it stands now, the Cubs aren’t going to win their division or get back to glory days.

“I’m putting myself in bad situations, and it’s hurting the team. There’s no reason for that fourth inning to happen there. Just throw the ball over the plate. It’s just me beating myself now and the team. I just have to fix that.” Chatwood said.

A lot needs to be fixed.

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Cubs Bring El Mago

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A lot of good things happened yesterday as the Cubs defeated the St Louis Cardinals 8-5 in front of a dry crowd under sunny skies. Yup, that was a good ol’ fireball the Cubs played under.

“Good approach, good at-bats,” Joe Maddon said of the Cubs’ 14-hit attack, which involved using the entire field. “It is so fun to watch. Keep your launch angles, keep your exit velocities, give me a good at-bat. Those were really good at-bats. Staying inside the ball, using the whole field — I promise you if they stay on that path, balls will still go out of the ballpark at the pace they’re capable of. With that, you’ll see better situational hitting, you’ll see higher batting averages, on-base percentages. I loved our approach today.”

Or the Cubs just really suck at playing in the rain. Plus, the Cubs got back to the basics and played small ball. Get on base and move the runners. Sounds pretty simple but for some reason, when players reach the big leagues, they see the back of the yard and there’s a big target where they try to hit the ball deep. That’s good and all but getting runners home and loading the bases is the fundamentals they need. The Cubs finally did that yesterday.

“It is [an art form],” Maddon said. “It’s just good hitting. We worked really good at-bats. I’d love to stay with that if we can. Use the whole field.”

The other advantage of April baseball is that teams have a long road ahead of them and they can experiment. Mix up the order and move the players around. Javier Baez is swinging a hot bat so far so why shouldn’t he do it? He batted second and looked good there.

“That’s good to know,” Baez said when told about Maddon’s motives. “I was trying to stay focused on the same approach, same swings. I didn’t get excited, but that’s one of my goals is to end up there in the lineup. I feel great, I’m still seeing the ball really good. I chased a few pitches today, but I took good at-bats.”

Love him or hate him, Baez has become the exciting player the Cubs hoped he’d be. In a world of high salaried performers, Baez shows up at the plate looking like that kid in the sandlot hitting a home run for the very first time. He looks like that all the time.

“The guy’s an exciting ballplayer,” Chicago’s Kyle Schwarber said of Baez. “I feel we’re always talking about Javy Baez. I’m not going to get tired of it. He’s a heck of a ballplayer and a lot of instincts and he’s a leader and he’s fun to watch.”

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