Cubs David Ross Homers in Wrigley Field Curtain Call

Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs’ David Ross (3) waves to the crowd after hitting a solo home run during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

As the baseball world mourns the loss of Miami Marlins ace pitcher Jose Fernandez who died tragically yesterday morning, the Chicago Cubs paid tribute to the fallen pitcher with a jersey hanging in the dugout with his name and number. Baseball players build a tight community and come through tragedy as well as triumph together. Cubs fans showed that to veteran David Ross last night in the Cubs 99th victory of the season, 3-1 over the Cardinals and David Ross’s last night playing at Wrigley Field; he hit a home run.

“I was overcome with emotion,” Ross said. “I’m so appreciative to the fans in Chicago for the way they treated me and the way they embraced me and treated me and this team and the way they give me so much credit that I don’t deserve.”

In the seventh inning, Joe Maddon came to the mound and Ross was livid. He thought he was going take Jon Lester out of a game where he was pitching extremely well but Maddon had other plans. The team celebrated Ross’s career. It was a classy move by a classy manager and a classy ball club.

“Honestly, I’m like, ‘Why is he taking Jon out?'” Ross said. “[Maddon] says, ‘I’ve never done this before, but I’m taking you out of the game.’ And then I pulled my mask down because everyone started telling me they loved me, and the emotions started, so I’m trying to get myself together before I walked off the field and then the fans started cheering again.”

It’s not only the on field success of the Chicago Cubs that can be attributed to their amazing season but it’s their friendship on and off the field like their respect for David Ross, a back up catcher playing in the final home game of the regular season and in him hitting a home run and receiving a curtain call, that’s what it’s all about.

“It was just fitting that David would hit a home run, isn’t it?” Maddon said. “I mean it had to have happened tonight.”

But every celebration should end and the Cubs are back to work tonight against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Kyle Hendricks will try to secure the Cubs 100th win of the season and just like last night where it was fitting that Ross homered at Wrigley Field, it would be fitting that the next generation of pitchers seal the deal tonight. The pitcher with the lowest ERA in baseball leading his team to a possible 100th victory, well Hollywood couldn’t tell a story like that. Unless Hendricks was wearing a cape. If there was a sequel to this film, it would happen at the end of October but I don’t want to give away the ending.

Believe it

 

Cubs Get Attacked By Cardinals 10-4

Jason Hammel

The one thing that is certain about the Chicago Cubs 10-4 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals is that Jason Hammel has solidified the Cubs #5 spot in the rotation behind Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta , Kyle Hendricks and John Lackey. Not that it was any surprise, but his game has been out of whack lately.

“Honestly, I’d love to be a part of it, as the rest of the guys on the team would love to,” Hammel said of the postseason. “I know there’s only a certain amount of spots. If I’m handed the ball, I’m ready. Obviously, you want to be part of something special like that, but I think everybody here has been part of something special to get to this point. We’re all very proud. We still have eight regular-season ballgames left to build some momentum. Postseason, whether I’m on the roster or not, I’m still going to enjoy it.”

There was a bit of excitement when Dexter Fowler almost hit for the cycle. He was just a home run shy of doing the great achievement. In fact, there have only been 14 natural cycles in MLB history.

“Dexter is looking like he did in the first half,” Joe Maddon said. “That’s nice to see.”

Before the Cubs head out to the playoffs, the Cubs  will have another chance to be 100 winners at Wrigley Field tonight when Jon Lester will get the opportunity to be the hero in front of a nationally televised audience to strut his stuff  and if the Cubs win, they’ll set a franchise record at home for wins with 57 and the Cubs will win the season series against the Cardinals. Should the Cubs face the Cardinals in the post season?

“They would be very tough,” Maddon said of a potential playoff matchup. “They’re very good offensively. They can match up out of the bullpen. They do a lot of things.”

The Cardinals and the Cubs meeting in the playoffs again would be that fitting conclusion to a dream season for the North Siders.

Believe it.

 

Cubs Secure Home Field For NLDS and NLCS

David Ross

It was a pretty exciting day for Chicago Cubs, their fans and David Ross. Yesterday, the Cubs defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 5-0 with Jake Arrieta earning his 18th victory of the season. Before the shellacking, Cubs catcher and clubhouse grandfather David Ross, was honoured for his years in baseball.

“The things they said about me is kind of overwhelming, and the way they treat me, and how much respect they have for me,” Ross said. “I’m a guy who tries to work hard and ends up with some years in the big leagues and has done some fun things, and with this group, trying to win a ring this year, the emotion comes from looking back when you reflect on your career. I don’t try to do that, because it gets really emotional.”

On top of the win, the Cubs clinched home field advantage through the NLDS and the NLCS after the Pittsburgh Pirates downed the Washington Nationals 6-5.

Arrieta now has 18 wins on the season and is in a three way tie topping the national league with Max Scherzer and teammate Jon Lester.

“That was more reminiscent of what we saw last year,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Arrieta, the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner. “He’s not 100 percent there, but that was pretty darn good. [The Cardinals are] a good hitting lineup. That lineup they threw out today was a great test to see where he’s at.”

Of course this is the best time for Arrieta to get going, he struck out 10 batters in the rout of the Cardinals.

“The big thing for me is controlling my effort,” Arrieta said. “When I’m able to do that, my stuff speaks for itself. … Sometimes the competitiveness, the stubbornness gets in the way. Once I push that to the side, the stuff works pretty well.”

October 7th the Cubs begin the journey for the history books. Their 98th win of the season was the most by a Cubs team since 1945, which was the last time they played in a World Series game. Another interesting fact is if the Cubs can win two more games for their 100th win, it’ll mark the first time they have reached that milestone since 1935 which was another year they made it to the World Series. The bad news in winning 100 games in a season is the unfortunate statistic of during the last 30 seasons, a major league team finishing the season with 100+ victories, have only won the big prize twice. That was the Yankees in 1998 and 2009.

Yup, those aren’t incredibly satisfying odds, but then again, this 2016 Chicago Cubs isn’t no ordinary team. They’re different. They’re relaxed, confident and they’ve got destiny on their side.

Believe it

Cubs Snap Losing Streak In Style

Willson Contreras

The longest drought in professional sports history and the oldest serving Major League baseball team squared off against each other last night and to say that the Chicago Cubs needed that victory is an understatement. In their 5-2 defeat of the Cincinnati Reds, three important things happened; Jason Heyward, Addison Russell and Willson Contreras all hit home runs to secure the victory but the big fourth important thing was Jason Hammel. He broke out of his funk and received his 15th win of the season.

“Overall, it was a good sign for me,” Hammel said of his outing. “Fastball command got better as the game went along. And the team continues to prove that if you hang around for a little while, they’ll make it exciting.”

Does that include sticking around for 108 years? After the win, the Cubs became the first team this season to have four pitchers with 15 or more wins. That’s impressive and what’s more impressive is Jason Hammel’s resiliency. With his 15th victory, Hammel has kinda been struggling this season so it’s great to see him with the win. It really hasn’t been the best second half for the hurler. If people believe that it’s an audition for the playoffs, it could just be a warm up.

“[My] individual numbers would be a lot better minus those runs, but overall, it’s the whole body of work and continuing to trust the process and the things that I’ve been working on,” Hammel said. “Everybody’s going to have a bad one, and unfortunately for me, they were really bad. But we continue to move on. Obviously, tonight was a step in the right direction. I felt good about it.”

It’s always better to look at the overall team accomplishment than the individual performance. Sorry if I pulled out that horrendous sports cliche but there’s no other way to put it.

If the season were to end today, the St. Louis Cardinals would have that final Wild Card position and man, wouldn’t that be great for the Cubs to face the Cardinals in the division series? Of course the Cardinals would have to get by the New York Mets but it would be worth the wait.

“Right now, it’s only about winning,” Joe Maddon said. “That’s it. We want to get this whole thing functioning properly, so when we get to the postseason, we’re able to do the things that we want to do.”

If the Cubs make it to the World Series, I hope Cubby Bear will save two seats for a couple of Canuck Cubbies.

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 Can Clinch Tonight At Wrigley Field

Jon Lester

One game and the Cubs can clinch their division. Yesterday, the Cubs defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in a 7-0 romp of their Central Division rivals. Jon Lester was incredible through eight shutout innings and Anthony Rizzo crushed two home runs to seal the deal.

“Everybody talked about [clinching] coming into St. Louis, and we had a chance,” Lester said. “We have to focus on the baseball side when we show up to play. Obviously, it’s right there in front of us. We have to try to win [Thursday].”

It would have been nice if Kyle Hendricks got the no hitter and it would have been amazingly poignant that the Cubs clinched their division in St. Louis but now they must settle against doing it versus the Milwaukee Brewers. At least it’ll be on home turf and the friendly folks down on Addison will rejoice and fill the streets with all the noise. We know that the Cubs are going to win the division unless catastrophe strikes, but what about finishing the regular season with the best record in baseball?

“I’m just worried about winning the division, and keep moving from there,” Maddon said. “If you win it, it’s easy. It’s beautiful, the prose is written, everybody’s wonderful, praise occurs. That’s one way. If it weren’t to occur, then it’s up to whomever wants to write whatever they want to write [and] what their perception is.”

The Cubs season is magical on so many levels. Even yesterday’s David Ross home run with he hit it farther then Anthony Rizzo at 429 is a monumental achievement of sorts.

“Can we get that in the paper somewhere?” Ross said. “[It was] 429, and I think I got it more than that. I’ll let [Rizzo] know.”

In the last of a long road trip, the Cubs head back to Wrigley to accomplish what hasn’t been done since 2008. They’ve got the one and two ERA leader on their team, 3rd place in wins with Lester and Jake Arrieta tied, second and fourth place pitchers in WHIP. They have the runs leader in Kris Bryant, and the National League wins leader in Arrieta. I mean holy crap, this is an historic team even if they don’t win that coveted trophy.

“I can imagine that for those people following us really closely, watching all the games, coming to a lot of games, that this is a sweet time for them to really enjoy the moment,” said first-year Cub Ben Zobrist, who mentioned that teammates talked in recent days of clinching on the Cardinals. “I think for the guys that have been here for a while and have endured some of the trouncings they’ve taken here in the past from the Cardinals, that might be sweet for some of those guys. But for the rest of us, it would be probably even sweeter to do it at home.”

Game time is 8:05 Eastern. The beer will be cold.

Hey Chicago, what do you say?

Believe it.

Cubs Keep Champagne On Ice

Jason Hammel

 

It must be just like Christmas around the clubhouse after their 4-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals but the celebration will have to wait another day. For a team that’s having a phenomenal year, this I think, is the most crucial time for the Cubs and the hardest. They’re playing teams that are vying for a Wild Card spot and well, the Cubs are all ready in it.

“We’ve played this team all year and have competed against this team all year, and they never back down from the challenge,” Chicago’s Addison Russell said. “We definitely expected that. You have to tip your cap. That’s a great team over there.”

St. Louis does have a great team, they’ve always been a great team and the Cubs fiercest competitors but when the Cubs had plenty of opportunities to move the runners, they didn’t. I’m not saying that’s their fault but it’s going to be a crucial component in October.

“We had guys on base all night,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “At the end of the night, you look at the homers, but we had many opportunities to score, and we didn’t.”

Small ball wins October.

I would argue that now is the opportune time to try new things. Be creative, if it doesn’t work who cares? The ultimate goal should be to move the runner. If the Cubs don’t make the World Series, it’ll come down to that very reason. They couldn’t move the runners.

Jason Hammel is going through a rough patch. It could be those pesky playoff nerves approaching but he hasn’t looked good in his recent outings. Giving up more than 20 earned runs in his last six starts is the opposite end of Kyle Hendricks.

“It seems like every time I give up a run, it leaves the yard,” Hammel said. “I’d like to give up a double or something that drives in a run sometime. It’s very frustrating. I felt like I pitched pretty well. I don’t know what else to say.”

He’s a fierce competitor and hopefully, cross your fingers he’ll find his game soon.

Going down this stretch, many don’t always talk about the clubhouse and the importance of encouraging words from grizzled old veterans like David Ross. In his victory lap season, he’s hit more home runs than anytime in his career while providing those encouraging words to those younger players like Kris Bryant in the times he needs it. In a recent game against Houston, the two were spotted chatting it up on the bench.

“I was probably just venting to him some frustrations [about an at-bat], and he was there pumping me up and telling me I’m the greatest player who ever lived,” Bryant said. “That’s what he tells me. That makes me feel good. I know I’m not the greatest player who ever played the game, but for him to say that to me, that’s all you need when you don’t feel right or something. You need a guy like David Ross sitting next to you on the bench doing most of the talking. That was a moment for me and him.”

There’ll be another moment towards the end of October.

Believe it.