Cubs Mess With Texas

John Lackey

The Cubs lost to the Texas Rangers 4-1 yesterday but they won the series and it’s a huge victory over the American league leading team in wins. The Cubs also learned a valuable lesson in the series; Jason Heyward needs to learn how to hit better. If the Cubs want playoff success, his behind the plate work needs to improve. Whether it’s tweaking his swing or pushing him farther down the order, I don’t know but something needs to improve.

“He’s honestly been, and I’ve said this before, the most unlucky fellow,” Maddon said. “Well-struck balls at people all year. That’s a game changer in that particular moment — line drive right at the first baseman. What else can you possibly do?”

No matter Heyward’s playing, it boiled down to pitching. Cole Hamels was on target, so for the Cubs to take two was a great achievement.

“That’s a really good team,” manager Joe Maddon said of the Rangers. “We won two out of three against a really good team. You had really good pitching, good starting pitching. You look at their lineup, and you look at those names and the numbers and what they’re capable of, and they’re a very good offensive club also. To take two out of three here post-break is pretty impressive. That’s exactly what you’re looking like in the postseason, those kind of teams.”

Just as the Cubs finish the series with the Rangers, they go back into the fire with their nemesis New York Mets, today. They have to win this one. Last year they beat them seven times in the regular season but were stymied in the playoffs. This is a big series and I’d go out on a limb to say it’ll be the biggest of the season.

“I didn’t even know, to be honest, that we were playing the Mets,” Cubs center fielder Albert Almora Jr. said. “It’s another team. … We just have to take care of the next series.”

As the trade deadline ticks closer, the rumours are heating up that Andrew Miller might end up a Cub. He’s heard them too and is even willing to play the outfield should the Cubs sign him just like Travis Wood and Pedro Strop.

“I’m not surprised that (manager) Joe Maddon did it,” Miller said. “It seems like he’s at the center of stuff like that all the time. But it’s pretty cool and shows how athletic pitchers can be, so it’s good to have relievers out there. I think I can probably field OK. The pressure of a game situation might stress me out a little bit, but as long as I don’t have to have any at-bats, I think I’ll be all right.”

Believe it.

 

 

 

Cubs Beat Rangers, Take Series.

Javier Baez

They say it could have been the potato chips, but whatever Jason Hammel ate during the break paid off yesterday with the Cubs 3-1 over the Texas Rangers.

“For my cramps, if it’s a chronic thing, [the doctor] said, ‘Potato chips,’ because they have a lot of potassium and the sea salt helps retain water,” Hammel said. “So I focused on that over the break and ate a lot of potato chips, and I think it turned out pretty well. Potato chip prescription … that’s what I’m going to try to go with.”

I knew it was the dill pickle flavour.

So it appears that the Cubs woes are behind them. In this series with Texas, the Cubs are providing the fireworks and once again showing fans why this team did so well in the early months. If “Respect 90” was the buzz word in the first half, Joe Maddon’s phrase for the second half of 2016 is confidence.

“It’s all about confidence,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We’re the same group, a little more rested at this particular time. You’re seeing pitchers throwing the ball where they want to. Everything’s sharp. Of course, it’s good to get off to a wonderful start post All-Star.”

To be fair, the Rangers aren’t exactly having a great time these days. They’ve lost 11 of 14 games and in the ultra competitive race to the finish, the Rangers are quickly slipping out of contention with Houston gaining traction.

A player that doesn’t get enough attention is Matt Szczur. Maddon pulled Hammel in a pinch hit situation and Szczur came through to put the Cubs up 3-1. The Cubs marquee players get a lot of the attention but it’s guys like Szczur who come through in these potential game breaking situations and help put the team ahead.

“It’s tough to do that job,” Jason Heyward said. “He and [Tommy] La Stella, they don’t play every day, but they give you good at-bats every time. They grind it out. It’s not about the result with them, you just want to know they’re going up there trying. They put the team first and they prepare, so it’s awesome to see it pay off.”

It is awesome because it’s those type of players that’ll propel the Cubs through the playoffs. We know Anthony Rizzo will always be Anthony Rizzo in the big games, which he did yesterday when he connected with a two run double but Matt Szczur, who likely won’t make the hall of fame, but I can guarantee that someday he’ll be the answer to a trivia question about the Chicago Cubs and a World Series.

Believe it.

Cubs Get It Done Behind Hendricks

Kyle Hendricks

Followers of my blog know about my admiration for Kyle Hendricks. He’s the type of pitcher who won’t fill the middle of the strike zone regularly, instead peppering the corners with his command. He did just that in yesterday’s 6-0 shutout of the Texas Rangers.

“Kyle’s one of the best pitchers in the National League now and nobody’s talking about it,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Hendricks. “Because he doesn’t throw 95 [mph], it’s easy to overlook this fellow, but I promise you hitters don’t really dig going up and facing this fellow, right or left-handed.”

Apparently, Joe isn’t one of those followers.

He’s in third place with a 2.41 ERA. In that regards, he’s one of the most dangerous pitchers in the game today. When the norm for fastballs is in the upper 90’s, Hendricks quietly gets the job done by putting his mechanics on display. This was his third straight win and now he sits at 8-6 on the season. To give you an example of how good Kyle Hendricks is, the other two pitchers in front of him are Clayton Kershaw(1.79) and Madison Bumgarner( 1.94). That’s awesome company. He does it without throwing those high octane fastballs.

“That start helped me a lot, just going that many pitches that deep in a game,” Hendricks said. “It gave me a lot of confidence to know I could still make a lot of pitches that deep into my pitch count. You have to learn how to go deep in games, and the only way you do that is by actually doing it. The fact that [Maddon] gave me the opportunity to do it was big.”

But it just wasn’t Hendricks that played well, the newbies Willson Contreras and Albert Almora both did amazing defensive work. Contreras threw out a steal attempt by Jose Bautista’s sparring partner Rougned Odor and Almora had an amazing catch in the fourth. Could it be that the Cubs are shifting their approach in the second half?

This is a huge series for the Cubs. Both teams could possibly face each other in the World Series, should it come down to that and beating the Rangers will send confidence throughout the team and pave the way when Dexter Fowler returns.

As for Kyle Hendricks?

“He’s been kinda like a tone-setter, man,” Maddon said. “It’s not unlike what Jake had done last year. He’s been that good. Just doing it in a different way.”

We know how Jake’s season turned out.

Believe it.

 

 

 

Cubs Do It Just Like Old Times Against Brewers

Milwaukee Brewers v Chicago Cubs

There’s something oh so satisfying with a victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. The Cubs beat the Brew Crew 4-2 yesterday and capped the series victory. The Cubs looked great doing it with those snazzy throwback jerseys circa 1937. Maybe they should unretired those jerseys more often. What do you think?

Let’s talk about Mike Olt. He’s the darling of the Cub Den and for good reason. He’s the first Cubs rookie to bang nine bobbers before June since Geovanny Soto and we know where that led to, don’t we?

I’ve been singing his praises way back in spring training and look what he did yesterday. Another home run folks. He now leads National League rookies.

“I’ve just gotten some good pitches to hit,” Mike Olt said. “As long as I’m doing that, I’m happy. The home runs come in bunches. Hopefully, I can keep it going.”

The other thing we know is Mike Olt was involved in the trade that sent Matt Garza to Texas. Yesterday, Garza was looking on popping sunflower seeds. At least his mouth was shut.

Tomorrow the Cubs take on the Yankees and they get their chance to square off against Masahiro Tanaka. Yeah, that Tanaka. 24-0 in Japan. He’s 6-0 since joining the Bronx Bast- I mean Bombers. The prized hurler that the Cubs tried in vain to acquire. Don’t worry Theo, I snagged him in my fantasy League.

—Mark

Cubs Preaching Patience

mike olt

The Chicago Cubs have a lot riding on this season. Odds of them winning the World Series are slim to none and making the playoffs are better than Alex Rodriguez admitting to his mistakes. They still have a shot.

There are choices to be made this spring and with every spring training game being a showcase for the depth that the Cubs have in their farm, it’s going to get harder and harder.

Fans have been holding up their Javier Baez signs hoping that he makes it to Opening Day. If Starlin Castro has anything to say, well, why not?

“Maybe, I don’t know,” Castro said. “I don’t make that decision. It would be good for us if he’s there.”

Personally, the Cubs need him. The Cubs might not be looking at this season as the year that they contend, but I challenge Theo Epstein and the coaching staff to give it their best. The last few years have been dismal. There’s nowhere to go but up. They have to improve from their 66 wins last year to I’d say 80-85 wins this year. That’s a fact. They’re in a tough division and it would strike fear in the other clubs if the Cubs brought up their young talent, if not for the whole season, maybe fluctuate throughout.

I’ve spoken highly of Rick Renteria’s involvement with the club. He’s a communicator and that’s what they need.

Should Luis Valbuena be a lock at third. Well, Mike Olt who was one of the players involved that sent matt Garza to the Rangers, has certainly sticking his thorns into that third base bag. He got a crucial home run yesterday.

“It’s really not me getting hits,” he said. “It’s about me seeing the ball well and that’s my main goal in Spring Training. Obviously, you want hits and you want to perform, but the main goal in Spring Training is to get comfortable and it’s definitely a noticeable difference just the way I feel right now, and that’s what I’m happy about.”

We’re happy too, Mike.

If anything, this is the most important year in the Theo Epstein era with the Cubs. Fans have got to buy in with his plan and the big word around the club is, “Patience”

Be warned though, “Patience” wears thin.

—Mark

The Great Lake

Junior Lake

We’ve got Lake Huron, Erie, Ontario, Superior and Michigan. We might as well add Junior to the mix. The Cubs needed some positives in the clubhouse and sometimes positive things happen in the most unlikely surprises. Junior Lake has played his fourth game last night in Arizona, but it could have been his 400th game. He delivered his first home run and collected three RBI’s.

“He might have found his niche right now,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. The Cubs defeated the hard biting Diamondbacks, 4-2 last night.

In fact, the Cubs are going through a tremendous amount of change after starter Matt Garza was traded to the Texas Rangers earlier in the day for Mike Olt, Justin Grimm and possibly Neil Ramirez and a couple of more players.

I think it was an excellent move for the Cubs obtaining one of the Ranger’s highest draft picks in Olt. Garza’s going to be missed for sure in the clubhouse, but let’s face the facts that since Garza came back from his injury, he’s been playing extremely well for the team and now was the best opportunity for a guy like Matt to be dealt.

“He’s one of the hardest-working pitchers you’ll ever be around,” Sveum said. “Even the four days he doesn’t pitch, he’s on the bench and rooting his teammates on. You’re always going to hear him on the bench. He’s one of those special starting pitchers who will always be involved in the game, and position players who play every day and other people appreciate that.”

Now, if the Cubs can get a solid veteran with the ability to drive in runs, and free up some more cash with a deal for Alfonso Soriano, they’ll be set, but before I get the parade started, the Cubs have tons of work to do in getting the team in calibre form.

This is definitely a good move on Epstein and Hoyer.

How ironic is it that a guy named Braun is suspended for PED’s?

The Cubs continue their winning ways today when Travis Wood faces Patrick Corbin and the Diamondbacks at 9:40 eastern.
—Mark

Get Ready For The Second Half

Matt+Garza+Chicago+Cubs+Photo+Day+Mu-69jJJlZ1l

As the Cubs prepare to tackle the Colorado Rockies tonight in Colorado; Junior Lake, will be joining the team to replace the injured Brian Bogusevic. A little bit of the future in the making. The .295 hard hitting 23 year old will be making his first start this year.

I feel like it’s Opening Day again. It’s a fresh start for the Cubs and I hope they’ll bring up more Triple A players. It’s interesting to note that Alfonso Soriano leads the team in both home runs and stolen bases. Who was the last Cub to do that? Sammy Sosa. Hopefully, that’s the only time I’ll write that name.

Will Matt Garza sign with the Texas Rangers? Who will the Cubs get in return? Pretty exciting times. According to Fox Sports, Rangers prospects, C.J Edwards and Mike Olt’s names have been tossed around. I think it’s a good potential move for the Cubs if they should obtain these guys from the Rangers. I’m a big fan of getting prospects up and into the game. I think if they go after a quality player in a trade with Alfonso Soriano, the Cubs will be set. It might be in 2015 when the team is back up to 90 wins, but I’ve got a good feeling about it and it begins tonight.

—Mark

Cubs Find Their Groove

texas-rangers-v-chicago-cubs-20130506-203813-417

What is it about Scott Feldman? With all the attention drawn to Matt Garza and Edwin Jackson, Scott Feldman has come out of the shadows and on the heels of his first complete game, he goes and almost does it again. Awesome!!!

“He was commanding every pitch,” Cubs catcher Welington Castillo said of Feldman, who held the Rangers to two hits over seven innings, but had to leave in the eighth because of a hand cramp. “He executed the pitches and he got out of the innings. He made the pitches when he needed to make them — that’s not an easy lineup to face. I give all the credit to him.”

So were the rest of the Cubs in a dominating win over the mighty Texas Rangers 9-2. Anthony Rizzo continued his Home Run ways with a bomber in the 8th inning. He now has a season number of nine dingers sitting fourth in the National League.

“I think we’re a lot better team than what our record shows,” Rizzo said. “We’ve lost a lot of heartbreakers and today definitely feels good and we should be happy about it.”

This is a gruelling schedule for the Cubs as they face division rivals St Louis Cardinals today at 7:05. I don’t need to explain to Cubs fans how important this matchup is, but with the Cubs sitting 81/2 back from St Louis, it is a great position to be in this early in the season. Awe shucks, I’m probably too optimistic, heck they’re even 51/2 back from Wild Card contention.

I believe this team is great or at least the seeds are there for future greatness.

—Mark

Padres Held Ransom

Cody Ransom, Darwin Barney, Anthony Rizzo

The Chicago Cubs kicked off a home stand in dramatic fashion last night by beating the San Diego Padres 5-3. It was however, the play of Cody Ransom, a former Padre that sparked the Cubs offence. Ransom connected in the second inning for a homer that got things going for the Cubs. In the end, Cody had two runs, two hits and two RBI’s. Not bad for a kid picked up on April 15.

His defensive play was outstanding too.

“That barehand play saved the game for us,” Barney said. “It’s nice to have a guy like [Ransom] who knows how to play the game the right way and knows the situation and knows who’s running.”

The great thing about this win is the Cubs did it using the bottom of the order with guys like Cody Ransom and Darwin Barney.

“These guys are Major League players, and somebody’s gotta hit in the bottom of the order,” Padres manager Bud Black said. “They got us.”

Of course, Darwin Barney continued with his stellar play since coming back from an injury completing two hits and two RBI’s

The closer role has been of some concern for the Cubs, but Kevin Gregg, with the coolest glasses in the league got the job done. I’ve never been a huge fan of Gregg, but he’s quickly earning my vote as the regular closer for the Cubs.

“For whatever reason, guys are getting the job done and getting big outs when we have to get outs,” Sveum said of his collection of relievers. “That’s the key is making pitches when you need to.”

Maybe the answer is to juggle the relievers around? If it’s working, and it has been, the Cubs have put something together. This is their 4th win in five games and although they’re record is 10-15 and 41/2 games back. In April, that’s not a bad place to be. Let me tell you folks and non believers, Matt Garza is coming back into the rotation soon, which is going to make things extremely tough for Dale Sveum because I believe “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy but on the other hand, it’s a good problem to have.

“Let’s be honest — we’ve played some really good teams in the first month,” Samardzija said. “You’ve got the defending world champs [the Giants], you’ve got [the Rangers], you’ve got the Brew Crew at their place, and Cincinnati. We knew we’d have to come out and be on top of our game in April.

Cubs play today at 7:05pm

Onward to May!

—Mark

Rain, Rain

Go Cubs Go!

Go Cubs Go!

Don’t mess with Chicago. it looks like Texas’ weakness is the rain and cold. The Chicago Cubs finished off their series with the Texas Rangers with a huge win yesterday, 6-2 in front of a soggy Wrigley crowd.

Alfonso Soriano and Anthony Rizzo contributed with back to back Home Runs. The first for the Cubs this year. So far, the Rizzo Home Run is the farthest in the league this year at 475 feet.

Wowzer!

“Oh, cool,” Rizzo said calmly. “I’m sure that won’t last very long. There’s a lot of good hitters in this league. It was just one of those things — I got a good swing, a good pitch to hit and didn’t try to do too much with it.”

Hey, what about pitching sensation Carlos Villanueva, yes that’s right, I said, “Pitching Sensation” He’s the big reason the Cubs rotation is at 3.15 ERA this year. Remember folks, I gave him props earlier this year. Villanueva’s ERA stands at a trim 1.29

“Yesterday, today, it was ugly,” Villanueva said. “We had no idea. We heard yesterday that we weren’t going to get the game in, that it was going to be tough. I tried to keep my guard up, just in case. You never wanna let down your guard and then say, ‘Hey, 20 minutes, the game’s starting.’ And I’m just sitting in my locker not thinking about the game.

“But I kept hearing, ‘It’s gonna come at 1:35, it’s gonna come in the fourth [inning], it’s gonna come in the fifth,’ and I just said, ‘You know what, don’t tell me. Just go out there and when it comes, it comes.'”

Speaking of props, Wellington Castillo continued with his hitting ways hitting 9 in his last 11 games.

—Mark