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 Put Giants On Brink, Take 2-0 Lead in NLDS

Chicago Cubs

If to show that the pitchers can get into the game and contribute, Kyle Hendricks hit a blooper,knocking in two runs but it was the first home run by a reliever since 1924 that got all the attention. Travis Wood did just that as the ball flew into the stands for a souvenir on way to the Cubs routing the San Francisco Giants 5-2 and taking a 2-0 lead in the NLDS.

“It was a special moment for me personally,” Wood said. “I figured he was probably going to start me out with a cutter, and I made a good swing on it.”

A scary part came in the fourth inning when Kyle Hendricks was hit by a line drive that came directly back to him and hitting him in the forearm. After a few test throws, Joe Maddon and the pitching staff decided to pull him from the game. X-Rays are negative so he should be good to go for his next start.

“My message to him was, ‘OK, even if you could finish this inning, more than likely you’re going to go in, sit down, and it’s going to swell up, you got to get ice on it, you’re probably not going out the next inning anyhow,'” Maddon said. “So why mess with it right now? Why make him throw more pitches? He knew he wasn’t right.”

After seeing that first test throw, Hendricks knew as well that even if he stayed in, it might have caused some more damage to the arm. You know something? It was probably the best thing to happen to the Cubs this post season. Having Hendricks leave the game, and he’s my favourite player, showcased the versatility and strength of the club.

“It was definitely disappointing in a way,” Hendricks said. “But you can’t look at it like that. The situation happened like it did. I had to come out. And that’s what we have done all year is relied on everyone on this team.”

I mean really, who doesn’t want to stay in the game during a NLDS appearance? Of course, if Hendricks didn’t leave the game then Travis Wood wouldn’t have hit that home run.

“[Catcher David Ross] told him and I told him he’s not allowed to talk the entire flight,” Lester said. “Four and a half hours. We’ve made it 10 minutes without him saying anything. It’s a sad state of affairs for us pitchers right now to have to listen to this on the way to San Francisco, and the next however many days until he gets to hit again or play left field.”

We all know what Wood can do in left field.

Did anyone catch Bill Murray at the game again last night? He was trying to get everyone up and moving in the stands. He is probably one of the biggest Cubs fans in the game and I hope he helps end curses. Hey, who better than a ghost buster, right?

Chicago Cubs

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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.”

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Baez Blasts Grand Slam, Cubs Win In 15

Chicago Cubs

One thing I’ve learned since Joe Maddon has come over to the North Side is that he’s unpredictable. Last night’s victory over the Cincinnati Reds was a huge 15th inning Grand Slam by none other than Javier Baez. It was a crazy game where even Travis Wood played in the outfield.

“The grand slam obviously was huge just to really build that cushion to permit us to more comfortably go into that last inning, because I had no idea what was going on,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

It was certainly a pitcher’s duel as Cubs’ ace Jon Lester gave up one run over 7 2/3 innings. It was that tense. Red’s John Lamb was just as stingy as Lester giving up only two runs over 6 innings of work.

As we all know a 15 inning me can get really weird, I mean the whole idea of baseball is absurd if you get right down to it. Somebody kneeling behind a crouched individual swinging a piece of maple only separated by inches while staring down a 98 MPH piece of rubber wrapped in leather? So when a relief pitcher comes into a game and is told to take his place way out by the warning track, that’s insane. In hockey you never hear the coach yell at Sydney Crosby,”Hey kid, you’re playing in nets.” That just doesn’t happen, but baseball? Yeah, it does.

“We were naked, we were so naked,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Here’s the thing, you do stuff like that, when I went out to [put reliever Travis Wood in left field] originally, the infielders were kind of giggling, they kind of liked it. So when you get into a game like that that’s really stressful, everybody’s trying so hard, everybody wants to win. It’s, in a perverse way, to lighten the mood a little bit and so they all kind of dug that.”

But it just wasn’t Wood playing in the field, it was Pedro Strop and Spencer Patton. I’ve never seen it before.

Just like the other night was all about Kris Bryant, last night belonged to Javier Baez. Imagine that there was some point when Baez was considered for a trade, but the way he’s been swinging the bat and playing third base, well he’s just turned out to be the guy the Cubs have been relying on lately.

“I was just trying to have a good [at-bat],” Baez said. “I had the pitcher in front of me. They were looking for a double-play ball. He hit it pretty good to first and the only choice he had was to come to the plate and then I came up.”

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Cubs Beat Dodgers, Wood Becomes Hero On Memorial Day

Travis Wood

There was no better day to become a hero than on Memorial Day. Travis Wood was the hero  for the Chicago Cubs in their 2-0 victory over the LA Dodgers.

After Cubs starter Jason Hammel left the game after a couple of innings due to cramping, Wood stepped in.

“I looked in the dugout and I saw [Wood] and I pointed at him, and he said, ‘Me?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, let’s go,'” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “That’s how his day began.”

Travis Wood was literally sitting on a couch when he got the call.

“It was early [in the game],” Wood said. “I always come in for the first couple innings, watch the game. Luckily, we have the live [TV] feed. I was out there [in the dugout] before I was needed. I figured they needed somebody so I ran out. I heard ‘Cahill’ so I started to run back in to get [Trevor] Cahill, and then I thought they might change their mind, so I came back out and they ended up changing their mind.”

One of the greatest things happened yesterday that contributed to the victory, and that was Kyle Hendricks complete game the other day. I’ve been a big advocate in pitchers going deep into games. it gives bullpens the much needed rest and when pitchers get their rest, well good things happen. Yesterday was one of those good things.

“I believe what he did set it up for the rest of the bullpen,” Maddon said. “The rest of the guys were very efficient. They saw Travis go out there and do it, so here comes ‘Grimmer’ and here comes ‘Stroopy’ and here comes ‘Ronnie.’ Good pitches, good location, good stuff, but Travis set the tone for the whole thing.”

That’s where the craftiness of Maddon comes in. A well managed game can get those guys in the games and executing the pitches wile using the bullpen to their full capacity.

“Nothing prepares you for it, at least they give you as much time as you want to make sure you’re loose,” Wood said. “But we played a great game through and through and our bullpen nailed it today.”

Tonight’s going to be a big game when Jake Arrieta takes to the mound looking for his tenth straight victory of the season and going for an MLB record 24th straight win dating back to last season. Arrieta tied the record set by Kris Medlin in 2012.

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Cubs Show Grit

 

Ben Zobrist

Not only are the Chicago Cubs good, but they’re full of the tricks in order to get things done. last night, the Cubs pulled out the stops in a 2-1 13th inning victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Travis Wood got out of a bases loaded pickle in the 12th then in the 13th got the bases loaded walk to seal it.

“Whenever you win a game like that on the road, it really says a lot about your group,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We hit the ball well all night long. To say you hit the ball well in a 2-1 victory in 13 innings is kind of like, ‘I’m an idiot’ but I’m not. We actually swung the bat really well. Our defense, to coin an old phrase, was Johnny on the spot.”

It’s hard to put grit and baseball together in the same sentence, although the incident in Toronto against the Rangers might say otherwise but the Cubs showed both grit and determination to steal the win from the Brewers.

These kind of victories are going to go a long way towards October. They won’t always be able to score five runs in a game. in fact, it’s their defence that shone through in yesterday’s win. Catcher David Ross seemed to have his cannon in fine working order after he threw out four runners on the path. A couple were trying to steal and another involved a rundown. Not bad for an “Old Guy”

“That’s one of the crazier ones I’ve been a part of,” Ross stated. “Pretty cool to get out of a bases-loaded, nobody-out jam on the road. That was pretty impressive.

“And for the same guy to get the winning RBI. Pretty neat game.”

Who would have thought that David Ross and Travis Wood could be the heroes in the game? I didn’t, that’s for sure.

“I felt good all night, I swear I did,” Maddon said. “You watch games like that and understand one thing: There’s a lot of awkward stuff that occurred against us and we didn’t quit. That really speaks loudly about your group. The whole team participated in that victory. And when everybody has ownership, that makes everything a little bit better. All the little things we did tonight in a very difficult win, makes the whole thing better. There’s so much energy in victory, it’s incredible.”

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There’s No Place Like Home For Cubs

Chicago Cubs Wrigley Field

Maybe we should start calling Miggy “The Magnificent” add it to the long lines of cheesy nicknames to pro athletes. Yesterday, Miguel Montero destroyed the ball with a three run homer to help the Chicago Cubs defeat the Cincinnati Reds 6-3

“It’s just about being more aggressive at the plate and being ready to hit,” Montero said. “Before that, I wasn’t ready to hit, and I was probably over-thinking. I was probably trying to think along with the pitcher instead of staying in my approach and staying just looking for one pitch to hit. Just see the ball, hit the ball, rather than think with the pitcher.”

Now, baseball is a funny game. We know it, the players know it and now the statisticians know it as well. Montero is the first player to hit a home run in the new bleachers with fans in attendance.

What?

An area of concern for the Cubs is Tsuyoshi Wada He didn’t get the win last night and was pulled relatively early, even for Wada. Was he rushed back into the game? in many ways, I think he should go to the bullpen and have Edwin in the rotation. You know, just to mix it up.

“Wada struggled tonight, and it’s going to happen as a starter — we’ve all been there,”Travis Wood said. “I was just happy to step up and eat some innings there and keep us with the lead. The rest of the bullpen did their job as well.”

Remember when I said that baseball is a funny game? Well, it can also do funny things with your mind. If a pitcher thinks they’re throwing their best stuff and it’s just not getting across the plate in the right way like for example, certain umpires not calling strikes when apparently they are strikes. Well, that just isn’t right. That’s baseball. For that, it’s got a lot in common with golf. Looks easy, but it ain’t.

“It wasn’t as bad as the last game,” Wada said of his 3 2/3 innings against the Nationals on June 5, when he gave up five runs on nine hits. “I just can’t make the adjustment. It’s not the way I pitch. I just can’t find it right now.”

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Wada Game For Cubs

Chicago Cubs vs San Diego Padres

We have to give Tsuyoshi Wada credit for that win(ok, I’ve been dying to use that one) He struck out nine batters in almost five innings of work yesterday to help the Chicago Cubs defeat the San Diego Padres 3-2. Not bad at all for a guy playing in his first game of the season. Imagine what he could have done if they kept him in?

“He’d done his job,” Cubs skipper, Joe Maddon said. “I’m more about the Cubs winning as opposed to any particular pitcher winning. You can let him go for one more third of an inning, maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t. I thought it was a great game for him to build off of.”

There wasn’t any reason though for Wada to keep going. I think the Cubs wanted to ease him into the role.

“I wasn’t tired or anything like that,” Wada said about pitching in the Padres fifth. “The coaches and manager were watching closely, and I think it was the right decision.”

So, with Travis Wood in the bullpen, the Cubs are ready to mix things up in the young season. In order to keep pace with the St. Louis Cardinals, the Cubs have to focus on that kind of lights out playing which can only come from pitching.

“I think the bullpen is going to be fine,” catcher Miguel Montero said. “The guys know they haven’t thrown the ball the way they want to throw. We know they’re pretty good, and sometimes they try a little bit too hard. They try too hard to manufacture the extra strikeouts. That’s when you have to back off a little bit and say, ‘Let me try a little bit less and let me concentrate on making a good pitch and not a nasty pitch.'”

Another player who is due to a return to the Cubs is Javier Baez. After taking some time off for family reasons, Baez is back in Triple A and making great strides. Could we see him come back to the Cubs lineup?

“Javy can make any defense better,” Maddon said Wednesday. “I talked about that in camp — I thought he was one of the finest young infielders I’ve seen, but I’m not displeased with anybody out there right now. Sometimes you just have to wait your opportunity, your turn.

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Cubs Seal Jackie Robinson Day with Victory

Travis Wood Chicago Cubs

There was a lot to celebrate on Jackie Robinson Day. The Cubs celebrated as well with a win over the Cincinnati Reds, 5-0. The win briefly puts the team into sole possession of first place in the Central. It also marked the season debut of Anthony Rizzo’s quest to crush his 32 home runs last year.

However, it was the decent from Travis Wood and of course the power of the team that helped with the victory.

“From the first inning, I could tell we had pretty good command of the fastball today, and that was the approach we took,” Travis Wood said. “I was able to keep them off-balance and get some early outs and pound the zone.”

Travis Wood is starting to get his groove back together after last year’s disappointing season.

“He’s different,” Maddon said. “As pitchers go, you could label him as a dirtbag. I love that phrase when you’re talking about a good baseball player.”

Last season, a major problem with the Cubs was the inability to gel together. Either it was great pitching and no offence, or the other way around but this year in all the victories and close defeats, the Cubs have received support from both sides of the ball.

The Cubs have a well deserved day off before San Diego comes to town tomorrow.

“You could sense it in Spring Training. It’s a good group of guys, and very relaxed and very hungry at the same time. We need to feel this and keep feeling it and get everyone rallying behind us.” Rizzo said.

It’s not hard to have a relaxed vibe with Joe Maddon in the dugout and clipboard.

Despite all the Cubs heroics on the field, the real hero of the day was Jackie Robinson. The adversity he went through has and will always make the difference in the game and felt everywhere.

“What he’s done for the game in breaking the color barrier, being able to stand up for what he stood for — obviously, I wouldn’t be playing if he wasn’t here,” Dexter Fowler said. “It’s definitely an honor to wear.”

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Cubs Brace Themselves For Opening Night

Chicago Cubs, Arizona Diamondbacks

Opening Night is one day away and we know one thing for certain, Edwin Jackson will start in the bullpen as Travis Wood snags the five spot in the rotation.

“We want to make sure Edwin stays stretched out so he can go back in the rotation if necessary,”Joe Maddon said. “He was very, very professional about the whole moment.”

It kind of was expected and after yesterday’s outing against the Diamondbacks in a 5-1 loss, if Edwin were a Jedi Knight, his destiny would have been fulfilled.

Wood crushed the ball in the third to tie up the game but it wasn’t enough. However, I think they should continue using Travis in the leadoff role. Oh C’mon, I’m joking!

So, this is it. This afternoon, the Cubs will square off against the Snakes in what might resemble less of a Mutual of Omaha documentary and more of a Lorne Greene’s New Wilderness(Just bringing out the Canadian in me, and my age-yikes!)

Tomorrow, it all begins. Where are you going to watch the game MLB.TV or are you going to be there? One thing is for sure, and that is this year is going to be bittersweet should the Cubs go all the way. The tributes to Ernie Banks tomorrow are going to be felt throughout the nation.

“We wanted to try to figure out a way to do something that’s celebratory,” Cubs spokesman Julian Green said. “That’s the important piece in terms of the thinking going into it. We went through the mourning period, mourning and grieving. Now we’re talking about the celebration of his life. I believe that what we’ve put together will be a great celebration for those fans who knew him personally or knew of him or had the opportunity to watch him play or see him on TV.”

Fall Out Boy will be there and of course, Ernie Banks #14 will be worn on the arms of each player and the hearts of Cubs fans throughout.

Now, about that construction…

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