Cubs Not Ready To Throw In The Towel

Kris Bryant

Sure, Kyle Schwarber hit a home run but the Cubs are below .500 Let’s put that into perspective, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series in 2016 and less than a year later, they’re a sub .500 team. Last night, the Cubs fell 6-2 to the San Diego Padres.

“We got the lead and gave it right back,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We gave up the lead, and that was very large because they did pitch well again, and we’re not hitting like we can, so it’s a bad combination.”

So, what’s the problem? I mean, they’ve got tons of All Stars and the reigning NL MVP on their squad and they’ve fallen below .500 twice this season?

Uh oh.

“We feel we have a talented offense that will be productive over the long haul that has fallen into some bad patterns,” Theo Epstein said. “We’re a little too easy to pitch to these days, which means we have to adjust. I think that’s going to come.”

When the President of Baseball Operations uses the word “adjust” he’s not talking about batting stances or infield positioning, he’s talking about something more desperate and that could mean some big time player movement. Bleed Cubbie Blue has an interesting proposal in regards to what can happen with Schwarber.

It’s not just one area of their game that’s suffering. It’s pitching and batting that’s taken a beating lately that’s only been accentuated by their latest west coast debacle.

So, if changes are coming, and you’d better believe that they will despite what the Prez says, the Cubs are in a pickle. Last night’s loss was their fifth straight and going into last night’s fiasco, the Cubs were a .500 team nine times this year all ready. Folks, check your calendar because we’re only into May.

“Not right now,” Epstein said. “You keep an open mind for everything. You have belief in certain guys’ talent. You want to find a way to manifest it. It’s valuable for guys to work through things up here.

“Not right now” Three words that can have an impact on a few players. Yeah, there’s going to be some major changes, if not subtly. Ian Happ has gone cold, we know of Schwarber’s situation.

“We don’t need everyone to get hot, we don’t need everyone to hit their projections,” Epstein said. “We just need a few guys to get going to make our offense really viable. We need time. I think over time our guys will continue to progress. When that gap exists, it’s a better position than not having the talent.”

Epstein is saying the right things now, but one or some unlucky players will not hear those words.

Today should be an interesting matchup with Jake Arrieta going toe to toe against the Padres. Whether that will transpire into a slugfest or not remains to be seen.

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Cubs Get Out Classed By Padres

Kyle Hendricks

So there’s a problem in Chicago. The Cubs lost another game that was within their grasp yesterday when they fell to the San Diego Padres 5-2. I say in their grasp because up until the fourth inning, pitcher Kyle Hendricks was on his lectern conducting classes in a no hitter bid. Then the bases got loaded and a grand slam followed.

“We’re the ones with the ball in our hands, we’re the ones who have to stop it,” Hendricks said. “If we throw up zeros, we have a good chance of winning. Giving up four, five [runs] in a game is not what we have to be doing right now.”

Of course it’s not what they have to do right now, but the RISP has to change. They need to capitalize on that. With 2 for 36 with runners in scoring position, the Cubs are having major league droughts. They rank last in the majors in that department.

“It’s more reminiscent of 2015,” Maddon said. “We were only seven games over .500 at the All-Star break in ’15 and had a wonderful second half of the season to get to the NL Championship Series. Last year, we broke quickly and then played .500 for two months. Hopefully, this year we can get this .500 thing out of the way and do what we normally do.”

Of course the Cubs have the most positive manager in the league so it’s not a question of trouble in the ranks. Whether the Cubs are falling into old habits a la 2015 where the majority of the team were made up of young budding superstars and a lot of inexperience and they still made it to the NLCS. However, last season it took the All Star break, a pick up of Aroldis Chapman and a return of Dexter Fowler to turn things around.

“It’s not complicated,” Maddon said. “You can see the big swings coming out of our zone when just a single would do. We did it before, we can do it again. Everybody loved us a couple days ago, and now all of a sudden we’ve had a tough time scoring runs on the road and we’ve just got to do better. That’s all it comes down to.”

They don’t have Fowler or Chapman this year. The Cubs lead off situation has continuously been in flux and despite the Cubs’ bullpen sitting in third with a 3.34 ERA, their cracks are showing.

“We haven’t hit to our capabilities,” Maddon said. “We haven’t pitched. Our defense has slowly gotten back to our capabilities. I do believe we’re going to hit, we’re going to pitch and we’re going to get better on defense. Why? We’re too young, we’re too strong and we’re too good. If we had been playing our best game and were stuck in this spot, I’d be a little bit more discouraged. We haven’t even come close to playing our game yet. No two years should be exactly the same. I really believe that.”

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Cubs Get Swept Out Of LA

Jon Lester

It wasn’t what you thought would happen when two outstanding pitchers faced each other. One a multiple Cy Young winner in Clayton Kershaw and the other a multiple World Series champion in Jon Lester. I thought it would be low scoring, how about yourself? Nope. It turned out to be a 9-4 series sweep by the hometown Dodgers.

“It sounds like fiction to me, but it happened,” Joe Maddon said. “I have not seen [Kershaw] like that. We were on him. It’s just one of those days. Both of them are very good, they’re outstanding and neither one had a good day and [the Dodgers] got us.”

Something out of an old Twilight Zone episode, where Kershaw gave up three home runs and the Dodgers, with their stingiest bullpen in the National League, squeaked by the defending champions.

“We just have to play for today. You can’t worry about [going on] a run, you can’t worry about showing up and trying to go nine [innings] before you throw the first pitch, you can’t worry about trying to go 3-for-4 before your first at-bat. You can’t worry about [going on] a run, you can’t make runs happen. You can’t make anything happen in this game. We have a good team. It’s just a matter of showing up day in and day out and putting our work in. It’ll come, it’ll click. We’ve had little spurts, and that’s been great. We just have to worry about tomorrow and go from there.” Jon Lester said.

The Cubs will have to take the sting they felt in the series loss off to San Diego and try to boost their league low of .217 batting with Runners In Scoring Position.  Which is a surprising stat from the champs. Add to the fact that they’re 25-24, the Cubs are in a rough spot. They’re almost at the halfway mark and in a sport where having under 95 wins is considered a sub par performance, the Cubs had better find a way to dig deep and fix what’s ailing them.

“I don’t see any reason to worry, especially given what we did last year,” reigning National League MVP Kris Bryant said. “There is no need to worry. You’re going to have your good years, you’re going to have your bad years. Your good starts, your bad starts. This is an average start; it’s not a terrible start. Sometimes it happens. We’ve spoiled ourselves with last year and that start. I guess it’s a good thing to have those expectations because we do, too.”

What Bryant isn’t taking into consideration that yesterday, the Cubs walloped three home runs in the losing effort. Nope, it’s the old cliche about the Cubs having to move the runners. Small ball.

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Cubs Feel Heat In LA

Anthony Rizzo

The Dodgers make me nervous. In last fall’s NLCS there was nothing better than to see the Cubs put an end to Los Angeles’ playoff run. This Memorial Day weekend series has not gone so smoothly. The Chicago Cubs were shutout yesterday 5-0 and now have to face Clayton Kershaw in an attempt to save face and take one game this weekend.

“We haven’t played badly,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We just haven’t hit the ball, and they got timely hits when they needed it. They pitched well, they beat us. That’s it.”

That pretty much sums up every ball game when a team loses. To be fair, John Lackey pitched a good game by taking a no hitter into the fourth inning. Lackey, like the Dodgers makes me nervous. You never know what pitcher is going to show up and last night, was the kind of Lackey who is on his game and means business.

“They really have made very few, if any, mistakes against us and we have not taken advantage of anything,” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon. “We have hit some balls well but they have been foul balls. Otherwise, our contact has been rather weak the last two days.”

With the loss, the Cubs were shutout for the fifth time this season. From a team that won over 100 games last season, this is a troubling statistic. On the other hand, the Dodgers own the lowest bullpen ERA in the National League. If any team can shutdown the offensive power of the Cubs, it’s these West Coasters.

Today’s game is going to be good. Jon Lester versus Kershaw. These guys are on top of the food chain of pitchers. It’s going to be a low scoring affair.

“It should be rather interesting,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “You always anticipate low scoring with that. The Dodgers are pitching really, really well. Kershaw is a different animal, and so is Jon. It should be interesting.”

I have a gut feeling that the Dodgers and the Cubs could be facing each other again in the NLCS this fall. Pitching vs offence.

“What it means to me,” Maddon said of the back-to-back shutouts, “is we have no chance to win the last two games.”

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Chicago Cubs Stay Classy

Joe Maddon

May 25, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon (70) departs for a road trip wearing a suit based on the character Ron Burgundy from the movie “Anchorman” after a game against the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-350302 ORIG FILE ID: 20170525_gma_bb6_410.jpg

The Chicago Cubs have become a home run machine after taking the series from the Giants in a 5-1 victory. Three home runs were hit with Kris Bryant, Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist launching rockets into the Wrigley Field bleachers.

“As a group, we did a great job of getting back to keeping it simple and not trying to do too much,” Heyward said. “Just try to take it easy and relax and have a good approach (at the plate). Be aggressive in the strike zone and kind of make them come to us.”

They’re getting contributions from everyone and including Heyward, who has had to tweak his swing during the offseason. Either it was his speech in last fall’s dramatic and historic game 7 World Series that prompted him to adjust his swing or he’s cashing in his first pay check from the Cubs, Heyward is a much better player this season at the plate.

“I don’t feel you can ignore [last year],” Heyward said. “You have to be aware and make adjustments. We’re going to fail way more times than we’ll succeed. That’s why it’s a humbling game. You always take failure and learn from it and go from there.”

With the win, the Cubs now take over top spot in the Central Division(In my humble opinion, it’s a spot where they belong)before heading to Los Angeles to take on the Dodgers. It’s not that I hate the Dodgers but rather they make me nervous. They’re so good and it’s a west coast game so it’s on really late. People can talk about winning their divisions but these west coasters are the games to win. They’re the kind of games that can mess a team up in their rhythm.

“We don’t care about last year,” Heyward said. “It’s not going to do anything for us now other than having experience. Right now is right now. We have to go play tomorrow, and that’s going to be another thing. … Last year was awesome, but we have to play right now, and I feel right now we’re doing a great job playing baseball the way we can collectively and let things come to us. We’re not trying to do too much, not trying to create excitement. It’ll be there.”

Heyward is right. Last year was awesome and perhaps unique. This season the Cubs are out to prove that they’re champs and put a stamp on the World Series. So, as the Cubs hit the road in Anchorman style, if Joe Maddon’s motto from last season, “Try Not To Suck” this year is,

“Stay classy, Chicago”

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Cubs Don’t Take Anything For Granted

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs bring the power against the San Francisco Giants as Anthony Rizzo crushes two home runs in the 5-4 victory. Kyle Hendricks pitched seven solid innings allowing only two runs. The Cubs are taking cues from Rizzo, the Cubs clubhouse leader.

“I’ve been on some streaks sometimes, but I want to be as consistent as possible,” Rizzo said. “But you take it. You ride it. You ride it out and you enjoy it.”

Nobody needs to tell you that when the leader leads, good things happen. Rizzo has homered in his last four games. The Cubs are slowly clawing their way back to the top of the standings with a half game back of the Brewers. What’s most impressive though is coupled with Jon Lester‘s complete game performance, Hendrick’s seventh inning endurance is proving to be a catalyst in their wins.

“That was probably the strongest I’ve felt deep into a game [this year],” said Hendricks, who led the majors last year with a 2.13 ERA. “The game before this was the previous time I’d felt stronger. But today, definitely the best.”

As I was building off on yesterday’s post, starter’s need to go deep again. Usually when they go deep into games, team’s are going to win ballgames. That’s logic. They might not be pretty wins but endurance and the ability to get batter’s out anyway they can will do it.

“When our starters go deep, it’s always fun to play behind them,” Rizzo said.

Of course it’s fun, there’s usually a cushion to play behind and the order can relax leading to perhaps more multi homer games. The Cubs are settling into a nice groove. They’ll go for the series win today before a weekend series against the Dodgers. The Cubs need to win these west coast matches this early in the season if they want to continue their quest for a repeat World Series.

“When you get a lead like we did tonight, you want to win those games. We’ve got a good home-field advantage, one of the better ones in sports as far as the fan support. We don’t take that for granted.” Jason Heyward said.

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The Complete Jon Lester

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs picked up where they left off in the NLDS by crushing a few long balls in their 4-1 toppling of the San Francisco Giants last night. Jason Heyward, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber each contributed to the victory but it was Jon Lester who commanded the game by pitching his first complete game of the season. In an environment where complete games are becoming increasingly rare, Lester delivered with ten strikeouts.

“I think the complete game now is few and far between,” Lester said. “There’s always that gratification to go out there and finish it and walk off and shake everybody’s hand as they go off the field.”

Forget ERA’s, strikeouts, or WHIP’S a complete game is a badge of honour and to me, the most important statistic that a pitcher can be adorned with. It’s a true testament on how valuable that pitcher is for the team.

“That’s classic stuff. He just kept getting better,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “A real thoroughbred starting pitcher starts to feel it, and I think that’s what was going on.”

As for yesterday’s victory, I feel that it’ll mark a turning point for the Cubs. Think about it, three home runs and a complete game; it’s pretty remarkable.

“We were able to get four tonight instead of one like we did against Cueto in the playoffs,” Jason Heyward said. “It was kind of a similar game. It’s another four-game set against these guys like we had last year [in the postseason]. It’s going to be a good [series]; pitchers are going to pitch and we have to take what we can get on both sides. For Jonny to come out and do something like that is huge, especially against a guy like Cueto.”

So yeah, last night, the Cubs were awesome. If the Cubs can capture that magic and carry it forth, they’ll be all right.

“It impacts the rest of the starting pitchers. It’s contagious, like hitting is contagious. They feed off one another and that’s what we have to do on a more consistent basis. I like to believe something like that can tweak the starters in a good way.” Joe Maddon said.

Tonight, Kyle Hendricks gets the call. It’s difficult to follow in those footsteps of Lester but he’s slowly regaining that magic which he wielded last season. The 2-1 right hander takes the mound at 8:05pm.

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