Cubs Showing That Everybody’s In

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This could be the dawn of a new era for the Chicago Cubs. While the last couple of years has showcased the hitting side of the Northside powerhouse, this year’s version has high lighted a more streamlined lower scoring edition. In yesterday’s 2-0 shutout win over the Brewers, the Cubs, perhaps they’re getting older, a more patient group.

“When you can play somebody in your own division eight times and do well, that’s always a boon,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “They came in winning eight in a row. I have a lot of respect for them. We didn’t beat up their pitching, either. Don’t be deceived here. They pitched really well, too. They played really well, too. We just happened to pitch a little better in the series.

“They’re a very good ballclub, and we just happened to get them this time around,” Maddon said. “They’re never to be taken for granted.”

Having five shutouts in a month against the same team, I wouldn’t blame them if they took things for granted. The Cubs are 1/2 game back of division leaders Pittsburgh Pirates  and the record setting debut of Nick Kingham  

The Cubs pitching was so good over the Brewers that their last four pitchers allowed only 1 earned run.

“It’s pretty cool to be part of it,” Tyler Chatwood said. “You don’t want to be the guy left behind, so I think everybody’s kind of pushing each other and I think that’s what good rotations do.”

So even if their bats fell silent, the Cubs pitching took over and now we can safely say that the Cubs are looking more and more like the team promised at the start of the season. The team has been inconsistent. They win one, lose one and the order and the rotation has been all over the place. It’s great to see them finally coming together. Perhaps, it’s the team getting older, more seasoned and coming into their own but as Ben Zobrist becomes the elder statesman for the club, Chicago has to remember that their ticket to respectability was all ready punched that magical night in Cleveland. Theo Epstein helped build it in a Kevin Costner kind of way, but the rest is on the team to continue that legacy. We’re finally seeing it this season.

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Cubs Get Crafty With Brewers

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The Cubs have won three in a row after yesterday’s 3-0 shutout of the Brewers. Jose Quintana put on a masterful display in front of the chilled Wrigley crowd. With the win, the Cubs are slowly climbing to the top of the National League Central division.

“You have to be able to win games like that, low-scoring games,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We had not been able to early on, we just weren’t pitching well enough, and now we are. I know it was beautiful blue skies, but it was cool out there and the wind was severe. Today’s game was pretty much determined by the elements.”

Perhaps that was the reason of the Cubs struggles early on this April. The good news is that May is around the corner, great weather is coming and the Cubs will be able to gain some valuable ground when they face the Cardinals next weekend.

The Cubs have the Brewers number with four shutouts this season.

“I felt good,” Quintana said Saturday after his best outing of the season. “My stuff was really good. I’m happy we are winning. Tomorrow, we will try to keep going.”

The great thing about the win is that Quintana went deep in the game. Seven innings, that’s the magic number that I believe pitchers should be able to perform at in order for their respective teams to effectively get to October.

Over the past week, the Cubs rotation has been able to do just that and while allowing their bullpen to be healthy and ready to finish.

It was also great to see Kris Bryant back in the lineup after missing four games due to his concussion.

“It was nice to be back out there,” Bryant said. “It was just another ballgame. I felt really normal. It’s really weird: You take four games off, you feel like you’re a little behind.”

The ironic thing is the Cubs were winning while he was nursing his head. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want him to be off again but this is Cubs nation and weird things happen.

“It kind of puts things in perspective a little bit, because we’re out there and everybody wants to get hits and RBIs and home runs and feel great about themselves,” Bryant said. “When something like that happens, you have to take a step back and realize that this game could be taken from you really quick and really soon and unexpectedly. It’s really important to enjoy the game as much as you can.”

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Darvish Proves Critics Wrong

 

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If this is the Yu Darvish that the Cubs had hoped would show up when they signed him, then I guess fans will have to accept it. Yesterday, the Cubs beat the Brewers 3-2 and Darvish was good even though he didn’t get the win.

“I thought he worked the mental game extremely well,” Maddon said of Darvish. “He was right on with everything. He developed a great routine. Pitchers with that special kind of ability, you just get out of your zone somehow and you need to be reminded about a couple things. I promise you, he keeps doing that, look out.”

Ok, to be fair and I really don’t have experience being the highest paid player in the room, but it must be incredible difficult with all the pressure placed on him to succeed. I’ve been a critic myself but who knows? Perhaps management saw something in him that we don’t see.

“[Maddon] really takes care of me,” Darvish said through his interpreter. “He thinks a lot about me. In today’s outing, there was a similar situation as in the previous game. Because I spoke with Joe, I was able to overcome it and kept going.

“He talked [in Cleveland] about not worrying about the previous pitch or what happened in the past, and concentrate on the pitch I was going to throw,” Darvish said. “Basically, it was, ‘Don’t worry about what happened in the past.'”

That’s exactly what he has to do. Yesterday, after a shaky start, he turned it around and garnered eight strikeouts. That’s impressive. My theory is that he’s been used to the LA sunshine and Texas heat. Once it gets warm in Chicago, Darvish will start rolling.

It’s funny that the Cubs rotation has been their undoing this season. High expectations were placed on the pitching and, in fact, it was going to be their saving grace but so far it’s been the hitting that’s really worked well.

“Regardless of where I am, no matter where I’m at, I hear the supporting fans,” Darvish said. “That really cheers me up.”

Both Hendricks and Darvish were consistent in their games and that’s a great sign of things to come.

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Cubs’ Hendricks Stoic Effort

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It’s not even the end of April  and Kyle Schwarber has all ready knocked seven home runs. Yup, the Cubs defeated the Brewers 1-0 in front of the Wrigley faithful.

The Professor  Kyle Hendricks took to the mound and masterfully executed seven scoreless innings.

“That’s a product of when my focus was, just make a good pitch,” Hendricks said. “Every pitch, just on to the next pitch. I was just in a really good mindset today — one pitch at a time.”

He’s pretty focused every time, but that’s just my opinion.

If you noticed an absence at third base yesterday, Kris Bryant stayed on the bench for a third straight game. I’m not too worried about his absence affecting the Cubs because more than likely it’s just precautions but;

“I’m listening to what his needs are right now,” Joe Maddon said. “I’m making sure that the medical procedures are being followed so that we do everything right. It’s never going to be a unilateral decision on my part to insist that he plays, ever. I’m listening to K.B., the doctors, trying to do the right things and get him back out there. It’s early. I really feel strongly that he’s going to be fine, but I don’t want to push it.”

With research into these injuries, I think more teams have shifted away from playing them too soon whether it’s more than likely a minor injury or not. He’ll be back.

Speaking of getting back, Yu Darvish takes to the mound today in search of his first win. The high priced hurler has struggled this season, causing fans to scratch their heads and wonder if the Cubs front office made a big mistake in signing him.

“This guy’s good. This guy’s going to show it. He’s going to show up,” Maddon said, “and the thing (is) as a manager, as a coach, I’m just trying to get him to respect this pitch and then respect that next pitch, but don’t try to over-evaluate it or make it more complicated than that because your stuff, I don’t know, top 10 in baseball probably.”

I’m not saying anything against Darvish’s stuff but there’s a reason why a guy like Hendricks who makes a paltry $760 000 is ahead of a 126 million dollar arm in the rotation.

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Cubs Show Moxy But Not Enough

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The Cubs, without Kris Bryant in the lineup, were downed by Cleveland 4-1. They went into the game facing a hot pitcher in Trevor Bauer, who by weird stroke of stupidity, I benched in our Fantasy League.

Go figure?

“I didn’t think we were up there just swinging without a plan,” Joe Maddon said. “But [Bauer] is on top of his game right now. They kept coming back [to the dugout] saying, ‘He is throwing the ball exactly where he wants to.'”

The bats couldn’t get anything into the air, but on the mound, Jon Lester rebounded to have a solid outing.

“I feel like we’re just kind of at that point where we need to put like three games together,” Lester said. “I feel like we’re just trying to get over that hump with that third game, and it’s kind of rolling from there. We’ve been playing well, but we’ve had some ups and downs on both sides of the ball.”

Um, I’ve been saying that all April. Yes, the Cubs are having a see saw kind of Spring and it might work but chances are, they’ll need to do exactly what Lester has indicated, and put together three wins in a row. Listen, we all want them to dominate, so perhaps they need to win a couple of series in a row to stay relevant come August.

Yesterday’s game was a different beast altogether. The Cubs could have/should have come out victorious but the end resulted in Cleveland just getting all the really good knocks.

“Whoever says solo homers can’t beat you (is wrong), I guess,” Lester said. “The only pitch that was a bad decision on my part — and I shook to it — was the pitch to Guyer. The other two, Lindor goes oppo and a ball on the ground that Encarnacion hits out. That’s the game, unfortunately.”

Andrew Miller got injured and that wasn’t enough for the Cubs to take advantage of? I also believe that Anthony Rizzo needs to get going. He’s their “Unofficial” leader in the clubhouse and when he returns to form, the Cubs should be getting back on track.

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Schwarber Hot In Cleveland

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The Cubs mauled Cleveland 10-3 It was the Kyle Schwarber show with two home runs and the Cubs offence was on display in the onslaught. According to the stats, Schwarber feels really good  at Progressive Field going 15-30 including three home runs.

That’s pretty crazy.

“I always thought this was a good park to hit in,” Schwarber said with a shrug. “It’s been a good start so far. Always trying to get better. Had a guy on third with less than two outs and didn’t get him in. That’s a free RBI there. And I want to pick those up.”

Yes you do Kyle. There’s an old adage somewhere, perhaps there should be one but home runs don’t win ball games, RBI’s do.

That being said, Schwarber’s legend was cemented in the 2016 playoffs. In case you folks don’t remember, he came back from a season injury only to hit .412 that post season. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Schwarber loves Cleveland.

“He’s from Ohio, right?” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Schwarber. “Obviously, he sees the ball well here. The first time he showed up it was his premiere. That was all adrenaline. The World Series was adrenaline. And right now he’s been swinging the bat well. So he shows up in Cleveland at the right times.”

Kris Bryant missed yesterday’s game from the injury he suffered in Colorado. There’s no cause for alarm. I hope he’s all right.

“He wanted to see the doctor and do all the normal stuff,”  Maddon said. “I think he’s fine. He just has to work through some things.”

The Cubs are finally past the .500 mark and gaining a little bit of the momentum back after their shaky start to the season. It’s a long season, but the Cubs’ record sits at 11-9 not perfect but two games back of Milwaukee, and I have it on good faith that the Cubs won’t allow the Brewers to take the division.

Today, Jon Lester gets the ball. His arm’s getting loose and he’s coming off a shutout win over St. Louis. Warm weather is here and the Cubs are getting it together!

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Cubs Bryant Leaves Game

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Even though the Chicago Cubs can’t go on much longer winning one game then losing the next, there have been unsung heroes in just about every game they’ve played so far this season. In yesterday’s 9-7 win over the Colorado Rockies, it was Albert Almora‘s defence skills that were on display.

Almora’s glove has been all over the outfield. He’s proven to be “The Guy” in the field and has come into his own with his acrobatics.

“I’m just trying to prevent some runs from scoring,” Almora said. “In this kind of field, you have a lot of room to run. I was just trying to be in the right spot at the right time. I just wanted to go get it. I was going to give it all I had. Even if I didn’t think I had a great chance, I was giving to give it my shot, and it just fell in the glove.”

Oh yeah, and he’s humble as well.

On the downside, Kris Bryant left the game after getting knocked in the head with the ball. He looked a little shaken and was helped to the clubhouse.

“Apparently, he’s fine, as good as could be expected,” manager Joe Maddon said after the game. “I’ve not heard anything awful, but they’re still watching him. I have not heard the word concussion yet, so hopefully very good.”

Hopefully, he’ll be all right and will be back in the Cubs’ lineup soon.

Today is an off day before the Cubs travel to Cleveland. The Cubs need the rest. April 2018 hasn’t been kind to them with a 10-9 record. There’s been plenty of ups and downs and “Strangeties” that have plagued the team. The signs are there for the Cubs to turn the corner and we know about last season’s catch up after the All Star break but unfortunately that tired the team out.  The Cubs inconsistencies will continue for a bit but they’ll find their groove and if Javier Baez continues the way he’s going, well it could end in an MVP season for El Mago.

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