Cubs’ Rizzo Adds Insult To Injury

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Rivalries aren’t like they used to be. Now that I sound ancient, listen to me, it’s true. The old Yankees/ Red Sox showdowns were, and still but not to the same extent, heated exchanges that brought some of the best and the worst in players. Today is different. There are much more teams and sometimes, even though the Pirates/Cubs have been playing each other for years, the rivalry is based on one particular incident.

Anthony Rizzo. The slide felt around Pittsburgh. Yesterday, MLB ruled he blocked the catcher from making the throw. Last night, North Side’s famed first baseman was booed at PNC every time he stepped to the plate. The Cubs came from behind to win 8-6. To add insult to injury, Rizzo punched a ball deep and a fan caught but not before it was ruled a home run.

“They tried,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of the Pirates’ fans. “When you create rules like this and a player just plays hard and well, a fan base is going to get the wrong impression. Most people will tell you what they’ve heard and not what they think. That’s always my concern. The moment it happened, it was one of my biggest concerns last night was that ‘Riz’ would be looked at in an unfavorable way.”

It sure did look like the fan was leaning over the rails just a bit to make the grab and Rizzo got away with another one. My favourite part of the game is the debates. Despite replays and reviews, baseball will always be a debatable game. Did he make the grab? Was his foot on or off the bag? It’s an honourable game and sometimes things happen, last night the Cubs were lucky.

Rizzo and the Cubs are on a good streak and dare I say, playing some good ball.

“You feel more relaxed,” Rizzo said about being on a good streak. “That’s the biggest key of anyone is being more relaxed. The preparation is pretty much the same, same drills beforehand, same video work. Balls are falling in. I’m probably gripping the bat a little less tighter than I was a couple weeks ago.”

But we’re Cubs fans—Shhh

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Cubs Let Everything Slide With Win Over Pirates

Cubs 7, Pirates 0

On a day where people paid tribute to the brave heroes who have served and continue to serve, it’s fitting that Mike Montgomery had the opportunity to step onto the pitcher’s mound and deliver the Cubs to a 7-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“I was just trying to make good pitches throughout and keep my mindset on giving this team as much innings as we could get,” Montgomery said. “Obviously, [Sunday] night and with the travel, the bullpen needed as much help as they could get, and I knew that. I was doing it for those guys.”

I’m glad it was Montgomery with the shutout. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy. In the wake of Yu Darvish‘s injury, it’s guys like Montgomery that should come through with the big stuff.

Speaking of big stuff, Anthony Rizzo got into a little bit of controversy after Rizzo slid home and swept the catcher Elias Diaz‘s leg forcing an errant throw to second, thus stopping a potential double play.

Was it wrong? Should Rizzo have not swept the leg? I’m biased on this one folks, Rizzo was doing what players do and that’s helping their teammates, nothing more. He wasn’t trying to hurt Diaz. A little friendly competition but what if he did hurt Diaz? Then it would have been a little different debate.

“You just say, ‘Man, are you all right? I’m not trying to hurt you there,'” Rizzo said of his conversation. “I think there’s a clear sense when someone is doing something with intent and trying to hurt someone [versus] just playing hard. I’m going to take the side of playing hard. That’s what I pride myself in.”

Of course we don’t know what Diaz’s response to that was, now do we?

“It’s the perfect play by Rizzo,” Maddon said. “My concern is they’re teaching fans the wrong thing. The fans’ reaction to ‘Riz’ the next time up indicates they think he did something wrong and that’s what’s so wrong about all of that. The player did not do anything wrong but because of new rules, it makes him wear the black hat for the moment. That’s how you should teach your kids to slide to break up the double play at home plate.”

The Cubs have won two in a row and now have the momentum heading into the final game of the series.

Do you think it was a bad slide?

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Cubs Sound An Awful lot like Guns N Roses

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You know when you go back years later and you’re driving to work or somewhere and you just want to listen to something different, so you throw on a tune you haven’t heard in a while and realize it’s not as bad as they said it was all those years ago?

I did that with Chinese Democracy, Guns N Roses much maligned cd they put out ten years ago. It was awesome man, and gets stuck in your head.

The 2018 edition of the Chicago Cubs are kind of like that record. Last night, they beat the San Francisco Giants 8-3 to take the series.  Javier Baez connected with a three run homer in the fourth inning and the Cubs never looked back.

“In batting practice I pulled one ball,” Baez said. “I felt great after that whole batting practice. It was to the right side. I was just trying to get my timing down and see the ball through the sun. When I do that, I see the ball really well.”

Like the Chinese Democracy record, when the Cubs are great, they’re bang on but sometimes, they feel like a work in progress a la Tyler Chatwood.

He’s walked a lot of batters which isn’t going to cut it in October. In fact, that could be just downright nasty if that happens.

“We have work to do,” Maddon said. “I really believe in this fellow, and his stuff is that good. We just have to get a more stable routine that permits him to control himself when he gets out there. We need to get him more routine oriented, that he has an anchor to hold onto when the ball’s not going where he wants it to.

“When he’s out on the mound, he’s trying so hard to throw a strike and not to walk somebody, and that’s the issue. We’ve got to get him beyond that. If that’s your focus, sure enough, you’re going to walk somebody. We’ve got to get beyond that.”

True champions are made with pitching and the Cubs need to figure out their rotation in a hurry or their chances will fall, come, well the fall.

“I’m grinding right now, for sure,” he said. “But the good thing is we won the game.”

 

Kyle Hendricks Delivers Master Class In Velocity

Cubs 6, Giants 2

Kyle Hendricks isn’t a hard thrower. I’ve established this throughout the years here at the Canuck Cubbie. His stuff is legendary with his sub 90 MPH pitches and calm demeanour, he quietly takes to the mound and goes about his business. In yesterday’s 6-2  win over the San Francisco Giants, Hendricks found a way to win.

“He’s so steady,” Maddon said. “He’s just the same guy. Right now, Kyle is throwing the ball as well as I’ve seen him throw the ball. The numbers are good. That high 86-87 [mph], occasionally 88 [mph fastball], because off of that, here comes that magnificent changeup. I’m a curveball fan. I still like that activated a couple more times. But, he just knows what he’s doing.”

The Cubs were in a slump and it was up to “The Professor” to get them back on track and he did just that by going seven innings and seven strikeouts.

“I made better pitches today,” Hendricks said. “In the past, I was throwing about the same, but too many bad pitches. The only [bad] one was 0-2 to Hernandez, I didn’t bury it enough down and in. Other than that, I executed what I was trying to do. In that sense, it was the best-executed game for me.”

The Cubs were in a badly need of a win after getting swept by Cleveland. For a team that’s not playing as well as anticipated, they’re still playing above .500 on both the road and at home. They’d be in second place in the west and right up there in the east. This is the danger I guess of us weird Cubs fans. I’m guilty of it. I get so excited about the least bit of happenings surrounding the team, “Oh My God, Joe Maddon got new specs!!!”

Yeah, that’s how bad I get with this team sometimes. This is still a good team and nothing stops me more than seeing Hendricks pitch. So, with the Cubs struggles at getting extra base hits and capitalizing with Runners In Scoring Position, I hope they can fix things and get back to the dominating team they once were.

“We’re not getting the bang for our buck,” Theo Epstein said before the game. “A lot of our extra-base hits and home runs are with nobody on base. We’re not performing at the same level with guys in scoring position. It should all even out.”

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Cubs Continue To lose Close Games

Indians 1, Cubs 0

There wasn’t much the Cubs could have done in their 1-0 loss to Cleveland. Well, there was a whole bunch they could have done but leaving runners stranded was a big thing. The truth is that both teams played a very tight game like they were in a recent World Series or something.

The viewpoints differ  amongst teammates.

“I feel like we’re underperforming a little bit,” third baseman Kris Bryant said even before the game. “We’re pretty average right now.”

Or then there’s Albert Almora.

“You think of the 2016 team, and you’re spoiled when you think of that kind of caliber we played all year,” center fielder Albert Almora Jr. said of the Cubs’ 103-win, wire-to-wire run to the division title. “But I like where we’re at, and I think we’re playing at a really high level right now with the intensity. We’ll see. It’s still early.”

Which he’s right about that. It is still early, but the Cubs can’t find ways to win like they used to. Jon Lester put in a solid performance.

“I think he’s found his voice and it’s fun to watch,” Maddon said. “He’s a veteran, he’s earned the right to be here, the big contract, and now that some of the guys he’s worked with in the past, whether it’s David [Ross] or John Lackey, are gone, Jon is carrying on. Those guys were his mentors and he deferred to them. Now Jon’s carrying the torch.”

But the Cubs were stymied last night. They’ll sure take last night’s loss over their ten run beat down the previous night. Even if a Manny Machado signs with the club, would he make a huge difference? He suddenly would come onto the team and half to gel with the rest of them, I don’t believe his impact would be huge. Remember, everyone thought the Cubs had the best rotation going into the season. The Cubs have a great shot at Bryce Harper next year and I like them odds a little better. Addison Russell will be dealt at the deadline, that I’m convinced about.

“I think we are better than what our record shows. We’ve just got to continue to be us and play our game and focus on everyone in this clubhouse and care about each other. I feel like we do a really good job of that. If we just continue to do what we believe in, good things are going to happen.” Kyle Schwarber said.

They struggled in the first half last year.

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The Cubs Are At The Dawn of a New ERA

Indians 10, Cubs 1

Well that was an ugly game, now wasn’t it? In their 10-1 loss to Cleveland, Cubs pitcher Tyler Chatwood gave up six walks in just over two innings.

“He’s got a busy delivery when he throws the baseball — it’s busy what he does with his hand,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s something he’s done for a while. It’s not something he can change easily. … You can see the movement from the side, how good it is. We’ve got to harness it somehow. I spoke to him on the bench and reassured him that it’ll be fine. He knows that. Man, that’s good stuff. We’ve just got to get him in that zone.”

It’s been his Achilles Heel all season and even though it looked like he’s been trying to overcome it, last night it was bad.

“It’s definitely frustrating, because one at-bat I’ll feel really good, and the next at-bat I’m fighting myself,” Chatwood said. “It’s even more frustrating that I’m putting us behind a guy like [Trevor] Bauer, the way he’s throwing the ball right now.

Although the Cubs played well behind the plate garnering ten hits, the problem was not advancing the runners. If a ball club chalks up that many hits, they’ve got to get those guys home. 0-10 with RISP isn’t going to cut it.

“I’m trying to force pitches rather than just letting it happen,” Chatwood said. “Little mechanical thing. I’m drifting down the mound. I don’t know where I’ve created that bad habit. … Last time I was able to stay into rhythm. Tonight I was battling rushing rather than staying back. It’s just keeping that feeling and maintaining that.”

The ironic part is that the Cubs were expecting huge dividends from their starting rotation and so far this season, they’re 27th in team ERA with 3.42

That has to change.

Is there any truth to the rumour of Manny Machado in the pinstripes?

“What we have here is a special unit, a special team,” Albert Almora said. “Like [Machado] said, and like I’m saying right now, that’s up to the front office guys to make those kinds of decisions. We have a great team here as we stand, so we’ll see what happens.”

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Darvish Gets First Win As Cub

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Yu Darvish got his first win as a Chicago Cub. In the weirdest division in baseball, the Cubs are 1.5 games back of leader Milwaukee. Of course, it’s a three way tie. That’s just the Cubs way. Darvish’s win was music to Joe Maddon’s ears. The Cubs beat the Reds 6-1

“The difference [with Darvish] was, after the first inning, he really started to gain command of his fastball,” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon. “Then the slider becomes even more difficult. If he was in a different spot in the batting order, I probably would have let him go back out for the seventh. … My take on him is when he gets into a rhythm out there, it’s almost like he stops thinking and just starts pitching.”

My thinking is maybe he should stop thinking more often.

JK Yu

After a harrowing incident walking the pitcher, Anthony Rizzo went to calm him down.

“I was trying to calm myself, letting the frustration come out,” Darvish said through his interpreter about that moment. “I was thinking of saying something out loud, to get it out of my system, and Rizzo came over and said the same thing, ‘You look very frustrated. Let’s keep it together.'”

While we’re on the subject of firsts, the Cubs hit back to back home runs for the first time this season. Also, yesterday’s game was the first time that Kyle Schwarber was ejected. He argued a call that he thought should have gone the other way.

“I flipped my bat and said it was high, and I said a choice word in there,” Schwarber explained. “I don’t want to show him up. I wasn’t looking at him. And then he just threw me out, and that’s when I kind of lost it, because I didn’t think that ejection was necessary.”

So, as a “Glass Half Full” kind of guy, now that Darvish has his first win under his belt, the Cubs are looking up. They have an off day today before a series with Cleveland on Tuesday. If Darvish keeps winning, then there’s only one way up.

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