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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Cubs Come Roaring Back With Brave Win

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Leave it to the veteran superstar Ben Zobrist to provide the fireworks in the Chicago Cubs thrilling 3-2 win over the Atlanta Braves last night. This is an important series for the Cubs to win and they truly did it in that classic “Cubs Way”

“It was pretty nice in the fashion that we did it, too,” Addison Russell said. “I feel like there were opportunities there that it could have gone either way, but we capitalized. It was huge tonight.”

The game also marked the return of the Cubs’ offseason  acquisition Yu Darvish. He threw four innings with five strikeouts. It’s no surprise he was pulled after four innings of work. Whether it was his cramping or just coming back, Darvish had a decent game.

“He came up and talked to me and wanted to go back out, but I said, ‘No, I don’t think that’s wise,'” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “And that’s why I went and talked to the umpire to grab more time for [reliever Mike] Montgomery. I had to get Monty up quickly because of that, because I anticipated him going back out, but the guy, having been ill recently … He did a great job today, and that’s why I did what I did.”

I know we’ve been hard on the guy and most of it has been justified, but I think he’ll find his groove soon enough. My only concern about the deal was the Cubs could have got a couple more decent guys out thereon the market but they’re in the “Win now” mode with the team, so in that case it made sense. Last night was one of his better games.

“Definitely the worst I’ve ever experienced,” Darvish said through his interpreter. “Even after 10 days. I was coughing and even going upstairs made me tired … I thought I was 100 percent coming in. Once I started pitching I wasn’t 100 percent. Next four days I’ll eat a lot, train a lot and become 100 percent again.”

I hope so. Perhaps this is a new beginning?

“Dehydration is such a nasty little thing,” Maddon stated. “A lot of times it’s not given enough credit. People say ‘Eh, it’s not a big deal.’ But it is. It was something I didn’t want to press or push and it worked out well.”

With the win, the Cubs are one win behind Milwaukee and Pittsburgh. This series is big.

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Cubs Lose Make Up Game

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It was the makeup Jackie Robinson Day game and despite the long ball display, the Cubs lost the first game in a four game set with the Atlanta Braves 6-5.

Jose Quintana got roughed after giving up three home runs.

“Today we made a lot of mistakes — I consider them more mental than physical … just a mentally lethargic game early on.” Maddon said.

Even though the Cubs lost the game, the day belonged to Jackie Robinson.

“If you have [courage], if that’s part of your makeup, you can be a lot of different things,” Maddon said before Monday’s Braves-Cubs game, a makeup from April 15 when Jackie Robinson Day was celebrated around the Major Leagues. “But if you’re lacking that one quality, it’s very difficult to include the rest of the better qualities in life. [Robinson] is all of that — he speaks to courage and I’ve always respected that about him.”

Although before my time, his fearlessness was felt not just through sports but all walks of life. An important day.

Atlanta is one of those teams to beat. The Cubs had a difficult time yesterday but came through in the slugfest even though it wasn’t enough. The team moves to Atlanta for the next three games.

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A Loss Only a Mother Can Love

White Sox 5, Cubs 3

When the Cubs lost yesterday, it wasn’t due to the pitching, although I’m biased. Kyle Hendricks pitched well in the 5-3 defeat.

“I felt I threw better,” Hendricks said. “It was better than my last start — fastball command was better, good changeups. A couple bad pitches today, and they got hit. It’s just the nature of the game. You just have to stick with it and stick with the routine.”

The thing I’ve found with Hendricks’ pitching is when he gets caught, there’s no way out of it but when he’s on, then then he’s unbeatable. The Cubs are one game back of Milwaukee but they take the series against the White Sox. Tonight, they start an important series against Atlanta who are red hot.

“Regardless of the results, even during the losing streak, we were locked in and putting together good at-bats. It’s one of those things where it just has to come together. It’s the nature of the game, and sometimes you just get beat. I think we just run into some teams that get the best of us. We’re playing good baseball now. If we stick with it, we’ll end up where we need to be.” Hendricks said.

They will. They are playing good baseball right now so if they stick to the plan, the team will gel. Guys like Javier Baez and Willson Contreras have stepped it up a few and are having banner seasons.

The thing is that they can’t continue to be streaky. Yesterday’s game was about missed opportunities. Addison Russell let one slip away on an Ian Happ double.

“Just a bad read,” Russell admitted on getting thrown out. “Just overaggressive, just wanting to score. Hard-hit by Kyle. It’s either you go one way or you go the other way. I chose the wrong way.”

The good news is that the Cubs know what they have to do to fix these costly mistakes and they can do it.

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