Cubs Dodge LA With Split

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What a difference between games. The other night, Kyle Hendricks had a game he’d like to forget and then yesterday, the Cubs demolished the Dodgers 11-5. Chalk it up to Albert Almora‘s home run that really opened everything up for the Cubs.

“We were using the whole field,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We’re talking about power and ‘oppo’ and ground balls up the middle. It was a really great approach. Albert pretty much provided the knockout punch with the homer.”

When things go well for the North Siders, they go really well. So why is it that the Cubs manage to stay in the race despite their uneven play? It seems like one game they’re up and one they’re down. They lose five and then bounce back with a huge win yesterday. I’ve said all along that the key to the Cubs success  lies entirely on Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant‘s shoulders.

“It’s that part of the season when things aren’t going your way and you get frustrated a little more,” Rizzo said. “A day like today is nice to be able to come in, and I put in some work in the cage. I just want to stay consistent. My biggest thing is consistency, which is what I’ve shown over the last few years so I want to get back to having consistent at-bats every time.”

The other concern I have is Kyle Hendricks. He’s not playing well and in Wednesday’s game he wasn’t entirely horrible, but something is off with him.

“I’m just searching right now,” Hendricks said. “It’s just bad. Mechanics, I’m trying to focus mentally and going pitch to pitch, and I’m doing that, but something’s just off.”

The odd thing is that even though his game isn’t his usually stoic excellence, his numbers aren’t that terrible(excluding Wednesday’s game) If anyone can turn things around, it’s him.

With the All Star Break coming up soon enough, the Cubs have an opportunity to put things together and reflect on the first half of the season. The Good, The Bad and well you get the idea.

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El Mago Opens Up His Trick Bag, Delivers Grand Slam

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The Chicago Cubs snapped their five game losing streak in style and with a little El Mago by beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 9-4. Javier Baez was well, El Mago with two home runs, one including a grand slam.

“There’s a couple guys like that in Major League Baseball — [Francisco] Lindor is another guy like that, [Ozzie] Albies, the new kid in Atlanta,” Joe Maddon said. “There’s two things that set them apart beyond their abilities — they really enjoy playing, there’s a joy about them, and they’re absolutely fearless. Of course, you have to be good. Fearlessness and pure joy for the game stands out.”

BTW, my son’s #9 in Little League

So what caused the skid and what contributed to them fearlessly playing out of it without kris Bryant in the lineup? Hitting coach Chili Davis called a player meeting and discussed things that went wrong. Did that help?

“I want to believe (the meeting) had something to do with it,” Maddon said. “(Opposite-field) hits by Almora and Contreras I loved. And of course, Javy had a nice day. I’m still looking forward to, as we get more mature in the batter’s box, that we chase less. I love homers like everybody else does, but there are so many other ways to score.”

That’s the curse that still haunts the Cubs. Not being able to score with other opportunities. Runners In Scoring Position and really small ball play. They try to connect sometimes with the home run and then end up relying on it too much. We all have come to realize that that doesn’t always work out well. Perhaps in the American League, but not in the National League. As far as I’m concerned, they can keep their designated hitter.  I want to live in a world where a pitcher( Anthony DesClafani) can hit a grand slam.

The Cubs are hanging on with 2.5 half games behind the Brewers and St. Louis burning up their heels, this is going to make an interesting finish to the first half of the 2018 season.

As for the return of Kris Bryant?

“He’s not going to be ready for the next two or three days so why mess with it,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Bryant. “Let’s make sure he is well. The 10-day DL makes it more palatable, in a sense. We thought, let it calm down and cool down. The 10-day DL permits you to make decisions like this. The [15-day minimum under the previous rules], you might be a little more patient.”

Now here’s a little theory brewing, I believe once Yu Darvish returns to the lineup and gets his head on straight, the Cubs are going to tear up the standings and leave the Brewers in the dust.

Then again, I tend to Believe it

Reds Sweep Cubs For First Time Since 1983

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Well, that was a disaster now, wasn’t it? Yesterday, the Cubs were swept by the Cincinnati Reds in a game that saw the Cubs with a five run lead heading into the sixth inning, but watched it dwindle and then downright disappear as the Reds went on to beat them 8-6.

The bullpen watched it all go wrong.

“I came in there to stop the bleeding and I wasn’t able to do it,” Pedro Strop said. “All the work my team did before to put those runs up there. … This is a tough one to swallow. Coming down the stretch we weren’t playing well. We lost three games and that one, we should have gotten that one, to start a new rhythm.”

Yes, it’s a tough one to swallow, especially yesterday’s loss.  Jason Heyward drove in two runs and you know, I’m excited for him this year. He’s been playing well and to see the sweep, all his hard work went for nothing really. The Cubs need to regroup as they head out to Los Angeles to face the Dodgers. Do they change their game plan? Will we see Kris Bryant back in the lineup?

“He’s been battling it, but I really felt like giving him [Saturday] off would be fine for today,” manager Joe Maddon said. “I talked to him and [head athletic trainer] P.J. [Mainville] afterwards and it’s still a little ratty — it’s just not right. There’s no sense in pushing that. I don’t think it’s going to be for long. I also thought he might be fine for today, so it’s a day-to-day kind of thing.”

He’s the type of player you’d want to tread lightly with. This loss is the first series sweep by the Reds over the Cubs since 1983. This doesn’t bode well for Chicago’s Northside Heroes.

“We beat the Dodgers two out of three [last week], and we’re the best team since the 1927 Yankees,” Maddon said Sunday morning before the latest loss. “Then Cincinnati beats us for three days, and all of a sudden, it’s doom and gloom. I cannot live my life that way.”

No, that’s the truth. The Cubs have to definitely regroup and figure out what went wrong in Cincinnati because when it’s all said and done, this weekend series will either go on to bite them in the ass or make it’s way to Cooperstown and forever be known as,” Cincinnati Incident”

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Cubs Thought Turkey’s Could Fly

Reds 6, Cubs 3

The Chicago Cubs up and down 2018 season continued last night with a 6-3  loss to the Cincinnati Reds. Let me repeat that; the Cubs lost to the Reds.

The Reds?

The Reds are last place in the Central, 15 games out of the top spot and in no position to contend for the fall classic.

But—

They’re winners of their last 8 out of 10 games and the Cubs got snake bit.

“We haven’t played great here,” manager Joe Maddon said. “We’ve played two of our least impressive games in about a month. It’s just not been us playing our typical game. We grab a lot of energy off our defense; we needed to grab some off our offense. If we start hitting, we’ll start doing what we’re supposed to do. We’ve got to be more consistent at the plate.”

Or is it something else entirely when it comes to the Big Red Machine? I mean Anthony Rizzo failed to tag a player during a rundown. He tapped him on the head and the ball dropped from his glove.

Weird.

It seemed nobody was on their game last night except Kyle Schwarber who banged out a two run home run in the fourth to give the Cubs the lead and add to his home run total of the season.

“Schwarber’s getting different — he’s getting different in a good way,” Maddon said. “He’s handling the ball up in the zone a lot better. He’s not missing it. He’s looked really good.”

Perhaps Schwarber’s hitting his stride or perhaps it’s the hometown crowd but I maintain that the “Sultan of Schwarb” will continue to improve his game or perhaps his eerie resemblance to the Bambino will have even more great things down the road?

“I still want to be able to string some things together,” Schwarber said. “Obviously, I put a good swing on the ball today. I want to be able to still go up there and have good at-bats and put up a quality at-bat. I want to work the at-bat and get my pitch, and when I do get my pitch, drive it.”

So, the Cubs haven’t been playing well in Cincinnati and have fallen two back of the surging Brewers, will they find their mojo today when Luke Farrell makes his first start of the season today. I mean, nobody wants to lose a series to the Reds.

Right?

“One pitch just changed the game,” Jose Quintana said. “It was a battle. We needed this game.”

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Cubs Give Dodgers a Splitting Headache

Kyle Schwarber

There’s a deadlock in the National League Central after the Chicago Cubs split a double header with the Los Angeles Dodgers. In the first game, the Dodgers won 4-3 and in the second game, the Cubs downed the Dodgers 2-1.

Splits are tough, man. What’s even tougher occurs when a pitcher messes up his back while taking his pants off. Take Brandon Morrow;

“It’s frustrating any time you can’t get out there, especially when you can’t go for something as stupid as taking your pants off,” Morrow said. “Getting hurt any time is frustrating, but when it’s not related to throwing a baseball, it’s even more frustrating.”

But as the Cubs were frustrated with the Dodgers in Game 1, Joe Maddon was frustrated with the outcome.

“We’ve just got to be able to drive in more runs,” Maddon said. “When you look at their left on base, it’s very similar to ours. It’s an industry-wide situational problem. We’ve got to do better. We had two good guys up there in Tommy La Stella and Albert Almora Jr. We liked both of those situations a lot. It just didn’t work out for us.”

Both scores were narrow margins and with the firepower that the Cubs have in their lineup, they need to get better in scoring more runs. Then there’s the case of Tyler Chatwood. The guy walks more than any other Cubs pitcher last season.

What?

He’s a dangerous dude to have in the rotation. I don’t like that combination, give me Jon Lester’s ball in glove to first base schtick anytime!

“I felt good,” Chatwood said. “I think any time you can keep your team in the game and leave with the lead, it’s successful. Obviously, you want to go deeper in the game.”

The night game was a little different. Albert Almora Jr. was the hero giving the Cubs the win in the 10th with the walk off single.

“I just wanted to get it done. First of all, I wanted to go home and sleep. I wanted to do it myself just because it’s a little payback from the first game.” Almora said.

This season’s been weird. The Cubs weren’t doing so well at first and now they’ve slowly gained some momentum by doing the little things. Kris Bryant getting the triple in the seventh and Almora with the walk off. There’s also Kyle Schwarber who’s putting together a quietly good season.

“They bring their best against us,” Almora said. “To be the best you’ve got to beat the best.”

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Cubs Get Shut Out On Father’s Day

Cardinals 5, Cubs 0

How great would it have been if the Cubs completed the sweep on Father’s Day of the St. Louis Cardinals? Two rivals, one on the way up, and the other, just being there. The Cubs lost 5-0 and remain a half game back of the Brewers.

A scary incident occurred when Javier Baez left the game after being hit by a pitch.

“I’m fine,” Baez said. “It’s just really sore. It got me really good right on the elbow. I thought the pain was going to go away right away, but it kind of numbed my whole arm and even my ribs. We’ve been icing it. It feels pretty sore, but I know I’m good.”

There was nothing funny about that. The Cubs haven’t hit as many home runs as they have in the past but they’ve made contact more. Home Runs are exciting but give me guys on base any day then going yard. Now, don’t get me wrong; going yard is incredible to see it’s not everything.

“I think it’s something we have to evaluate over a little bit of a longer period of time,” general manager Jed Hoyer said regarding the Cubs’ reduced power. “We haven’t hit as many home runs, and in theory that’s concerning, but it’s a small sample. Let’s look later on and see where we’re at.”

It’s not the Cubs biggest worry. You can spin any cliche you want but a win is a win. Last night, the Cubs couldn’t manage a run and that happens from time to time. They’re stringing together the wins when it counts and staying with the pack.

“We’re all out there trying to do our jobs and put ourselves in the best position to win a baseball game,” Kyle Schwarber said. “Getting on base is the simplest form of that.”

If the Cubs go on to compete this fall, it’ll be a more well balanced team than the 2016 World Series guys.

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Heyward Hits Back

Cubs 6, Cardinals 3

Jason Heyward launched his fourth home run of the season as the Cubs won the series from the Cardinals last night with a score of 6-3. it wasn’t the prettiest game but the Cubs did it.

“Love it,” Joe Maddon said of the clutch hitting. “Listen, that is my No. 1 priority offensively. Homers will come. Pitchers throw homers. When hitters try to hit homers on all the pitches thrown to them, the results are normally bad. Let pitchers throw you home runs. Be in position to hit the ball hard with two strikes. Understand they’re not giving you that pitch to drive out of the ballpark. Why not adapt? That’s where the action will come back into the game, that’s where you’ll get more movement, that’s where you’ll get the entertainment you’re looking for.”

On the pitching side of things, Kyle Hendricks snapped a  three game losing streak. He’s had problems giving up home runs but also has never let it get to him too much, he’s been able to bounce back and deliver solid outings, which is his MO.

“A couple years in the big leagues has helped that,” Hendricks said. “If it was early in my career, I might have a different thought process. It’s one of those things. I’m battling and getting really hurt when I make a bad pitch. There’s nothing I can do, I can’t get it back. That’s where my focus is now — the next pitch.”

But last night’s game was all really Heyward. He’s settled in this season and finally been able to quiet the naysayers. It’s been a rough go for Heyward since joining the Cubs a few seasons ago.

“What was that a 99, 100 mile an hour fastball? He got to it easily,” Maddon said. “He’s the guy that’s really ascended among the group. He’s made all the difference by hitting second and providing some big hits in the latter part of the game. He’s really good as the game gets in progress.”

So, the two big names were Hendricks and Heyward. The run support was there for Hendricks and Heyward came through in the clutch. A couple of other heroes were Ian Happ and Willson Contreras with two out RBI’s. Folks, those are the kind of plays that win ballgames in October.

The Cubs close out the series tonight on Father’s Day which I know most baseball loving Dad’s will be watching tonight. Bring out the blue bats and enjoy.

I’m going golfing today.

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