Baez and Schwarber Tune Up For Home Run Derby

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In what appears to be quite likely a tune up for the Home Run Derby, both Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez propelled the Cubs to a 11-6 victory over the San Diego Padres with a home run each as they padded their lead in the National League.

“We’re running out of [superlatives],” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Baez. “I like the way he’s going about his business. He’s playing the game right, playing the game hard, playing the game smartly. He’s just playing the game of baseball. I don’t think he has an analytical bone in his body. … He’s absolutely fun to watch.”

As if April never happened, the Cubs find themselves in sole possession of first place with one game to go before the mid summer classic.

“This year I’ve been consistent with my work, with my routine, being here early,” he said. “I’m the type of guy that I like to take my time during my routine, so I like to get here early and there are already a few people here. Working is the thing that is getting me here and doing some good this first half.” Baez said.

Kyle Hendricks enjoyed a win as well even though it was at times, a shaky performance by The Professor. While he’s got to figure out why he gives up first inning home runs, Hendricks is looking forward to the second half.

“It’s good to be at the top,” Hendricks said. “The Brewers are a great team behind us. There’s no days off in the second half. We have to play the same baseball we’ve been playing.”

The Cubs are in a great spot. With the return of Yu Darvish expected very soon, the Cubs will have their rotation bolstered.

“I think we’re surprised,” Cubs General manager Jed Hoyer said of Darvish’s injury. “Other than the Tommy John [surgery he had], he’s been a guy who takes the ball and has been really durable. I think this is a blip. I think it’s a moment in time and he’ll get back to that place where he’ll give us six, seven innings of quality baseball.”

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Baez Pulls Out The Magic in Extra Innings

 

Is there anything that Javier Baez can’t do? In the tenth inning, Baez stole second base and then took advantage of a couple of errors to run home and score. The Cubs went on to beat the San Diego Padres 5-4 and take first place in the National League Central.

“At this point, it’s really not even surprising to us, and it’s crazy to say that,” Chicago’s Anthony Rizzo said of Baez’s daredevil baserunning. “It’s fun. His instincts, his baseball instincts, are taking over the whole game and people are noticing it more than ever. That’s who he is, and he continues to keep getting better.”

I’m a huge fan of his style of playing. It’s the way the game should be played and proves that the small ball is the most exciting.

If the Cubs go on to not win the big trophy with all those awesome shiny flags, then 2018 will be best remembered as the year Javier Baez became “El Mago” and brought magic to Wrigley Field. He’s an all star this year and who knows? perhaps an MVP.

So the trade deadline is coming up and the Cubs need to add a player, who are they going to add? They need pitching. Unless Yu Darvish comes back and does something outstanding and crazy good, the Cubs are going to look for better pitching. I’m suspecting that we could see Tyler Chatwood involved in a deal.

If anything the Cubs are finding their rhythm heading into the break. Today’s game with Kyle Hendricks will be a sign of things to come. He was lights out in his last game and hopefully he’ll be able to carry the momentum going forward after the break.

“We’re in a much better position than we were last year at the same time. We’ve done better overall, in regard to our hitting approach. Our starting pitching has to ascend. There’s still things we have to work through. Of course, I’d like to be — you always want to be in first place. … [The Brewers] have been playing well and they’re tough. I like the way we’re trending. There aren’t a whole lot of tired guys out there.” Maddon said.

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Hendricks Pitches Gem Despite Loss

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You know? I think Kyle Hendricks must be filled with bad luck this season. Either he can’t get run support in some games, batters hit everything off of of him or like in last night’s 2-1 extra inning loss to the San Francisco Giants, no matter how amazing he pitches, he can’t get the win.

“It was a much better feeling out there,” Hendricks said. “The fastball command was finally there and it just opened up the rest of the game for me. Willy [catcher Willson Contreras] and I were just really on the same page, mixing pitches, keeping them off balance, and that’s the game I have to play.”

Hendricks went deep in the game, he did everything right by going nine innings. That’s what the Cubs need from him but if a team is going to lose, then that’s the way to lose in extra innings and executing everything to the way it was planned.

“That’s the outing we’ve been looking for with the hitting that we’ve been doing recently,” Joe Maddon said. “Going forward, that becomes contagious sometimes, when you’ve got a guy that pitches like that. I really believe you could see that version of Kyle most of the time for the rest of the season.”

He’s right. If Hendricks pitches that way the rest of the season, he’ll turn it around. It’s a funny game where the slightest angle will throw everything off.

“I knew what was wrong, and what I’ve been trying to work on. It was still inconsistent. It’d be one good, one bad, I couldn’t repeat it. Today, in the third inning, something just clicked and I was able to repeat one after another. So that was a really good feeling.” Hendricks said.

Congratulations to Javier Baez, Jon Lester and Willson Contreras on being voted to the All Star team. Well deserved, Baez has been having a career year while Lester is doing the things that Lester does by having 11 wins this year.

“To watch them blossom over the last couple of years, to see what Javy’s gone through from this crazy swinger to a much more controlled game of baseball, and Willson, on the other hand, he’s pretty much fought, fought, fought his way,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Now he is the best catcher in the National League. I think he’s the best catcher in baseball.”

It’s hard to argue with that. Javier Baez has been enjoying his breakout season.

“He’s probably my favorite player to watch,” Lester said of Baez. “I’ve got to play with and in front of some really good infielders in my career and I think Javy has surpassed all those guys.”

Believe it.

 

 

Chicago Cubs Turn Things Around On Reds

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The Chicago Cubs finally did it. They beat the Cincinnati Reds 8-7 in a contest that saw them down by five runs going into the fourth inning but then El Mago, Javier Baez, hit a a game tying RBI single and the “Never quit kids” launched their comeback.

“That’s what we do,” Baez said. “That’s what we do, we fight to the end. We’ve been coming back since 2016, we’ve been doing this. We just have to realize who we have in our lineup. It doesn’t matter how many runs we’re down. I think we can do a lot of damage if we turn the page to the next guy.”

I’m not sure if it’s what they do or they’re just a damn good ball club but one thing is for certain that good teams find ways to win and even though the Cubs had a tough April, and yeah, you better believe I was one of those fans that had their doubts about this club,  they’re looking like that team from a couple of years ago.

The downside to the victory occurred when Tyler Chatwood got a big Boo from the crowd, I know that delivering as many walks as he does, it’s bound to take its toll on everyone but man, it’s going to be tough for him to rebound from his shaky season.

“You never want to hear that,” Joe Maddon said. “I understand when the fans get frustrated. When you’re sitting in the dugout and know the guy as well as you do, it’s frustrating to us. He’ll tell you he probably thought he might have deserved it. Heck, I’ve gotten booed taking pitchers out of games, I’ve gotten booed walking out to take a pitcher out of a game. I think it means somebody cares.”

That’s a good way of spinning it, but Chatwood has been less than stellar this season.

So on July 17th, the MLB All Star game happens at National Park in Washington. The pomp and pageantry go along with it but is it time to make it count again? I’m glad it doesn’t count for home field anymore that was ridiculous and we all know the Cubs were robbed in 2016 but I’m a huge fan of the game and if they got away from fan voting and stuck to just picking the players on statistics alone, would that be more relevant? Or what if they just had a couple of players chosen by fans only? One thing is for certain, Javier Baez will be there.

“How could you not have him on the All-Star team? How could you not want him on the All-Star team? That’s what we’re attempting to showcase Major League Baseball-wise to draw young fans into the game are players like Javy. He has mass appeal. People want to see Javy at this game. They see him in the World Baseball Classic and he’s very popular there. I have to believe, I want to believe, he’ll get on that team somehow. You can look at numbers all you want, but that’s what people want to see, they want to see Baez play baseball.” Maddon said.

Believe It

 

Cubs Stymied By Reds

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You have to hand it to the Cubs, they can’t seem to beat the Reds or are the Reds really that good? Yesterday, the Cubs tried desperately to make it seven in a row but fell short in the 3-2 loss.

“You look at the numbers on the stat sheet and they’re pretty good up and down, and the bullpens, too,” Joe Maddon said of the division’s pitching staffs. “[The Reds’] bullpen is a lot better than it had been, Milwaukee, ourselves, etc. The pitching is good in this division. But so is the offense. It’s turned out to be a tough division.

“It’s very strong, which is good. I want that. I want us to play in what’s hopefully considered the best [division] in baseball. That should bring out the best in your players on a nightly basis.”

It does bring out the best in this tight division. It’s also been a tough Wild Card race as well. Going into the break, the Cubs will have to finish strong.

“Look where we’re at — we’re in a good spot and right there. We have what we feel like is the best baseball to be played.” Mike Montgomery said.

He’s right. Although baseball is a peculiar game. Why can’t the Cubs beat the Reds? The Reds could be playing spoiler down the road if the Cubs can’t pick it up.

The real question concerning the break is who the Cubs are going to pick up, if they’re going to get anyone to solidify an all ready potent team?

“You’re always looking to fortify and add a little bit, and you always have Plan B and Plan C in case of injury or bad performance,” Epstein said. “There’s no way we’re going to go out and acquire starters the caliber of a locked-in Kyle Hendricks or a locked-in Jose Quintana. The majority of our answers lie within, that’s for sure.”

The struggle does come from within. I’m confident Hendricks will turn the corner but what about Yu Darvish? His critics are real and perhaps he’s the one who needs to carry the rest of the team on his back?

“I just want him to be well,” Maddon said. “That’s what I talked to him about specifically. ‘It’s not about rushing. Just get back out there. Get back in your routine. Get back in your work. Then, as this plays, we’ll get you back out there. Of course, we want you back sooner rather than later, but if biology’s not going to permit it, it’s not going to permit it.'”

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El Mago Does it Again

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In any other season, and especially if it were his rookie year, Javier Baez would be the kind of guy that would give managers fits. His style of play can be counter productive once the whim of what he’s trying to accomplish takes hold. Fortunately, Baez plays for a guy like Joe Maddon who is a creative guy himself. Yesterday, in the Cubs’ 5-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers, Baez stole home again.

“It’s almost impossible to teach those things,” Maddon said. “You can suggest it or go through it in Spring Training, but guys have to be bold enough and recognize it in the moment to do those things, which he does. He’s different. As he continues to ascend offensively, that’s been the last thing. Defense, arm, baserunning, it’s all been there. Now you look at the numbers he’s throwing up there offensively, that’s what makes him an elite baseball player.”

El Mago has been electric this season and an All Star consideration as well as MVP. The Cubs are enjoying a six game winning streak but  are only one game back of Milwaukee who are in the middle of a winning streak themselves. The Brewers are giving the Cubs fits.

“I feel a lot of people want to follow me and play the way I play. The thing is, it’s being you. I go out there to have fun and do the best for my teammates and play hard. Obviously, like I say all the time, I’m not trying to show anybody up. I’m trying to do my best for the team.” Baez said.

I don’t know about you but I’m loving it. Watching Baez play has been one of the most exciting things about the Cubs this season. Some folks call it sandlot ball but I believe that’s the way the game should be played each and overtime. If a player sees their chance, take it.

“When Joe got here, that’s one of the first things he said — ‘If you feel sexy, wear it,'” Baez said. “Everybody here is like that. Everybody dresses like whatever they feel like wearing and being here, obviously being on time and playing hard is the most important thing for us.”

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Cubs Find Way To Maul Tigers

 

 

Cubs 5, Tigers 3

In the Theo Epstein years, the Cubs ‘ mantra has always been to never give up. They’ve lived by that code and continued those words in yesterday’s 5-3 win over the struggling Detroit Tigers.

“The approaches are paying off now, we’re getting some opposite-field hits,” said Jason Heyward, who collected his 13th multi-hit game in his past 30 contests. “The weather warming up, they’re getting hot. Hitting is contagious, too. You get a couple guys going there, and it translates through the whole lineup.”

The day got off to a shaky start with Kyle Hendricks‘ unusual season. He gave up another home run and his unusually “off” season continued.

“It’s very unfamiliar from the dugout, watching it out there,” Joe Maddon said.

The normally steadfast pitcher wasn’t able to go deep in yesterday’s game.

“It’s obviously frustrating,” Hendricks said. “I have to stick with what I’m doing and my cues, and hopefully it’ll click.”

Perhaps the second half of the season, Hendricks will be able to pull it together.

There’s no denying the Cubs’ confidence is at an all time high. They’re getting out of jams and coming from behind to get the wins.

“When you get to that point and you get that kind of confidence going, you don’t want to nick it,” Maddon said. “It’s the residue of our starting pitching not being what it normally is. We’re giving up more early runs from our starters that we didn’t anticipate that happening. But such a tightly knit group, they’re there to pick everyone else up.”

They’re a game back of Milwaukee in the National League Central race. Things are looking great but I hope Hendricks gets everything sorted out. I’m kinda worried. Has everyone caught on to him, it’s not like he throws heat so his arm can’t be gone. We’ll see after the All Star Break.

“Everything is believable,” Maddon said