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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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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Almora Comes of Age In Win Over Mets

Cubs 7, Mets 1 (14 inn.)

Yesterday was a marathon of a game but Luke Farrell pitched 4 shutout innings to help spark the Cubs 7-1win in extra innings over the New York Mets. It wasn’t just Farrell but also Albert Almora, the Cubs unsung hero who broke the tie to fuel the runs.

Yup, the Cubs found a way to win, albeit, it was against the Mets but a win is a win.

“I’m a lot chippier and happier right now because we won,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Had we not won that game with all those opportunities, it would have been difficult … We just have to move the ball. We started chasing again tonight.”

Those opportunities transitioned into 24 strikeouts, a season high but they won. Those strikeouts came against the Mets but if the Cubs, and I sound like a broken record, do that against the Nationals, they won’t stand a chance. They were lucky as much as confident that they could break out against the Mets. Yesterday was a great win. Jacob de Grom was aces for the Mets.

“He was unbelievable. It’s been a while since I’ve faced a pitcher like that. Everything was moving away from my barrel. His fastball had some late life, his slider was sharp, and he threw me one of the nastiest changeups I’ve ever seen. We didn’t have very much success against him. Some guys had really good at-bats. I wasn’t one of them. Tip your hat to the guy.” Alma said.

The Cubs have won three in a row and sit in the Wild Card spot. They’re hanging in but need to still put together a solid streak. The other key to the Cubs success is the dominance of Kris Bryant who’s been somewhat struggling of late. Last night, he struck out four times. That has to change. The former NL MVP and Rookie of the year has to show his dominance once again.

Here’s some food for thought; Does Albert Almora deserve an All Star nod? According to Cubbie’s Crib he does. I think so too. His defence has been nothing short of brilliant coupled with his At Bats, he’s providing some much needed depth to the Cubs order.

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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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Cubs Sweep Fish Under The Rug

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All right, all right, all right perhaps the Cubs are on a bit of a win streak. Yesterday’s 13-4 victory over the Fish wasn’t as much an offensive prowess as the box score shows. Yeah, Kris Bryant became the fastest Cub to reach 100 home runs and Anthony Rizzo is back in fine form but it’s the Marlins and they swept them.

“Tough to put into words,” Kris Bryant said of reaching the milestone. “It’s obviously pretty cool. … It feels really good. Any time you accomplish something — I don’t even know how many people have done it before — I just feel really dang happy I got there.”

But—

It’s the Marlins. The Cubs need to beat Washington, Pittsburgh and St. Louis if they want to be relevant in October. I’m happy and a little thankful that the tandem of Bryzzo has been hitting the ball well in the series but can they continue their hitting? They’ve got a weekend set against the White Sox which should be easy and then later in the month they’ll play Pittsburgh.

“We had a great day. We had a lot of fun out there,” said Albert Almora, one of four Cubs players who finished with three hits. “Hitting is contagious, and once guys start rolling, you see hits falling. It might not be pretty, but they fall.”

Maybe it is contagious?

There’s no question that the Cubs are one of the most talented teams in baseball. They haven’t played that way in April and May has continued that uneven play. If there’s any consolation in the Marlins sweep, it’s that the Cubs might find that contagiousness spread and carry it to the weekend series.

“Our fans are riding the roller coaster with us. The highs seem to be much more exaggerated and the lows, the same thing. But just as baseball players, we’re always taught to level those things out as much as possible.” Bryant said.

Fans have a lot invested in the team. At one time, it was great if they could put a sweep together but in the last few years, fans have come to expect the team to be outstanding. Maybe it’s a good thing that fans are getting harder on the Cubs? Or maybe we’ve expected too much from the North Siders and this is the season that reality sets in?

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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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Cubs Are Still # 1 in My Books

Cubs Cardinals Baseball

I’m not a huge fan of champagne celebrations after every plateau reached in sports, I’d rather see them save it for the big ones like series wins and of course, the big victory. So, last night’s loss to the Cardinals 8-7 was bittersweet. It was a hell of a game with the Cubs’ now trademark comebacks even though they came up short on this one, it still feels good knowing that the post season starts next week and the Cubs clinching will go down to the wire.

“Let’s just play tomorrow, let’s not overreact to anything,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “I love the comeback, I love the energy. [Jake Arrieta] just had a tough night.”

That’s about all you can do. Jason Heyward ad a three run shot and then almost immediately, Ben Zobrist cranked one over the wall to bring the Cubs within a run of tying up the game, but that’s about as close as the Cubs would get.

There were a couple of moments that Cubs fans cringed over when Albert Almora crashed into the outfield wall, team staff rushed over but so far so good and there’s nothing seriously hurt with the outfielder.

“That’s a scary thing,” Jason Heyward said. “The wall is undefeated. That’s one of the things we always have to worry about. What I love about [Almora] is that he’s so fearless when it comes to that. It looked like he tripped into it going after the ball hard.”

Yeah, it looked really terrible.

“I tried to cut [the ball] off before it hit the wall and when I went to slide, I noticed I wasn’t going to get to it and when I looked up the wall was right on me,” Almora said. “There was no slowing down. Luckily, nothing’s broken, nothing’s damaged. All good.”

The other thing that happened was a ball went off of Willson Contreras‘ knee causing him to hobble around for a moment or two but nothing serious.

The writing on the wall last night occurred when the Cubs failed to capitalize on a couple bases loaded situations.

“These guys are going to make it as tough as possible on us, as we expect. We have to do our best to take care of business tomorrow, and then we’ll see what happens.” Arrieta said.

So, the Cubs magic number remains at 1. Leave it to the St. Louis Cardinals to frustrate the World Series Champions. This season, the Cubs haven’t made it easy on themselves or their fans. A frustrating first half, a comeback second half and an exhausting race to the finish line. What do the Cubs have in line for October?

Believe it.