Baez Continues His El Mago Ways

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It’s amazing to watch players blossoming into the greatness they’ve become. Remember, a few years ago Javier Baez was swinging at anything and everything that was pitched in front of him and in more cases than not, everything that was around him as well. Yesterday, the Cubs beat the Padres 5-4 and Baez continued to dazzle his way to a possible NL MVP award.

“He’s right at the top,” Anthony Rizzo said of Baez as far as MVP consideration. “His numbers are very, very good and he’s been very consistent. Offensively, defensively, the bases, he’s a complete player. I’m sure other guys around the league are having tremendous years as well, but on a first-place team with a lot of expectations, he’s carrying the load.”

As the Cubs have struggled at times this season, Baez has, like Rizzo says, been consistent all the way through. This is his breakout year. Yesterday, he connected with his 23rd home run of the season. While not exactly a home run hitter, Baez does have power but the most exciting thing about Baez’s style of play is exactly that, the excitement.

“It makes me nervous, to be honest,” Baez said about his MVP consideration. “I don’t want to play with numbers. We’ll see at the end. We’ll see in September. When we get to September, it’ll be about the playoffs. We’ll see when the numbers come up. We’ll see in the offseason what I get for this season.”

It’s always at the back of player’s minds when it comes to awards but he’s right. They should be concentrating on the season and worry about what’s to come later. El Mago’s game is all about defence and he’s the best.

“Javy’s game today was so complete,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of the infielder, who is batting .407 with 10 RBIs in his past seven games. “Bote’s game has been so complete. That’s the thing — too many times in our industry, we get hung up on offensive numbers, but we won the game on defense.”

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Cubs Steal Game From Cardinals

Cubs 5, Cardinals 2

Just like that, after a pair of losses, the Cubs magically returned to steal a win from the St. Louis Cardinals last night 5-2. The key to the victory was Kyle Hendricks striking out eight batters but going seven innings in order to do it, plus his pitch count barely creeped over a hundred.

“My mindset was better, [I was] aggressive in the strike zone,” Hendricks said. “Even in the first inning, I made a couple bad pitches. After that, mechanics settled in, I started repeating it better. It’s just bringing the two together, repeating my mechanics from the first pitch in the first inning but keeping that same mindset, being aggressive in the strike zone, getting quicker outs. I still got in some 3-2 counts but the mindset was better.”

Since his trade to the Cubs four years ago, Hendricks’ best asset has been his mind. He’s calm under pressure and able to collect them after a loss by trying to understand and study his mechanics and get back to work. This win reassures me that, perhaps he truly is back to his old self.

The other thing as well is that guys like Ben Zobrist, when he’s contributing, the Cubs are unstoppable. So last night, he had four hits, almost hitting the cycle and had a nice grab in the seventh to help Hendricks with the win. Zobrist has been one of the best “Clutch” guys in the business.

Wait.

There’s also the second half experiment of Anthony Rizzo in the leadoff spot. Three home runs since the break. Not too shabby.

“We don’t have the prototypical leadoff guy, we don’t have that speed burner to set the whole thing up so don’t try to force it,” Joe Maddon said.

The Cubs need to strike while the iron is hot and continue with the experiment as long as it works.

The Cubs are still clinging to the top spot in the National League and with Cole Hamels set to make his debut against Pittsburgh on Wednesday, the Cubs will see if the acquisition will work out.

“I do think we have enough but we need to get certain people healthy,” Maddon said. “I’m not talking about just getting to the playoffs, you want to play that last game. Among Morrow, Darvish and K.B., could you make three better acquisitions this time of year? It’s impossible. That’s the goal is to get those guys out here.”

Once the Cubs can get those guys back in the lineup, the stretch is preparing its’ way for the most exciting time of the year.

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Rizzo Walks Off In Style

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It’s no secret that the Cubs rotation has suffered this season. Fans, Stats gurus and of course, Jed Hoyer have been scratching their heads since mid April. When the Cubs are good, they’re great, but when they’re bad, well that’s for another post. Yesterday, the Cubs beat the D-Backs on Wrigley soil 7-6. but it wasn’t just a win, it was a back to back home runs by David Bote and Anthony Rizzo with the walk off that sealed it for the Cubs.

“The (comeback) formula has been working for us, that’s for sure,” Rizzo said.

The last time the Cubs had back to back home runs was way back in 2004 to end the game.

“I think the best is yet to come for our starting rotation,” Rizzo said. “I like our guys and I like our chances every single time a guy goes out.”

It has been and David Bote has been the Tommy La Stella of 2018. The Cubs acquired Cole Hamels, the World Series MVP of 2008.

“He’d be pretty good,” Maddon said. “I’ve not liked him for a long time. He’s pitched some really big games against teams that I’ve been involved with and has done really well. He’s a great competitor. He’s got good stuff, but he competes and he knows what he’s doing out there. I’d have to rank him as a pretty competent Major League left-handed pitcher.”

He’s 34 and not exactly in the prime, but the Cubs need a band aid for their struggling and ailing rotation which hasn’t quite lived up to their lofty expectations that were set out at the beginning of the season. Did they sign him because he’ll be reunited with Yu Darvish or was that the only one they could grab? I’m glad they didn’t go for Machado because they needed pitching more. His record is 5-9 with a 4.72 ERA, doesn’t sound like appealing numbers but when you look at his ERA on the road, it’s decent at 2.93

The Cubs face the Cardinals again starting tonight with Mike Montgomery on the mound. There’s no real cushion for the Cubs anymore. They have to show their dominance for the remainder of the season if they want to go deep into the playoffs.

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Anthony Rizzo Pitched And Guess What Happened Next?

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Luke Farrell found his rhythm a little too late in yesterday’s 7-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was pulled in the fourth inning.

“It was a tough start,” Maddon said of Farrell. “That’s the one thing we couldn’t have happen tonight and it happened.”

Which probably if there’s a game where the Cubs sat back and figured out the holes in their pitching, last night was their game. Let’s face it, Anthony Rizzo threw out a couple of balls from the mound.

“The game we lost to the Cardinals late was the one that stings the most. These games, you know, they’re going to happen. We move on from them pretty easily. Obviously, we don’t ever want to pitch as position players. We always joke around about it, but on a serious note, it is what it is.” Rizzo said.

Yeah, that’s definitely a sign that things weren’t working well for the Cubs. Although, it was pretty cool seeing Rizzo and Victor Caratini pitch. It’s just ironic that just over the halfway mark of the season and the Cubs found themselves in this position of well, position players tossing balls across the plate. They were supposed to have the best rotation in baseball. The bullpen is getting tired.

“That would be difficult because you’re totally going to wear out the better part of your bullpen,” Maddon responded. “That’s my concern.”

That’s all of our concern. The way I figure it, the Cubs schedule is going to be “relaxed” in August so if they can rebound against the Cardinals next after the D Backs, they should be all right.

“You get into those head-banging games in September and you don’t know how everyone (rookies) is going to react at that point,” the manager stated. “We’ve had some guys step in and perform really well, but some of them have never done it under those circumstances before. I have no idea what they’re going to react like.” Maddon said.

August is going to be key on how well the Cubs are going to perform this fall. We’ll see at the deadline.

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Cubs Hammer Carpenter and the Cardinals

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One of the flaws of the game today is the inability of most pitchers going deep into a game. On average, pitchers last around 5-5 1/2 innings. Yesterday, Jose Quintana went seven innings on the way to a 7-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

“He got better as the game progressed,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Everything kept getting sharper. It looked like there was more jump on the fastball at the end. We needed him to go more deeply in the game and he did. I saw him getting better per hitter.”

Pitchers going deep in theory, works. It doesn’t always turn out that way but on paper a pitcher should last seven innings, bring in the relief and then the closer.

In a perfect world(just not a perfect game) this is the way it should roll out. Yesterday’s match up worked out for the North Siders. It was also aided by Kyle Schwarber‘s bat.

“It shows the resilience of this team and we’re not afraid to be down and fight, scratch or claw our way back into the game,” Schwarber said. “That’s been our M.O. this season. If we’re down, we know we’re not out.

Oh c’mon Schwarbs, that’s been the Cubs M.O for a few years now. In fact I wouldn’t chalk it up to the Cubs clawing their way back, more like they just have a really good team and that’s what really good teams do.

“Wrigley was really loud [Saturday] night, the loudest I’ve heard in awhile. You’ve got the doubleheader, passionate Cubs fans, passionate Cardinals fans. It got really loud. It’s always fun playing them because the fans are so into it. You play a team five times and you’re usually sick of them after the third day, but it’s just fun playing them.” Anthony Rizzo said.

Five game series are few and far between, throw in July temperatures a rivalry and there you have it – – the makings of a great series.

With the Cubs in the top spot in the National League and third overall behind Boston and Houston, the Cubs should be in a great spot for the post season. If they can pick up some pitching for the stretch then they’ll have the pieces to move well in October.

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Carpenter Carves Up Cubs

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It could have been worse, like an 18-5 loss but thankfully the Cubs got beat last night by an easier score of 6-3. It wasn’t bad at all with the exception of Matt Carpenter who was out hunting bear in this series.

“We’re seeing this guy probably at the best moment of his life as a baseball player,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

The Cubs had the lead going into the sixth inning but it happened in the seventh when Carpenter took the cover off of the ball. That home run marked his sixth consecutive game with a home run. It’s pretty hard to beat a guy who’s in the zone like Carpenter.

It was nice to see Anthony Rizzo with four hits but in the end, it all came down to Carpenter. Although Javier Baez was yanked out of the game along with Maddon on a call that was questionable, it probably hurt the Cubs chances with Baez in the locker room.

“I didn’t think I said anything to disrespect anyone,” Baez said. “It was a pretty close call. I only asked for [Little] to check with the umpire at first. [Little] didn’t say anything. I threw my helmet and he threw me out for no reason — I guess for my helmet [toss].

“My message — we’re not animals. Sometimes we ask, ‘Where was the pitch?’ or if it was a strike. They want to come at us like we’re offending them. I think we can talk the things out. If you disrespect somebody, then you get ejected. I don’t think there was anything there to get ejected.”

I kinda disagree with Baez on this one. Yeah, it was a close call but when it all comes down to the umpire’s job, it should be the umpire making the decision, not the player. My reasoning is simple; If the player’s are allowed to make game decisions, then it overrides any judgement calls by the umpires. What would be the point of having an umpire in the first place, right? All they would have to do is check the replay on every pitch. That would suck.

“I told [Little] to kick me out because I was not going to leave under those circumstances,” Maddon said. “As an umpire, you have all the right to kick a guy out if he’s belligerent, obnoxious, profane, and Javy was none of that.”

Rightfully so. Maddon’s got to stick up for his players at all times whether it’s right or wrong. However, I will maintain this position forever, the beauty and magic of the game will always be on the final call by the umpire. Players will go down in history and all the way to the hall of fame based on whether there should have been a certain call on a particular call.

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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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