Cubs See Saw For First In NL Central

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It’s amazing how a day can change the course of the game. Last night, the Cubs fell to the Brewers 4-0 and it just seemed nothing went their way. For example, a hit that would have cleared Eric Thames’ glove, ended up being a leaping grab. Kris Bryant went 0 for 4 and let me be the one to tell you that when he ain’t hitting, the team’s not doing much. Wait a minute, I said that about Anthony Rizzo, didn’t I?

“It’s all about being patient, and that’s who I am,” Bryant said. “The last three, four games haven’t been great, but I think there’s a lot of people who would want to be in my shoes. Sometimes it’s all about perspective. My expectations are really high, and that’s the greatest and worst thing in the world. That’s how I look at it.”

Sometimes I think he’s been hanging around Joe Maddon too much.

It’s no secret that Bryant hasn’t been himself lately. Maddon’s been trying to mix things up by sticking him at leadoff but most importantly, just being patient with the Cubs’ third baseman.

“He hit that ball good to left field, but overall he’s been off his game,” Maddon said. “I am certain he’s going to be fine. There are some really good hitters who have gone through a little bit of a funk. It happens. You stay with the guy, and you know he’s good and he’ll come out of it. In the meantime, you make sure he’s OK because he’s going to beat himself up a little bit.”

It’s hard not to stay with the former ROY and MVP NL/ WSC, I was on a roll with the acronyms, but it’s true. He’ll get out of it and right back on track. Last night, it was all Brewers and they regained their top position, proving that this rivalry ain’t going nowhere.

“We just could not mount an attack,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Anderson has been difficult against us in the past and he was again tonight. There was not a whole lot going on. Two doubles beat us.”

Today’s game should be a wild affair with both teams battling for top dog and then it’s a day off for the Cubs. Will Bryant end his slump, will Rizzo continue his Rizzoing ways, or will the Cubs beat the Brewers, end up in first before heading out to St. Louis for the weekend? Tune in my friends.

“This is where you learn the most about yourself and what drives you and what are you going to do. I still have those feelings in my gut before the game and I know they’re there. I want to go out there and do well, and the day those aren’t there, I shouldn’t be playing. I come to the field excited every day that I can do something that nobody has ever done before, and that’s what keeps me going.” Bryant said

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Cubs Dominate In Extra Innings. First Place In National League

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The Cubs beat the Brewers 7-2 but not only did they beat Milwaukee, they captured first place in the NL Central division and first place in the National League. I’ve got to admit that I was a naysayer in April. “They were supposed to have the best rotation in baseball” and “They’re predicted to go all the way” but then April happened and the Cubs were losing fast. Last night was a hard fought win anchored by Anthony Rizzo in extra innings with a home run blasted in pretty much the same spot where another was considered a foul ball not a couple of innings before.

“It’s fun playing here,” Rizzo said. “They’re a good team. The fans are into it. They’re engaged. You’ve got the Cubs fans and Brewers fans going at it the whole game. These are tough games. We know they’re tough games. Which way is the ball going to fall? And for us, it’s fallen our way.”

These two teams have created in recent years one of the most dynamic rivalries in sports. It matters that they’re practically up the road from each other and most of the fans are Cubs fans in attendance. Much to the chagrin of Brewers fans, you can hear so much Cubs fans cheering in the stands.

So, let’s talk about Jason Heyward. He’s been on some kind of roll lately coming through in clutch situations and hitting really well off left handed pitchers.

“I just feel like I’m able to make adjustments on the fly and keep it simple and know I don’t have to think too much. I know what I’m trying to use, just trying to use my hands. After that, you’re able to focus on who you’re facing on the mound and that’s the thing at the end of the day. Good guy or good stuff or not, you’ve got to try to hit strikes and keep it simple.” Heyward said.

He’s batting .323 in his last seven outings. In fact he’s almost hit his total of triples from last year.

“He’s swinging the bat really well,” Maddon said. “His setup is entirely different, and with that, he’s making a better pass at the baseball, and that’s it. There’s nothing new or different from him. He’s just setting up better. You see how the ball is coming off the bat. It’s snapping and there’s no push in his swing. That’s the difference.”

The Cubs are on pace to put four in the All Star game. Anthony Rizzo, Willson Contreras, Kris Bryant and Javier Baez are all leaders in the balloting. I have to say I’m not a huge fan of the voting system. It should all be done by merit only but it is what it is I guess.

The Cubs need to sweep the Brewers if they want to solidify their dominance. They’ve been playing extremely well and perhaps they needed the early season failures in order to reach this point in the season. #EverybodyIn

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Something Happ-ened in Chicago

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Um, Ian Happ was incredible in yesterday’s 3-1 win over the Pirates and Kris Bryant was next to awesome in the leadoff. Bryant has been in a little bit of a slump lately and Joe Maddon being Joe Maddon decided to mix things up and try the other half of the Bryzzo team in the leadoff position. It was Bryant’s first time in the spot and it worked. He went 3 for 4 and of course, the Cubs won.

“My expectations of myself are high and I get frustrated with myself easily, because I expect a lot of myself and my teammates expect a lot of me and I want to give it all I’ve got,” Bryant said. “Sometimes, when you don’t feel right in terms of mechanics and stuff like that, it’s frustrating. That’s kind of where I’ve been at. I think there are a lot of people who would love to trade what I’m doing this year, and that’s my perspective now.”

Another guy in a slump is Ian Happ but yesterday his glove was on display catching three amazing grabs out in the field.

“I was kind of fueled by being told I couldn’t play a bunch of defensive spots and being labeled as a hitter only and a minus defender,” Happ said. “Being able to make the plays and help the guys is all that matters.

In the end that’s all that matters. The Cubs are still a half game back of Milwaukee and slowly catching their second wind in the standings.

So, we know that Anthony Rizzo has had a slow start this season but lately he’s been on a tear and appropriately, a few years ago Joe Maddon stated that “When Dexter Fowler goes, we go” Now that Fowler is no longer a Chicago Cub, Anthony Rizzo, their fearless clubhouse leader has graciously stepped up into that role on the team. In an article by Cubbie’s Crib, they talk about that phenomenon with the Cubs that they’re winning when Rizzo is hitting. It’s true, moments before Jason Heyward hit his grand slam the other day, Rizzo predicted it would happen.

The Cubs are playing great ball at the right time. It was after the All Star game last year when they put on the jets to turn the season around but doing it this time gives them a great cushion. There’s no doubt the Cubs are going places but the key to a successful run now is Yu Darvish. Or do they really need him?

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Rizzo Breaks Record in Cubs Win

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This could be a scary thing when Anthony Rizzo starts swinging the bat. Yesterday, Rizzo swatted his tenth homer of the season on route to a 4-3 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.

“We come in, we battle. [Wednesday] was a special moment at Wrigley for the whole team and all of Chicago. We’re going in the right direction. We just have to keep playing baseball.” Rizzo said.

In fact it was his 175th home run, beating The Hawk Andre Dawson’s record on the Cubs list.

“They’ve been trying to pitch him a certain way and he’s getting to it,” Maddon said. “He’s really smart. He hits balls [to right], but normally his home runs to me are gap to gap. He’s just getting his hands through on the barrel to the ball really well. … He’s been trending pretty good over the last month and a half.”

So, as the Cubs are steamrolling their way up the National League Central standings they’re 1/2 game back of the Brewers and Rizzo is connecting at the right time. If they could take the Central before the All Star break, things will be all right. If they can get Tyler Chatwood working, then things will be aces.

“His stuff was a little more crisp, a little more sharp execution-wise,” said catcher Chris Gimenez, who has caught Chatwood in back-to-back starts. “He did a good job battling. He’s so worried about trying to execute to the most perfect intent as opposed to really pound the zone. That’s what we’ve been trying to get in his head a little more. Throw the ball on the white and you can expand off it.”

Today’s game is a big one against Pittsburgh. The Cubs need to win and get some leverage heading into Monday’s all too important series against the Brewers. The Cubs are in a good position with the momentum, there’s still room for improvement because all of their wins have come against mediocre teams. They have to put on the burners and get a groove going and I can see it happening. If they can also get their pitching in sync with their hitters, they can win it all.

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Cubs’ Rizzo Adds Insult To Injury

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Rivalries aren’t like they used to be. Now that I sound ancient, listen to me, it’s true. The old Yankees/ Red Sox showdowns were, and still but not to the same extent, heated exchanges that brought some of the best and the worst in players. Today is different. There are much more teams and sometimes, even though the Pirates/Cubs have been playing each other for years, the rivalry is based on one particular incident.

Anthony Rizzo. The slide felt around Pittsburgh. Yesterday, MLB ruled he blocked the catcher from making the throw. Last night, North Side’s famed first baseman was booed at PNC every time he stepped to the plate. The Cubs came from behind to win 8-6. To add insult to injury, Rizzo punched a ball deep and a fan caught but not before it was ruled a home run.

“They tried,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of the Pirates’ fans. “When you create rules like this and a player just plays hard and well, a fan base is going to get the wrong impression. Most people will tell you what they’ve heard and not what they think. That’s always my concern. The moment it happened, it was one of my biggest concerns last night was that ‘Riz’ would be looked at in an unfavorable way.”

It sure did look like the fan was leaning over the rails just a bit to make the grab and Rizzo got away with another one. My favourite part of the game is the debates. Despite replays and reviews, baseball will always be a debatable game. Did he make the grab? Was his foot on or off the bag? It’s an honourable game and sometimes things happen, last night the Cubs were lucky.

Rizzo and the Cubs are on a good streak and dare I say, playing some good ball.

“You feel more relaxed,” Rizzo said about being on a good streak. “That’s the biggest key of anyone is being more relaxed. The preparation is pretty much the same, same drills beforehand, same video work. Balls are falling in. I’m probably gripping the bat a little less tighter than I was a couple weeks ago.”

But we’re Cubs fans—Shhh

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Cubs Let Everything Slide With Win Over Pirates

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On a day where people paid tribute to the brave heroes who have served and continue to serve, it’s fitting that Mike Montgomery had the opportunity to step onto the pitcher’s mound and deliver the Cubs to a 7-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“I was just trying to make good pitches throughout and keep my mindset on giving this team as much innings as we could get,” Montgomery said. “Obviously, [Sunday] night and with the travel, the bullpen needed as much help as they could get, and I knew that. I was doing it for those guys.”

I’m glad it was Montgomery with the shutout. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy. In the wake of Yu Darvish‘s injury, it’s guys like Montgomery that should come through with the big stuff.

Speaking of big stuff, Anthony Rizzo got into a little bit of controversy after Rizzo slid home and swept the catcher Elias Diaz‘s leg forcing an errant throw to second, thus stopping a potential double play.

Was it wrong? Should Rizzo have not swept the leg? I’m biased on this one folks, Rizzo was doing what players do and that’s helping their teammates, nothing more. He wasn’t trying to hurt Diaz. A little friendly competition but what if he did hurt Diaz? Then it would have been a little different debate.

“You just say, ‘Man, are you all right? I’m not trying to hurt you there,'” Rizzo said of his conversation. “I think there’s a clear sense when someone is doing something with intent and trying to hurt someone [versus] just playing hard. I’m going to take the side of playing hard. That’s what I pride myself in.”

Of course we don’t know what Diaz’s response to that was, now do we?

“It’s the perfect play by Rizzo,” Maddon said. “My concern is they’re teaching fans the wrong thing. The fans’ reaction to ‘Riz’ the next time up indicates they think he did something wrong and that’s what’s so wrong about all of that. The player did not do anything wrong but because of new rules, it makes him wear the black hat for the moment. That’s how you should teach your kids to slide to break up the double play at home plate.”

The Cubs have won two in a row and now have the momentum heading into the final game of the series.

Do you think it was a bad slide?

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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.

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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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