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.

Believe it.

Hendricks Beat By High Pitch Count

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The Cubs need their pitchers to go deep into games. It’s not a suggestion, it’s a must. Last night, Kyle Hendricks was ousted in the fifth even after he posted eight strikeouts. It wasn’t a bad outing by the Professor but his pitch count was way too high over a hundred and it wasn’t enough as the Cubs got beat by the Diamondbacks 5-1

“We’re talking about it with the whole staff in here — everybody, even the guys working behind the scenes — and trying to figure out if we’re falling into tendencies, patterns and what to do to get bad contact,” Hendricks said. “We have to do better in the 1-1 count. Just getting outs on three pitches — that has to be the focus. It’s frustrating and a slower process than we hoped.”

Times running out. I think one of the problems for Hendricks is batters are more patient with his style of throwing. He doesn’t have many pitches to choose from and perhaps during the off season, he might pick up a new pitch.

“I thought my stuff was good today, but it was the same story — I have to put guys away quicker, get quicker outs,” Hendricks said. “It’s a little frustrating. I felt I made one bad pitch, the 0-2 to Jon Jay was terrible. Otherwise, it was pretty good pitches they got some hits on. My stuff is there. My sinker feels good. I have to stick to what I’m doing.”

I thought for sure the Cubs would be able to gather momentum after the break, but it hasn’t been the case.

Although Kris Bryant is out with a sore shoulder, he hasn’t had the best season either and    that hasn’t helped the team either.

“He’s sore,” Maddon said. “I have to be proactive with that. I want to make sure that we’re not pushing him too hard right now.”

So the Cubs have a few spots where they’re inconsistent and perhaps they’re going to make something of it at the deadline but as of July 25th, they’re not quite ready for the post season. Don’t get me wrong, most pieces are there but pitching needs to rebound or they won’t get far.

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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 Remember The Greatest

 

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Even when the pitching staff gets the job done, they also get it done at the plate as well. Jason Hammel proved that in the Chicago Cubs 5-3 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks yesterday. He had a two run single in the fourth inning.

Is there anything that the Cubs can’t do?

“I don’t want to be an out at the plate,” Hammel said. “Just going up there, I try to rule things out. Not that I can think like a hitter, but I try to. First-pitch slider, you don’t want to go 2-0 as a pitcher, so I figured he’s coming heater.”

It’s always a good sign when Dexter Fowler hits a leadoff home run buying into Joe Maddon’s “You go, we go” mantra to Fowler.

An exciting thing to consider is that Anthony Rizzo has finally gotten his groove back. He’s 6 for 16 this month and 2 for 4 yesterday.

Welcome back Anthony!

Yesterday was a sad day for boxing fans  when we woke up to read the news that the “Champ” Muhammad Ali passed away at the age of 74.

“Really, it’s a segment of our history that I don’t think will ever be repeated,” Manager Joe Maddon said. “I don’t think there’s ever going to be that group of boxers that come back and provide that kind of entertainment and interest, that kind of charisma and everything else that he had going on. It was a very unique time. I was very fortunate to have experienced it.”

Today, Jake Arrieta and the rest of the Cubs will try for the sweep. Game time is 2:20 Eastern.

Believe it.

 

 

Cubs Won’t Break Curse If They Sign Chapman

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The Cubs are off to their second best start in team history after a 6-0 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. It also seems that Wrigley Field is becoming more of the place where good things happen for the Cubs. Their record at home is a fantastic 21-7.

What’s impressing me so much this year is the pitching of John Lackey. At first I wasn’t sure if he’d fit into the rotation being an older pitcher but man, what a job he’s been doing. Yesterday was no exception. He pitched shutout baseball for 6 2/3 innings.

“I take a lot of pride in being somebody you can count on, somebody who takes the ball and somebody who goes deep into games and somebody who you know what you’re going to get.” Lackey said.

We all know that the Chicago Cubs have been marred by a history of curses,

Black Cats

Chicago Cubs

and just plain old WTF’s but this season is different. There’s a hint of respectability and a transition from the “Lovable Losers” to potential World Series Champions. Having the worst drought in professional sports history is a huge albatross to hang around the neck so without possibly hurting the cause, I’m going to that place where few Cubs fans fear to go;

Are the 2016 Chicago Cubs the best team in history?

  • They are on pace to win 111 games.
  • They are leading in All Star Voting
  • They have a Cy Young winner in Jake Arrieta
  • 2015 NL Manager of The Year in Joe Maddon
  • 2015 NL Rookie of The Year in Kris Bryant

The odds of winning the World Series are in their favour. So, I’m not jinxing anything here by posing this next question.

Should the Cubs sign Aroldis Chapman at the deadline? There’s a rumour about it.

Listen, I’m not a big fan of guys like Chapman who do bad things.  The integrity of the game lies in the fact that players come to the games and compete well and off the field are great human beings. There’s no denying that Chapman has pedigree being the hardest hurler in the majors. I don’t think there’s a place for him in the clubhouse, just my gut talking but there might be some bad mojo happening should the Cubs pursue him.

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Cubs’ Hendricks Gives Homework To Diamondbacks

Kyle Hendricks

You can disagree with me if you want, but last night’s 4-2 Chicago Cubs victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks was all about precision pitching in the form of Kyle “The Professor” Hendricks. He’s not the most flamboyant, yeah, that’s the word I’ve been looking for, but he gets the job done by dismantling the strike zone and unassumingly lobbing the ball over the plate. Last night, he pitched 6 2/3 innings and quietly stole the thunder from Zack Greinke in front of the home crowd in the desert. Hell, Hendricks even got a hit!

“I heard a lot of comments on the bench that a lot of guys were really having a hard time picking his ball up, whether it was a breaking ball or the sinker,” Arizona manager Chip Hale said. “[There was] just a funny spin to it. Sometimes it happens. You just run into a pitcher that doesn’t look that overwhelming when you look on video, doesn’t look that overwhelming from the stands, but he’s hiding the ball and just spotted it. In, out, down. He did a great job. You’ve got to give him credit.”

But it just wasn’t Hendricks getting it done, Ben Zobrist got three hits for the Cubs and Sophomore Kris Bryant garnered two doubles.

It all goes back to the pitching. When the pitcher’s on his game, so is the rest of the team. If Hendricks can fill the back end of the rotation and keep executing his pitches the way he’s done in spring and yesterday’s game, then the Cubs are in great shape for the year.

“I don’t think there’s anything we can’t do, honestly,” Hendricks said. “We’ve got all the pieces here — we lost Kyle Schwarber, which is big for us, but at the same time we have plenty of other guys who can step in and fill in. Our staff did a good job first time through and now it’s just keep going from here.”

Not to say that he won’t have any bumps in the road but after his matchup against Greinke, the cream of the crop in the National League, Hendricks’s confidence will build just in time for the post season.

Today, Jake Arrieta takes to the mound  before tomorrow’s home opener against the Cincinnati Reds when Jon Lester plans to wow the Wrigley Field faithful.

It’ll be great to see the brown twigs on the wall in the outfield, get the BBQ fired up and truly christen the start of the 2016 Chicago Cubs season.

Believe it.

 

Cubs Lose First One of Season

Jason Hammel

Kyle Schwarber’s season is done after tearing his ACL and LCL. The unfortunate incident occurred during Thursday night’s 14-6 victory over the Diamondbacks while Schwarber and Dexter Fowler were competing for a ball. Schwarber took the brunt of the hit and wasn’t able to walk off the field under his own terms.

I thought we were really well-positioned to win in large part because of Kyle’s presence on the team,” Epstein said, “and now we’re really well-positioned to win for Kyle. I think that’s how his teammates are responding and will respond going forward.”

We all know there’s a lot of depth on the Cubs team and Menenori Kawasaki  is expected to fill those rather large shoes.

“It’s tough,” Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said of losing Schwarber. “You see Kyle work so hard this spring and come into camp in shape and prepared to catch and play the outfield and do anything, anything he was asked to do. He did it all and he was ready to break out and be a bigger star in the game.”

Although the Cubs lost to the Diamondbacks 3-2, it was a good loss and shows that after starting the first three games of the season with a combined score of 29 runs, the team truly is living up to the powerhouse they’re predicted to become.

If there were any doubts I had about Jason Hammel, they were quickly squashed in his 2016 debut allowing one run over six innings of work. He’s another guy who is going to miss Schwarber.

“We worked together all spring and it was great,” Hammel said. “I feel terrible for him. It’s such a tough break. I was feeling pretty lucky last night when they said sprained ankle. When you go back and look at the replays, his knee was in a pretty bad place. Hopefully he’ll have a quick recovery and we’ll welcome him back. Hopefully he’ll be sticking around and hanging around with us as he goes through the long process of rehab. It’s a tough loss.”

Tonight, Kyle Hendricks will make his season debut. The often overlooked player had a terrific spring allowing him to make the rotation. I’m expecting “The Professor” to have a rebound year. He’s going up against Zack Greinke and although it’s not going to be the easiest of starts, I have faith in him.

“There’s a lot of headlines on our team. I’m pretty far down there,” Hendricks said. “That’s fine with me. I like it that way. I like focusing on myself, and if there’s not much going on, not much hype, that’s fine. I’m just going out there trying to do my thing and win some ballgames.”

All right, here’s my prediction with Kyle. He’s going to win 12 this year and his ERA will be trimmed to the low three’s. I have him in my fantasy pool and picked him last year. You’re going to see him come out of the shadows. Expect big things this season.

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