Cubs Get It Done Again In 10 Innings

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The Chicago Cubs magic number is 5 after another thrilling extra innings victory over their division rivals Milwaukee Brewers 5-4.  This will be the second year in a row if the Cubs can hang on to crown the division.

It came down to Tommy La Stella‘s drawn up walk in the tenth inning and let me tell you,  just speaking on Milwaukee’s behalf, there’s no worse way to lose a game then an extra inning walk.

“He has not played in a bit and he goes out there, not too eager,” Maddon said. “Slowed everything down. Accepted his walk. Young players today, many are not willing to accept their walk.”

Just having those empathetic feelings for the Brewers.

It wasn’t just La Stella’s play but the bullpen, normally an iffy spot for the Cubs, pulled it together when Carl Edwards Jr. pitched in the extra innings. The big thing that was impressive about his appearance was the coolness on display. The Cubs might have to call upon him soon in the post season and these last games of the year are the warm up to that post season magic.

“That’s what we have to do,” Edwards said. “In order for us to all get what we want to get and do what we want to do in life, everybody has to step up, and the good thing is everybody is stepping up so we can go to anybody in the bullpen at any time to get us out of a big inning or just stop the bleeding.”

Today is another important game because Kyle Hendricks is pitching and he’s coming off of his longest outing and looks to continue that success into the post season. He’s in his groove and the Cubs have quickly forgotten that dreaded first half of the season.

“It’s always different, every team is different and you find a new way,” Ben Zobrist said. “You have to find a new way to win and a new way to make it interesting. There’s a lot of the same characters as last year [on the Cubs], but with new characters, it changes the mix a little bit. It’s the same intensity and want to win as those other teams but in a different way.”

It’s true that the Cubs have to win in a different way. If last season was all about not quitting, then this season is about honing what they’ve learned in that post season and fine tuning their skills so they can come back in those extra innings. Are they a better team than they were last year? It’s difficult to say because they’re a different team.

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Cubs Dominate Pirates

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The Cubs are coming alive at the right time of the season. It may seem like a broken record to say that and perhaps it’s true, but after last night’s win over the Pirates 4-1 at Wrigley Field. Jake Arrieta did a workman like approach to the game, not his greatest but  not his worst.

“There was a little bit of frustration in the first half with the way things were going. I might have focused on the results a little too much rather than just focusing on trying to execute and refine my repertoire. Now, where I’m at, I feel confident that even if I don’t have my good stuff and if I’m without two pitches, the two pitches I do have are more than enough to get the job done.” Arrieta said.

Of course there was a little frustration with the first half of the season. All around the Cubs weren’t getting the job done. In fact, the National League Central is the weakest in the National League. A division which last year was a powerhouse, has fallen on hard times with its uneven play this season.

Things have changed in the second half of the season, although much of that success is attributed to a weaker schedule, the Cubs find themselves 11 games over .500 and a possible berth in the playoffs.

Guys like Ben Zobrist and Alex Avila are coming through when it counts.

“It felt great,” Zobrist said of his homer, No. 10 for the season and his first at Wrigley Field since June 11. “I’ve been driving the ball more the last week or so. It wasn’t cheap either — drive the ball to the middle part of the field and hope that something good happens. Everything felt really good on that.

Don’t forget that home run on Saturday coming off the bench.

I’ve maintained it all along, it’s the guys at the bottom of the rotation that’ll get the work done for a team. The Cubs may not achieve 100 wins this year but if they play their cards right, it’s not unthinkable to reach in the high 80’s.

Would it be a failure?

Naw, last season surprised the experts but every team has crafted their playbook around the Cubs and are prepared. If the Cubs advance to the post season, and there’s no reason they won’t unless they have an epic Red Sox collapse    .

The Cubs will have to maintain their  poise throughout September and into the playoffs.

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Cubs Roar Back To Defeat Reds

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The Cubs are on a streak. Yes, they’re having a four game winning streak after their 13-9 take down of the Cincinnati Reds but their post all star break record is 23-12. Not too bad especially being their mantra has been to find ways to win. It’s especially convincing.

Even after Ben Zobrist was late to the party and having to rent a car to get to Cincinnati but when Zobrist showed up, man, he showed up.

“I should have been here a lot earlier,” Zobrist said, managing a half-smile after the game. “I was told I make enough money and should have booked a [private jet], which is probably true, but I guess I’m cheap. I learned my lesson.”

In fact, it was such an unusual game that Anthony Rizzo played third after Kris Bryant injured his wrist after an errant pitch.

“He’ll put that on his Twitter bio: Third baseman,”Kris Bryant said.

The Cubs are back to playing Cubs baseball, loose, fun and precise. This is the time of year when teams that don’t stand a chance in the standings, their home park is an empty mess. It’s so empty that like last night in Cincinnati, you could hear the ball echoing off of the seats after each home run.

No, the Cubs are in great shape heading into the final push for the playoffs. After the Reds, it’s the Phillies with a season ending playing their division rivals who will be very difficult to overcome. The National League Central has been such a tight race this year that a Cubs spot in the playoffs might not seem solidified.

In reality, the Cubs are pacing for an 87 win season. We all know that predictions and stats don’t necessarily mean a thing when it comes to the sport. Anything can happen and the Los Angeles Dodgers, despite owning a record of 89-35, can still collapse in the post season. It’d be nice to have the Cubs dominate again this year, but that’s not reality. Guys like Zobrist are just hitting their stride at the right time.

“I keep telling him, ‘I wanted to keep you rested for this time of the year. This is your time coming up, September/October,'” Maddon said. “This is his time of the year. He’s trending properly right now. Even if he’s not hitting, he’ll accept his walk for the next hitter. Putting him in the middle, he’s surrounded by guys that will drive him in.”

He’s the reigning World Series MVP and that has to count for something, right?

“I think the best of my season is ahead of me,” he said. “I have been feeling a lot better, so I’ve been doing a lot more work in the cage and stuff that I hope starts showing up on the field a little more. It’s been coming.”

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Cubs Wake Up From Hibernation

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There’s no denying it, the Cubs needed the rest going into the All Star break. They had to restart their batteries, regroup and do whatever they had to do to propel themselves into the second half. Last night’s 9-8 offensive output over the Baltimore Orioles was a welcomed relief and a much better indicator of what the team can do but it was also a sign of what they lack.

“It would’ve been very difficult to lose that game, I will not deny that, but we didn’t; we won it,” Maddon said. “You take a break, you play catch a little bit, and they’ve been throwing a lot in the first half. It’s one of those catch-22 moments. We got through it.”

It’s been a busy week for the Chicago Cubs. Some of it not so good when it came to the All Star game. Not only was Joe Maddon on the losing side but Wade Davis ended up giving up the winning run. If anyone was keeping score, Davis not only was the only representative of the Cubs but he wasn’t even on the 2016 World Series winning team! After the All Star game, I joked to my wife about the Cubs curse continuing almost like Sianis was calling down from the skies,”All right that last curse didn’t count so here’s another one!”

Then the Cubs made a huge trade in acquiring Jose Quintana from their crosstown rivals the White Sox, the Cubs gave up some minor leaguers. Quintana is expected to be in the lineup tomorrow and folks, I don’t know yet whether I’m excited about this or not?

“It’s over and that’s good,” Quintana said of the trade rumors. “It’s a fresh start. I just want to do my job and make the playoffs. I’ve never been to the playoffs and I have a good chance here.”

It’s a chance for both teams to make a fresh start. Last night’s five home run attack was the start of something special. In fact, what made it so special was the guys who hit them. Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist, Addison Russell and Willson Contreras. With the exception of Contreras, the other guys have been either injured or having a less than stellar season. I’m confident that Addison Russell has replaced Dexter Fowler in the, “You go, we go” department. He’s the kid the Cubs need to bolster the offence.

“The first half is a wash for me,” Schwarber said. “It’s just [a matter of] going out there and getting back to competing and focusing on my at-bat and focusing on the team at-bat and focusing on the team, period. We started off on the right foot — this is a big one for us, right there. We faced a little adversity and we were able to come through and it’s a great feeling.”

Like last season’s game against the Pirates going into the break, this one’s going to be the turning point of the season.

Now, if they can just tweak that ability to hold a lead, we’ll all be fine.

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Cubs Are Lovable Losers Again

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The tale of the Cubs this season has been very different depending on what team shows up. In yesterday’s 5-4 win over the Washington Nationals, the Cubs used the ninth inning to stage a comeback.

“A win’s a win — it doesn’t matter how it looks, how we get there,” Chicago starter Jon Lester said. “We’ll take two of four from a really good team. Hopefully, this can build a little momentum for us.”

The funny part about momentum building victories is that it doesn’t always happen. Yes, they took two of four from a really good team but in the wake of Miguel Montero‘s DFA, the Cubs have probably revealed the cracks in the organization. Nobody ever accused Montero of not speaking his mind. This time however, it cost him his gig with the Cubs.

“I reminded [Montero] of the standard we try to hold our players to when it comes to being supportive of one’s teammates and being accountable for one’s play and for being a good teammate,” Theo Epstein said Wednesday. “I reminded Miggy that we expect when something goes wrong on the field, we expect our players to take the blame and step up and proactively assume the blame, even if it’s not their fault.”

This season has suddenly felt like a “Do Over” because of all the injuries to key players like Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward and now Kris Bryant. Last season at this time, the Cubs were running away with the title but this year is different. The Cubs are six games out of a Wild Card spot and truthfully, all negativity aside, the Cubs won’t stand a chance of even getting the Wild Card position if they continue to split series against teams like Miami and the Nationals.

Why?

Those two teams are on opposite sides. If the Cubs can’t really beat the best and can’t really beat the worst baseball has to offer, then what does that say about the Cubs? It says it’s a team that is struggling.

“I don’t think we’ve established our identity yet. I don’t think we’ve found our edge yet that we’ll need to play with to win games,” Epstein said. “Wins don’t just happen because you’re talented and you show up. You have to come to the park with an edge every day and come together as a team and play together to win and play with a certain edge. We’re going to find it.”

There you have it. They’ve got a good team in there somewhere but in a way, the team was dismantled last season with the losses to Aroldis Chapman and Dexter Fowler. It was inevitable with those two but what it’s shown baseball fans is that the team of 2016 was a magical one. If suddenly, the team can turn it around and go on a tear after the All Star break, then miracles do happen. It’s poignant that that the Cubs find themselves struggling. The perennial underdogs continue to be in that position despite a World Championship. #ThatsCub

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Chicago Cubs Stay Classy

Joe Maddon

May 25, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon (70) departs for a road trip wearing a suit based on the character Ron Burgundy from the movie “Anchorman” after a game against the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-350302 ORIG FILE ID: 20170525_gma_bb6_410.jpg

The Chicago Cubs have become a home run machine after taking the series from the Giants in a 5-1 victory. Three home runs were hit with Kris Bryant, Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist launching rockets into the Wrigley Field bleachers.

“As a group, we did a great job of getting back to keeping it simple and not trying to do too much,” Heyward said. “Just try to take it easy and relax and have a good approach (at the plate). Be aggressive in the strike zone and kind of make them come to us.”

They’re getting contributions from everyone and including Heyward, who has had to tweak his swing during the offseason. Either it was his speech in last fall’s dramatic and historic game 7 World Series that prompted him to adjust his swing or he’s cashing in his first pay check from the Cubs, Heyward is a much better player this season at the plate.

“I don’t feel you can ignore [last year],” Heyward said. “You have to be aware and make adjustments. We’re going to fail way more times than we’ll succeed. That’s why it’s a humbling game. You always take failure and learn from it and go from there.”

With the win, the Cubs now take over top spot in the Central Division(In my humble opinion, it’s a spot where they belong)before heading to Los Angeles to take on the Dodgers. It’s not that I hate the Dodgers but rather they make me nervous. They’re so good and it’s a west coast game so it’s on really late. People can talk about winning their divisions but these west coasters are the games to win. They’re the kind of games that can mess a team up in their rhythm.

“We don’t care about last year,” Heyward said. “It’s not going to do anything for us now other than having experience. Right now is right now. We have to go play tomorrow, and that’s going to be another thing. … Last year was awesome, but we have to play right now, and I feel right now we’re doing a great job playing baseball the way we can collectively and let things come to us. We’re not trying to do too much, not trying to create excitement. It’ll be there.”

Heyward is right. Last year was awesome and perhaps unique. This season the Cubs are out to prove that they’re champs and put a stamp on the World Series. So, as the Cubs hit the road in Anchorman style, if Joe Maddon’s motto from last season, “Try Not To Suck” this year is,

“Stay classy, Chicago”

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Cubs Come Roaring Back, Dominate Reds and Take First Place

Willson Contreras

I’m not bragging here, but yesterday’s 12-8 victory over the Cincinnati Reds was the kind of win I’m talking about. That dominating offensive juggernaut from the North Side came roaring to life with home run contributions from Wilson Contreras, Jason Heyward and Anthony Rizzo.

“The ball was absolutely flying,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “These balls were well-struck, don’t get me wrong, but the ball was definitely in the air and it was gone.”

What really stood out in the win was contributions from guys like Heyward and Contreras, heck, even Jake Arrieta hit the ball well. The Cubs can’t always leave it up to Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist to get the job done.

During the offseason, Heyward worked hard on his swing and so far this season, it’s working.

“His whole setup is different, how he’s starting the bat,” Joe Maddon said. “He is much more active with his hands throughout the swing process, and that’s why you are seeing harder contact. Less arms, more hands, that’s how I look at it. It’s been very effective.”

We know how good he is in the field but with the absence of Dexter Fowler, Heyward has to lead a young outfield but he also has to replace the bat of Fowler as well.

“The good signs are getting hits, being able to be aggressive in the strike zone,” Heyward said. “Solid contact, consistent. Home runs are going to happen, but it’s not going to happen if you’re not doing that stuff.”

So, let’s shift over to the pitching of Jake Arrieta. If last season was a come down period for the former Cy Young winner, then this year is his comeback season. The rotation as a whole has been a little shaky but so far, Arrieta is 3-0 and yesterday’s victory he pitched five innings striking out 8 batters. It wasn’t pretty but,

“We’ve had some hiccups, but we’ve been picked up by our offense,” said Arrieta, who gave up five runs in six innings. “As starting pitchers, we have to take advantage of our offense.”

If they’re taking advantage of their offence, then the Cubs are back in first place in the National League Central where they belong, the Cubs could be on the roll that they need. John Lackey will take to the mound today before the Cubs go to Pittsburgh in another key divisional matchup.

 

So here’s your chance to jump on the Cubs bandwagon don’t worry, there’s plenty of room for everyone. It’s hard to figure out how folks can suddenly cheer for teams. It could be birthright, you know, generations of long suffering fans. It might be that of location and hometowns.  I’m the Canuck Cubbie, I wasn’t born in Chicago but came across the Cubs while watching WGN when it was available in Canada. That was many moons ago. When WGN ceased to exist up here, I subscribed to MLB.TV. We’ve been to Wrigley Field and followed the team whenever they play near us.  We try to have Opening Day parties when we can and celebrate everything that is good about the Cubs and great about baseball. If you are new to the game, I encourage you to read up about the history and most importantly, take a trip to Wrigley Field, it’s a 12 hour drive for us but it was so worth it. Cubs fans are amazing. A Chicagoan we talked to a couple years ago was amazed that we drove so far to see them. He lived around the corner from Wrigley! “You came all the way from Canada?”

Yes, we did.

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