Zobrist is Turning Back Time With HR

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The Chicago Cubs opened their series with the New York Mets in style, grabbing a 5-1 victory with Jose Quintana on the mound. He went six scoreless innings but just ask Jason Heyward how good he was.

“He did an awesome job attacking the zone, making adjustments on the fly to the hitters,” right fielder Jason Heyward said. “He was able to mix and match stuff. It was pretty impressive to watch from behind.”

Then there’s Chicago’s aging veteran Ben Zobrist, who is vying for David Ross’s Grampa role on the team. Zobrist got another home run in the win. In limited play, Zobrist has three home runs in May.

This series against the Mets is an interesting one because the Mets aren’t that great this season. If the Cubs can sweep them, they’ll be in a good position to snag the Wild Card spot and be in a stronger position to stay afloat in the tough National League Central.

This season more than the last few has showcased great playing from guys like Jason Heyward and Tommy La Stella, who doesn’t get enough recognition for being there in the clutch. These guys are going to be the key to the Cubs reaching October because the top of the order hasn’t found their groove yet.

The Cubs need their pitching to get going and Tyler Chatwood will get his opportunity to shine tonight. It’s been a tough season for Chatwood and this series is so far, one of the more important series for the Cubs. Now’s the time for a sweep

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Cubs Come Roaring Back With Brave Win

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Leave it to the veteran superstar Ben Zobrist to provide the fireworks in the Chicago Cubs thrilling 3-2 win over the Atlanta Braves last night. This is an important series for the Cubs to win and they truly did it in that classic “Cubs Way”

“It was pretty nice in the fashion that we did it, too,” Addison Russell said. “I feel like there were opportunities there that it could have gone either way, but we capitalized. It was huge tonight.”

The game also marked the return of the Cubs’ offseason  acquisition Yu Darvish. He threw four innings with five strikeouts. It’s no surprise he was pulled after four innings of work. Whether it was his cramping or just coming back, Darvish had a decent game.

“He came up and talked to me and wanted to go back out, but I said, ‘No, I don’t think that’s wise,'” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “And that’s why I went and talked to the umpire to grab more time for [reliever Mike] Montgomery. I had to get Monty up quickly because of that, because I anticipated him going back out, but the guy, having been ill recently … He did a great job today, and that’s why I did what I did.”

I know we’ve been hard on the guy and most of it has been justified, but I think he’ll find his groove soon enough. My only concern about the deal was the Cubs could have got a couple more decent guys out thereon the market but they’re in the “Win now” mode with the team, so in that case it made sense. Last night was one of his better games.

“Definitely the worst I’ve ever experienced,” Darvish said through his interpreter. “Even after 10 days. I was coughing and even going upstairs made me tired … I thought I was 100 percent coming in. Once I started pitching I wasn’t 100 percent. Next four days I’ll eat a lot, train a lot and become 100 percent again.”

I hope so. Perhaps this is a new beginning?

“Dehydration is such a nasty little thing,” Maddon stated. “A lot of times it’s not given enough credit. People say ‘Eh, it’s not a big deal.’ But it is. It was something I didn’t want to press or push and it worked out well.”

With the win, the Cubs are one win behind Milwaukee and Pittsburgh. This series is big.

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Cubs Showing That Everybody’s In

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This could be the dawn of a new era for the Chicago Cubs. While the last couple of years has showcased the hitting side of the Northside powerhouse, this year’s version has high lighted a more streamlined lower scoring edition. In yesterday’s 2-0 shutout win over the Brewers, the Cubs, perhaps they’re getting older, a more patient group.

“When you can play somebody in your own division eight times and do well, that’s always a boon,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “They came in winning eight in a row. I have a lot of respect for them. We didn’t beat up their pitching, either. Don’t be deceived here. They pitched really well, too. They played really well, too. We just happened to pitch a little better in the series.

“They’re a very good ballclub, and we just happened to get them this time around,” Maddon said. “They’re never to be taken for granted.”

Having five shutouts in a month against the same team, I wouldn’t blame them if they took things for granted. The Cubs are 1/2 game back of division leaders Pittsburgh Pirates  and the record setting debut of Nick Kingham  

The Cubs pitching was so good over the Brewers that their last four pitchers allowed only 1 earned run.

“It’s pretty cool to be part of it,” Tyler Chatwood said. “You don’t want to be the guy left behind, so I think everybody’s kind of pushing each other and I think that’s what good rotations do.”

So even if their bats fell silent, the Cubs pitching took over and now we can safely say that the Cubs are looking more and more like the team promised at the start of the season. The team has been inconsistent. They win one, lose one and the order and the rotation has been all over the place. It’s great to see them finally coming together. Perhaps, it’s the team getting older, more seasoned and coming into their own but as Ben Zobrist becomes the elder statesman for the club, Chicago has to remember that their ticket to respectability was all ready punched that magical night in Cleveland. Theo Epstein helped build it in a Kevin Costner kind of way, but the rest is on the team to continue that legacy. We’re finally seeing it this season.

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Welcome Home, Chicago Cubs

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There was a huge difference in the attendance between the White Sox and the Cubs home opener. The noticeably empty seats at the White Sox(ok, ok, it snowed and was cold) compared to the 40 000 + soaking up the sweet cold air at Wrigley Field to cheer on their North Side heroes. The good news is they played a game, the bad news is they lost 8-5 to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Javier Baez kicked off Opening Day in style with two home runs. Along with Ben Zobrist, the two have quickly become the players to watch this season.

“To be honest, I was trying to hit the ball on the barrel and not get jammed because of the weather,” Baez said. “I stayed short to the ball. The second at-bat [in the fifth], I came back to the old at-bats against him. He got me, but I got him back again.”

The Cubs are playing .500 ball so far and that won’t sit too well in most fans books, I mean you can make all the excuses in the world but excuses won’t change the score. The Cubs have missed opportunities and yeah, Anthony Rizzo is injured for a bit but there’s plenty more baseball to come. I’m just happy Opening Day arrived and baseball is officially back at Wrigley Field.

“I felt I had really good stuff today and they were able to foul it off rather than get weak contact outs or something, so they did a good job of that,” Tyler Chatwood said. “They’re hot right now. It seemed like whenever they put the ball in play, good things happened for them. You’ve got to be able to get out of that.”

He’s right about that. Pittsburgh is playing extremely well and could give the Cubs a run for the National League Central title.

“We didn’t play badly,” Joe Maddon said. “They hit the ball well today. They’re swinging the bats really well right now this early in the season, so you have to give them credit.”

So, I think it’ll take some juggling the lineup, warm weather and a healthy lineup to change the Cubs’ course. .500 ball isn’t bad, but then again in a season where the Blue Jays are 8-2, the Cubs record isn’t all that great.  Last season, the team kicked it up a notch in the second half, but we know that they ran out of gas in the playoffs. Maybe it’s just the optimist in me but I think the Cubs will be just fine. Once they get their swing, it’ll be lights out. Nobody said they were going to win over 100 games this season.

Baseball’s back!

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Cubs Ready For Home Opener

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Two things happened in yesterday’s 3-0 shutout of the Milwaukee Brewers. One, Jose Quintana emerged as a solid ace in training and Ben Zobrist is the best Cubs player this year, he could become the David Ross of 2018.

“You look on paper and [the Brewers] have predominantly right-handed hitters against him,” Maddon said. “That doesn’t bother ‘Q.’ If ‘Q’ is executing his stuff, righties or lefties, he’s pretty good. The guy is so focused going into the game. His work is so good. He likes being here, he likes pitching here. I think you’re seeing the best side of Jose.”

We are. It can only get better.

“We have really high expectations,” Quintana said of the Cubs. “It’s really good when you start winning at the beginning. We talked a lot before games. We want to do good things this year. We know it’s a long season but this month is really important.”

So far, the Cubs have looked a little weary from being on the road, so it’s exciting anticipating their return to Wrigley Field today. It’s fitting that they’re the last team in the majors to roll out their home opener, hey with a place nicknamed the “Windy City” it’s no wonder, I mean April baseball isn’t always the most heartwarming thing on everyone’s mind.

It is one of the most exciting days of the year. It’s an opportunity to sit back and enjoy all that’s good. Sure, it’s going to be cold but for me, there’s very few things that are up there with baseball at Wrigley Field.

“It’s just different when the game starts and you have the adrenaline going, sometimes you don’t notice how cold it is,” Kris Bryant said. “We have plenty of heaters and hand warmers and all the other stuff. We should be fine.”

Anthony Rizzo wants to play in the opener. In fact, it feels almost not the same that he might not be ready today. He’s the Cubs’ Micky Mantle and their leader. So, I’m going out on a limb to say that there’s a good probability we might see him sneak in an At Bat today.

“I want to play (Monday),” Rizzo said. “But at the same time, you’ve got to be smart. You can’t play (Monday) and set myself back five to six days. We’ll see how it goes. (Sunday) will be a big day to see how it really feels.”

The past few years have been night games and it’s made the home opener much different. Today, it’s at 2:20 EST and let’s face it folks, baseball is best played during the day.

“Don’t let anyone say that it’s just a game, I’ve seen other teams and it’s never the same. When you’re born in Chicago, you’re blessed and you’re healed the first time you walk into Wrigley Field

—Eddie Vedder

I wasn’t born in Chicago but walking onto Wrigley Field takes lines off faces and replaces them with smiles. It truly is a magical place. We’re watching from Canada but we’ll be there in spirit cheering on the Cubs while clearing the BBQ for the year’s first taste of glorious Italian sausages with peppers and onions.

This is the year that the Cubs are going to win the World Series at home in the place where it belongs.

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Cubs Shut Out Brewers In Style

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Nobody can say that, “It’s only April” anymore, the Chicago Cubs and the rest of the league are well into the 2018 season. Even though the Cubs/ Brewers series seemed a little lopsided on paper, the Cubs weren’t going to take anything for granted, especially their newish arch rivals. Last night, the Cubs opened the series with an 8-0 destruction of the Brewers.

“When you make mistakes on defense and the other team takes advantage, it normally does hit you in the solar plexus a bit,” Maddon said. “Javy’s had that kind of experience on the bases. He’s always heads up. If you watch him, he’ll look behind as he’s running to see what’s going on. Going back in the day, you’d see [Willie] Mays do that a lot. [Baez] has got extraordinary instincts on the bases.”

There were a lot of miscues and mistakes that the Cubs took advantage of especially Javier Baez who can read plays like very few can in the MLB. It helped a bit when the Brewers committed error after error. I’m not saying they played poorly but the Cubs capitalized on just about every opportunity brought their way.

“Javy never ceases to amaze people with what he’s able to do on the basepaths, let alone everything else,” Jon Lester said. “He’s always going to play the game aggressively, and it’s always going to work out for us. I think the slide was more impressive than him reading that ball and getting home. That’s always a nice thing to have on your side.”

The run for home is something Cubs fans would love to see more of this season.

“I had a good jump and the ball took a little bit to get to him and he speeded up a little bit,” Baez said. “Right before I stepped on third base, I turned and [Cain] bobbled the ball, so I kept going. They let me run the bases how I want to. I obviously have fun out there. If you pay attention to where you need to be and wherever the sign’s coming from, you know everything. At that moment, I was reacting to the play and hustling down the line.”

Last night’s win was an excellent chance to dust the dirt from the pants and get back in form. I loved the lineup last night and seeing Ian Happ back at lead off was a welcome return. The other player that looked really good was Ben Zobrist. Maddon has a thing for Zobrist and last night showed why.

“He’s been seeing pitches,” Maddon said. “He’s been hitting the ball hard. Putting him and (Ian) Happ in front of KB and (Anthony) Rizzo, I thought it might help a little bit to feed those two. And then you move everybody else down, which isn’t a bad thing. Zobrist has really looked good at the plate so I thought it was wise to get him back up near the top.”

It was a very wise decision. The other decision is what to do with Jason Heyward?

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Extra!, Extra! Cubs Win It In Ten

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The importance of starting pitching was never more on display than in last night’s extra inning 10-6 all nighter win by the Chicago Cubs over the Miami Marlins. In this case, the hot ticket free agent signing of Yu Darvish came up short lasting just a mere 4 1/2 innings. Call it stage fright or just plain Opening Week jitters, but Darvish looked mortal in his Cubs debut.

“He wasn’t really sharp overall,” Joe Maddon said. “A lot of pitches for 4 1/3. He showed glimpses where the command was good. His fastball command was off a little. I would say, overall, he didn’t have his best stuff tonight.”

Five runs on five hits, that’s a big, “Whoops, sorry about that guys.” moment. I hope he bought his teammates a round or two afterwards.

When you think about it, Darvish has a lot of pressure put on him being the big money man that he is for the Cubs.

“It seems like every time I pitched the first game in Japan things went not so well,” Darvish said through his interpreter. “I don’t know why that happened. … It could have been a location problem with my pitches. I don’t think I was able to command whatever I wanted to, in terms of fastball.”

So, to show the depth in the Cubs this year, and this is why they’re going to be scary good,  the offence picked up the pieces with Kyle Schwarber, Ben Zobrist and Kris Bryant contributing in big ways for the team.

Schwarber’s monster blast combined with Bryant’s 4 run 10th inning was just what the Cubs needed to bring the fireworks and put on display their ferocity and endurance especially after Friday night’s epic outing.

“We did some really nice stuff,” Maddon said. “How about Zobrist? He’s swinging the bat as well as anybody on the team right now. Schwarber hits a big bomb, and [Bryant] continues to have good at-bats. It’s almost like some of them are trying way too hard. Let’s just back it off a little bit, see the ball, don’t try to do too much. Get back to the whole field — we’re getting too pull conscious too early.”

Don’t forget that Mike Montgomery appeared in his third straight game. I don’t think people imagined that this was the kind of start to 2018 they had in mind for the North Siders.

“I was not expecting to get in there today,” Montgomery said. “In the eighth inning, all we had left was Strop, and the Marlins tied it up. When we didn’t take the lead in the ninth and the 10th comes around, everybody said, ‘Hey, can you go?’

The Cubs had better dial back these extra inning nail biters and save them for October because we all know what extra inning Octobers can do for these Cubs.

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