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.

JK Yu

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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Cubs Get Divine Intervention In Cincy

Folks, this could very well be a blessing in disguise for the Chicago Cubs. The rain out quite possibly just saved their bullpen. When a lot of people were enjoying cooked ham and family, the Cubs were revelling in two extra inning games to kick off the 2018 season.

That’s not a great way to start the season now is it?

“We’ll stay in line,” Maddon said prior to the game. “We’re looking for an off-day to get the bullpen right, so we’re counting on that being tomorrow. That’s my bigger concern.”

I like Maddon’s thinking, it’s hard not to when he’s got that kind of resume. Stay the course on the mound, cause we know that outside of Darvish’s not so incredible debut in a Cubs’ uniform, the rotation has been quite solid.

Maddon’s going to give Zobrist a chance in the leadoff tomorrow in Milwaukee with Ian Happ expected to resume his spot at the top of the order by the Cubs home Opener on Monday.

“This team’s going to be just fine, offense is going to be just fine,” said Happ. “There are a lot of really good hitters. Not everybody’s meshing right now. Not everybody’s swinging it well. We will get to the point where everything clicks. We’ll see some big numbers. It’s just a matter of time.”

We all know from the past what happens when the Cubs get rollin?

So, speaking of the home opener, what’s on the menu at your party? We’re thinking of sausages with all the peppers and onions maybe picking up some Goose Island and airing out the barbecue. Yeah, that sounds awesome.

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Cubs In Tough Spot After Loss To Reds

Reds 1, Cubs 0

If Managers pushed panic buttons this early in the season, then there might not always be great teams down the road. The other reminder that I keep telling myself is that the season is nearly a week old, but man, the Cincinnati Reds? The Cubs lost 1-0 and have struck out 58 times this season, that my friends is a National League record.

Not good, but April has only just begun.

“We’re not going to ride the rollercoaster as hard as everyone else outside,” Anthony Rizzo said. “We have a good group. If you look at back of the bubblegum card, it kind of speaks for itself. The more you get in those situations, the better off you are.”

I do look at baseball cards, love em and my Kyle Hendricks rookie card sits proudly on display down in the man cave. Numbers don’t lie and striking out 58 times is not a good thing when the season isn’t a week old. I know, I know I just said that but it kind of needs repeating. The old adage of leaving scorers on base and of course, not hitting is probably the main reason why teams don’t always make the playoffs.

“Contact,” hitting coach Chili Davis said afterward with a half-smile. “We’d like to see a lot of good contact. There’s some guys, you’re not just going to turn them into contact-type hitters. I don’t want them to lose their aggressiveness at the plate. We have too good of hitters for me to panic at all.”

He’s right and Anthony Rizzo is right. Ahem, Kyle Schwarber? These guys are decent hitters, if not some of the best in the game; so who knows what the problem is this early in the season?

“I’ve talked about it for how many years now?” manager Joe Maddon asked rhetorically. “We have struck out a lot. It has been exacerbated by the 17-inning game but we have struck out a lot. We have to do better. We have to move the baseball. We talked about it all camp. We talked about it the last two years. I believe that we will, but right now, we’re not.”

There’s those pesky late inning games last weekend that tore the exhaust pipe off of the Cubs, so it’s no wonder that they’re out of sorts.

‘‘We’ve been shut out pretty much three out of six games,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘We’re going to hit. We’re a very good offensive club. It’s just what’s going on right now. I’m not going to make any excuses. We should have done better, but we’re going to do better.’’

They will. They’re going to get better, if there’s any team that has the talent to turn things around, it’s these Cubs.

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Cubs Cruise To 9-0 Win Over Reds

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So the Chicago Cubs are in the post season and today is the last day of the 2016 campaign. Yesterday, the Cubs defeated the Cincinnati Reds 9-0 in what really amounted to a practice against the Washington Nationals.

One thing that I have to understand is Kyle Schwarber. Earlier in the season I suggested that he might be on the trade block (or should be really) but here it is in late September and Schwarber cranks out his 30th dinger of the season.

“Having been sent down during the course of the season, things not going his way, give the guy high marks for perseverance,” Joe Maddon said. “I think overall, the year has been very successful for him. It’s not easy being sent back after all the success he had. I think maybe my expectations I portrayed were too high, and I should’ve considered that he did not play at all last year.”

Again though, I think what he did in last year’s run was phenomenal and probably caught everyone, including myself off guard. He was sent down to the minors for a tune up but as we know, has rebounded nicely since his return.

“This is my favorite time of the year,” Schwarber said. “This is when things come to the nitty-gritty. This brings out the best in everyone. You saw when we were playing Milwaukee and St. Louis, those were some hard-fought games. It was a playoff atmosphere. We’re going to be going into Washington, and it’s going to be some hard-fought games, two really good pitching staffs going at it, and two really good offenses and defenses and good bullpens. You’re going to be in for a grinder series, and it’ll be fun.”

So the Cubs haven’t decided who will start game one of the NLDS. Will it be Kyle Hendricks or Jon Lester? As much as I like Hendricks, I’m going to give the nod to Lester on this one. He’s got the experience all though he’s been playing a little off recently, he’ll rebound into the true playoff performer he is.

“I don’t make those decisions,” Lester said. “If they chose to make me Game 1, that’s a huge honor, huge responsibility to put on your shoulders and go out there and try to get your team off to the best start. If I’m in any of the other games, I’ll go out and compete just like I would any other start.”

The Cubs will have their hands full with the Nationals.  The North Siders are on a roll but the Nationals will give them all they can handle.

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Cubs Winning Streak Continues

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The phrase, “Turn at the right time” is synonymous throughout the sporting world. It’s a term associated to a team or a player that does all the right things going down the stretch of the regular season. You can attach that phrase to the Cubs but the only caveat being they’re playing teams that are struggling more than the Cubs.

Does it count?

In last night’s 9-3 massacre of the Cincinnati Reds, the Cubs extended their winning streak to five games. With home run contributions from Kyle Schwarber and Tommy La Stella, the Cubs are doing all the right things at the right time, if you wanted to through cliches around.

“You can struggle in the second half or you can learn from your mistakes and get better,” winning pitcher Mike Montgomery said after the Cubs moved 11 games over .500 for the first time this season. “Now it’s all about getting into the playoffs. We’re completely over last year.”

Hey Mike, I was over last year in April. All right, I still get a little choked up every time I see this:

 

What got me is that there is no other team in professional sports that triggers emotions quite like the Cubs. Their championship brought a nation together in a common unspoken bond. There were nods as we passed people on the streets, a few fist bumps and the, “I was rooting’ for your Cubbies”

Yeah Mike, I’ve put last year behind me too.

This weekend is Player’s Weekend. It’s a weekend where players across the league can have a little fun and celebrate everything that is awesome with the game that is woven in a nation’s fabric. There will be tributes from players to those that helped them throughout their careers and they’ll wear funky jerseys displaying nicknames such as “Cutch” , “Joey Bats” and “KB”. With all the excitement, I’m disappointed that Kyle Hendricks will be wearing “Hendo” as his nickname. I figured it might be “Prof” or Professor but seeing that these nicknames are representing the Little League spirit, I can see why they chose “Hendo”

“The fans will get to know more about you this way,” Javier Baez said. “They can find out why or how you got the name. I’m sure it’ll be a fun weekend.”

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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 Go Back To Back To Back But Come Up Short

Trying to put a positive spin on yesterday’s almost come from behind thriller is proving to be a difficult task. The Cubs were down by eight runs but connected on 4 home runs in the 4th inning to climb back but eventually were downed by the Reds  13-10. Those are the kind of losses that are hard to take. On one hand, you have to applaud the Cubs on their comeback attempt but also have to shake my head that they couldn’t crank out the win after whacking all those home runs, even going back to back to back!

“We lost the game,” Alex Avila said. “It would’ve been great if we would’ve won that game. A game you’re not supposed to win, you end up winning is a better story. It’s a loss.”

That’s exactly what it is against a division rival that just happens to be in last place. After Jon Lester left the game giving up 9 runs, the Cubs went to work.

“When a pitcher of his stature is potentially injured, of course, you’re concerned,” Joe Maddon said. “Let the doctor see him and go from there. Right now, I’m not going to jump to any negative conclusions.”

It could just end up being related to heat tightness or cramps but hopefully it’s nothing more than that.

It was great to see Ian Happ have a multi homer game. The Cubs rookie is having a great season, if not under the radar as compared to others around the league, he’s fit into the lineup well.

“When you’re playing at Wrigley and the wind is blowing out, you always feel like you have a chance, especially with our lineup,” said Happ, who notched his third career multi-homer game. “To go back-to-back-to-back there and put us back in it, we gave ourselves a chance.”

Today is a big day as the Cubs begin a weekend series against the Toronto Blue Jays, who are struggling but are only three games out of the Wild Card spot. It’s an afternoon series with Jake Arrieta kicking it off today.

“I’ve gotten on that plane many times after a loss, still good food, but there’s no doubt you want to leave feeling good,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “The lows in this business last longer than the highs, I know that for a fact. But we have to turn around, day game [Friday] … quick turnaround, but there will be energy there with the World [Series] champs. It’s a great place to play.”

Oh, and @LenKasper ‏ don’t forget to ask Don Cherry who is favourite hockey team is, I bet it’s the Bruins.

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