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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Baez Walks This Way In Cubs’ Victory

 

Chicago Cubs

The other day the Cubs presented Rick Renteria, Dale Sveum and Jim Hendry World Series rings. A nice gesture seeing how those individuals were cornerstones to what the team has become today. Last night’s 7-6 victory over the Reds was perhaps a payback for their generosity. From Anthony Rizzo‘s grand slam to Javier Baez‘s walk off, the Cubs have positioned themselves well going into the playoffs.

“It’s a good win for us — we haven’t walked off in a while,” Rizzo said. “Tucker Barnhart was really good behind there. He’s a really good blocker. [The ball] didn’t get fully by him, but that’s a great read by Javy there to score that run.”

The Reds are a peculiar team. They’re not that exceptionally good but they’re also not that terrible. They come through when you least expect them too and Joey Votto is a beast. The Cubs could have ran away with the victory but the Reds hung in tough throughout and kept it close.

I feel bad for John Lackey. It would have been nice to see him get the win but he’s been pitching so well since the break that I know that if the Cubs should reach the playoffs, he’s going to prove to be tough to beat. Should he retire at the end of the season, he’d be going out in style.

“I haven’t said anything about retirement,” he said. “I’m just playing baseball. Taking it one start at a time. That will be a family decision at the end of the year.”

So, perhaps the key to the Cubs late season success could be attributed to Maddon’s American Legion Week, a week in August that allows players to come to practice a 1/2 hour before game time. There’s been little doubt that this year has been a stressful one for the reigning champs and perhaps taking a week to loosen up, relax and go out and have fun is the key to success.

“Taking 50 swings or 100 swings has nothing to do with our success right now,” Maddon said. “There are so many disconnected thoughts in our game about work and how you work. At some point you have to turn it all down and go out there and play unencumbered. That’s what this week is all about. Play the game of baseball like it was designed, how you grew up with it.”

Which is to have as much fun as possible. The thrill of a walk off, a grand slam or an aging pitcher on the mound for one last season to stare down any batter that threatens a ball leaving the field.

My son’s Little League game is tonight. He wants to play baseball when he grows up, but that’s more of a six year old’s dream than a reality. For the moment right now, this minute is to enjoy the game and all it has to offer. The Cubs are doing right by the integrity of America’s favourite past time.

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School is Back in Session For The Professor

Reds 2, Cubs 1

Life isn’t fair and last night proved this as Kyle Hendricks went 6 and some change innings, striking out six but in the end, the Cubs couldn’t pull one out for their professor as the Cubs fell to the Reds 2-1.

“It was a lot better tonight — all the things I’ve been working on came to fruition,” Hendricks said. “Fastball command, No. 1, was good, and that’s always the key for me. From there, the changeup felt good. I even threw a few good curveballs. The ones I threw were effective. It was a lot of fun today with [rookie catcher Victor Caratini]. He did a good job communicating with me between innings.”

Of course this is great news going down the stretch to see that Hendricks is getting back his swagger. It was so good that he picked off Billy Hamilton at first, now that’s tough! The other good news is that Hendricks’ ERA is 2.00 since coming off the disabled list late last month. He’s had a shaky season (along with the other Cubs) but if the season is turning around, then they’re going to fight to regain their glory.

“It’s been tough since I’ve come back from the DL,” the right-hander said. “I’ve been pitching in a lot of tight games, so sometimes I lose my aggressiveness just trying to keep the team in the game and stay close and not give in. Today, I think I did a much better job being aggressive, still in the strike zone, even in a tight game, trying to get quick outs so I could keep the pitch count down.”

Hendricks’ style of pitching is difficult. Being not a hard thrower, his control and command has to take centre stage. As we all know, that hasn’t always worked out well this year but if there’s one thing we know of the studious pitcher is that whenever he comes off of a bad outing, he knuckles down and studies the books on being better the next time around. It was a well earned ovation as he walked off the mound.

“That was more typical of Kyle,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said  “He had greater velocity, great location, every pitch was working, [threw his] curveball for a strike, threw the four-seamer really well up to 87 [mph]. Everything was right on.”

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Jon Jay Leads The Way For Cubs

Cubs 15, Reds 5

It’s always hard coming back from a vacation where my family and I did the whole Clark Griswold road trip adventure, and in many ways that’s how I feel about the Cubs late season push for the playoffs. Last night, the Cubs simply pounded division rivals Cincinnati Reds in a 15-5 debacle that saw a few moments where the team just were like the team of last season. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo with back to back home runs and Jon Jay almost hitting for the cycle.

“Give us credit — offensively, some really good at-bats,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We have to tighten it up on defense. I don’t want to be ‘Debbie Downer,’ but we’ve got to be tighter on defense.”

I was glad to see Jon Jay in the lead off spot. He’s an underrated player who always comes through and last night felt like a playoff game if only to see Jay hit for the cycle which he came close but just a little short missing on the home run.

“Everyone kind of mentioned it — ‘Take a shot, take a shot,'” Jay said of his teammates’ advice for his last at-bat. “We got the win, so it’s cool.”

It almost feels like Jay’s the David Ross of 2017. The guy you’re cheering for and the feel good story of the year. Let’s just hope he’s not on Dancing With The Stars after the season’s over.

“He’s done a lot of other little things, talking to younger players,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “He does a nice job of mentoring. He wants to play, loves to play and likes what’s going on. He’s definitely stirred our drink.”

The Cubs are in great shape as the season winds up. Their next 13 games are against last place teams, so without explaining the obvious, it’s an important step on the road to the post season.

Their next series in particular is going to be interesting for me because the Toronto Blue Jays are coming to town and my family are divided in their loyalties. During last night’s broadcast, Len Kasper mentioned that Don Cherry of Hockey Night in Canada fame will be singing the seventh inning stretch so it’s going to be pretty cool seeing that. However, there was a little debate on what is Cherry’s favourite hockey team, is it the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Boston Bruins? I say it’s the Boston Bruins. Although he works for the CBC and cheers for the Maple Leafs, his heart is with the Boston Bruins. Cherry is a Canadian icon and I hope Len gets a chance to ask him what his favourite team really is and settle this debate once and for all.

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Cubs Will Deal Kyle Schwarber At Deadline

Canuck Cubbie

I think I’ve figured out this season’s woes after a somewhat embarrassing 5-0 loss to division rivals Cincinnati Reds. All right, first thing’s first; Sure, it’s difficult this season and I may sound like a bitter fan expecting way too much from a team trying to defend their World Series title but hear me out; the Cubs have been playing like they’re rebuilding again.

“It’s a young group, it just is,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “That’s actually a great thing, it’s not a bad thing, that we have this many young players who are Major League caliber. Probably the last thing to come is the development of the bats at the Major League level. We can play great defense, we can run the bases, we can throw well. Our bats are really inconsistent with zero runs tonight.”

Touching upon it yesterday, the Cubs have lost some key players and are kind of rebuilding the organization again. That’s a good thing. The bad part is that we might be waiting a little while longer for another championship. Now, some of you might be thinking that after getting your World Series fix that it’s no problem waiting another 108 years for a championship but the problem there is that nobody will be around to see it.

I think it’s becoming increasingly harder to build dynasties in professional sports. Gone are the days when you can “Mighty” at the beginning of a team’s name. I don’t believe that there’ll ever be another powerhouse like the Yankees or even the Montreal Canadiens ( Although Pittsburgh Penguins are having a good run at it).

“It’s baseball,” Willson Contreras said. “Every year is different. That’s it.”

Although it’s easy to say that, we all have to admit that the expectations were higher for the Cubs this season, or maybe my expectations were slightly increased. There’s no denying that the Cubs still have some of the most exciting players in the game and while management and players remain positive that things will eventually get turned around, the chances of a deep run in October are slim unless the team can correct the mistakes that were the polar opposite of last season. The best way to fix things is get runners in. Forget home runs, and at the deadline, the Cubs will do two things; they will deal for a starting pitcher and they will trade Kyle Schwarber for another bat.

I’m excited about next month. Cooperstown is having a Chicago Cubs weekend on August 26th-27th where fans will have the opportunity too experience the 2016 World Series all over again. There’ll be great memorabilia and a chance to get pictures taken with the trophy. We’ve got it marked on the calendar. It’s going to be fun!

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Cubs Slam Reds in Series Sweep

Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs’ Javier Baez hits a grand slam during the first inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds in Chicago, Thursday, May 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

It’s hard to believe that the Cubs just notched their first series sweep of the season. It’s mid May and it finally happened. Yesterday, the Cubs beat the Cincinnati Reds 9-5 to get the job done. The Cubs have now won three in a row and appear to be showing that dominance again.

Javier Baez connected with a grand slam in the first inning, which saw five runs scored. It was great to see Baez connect for that grand slam. He needed it in order to silence his critics.

“You see the at-bats, and see him grow each at-bat. We knew coming in two years ago about his swing and miss and all that stuff, and he’s made the adjustments to stay around. Obviously, his defensive side of the game helps that. You see him grow every day as a hitter and see him make adjustments and have good at-bats and do things in a game that can really change the game for us on a positive side.” Jon Lester said.

Although the Cubs have gotten off to a shaky spring, their record isn’t all that different than last season. They were 29-11 last year at this time compared to 21-19. Now, before you scratch your head with this kind of logic, let me explain; Teams are way more prepared going into the games against the Cubs. So this year’s record is more indicative of the team’s true performance. Ok, maybe it isn’t all that logical, but it sure makes me feel better thinking that way.

So now with the Cubs bats finally swinging and the rotation moving well, there’s the nagging question of what to do with Ian Happ. It’s a good problem to have but with Jason Heyward coming back soon, the Cubs are going to have to make some hard decisions.

“There’s still the ability to balance it,” Maddon said. “I like the idea that we have enough really good players that you can rest guys. Somebody gets hurt, you have somebody good to put in their place. Baseball normally takes care of that.”

There’s no talk of the kid’s brought up too early or anything. He’s played really well since last Saturday’s call up. I still believe that the toughest decision the Cubs will make this season is deciding what to do with Kyle Schwarber. The option the Cubs have right now is using two utility players.

“We have these young guys that are really good, are willing to do this, and now’s the time to do it with them,” Maddon said. “If you wait a couple years and ask ’em to start moving around, that’s when it becomes more difficult. But when you’re doing it young and it’s part of their landscape, it becomes part of their landscape, it becomes easier. It’s good for them, and it’s good for us.”

The magic of baseball and the right way to watch it is to see the game through various match ups. Purists have known this for decades but for the newbie, it looks like paint drying. Managers are always thinking, shuffling and rethinking.

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Cubs Game Under Review

Kyle Hendricks

Kyle Hendricks can let out a big sigh. The Professor stood on his lecture box of a pitcher mound and delivered an old school style performance yesterday recording his first home win of the season, handing out a 7-5 detention to the Cincinnati Reds.

“That was classic Kyle right there,” manager Joe Maddon said. “The velocity was up, you saw the bad takes, the bad swings, the contact wasn’t as hard. I talked to him after, and he was really excited. He knew that he was right tonight, and that’s a great game to build off of. Wind blowing out a gale and pitching as well as he did, there’s a lot of confidence to be derived from that.”

Excited?

“That game was one of my better ones for sure, because I got stronger,” said Hendricks. “My last three innings felt much better, much more under control. When [pitching coach Chris Bosio] came back on the bench, he gave me a good cue and got my tempo going. Getting stronger as the game goes on is always a good sign.”

There was an awkward play at the end of the game when Joey Votto was safe at first but upon review he was called out. Video clearly showed Votto was safe at first so the Cubs got away with that call.

“We should have a definitive shot of how they could overturn that, and we don’t,”Reds manager Bryan Price said. “At this point in time, all we have is a call into the league, and they will or will not come up with a shot that’s going to convince us they made the right decision. Right now, in the moment. Maybe they will, maybe they do. Maybe they have it. I’d sleep better if I knew they had a definitive shot of that.”

I’d have to agree with him on that. Which opens up another debate, or rather just reopening the debate on video review. I was all for it when it was introduced  almost ten years ago but now I’ve changed my mind. It doesn’t work. Oddly enough, it sacrifices the integrity of the game, the umpires and the drama of baseball. Managers are known to take excessive time on plays that shouldn’t be reviewed and if they have reviews why do they need an umpire behind the plate? We know if it’s a ball or a strike on television. I think we should drop the video review rule and go back to the way it was. I kinda loved it when plays would be argued over the BBQ on the back deck instead of New York.

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