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.

Believe it.

 

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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The Cubs Are Happ-Y With Maddon’s 1000th Win

Ian Happ

There are those kind of people that you’d like to invite over for a BBQ have a few drinks and listen to their stories till the birds start their chatter in the early morning. Joe Maddon is one of those folks on my bucket list of invites to come over for that BBQ. Yesterday, the Cubs helped him achieve that 1000 win milestone in their 9-5 dismantling of division rivals Cincinnati Reds. The Cubs looked like the Cubs and the bats were in full home run mode as Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell, Ian Happ and Kyle Schwarber each contributed large in honouring their manager’s big accomplishment.

“To the players who have been a part of this, I want to say, ‘Thank you,'” Maddon said. “You don’t do it without the players.”

The weather and the mood was both right for the win. Wrigley Field with the wind blowing out was all it took. A thought occurred to me during last night’s game. Is the Cubs uneven spring due to the kid’s nervousness of just winning a championship?  It could be just that and as the summer moves on, it’ll sort itself out.

I hope.

Then there’s Ian Happ. The kid with the old school style name. He sounds like a call up that would have fit nicely in the 1908 World Series team. His home run last night was his second home run in just three games.

“Two walks and two strikeouts today,” Happ said. “Can still get better, but for me, being disciplined, swinging at strikes … is part of my game, especially in that situation — with Wrigley bumping like that.”

So yesterday the Cubs played like they were defending champions. The good news is that they’re finding their ground. Kyle Schwarber is hitting again and Willson Contreras has been incredible this season. However, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a hint of worry in the minds of those guys who sit in the back offices or sipping craft beer from the suites.

“There’s no panic, but there’s also a lot of guys in there who care about playing up to our capabilities, which is one of the reasons I have so much trust in this group and a lot of confidence that we’ll get it straightened out,” Epstein said.

He’s right. There’s no need to panic. I look at it this way, Cubs fans are used to losing. So, while the Cubs are going through their growing pains, us fans can relax a bit knowing that there’s been a lot of years between championships. This is the year that there’s no “Always next year” Judging from last night’s victory, I agree with Epstein. Things will be ok.

“That’s not going to last at all,” Epstein said of the club’s slump at the plate. “We have a ton of supremely talented offensive players, and they’ll reach their level by the end of the year and the back of their baseball card will look like they always do.”

Perhaps I’ll fire up the grill just in case Joe drops by.

Believe it

Despite Cubs Loss, Rizzo Keeps The Streak Going

Chicago Cubs

The Chicago Cubs couldn’t play “Comeback Kids” again as the Cincinnati Reds defeated the North Siders 7-5 yesterday. They put on a good show and Anthony Rizzo keeps his streak alive with three home runs in his last three games.

“You just play baseball really,” the Cubs’ first baseman said. “You just hit balls where they’re not standing. You go through the process. It’s no different than not getting any hits.”

As we all know, baseball is such a streaky sport.

In a strange game which showcased the aging talents of John Lackey versus Bronson Arroyo, the elder Lackey pitched a frustrating game

“Yeah, I don’t care about the series right now; I’m pissed,” said Lackey. “I felt like I definitely pitched a lot better than the numbers are going to show. Two of the first three runs were a couple of balls that kind of fell in on me. And I really didn’t give up a whole lot of hard contact. What are you going to do?”

This was his third start that he lost. I don’t know, I think Lackey needs to move down in the order but he’s so competitive that I wouldn’t want him to get mad about that.

Even though the Cubs won the series, it’s good that they’re finally coming around but they should have controlled that game better. The Reds had an aging pitcher.

The Cubs won the series but now head to Pittsburgh to face the Pirates. The last time these two teams faced each other, the Pirates swept them.

The Pirates don’t have Starling Marte (much to my annoyance in my Keeper League) so the Cubs should be all right.

“I have nothing to complain about. You go into another city and win the series. We’ll take it.” Joe Maddon said.

Believe it

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.

Believe it

 

Bryzzo Souvenir Company Adds Another Gem To Collection

Albert Almora

The Chicago Cubs certainly have a flair for the dramatic. In extra innings, the Cubs defeated the Cincinnati Reds 6-5 after an Anthony Rizzo 3 run long ball to tie it in the ninth. Their, “We do not quit” motif is some serious stuff this season being their third straight victory in a come from behind way. If it was Anthony Rizzo in the ninth, then it was Kris Bryant with the sacrifice in extra innings.

“You never think home run,” Rizzo said. “These guys do pitch me up-and-in a lot. Off the bat, I thought, yeah, but the wind was kind of strong. I thought it might be a long single if it hit the top of the wall.”

Have the Cubs turned a corner after a not so awesome start to April? I hope it’s true, but how much longer can they sustain their, “Comeback Kids” moniker?

“That’s what we always say, the comeback kids,” Rizzo said. “In the ninth, we’re saying here comes the comeback. It’s a good feeling to know none of these guys quit. It’s a cliché, but it’s true. We know we can score at any given time.”

I have to admit, I do like the entertainment of watching them comeback in late innings, although nerve racking in many ways, it gives it that post season vibe, I just get the feeling that they won’t be able to sustain the momentum for long. Awe shucks, perhaps it’s just my inner pessimistic Cubs fan rearing its ugly head.

The are many things I’m certain of but when it comes to the Chicago Cubs, these are the best days to be a fan. They’re exciting, thrilling and of course the World Series team of 2016 have a seat reserved in Cooperstown. Now, the team could be better than last season only because of the close games and the “Bryzzo” factor. These Cubs have personality just not one or two superstars but an entire team that contributes each game.

Speaking of the Bryzzo factor, catch David Ross’s last adventures as an intern with the Bryzzo Souvenir Company

In many ways though, the Cubs got lucky in those come from behind victories. Their pitching hasn’t been solid, Lester gave up 5 earned runs. It’s not hard to figure out that if the pitching isn’t there, then no matter how many hits the team gets (unless of course, they score runs) the teams not going to win. The Cubs have to get their rotation going.

“Would like it to go the other way, being up early, but a win is a win,” Cubs starter Jon Lester said. “When you come back, it always makes it a little bit better.”

You can tell through Joe Maddon’s thoughts on the “Comeback Kids” that he too would like to see a more viable and solid play of his squad.

“I’m OK with that identity, but I’d rather do it in more conventional means,” he said with a smile. “It’s what we talk about. We just don’t quit.”

Believe it

 

 

 

Chicago Cubs Embraced The Target

Joe Maddon

 

Despite having an unspectacular performance during yesterday’s 7-4 comeback win over the Cincinnati Reds, Kyle Hendricks still won the ERA title. His ERA of 2.13 is the best in baseball, the Chicago Cubs are the best in baseball heading into the post season and they have a four day rest before the post season starts for the storied franchise.

“At this point in my career, now it’s all said and done, definitely got to sit back and reflect a little bit on it,” Hendricks said. “I just personally never thought I’d be in this situation. … But behind that number, getting guys out, there’s a lot that goes into that. Defense, I’m such a pitching-to-contact type of guy. Defense has to play for me, and catchers, they’re a big part of it too, just preventing runs. So couldn’t have done it without all of those guys.”

Whether the lanky pitcher wins the Cy Young or not, he’s had an incredible season emerging into a great ace on a solid pitching staff. Sometimes I wonder just how good he’d be on another club, say Atlanta? Being on a team that’s as good as the Cubs are, only adds to his growing legend.

Now that the Cubs have won 103 games and have the best record since 1910, what will the guys do for the week as they prepare to face the winner of the National League Wild Card game set for Wednesday? They’ll either face San Francisco Giants or the New York Mets. Personally, I’d like to see go head to head with the Mets. The Cubs have some unfinished business to do against that team and for some reason I think they’ll have an easier time than the always frustrating Giants.

“This is 2016, so [the Giants] are going to be tough to beat, no doubt,” Anthony Rizzo said. “And with the Mets, the experience they gained last year — so that’ll be a fun game to watch, especially with [Noah] Syndergaard and [Madison] Bumgarner, I’m sure they’re both going to throw 200 pitches each if they have to. It’s fun for baseball, those Wild Card Games, and we’re happy we’re not partaking in that this year, that anxiety and stress level.”

Ah yes, that stress level of the one and done, loser go home playoff scenario has gathered the ire of many baseball executives and fans alike but until the baseball brass fix the series to a more fair three game event, manacurists will continue to have their busiest season in October.

So, what does Joe Maddon have up his sleeve?

“The boxes have been checked in the regular season,”  Maddon said. “We won the division, we stayed relatively healthy, we’ve played well. … All this stuff we talked about in camp regarding embracing the target and dealing with the pressure, we’ve done all those things.”

There’s only one thing left to do.

“We’re ready,” Rizzo said. “Everyone is pretty much healthy. It’s just about going out and executing now.”

Believe it.