Cubs Find No Joy In WrigleyVille

Part of the beauty of baseball and any other sport for that matter, is that there has to be a winner and a loser. To say that the Cubs shouldn’t have been in the NLCS this year would be wrong. They won their right to qualify for the World Series but last night’s 11-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers showed fans , sport writers and the Cubs brass just about everything they needed to know about what went wrong with the Cubs during the first half of the season. It also should everyone just how mismatched the Cubs/Dodgers series was in the first place.

“It’s a disappointing season that we didn’t go to the World Series,” Chicago pitcher Jon Lester said, “but whenever you get on the plane to go home or get in the car to go home, you have to look at the positives, and the positives are we gave ourselves a chance. It didn’t happen this year. We got beat by a better team. You’ve got to tip your hat sometimes.”

There’s that tipping of the hat again. No, the Cubs shouldn’t tip their caps. They should be saying ,”Thank you” to the Dodgers that this was done in five games. It was fitting that a three time Cy Young winner was facing a pitcher, who’s name wasn’t Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks or Jon Lester. It was Jose Quintana. A pitcher that looked like a deer in headlights after the first inning.

“The better team won over the course of these five games. They played really well. They kind of out-pitched us and everything else. So give them credit. Dave Roberts and their entire staff, I just want to say, ‘Congratulations.’ [We] know what it feels like coming off of last year — we were celebrating versus them in this exact same spot. So they’ve had themselves a spectacular year, and I want to wish them all well in the World Series.” Joe Maddon said.

As I do too. They dominated the Cubs in every category. When the guys like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant can’t get it done; then there’s problems. Someone asked me yesterday what my prediction was for last night’s game, and I told them,

” You have a three time Cy Young winner going against a team without their best starting pitcher, their top guys in a hitting slump and a closing ace that’s unavailable; David had better odds against Goliath”

Which they replied,”That was a story and David won”

“No, this is baseball and numbers don’t lie.”

Of course, I was hoping the Cubs would in some miracle, win and move on but in a way, I’m glad the season is over. The Cubs need to lick their wounds and concentrate on next year. I’m proud of the team, their accomplishments and look forward to spring again. When everything is new and hopes and dreams are a clean slate.

“As a team, we know it’s an accomplishment to get to where we’ve gotten to,” Ben Zobristsaid. “But after what we experienced last year, this is less than what we wanted this year. At the same time, you have to recognize how tough a year it was for us. We kept battling and were able to win our division and win the Division Series to get here. I think the Dodgers were just better. They played a phenomenal series and we didn’t. We have to keep our heads up. We kept battling together and stayed together.

Casey At The Bat

by Ernest Thayer

The Outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play.
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, if only Casey could get but a whack at that –
We’d put up even money, now, with Casey at the bat.

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a lulu and the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey’s getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despis-ed, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and the men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile on Casey’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ’twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance gleamed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped-
“That ain’t my style,” said Casey. “Strike one,” the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore.
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted someone on the stand;
And its likely they’d a-killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew;
But Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, “Strike two.”

“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered fraud;
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate;
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate.
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville – mighty Casey has struck out.

#ThatsCub

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Cubs Display Courage In Elimination Game

The Chicago Cubs on the brink of elimination, at home, fought off the Los Angeles Dodgers to force a game 5 tonight. Yesterday, the Cubs launched three home runs on their way to a 3-2 victory. It wasn’t easy but starting pitcher Jake Arrieta struck out 7 over  7 and Javier Baez launched two home runs, while Willson Contreras contributed a monster of a moon shoot to help the Cubs win the game.

“You’ve got this many fans on their feet, pulling on the same side of the rope,” Arrieta said. “It breathes some added energy. I’m thankful they came out and had the energy they did. It really helped us tonight. “It’s not an ideal situation, but I’ve been in this situation before and I enjoy it.”

It’s also a situation where Arrieta might have pitched his last game for the North Siders, but if it is, the former Cy Young winner will go out on a high note.

The game wasn’t without controversy after Curtis Grandson swung at a pitch and the ball bounced on the ground but Grandson thought it was a foul tip, so the Dodgers argued and the call was overturned.

It wasn’t.

The crowd knew it and well, so did Joe Maddon and that’s why after he argued, he was tossed from the game.

“The explanation was eventually — eventually it turned into hearing two sounds. Not one of them saw a foul tip or heard — thought it was a foul tip. It was based on two sounds, which I totally cannot agree with that process whatsoever. When you have 40-some thousand people, it’s late in the game. The other sound could have come from some lady screaming in the first row. I have no idea. I can’t buy that process,” Maddon said.

The umpire admitted his faux pas afterwards, but if the Cubs lost the game on that call, then there would have been even more controversy and that wouldn’t have been good at all.

So, tonight the Cubs will send Jose Quintana to the mound to face Clayton Kershaw in another loser stay home, which in this case won’t be that far. It’s going to be tough facing the best pitcher in the game but this is why the Cubs brought Quintana in.

“That guy’s been pretty dang good for us and I know he’s going to go out there and battle for us, that’s for sure,” added outfielder Kyle Schwarber. “We’re really looking forward to having him out there.”

On a sombre note, on Tuesday, leader singer Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip passed away from glioblastoma  at the age of 53. He was considered by many as the poet laureate of Canada. Downie  and the Hip wrote many songs about our nation and were essentially the Rolling Stones of Canada. They never made it big on the Stateside but were even bigger in the hearts of many Canadians. It’s not uncommon to hear their music blasting from car speakers every summer, in fact it’s a tradition and last night during a candle light vigil in Springer Market Square, it was no different. For me, their music and his words are a reminder of my college years or just about every party I went to, there was a Hip tune playing.  In honour of Gord’s passing and to give the Cubs a little courage, taken from the 2004 Grey Cup:

 

Courage,

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Cubs Can’t Figure Out Dodgers

NLCS Game 3: Dodgers 6, Cubs 1

It’s easy to point fingers when things don’t quite go as they planned but the truth is that after last night’s heartbreaking 6-1 loss to the Dodgers, the Cubs, who are down 3-0 in the NLCS and face elimination tonight, well, they’re just getting beat by a better team.

“I don’t think there’s any need to change anything,” Chicago’s Kris Bryant said of the club’s approach on Wednesday. “I think we can play even more loose, because what have we got to lose? No one’s expecting us to come back except the guys in this room. I don’t know if it’s a comforting feeling, but I guess it takes a lot of pressure off us because no one’s expecting us to win.”

He’s partially right. They changed things up and they still lost. For some strange reason, the Cubs can’t seem to hit anything thrown in their direction. They’ve been here before and know what’s at stake. All of us arm chair quarterbacks can question Maddon’s bullpen decisions or lineup changes but in the end it comes down to the Cubs not being able to capitalize on situations.

“I’m not going to sit here and throw a lot of hyperbole your way,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s just about our guys. Your back’s absolutely against the wall. Tomorrow is a Game 7. We have three or four Game 7s in a row coming up right now. … We need to gain some kind of mental momentum, and obviously that’s our last chance to do it [Wednesday].”

So, even if the Cubs had an amazing first half and coupled with their incredible second half of the season, the outcome would still be the same. They would have faced the Dodgers somehow and probably still got beat.

Tonight, they have Jake Arrieta on the mound. The former Cy Young winner will look to extend the Cubs season. Remember, the Cubs have been down in a series before.

“It’s just taking one game at a time, really,” Arrieta said. “There is no use in dwelling on what happened the night before or a couple days ago and trying to look too far into the future. I think that’s the mindset that we’ve kind of carried throughout the season, and it’s worked out really well for us.”

Anything can happen. If the Cubs win tonight, they stave off elimination. If the Cubs go on to defeat the Dodgers, everyone will forget the “He should have had Davis in” rants on Twitter. These aren’t the Dodgers of last season. The Cubs aren’t the Cubs of last season either.

“I wouldn’t sit here and say we’re going to lose,” Carl Edwards said. “We’re still confident. We’re ready. It’s a very funny sport. And we’d like to say the tables can turn at any time.”

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Cubs Lose Tough One, Go To Game 5 Winner Take All

It wasn’t supposed to go this far in the NLDS, the Chicago Cubs were supposed to stomp all over the Nationals and go forth to defend their NLCS title. But we know that this is the Chicago Cubs and the weather patterns and nail biting have commenced this October. Leave it to a rain delay and a last minute pitching change by Dusty Baker to set the tone for last night’s make up game. There’s going to be the would have, should haves and could have beens in the 5-0 defeat but instead, the Cubs and the Nationals will meet tonight in a do or go home situation in Washington.

“It’s not ideal, but now the series is tied with the decisive Game 5 coming up tomorrow,” Chicago starter Jake Arrieta said. “We like our chances — as long as Strasburg isn’t on the mound, we’ll be all right.”

You have to love Arrieta’s wryness but Strasburg wasn’t supposed to be pitching yesterday, in fact by rights, the game should have had Tanner Roark on the mound and the game should have been played Tuesday early afternoon before the rain. That didn’t happen and the past is the past.

“We just have to be offensively a little bit better tomorrow,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “They have been really good. We have been really good. Listen, they got a grand slam. Otherwise, it’s kind of like the same game both sides.”

There we have it, tonight it’ll be Kyle Hendricks up against whoever the heck Dusty Baker decides to throw in. Hendricks has been here before. The NLCS last year that sent the Cubs to the World Series. This is the most important game of Hendricks life, well not including game 7 of the World Series. Ok, so this is the second most important game of Hendricks life. Then again, this is what they’re paid for; these situations.

“You know what the atmosphere is going to be like. You know what the crowd is going to be like,” Kyle Hendricks said. “All those external factors, if you can kind of keep that under control, you know the pitching part. You know what to do once you get out on the mound. Being able to control all those external factors, I think, is going to be huge. Yeah, it will help me out. At the end of the day, it’s just about making good pitches. That’s where I need to mentally prepare, go out when it’s Game 5 and just make good pitches.”

If there is any other pitcher the Cubs have in their arsenal for tonight’s game, this is the guy they want to go to the mound with.

“We have all the confidence in that guy,” shortstop Addison Russell said. “He goes about his business in such a way where, if you just watch him work, the confidence is there. It builds confidence throughout this team. We’re really happy to have him out there.”

Believe it.

Cubs Are Still # 1 in My Books

Cubs Cardinals Baseball

I’m not a huge fan of champagne celebrations after every plateau reached in sports, I’d rather see them save it for the big ones like series wins and of course, the big victory. So, last night’s loss to the Cardinals 8-7 was bittersweet. It was a hell of a game with the Cubs’ now trademark comebacks even though they came up short on this one, it still feels good knowing that the post season starts next week and the Cubs clinching will go down to the wire.

“Let’s just play tomorrow, let’s not overreact to anything,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “I love the comeback, I love the energy. [Jake Arrieta] just had a tough night.”

That’s about all you can do. Jason Heyward ad a three run shot and then almost immediately, Ben Zobrist cranked one over the wall to bring the Cubs within a run of tying up the game, but that’s about as close as the Cubs would get.

There were a couple of moments that Cubs fans cringed over when Albert Almora crashed into the outfield wall, team staff rushed over but so far so good and there’s nothing seriously hurt with the outfielder.

“That’s a scary thing,” Jason Heyward said. “The wall is undefeated. That’s one of the things we always have to worry about. What I love about [Almora] is that he’s so fearless when it comes to that. It looked like he tripped into it going after the ball hard.”

Yeah, it looked really terrible.

“I tried to cut [the ball] off before it hit the wall and when I went to slide, I noticed I wasn’t going to get to it and when I looked up the wall was right on me,” Almora said. “There was no slowing down. Luckily, nothing’s broken, nothing’s damaged. All good.”

The other thing that happened was a ball went off of Willson Contreras‘ knee causing him to hobble around for a moment or two but nothing serious.

The writing on the wall last night occurred when the Cubs failed to capitalize on a couple bases loaded situations.

“These guys are going to make it as tough as possible on us, as we expect. We have to do our best to take care of business tomorrow, and then we’ll see what happens.” Arrieta said.

So, the Cubs magic number remains at 1. Leave it to the St. Louis Cardinals to frustrate the World Series Champions. This season, the Cubs haven’t made it easy on themselves or their fans. A frustrating first half, a comeback second half and an exhausting race to the finish line. What do the Cubs have in line for October?

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Cubs Win Thriller in Ten Innings

Cubs 5, Brewers 3 (10 innings)

There’s less than thirteen games left in the regular season. The Cubs know what they have to do to get geared up for the post season. There’s a big rivalry heating up between the Brewers and North Siders, especially in this division race. Last night, the Cubs won a nail biting 5-3 in the 10th inning on a home run by Kris Bryant.

“Just an incredible baseball game,” Cubs starter Jake Arrieta said after the Cubs stretched their lead over the second-place Brewers to 4½ games with 10 to play. “Two teams battling for a division. … This is really an awesome time to be in an organization like this and a division like the NL Central where there are a couple teams who have playoff aspirations in mind. Just a tremendous start to the series.”

He’s right, despite the Cubs not playing a stellar first half to the season, the Cubs have really picked it up in the second half and come together. It’s a tight Central division and although I’m being biased, the closeness of the Central, unlike last season’s runaway lead, this year’s been good because the Cubs have to fight for their title. I like that a lot.

“We’ve done that so many times — I guess it is experience,” Kris Bryant said of the late comeback. “Our heartbeats aren’t going too fast when the game is on the line there. It kind of plays to our advantage.

“This is really showing us what we’re made of. It was nice — their fans were loud, our fans were loud. It’s always nice to play here. We get a nice draw from Chicago. Keep ’em coming.”

Even last season was exciting for the now historic 2016 autumn. Since Joe Maddon was handed the reigns of the Cubs, the team has fought hard in a lot of games. They’ve kept it close and well, won the World Series but most importantly, he’s changed the culture in Chicago. The fact that you have guys like Arrieta pitching so well coming back from injury and heading into the final days of the season is a bonus.

“That was really encouraging to all of us,” Maddon said of Arrieta’s start Thursday. “I did not know what to expect. An injury like that, taking some time off and then coming right back into the swing of things, I thought he was really sharp. I thought his command was really good.

“The delivery looked good, the finish looked good. I was really surprised — and I don’t mean that as a negative [toward Arrieta] — at how good he looked.”

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Cubs Take It On The Chin In Pittsburgh

ct-cubs-pirates-photos-20170904-015

The Chicago Cubs have had a couple of games where they racked up the score in the double digits against the opposing team, so yesterday’s 12-0 shutout victory was maybe karma coming back to bite them in the behind. The real nail biter was an early exit from Jake Arrieta with a hamstring injury.

“He felt pretty good afterwards,” Joe Maddon said. “He started to loosen up. He was able to go through the delivery motion like he was unable to out on the field.

“Even when he was apparently hurting a little bit, he was still going through all the stuff, stuff I can’t do. He’s putting his nose on his knees, doing other things, and I thought, ‘OK, it might be a cramp.'”

Otherwise the game went from bad to worse.

You know things are bad when position players fill in to pitch, just ask newly acquired Leonys Martin.

“I was afraid to hit somebody,” Martin said. “I was trying to throw the ball over the plate.”

It’s not like it hasn’t happened before, there was the John Baker game where it was a success but more times than not, it’s because of some catastrophe or a bullpen saving thing.

It goes to show you also what happens when guys like Javier Baez sits out and how much they mean to the team.

“My thumb is kind of jammed a little bit, so I’m taking a day off and I’ll be ready to go [Tuesday],” he said before the Cubs played the Pirates. I told the doctor about my thumb, but we were obviously worried more about the head, the contact. So today it’s pretty swollen. I’ve been icing it. Hopefully I’ll be ready [Tuesday].”

I’ve been harping on the easy schedule thing for a while and while I’m not trying to be negative but I’m leery about them heading into the post season. The Cubs should, in a perfect world, be able to handle teams like Pittsburgh even without their regulars playing. The Dodgers and the Nationals are going to prove to be too much for the Cubs to handle. Of course I could be wrong, the Cubs are known to provide some playoff magic.

Today, Kyle Hendricks gets the nod on the mound, and North Side’s favourite Professor hopes to not disappoint. He’s been playing exceptionally well and maybe, just maybe he might be the spark for the Cubs heading into the post season.

“His velocity is back where it needs to be, and now there’s a difference between fastball and changeup,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s looked every bit as good as he did last year [when Hendricks was 16-8 with a Major League-best 2.13 ERA].

Believe it.