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

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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].

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Cubs Dominate Pirates

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The Cubs are coming alive at the right time of the season. It may seem like a broken record to say that and perhaps it’s true, but after last night’s win over the Pirates 4-1 at Wrigley Field. Jake Arrieta did a workman like approach to the game, not his greatest but  not his worst.

“There was a little bit of frustration in the first half with the way things were going. I might have focused on the results a little too much rather than just focusing on trying to execute and refine my repertoire. Now, where I’m at, I feel confident that even if I don’t have my good stuff and if I’m without two pitches, the two pitches I do have are more than enough to get the job done.” Arrieta said.

Of course there was a little frustration with the first half of the season. All around the Cubs weren’t getting the job done. In fact, the National League Central is the weakest in the National League. A division which last year was a powerhouse, has fallen on hard times with its uneven play this season.

Things have changed in the second half of the season, although much of that success is attributed to a weaker schedule, the Cubs find themselves 11 games over .500 and a possible berth in the playoffs.

Guys like Ben Zobrist and Alex Avila are coming through when it counts.

“It felt great,” Zobrist said of his homer, No. 10 for the season and his first at Wrigley Field since June 11. “I’ve been driving the ball more the last week or so. It wasn’t cheap either — drive the ball to the middle part of the field and hope that something good happens. Everything felt really good on that.

Don’t forget that home run on Saturday coming off the bench.

I’ve maintained it all along, it’s the guys at the bottom of the rotation that’ll get the work done for a team. The Cubs may not achieve 100 wins this year but if they play their cards right, it’s not unthinkable to reach in the high 80’s.

Would it be a failure?

Naw, last season surprised the experts but every team has crafted their playbook around the Cubs and are prepared. If the Cubs advance to the post season, and there’s no reason they won’t unless they have an epic Red Sox collapse    .

The Cubs will have to maintain their  poise throughout September and into the playoffs.

Believe it.

 

 

Cubs Give Solid Outing But Fall Short

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Sure the Cubs squandered a 2-1 lead going into the eighth inning to eventually lose 4-2 to the Reds but on there were some great signs of life in a performance by Jake Arrieta.

“I felt like I had good tempo, really good sequences,” Arrieta said. “The only trouble I got into, I got out of in the fifth (after the first two batters reached) by making some really good pitches. In the sixth, I tried to do a little too much, tried to overthrow and missed some spots.”

I’ve always been hit or miss with Arrieta. He was brilliant when he won the Cy Young, but faltered a bit the following season. He’s a good if not great pitcher but inconsistent. He’s having a good year, and that’s great for the Cubs but there’s so many better pitchers in the game.

So, the Cubs lost and really it could be tagged onto that attempted steal in the ninth by Jon Jay. It was a poor decision but hey, you have to try, right? Suck it up and come the next game.

“He went on his own,” Maddon said. “He’s thinking they’re playing behind. He’s thinking they’re not going to throw. They did.”

One thing I’ve learned in my years of watching baseball is that they’ll always have those mistakes. It happens.

So, I’ve got these mixed feelings about Player’s Weekend  

Kind of on the fence with this one. I’m not totally convinced it’s going to work, It could be a novelty thing or a marketing grab. It’s for the kids which is great but more likely a marketing opportunity to squeeze out some more cash from us unsuspecting blokes. We’ll be in Philly tomorrow to watch Kyle Hendricks and the Cubs and I’m looking forward to that. We hope to get there early and snag an autograph or two.

Maybe I’m cynical about the whole idea, but in the end it’ll be fun and give fans a chance to be more personable with their favourite players.

“Miami is the city that raised me,” Jay said. “I have a lot of pride in that city. I learned a lot of life lessons there that made me who I am today.” on his 305J nickname.

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Cubs Take Over First Place In Central

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There’s no denying the Cubs are on a roll. After last night’s 8-3 victory over the White Sox, the Cubs took over first place in the National league Central, and may I say that is where they belong. Six games over .500 and 10-2 since the break, it seems like everything is going according to plan.

“When we traded for [Jose Quintana], that’s a huge addition to our ballclub as we’ve seen in his past couple starts,” Arrieta said. “Just seeing how he carries himself in between starts is a really good sign.

“That trade right there is one that is going to pay huge dividends for this ballclub, and not only for this year but the next couple years,” Jake Arrieta said. “We’re a great team right now.”

Whether the trade bolstered their rotation or not, the difference in the halves of the season is astonishing. Although, they have a long way to go before catching the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Cubs are feeling more confident as the season wears on.

“We’re feeling it,” Arrieta said about being in first place again. “We expect to remain in first place throughout the rest of the way. We know it will be a tough task, but that’s what you deal with at the highest level of sports. You expect to have really good competition from teams that are either equal with you or close behind.

“We feel we’ve got the group that can separate ourselves at this point in time and remain in first place for the rest of the way,” he said.

With the captain Anthony Rizzo leading the way with a 4 RBI night, the Cubs certainly looked like the Cubs of last year, I was going to say old, but we know what that was like. In a weird way, I’d like a do over of the All Star game and invite a few more Cubs to the party but let’s face it, there weren’t many Cubs All Stars in the lineup.

“It’s always a good feeling to wake up that way. I’ll get to the coffee shop in the morning [on Thursday], I’ll have the headset on, write the lineup, read the New York newspapers and get ready for my day.” Maddon said.

Their next series against the Brewers should prove whether they stay in first place for the rest of the season or not.

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Cubs End First Half The Right Way

Chicago Cubs

There’s always something unfair in sports. There are winners and losers. It’s definitive and decisive in the results and yesterday, the Chicago Cubs had their definitive ending to the first half of the 2017 season in a 14-3 loss to their division rivals Pittsburgh Pirates. It was a poignant score at the end of the first inning, a 10-0 inning chasing exit for Jon Lester.

“I think people just want to get away, get away from this, get away from the grind. [The Cubs’ record] is not for a lack of effort, it’s not for a lack of preparation. It is what it is. Take four days to regroup, refresh and show up Friday ready. I think the big thing for us is to play good baseball, play solid baseball. Forget the record, forget the batting averages, our ERA, and just get back to playing good sound baseball. The talent on this team will speak for itself.” Lester said following the game.

This is true. of course their record doesn’t fully represent what this team can do. Just like any other sports cliche but that one applies to the 2017 Cubs. They’re good, we know it and they know it. So what happened to them in the first half? Well, lets’ see:

These are just a few of the low lights that have occurred so far this season with the Cubs. If this were any other season or any other Chicago team, fans would be staying away from Wrigley’s sacred ground. The truth is that people still believe in them.

“I’m still very confident,” Maddon said. “I believe in our guys and I’m eager to see us coming out of the break.”

If this were any other year, big changes would be happening. Maddon would be out of a job, trades would happen but this is the Chicago Cubs. They’re World Series Champions and possibly poised to be World Series Chumps if they continue playing the way they’re doing.

The fitting end to the first half couldn’t be better. Last year, the Cubs faced the Pirates in the series before the break, and it signalled a turnaround to their mini slump. They went on a tear after the All Star break and never looked back. Could this be the same?

Of course it’ll be one of the greatest turnarounds in professional sports history. I can read the headlines now:

“The Chicago Cubs Win The World Series After Posting Sub .500 first half” It certainly can happen with someone like Joe Maddon in the dugout. They have an easy schedule. Perhaps Cubs fans were so used to losing that we forgot how to get used to winning?

“If I had a reason, I would’ve fixed it out there,” Lester said. “Unfortunately, it’s never a good time to have a bad start. I really don’t know — I don’t know what to say to make it better, to give you a reason. It kind of speaks for itself. It’s embarrassing.”

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Is There Trouble In The Cubs Locker Room?

Canuck Cubbie

Is there trouble in the ranks of the Chicago Cubs clubhouse? After a horrible 6-1 loss to the Washington Nationals, the team needs to regroup badly. Jake Arrieta allowing 6 walks is unacceptable. However, I’m starting to believe that there might be a rift forming within the Cubs team.

“It really sucked because the stolen base goes on me,” Miguel Montero said. “When you really look at it, the pitcher doesn’t give me any time. It’s like, ‘Oh, yeah, Miggy can’t throw anybody out.’ Yeah, but my pitchers don’t hold anybody on. It’s tough. … I don’t get a chance to throw. That’s the reason they were running left and right. They knew he was slow to the plate, simple as that.”

There you have the fatal flaw of Jake Arrieta. He’s slow to the plate. Now, I like Miggy. Yeah, he was a little but whiny during their playoff run, but if you remember, he hit a grand slam. He comes through in the clutch. In many ways, he’s their outspoken leader. He’ll say everything that needs to be said on the team. Yeah, he’s a part time player but even still he comes through.

“I can pitch at his level,” Arrieta said. “I just haven’t done it consistently. He’s been very good throughout his career. I’ve had a couple good ones, a bad one, a couple good ones. I’d like to be more consistent throughout.”

So where do you find that consistency? Is it trading for pitching? We know the Cubs are in the market so that’ll be addressed soon.

Do you blow up a World Series team and start again? We know that’s not the answer but we also know that the team has suffered key losses in the off season that has contributed to this fluctuating season.

“That’s the million-dollar question right there. If I knew the answer, I’d be talking to the guys to figure it out and get it going. It’s tough. It’s one of those days, you get beat and go home. We played sloppy — we all did. You go home and you think about it, and it’s going to be hard to sleep on it. It was just a bad game. I respect Scherzer. I’ve known him for a long time and he’s a great pitcher, but I felt the game could be a little bit closer.” Montero said.

Big changes are coming, that’s for sure. Whether the Cubs need a break and regroup during the All Star game on July 11th, we’ll have to wait and see. What they can’t do is shrug it off saying “We have to go home and think” No, the Cubs have raised the bar this year and now it’s time for change. Truthfully, I’m betting on Montero not being around at the deadline.

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