Cubs Go On Fishing Expedition

Canuck Cubbie

It’s no secret that this season when the Cubs have been bad, well, they’ve stunk but when they’ve been good, they’ve been red hot. Last night, the Cubs weren’t just red hot, they were on fire beating the Miami Marlins 11-1.  On the same day that fan favourite, Kyle Schwarber got sent down for a little bit of adjustment, the Cubs young bats became red hot with Addison Russell, Willson Contreras and Kris Bryant each chipping in for the Home Run Department.

“A night like tonight where we we pitch well and score 11 runs, it looks easy. But it’s about consistency and trying to build off of a night like tonight. We’ve got the guys necessary to do so. So it’s a matter of collectively as a group building off of a night like tonight.” Jake Arrieta said.

Which is easier said than done. I’m not a big fan when players say all the “right things” when it comes to the need of winning ballgames. Eleven runs won’t happen every night, we know that but it’s also the kind of thing that won’t always ballgames when teams hit too many home runs. I’m a big fan of small ball. Get a hit, move the runner and steal a bag. Of course, score some runs.

The key player for the Cubs right now is Addison Russell. He’s been having a sloppy year so far but if he connects like he did last night, then I see a Cubs turnaround. What I mean by turnaround is not just squeaking in by a wild card spot; Nope, a bona fide National League leader.

“Addison looks really comfortable. I know you see it up there also,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “And Happ, when he starts making contact, he keeps making contact. And I like it from the right side. That’s very large that he’s starting to do it from the right side.”

Sending Kyle Schwarber down is something I would have done a lot sooner. He’s not a lead off guy (Not really an outfielder either, but not as bad as I imagined) He needs to get adjusted and time to refocus his fundamentals.

“We think this is best for him right now,” Maddon said. “We know he’s gonna be back, and obviously just look forward to it. I really personally love having him here, too. It’s just even when he’s struggling, whenever he walks up to the plate, everyone expects something good to happen. So let’s just get him right for him and for us.”

Look what happened last year after missing all but two games? There’s no question the kid can hit but I really didn’t think that last season’s success was an indication of what Schwarber can do. Hopefully with some time to get adjusted, there might be something waiting when he gets back.

“It’s tough for our team, because he’s such a good guy,” Anthony Rizzo said. “But he’s gonna go down and be able to exhale a little bit as far as being in the limelight all the time and hopefully smooth things out. We’re all confident he will and just do his best down there to get back here and get back to being the Kyle Schwarber we know.”

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Cubs Grab Marlins By The Jaws

Anthony Rizzo

It’s frustrating to be a Cubs fan these days. One one hand I want to be critical of their performance this season but on the other hand, winning five in a row and having the best win streak in the majors just feels right. The Cubs destroyed the Miami Marlins last night 10-2 and there wasn’t much the fish could do to stay out of the Cubs jaws.

“The feeling is a little different in the dugout,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Since we’ve been back home, the guys are starting to feel it more and it’s more reminiscent of the last two years and it’s a good thing.”

There was that emotional speech in San Diego that might have turned things around but the way the Cubs have played during this home stand, who knows maybe Jason Heyward should start giving Ted Talks? Last night, the Cubs put out the welcome mat for the Marlins from Jake Arrieta‘s outstanding performance to Anthony Rizzo‘s staggering three run home run in the fifth inning, that’s the way the Cubs should play.

Arrieta, possibly being reminded that his contract is due soon, decided to remind us all that he won a Cy Young a couple years back and went win to pitch just under seven innings.

“Any time we go through a period like we did on our last road trip, it kind of increases the sense of urgency a little bit,” Arrieta said. “We’re not necessarily pressing or trying to do more than we’re capable of, but trying to get locked in more as far as our mental approach and focusing exclusively on that. We’ve been doing that the past five or six games, and it’s starting to pay off”

Recording five strikeouts, the fearsome hurler settled in and delivered a performance that only the second time in the last 11 where a starter recorded a win, that’s how poor the Cubs have been of late.

Though what’s been the most impressive as of late is the play of Jason Heyward. The much maligned highly priced pick up of the Cubs enjoyed one of his best games last night, recording three hits, two of which were doubles. Yup, nobody ever accused Heyward of having a rotten glove but his play at the plate has garnered a lot of attention lately.

“I’m really digging where he’s at in the five-hole,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Right- or left-handed pitcher,  he don’t care. He’s giving you good at-bats against both sides of the plate. He’s giving good at-bats against velocity, and he’s giving you good at-bats against breaking pitches. He continues to trend in the right direction.”

Going into last night’s contest, the Cubs were last in the National League with Runners In Scoring Position but they’ve been 4 for 7 before the game. Last night, they went 6 for 16, a paltry number by any means but one that’s heading into the right direction.

“It starts in the clubhouse, it starts in the dugout, it starts with us being together,” Heyward said. “It starts with your hitters feeling like the dugout and the team is with you every at-bat. That’s what we want to feel. We want to make sure our guys know that regardless of the outcome of the at-bat, just know the guys are with you, and we’ve done a great job of that.”

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Cubs Lose Six In a Row

Kris Bryant

It’s hard to compete with what happened last year. A World Series championship after so many years of what could have beens and never was’ the Cubs have now lost six in a row after yesterday’s 2-1 stunner. Jake Arrieta pitched well striking out seven, which isn’t bad but considering Arrieta’s past achievements is mere mortal.

“If you panic, if you worry, we still have to show up and play a game every day,” Arrieta said. “There’s no time to panic. If that happens, especially at this point in the season, when we’re two, 2 1/2 games out of first place, it’s going to work against us. We have to just maintain a positive vibe in here the best we can and continue to move forward, even if we lose several games in a row. I know it’s a cliche thing to say, but sometimes that just happens in this game.”

He’s right about two things. Now’s not the time to panic and baseball’s a difficult game. Losing streaks happen and all the Cubs can do is stay focused on what’s ahead. The ability to stay positive as well is an important thing to do too.

“I feel we have to have more fun, like last year,” Willson Contreras said after hitting a double then waving to the bench. “Last year, we were out there and had fun. It was more about hitting the ball over the fence. We went out there and had good at-bats. That’s how I feel — that’s why I did what I did today.”

It’s hard to feel optimistic when the statistics for May are bad:

  • At 25-27, the Cubs are under .500 for the first time under Maddon
  • Losing 6 in a row is the most consecutive with Maddon as Manager
  • Both the Padres and Dodgers kept the Cubs RISP to a low 3-40

That’s bad.

“With what we accomplished last year, obviously the expectations are really high, and they should be,” Arrieta said. “We’ll take it. We’ll deal with the criticism and continue to move forward and do everything we can.”

Of course they can still win their division but it’s not the point. It’s going to be a struggle getting into the post season but I can’t help feel terrible for some of the players and heck, even Maddon. Is their jobs on the line? It’s inevitable that this was going to happen to the team but maybe we’re still on a World Series high or maybe just not ready to accept that the Cubs aren’t as good as we thought they were.

“There’s no magic potion,” Joe Maddon said. “We just have to keep going out there and playing, believe in our guys — which I do, 100 percent. These are good young players. They’ve shown it in the past. They’ll show it to you again.”

What do you think?

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Cubs Not Ready To Throw In The Towel

Kris Bryant

Sure, Kyle Schwarber hit a home run but the Cubs are below .500 Let’s put that into perspective, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series in 2016 and less than a year later, they’re a sub .500 team. Last night, the Cubs fell 6-2 to the San Diego Padres.

“We got the lead and gave it right back,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We gave up the lead, and that was very large because they did pitch well again, and we’re not hitting like we can, so it’s a bad combination.”

So, what’s the problem? I mean, they’ve got tons of All Stars and the reigning NL MVP on their squad and they’ve fallen below .500 twice this season?

Uh oh.

“We feel we have a talented offense that will be productive over the long haul that has fallen into some bad patterns,” Theo Epstein said. “We’re a little too easy to pitch to these days, which means we have to adjust. I think that’s going to come.”

When the President of Baseball Operations uses the word “adjust” he’s not talking about batting stances or infield positioning, he’s talking about something more desperate and that could mean some big time player movement. Bleed Cubbie Blue has an interesting proposal in regards to what can happen with Schwarber.

It’s not just one area of their game that’s suffering. It’s pitching and batting that’s taken a beating lately that’s only been accentuated by their latest west coast debacle.

So, if changes are coming, and you’d better believe that they will despite what the Prez says, the Cubs are in a pickle. Last night’s loss was their fifth straight and going into last night’s fiasco, the Cubs were a .500 team nine times this year all ready. Folks, check your calendar because we’re only into May.

“Not right now,” Epstein said. “You keep an open mind for everything. You have belief in certain guys’ talent. You want to find a way to manifest it. It’s valuable for guys to work through things up here.

“Not right now” Three words that can have an impact on a few players. Yeah, there’s going to be some major changes, if not subtly. Ian Happ has gone cold, we know of Schwarber’s situation.

“We don’t need everyone to get hot, we don’t need everyone to hit their projections,” Epstein said. “We just need a few guys to get going to make our offense really viable. We need time. I think over time our guys will continue to progress. When that gap exists, it’s a better position than not having the talent.”

Epstein is saying the right things now, but one or some unlucky players will not hear those words.

Today should be an interesting matchup with Jake Arrieta going toe to toe against the Padres. Whether that will transpire into a slugfest or not remains to be seen.

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Bryant Hits Two HR’s In Take Down Of Brewers

Chicago Cubs

Amid the controversial decision to postpone Saturday’s game at Wrigley due to inclement weather, the Cubs came roaring back yesterday to thump the Brewers 13-6. I’m still scratching my head on the game being called when there wasn’t a drop of rain anywhere. The two teams have been trading barbs recently after suspicions that Brewer’s Eric Thames is taking PEDs. True or not, it’s an ongoing controversy that hopefully gets resolved.

Yesterday’s event  saw the Cubs sending four souvenirs home with those lucky fans. The reigning NL MVP Kris Bryant hit two of them.

“This is where we made our hay last year, at Wrigley. We have not played that well here yet this year. I anticipate, expect that we will. We’ve done better in this homestand, but we’re still not playing our best baseball. I mean that was a nice, 13-run game, whatever, but my perfectionism comes into fundamentals of the game. That’s what I like to see.”

Thirteen run games are hard to come by, but yesterday’s double digit event marked the rare occurrence of the Cubs showing signs of their former selves; and they did it in style.

“I feel like the name of the game now is get on base any way you can,” Bryant said, starting to crack a smile. “Getting hit with two pitches is just as good as any other walk.”

It was the first Cubs player since 1913 to get two home runs and hit by two pitches. Now, if that isn’t a cool baseball statistic or what?

Jake Arrieta is pitching better lately. It wasn’t a Cy Young caliber performance but the stoic hurler is taking a page out of Kyle Hendricks book by “just getting batters out”

“I think we’ve picked it up in pretty much every aspect of the game,” Arrieta said. “Playing a little better defense, throwing the ball a little better as a staff. Obviously, we’re starting to click offensively from top to bottom. We’ve got a lot of guys who are contributing up in the order, and that’s what we’re doing when we’re at our best.”

If last season showed the baseball world of the power behind what the Cubs can do, then this season is a test of how good the Cubs can be when faced against opponents who are more prepared to how good the Cubs play.

“If you look at it to this point we just haven’t hit. We haven’t had … even one hot hitter for an extended period of time. We haven’t pitched to our [capabilities],” Maddon said. “We just haven’t played our game yet.”

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Admit it, The Cubs Are In A Slump

Jake Arrieta

It’s been quite awhile since the Cubs were a sub .500 ball club. Well, really since 2014 but for a Cubs fan it feels like an eternity since they’ve hit this kind of rough patch. Despite a great performance by Jake Arrieta, the Cubs dropped the series with a loss yesterday to their arch rivals Cardinals 5-0.

“We would obviously like to be playing better than we are right now. I don’t think there’s any reason to panic. The talent we have here will correct itself and start to turn itself around. We’d like to win a few more games than we are and tighten things up a little bit, but guys are showing up ready to play and going about things the right way. We’re just not getting the results we’d like.” Arrieta said.

Now, that’s either due to other teams catching on to the Cubs’ tiny quirks and quarks or that could just be the post World Series blues. The fact is the Cubs aren’t looking so mighty right now. They called up Ian Happ, the highly touted 2015 draft pick and he didn’t disappoint with a two run homer on the weekend. In an effort to try and turn things around, the Cubs are willing to move up prospects but is it wise to call them up too soon?

“We needed him and he’s here. How long is he going to stay? I have no idea,” Joe Maddon said. “It could be short, it could be longer than that. I don’t know.”

The problem with the Cubs misfortunes is simple; they need to move the runners. If a team can’t score with runners in scoring position, then they’re not going to win too many ballgames. That’s the simple fact.

“That part of the game, the runs in scoring position, need to come from the middle, opposite field more. It can’t just be a pull, ground ball to third, ground ball to short, popup, try to do too much. Let’s utilize the whole field. We’re working on getting that back into their mindsets now. I do believe RBIs tend to be in the middle of the field more than the pull side. Overall, we’re not doing a good job with runners in scoring position,” Maddon said.

Whether it’s not using the fundamentals or something else entirely but the Cubs need to do something. I’d love to see a back to back championship season. In times where parity is emphasized over dynasties, it would feel great to have the Cubs win it again. Baseball needs it right now. In fact, if the Cubs win this year, it would feel like payback for over a century’s worth of misfortunes and heartbreak. Imagine, the Cubs being the team to beat?

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Cubs Rockie Road in First Game. Lackey Dominates Second Game

John Lackey

The Chicago Cubs played a double header yesterday and despite the win in the second game, it was the first game that struck the ire of me. The Cubs lost game one by a score of  10-4. It was a mess. Before I go into detail, the Rockies are really good this season which hasn’t been that way in a long while. That being no excuse, the Cubs are in a whack load of trouble in 2017.

“They hit some balls really well, others they dropped it in front [of the outfielder],” Joe Maddon said. “You have to play such a big outfield here, it’s so large. They just have good at-bats. They’re really good offensively.”

The Cubs lost four in a row after that first game. They’re no strangers to slumps but their dominance is showing cracks in that World Series winning machine. The normally sure footed Javier Baez threw the ball away during one play and Jake Arrieta got lit up.

“They’ve got one of the better offenses in all of baseball, especially at Coors Field,” Arrieta said. “They hit for a significantly higher average here. That’s just a testament to their ability to play to their home park and have a good approach. I wanted to come into this game and establish strikes with all my pitches. I did it pretty well — almost too well with too many hittable pitches, really.”

Then there was the second game…

John Lackey looked like John Lackey in the game. It was almost cringe worthy having Lackey follow Arrieta’s performance but Lackey rolled back the clock, dug his heels into the mound and delivered one of his finest performances. He struck out 10 and had seven goose egg innings in a Cubs rout 8-1 over the Rockies.

“That was outstanding,” Maddon said. “He really picked us up. We needed that kind of a start. We’re used to getting that kind of starting performance from our entire staff, so hopefully he’s going to set the tone moving forward. It was really fun to watch. He had a really, really good breaking ball, slider today and commanded everything.”

The one thing I’ve learned is that pitching is everything. It’s my favourite part of the game and yesterday’s double header showcased the best and the worst of the craft. Yeah that’s right, pitching isn’t a sport, it’s a craft. A goaltender can stop pucks on sheer will and reflects but a pitcher can control a game based on the history of each individual standing before them.

The two games were polar opposites of each other. No matter what kind of positive spin Joe Maddon can put on the Cubs this year, there’s no “We don’t quit” or “You go, we go” anymore. The honeymoon phase is over for the Chicago Cubs. They need to win the World Series this season and have to right the ship or both Epstein and Maddon will not see the end of their contracts. I’m not being cynical or anything but there might be a new curse on the horizon, “The Chicago Cubs will never win back to back World Series again”

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