Cubs On Slippery Slope After Loss To Rockies

Canuck Cubbie

Despite their fourth loss in a row, the Cubs are sitting in second place in the National League Central division. You know what that means? It’s not a very good division, is it? Yesterday, the Cubs fell to the Rockies in a 9-1 disaster.

“We can’t panic. If we’re panicking, we’re not going to be playing the way we can. You’re going to start gripping the bat tighter, gripping the ball tighter, and then that’s when you really mess up. It’s OK for the fans to worry and all that. I mean, it’s just natural. Some people don’t have control over what we do. But we have the control, and it’s just up to us to kind of work harder.” Kris Bryant said.

It’s a case of two teams going in the opposite direction. I mean, the Rockies are becoming the team to beat this year with a seven game win streak and are second in baseball.

What?

So, I have an idea. Why not insert Jason Heyward into the lead off spot. Arguably, he’s the Cubs most improved player and through 48 games has an OBP of .314 and SLG of .394 The Cubs had five hits yesterday.

Five hits!

Does anyone have an answer for the Cubs woes?

“It happens to everybody. I’m sure if you ask every other team, they’re going to tell you the same thing,” Joe Maddon said. “Of course it happens. To the extent that it’s happening with some guys is a little more difficult. … It’s just collectively a bad moment for us.”

We could use the excuse of the Cubs being banged up but Addison Russell‘s head isn’t there this season and Kyle Hendricks is on the DL for a bit but for a team that we know can do great things, something is amiss in the locker room.

Scoring is essential to winning. We know that and here’s where the difference is with the Cubs this season. The Rockies are first overall with 325 RBI’s while the Cubs are a paltry 259. Not overly terrible numbers for the North Siders but then again, yeah, they’re bad. The Cubs need to hit more. They’re in second last place overall with 477 hits. The Cubs aren’t seeing the ball. That has to change. Wether it’s trying more to do little things like laying down the bunt or being more patient at the plate, they must find a way to change it up.

“You go through things like this. You go through spells where you don’t feel good, and this is probably — I guess as a team — probably the lowest point that I’ve been here,” Bryant said. “But it’s really not that bad when you look at it in context in terms of the division. Nobody’s really taken advantage of it, like some of the other divisions out there or like we did last year. So you’ve just got to keep your head up. Good times are ahead.”

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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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The Cubs Sweep Cardinals

Ian Happ

There are moments in this lifetime that are truly peaceful. Last night’s Cubs/ Cardinals series finale was one of those moments where Norman Rockwell couldn’t have done a better job at portraying America’s national pastime. Sunday evening-check. Sun setting over Wrigley Field-check. David Ross in the stands playing catch with Jason Hayward-Check and of course, the Cubs beating rival Cardinals 7-6– awesome!

The rookie Ian Happ had two home runs last night and Kyle Hendricks wasn’t his usually stoic self but the Cubs still managed to pull together a gem of a ball game.

“He’s going to continue to do a better job of knowing what to not swing at,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Happ. “He doesn’t have to do mechanical adjustments, he doesn’t have to spend 1,000 hours in the batting cage. It’s a focus thing. He has a good idea of the strike zone. When he really refines it here, heads up.”

Perhaps it was the game’s relaxed atmosphere that contributed to the victory. Maybe that’s all the Cubs need to do to get back on track is relax a bit, I don’t know. The weekend series sweep over the Cardinals was a huge confidence booster for the North Siders. It wasn’t easy at the start of the game when Kyle Hendricks was pulled from the mound after Hendricks gave up four hits. The thing I think, is going to be key for this year’s success is not the dominance in the win column, but that helps, for the Cubs to stay in the thick of things, they’re going to have to slug out those ugly victories and although I’m hesitant to say adversity, they’ll have to go through enough of that to get through to the post season even if it requires more team meetings.

“We all want each other to do well,”Jason Heyward said. “We want to make something happen for each other. Just checking in, hearing how we’re doing, hearing what we think about this, what we think about that.”

It’s tougher than ever to win back to back championships with so much parity in the league. Communication on and off of the field will help contribute in the win columns.

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Chicago Cubs Stay Classy

Joe Maddon

May 25, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon (70) departs for a road trip wearing a suit based on the character Ron Burgundy from the movie “Anchorman” after a game against the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-350302 ORIG FILE ID: 20170525_gma_bb6_410.jpg

The Chicago Cubs have become a home run machine after taking the series from the Giants in a 5-1 victory. Three home runs were hit with Kris Bryant, Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist launching rockets into the Wrigley Field bleachers.

“As a group, we did a great job of getting back to keeping it simple and not trying to do too much,” Heyward said. “Just try to take it easy and relax and have a good approach (at the plate). Be aggressive in the strike zone and kind of make them come to us.”

They’re getting contributions from everyone and including Heyward, who has had to tweak his swing during the offseason. Either it was his speech in last fall’s dramatic and historic game 7 World Series that prompted him to adjust his swing or he’s cashing in his first pay check from the Cubs, Heyward is a much better player this season at the plate.

“I don’t feel you can ignore [last year],” Heyward said. “You have to be aware and make adjustments. We’re going to fail way more times than we’ll succeed. That’s why it’s a humbling game. You always take failure and learn from it and go from there.”

With the win, the Cubs now take over top spot in the Central Division(In my humble opinion, it’s a spot where they belong)before heading to Los Angeles to take on the Dodgers. It’s not that I hate the Dodgers but rather they make me nervous. They’re so good and it’s a west coast game so it’s on really late. People can talk about winning their divisions but these west coasters are the games to win. They’re the kind of games that can mess a team up in their rhythm.

“We don’t care about last year,” Heyward said. “It’s not going to do anything for us now other than having experience. Right now is right now. We have to go play tomorrow, and that’s going to be another thing. … Last year was awesome, but we have to play right now, and I feel right now we’re doing a great job playing baseball the way we can collectively and let things come to us. We’re not trying to do too much, not trying to create excitement. It’ll be there.”

Heyward is right. Last year was awesome and perhaps unique. This season the Cubs are out to prove that they’re champs and put a stamp on the World Series. So, as the Cubs hit the road in Anchorman style, if Joe Maddon’s motto from last season, “Try Not To Suck” this year is,

“Stay classy, Chicago”

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Cubs Don’t Take Anything For Granted

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs bring the power against the San Francisco Giants as Anthony Rizzo crushes two home runs in the 5-4 victory. Kyle Hendricks pitched seven solid innings allowing only two runs. The Cubs are taking cues from Rizzo, the Cubs clubhouse leader.

“I’ve been on some streaks sometimes, but I want to be as consistent as possible,” Rizzo said. “But you take it. You ride it. You ride it out and you enjoy it.”

Nobody needs to tell you that when the leader leads, good things happen. Rizzo has homered in his last four games. The Cubs are slowly clawing their way back to the top of the standings with a half game back of the Brewers. What’s most impressive though is coupled with Jon Lester‘s complete game performance, Hendrick’s seventh inning endurance is proving to be a catalyst in their wins.

“That was probably the strongest I’ve felt deep into a game [this year],” said Hendricks, who led the majors last year with a 2.13 ERA. “The game before this was the previous time I’d felt stronger. But today, definitely the best.”

As I was building off on yesterday’s post, starter’s need to go deep again. Usually when they go deep into games, team’s are going to win ballgames. That’s logic. They might not be pretty wins but endurance and the ability to get batter’s out anyway they can will do it.

“When our starters go deep, it’s always fun to play behind them,” Rizzo said.

Of course it’s fun, there’s usually a cushion to play behind and the order can relax leading to perhaps more multi homer games. The Cubs are settling into a nice groove. They’ll go for the series win today before a weekend series against the Dodgers. The Cubs need to win these west coast matches this early in the season if they want to continue their quest for a repeat World Series.

“When you get a lead like we did tonight, you want to win those games. We’ve got a good home-field advantage, one of the better ones in sports as far as the fan support. We don’t take that for granted.” Jason Heyward said.

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The Complete Jon Lester

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs picked up where they left off in the NLDS by crushing a few long balls in their 4-1 toppling of the San Francisco Giants last night. Jason Heyward, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber each contributed to the victory but it was Jon Lester who commanded the game by pitching his first complete game of the season. In an environment where complete games are becoming increasingly rare, Lester delivered with ten strikeouts.

“I think the complete game now is few and far between,” Lester said. “There’s always that gratification to go out there and finish it and walk off and shake everybody’s hand as they go off the field.”

Forget ERA’s, strikeouts, or WHIP’S a complete game is a badge of honour and to me, the most important statistic that a pitcher can be adorned with. It’s a true testament on how valuable that pitcher is for the team.

“That’s classic stuff. He just kept getting better,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “A real thoroughbred starting pitcher starts to feel it, and I think that’s what was going on.”

As for yesterday’s victory, I feel that it’ll mark a turning point for the Cubs. Think about it, three home runs and a complete game; it’s pretty remarkable.

“We were able to get four tonight instead of one like we did against Cueto in the playoffs,” Jason Heyward said. “It was kind of a similar game. It’s another four-game set against these guys like we had last year [in the postseason]. It’s going to be a good [series]; pitchers are going to pitch and we have to take what we can get on both sides. For Jonny to come out and do something like that is huge, especially against a guy like Cueto.”

So yeah, last night, the Cubs were awesome. If the Cubs can capture that magic and carry it forth, they’ll be all right.

“It impacts the rest of the starting pitchers. It’s contagious, like hitting is contagious. They feed off one another and that’s what we have to do on a more consistent basis. I like to believe something like that can tweak the starters in a good way.” Joe Maddon said.

Tonight, Kyle Hendricks gets the call. It’s difficult to follow in those footsteps of Lester but he’s slowly regaining that magic which he wielded last season. The 2-1 right hander takes the mound at 8:05pm.

Believe it.

 

 

Cubs Keep It Entertaining And Almora Goes Airborne

Willson Contreras

Nobody can ever say that the Chicago Cubs don’t ever quit. In just about every game that they come up short, there’s been some reminder of that. Last night, the Cubs came up short against the San Francisco Giants 6-4 but it wasn’t for a lack of trying.

“If we keep playing that game, it’ll make me a happy person. I thought we played really well. We had really good at-bats, played our defense. That’s what I’m looking for, more of that. When you lose a game like that, my thought has been if we keep playing like that, we’ll win plenty.”Joe Maddon said.

My problem with games like that is they’ll have a difficult time winning any of those games if they can’t follow through and win them. If the Cubs were the team they were a few years ago, then “fighting back” and “never quitting” were great terms to apply to them because they were an up and coming team. Not now, they’re the freakin’ World Series Champions!

“Obviously, we’re not tired of saying that we never quit,” Javier Baez said.

Of course there were a lot of positives to take away from the game like Ian Happ. The guy’s hitting .357 with seven extra base hits. They’ll find a way to keep the rookie in the lineup.

“It’s not easy to do,” Jason Heyward said. “Some guys come up and there are a lot of questions or whatever … He does what he’s asked.”

It wasn’t just about Happ either. The resurgent Javier Baez and the ultimate team player , Ben Zobrist each served up souvenirs for excited Wrigley attendees but all that amounts to nothing when it comes to actually winning the games. It’s easy for me to say that the Cubs need to get out early and stay ahead or if they’re coming from behind to actually win the game. Oh wait, there was Albert Almora‘s awesome Kevin Pillar impression in the first inning when he went airborne.

The true indication of the Cubs turning the corner will come with Ben Zobrist in the leadoff spot. He’s a great hitter and if he continues, they will win a lot more games.

“That first at-bat, you kind of feel like, ‘Well, maybe I should be patient,'” Zobrist said. “But then again you don’t want to let a ball right down the middle go by.”

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