Cubs Lose But Welcome The Professor Back

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Kyle Hendricks is always hard on himself. He was even harder on himself after the Cubs 3-1 loss to crosstown rivals, Chicago White Sox. While his comeback lasted only 4 1/2 innings, the road to recovery will take a few more games to get his sync back with the team.

“Just too many innings today for the bullpen to cover, really. That’s my fault,” Hendricks said of the loss. “I think that’s just a factor of me getting in my routine, getting in my bullpen routine, throwing again every day, just getting my legs back underneath me.

“Being on five days [moving forward] I think suits me a lot better. It’s just more normalcy in a way.”

Baseball is a game built on rhythm. To find that groove where pitchers can throw their best pitches at will, takes time. Sure, it takes a lot of skill and practice but timing and rhythm is everything.

“He was not what you would call ‘on.’ He’d be the first one to tell you that,” Maddon said. “But he threw [92] pitches, which is good to get him stretched out moving into the next start. The fact that he got out of there with one run — I was really pleased with that, too. It’s just a good outing to build off of.”

A 92 pitch outing is decent enough and even better when coming off the DL. If it were up to me and I suspect in a perfect world, pitcher’s would show at least 100 pitches and last 7 1/2 innings minimum. Of course it doesn’t always work out that way, but for me, the ideal outing would be those benchmarks.

So let’s talk about the trade deadline coming up. The Cubs are playing good ball and I don’t have to tell you about the success of Jose Quintana who is all ready 2-0 since joining the Northsiders but what else is there for the Cubs to acquire? Catching? I think that’s a safe bet because as we know, Willson Contreras might get a little burnt out before the end of the season if he keeps playing the way he’s been doing.

“We have a couple more days to put it all together,” Maddon said of the Deadline. “Of course, that makes sense [to get a veteran backup] — I can’t deny that. I don’t know if that will happen or not. That’s not denigrating Victor. Victor is at a point in his development that you don’t want him sitting around much.”

The “Victor” is rookie Victor Caratini who’s been doing fine as a back up but is he up to the grind of a potential playoff run or should they go with a veteran?

The Cubs are 8-2 since the break and are finally finding their rhythm can they keep it up?

“We all understand in this clubhouse it’s an exciting time,” Jason Heyward said. “It’s the second half, we’re playing for the playoffs and the division race is close. It’s exciting. It’s where you want to be. … It’s fun. Embrace that.”

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Cubs Wake Up From Hibernation

Chicago Cubs

There’s no denying it, the Cubs needed the rest going into the All Star break. They had to restart their batteries, regroup and do whatever they had to do to propel themselves into the second half. Last night’s 9-8 offensive output over the Baltimore Orioles was a welcomed relief and a much better indicator of what the team can do but it was also a sign of what they lack.

“It would’ve been very difficult to lose that game, I will not deny that, but we didn’t; we won it,” Maddon said. “You take a break, you play catch a little bit, and they’ve been throwing a lot in the first half. It’s one of those catch-22 moments. We got through it.”

It’s been a busy week for the Chicago Cubs. Some of it not so good when it came to the All Star game. Not only was Joe Maddon on the losing side but Wade Davis ended up giving up the winning run. If anyone was keeping score, Davis not only was the only representative of the Cubs but he wasn’t even on the 2016 World Series winning team! After the All Star game, I joked to my wife about the Cubs curse continuing almost like Sianis was calling down from the skies,”All right that last curse didn’t count so here’s another one!”

Then the Cubs made a huge trade in acquiring Jose Quintana from their crosstown rivals the White Sox, the Cubs gave up some minor leaguers. Quintana is expected to be in the lineup tomorrow and folks, I don’t know yet whether I’m excited about this or not?

“It’s over and that’s good,” Quintana said of the trade rumors. “It’s a fresh start. I just want to do my job and make the playoffs. I’ve never been to the playoffs and I have a good chance here.”

It’s a chance for both teams to make a fresh start. Last night’s five home run attack was the start of something special. In fact, what made it so special was the guys who hit them. Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist, Addison Russell and Willson Contreras. With the exception of Contreras, the other guys have been either injured or having a less than stellar season. I’m confident that Addison Russell has replaced Dexter Fowler in the, “You go, we go” department. He’s the kid the Cubs need to bolster the offence.

“The first half is a wash for me,” Schwarber said. “It’s just [a matter of] going out there and getting back to competing and focusing on my at-bat and focusing on the team at-bat and focusing on the team, period. We started off on the right foot — this is a big one for us, right there. We faced a little adversity and we were able to come through and it’s a great feeling.”

Like last season’s game against the Pirates going into the break, this one’s going to be the turning point of the season.

Now, if they can just tweak that ability to hold a lead, we’ll all be fine.

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Cubs Split With Rays

Jon Jay

Yesterday’s game continued to show the good and the bad of this year’s Cubs. In their 7-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, it was the Cubs rookie Ian Happ hitting a two run single that boosted the Cubs past a tie.

“It was a more complete game,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We were down 3-0, but I felt good about it. It’s just that things weren’t going our way. That batted-ball-in-play statistic has to come back to us at some point. The ball’s been hit hard but at people. We’ve got to keep fighting through it.”

Then along comes Jon Jay with his second home run in, well, a long time. The Cubs have struggled all year for reasons that have become perennial head scratchers after the success last year. The two things that haven’t been struggling is Happ and Jay. Now, I’ve got this theory that it has something to do with Joe Maddon. He’s been great with the young guys, especially last season but this year the team isn’t quite so young. They’re veterans now and perhaps that’s Maddon’s achilles; he’s not as good with veterans. Perhaps the Cubs shouldn’t have won last season.

So the All Star break is coming up and unlike last season, the Cubs are kinda watching from the dugout. Wade Davis the only representation besides Joe Maddon and Kris Bryant might get the vote in but in reality the Cubs haven’t deserved the right to appear in the annual classic and I’m all right with that. It’s not as much a popularity contest as it is showcasing the best of the best. While Anthony Rizzo is putting up decent numbers, the Cubs just aren’t there this season.

“I cannot dispute that,” Maddon said. “So many went last year. The last two years have been long years. Our guys have been going after it pretty hard. I’m not disappointed in regards to that.”

The Cubs had seven players in the classic last year. So maybe this is a good thing that will build momentum in the second half. There’ll be some key players returning from injuries, Jason Heyward is back and Kyle Hendricks is poised for a return soon. Whatever happens to the Cubs in the second half, the results will be good. This year is kind of like a team building season. How would they deal with a championship or is this the beginning of another century drought?

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Cubs Are Lovable Losers Again

Canuck Cubbie

The tale of the Cubs this season has been very different depending on what team shows up. In yesterday’s 5-4 win over the Washington Nationals, the Cubs used the ninth inning to stage a comeback.

“A win’s a win — it doesn’t matter how it looks, how we get there,” Chicago starter Jon Lester said. “We’ll take two of four from a really good team. Hopefully, this can build a little momentum for us.”

The funny part about momentum building victories is that it doesn’t always happen. Yes, they took two of four from a really good team but in the wake of Miguel Montero‘s DFA, the Cubs have probably revealed the cracks in the organization. Nobody ever accused Montero of not speaking his mind. This time however, it cost him his gig with the Cubs.

“I reminded [Montero] of the standard we try to hold our players to when it comes to being supportive of one’s teammates and being accountable for one’s play and for being a good teammate,” Theo Epstein said Wednesday. “I reminded Miggy that we expect when something goes wrong on the field, we expect our players to take the blame and step up and proactively assume the blame, even if it’s not their fault.”

This season has suddenly felt like a “Do Over” because of all the injuries to key players like Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward and now Kris Bryant. Last season at this time, the Cubs were running away with the title but this year is different. The Cubs are six games out of a Wild Card spot and truthfully, all negativity aside, the Cubs won’t stand a chance of even getting the Wild Card position if they continue to split series against teams like Miami and the Nationals.

Why?

Those two teams are on opposite sides. If the Cubs can’t really beat the best and can’t really beat the worst baseball has to offer, then what does that say about the Cubs? It says it’s a team that is struggling.

“I don’t think we’ve established our identity yet. I don’t think we’ve found our edge yet that we’ll need to play with to win games,” Epstein said. “Wins don’t just happen because you’re talented and you show up. You have to come to the park with an edge every day and come together as a team and play together to win and play with a certain edge. We’re going to find it.”

There you have it. They’ve got a good team in there somewhere but in a way, the team was dismantled last season with the losses to Aroldis Chapman and Dexter Fowler. It was inevitable with those two but what it’s shown baseball fans is that the team of 2016 was a magical one. If suddenly, the team can turn it around and go on a tear after the All Star break, then miracles do happen. It’s poignant that that the Cubs find themselves struggling. The perennial underdogs continue to be in that position despite a World Championship. #ThatsCub

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Cubs Narrowly Escape Game 1

Canuck Cubbie

Chicago Cubs’ Javier Baez, bottom right, steals third during the eighth inning of a baseball game against Anthony Rendon, Monday, June 26, 2017, in Washington. The Cubs won 5-4. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

It was a highlight reel of everything that was great about the Chicago Cubs this season and everything that was not so great about the North Siders in their 5-4 victory over the Washington Nationals. From Javier Baez‘s spectacular catch to Wade Davis’ 9th inning collapse, it was the best of times and the worst of times.

“I love when we participate with that kind of intensity,” manager Joe Maddon said after the game. “I’m not saying we haven’t, but coming in here against a really good team, under the circumstances, it was kind of fun.”

There it is. Joe Maddon finally admitted that the Cubs haven’t been very good this season. Sort of. The Washington Nationals are a very good team and the Cubs meanwhile, are in a division that isn’t the strongest division in the game. So the test of how good the Cubs are isn’t all that accurate. In fact, the Cubs are still in the hunt to win the National League Central but compared to the rest of the league, Chicago isn’t doing too well.

“It’s nice before you play [Max] Scherzer — it’s always nice [to win]. To play so well and not win that game, that would’ve been awful, that would’ve been tough. Honestly, every night to me is the biggest game of the year. Tonight, playing a good team like that, playing in Washington, we have our youngest pitcher pitching against a guy who is pretty darn good. Butler beats Gio tonight … I think that’s pretty good stuff.” Maddon said.

Eddie Butler did a spectacular job last night allowing no runs in his five inning stint. If last night was a wake up call for the struggling team, then they looked no further than to Javier Baez’s leadership abilities. This is the time of the season to rally the troops and take stock of where the team is heading. They must accept the fact that they’re not the team they were in 2016. That was a fluke and admitting to it being the lightning in the bottle season, will give them the dose of reality they need moving forward.

“Games like this are what we need right now,” Baez said. “The Nationals are like St. Louis. Always good competition. … Before the game, everyone was into it. Go out there, and play hard.”

The good news is that guys like Jason Heyward, Kyle Hendricks and Kyle Schwarber won’t be out too much longer and the Cubs can go back to winning ball games.

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Cubs On Slippery Slope After Loss To Rockies

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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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