Cubs Topple Mets

Canuck Cubbie

Somehow, the Cubs bats woke up and stunned the New York Mets 14-3. Was it a fluke? Could it be that having Anthony Rizzo in the lead off spot sparked the carnage or was it the grand slam from Ian “Kid” Happ that added to the victory. Either way, the Cubs played like they meant business, and business was good.

“The thing is, he’s not impacted by that,” Maddon said of Rizzo. “He kind of has fun with it. He doesn’t look at it in any other ways except it’s going to be fun.”

If Anthony Rizzo has fun with hitting in the leadoff spot, then who knows? this could be the start of something great. With the win, Jon Lester earned his 150th victory while striking out 10.

So, although the Cubs dominated the Mets with their offensive prowess, Cubs fans shouldn’t reserve their seats at the victory parade just yet.

“You know what?” Rizzo asked. “Let’s go on a run now. That would be great. Just keep winning. Hopefully, this can be the start of something, but it’s just one game.”

It’s one game. A great game, but even though the Cubs 9 game road drought has ended, there are still concerns going forward such as the return of Kyle Hendricks being put back due to more pain from his tendinitis.

In a lot of ways, last night’s win proved that the 2016 team is still intact and their offence can hit long balls at will but the caveat is clear;

Home runs don’t necessarily win ball games. The Cubs were 6 for 10 with RISP, not a terrible number but looking at their LOB numbers at 8, the Cubs still have a long road to travel before coming out of the mediocrity column in the standings. While Jon Lester’s 150th is great, he feels there’s even more to come.

“Personal stuff is always cool, whatever, but at the end of the day, you play for the Cubs and want to win for the Cubs,” Lester said. “That was a big one for us tonight on a lot of levels — pitching, offense, baserunning, defense. It was a good night for us.”

Believe it

 

Kyle Schwarber Launches First Grand Slam

chi-cubs-cards0603a-ct0053315998-20170603

I know I’ve been a little harsh on Kyle Schwarber of late, but really I’ve just been critical of the Cub’s decision to have him as lead off hitter. Yesterday, the Cubs didn’t have hitting lead off but instead, hitting in the ninth spot and he came through. The Cubs won the series against their rivals, the Cardinals 5-3.

“I’m like, ‘Hey, at least I’m playing,'” Schwarber said, laughing. “No, actually, I didn’t say anything. He told me his reason and I was like, ‘All right, I’m going with it.’ Whatever the skipper does I’m following it. He’s got our back. It’s all a process, and it worked out today.”

It did work out. Schwarber hit his first career grand slam and sending the Wrigley faithful into a frenzy. Sometimes, managers and GM’s might call up a player in order to put a band aid on the situation but with a creative manager like Maddon, juggling the batting order is all they need.

“Of course, his confidence is impacted, and that’s the whole point,” Maddon said. “I wanted to impress upon him it’s not a loss of confidence from me to you. I understand you’re going through a moment right now. What is the best way to deal with this? You can set aside your baseball ego — hitting ninth. To me, it’s so attractive. It’s not hitting ninth and like the last kid playing right field in a sandlot game, it’s not that at all. It’s really attractive.”

Perhaps that’s all the Cubs really need is to put their egos aside after winning the big one and hey, I’d have a big ego if I helped end an over a hundred year drought. Wouldn’t you?

It wasn’t just Schwarber that helped the team win the weekend series, Jon Lester 14-2 at Wrigley Field, picked off Tommy Pham at first. You heard that right, Lester threw the guy out at first. We all know that Lester has been a little on the apprehensive side when it comes to playing catch with first base but every now and then he’ll make that elusive play and get someone out. Runners usually get a big lead on him thinking he’ll never do it, then it happens.

“It’s a mind thing, man,” Maddon said. “If you believe you can do it, you can do it. It’s that simple. I know the other teams will definitely jot that down. It’s something to be reckoned with. However, we’ve done a nice job controlling the running game with him all year. It’s not been an issue. There’s been a lot made of it … but he’s done a great job. He’s probably our quickest guy to the plate. To this point, it’s worked in our favor.”

So, how quickly the Cubs try to put a horrible May behind them where they went 12-16 and now have won back to back in June will close out the series with a sweep against the Cardinals tonight when Kyle Hendricks takes to the mound.

Believe it

Cubs Get Swept Out Of LA

Jon Lester

It wasn’t what you thought would happen when two outstanding pitchers faced each other. One a multiple Cy Young winner in Clayton Kershaw and the other a multiple World Series champion in Jon Lester. I thought it would be low scoring, how about yourself? Nope. It turned out to be a 9-4 series sweep by the hometown Dodgers.

“It sounds like fiction to me, but it happened,” Joe Maddon said. “I have not seen [Kershaw] like that. We were on him. It’s just one of those days. Both of them are very good, they’re outstanding and neither one had a good day and [the Dodgers] got us.”

Something out of an old Twilight Zone episode, where Kershaw gave up three home runs and the Dodgers, with their stingiest bullpen in the National League, squeaked by the defending champions.

“We just have to play for today. You can’t worry about [going on] a run, you can’t worry about showing up and trying to go nine [innings] before you throw the first pitch, you can’t worry about trying to go 3-for-4 before your first at-bat. You can’t worry about [going on] a run, you can’t make runs happen. You can’t make anything happen in this game. We have a good team. It’s just a matter of showing up day in and day out and putting our work in. It’ll come, it’ll click. We’ve had little spurts, and that’s been great. We just have to worry about tomorrow and go from there.” Jon Lester said.

The Cubs will have to take the sting they felt in the series loss off to San Diego and try to boost their league low of .217 batting with Runners In Scoring Position. ¬†Which is a surprising stat from the champs. Add to the fact that they’re 25-24, the Cubs are in a rough spot. They’re almost at the halfway mark and in a sport where having under 95 wins is considered a sub par performance, the Cubs had better find a way to dig deep and fix what’s ailing them.

“I don’t see any reason to worry, especially given what we did last year,” reigning National League MVP Kris Bryant said. “There is no need to worry. You’re going to have your good years, you’re going to have your bad years. Your good starts, your bad starts. This is an average start; it’s not a terrible start. Sometimes it happens. We’ve spoiled ourselves with last year and that start. I guess it’s a good thing to have those expectations because we do, too.”

What Bryant isn’t taking into consideration that yesterday, the Cubs walloped three home runs in the losing effort. Nope, it’s the old cliche about the Cubs having to move the runners. Small ball.

Believe it.

 

Cubs Feel Heat In LA

Anthony Rizzo

The Dodgers make me nervous. In last fall’s NLCS there was nothing better than to see the Cubs put an end to Los Angeles’ playoff run. This Memorial Day weekend series has not gone so smoothly. The Chicago Cubs were shutout yesterday 5-0 and now have to face Clayton Kershaw in an attempt to save face and take one game this weekend.

“We haven’t played badly,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We just haven’t hit the ball, and they got timely hits when they needed it. They pitched well, they beat us. That’s it.”

That pretty much sums up every ball game when a team loses. To be fair, John Lackey pitched a good game by taking a no hitter into the fourth inning. Lackey, like the Dodgers makes me nervous. You never know what pitcher is going to show up and last night, was the kind of Lackey who is on his game and means business.

“They really have made very few, if any, mistakes against us and we have not taken advantage of anything,” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon. “We have hit some balls well but they have been foul balls. Otherwise, our contact has been rather weak the last two days.”

With the loss, the Cubs were shutout for the fifth time this season. From a team that won over 100 games last season, this is a troubling statistic. On the other hand, the Dodgers own the lowest bullpen ERA in the National League. If any team can shutdown the offensive power of the Cubs, it’s these West Coasters.

Today’s game is going to be good. Jon Lester versus Kershaw. These guys are on top of the food chain of pitchers. It’s going to be a low scoring affair.

“It should be rather interesting,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “You always anticipate low scoring with that. The Dodgers are pitching really, really well. Kershaw is a different animal, and so is Jon. It should be interesting.”

I have a gut feeling that the Dodgers and the Cubs could be facing each other again in the NLCS this fall. Pitching vs offence.

“What it means to me,” Maddon said of the back-to-back shutouts, “is we have no chance to win the last two games.”

Believe it

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 Slam Reds in Series Sweep

Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs’ Javier Baez hits a grand slam during the first inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds in Chicago, Thursday, May 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

It’s hard to believe that the Cubs just notched their first series sweep of the season. It’s mid May and it finally happened. Yesterday, the Cubs beat the Cincinnati Reds 9-5 to get the job done. The Cubs have now won three in a row and appear to be showing that dominance again.

Javier Baez connected with a grand slam in the first inning, which saw five runs scored. It was great to see Baez connect for that grand slam. He needed it in order to silence his critics.

“You see the at-bats, and see him grow each at-bat. We knew coming in two years ago about his swing and miss and all that stuff, and he’s made the adjustments to stay around. Obviously, his defensive side of the game helps that. You see him grow every day as a hitter and see him make adjustments and have good at-bats and do things in a game that can really change the game for us on a positive side.” Jon Lester said.

Although the Cubs have gotten off to a shaky spring, their record isn’t all that different than last season. They were 29-11 last year at this time compared to 21-19. Now, before you scratch your head with this kind of logic, let me explain; Teams are way more prepared going into the games against the Cubs. So this year’s record is more indicative of the team’s true performance. Ok, maybe it isn’t all that logical, but it sure makes me feel better thinking that way.

So now with the Cubs bats finally swinging and the rotation moving well, there’s the nagging question of what to do with Ian Happ. It’s a good problem to have but with Jason Heyward coming back soon, the Cubs are going to have to make some hard decisions.

“There’s still the ability to balance it,” Maddon said. “I like the idea that we have enough really good players that you can rest guys. Somebody gets hurt, you have somebody good to put in their place. Baseball normally takes care of that.”

There’s no talk of the kid’s brought up too early or anything. He’s played really well since last Saturday’s call up. I still believe that the toughest decision the Cubs will make this season is deciding what to do with Kyle Schwarber. The option the Cubs have right now is using two utility players.

“We have these young guys that are really good, are willing to do this, and now’s the time to do it with them,” Maddon said. “If you wait a couple years and ask ’em to start moving around, that’s when it becomes more difficult. But when you’re doing it young and it’s part of their landscape, it becomes part of their landscape, it becomes easier. It’s good for them, and it’s good for us.”

The magic of baseball and the right way to watch it is to see the game through various match ups. Purists have known this for decades but for the newbie, it looks like paint drying. Managers are always thinking, shuffling and rethinking.

Believe it.

 

Cubs Pounce on Phillies

Javier Baez

Jon Lester is an example of polar opposites. On the mound, he’s a lethal pitcher, striking batters out practically at will. At the home plate, however, it’s another story. Lester is seen as an easy out; except in those rare occasions when he comes through like he did in the fourth inning in the Cubs 8-3 romp of the Phillies.

“I saw it and swung at it this time for whatever reason, and was able to put the barrel to the ball and get a base hit. I’m just up there trying not to look too much like an idiot and not get hurt.” Lester said.

It was a relief to see the Cubs win in style. I guess what was more of a relief was seeing the stellar play of Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez. Both were in the midst of a slump but last night saw them not exactly break their respective slumps, but contribute to the team in ways that is expected of them. Schwarber rocketed a three run shot to put the Cubs ahead.

“It doesn’t make any difference,” Schwarber said. “I think it’s about just going up there and doing the job. Obviously, getting on base to start the game, I want to do that. You only lead off once. You can come up anywhere in the batting order after that. My job’s to get the job done any way possible.”

Quick, can you guess which Chicago Cub was the last player to hit for the cycle? Well, Javier Baez came close by missing a double. It’s no secret that the slumping Baez was due for a great game. He went 4-4 and hopefully signalling an end to his slumping April.

“I really started slow in April, which is usual for me, although not this slow,” said Baez. “I kept trying and made my adjustments. I didn’t give up during the games and went back to the cage during the games.”

Now I’m not one to nitpick but if Baez realizes that he starts slow in April, why can’t he plan ahead and make adjustments to his game?

“I was watching him in his pregame and I think that something he was focusing on was trying to limit his leg kick a little bit,” Kris Bryant said. “And I saw it in the game. I was pretty impressed. He went from the cage right to the game. I don’t know — it’s just what I saw. I thought he looked awesome today. He was right on everything.”

Oh, and that last player to hit for the cycle was Mark Grace way back in May of 1993.

Believe it