Bryant Breaks Slump

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Nobody needs to explain the importance of divisional series in Major League Baseball.

Nobody.

Especially not Kris Bryant who busted out of his slump in a big way. In fact, he saved it for the St Louis Cardinals as the Cubs defeated the redbirds 13-5 in the opening of a three game series.

“When we come here and play the Cardinals and see the red and blue and the fans going crazy, it does make it a little different,” Bryant said. “We realize it’s going to be a dogfight from here on out with the Brewers and Cardinals. It’s nice to start off the series with a win.”

Says the guy who crushes a two run homer. His first since May 15th

“I know there’s going to be plenty more times in my career when [I have a homerless streak], and it’s all part of the journey,” Bryant said. “As much as we hate it as players, everybody goes through it at some point in their careers. It’s nothing new to me. On the surface it might look like everything has been peachy and pretty easy for me, but it never felt easy.”

There will be but I hope it’s not going to happen for the rest of the season. The Cubs are a game and a half out of first in the Central. It’s turning into a tough season. The Cubs have been there before. They’ve felt the losing and the winning. I’m never going to say that the Cubs winning last night was a corner turner but when they play the Cardinals and the Brewers, it’s always exciting.

“I think the biggest thing we can do is when stuff like [the losses] happens, these guys show up the next day like it never happened,” Jon Lester said. “I think that’s what’s key. You can dwell on it that day, that night, but the next day, when you show up to the field … it’s hard, but you try to leave it behind you and get after it on that particular day. We did that today. Guys had great at-bats. Obviously, when you’re able to hit the ball over the fence, that helps.”

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Cubs Hit Stride With New York Sweep

Cubs 2, Mets 0

The Chicago Cubs have been playing really well lately, they’ve just finished a sweep of the New York Mets yesterday, beating them 2-0.

As much as sports grow and change throughout the years, there are basic fundamentals about the game that will never change and that is when a pitcher goes deep into a game, the odds increase of the team winning. Jon Lester gave up two hits over seven innings.

“I’m way too old and I had too many pitches going into the sixth to even really feel like I had a chance at it,” Lester said. “The biggest thing is the ‘W.’ I don’t really care about all the other stuff.”

Aw shucks Jon, but it’s true. He pitched a great game. It wasn’t only him, Javier Baez continues to shine, stealing home in the 7th inning to give the Cubs the lead.

“First move to the plate. [Matz] can’t see me,” Baez said. “I was just seeing how high he was going with the leg. The first move, if he would go to the plate, I would come back to third base. He kind of took his time to go to first. I just went for it. I’m glad I made it.”

It’s a rare move but when it happens, it can be one of the most exciting plays in sports.

“It doesn’t happen often that the world is set up the proper way for it to occur and absolutely everything was in place right there,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

The Cubs are two games out of the lead in the National League Central. With a day off today before a series with the Phillies and then the Pirates this weekend, the Cubs could take over the lead this time next week.

“We’re playing well. To go to one of our division guys [in Pittsburgh] and take two out of three, and to come here and win four against a team that seems to always give us a little bit of grief, especially in New York, it’s a good road trip for us. Hopefully, we can keep it rolling. We’re playing good baseball. That’s all you can hope for. Our bullpen has been really, really good for us. As long as our pitchers keep doing what they’re doing, we’ll be solid.” Lester said.

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Cubs Continue To lose Close Games

Indians 1, Cubs 0

There wasn’t much the Cubs could have done in their 1-0 loss to Cleveland. Well, there was a whole bunch they could have done but leaving runners stranded was a big thing. The truth is that both teams played a very tight game like they were in a recent World Series or something.

The viewpoints differ  amongst teammates.

“I feel like we’re underperforming a little bit,” third baseman Kris Bryant said even before the game. “We’re pretty average right now.”

Or then there’s Albert Almora.

“You think of the 2016 team, and you’re spoiled when you think of that kind of caliber we played all year,” center fielder Albert Almora Jr. said of the Cubs’ 103-win, wire-to-wire run to the division title. “But I like where we’re at, and I think we’re playing at a really high level right now with the intensity. We’ll see. It’s still early.”

Which he’s right about that. It is still early, but the Cubs can’t find ways to win like they used to. Jon Lester put in a solid performance.

“I think he’s found his voice and it’s fun to watch,” Maddon said. “He’s a veteran, he’s earned the right to be here, the big contract, and now that some of the guys he’s worked with in the past, whether it’s David [Ross] or John Lackey, are gone, Jon is carrying on. Those guys were his mentors and he deferred to them. Now Jon’s carrying the torch.”

But the Cubs were stymied last night. They’ll sure take last night’s loss over their ten run beat down the previous night. Even if a Manny Machado signs with the club, would he make a huge difference? He suddenly would come onto the team and half to gel with the rest of them, I don’t believe his impact would be huge. Remember, everyone thought the Cubs had the best rotation going into the season. The Cubs have a great shot at Bryce Harper next year and I like them odds a little better. Addison Russell will be dealt at the deadline, that I’m convinced about.

“I think we are better than what our record shows. We’ve just got to continue to be us and play our game and focus on everyone in this clubhouse and care about each other. I feel like we do a really good job of that. If we just continue to do what we believe in, good things are going to happen.” Kyle Schwarber said.

They struggled in the first half last year.

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Willson!!!! Cubs Pull Up White Sox in Win

City Series Game 2: White Sox at Cubs

I’ve been looking at the standings and came to the realization that the Cubs aren’t in a bad spot. With their 8-4 win over the White Sox yesterday, the Cubs have now won five in a row and sit 1/2 game out of first in the Central Division. Whatever happened in April was just a hiccup in the season. They’re not out of any danger yet but everything’s clicking well and how about Willson Contreras? He connected on his third home run of the series as well as adding three RBI’s.

“It’s no surprise to me — I think that’s who he is,” Joe Maddon said of Contreras, who is 10-for-15 with three doubles, two triples, three homers and 11 RBIs in his last three games. “When he’s right, he hits better pitching, he hits better pitching hard, he puts balls in gaps and over walls. He’ll move the baseball with two strikes. That’s what I’m seeing, and on top of that, his catching is very good, too.”

What’s interesting with this win streak is the Cubs are feeling loose. I’m hesitant to say having fun but the whole team is feeling the looseness and getting warm. There’s also Javier Baez, whom I said should hit lead off, was practically a one man show. He had a triple, a single and stole a base.

“He’s just so smart and so athletic that he can make up for mistakes,”Jon Lester said. “That’s where you see the swim move [at second] today and running the bases. The game just looks easy to him. He has the potential to be that guy.”

Not only will Baez be an All Star this year, he very well could wind up an MVP candidate.

Today is Mother’s Day. Bring out the pink bats because Kyle Hendricks takes to the mound going for his second straight win. He’s an inning eater going seven innings in his last three games. He’s that guy that goes under the radar, gets the job done and spares the bullpen.

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Cubs Win Fifth, Sit On Top NL Central

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Well, the Chicago Cubs have won five in a row. After their 3-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies, the Cubs now stand alone on top of the National league Central. In a month that saw the Cubs get off to a shaky start and struggle with starting pitching, key injuries and extreme cold temperatures, your friendly northside neighbourhood blue cuddly bears have now broken out of their hibernation and have begun to roar.

“We made mistakes we normally don’t make,”Joe Maddon said. “You would think giving them all those extra outs would not turn out in our favor. Give our relievers a lot of credit.”

It wasn’t pretty but a win is a win. Jon Lester lasted 5 and some changeout they managed to squeak out the win. Perhaps it was the Cubs shortened inclement weather schedule that was to blame but now the Cubs are baseball’s hottest team and just before you can say, “Holy Cow!” the Cubs have a shot tonight at becoming the first team in the “Live ball” era to win six in a row while giving up fewer than three runs. Who better than to be on the mound than Kyle Hendricks.

Right?

Even though Lester left the game, Luke Farrell, the son of John Farrell (Toronto Blue Jays/Boston Red Sox) stepped up and sealed the deal. While lester didn’t go deep into the game, the positives were there with Farrell getting the win. It showed Maddon and the team that the bullpen can keep fresh and Farrell will hopefully be able to deliver some more opportunities this season.

“We’ve been going back and forth,” Farrell said. “He was pumped. Mom, too. Family, brothers — it’s something we can all share. This is my first time pitching as a Cub at Wrigley, and the adrenaline I felt pitching in front of fans like this on a Monday night is pretty amazing.”

Yeah it is pretty amazing and it was amazing that Kris Bryant was back in the game doing what Bryant does best and delivering key plays like in the sixth inning when he scored the tie breaking run.

“I thought he looked great at the plate the very first at-bat back,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Bryant. “I think he looks fine. … I have not seen anything negative at the plate.”

So far, May’s proven to be quite positive.

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Cubs Show Moxy But Not Enough

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The Cubs, without Kris Bryant in the lineup, were downed by Cleveland 4-1. They went into the game facing a hot pitcher in Trevor Bauer, who by weird stroke of stupidity, I benched in our Fantasy League.

Go figure?

“I didn’t think we were up there just swinging without a plan,” Joe Maddon said. “But [Bauer] is on top of his game right now. They kept coming back [to the dugout] saying, ‘He is throwing the ball exactly where he wants to.'”

The bats couldn’t get anything into the air, but on the mound, Jon Lester rebounded to have a solid outing.

“I feel like we’re just kind of at that point where we need to put like three games together,” Lester said. “I feel like we’re just trying to get over that hump with that third game, and it’s kind of rolling from there. We’ve been playing well, but we’ve had some ups and downs on both sides of the ball.”

Um, I’ve been saying that all April. Yes, the Cubs are having a see saw kind of Spring and it might work but chances are, they’ll need to do exactly what Lester has indicated, and put together three wins in a row. Listen, we all want them to dominate, so perhaps they need to win a couple of series in a row to stay relevant come August.

Yesterday’s game was a different beast altogether. The Cubs could have/should have come out victorious but the end resulted in Cleveland just getting all the really good knocks.

“Whoever says solo homers can’t beat you (is wrong), I guess,” Lester said. “The only pitch that was a bad decision on my part — and I shook to it — was the pitch to Guyer. The other two, Lindor goes oppo and a ball on the ground that Encarnacion hits out. That’s the game, unfortunately.”

Andrew Miller got injured and that wasn’t enough for the Cubs to take advantage of? I also believe that Anthony Rizzo needs to get going. He’s their “Unofficial” leader in the clubhouse and when he returns to form, the Cubs should be getting back on track.

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Cubs Get Happ-y in Milwaukee

 

Cubs 5, Brewers 2

“We never quit” has been an ongoing saying within the Cubs organization for a couple of years now, well, since they won the World Series. In yesterday afternoon’s 5-2 9th inning heroics over the Milwaukee Brewers, the Cubs looked like that team that doesn’t quit. Jon Lester hit a sacrifice bunt, now that’s a true non-quitter!

Ian Happ strikes out a lot. He also comes through when it counts, yesterday was no different.

“You’ve just got to keep working,” Happ said. “It’s the reason why we play this many games and it’s a game of averages, because there’s going to be some ups and downs. Hopefully this is going to be the biggest of the downs and I’ll get back going on a normal pace.”

He was the big reason the Cubs turned the corner. Yeah, I’m liking this rivalry a lot. Rivalries over time and situation, the Milwaukee/Cubs rivalry is getting exciting and we’re going to see a good one today.

“We always fight,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We’ve been unable to get the big hit. It was nice for ‘Happy’ to get off the schneid there. Big at-bat. Loved that it went to left center, that’s a good sign as opposed to being pulled. That’s a huge at-bat right there. And of course, Jonny Lester. That could not have been placed more perfectly. We’re playing well. We’re just not getting hits when we need it.”

They are playing well. Whether it’s a miscue or just an unlucky break, the Cubs have managed to claw their way through the month and manage to stay within the pack. It’s great news that Yu Darvish bounced back in this game from his Cubs debut as well.

“Darvish was tremendous,”  Maddon said after the game. “He hit a groove in his delivery. Once he gets to that point, heads up, because he’s going to throw strikes exactly where he wants to. That’s exactly where he was at by the time we had to take him out.”

Also, Brandon Morrow picked up his first save with the club. You know what? It felt like yesterday’s game was the game that dusted off the regular season dust and got them into a sync for the months ahead–I hope. So, what was with the umpire picking on Victor Caratini? There were more than a few missed calls with the guy, I don’t know I’m going to keep my eye on that in the future, it could be the Milwaukee crowd or just a coincidence. Another thing I’ve been meaning to ask is what’s with the foggy atmosphere in Milwaukee?

So, with the series finally today(I’ll be keeping an eye on the Masters as well)the Cubs are gearing up for their home opener tomorrow. What’s on the menu and how do you celebrate it?

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