Lester Dialled In in Win Over Pirates

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One run games in baseball are without a doubt, some of the most exciting contests in sports. One hit to tie and one hit to win. Last night, Jon Lester escaped his funky five game winless streak by showing Cubs fans the Lester of old in their 1-0 victory over division rivals Pirates.

“When you struggle, you go back to what has made you successful,” Lester said. “And you kind of sometimes, I think, forget about the other things that have made you successful. Still threw my fastball, still threw my cutter tonight. I think just better execution, better angle on both pitches.”

But it’s more than that. I think a pitcher has to get in a zone, get dialled in and find their groove. They’re like the quirky goalie from a hockey team. Last night, Lester did it all.

“[Watching] from the side, I know it’s Jon Lester. I’ve watched him a lot,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “But all of a sudden, it was like Jon Lester. He had this way about him today that was not going to be denied. That’s what I saw. He was locked in, he’d had enough, and he went back to pitching like Jon’s capable of pitching.”

Lester is also the team leader of the rotation. If he’s in the zone, then all is well, if not then things could get a little wonky.

“Regardless of what you’ve done in the past, it’s crazy how we operate mentally. The world-class kind of athlete, they want to be that all the time. So when you get away from it, it’s disturbing. And then you’re always looking for answers. Like I said, I know he’ll rest better, and I really believe this is absolutely a game to build off because he executed so well. Everything was there tonight.” Maddon said

Oh, has anyone mentioned Ian Happ? He’s quietly been putting together a bona fide season. It seems so long ago when he hit that home run off of the first pitch of the 2018 season but here we are in August with just over a few weeks left of the season and Happ is chipping away getting hits. Last night, his home run was the difference.

“Our staff has done a great job of keeping us in it; of giving us a chance,” Happ said. “We’ve had a couple comeback wins, but we haven’t scored that many runs. And our guys have done a great job making sure that we keep those leads. Strop at the end of the games right now is lights out, so that’s what we need.”

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Hendricks Pitches Gem Despite Loss

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You know? I think Kyle Hendricks must be filled with bad luck this season. Either he can’t get run support in some games, batters hit everything off of of him or like in last night’s 2-1 extra inning loss to the San Francisco Giants, no matter how amazing he pitches, he can’t get the win.

“It was a much better feeling out there,” Hendricks said. “The fastball command was finally there and it just opened up the rest of the game for me. Willy [catcher Willson Contreras] and I were just really on the same page, mixing pitches, keeping them off balance, and that’s the game I have to play.”

Hendricks went deep in the game, he did everything right by going nine innings. That’s what the Cubs need from him but if a team is going to lose, then that’s the way to lose in extra innings and executing everything to the way it was planned.

“That’s the outing we’ve been looking for with the hitting that we’ve been doing recently,” Joe Maddon said. “Going forward, that becomes contagious sometimes, when you’ve got a guy that pitches like that. I really believe you could see that version of Kyle most of the time for the rest of the season.”

He’s right. If Hendricks pitches that way the rest of the season, he’ll turn it around. It’s a funny game where the slightest angle will throw everything off.

“I knew what was wrong, and what I’ve been trying to work on. It was still inconsistent. It’d be one good, one bad, I couldn’t repeat it. Today, in the third inning, something just clicked and I was able to repeat one after another. So that was a really good feeling.” Hendricks said.

Congratulations to Javier Baez, Jon Lester and Willson Contreras on being voted to the All Star team. Well deserved, Baez has been having a career year while Lester is doing the things that Lester does by having 11 wins this year.

“To watch them blossom over the last couple of years, to see what Javy’s gone through from this crazy swinger to a much more controlled game of baseball, and Willson, on the other hand, he’s pretty much fought, fought, fought his way,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Now he is the best catcher in the National League. I think he’s the best catcher in baseball.”

It’s hard to argue with that. Javier Baez has been enjoying his breakout season.

“He’s probably my favorite player to watch,” Lester said of Baez. “I’ve got to play with and in front of some really good infielders in my career and I think Javy has surpassed all those guys.”

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Jon Lester Crushes Three Run Homer

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Jon Lester crushed a three run home run in yesterday’s 11-10 sweep of the Minnesota Twins. They scored 35 runs in the series. That’s a lot, folks.

“I can’t be more impressed with the way our guys played on the field,” Maddon said. “Under the circumstances, the heat, they’re out there, they played well, we hit well, we ran the bases great. We did so many things well in adverse conditions. Give them a lot of credit.”

It seems like the Cincinnati massacre has been put behind them and the Cubs are now cruising back up to the top of the division. That was their fourth win in a row and nestled .5 game back of the Brewers.

Yesterday though, belonged to Jon Lester.

“Obviously, being over here [in the NL] and actually having to be responsible for that nine-hole, it’s important,” Lester said. “It’s important to have good at-bats. I feel I’ve done that regardless of the outcome, I’ve had good at-bats and haven’t been just a one-pitch out guy. I’ve worked some counts and been able to at least make the pitcher work, that’s all I’m trying to do. If I get hits, I get hits.

“The home run is awesome, it’s cool, especially at home. It’s always fun to play here with the crowd and hit the ball in the bleachers. At the end of the day, I’m a pitcher, not a hitter.”

It wasn’t a perfect game by all accounts but as the saying goes, ‘A win is a win no matter how you get it” right? Lester on the other hand, cruised to his 11th win of the season and is pretty much staving off father time.

The All Star Break is next week and the Cubs are beginning to look like the team that was hyped at the beginning of the year. Jon Lester has the most wins in the National league and the Cubs are in third place in the National League.

“We’re not trying to go out there and slug our way,” Kyle Schwarber said. “I think [Saturday] we had nine runs, with all base hits. That was great. We’re just going out there trying to make hard contact. It’s paying off.”

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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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