Cubs Hammer Carpenter and the Cardinals

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One of the flaws of the game today is the inability of most pitchers going deep into a game. On average, pitchers last around 5-5 1/2 innings. Yesterday, Jose Quintana went seven innings on the way to a 7-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

“He got better as the game progressed,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Everything kept getting sharper. It looked like there was more jump on the fastball at the end. We needed him to go more deeply in the game and he did. I saw him getting better per hitter.”

Pitchers going deep in theory, works. It doesn’t always turn out that way but on paper a pitcher should last seven innings, bring in the relief and then the closer.

In a perfect world(just not a perfect game) this is the way it should roll out. Yesterday’s match up worked out for the North Siders. It was also aided by Kyle Schwarber‘s bat.

“It shows the resilience of this team and we’re not afraid to be down and fight, scratch or claw our way back into the game,” Schwarber said. “That’s been our M.O. this season. If we’re down, we know we’re not out.

Oh c’mon Schwarbs, that’s been the Cubs M.O for a few years now. In fact I wouldn’t chalk it up to the Cubs clawing their way back, more like they just have a really good team and that’s what really good teams do.

“Wrigley was really loud [Saturday] night, the loudest I’ve heard in awhile. You’ve got the doubleheader, passionate Cubs fans, passionate Cardinals fans. It got really loud. It’s always fun playing them because the fans are so into it. You play a team five times and you’re usually sick of them after the third day, but it’s just fun playing them.” Anthony Rizzo said.

Five game series are few and far between, throw in July temperatures a rivalry and there you have it – – the makings of a great series.

With the Cubs in the top spot in the National League and third overall behind Boston and Houston, the Cubs should be in a great spot for the post season. If they can pick up some pitching for the stretch then they’ll have the pieces to move well in October.

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Cubs Thought Turkey’s Could Fly

Reds 6, Cubs 3

The Chicago Cubs up and down 2018 season continued last night with a 6-3  loss to the Cincinnati Reds. Let me repeat that; the Cubs lost to the Reds.

The Reds?

The Reds are last place in the Central, 15 games out of the top spot and in no position to contend for the fall classic.

But—

They’re winners of their last 8 out of 10 games and the Cubs got snake bit.

“We haven’t played great here,” manager Joe Maddon said. “We’ve played two of our least impressive games in about a month. It’s just not been us playing our typical game. We grab a lot of energy off our defense; we needed to grab some off our offense. If we start hitting, we’ll start doing what we’re supposed to do. We’ve got to be more consistent at the plate.”

Or is it something else entirely when it comes to the Big Red Machine? I mean Anthony Rizzo failed to tag a player during a rundown. He tapped him on the head and the ball dropped from his glove.

Weird.

It seemed nobody was on their game last night except Kyle Schwarber who banged out a two run home run in the fourth to give the Cubs the lead and add to his home run total of the season.

“Schwarber’s getting different — he’s getting different in a good way,” Maddon said. “He’s handling the ball up in the zone a lot better. He’s not missing it. He’s looked really good.”

Perhaps Schwarber’s hitting his stride or perhaps it’s the hometown crowd but I maintain that the “Sultan of Schwarb” will continue to improve his game or perhaps his eerie resemblance to the Bambino will have even more great things down the road?

“I still want to be able to string some things together,” Schwarber said. “Obviously, I put a good swing on the ball today. I want to be able to still go up there and have good at-bats and put up a quality at-bat. I want to work the at-bat and get my pitch, and when I do get my pitch, drive it.”

So, the Cubs haven’t been playing well in Cincinnati and have fallen two back of the surging Brewers, will they find their mojo today when Luke Farrell makes his first start of the season today. I mean, nobody wants to lose a series to the Reds.

Right?

“One pitch just changed the game,” Jose Quintana said. “It was a battle. We needed this game.”

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Zobrist is Turning Back Time With HR

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The Chicago Cubs opened their series with the New York Mets in style, grabbing a 5-1 victory with Jose Quintana on the mound. He went six scoreless innings but just ask Jason Heyward how good he was.

“He did an awesome job attacking the zone, making adjustments on the fly to the hitters,” right fielder Jason Heyward said. “He was able to mix and match stuff. It was pretty impressive to watch from behind.”

Then there’s Chicago’s aging veteran Ben Zobrist, who is vying for David Ross’s Grampa role on the team. Zobrist got another home run in the win. In limited play, Zobrist has three home runs in May.

This series against the Mets is an interesting one because the Mets aren’t that great this season. If the Cubs can sweep them, they’ll be in a good position to snag the Wild Card spot and be in a stronger position to stay afloat in the tough National League Central.

This season more than the last few has showcased great playing from guys like Jason Heyward and Tommy La Stella, who doesn’t get enough recognition for being there in the clutch. These guys are going to be the key to the Cubs reaching October because the top of the order hasn’t found their groove yet.

The Cubs need their pitching to get going and Tyler Chatwood will get his opportunity to shine tonight. It’s been a tough season for Chatwood and this series is so far, one of the more important series for the Cubs. Now’s the time for a sweep

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Cubs Lose Make Up Game

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It was the makeup Jackie Robinson Day game and despite the long ball display, the Cubs lost the first game in a four game set with the Atlanta Braves 6-5.

Jose Quintana got roughed after giving up three home runs.

“Today we made a lot of mistakes — I consider them more mental than physical … just a mentally lethargic game early on.” Maddon said.

Even though the Cubs lost the game, the day belonged to Jackie Robinson.

“If you have [courage], if that’s part of your makeup, you can be a lot of different things,” Maddon said before Monday’s Braves-Cubs game, a makeup from April 15 when Jackie Robinson Day was celebrated around the Major Leagues. “But if you’re lacking that one quality, it’s very difficult to include the rest of the better qualities in life. [Robinson] is all of that — he speaks to courage and I’ve always respected that about him.”

Although before my time, his fearlessness was felt not just through sports but all walks of life. An important day.

Atlanta is one of those teams to beat. The Cubs had a difficult time yesterday but came through in the slugfest even though it wasn’t enough. The team moves to Atlanta for the next three games.

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Cubs Get Crafty With Brewers

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The Cubs have won three in a row after yesterday’s 3-0 shutout of the Brewers. Jose Quintana put on a masterful display in front of the chilled Wrigley crowd. With the win, the Cubs are slowly climbing to the top of the National League Central division.

“You have to be able to win games like that, low-scoring games,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We had not been able to early on, we just weren’t pitching well enough, and now we are. I know it was beautiful blue skies, but it was cool out there and the wind was severe. Today’s game was pretty much determined by the elements.”

Perhaps that was the reason of the Cubs struggles early on this April. The good news is that May is around the corner, great weather is coming and the Cubs will be able to gain some valuable ground when they face the Cardinals next weekend.

The Cubs have the Brewers number with four shutouts this season.

“I felt good,” Quintana said Saturday after his best outing of the season. “My stuff was really good. I’m happy we are winning. Tomorrow, we will try to keep going.”

The great thing about the win is that Quintana went deep in the game. Seven innings, that’s the magic number that I believe pitchers should be able to perform at in order for their respective teams to effectively get to October.

Over the past week, the Cubs rotation has been able to do just that and while allowing their bullpen to be healthy and ready to finish.

It was also great to see Kris Bryant back in the lineup after missing four games due to his concussion.

“It was nice to be back out there,” Bryant said. “It was just another ballgame. I felt really normal. It’s really weird: You take four games off, you feel like you’re a little behind.”

The ironic thing is the Cubs were winning while he was nursing his head. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want him to be off again but this is Cubs nation and weird things happen.

“It kind of puts things in perspective a little bit, because we’re out there and everybody wants to get hits and RBIs and home runs and feel great about themselves,” Bryant said. “When something like that happens, you have to take a step back and realize that this game could be taken from you really quick and really soon and unexpectedly. It’s really important to enjoy the game as much as you can.”

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Cubs’ Darvish Struggles Continue

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There’s something really going wrong with the 2018 edition of the Chicago Cubs. Yesterday’s 4-0 shutout loss to the Atlanta Braves proved that without a doubt. The blame can no longer be put on cold conditions or April. Now, I’m not going to say that nothing can’t be fixed but the pessimism is starting to creep in a little bit.

The balk.

Was it a balk in the fifth inning or not? It didn’t look like a balk to me or perhaps a borderline balk at best.

“Obviously, everything went south after the balk, which was not a balk. It was not a balk, but it was called a balk,” Joe Maddon said. “It seemed to create a little bit of awkwardness. [Darvish] was doing well up to that point … then it came apart really quickly.”

It all came apart after that and the Cubs sure aren’t looking like they’re going to roar in the face of the competition this year. They’re below .500 and most importantly, they’ve lost 3 of 4 at Wrigley Field. Even the most casual of baseball fan knows those aren’t good numbers. What’s more, the most casualist(I think I made that word up but it works)  of casual fans realize that at $126 million big ones, Yu Darvish must perform at the top of the food chain in order for him to succeed at Chicago’s hallowed grounds. Cubs fans can easily forgive Jason Heyward‘s base blunders because his defence is aces. Darvish won’t be that lucky.

“[I was] frustrated,” Darvish said. “Again, because it had never occurred before. It was in a critical situation, and then it happened. So that’s frustrating.”

Of course it’s frustrating but it’s frustrating to us, the fans that we’re watching a Chicago Cubs team that isn’t playing up to their potential, has been shut out three times this season and their star first baseman is out with a back injury.

“It never helps to not have Rizzo. We have to win games like that. We’re not getting anything going. A couple good at-bats, couple well-struck balls but nothing with real consistency. Their pitcher had us off balance the entire game. He doesn’t throw as hard as he used to but he really knows how to pitch. He pitched well but we have to do a better job offensively.” Maddon said.

If Darvish was honest in his own assessment of his performance, then Maddon is quietly, in his own Maddon way, losing his patience with how the team is performing.

Today, Jose Quintana gets the ball and arguably, is the Cubs most effective thrower. He got a shutout on April 8th so perhaps he’s the guy who will turn the Cub’s performance around?

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Cubs Ready For Home Opener

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Two things happened in yesterday’s 3-0 shutout of the Milwaukee Brewers. One, Jose Quintana emerged as a solid ace in training and Ben Zobrist is the best Cubs player this year, he could become the David Ross of 2018.

“You look on paper and [the Brewers] have predominantly right-handed hitters against him,” Maddon said. “That doesn’t bother ‘Q.’ If ‘Q’ is executing his stuff, righties or lefties, he’s pretty good. The guy is so focused going into the game. His work is so good. He likes being here, he likes pitching here. I think you’re seeing the best side of Jose.”

We are. It can only get better.

“We have really high expectations,” Quintana said of the Cubs. “It’s really good when you start winning at the beginning. We talked a lot before games. We want to do good things this year. We know it’s a long season but this month is really important.”

So far, the Cubs have looked a little weary from being on the road, so it’s exciting anticipating their return to Wrigley Field today. It’s fitting that they’re the last team in the majors to roll out their home opener, hey with a place nicknamed the “Windy City” it’s no wonder, I mean April baseball isn’t always the most heartwarming thing on everyone’s mind.

It is one of the most exciting days of the year. It’s an opportunity to sit back and enjoy all that’s good. Sure, it’s going to be cold but for me, there’s very few things that are up there with baseball at Wrigley Field.

“It’s just different when the game starts and you have the adrenaline going, sometimes you don’t notice how cold it is,” Kris Bryant said. “We have plenty of heaters and hand warmers and all the other stuff. We should be fine.”

Anthony Rizzo wants to play in the opener. In fact, it feels almost not the same that he might not be ready today. He’s the Cubs’ Micky Mantle and their leader. So, I’m going out on a limb to say that there’s a good probability we might see him sneak in an At Bat today.

“I want to play (Monday),” Rizzo said. “But at the same time, you’ve got to be smart. You can’t play (Monday) and set myself back five to six days. We’ll see how it goes. (Sunday) will be a big day to see how it really feels.”

The past few years have been night games and it’s made the home opener much different. Today, it’s at 2:20 EST and let’s face it folks, baseball is best played during the day.

“Don’t let anyone say that it’s just a game, I’ve seen other teams and it’s never the same. When you’re born in Chicago, you’re blessed and you’re healed the first time you walk into Wrigley Field

—Eddie Vedder

I wasn’t born in Chicago but walking onto Wrigley Field takes lines off faces and replaces them with smiles. It truly is a magical place. We’re watching from Canada but we’ll be there in spirit cheering on the Cubs while clearing the BBQ for the year’s first taste of glorious Italian sausages with peppers and onions.

This is the year that the Cubs are going to win the World Series at home in the place where it belongs.

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