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 See Saw For First In NL Central

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It’s amazing how a day can change the course of the game. Last night, the Cubs fell to the Brewers 4-0 and it just seemed nothing went their way. For example, a hit that would have cleared Eric Thames’ glove, ended up being a leaping grab. Kris Bryant went 0 for 4 and let me be the one to tell you that when he ain’t hitting, the team’s not doing much. Wait a minute, I said that about Anthony Rizzo, didn’t I?

“It’s all about being patient, and that’s who I am,” Bryant said. “The last three, four games haven’t been great, but I think there’s a lot of people who would want to be in my shoes. Sometimes it’s all about perspective. My expectations are really high, and that’s the greatest and worst thing in the world. That’s how I look at it.”

Sometimes I think he’s been hanging around Joe Maddon too much.

It’s no secret that Bryant hasn’t been himself lately. Maddon’s been trying to mix things up by sticking him at leadoff but most importantly, just being patient with the Cubs’ third baseman.

“He hit that ball good to left field, but overall he’s been off his game,” Maddon said. “I am certain he’s going to be fine. There are some really good hitters who have gone through a little bit of a funk. It happens. You stay with the guy, and you know he’s good and he’ll come out of it. In the meantime, you make sure he’s OK because he’s going to beat himself up a little bit.”

It’s hard not to stay with the former ROY and MVP NL/ WSC, I was on a roll with the acronyms, but it’s true. He’ll get out of it and right back on track. Last night, it was all Brewers and they regained their top position, proving that this rivalry ain’t going nowhere.

“We just could not mount an attack,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Anderson has been difficult against us in the past and he was again tonight. There was not a whole lot going on. Two doubles beat us.”

Today’s game should be a wild affair with both teams battling for top dog and then it’s a day off for the Cubs. Will Bryant end his slump, will Rizzo continue his Rizzoing ways, or will the Cubs beat the Brewers, end up in first before heading out to St. Louis for the weekend? Tune in my friends.

“This is where you learn the most about yourself and what drives you and what are you going to do. I still have those feelings in my gut before the game and I know they’re there. I want to go out there and do well, and the day those aren’t there, I shouldn’t be playing. I come to the field excited every day that I can do something that nobody has ever done before, and that’s what keeps me going.” Bryant said

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Something Happ-ened in Chicago

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Um, Ian Happ was incredible in yesterday’s 3-1 win over the Pirates and Kris Bryant was next to awesome in the leadoff. Bryant has been in a little bit of a slump lately and Joe Maddon being Joe Maddon decided to mix things up and try the other half of the Bryzzo team in the leadoff position. It was Bryant’s first time in the spot and it worked. He went 3 for 4 and of course, the Cubs won.

“My expectations of myself are high and I get frustrated with myself easily, because I expect a lot of myself and my teammates expect a lot of me and I want to give it all I’ve got,” Bryant said. “Sometimes, when you don’t feel right in terms of mechanics and stuff like that, it’s frustrating. That’s kind of where I’ve been at. I think there are a lot of people who would love to trade what I’m doing this year, and that’s my perspective now.”

Another guy in a slump is Ian Happ but yesterday his glove was on display catching three amazing grabs out in the field.

“I was kind of fueled by being told I couldn’t play a bunch of defensive spots and being labeled as a hitter only and a minus defender,” Happ said. “Being able to make the plays and help the guys is all that matters.

In the end that’s all that matters. The Cubs are still a half game back of Milwaukee and slowly catching their second wind in the standings.

So, we know that Anthony Rizzo has had a slow start this season but lately he’s been on a tear and appropriately, a few years ago Joe Maddon stated that “When Dexter Fowler goes, we go” Now that Fowler is no longer a Chicago Cub, Anthony Rizzo, their fearless clubhouse leader has graciously stepped up into that role on the team. In an article by Cubbie’s Crib, they talk about that phenomenon with the Cubs that they’re winning when Rizzo is hitting. It’s true, moments before Jason Heyward hit his grand slam the other day, Rizzo predicted it would happen.

The Cubs are playing great ball at the right time. It was after the All Star game last year when they put on the jets to turn the season around but doing it this time gives them a great cushion. There’s no doubt the Cubs are going places but the key to a successful run now is Yu Darvish. Or do they really need him?

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Almora Comes of Age In Win Over Mets

Cubs 7, Mets 1 (14 inn.)

Yesterday was a marathon of a game but Luke Farrell pitched 4 shutout innings to help spark the Cubs 7-1win in extra innings over the New York Mets. It wasn’t just Farrell but also Albert Almora, the Cubs unsung hero who broke the tie to fuel the runs.

Yup, the Cubs found a way to win, albeit, it was against the Mets but a win is a win.

“I’m a lot chippier and happier right now because we won,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Had we not won that game with all those opportunities, it would have been difficult … We just have to move the ball. We started chasing again tonight.”

Those opportunities transitioned into 24 strikeouts, a season high but they won. Those strikeouts came against the Mets but if the Cubs, and I sound like a broken record, do that against the Nationals, they won’t stand a chance. They were lucky as much as confident that they could break out against the Mets. Yesterday was a great win. Jacob de Grom was aces for the Mets.

“He was unbelievable. It’s been a while since I’ve faced a pitcher like that. Everything was moving away from my barrel. His fastball had some late life, his slider was sharp, and he threw me one of the nastiest changeups I’ve ever seen. We didn’t have very much success against him. Some guys had really good at-bats. I wasn’t one of them. Tip your hat to the guy.” Alma said.

The Cubs have won three in a row and sit in the Wild Card spot. They’re hanging in but need to still put together a solid streak. The other key to the Cubs success is the dominance of Kris Bryant who’s been somewhat struggling of late. Last night, he struck out four times. That has to change. The former NL MVP and Rookie of the year has to show his dominance once again.

Here’s some food for thought; Does Albert Almora deserve an All Star nod? According to Cubbie’s Crib he does. I think so too. His defence has been nothing short of brilliant coupled with his At Bats, he’s providing some much needed depth to the Cubs order.

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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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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’ Willson Contreras Keeps Everything Grand

Cubs 11, White Sox 2

The Cubs are on a roll and when they beat the White Sox, that roll is like an avalanche. Yesterday, Willson Contreras and the Chicago Cubs downed the White Sox 11-2 but that wasn’t the best part; Contreras connected with a grand slam and finished the game with seven RBI’s.

“I love when he hits the ball to left-center, and when it goes out, it’s even better,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Contreras. “My take on him is when he’s driving the ball in the gap, he’s on top of his game. That’s what I saw last year. That’s what I saw today.”

Of any teams, beating their crosstown rivals is always a milestone of the season and could help the team turn things around. The Cubs are 1.5 games back and see no signs of slowing down. They’ve won four in a row as well as Kris Bryant hitting his fourth home run in five games. It was a banner game.

“I’m really happy to be part of this team. I’m really happy with everything that’s going on. I’m happy to have my family here in Chicago and happy to have my wife here,” Contreras said. “I’m just happy about everything that’s going on.”

The rivalry between the two clubs brings out the fierce competitiveness. It’s great for the city because few teams have that honour of crosstown rivalry. Mets/Yankees? Angels/Dodgers. It doesn’t have nor will it ever bring out that competitiveness with the teams. Families are split, friendships divided when it comes down to it. What if they played in the World Series?

“I’d love to be there for that,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Friday prior to the start of the intracity Interleague series between the two teams. “That probably is the epitome. When we got here, of course, the goal was to get there and win it, and we have [in 2016], and we’re looking to get back. To do it intracity like that would be pretty spectacular. Talk about energy — oh, my God. I hope I’m around for that moment to occur. I think it would be pretty spectacular.”

For now, these games are what matters. It’s about friendship, family and the love of baseball.

“It’s always fun. Any time you have a legitimate rivalry, it’s good, and it’s good for the fan bases on both sides, and it’s good for baseball. It’s entertaining. It’s interesting. I have not been here long enough, but I’m starting to catch the vibe. Even though the one team is not not doing so well, they’ll be ready to play.”

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