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

 

Cubs On Slippery Slope After Loss To Rockies

Canuck Cubbie

Despite their fourth loss in a row, the Cubs are sitting in second place in the National League Central division. You know what that means? It’s not a very good division, is it? Yesterday, the Cubs fell to the Rockies in a 9-1 disaster.

“We can’t panic. If we’re panicking, we’re not going to be playing the way we can. You’re going to start gripping the bat tighter, gripping the ball tighter, and then that’s when you really mess up. It’s OK for the fans to worry and all that. I mean, it’s just natural. Some people don’t have control over what we do. But we have the control, and it’s just up to us to kind of work harder.” Kris Bryant said.

It’s a case of two teams going in the opposite direction. I mean, the Rockies are becoming the team to beat this year with a seven game win streak and are second in baseball.

What?

So, I have an idea. Why not insert Jason Heyward into the lead off spot. Arguably, he’s the Cubs most improved player and through 48 games has an OBP of .314 and SLG of .394 The Cubs had five hits yesterday.

Five hits!

Does anyone have an answer for the Cubs woes?

“It happens to everybody. I’m sure if you ask every other team, they’re going to tell you the same thing,” Joe Maddon said. “Of course it happens. To the extent that it’s happening with some guys is a little more difficult. … It’s just collectively a bad moment for us.”

We could use the excuse of the Cubs being banged up but Addison Russell‘s head isn’t there this season and Kyle Hendricks is on the DL for a bit but for a team that we know can do great things, something is amiss in the locker room.

Scoring is essential to winning. We know that and here’s where the difference is with the Cubs this season. The Rockies are first overall with 325 RBI’s while the Cubs are a paltry 259. Not overly terrible numbers for the North Siders but then again, yeah, they’re bad. The Cubs need to hit more. They’re in second last place overall with 477 hits. The Cubs aren’t seeing the ball. That has to change. Wether it’s trying more to do little things like laying down the bunt or being more patient at the plate, they must find a way to change it up.

“You go through things like this. You go through spells where you don’t feel good, and this is probably — I guess as a team — probably the lowest point that I’ve been here,” Bryant said. “But it’s really not that bad when you look at it in context in terms of the division. Nobody’s really taken advantage of it, like some of the other divisions out there or like we did last year. So you’ve just got to keep your head up. Good times are ahead.”

Believe it

The Cubs Sweep Cardinals

Ian Happ

There are moments in this lifetime that are truly peaceful. Last night’s Cubs/ Cardinals series finale was one of those moments where Norman Rockwell couldn’t have done a better job at portraying America’s national pastime. Sunday evening-check. Sun setting over Wrigley Field-check. David Ross in the stands playing catch with Jason Hayward-Check and of course, the Cubs beating rival Cardinals 7-6– awesome!

The rookie Ian Happ had two home runs last night and Kyle Hendricks wasn’t his usually stoic self but the Cubs still managed to pull together a gem of a ball game.

“He’s going to continue to do a better job of knowing what to not swing at,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Happ. “He doesn’t have to do mechanical adjustments, he doesn’t have to spend 1,000 hours in the batting cage. It’s a focus thing. He has a good idea of the strike zone. When he really refines it here, heads up.”

Perhaps it was the game’s relaxed atmosphere that contributed to the victory. Maybe that’s all the Cubs need to do to get back on track is relax a bit, I don’t know. The weekend series sweep over the Cardinals was a huge confidence booster for the North Siders. It wasn’t easy at the start of the game when Kyle Hendricks was pulled from the mound after Hendricks gave up four hits. The thing I think, is going to be key for this year’s success is not the dominance in the win column, but that helps, for the Cubs to stay in the thick of things, they’re going to have to slug out those ugly victories and although I’m hesitant to say adversity, they’ll have to go through enough of that to get through to the post season even if it requires more team meetings.

“We all want each other to do well,”Jason Heyward said. “We want to make something happen for each other. Just checking in, hearing how we’re doing, hearing what we think about this, what we think about that.”

It’s tougher than ever to win back to back championships with so much parity in the league. Communication on and off of the field will help contribute in the win columns.

Believe it

 

 

Cubs Get Out Classed By Padres

Kyle Hendricks

So there’s a problem in Chicago. The Cubs lost another game that was within their grasp yesterday when they fell to the San Diego Padres 5-2. I say in their grasp because up until the fourth inning, pitcher Kyle Hendricks was on his lectern conducting classes in a no hitter bid. Then the bases got loaded and a grand slam followed.

“We’re the ones with the ball in our hands, we’re the ones who have to stop it,” Hendricks said. “If we throw up zeros, we have a good chance of winning. Giving up four, five [runs] in a game is not what we have to be doing right now.”

Of course it’s not what they have to do right now, but the RISP has to change. They need to capitalize on that. With 2 for 36 with runners in scoring position, the Cubs are having major league droughts. They rank last in the majors in that department.

“It’s more reminiscent of 2015,” Maddon said. “We were only seven games over .500 at the All-Star break in ’15 and had a wonderful second half of the season to get to the NL Championship Series. Last year, we broke quickly and then played .500 for two months. Hopefully, this year we can get this .500 thing out of the way and do what we normally do.”

Of course the Cubs have the most positive manager in the league so it’s not a question of trouble in the ranks. Whether the Cubs are falling into old habits a la 2015 where the majority of the team were made up of young budding superstars and a lot of inexperience and they still made it to the NLCS. However, last season it took the All Star break, a pick up of Aroldis Chapman and a return of Dexter Fowler to turn things around.

“It’s not complicated,” Maddon said. “You can see the big swings coming out of our zone when just a single would do. We did it before, we can do it again. Everybody loved us a couple days ago, and now all of a sudden we’ve had a tough time scoring runs on the road and we’ve just got to do better. That’s all it comes down to.”

They don’t have Fowler or Chapman this year. The Cubs lead off situation has continuously been in flux and despite the Cubs’ bullpen sitting in third with a 3.34 ERA, their cracks are showing.

“We haven’t hit to our capabilities,” Maddon said. “We haven’t pitched. Our defense has slowly gotten back to our capabilities. I do believe we’re going to hit, we’re going to pitch and we’re going to get better on defense. Why? We’re too young, we’re too strong and we’re too good. If we had been playing our best game and were stuck in this spot, I’d be a little bit more discouraged. We haven’t even come close to playing our game yet. No two years should be exactly the same. I really believe that.”

Believe it

 

Cubs Don’t Take Anything For Granted

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs bring the power against the San Francisco Giants as Anthony Rizzo crushes two home runs in the 5-4 victory. Kyle Hendricks pitched seven solid innings allowing only two runs. The Cubs are taking cues from Rizzo, the Cubs clubhouse leader.

“I’ve been on some streaks sometimes, but I want to be as consistent as possible,” Rizzo said. “But you take it. You ride it. You ride it out and you enjoy it.”

Nobody needs to tell you that when the leader leads, good things happen. Rizzo has homered in his last four games. The Cubs are slowly clawing their way back to the top of the standings with a half game back of the Brewers. What’s most impressive though is coupled with Jon Lester‘s complete game performance, Hendrick’s seventh inning endurance is proving to be a catalyst in their wins.

“That was probably the strongest I’ve felt deep into a game [this year],” said Hendricks, who led the majors last year with a 2.13 ERA. “The game before this was the previous time I’d felt stronger. But today, definitely the best.”

As I was building off on yesterday’s post, starter’s need to go deep again. Usually when they go deep into games, team’s are going to win ballgames. That’s logic. They might not be pretty wins but endurance and the ability to get batter’s out anyway they can will do it.

“When our starters go deep, it’s always fun to play behind them,” Rizzo said.

Of course it’s fun, there’s usually a cushion to play behind and the order can relax leading to perhaps more multi homer games. The Cubs are settling into a nice groove. They’ll go for the series win today before a weekend series against the Dodgers. The Cubs need to win these west coast matches this early in the season if they want to continue their quest for a repeat World Series.

“When you get a lead like we did tonight, you want to win those games. We’ve got a good home-field advantage, one of the better ones in sports as far as the fan support. We don’t take that for granted.” Jason Heyward said.

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 Game Under Review

Kyle Hendricks

Kyle Hendricks can let out a big sigh. The Professor stood on his lecture box of a pitcher mound and delivered an old school style performance yesterday recording his first home win of the season, handing out a 7-5 detention to the Cincinnati Reds.

“That was classic Kyle right there,” manager Joe Maddon said. “The velocity was up, you saw the bad takes, the bad swings, the contact wasn’t as hard. I talked to him after, and he was really excited. He knew that he was right tonight, and that’s a great game to build off of. Wind blowing out a gale and pitching as well as he did, there’s a lot of confidence to be derived from that.”

Excited?

“That game was one of my better ones for sure, because I got stronger,” said Hendricks. “My last three innings felt much better, much more under control. When [pitching coach Chris Bosio] came back on the bench, he gave me a good cue and got my tempo going. Getting stronger as the game goes on is always a good sign.”

There was an awkward play at the end of the game when Joey Votto was safe at first but upon review he was called out. Video clearly showed Votto was safe at first so the Cubs got away with that call.

“We should have a definitive shot of how they could overturn that, and we don’t,”Reds manager Bryan Price said. “At this point in time, all we have is a call into the league, and they will or will not come up with a shot that’s going to convince us they made the right decision. Right now, in the moment. Maybe they will, maybe they do. Maybe they have it. I’d sleep better if I knew they had a definitive shot of that.”

I’d have to agree with him on that. Which opens up another debate, or rather just reopening the debate on video review. I was all for it when it was introduced  almost ten years ago but now I’ve changed my mind. It doesn’t work. Oddly enough, it sacrifices the integrity of the game, the umpires and the drama of baseball. Managers are known to take excessive time on plays that shouldn’t be reviewed and if they have reviews why do they need an umpire behind the plate? We know if it’s a ball or a strike on television. I think we should drop the video review rule and go back to the way it was. I kinda loved it when plays would be argued over the BBQ on the back deck instead of New York.

Believe it