Cubs Find No Joy In WrigleyVille

Part of the beauty of baseball and any other sport for that matter, is that there has to be a winner and a loser. To say that the Cubs shouldn’t have been in the NLCS this year would be wrong. They won their right to qualify for the World Series but last night’s 11-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers showed fans , sport writers and the Cubs brass just about everything they needed to know about what went wrong with the Cubs during the first half of the season. It also should everyone just how mismatched the Cubs/Dodgers series was in the first place.

“It’s a disappointing season that we didn’t go to the World Series,” Chicago pitcher Jon Lester said, “but whenever you get on the plane to go home or get in the car to go home, you have to look at the positives, and the positives are we gave ourselves a chance. It didn’t happen this year. We got beat by a better team. You’ve got to tip your hat sometimes.”

There’s that tipping of the hat again. No, the Cubs shouldn’t tip their caps. They should be saying ,”Thank you” to the Dodgers that this was done in five games. It was fitting that a three time Cy Young winner was facing a pitcher, who’s name wasn’t Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks or Jon Lester. It was Jose Quintana. A pitcher that looked like a deer in headlights after the first inning.

“The better team won over the course of these five games. They played really well. They kind of out-pitched us and everything else. So give them credit. Dave Roberts and their entire staff, I just want to say, ‘Congratulations.’ [We] know what it feels like coming off of last year — we were celebrating versus them in this exact same spot. So they’ve had themselves a spectacular year, and I want to wish them all well in the World Series.” Joe Maddon said.

As I do too. They dominated the Cubs in every category. When the guys like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant can’t get it done; then there’s problems. Someone asked me yesterday what my prediction was for last night’s game, and I told them,

” You have a three time Cy Young winner going against a team without their best starting pitcher, their top guys in a hitting slump and a closing ace that’s unavailable; David had better odds against Goliath”

Which they replied,”That was a story and David won”

“No, this is baseball and numbers don’t lie.”

Of course, I was hoping the Cubs would in some miracle, win and move on but in a way, I’m glad the season is over. The Cubs need to lick their wounds and concentrate on next year. I’m proud of the team, their accomplishments and look forward to spring again. When everything is new and hopes and dreams are a clean slate.

“As a team, we know it’s an accomplishment to get to where we’ve gotten to,” Ben Zobristsaid. “But after what we experienced last year, this is less than what we wanted this year. At the same time, you have to recognize how tough a year it was for us. We kept battling and were able to win our division and win the Division Series to get here. I think the Dodgers were just better. They played a phenomenal series and we didn’t. We have to keep our heads up. We kept battling together and stayed together.

Casey At The Bat

by Ernest Thayer

The Outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play.
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, if only Casey could get but a whack at that –
We’d put up even money, now, with Casey at the bat.

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a lulu and the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey’s getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despis-ed, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and the men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile on Casey’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ’twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance gleamed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped-
“That ain’t my style,” said Casey. “Strike one,” the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore.
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted someone on the stand;
And its likely they’d a-killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew;
But Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, “Strike two.”

“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered fraud;
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate;
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate.
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville – mighty Casey has struck out.

#ThatsCub

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Cubs Down 2-0 in NLCS. Head Back To Wrigley

If the Chicago Cubs go on to lose the NLCS then it’ll be on Joe Maddon’s shoulders. There I said it. I say this after the Cubs were downed by the Dodgers 4-1 and now the Dodgers have a two game lead going to Chicago on Tuesday.

Sure, Kris Bryant‘s bat has gone silent, in fact, the rest of the team has been quiet in this series. Nobody can blame it on stellar pitching because both rotations have been in a state of flux. The fact is that Jon Lester should have stayed in for another inning or even a couple more outs. Carl Edwards was good for another few outs and well, Brian Deunsing was pitching really well, so I don’t quite understand what went wrong there? Oh wait, I’m sure everyone’s scratching their heads over the use of John Lackey. The guy has never pitched back to back games in his life.

“I really just needed him for the save tonight,” Joe Maddon said. “He had limited pitches. It was one inning only, and in these circumstances, you don’t get him up and then don’t get him in. So if we had caught the lead, he would have pitched. That’s it.”

Now, I’m glad Wade Davis wasn’t used, he’ll be fresh for Tuesday at Wrigley Field. Here’s hoping it’s cold in Chicago and Yasul Puig’s tongue sticks to the bat. Any recommendations of a rule change to aluminum?

“It’s their guys versus our guys,” Addison Russell said. “We’re playing to win. I feel like the competition just steps up a little bit because each pitch is more crucial, each swing, each play. An error can be the deciding factor of winning or losing. A bad pitch can be the decision of winning or losing. That’s really what I like about it.”

It’s really going to come down to the Cubs scoring more runs and Maddon not playing hot potato with his bullpen. Kyle Hendricks gets the start on Tuesday. He’s well rested and he needs to put up a performance for the ages, at least seven innings. Carl Edwards Jr relieves him and then it’s Wade Davis’ turn to shine.

“All you’re focused on is making pitches,” Hendricks said recently. “That’s my job and it never changes — no matter regular-season game, postseason game, no matter who you are facing on the other side of the mound. My focus is to go out there, make good pitches, rely on my preparation which I’ve done all year long. But when it comes down to it, when those lights turn on, you just have to execute pitches better than the other guy.”

The Cubs have been down in a series before and fought back, we know this and we know the results. They needed that win in LA, but not all is lost. They win three at Wrigley and take one back in LA. Easy Peasy, right? Bill Murray will be there to cheer them on and the momentum is clearly in the Cubs corner.

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Chicago Cubs Advance To NLCS

Last night was one of the most frustrating games I’ve ever seen. The Chicago Cubs are NLDS Champions and advance to the NLCS to face the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers after a 9-8 victory sending the Washington Nationals golfing for another year.

“I would say this is the most fun I’ve had playing in a baseball game, and it ranks right up there with winning the World Series,” Addison Russell said.

You know, he’s right. It would come close to winning the World Series, I mean he should know, right? It seemed both the Cubs and the Nationals expired their pitching order respectively in an attempt to thwart each other and win the NLDS. Neither starting pitcher could get it done with Kyle Hendricks or Gio Gonzalez. To give you an example about how weird the game was, Hendricks threw seven strikeouts and Gonzalez had six. If this were any other game, those would be decent numbers but not last night; The Cubs wanted to go on to their third NLCS while the Nationals haven’t won a series in 36 years (going back to the Expos)

“This was such a tough series, just a dogfight,” said Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks, who started the series’ opener and finale. “You’ve got to tip your hat. That club on the other side is really, really good. Lot of tough ballplayers over there. Top to bottom, they’re just so deep. We’re just lucky we were able to come out on top.”

Luck being the key word. This series truly would have gone the other way and normally I cringe when athletes “Tip their cap” to their opponent but in this case, it’s justified. I’ve never been more nervous watching a ballgame then last night.

“Really anxious, almost bemused at some of the things that were happening in that game,” said Theo Epstein, the Cubs’ president of baseball operations. “It was kind of a surreal game. We got all those runs with only one big hit to drive in runs, and then it was a matter of just holding on, finding a way to get 27 outs. It seemed impossible at times.”

Trust me Theo, it looked impossible from this end as well. When they say a pitcher’s duel, they included when the pitcher’s performances were sub par as well. If there were a way to get 27 outs without throwing strikes, this was the game.

“That’s one of the most incredible victories I’ve ever been part of,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Under the circumstances, in the other team’s ballpark, after a tough loss at home [in Game 4], to come back and do that, give our guys all the credit in the world.”

The NLCS begins tomorrow night. I hope the Cubs have one of their” fun days” and try to relax because one thing that this year’s edition of the post season has shown us is that the Cubs are out to prove last season wasn’t just plain old luck. However, the Dodgers are rested and the Cubs’ machine is well oiled.

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Cubs Lose Tough One, Go To Game 5 Winner Take All

It wasn’t supposed to go this far in the NLDS, the Chicago Cubs were supposed to stomp all over the Nationals and go forth to defend their NLCS title. But we know that this is the Chicago Cubs and the weather patterns and nail biting have commenced this October. Leave it to a rain delay and a last minute pitching change by Dusty Baker to set the tone for last night’s make up game. There’s going to be the would have, should haves and could have beens in the 5-0 defeat but instead, the Cubs and the Nationals will meet tonight in a do or go home situation in Washington.

“It’s not ideal, but now the series is tied with the decisive Game 5 coming up tomorrow,” Chicago starter Jake Arrieta said. “We like our chances — as long as Strasburg isn’t on the mound, we’ll be all right.”

You have to love Arrieta’s wryness but Strasburg wasn’t supposed to be pitching yesterday, in fact by rights, the game should have had Tanner Roark on the mound and the game should have been played Tuesday early afternoon before the rain. That didn’t happen and the past is the past.

“We just have to be offensively a little bit better tomorrow,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “They have been really good. We have been really good. Listen, they got a grand slam. Otherwise, it’s kind of like the same game both sides.”

There we have it, tonight it’ll be Kyle Hendricks up against whoever the heck Dusty Baker decides to throw in. Hendricks has been here before. The NLCS last year that sent the Cubs to the World Series. This is the most important game of Hendricks life, well not including game 7 of the World Series. Ok, so this is the second most important game of Hendricks life. Then again, this is what they’re paid for; these situations.

“You know what the atmosphere is going to be like. You know what the crowd is going to be like,” Kyle Hendricks said. “All those external factors, if you can kind of keep that under control, you know the pitching part. You know what to do once you get out on the mound. Being able to control all those external factors, I think, is going to be huge. Yeah, it will help me out. At the end of the day, it’s just about making good pitches. That’s where I need to mentally prepare, go out when it’s Game 5 and just make good pitches.”

If there is any other pitcher the Cubs have in their arsenal for tonight’s game, this is the guy they want to go to the mound with.

“We have all the confidence in that guy,” shortstop Addison Russell said. “He goes about his business in such a way where, if you just watch him work, the confidence is there. It builds confidence throughout this team. We’re really happy to have him out there.”

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Kyle Hendricks Outstanding In NLDS Game 1

Sure, if somebody were to compare last night’s performances by the starting pitchers Kyle Hendricks and Stephen Strasburg, the edge would have to go to Strasburg. But, and that’s a big one, when it came down to sheer control, domination and command the better pitcher was Hendricks.

Of course, I’m bias on that one. You knew that of course.

The Cubs opened their NLDS series against the Washington Nationals with a 3-0 victory. If this was any indication of how the post season is going, then a road victory is surely that much more awesome.

“Going up against a tough pitcher, tough team in their home park, I don’t know if anyone really expected us to win, and we pulled it out,” Kris Bryant said. “Winning the first game is always important, but in a five-game [series], it’s more important.”

Yes, it is Kris. His bare handed grab at third to throw at first was one of the many highlights of the game.

So, when Kyle Hendricks came into the league back in 2014, he mostly flew under the radar and even up to last year’s World Series win, Kyle retained his unassuming style. Now, after last night’s Lecture On How To Pitch by the Professor Hendricks, I believe that his name will come up with some of the greats. Granted, I may be jumping the gun a little too soon (and in true Cubs fashion, I probably just jinxed the damn team) but admit it, the kid’s on fire.

“I think I’m just a laid-back guy, but you’re definitely feeling it,” Hendricks said. “The energy there in the stadium and crowd was pretty cool, but we’ve played some big games, even down the stretch in our division. We’ve had good atmospheres where we’re playing, so we were ready to take that adrenaline on and use it to our advantage.”

The kid tells the truth, the Cubs have been smoking hot coming down the stretch and you know, they might have to include a director’s cut of the film that’s being planned and add an extended version with this year’s post season.

Hendricks did just Hendricks things by carving out the strike zone and being cool and methodical under pressure.

“That’s why we call him Professor,” Chicago second baseman Javier Baez said about Hendricks. “He knows what he’s doing.”

One of my favourite games was the NLCS when Hendricks shut down Clayton Kershaw and for me, that was the game that solidified his potential Hall of Fame status.

“Joe Maddon has always been there for me,” Hendricks said. “They have instilled a lot of confidence in me ever since I came here. Even when I first came up, I had a bad year in 2015 and they stuck with me. So it’s been that way for a long time. But to get this nod for Game 1, just to try to set the tone for the team is huge. I just wanted to go out there, like I said before, and just do my part to give my team a chance to win.”

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Cubs Cruise To 9-0 Win Over Reds

Image result for chicago cubs

So the Chicago Cubs are in the post season and today is the last day of the 2016 campaign. Yesterday, the Cubs defeated the Cincinnati Reds 9-0 in what really amounted to a practice against the Washington Nationals.

One thing that I have to understand is Kyle Schwarber. Earlier in the season I suggested that he might be on the trade block (or should be really) but here it is in late September and Schwarber cranks out his 30th dinger of the season.

“Having been sent down during the course of the season, things not going his way, give the guy high marks for perseverance,” Joe Maddon said. “I think overall, the year has been very successful for him. It’s not easy being sent back after all the success he had. I think maybe my expectations I portrayed were too high, and I should’ve considered that he did not play at all last year.”

Again though, I think what he did in last year’s run was phenomenal and probably caught everyone, including myself off guard. He was sent down to the minors for a tune up but as we know, has rebounded nicely since his return.

“This is my favorite time of the year,” Schwarber said. “This is when things come to the nitty-gritty. This brings out the best in everyone. You saw when we were playing Milwaukee and St. Louis, those were some hard-fought games. It was a playoff atmosphere. We’re going to be going into Washington, and it’s going to be some hard-fought games, two really good pitching staffs going at it, and two really good offenses and defenses and good bullpens. You’re going to be in for a grinder series, and it’ll be fun.”

So the Cubs haven’t decided who will start game one of the NLDS. Will it be Kyle Hendricks or Jon Lester? As much as I like Hendricks, I’m going to give the nod to Lester on this one. He’s got the experience all though he’s been playing a little off recently, he’ll rebound into the true playoff performer he is.

“I don’t make those decisions,” Lester said. “If they chose to make me Game 1, that’s a huge honor, huge responsibility to put on your shoulders and go out there and try to get your team off to the best start. If I’m in any of the other games, I’ll go out and compete just like I would any other start.”

The Cubs will have their hands full with the Nationals.  The North Siders are on a roll but the Nationals will give them all they can handle.

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Cubs Get It Done Again In 10 Innings

Image result for chicago cubs

The Chicago Cubs magic number is 5 after another thrilling extra innings victory over their division rivals Milwaukee Brewers 5-4.  This will be the second year in a row if the Cubs can hang on to crown the division.

It came down to Tommy La Stella‘s drawn up walk in the tenth inning and let me tell you,  just speaking on Milwaukee’s behalf, there’s no worse way to lose a game then an extra inning walk.

“He has not played in a bit and he goes out there, not too eager,” Maddon said. “Slowed everything down. Accepted his walk. Young players today, many are not willing to accept their walk.”

Just having those empathetic feelings for the Brewers.

It wasn’t just La Stella’s play but the bullpen, normally an iffy spot for the Cubs, pulled it together when Carl Edwards Jr. pitched in the extra innings. The big thing that was impressive about his appearance was the coolness on display. The Cubs might have to call upon him soon in the post season and these last games of the year are the warm up to that post season magic.

“That’s what we have to do,” Edwards said. “In order for us to all get what we want to get and do what we want to do in life, everybody has to step up, and the good thing is everybody is stepping up so we can go to anybody in the bullpen at any time to get us out of a big inning or just stop the bleeding.”

Today is another important game because Kyle Hendricks is pitching and he’s coming off of his longest outing and looks to continue that success into the post season. He’s in his groove and the Cubs have quickly forgotten that dreaded first half of the season.

“It’s always different, every team is different and you find a new way,” Ben Zobrist said. “You have to find a new way to win and a new way to make it interesting. There’s a lot of the same characters as last year [on the Cubs], but with new characters, it changes the mix a little bit. It’s the same intensity and want to win as those other teams but in a different way.”

It’s true that the Cubs have to win in a different way. If last season was all about not quitting, then this season is about honing what they’ve learned in that post season and fine tuning their skills so they can come back in those extra innings. Are they a better team than they were last year? It’s difficult to say because they’re a different team.

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