Cubs Get It Done Again In 10 Innings

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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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Professor Hendricks Lectures Cardinals

The Cubs may not be as dominate as they were last season, but quietly they’ve done Cubs things that have pushed them passed the 80 win mark and are moving away from the rest of the National League Central. Take for example, yesterday’s 4-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

This has been an interesting, if not crucial series against the Red Birds. There was John Lackey‘s rightful outrage against Umpire Jordan Baker that led to both Lackey’s and Willson Contreras‘s ejection. That was the Friday afternoon game and the intensity carried forth into yesterday’s game.

If you’re a loyal Canuck Cubbie follower, it’s no secret that Kyle Hendricks is my favourite player in baseball. His style has been compared to Greg Maddux, and yet I think it’s something entirely different. The fact that Hendricks pitches in this modern era of the game is a really special thing indeed. Nothing over 90 MPH and a very rare fast ball. Yesterday, Hendricks pitched his longest game of the year.

“It’s good to feel strong, even at that last pitch,” Hendricks said. “I still felt good. I still had plenty in the tank. That was my takeaway from today.”

Yet, he’s not always a lights out kind of pitcher. Sometimes he has his bad games but since he’s come off the disabled list, his confidence is growing and since his debut own 2014, Hendricks is becoming a team leader and perhaps someday we might see him at Cooperstown. It was a huge contrast in styles between John Lackey’s wild outing and Hendrick’s cool demeanour.

“We’re somewhat aware of where the teams are at,” Hendricks said, “but it’s not what we’re focused on. We’re focused on the field, what needs to be done, pitch to pitch. That’s really where our focus is and where it’s stayed. So two games, five games, whatever it is, it is. We have to win ballgames down the stretch. Period.”

It’s the right poise and confidence at the right time of the year.

“Everything was working from the side,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Hendricks, who has a 2.42 ERA in 11 starts since coming off the disabled list. “They were having bad takes. They were taking pitches that were called strikes. His fastball was the best he’s had all year. … His confidence could not be higher.”

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Cubs Swept By Brewers

I guess the best part about the weekend series against the Milwaukee Brewers was, in fact, the return of Willson Contreras.  The Cubs were swept yesterday with a score of 3-1. It was a crucial series with both teams vying for the lead in the National League Central division. With the Brewers sweep, the Cubs only have a two game lead.

“We’ve been in so many different ballgames and so many different situations between this year and last year. We know what we need to do. As far as attitude, team demeanor, grinding pitch to pitch, we’re doing what we can.” Kyle Hendricks said after the game.

Having Contreras back at this time of the year will hopefully pay huge dividends for the team. They have a day off today and then face the New York Mets, a great chance to make some of those wins back. Pittsburgh will play the Brewers and they’re on a five game losing streak.

Do the Cubs need retooling or some inspirational speech going down the stretch?

“There’s nothing I could say to them that would make a difference right now,” Joe Maddon said. “They need to see consistency from me.”

It’s true, at this stage of the game, the Cubs know what needs to be done and no manager’s cliched speech filled with, “We need to get runners on base, score or execute pitches” isn’t something the team needs to hear or hasn’t heard before. Of course, when Jason Heyward delivered his now legendary locker room soapbox chant sermon, the Cubs hadn’t had a championship in over a hundred years. This year it’s different. The Cubs know what it takes to win.

“You go over and ask that [Brewers] clubhouse what happened when they got swept by Cincinnati — it’s the way the game goes,” Heyward said. “It’s baseball. I’m not saying, ‘So what?’ but that’s part of the game. Teams will pitch well sometimes, sometimes you’re not going to hit well, sometimes balls will go at people, sometimes it’ll be what it is.”

That’s true also, otherwise it wouldn’t be a sport. Some folks might say, “Well, at least they won.” However, I’d like to see last year’s dominance take hold during the post season and the Cubs march on to a dynasty.

Take that Yankees

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Cubs Take It On The Chin In Pittsburgh

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The Chicago Cubs have had a couple of games where they racked up the score in the double digits against the opposing team, so yesterday’s 12-0 shutout victory was maybe karma coming back to bite them in the behind. The real nail biter was an early exit from Jake Arrieta with a hamstring injury.

“He felt pretty good afterwards,” Joe Maddon said. “He started to loosen up. He was able to go through the delivery motion like he was unable to out on the field.

“Even when he was apparently hurting a little bit, he was still going through all the stuff, stuff I can’t do. He’s putting his nose on his knees, doing other things, and I thought, ‘OK, it might be a cramp.'”

Otherwise the game went from bad to worse.

You know things are bad when position players fill in to pitch, just ask newly acquired Leonys Martin.

“I was afraid to hit somebody,” Martin said. “I was trying to throw the ball over the plate.”

It’s not like it hasn’t happened before, there was the John Baker game where it was a success but more times than not, it’s because of some catastrophe or a bullpen saving thing.

It goes to show you also what happens when guys like Javier Baez sits out and how much they mean to the team.

“My thumb is kind of jammed a little bit, so I’m taking a day off and I’ll be ready to go [Tuesday],” he said before the Cubs played the Pirates. I told the doctor about my thumb, but we were obviously worried more about the head, the contact. So today it’s pretty swollen. I’ve been icing it. Hopefully I’ll be ready [Tuesday].”

I’ve been harping on the easy schedule thing for a while and while I’m not trying to be negative but I’m leery about them heading into the post season. The Cubs should, in a perfect world, be able to handle teams like Pittsburgh even without their regulars playing. The Dodgers and the Nationals are going to prove to be too much for the Cubs to handle. Of course I could be wrong, the Cubs are known to provide some playoff magic.

Today, Kyle Hendricks gets the nod on the mound, and North Side’s favourite Professor hopes to not disappoint. He’s been playing exceptionally well and maybe, just maybe he might be the spark for the Cubs heading into the post season.

“His velocity is back where it needs to be, and now there’s a difference between fastball and changeup,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s looked every bit as good as he did last year [when Hendricks was 16-8 with a Major League-best 2.13 ERA].

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Cubs Win Fourth Straight. Bryant Sets Franchise Record

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I don’t know what it is about the Atlanta Braves that I find so unappealing. I guess there’s one team that every sports fan doesn’t like. In the NFL, it’s the New England Patriots and in the NHL, it’s the Anaheim Ducks. So, it gives me great pleasure to see Kyle Hendricks and the Cubs defeat the Braves 6-2 but most importantly, Kris Bryant is now the first Chicago Cub to hit 25 homers in his first three seasons.

“He’s been playing through all kinds of nagging injuries,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Bryant, who has dealt with ankle, wrist and hand injuries this season. “Give him credit. He’s an everyday player and he comes to play. Even if there’s no hits on a particular day, there’s been good defense, great base running, all the other stuff he can do to help you win a baseball game. That ball was really killed [for his homer] — that wind was firm.”

That’s the kind of player Bryant is. He plays through the pain and has quietly become a co leader with Anthony Rizzo to be the faces of the team.

The thing that was so impressive with the victory was that the Cubs didn’t feel like they were playing their best ball. Take Hendricks for instance, his last victory was that 17-2 shredding of the Phillies, but last night he felt a little “Weird”

“From the start today it was one of those days,” Hendricks said. “Uncomfortable. Felt weird. Command was terrible. My timing was off. I wasn’t staying over the rubber well. Today really the guys just made the plays behind me and scored enough runs.”

That’s what the game is about too. Sometimes it’s the pitcher doing all the work and other times it’s the team backing them up or in the rare cases, it’s both working together to pull out perfection. One of the cool things that Hendricks has in his repertoire is his ability to throw to first. He’s quick and accurate. I like that a lot about his style.

“He’s one of those guys who’s able to hold the ball and throw accurately to first base with quick feet,” Maddon said. “It might sound simple, but it’s not. It’s hard to get pitchers to hold the baseball sometimes.”

The Cubs are in a good spot right now with their fourth straight victory. Will we see the Champs cruise to another World Series?

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Cubs Beat Pirates and Reflecting on Philly

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It could be the easier schedule the Cubs have been playing since the All Star Break but as the old saying goes,” We’ll take it” as the North Siders downed the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-1. Give Mike Montgomery credit for filling in for the injured Jon Lester, they’re big shoes to fill but he delivered big 0 through seven innings.

“I’m going to assume I’m going to be asked to start again,” Montgomery said. “If it changes, it changes. I’ll be able to adjust from there. I let them know, ‘Hey, I’ll do any role.’ I feel comfortable. For now, it’s just coming to the park tomorrow and get my work in and be ready to go.”

The Cubs are in a playoff race and now are 2 1/2 in front of the Brewers. It’s hard to say if they’re on a roll or not and with Lester nearing a return, will they stick Montgomery in the bullpen or add a sixth spot to the rotation?

“I’ve been in different roles this year,” said Montgomery, who subbed earlier this season and was making his 10th start of the year. “You’ve got to look at it and say, ‘Hey, I get to start for the Chicago Cubs and it’s going to be a fun day.'”

So, our family travelled to Philadelphia this past weekend to see Kyle Hendricks and the Cubs demolish the Phillies. It was a great trip, a beautiful city and yes, we ran the Rocky steps.

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The park is really cool and I have a gut feeling that there were just as many Cubs fans as there were Philly fans(no offence, Philly). One of the most special parts was seeing Kyle Hendricks pitch. Throwing eight strikeouts and collecting a couple RBI’s was extra special.

It was dubbed our “Cubs Weekend” because we scooted over to Cooperstown to pay homage to the 2016 champs.

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Of all the trophies, this one has to be that much more special. That was a great moment in history and to see it up close with  2016 World Series Champions chiseled into the base was amazing.

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The Hall of Fame is so great. Whether it’s the drive along the lakes or reflecting on a bench in the gardens of the great hall, it’s like a time warp of those special moments, not just of baseball but in your life.

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Cubs Give Solid Outing But Fall Short

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Sure the Cubs squandered a 2-1 lead going into the eighth inning to eventually lose 4-2 to the Reds but on there were some great signs of life in a performance by Jake Arrieta.

“I felt like I had good tempo, really good sequences,” Arrieta said. “The only trouble I got into, I got out of in the fifth (after the first two batters reached) by making some really good pitches. In the sixth, I tried to do a little too much, tried to overthrow and missed some spots.”

I’ve always been hit or miss with Arrieta. He was brilliant when he won the Cy Young, but faltered a bit the following season. He’s a good if not great pitcher but inconsistent. He’s having a good year, and that’s great for the Cubs but there’s so many better pitchers in the game.

So, the Cubs lost and really it could be tagged onto that attempted steal in the ninth by Jon Jay. It was a poor decision but hey, you have to try, right? Suck it up and come the next game.

“He went on his own,” Maddon said. “He’s thinking they’re playing behind. He’s thinking they’re not going to throw. They did.”

One thing I’ve learned in my years of watching baseball is that they’ll always have those mistakes. It happens.

So, I’ve got these mixed feelings about Player’s Weekend  

Kind of on the fence with this one. I’m not totally convinced it’s going to work, It could be a novelty thing or a marketing grab. It’s for the kids which is great but more likely a marketing opportunity to squeeze out some more cash from us unsuspecting blokes. We’ll be in Philly tomorrow to watch Kyle Hendricks and the Cubs and I’m looking forward to that. We hope to get there early and snag an autograph or two.

Maybe I’m cynical about the whole idea, but in the end it’ll be fun and give fans a chance to be more personable with their favourite players.

“Miami is the city that raised me,” Jay said. “I have a lot of pride in that city. I learned a lot of life lessons there that made me who I am today.” on his 305J nickname.

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