Cubs Show That Everybody’s In

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Those folks in the Cubs front office sure know what they’re talking about when they thought up  #EverybodyIn and the Cubs go out and deliver a 16-5 beatdown on the Rockies last night. Kyle Hendricks got off to a shaky start but settled into a groove nicely.

“It was still a battle the whole way,” Hendricks said. “Deep counts, a lot of pitches, able to get through it, I guess. You saw a lot from our lineup today, really. That’s what won the game. They gave me two right away, I give three right back. For them to stay on those at-bats, come back and get that many runs for me, that was the ballgame.”

Yeah, it was. I’ve always said that Hendricks will never be that “Perfect Game” pitcher but his craftiness and techniques win him those ball games. Yesterday he proved that after giving up those runs, he stays calm and keeps his poise to get back into the game.

As for “El Mago”, give him the MVP all ready, why don’t you?

“I’m seeing the ball right when [the pitcher] releases it,” Javier Baez said of his recent tear that finds him hitting .400 (14-for-35) with three doubles, a triple, six homers, and 16 RBIs over his last eight games. “I’m not trying to go [opposite field], but a lot of hits are being hit that way. I’m just trying to stay to the middle, keep the same approach and keep doing my routine.”

His slide into second kept managers pumping more sunflower seeds into their mouths but sometimes, you just have to go for it. I don’t believe any manager is going to try and change Baez’s game.

“When the whole group adopts a method, and they feed off one another, and they’re capable …” manager Joe Maddon said, interrupting himself as he analyzed the offensive outburst over the last two games. “… These guys have been to the World Series, they’ve won one, they’ve been in the NLCS every year, they know what’s going on. But I’ve often talked about, the one area — we have not had mature at-bats. We can’t say we’re inexperienced anymore. We have experience, but we’re still young. We have to get rid of that youth involvement in the at-bat and we’ll play some really nice baseball.”

That’ll come. We’re all ready seeing guys like Kyle Schwarber settle down at the plate a bit. On the other side, Baez has got such a pure swing that patience won’t help him too much. He’s got to play the game he’s meant to play.

So, it’s finally so good to see Everybody In after their disastrous start to the season. Hopefully, this is a sign of the baseball to come.

“You are going to see everyone play,” Maddon said. “I hate to disappoint people, but everyone is going to play. And they’re all going to play well. I promise.”

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Cubs Bring El Mago

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A lot of good things happened yesterday as the Cubs defeated the St Louis Cardinals 8-5 in front of a dry crowd under sunny skies. Yup, that was a good ol’ fireball the Cubs played under.

“Good approach, good at-bats,” Joe Maddon said of the Cubs’ 14-hit attack, which involved using the entire field. “It is so fun to watch. Keep your launch angles, keep your exit velocities, give me a good at-bat. Those were really good at-bats. Staying inside the ball, using the whole field — I promise you if they stay on that path, balls will still go out of the ballpark at the pace they’re capable of. With that, you’ll see better situational hitting, you’ll see higher batting averages, on-base percentages. I loved our approach today.”

Or the Cubs just really suck at playing in the rain. Plus, the Cubs got back to the basics and played small ball. Get on base and move the runners. Sounds pretty simple but for some reason, when players reach the big leagues, they see the back of the yard and there’s a big target where they try to hit the ball deep. That’s good and all but getting runners home and loading the bases is the fundamentals they need. The Cubs finally did that yesterday.

“It is [an art form],” Maddon said. “It’s just good hitting. We worked really good at-bats. I’d love to stay with that if we can. Use the whole field.”

The other advantage of April baseball is that teams have a long road ahead of them and they can experiment. Mix up the order and move the players around. Javier Baez is swinging a hot bat so far so why shouldn’t he do it? He batted second and looked good there.

“That’s good to know,” Baez said when told about Maddon’s motives. “I was trying to stay focused on the same approach, same swings. I didn’t get excited, but that’s one of my goals is to end up there in the lineup. I feel great, I’m still seeing the ball really good. I chased a few pitches today, but I took good at-bats.”

Love him or hate him, Baez has become the exciting player the Cubs hoped he’d be. In a world of high salaried performers, Baez shows up at the plate looking like that kid in the sandlot hitting a home run for the very first time. He looks like that all the time.

“The guy’s an exciting ballplayer,” Chicago’s Kyle Schwarber said of Baez. “I feel we’re always talking about Javy Baez. I’m not going to get tired of it. He’s a heck of a ballplayer and a lot of instincts and he’s a leader and he’s fun to watch.”

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Cubs Get Stymied By Pirates

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I’m going to blame it on the cold weather. but in the Chicago Cubs’ 6-1 drubbing at the hands of the obscenely mighty Pittsburgh Pirates, the Cubs just couldn’t get it done. Well, at least I’m sticking to my cold weather theory. I think it must be hard for a guy like Kyle Hendricks to deliver the control that he’s so accustomed to in the cold weather. Then again, the Cubs do miss Anthony Rizzo.

“It’s definitely early,” Kyle Schwarber said. “I think we’d like to piece some wins together. We’re not going out there and pressing for that. We know if we go out there and do what we need to do, things will happen. It’s just been an unfortunate series of events with everything that’s going on. We’ll keep going out there and playing our ballgame.”

The problem is that in baseball, unlike other sports, a team can’t win one, then lose one and keep up the pace. In football, a team still has a chance to make the post season if they keep that pace or in hockey, they can rely on points but baseball, man, that’s a different breed altogether. It’s almost like pinpointed accuracy in the standings. Teams have to win April and August if they want an outside chance of competing.

“In the snap of the fingers, it went from balmy to embalming, I guess,” Joe Maddon said. “It got cold very quickly. You could see the wind came on. It did impact. The ball still carried, it seemed. It was two different ballparks completely. That’s the beauty of the place.”

So there you have it. It’s got to be the cold. Then again, Hendricks style of pitching has to be bang on, if he’s off just a little bit, it’s harder for him to get his game back. We’ll have to wait and see when Rizzo gets back. Pittsburgh is good and I’m a little scared in the standings on how they’ll be this season. The weather’s been funky and so has the Cubs’ game.

“We were making good pitches, putting together good [at-bats], but so are they,” Hendricks said of the Pirates. “They’re really good right now and putting together good quality at-bats. They’re a tough team.”

Up next is the Atlanta Braves and man, do I hate that team. Their records are similar and I hope the Cubs stick it to them. Yu Darvish gets the ball in his Wrigley debut. This is the series, the Cubs get it back.

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Cubs In Tough Spot After Loss To Reds

Reds 1, Cubs 0

If Managers pushed panic buttons this early in the season, then there might not always be great teams down the road. The other reminder that I keep telling myself is that the season is nearly a week old, but man, the Cincinnati Reds? The Cubs lost 1-0 and have struck out 58 times this season, that my friends is a National League record.

Not good, but April has only just begun.

“We’re not going to ride the rollercoaster as hard as everyone else outside,” Anthony Rizzo said. “We have a good group. If you look at back of the bubblegum card, it kind of speaks for itself. The more you get in those situations, the better off you are.”

I do look at baseball cards, love em and my Kyle Hendricks rookie card sits proudly on display down in the man cave. Numbers don’t lie and striking out 58 times is not a good thing when the season isn’t a week old. I know, I know I just said that but it kind of needs repeating. The old adage of leaving scorers on base and of course, not hitting is probably the main reason why teams don’t always make the playoffs.

“Contact,” hitting coach Chili Davis said afterward with a half-smile. “We’d like to see a lot of good contact. There’s some guys, you’re not just going to turn them into contact-type hitters. I don’t want them to lose their aggressiveness at the plate. We have too good of hitters for me to panic at all.”

He’s right and Anthony Rizzo is right. Ahem, Kyle Schwarber? These guys are decent hitters, if not some of the best in the game; so who knows what the problem is this early in the season?

“I’ve talked about it for how many years now?” manager Joe Maddon asked rhetorically. “We have struck out a lot. It has been exacerbated by the 17-inning game but we have struck out a lot. We have to do better. We have to move the baseball. We talked about it all camp. We talked about it the last two years. I believe that we will, but right now, we’re not.”

There’s those pesky late inning games last weekend that tore the exhaust pipe off of the Cubs, so it’s no wonder that they’re out of sorts.

‘‘We’ve been shut out pretty much three out of six games,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘We’re going to hit. We’re a very good offensive club. It’s just what’s going on right now. I’m not going to make any excuses. We should have done better, but we’re going to do better.’’

They will. They’re going to get better, if there’s any team that has the talent to turn things around, it’s these Cubs.

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Extra!, Extra! Cubs Win It In Ten

Chicago Cubs v Miami Marlins

The importance of starting pitching was never more on display than in last night’s extra inning 10-6 all nighter win by the Chicago Cubs over the Miami Marlins. In this case, the hot ticket free agent signing of Yu Darvish came up short lasting just a mere 4 1/2 innings. Call it stage fright or just plain Opening Week jitters, but Darvish looked mortal in his Cubs debut.

“He wasn’t really sharp overall,” Joe Maddon said. “A lot of pitches for 4 1/3. He showed glimpses where the command was good. His fastball command was off a little. I would say, overall, he didn’t have his best stuff tonight.”

Five runs on five hits, that’s a big, “Whoops, sorry about that guys.” moment. I hope he bought his teammates a round or two afterwards.

When you think about it, Darvish has a lot of pressure put on him being the big money man that he is for the Cubs.

“It seems like every time I pitched the first game in Japan things went not so well,” Darvish said through his interpreter. “I don’t know why that happened. … It could have been a location problem with my pitches. I don’t think I was able to command whatever I wanted to, in terms of fastball.”

So, to show the depth in the Cubs this year, and this is why they’re going to be scary good,  the offence picked up the pieces with Kyle Schwarber, Ben Zobrist and Kris Bryant contributing in big ways for the team.

Schwarber’s monster blast combined with Bryant’s 4 run 10th inning was just what the Cubs needed to bring the fireworks and put on display their ferocity and endurance especially after Friday night’s epic outing.

“We did some really nice stuff,” Maddon said. “How about Zobrist? He’s swinging the bat as well as anybody on the team right now. Schwarber hits a big bomb, and [Bryant] continues to have good at-bats. It’s almost like some of them are trying way too hard. Let’s just back it off a little bit, see the ball, don’t try to do too much. Get back to the whole field — we’re getting too pull conscious too early.”

Don’t forget that Mike Montgomery appeared in his third straight game. I don’t think people imagined that this was the kind of start to 2018 they had in mind for the North Siders.

“I was not expecting to get in there today,” Montgomery said. “In the eighth inning, all we had left was Strop, and the Marlins tied it up. When we didn’t take the lead in the ninth and the 10th comes around, everybody said, ‘Hey, can you go?’

The Cubs had better dial back these extra inning nail biters and save them for October because we all know what extra inning Octobers can do for these Cubs.

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Cubs Display Courage In Elimination Game

The Chicago Cubs on the brink of elimination, at home, fought off the Los Angeles Dodgers to force a game 5 tonight. Yesterday, the Cubs launched three home runs on their way to a 3-2 victory. It wasn’t easy but starting pitcher Jake Arrieta struck out 7 over  7 and Javier Baez launched two home runs, while Willson Contreras contributed a monster of a moon shoot to help the Cubs win the game.

“You’ve got this many fans on their feet, pulling on the same side of the rope,” Arrieta said. “It breathes some added energy. I’m thankful they came out and had the energy they did. It really helped us tonight. “It’s not an ideal situation, but I’ve been in this situation before and I enjoy it.”

It’s also a situation where Arrieta might have pitched his last game for the North Siders, but if it is, the former Cy Young winner will go out on a high note.

The game wasn’t without controversy after Curtis Grandson swung at a pitch and the ball bounced on the ground but Grandson thought it was a foul tip, so the Dodgers argued and the call was overturned.

It wasn’t.

The crowd knew it and well, so did Joe Maddon and that’s why after he argued, he was tossed from the game.

“The explanation was eventually — eventually it turned into hearing two sounds. Not one of them saw a foul tip or heard — thought it was a foul tip. It was based on two sounds, which I totally cannot agree with that process whatsoever. When you have 40-some thousand people, it’s late in the game. The other sound could have come from some lady screaming in the first row. I have no idea. I can’t buy that process,” Maddon said.

The umpire admitted his faux pas afterwards, but if the Cubs lost the game on that call, then there would have been even more controversy and that wouldn’t have been good at all.

So, tonight the Cubs will send Jose Quintana to the mound to face Clayton Kershaw in another loser stay home, which in this case won’t be that far. It’s going to be tough facing the best pitcher in the game but this is why the Cubs brought Quintana in.

“That guy’s been pretty dang good for us and I know he’s going to go out there and battle for us, that’s for sure,” added outfielder Kyle Schwarber. “We’re really looking forward to having him out there.”

On a sombre note, on Tuesday, leader singer Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip passed away from glioblastoma  at the age of 53. He was considered by many as the poet laureate of Canada. Downie  and the Hip wrote many songs about our nation and were essentially the Rolling Stones of Canada. They never made it big on the Stateside but were even bigger in the hearts of many Canadians. It’s not uncommon to hear their music blasting from car speakers every summer, in fact it’s a tradition and last night during a candle light vigil in Springer Market Square, it was no different. For me, their music and his words are a reminder of my college years or just about every party I went to, there was a Hip tune playing.  In honour of Gord’s passing and to give the Cubs a little courage, taken from the 2004 Grey Cup:

 

Courage,

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Cubs Hang On, Take Series Lead 2-1

After Saturday’s 6-3 heartbreaking loss, the Cubs were poised for a rebound. Yesterday, the Cubs proved that they’re still the reigning champs no matter if they make it through to the World Series or not by clawing their way to a 2-1 scrappy victory over the Nationals.

“It’s just an attitude, an attitude we’ve had on this team since I came up,” Kyle Schwarber said of the Cubs’ mantra. “I remember in ’15, we had the same attitude — we’re not going to quit — and we’d just got swept in the [NL Championship Series]. We’re not going to quit.”

Fingers were crossed after Schwarber couldn’t catch a routine ball to the left field wall and then proceeded to bobble the ball after he was unable to scoop it up. So, when it came time to congratulate everyone, Schwarber was the most relieved of all the players.

“Schwarber works his butt off, literally, to get better in the outfield,” Joe Maddon said. “And here’s the thing about that: That’s a routine play. That’s not over the top and that’s not an exceptionally great play, and it’s something that he knows he can make 11 out of 10 times.

“I have such faith in the fellow and the guy and his work ethic and how much he cares. After the game, all the guys are going up to him, every one, and reinforcing him. … He’s going to continue to get better on defense. But you’ve got to love his heart, man.”

There’s even Bill Murray singing the seventh inning stretch which has now become a fall favourite of having Murray sightings at Wrigley Field. Now, that’s all heart.

So now the Cubs are in position to advance to the NLCS tonight with a win. Game time is 5:30 EST with Jake Arrieta set to take to the mound. With the LA Dodgers upsetting Arizona, it could be the rematch of last season and I hope it’s the same outcome.

“We’ve got to be in attack mode. There’s no relaxing just because we’re up in the series. I’m a big, big believer in, you know, travel-day wins. You’ve got to get that win on a travel day because it makes everything better. The flight’s better, the morale is better. [Tuesday] we have a chance to seal it up here at Wrigley Field, and I expect our fans to be insane, just like they always are, and we’ll be ready to go.” Anthony Rizzo said.

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