Cubs Go On Fishing Expedition

Canuck Cubbie

It’s no secret that this season when the Cubs have been bad, well, they’ve stunk but when they’ve been good, they’ve been red hot. Last night, the Cubs weren’t just red hot, they were on fire beating the Miami Marlins 11-1.  On the same day that fan favourite, Kyle Schwarber got sent down for a little bit of adjustment, the Cubs young bats became red hot with Addison Russell, Willson Contreras and Kris Bryant each chipping in for the Home Run Department.

“A night like tonight where we we pitch well and score 11 runs, it looks easy. But it’s about consistency and trying to build off of a night like tonight. We’ve got the guys necessary to do so. So it’s a matter of collectively as a group building off of a night like tonight.” Jake Arrieta said.

Which is easier said than done. I’m not a big fan when players say all the “right things” when it comes to the need of winning ballgames. Eleven runs won’t happen every night, we know that but it’s also the kind of thing that won’t always ballgames when teams hit too many home runs. I’m a big fan of small ball. Get a hit, move the runner and steal a bag. Of course, score some runs.

The key player for the Cubs right now is Addison Russell. He’s been having a sloppy year so far but if he connects like he did last night, then I see a Cubs turnaround. What I mean by turnaround is not just squeaking in by a wild card spot; Nope, a bona fide National League leader.

“Addison looks really comfortable. I know you see it up there also,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “And Happ, when he starts making contact, he keeps making contact. And I like it from the right side. That’s very large that he’s starting to do it from the right side.”

Sending Kyle Schwarber down is something I would have done a lot sooner. He’s not a lead off guy (Not really an outfielder either, but not as bad as I imagined) He needs to get adjusted and time to refocus his fundamentals.

“We think this is best for him right now,” Maddon said. “We know he’s gonna be back, and obviously just look forward to it. I really personally love having him here, too. It’s just even when he’s struggling, whenever he walks up to the plate, everyone expects something good to happen. So let’s just get him right for him and for us.”

Look what happened last year after missing all but two games? There’s no question the kid can hit but I really didn’t think that last season’s success was an indication of what Schwarber can do. Hopefully with some time to get adjusted, there might be something waiting when he gets back.

“It’s tough for our team, because he’s such a good guy,” Anthony Rizzo said. “But he’s gonna go down and be able to exhale a little bit as far as being in the limelight all the time and hopefully smooth things out. We’re all confident he will and just do his best down there to get back here and get back to being the Kyle Schwarber we know.”

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Cubs Can’t Reel In Marlins

Canuck Cubbie

All right, despite the 6-5 loss to the Marlins, the Cubs managed to show a lot of positives. I mean, there was Kyle Schwarber‘s three hits and of course, there were some let downs.

“You see how much shorter [his swing is],” manager Joe Maddon said of Schwarber. “His feet are on the ground, he’s not lifting his leg up a lot. He’s keeping his body out of it, and his hands have been much more active. It’s reminiscent of what we’ve seen in the past. He has great balance in his finish. You’ve seen every time he’s hit the ball, he’s able to stand there because his balance is so good. When a hitter can do that, it means he’s permitting the ball to travel, he’s using his hands, he’s keeping his head still, all the good things you’re trying to get done. A nice night for him, absolutely it was.”

Then there was John Lackey. Five runs on seven hits? Yikes. I like the guy, he’s one of the fiercest competitors in the game but I think they should start grooming him for another role in the organization. His ERA is up this year 5.12 and I think he’s just about done.

“Lackey is not afraid to challenge hitters, and sometimes it works for him and sometimes it works against him,” Maddon said.

“If I managed the game a little bit better, (the home runs) shouldn’t have killed us,” Lackey said. “The hit to the shortstop (Riddle) is probably the one that got me the most for sure.”

So there are some gaffes that he makes. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still got a little arm left in him, but I think the Cubs should look else where in the rotation.

The series that opens tonight against the Colorado Rockies is going to be difficult. This is the true test of the Cubs endurance. The Rockies have come alive. Even though it’s a home series, the Cubs should try and treat it like an away series. Does that make sense?  Next week they’ll be on the road against the Mets and then it’s off to Pittsburgh. If I were Maddon in his creative ways, I’d try and get the Cubs out of their usually home routine for this one. Have a theme day, maybe it’s Pirates of The Caribbean? There’s nothing wrong with the way they play at home so they have to focus on the their road routines and get out of their comfort zones. If that includes changing up their living quarters or something, I don’t know?

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Kyle Schwarber Launches First Grand Slam

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I know I’ve been a little harsh on Kyle Schwarber of late, but really I’ve just been critical of the Cub’s decision to have him as lead off hitter. Yesterday, the Cubs didn’t have hitting lead off but instead, hitting in the ninth spot and he came through. The Cubs won the series against their rivals, the Cardinals 5-3.

“I’m like, ‘Hey, at least I’m playing,'” Schwarber said, laughing. “No, actually, I didn’t say anything. He told me his reason and I was like, ‘All right, I’m going with it.’ Whatever the skipper does I’m following it. He’s got our back. It’s all a process, and it worked out today.”

It did work out. Schwarber hit his first career grand slam and sending the Wrigley faithful into a frenzy. Sometimes, managers and GM’s might call up a player in order to put a band aid on the situation but with a creative manager like Maddon, juggling the batting order is all they need.

“Of course, his confidence is impacted, and that’s the whole point,” Maddon said. “I wanted to impress upon him it’s not a loss of confidence from me to you. I understand you’re going through a moment right now. What is the best way to deal with this? You can set aside your baseball ego — hitting ninth. To me, it’s so attractive. It’s not hitting ninth and like the last kid playing right field in a sandlot game, it’s not that at all. It’s really attractive.”

Perhaps that’s all the Cubs really need is to put their egos aside after winning the big one and hey, I’d have a big ego if I helped end an over a hundred year drought. Wouldn’t you?

It wasn’t just Schwarber that helped the team win the weekend series, Jon Lester 14-2 at Wrigley Field, picked off Tommy Pham at first. You heard that right, Lester threw the guy out at first. We all know that Lester has been a little on the apprehensive side when it comes to playing catch with first base but every now and then he’ll make that elusive play and get someone out. Runners usually get a big lead on him thinking he’ll never do it, then it happens.

“It’s a mind thing, man,” Maddon said. “If you believe you can do it, you can do it. It’s that simple. I know the other teams will definitely jot that down. It’s something to be reckoned with. However, we’ve done a nice job controlling the running game with him all year. It’s not been an issue. There’s been a lot made of it … but he’s done a great job. He’s probably our quickest guy to the plate. To this point, it’s worked in our favor.”

So, how quickly the Cubs try to put a horrible May behind them where they went 12-16 and now have won back to back in June will close out the series with a sweep against the Cardinals tonight when Kyle Hendricks takes to the mound.

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Cubs Not Ready To Throw In The Towel

Kris Bryant

Sure, Kyle Schwarber hit a home run but the Cubs are below .500 Let’s put that into perspective, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series in 2016 and less than a year later, they’re a sub .500 team. Last night, the Cubs fell 6-2 to the San Diego Padres.

“We got the lead and gave it right back,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We gave up the lead, and that was very large because they did pitch well again, and we’re not hitting like we can, so it’s a bad combination.”

So, what’s the problem? I mean, they’ve got tons of All Stars and the reigning NL MVP on their squad and they’ve fallen below .500 twice this season?

Uh oh.

“We feel we have a talented offense that will be productive over the long haul that has fallen into some bad patterns,” Theo Epstein said. “We’re a little too easy to pitch to these days, which means we have to adjust. I think that’s going to come.”

When the President of Baseball Operations uses the word “adjust” he’s not talking about batting stances or infield positioning, he’s talking about something more desperate and that could mean some big time player movement. Bleed Cubbie Blue has an interesting proposal in regards to what can happen with Schwarber.

It’s not just one area of their game that’s suffering. It’s pitching and batting that’s taken a beating lately that’s only been accentuated by their latest west coast debacle.

So, if changes are coming, and you’d better believe that they will despite what the Prez says, the Cubs are in a pickle. Last night’s loss was their fifth straight and going into last night’s fiasco, the Cubs were a .500 team nine times this year all ready. Folks, check your calendar because we’re only into May.

“Not right now,” Epstein said. “You keep an open mind for everything. You have belief in certain guys’ talent. You want to find a way to manifest it. It’s valuable for guys to work through things up here.

“Not right now” Three words that can have an impact on a few players. Yeah, there’s going to be some major changes, if not subtly. Ian Happ has gone cold, we know of Schwarber’s situation.

“We don’t need everyone to get hot, we don’t need everyone to hit their projections,” Epstein said. “We just need a few guys to get going to make our offense really viable. We need time. I think over time our guys will continue to progress. When that gap exists, it’s a better position than not having the talent.”

Epstein is saying the right things now, but one or some unlucky players will not hear those words.

Today should be an interesting matchup with Jake Arrieta going toe to toe against the Padres. Whether that will transpire into a slugfest or not remains to be seen.

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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.

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No Joy In Wrigleyville

Rain

Rain in any other sport takes on an almost beautiful spectacle to watch. Football for example, has had some historical games played in the elements some have been baseball games. More likely than not, baseball sucks in the rain. Mudville was born.

Yesterday, through the rain the Cubs lost to the Milwaukee Brewers 6-3. I think baseball depends so much on pinpoint accurate catches that it makes it nearly impossible to play in wet conditions. What looked like a simple catch for Kyle Schwarber in the end was like playing catch with an ice cube.

“That was a very awkward day to play baseball,” Joe Maddon said. “When a play like that occurs, it also points in the direction [that] the conditions weren’t baseball-esque.”

No , they weren’t. Eddie Butler had a rough game too, giving up five walks. He could blame it on nerves but a true test would be ideal conditions.

“That’s unacceptable to do that out there,” Butler said. “I have to go out and give them five innings and keep them in the game. I just have to throw strikes.”

If every pitcher can go out and give at least five innings, then the odds of winning increase. Maybe I’m just looking for excuses but yesterday it was the weather that contributed greatly to the loss. A lot of those plays would have happened if the conditions were more ideal.

“Today, it just wasn’t happening,” Maddon said. “We walked at least 10 guys overall, and that was a big part of the game.”

The good news is that Jason Heyward should be returning today.

“I just needed to swing, I did not need to walk,” Heyward said. “I needed to go up there and swing the bat and make sure I could do that worry-free.”

So, with the great weather (hopefully) and a great outfielder and now a star rookie Ian Happ, the Cubs should be rising to the top toon.

“It just seems like they’ve nailed every pick for a while now,” Kris Bryant said. “I think there’s a trend there with position players. I think when you go to college and you get to experience that type of level of competition under an environment like that, I just think that it certainly helped me become a better player and be more responsible, mature, make good decisions. So it’s no surprise to me that Ian’s doing what he’s doing, and the rest of the guys are doing what they’re doing, too.”

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Cubs Slam Reds in Series Sweep

Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs’ Javier Baez hits a grand slam during the first inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds in Chicago, Thursday, May 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

It’s hard to believe that the Cubs just notched their first series sweep of the season. It’s mid May and it finally happened. Yesterday, the Cubs beat the Cincinnati Reds 9-5 to get the job done. The Cubs have now won three in a row and appear to be showing that dominance again.

Javier Baez connected with a grand slam in the first inning, which saw five runs scored. It was great to see Baez connect for that grand slam. He needed it in order to silence his critics.

“You see the at-bats, and see him grow each at-bat. We knew coming in two years ago about his swing and miss and all that stuff, and he’s made the adjustments to stay around. Obviously, his defensive side of the game helps that. You see him grow every day as a hitter and see him make adjustments and have good at-bats and do things in a game that can really change the game for us on a positive side.” Jon Lester said.

Although the Cubs have gotten off to a shaky spring, their record isn’t all that different than last season. They were 29-11 last year at this time compared to 21-19. Now, before you scratch your head with this kind of logic, let me explain; Teams are way more prepared going into the games against the Cubs. So this year’s record is more indicative of the team’s true performance. Ok, maybe it isn’t all that logical, but it sure makes me feel better thinking that way.

So now with the Cubs bats finally swinging and the rotation moving well, there’s the nagging question of what to do with Ian Happ. It’s a good problem to have but with Jason Heyward coming back soon, the Cubs are going to have to make some hard decisions.

“There’s still the ability to balance it,” Maddon said. “I like the idea that we have enough really good players that you can rest guys. Somebody gets hurt, you have somebody good to put in their place. Baseball normally takes care of that.”

There’s no talk of the kid’s brought up too early or anything. He’s played really well since last Saturday’s call up. I still believe that the toughest decision the Cubs will make this season is deciding what to do with Kyle Schwarber. The option the Cubs have right now is using two utility players.

“We have these young guys that are really good, are willing to do this, and now’s the time to do it with them,” Maddon said. “If you wait a couple years and ask ’em to start moving around, that’s when it becomes more difficult. But when you’re doing it young and it’s part of their landscape, it becomes part of their landscape, it becomes easier. It’s good for them, and it’s good for us.”

The magic of baseball and the right way to watch it is to see the game through various match ups. Purists have known this for decades but for the newbie, it looks like paint drying. Managers are always thinking, shuffling and rethinking.

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