El Mago Opens Up His Trick Bag, Delivers Grand Slam

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The Chicago Cubs snapped their five game losing streak in style and with a little El Mago by beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 9-4. Javier Baez was well, El Mago with two home runs, one including a grand slam.

“There’s a couple guys like that in Major League Baseball — [Francisco] Lindor is another guy like that, [Ozzie] Albies, the new kid in Atlanta,” Joe Maddon said. “There’s two things that set them apart beyond their abilities — they really enjoy playing, there’s a joy about them, and they’re absolutely fearless. Of course, you have to be good. Fearlessness and pure joy for the game stands out.”

BTW, my son’s #9 in Little League

So what caused the skid and what contributed to them fearlessly playing out of it without kris Bryant in the lineup? Hitting coach Chili Davis called a player meeting and discussed things that went wrong. Did that help?

“I want to believe (the meeting) had something to do with it,” Maddon said. “(Opposite-field) hits by Almora and Contreras I loved. And of course, Javy had a nice day. I’m still looking forward to, as we get more mature in the batter’s box, that we chase less. I love homers like everybody else does, but there are so many other ways to score.”

That’s the curse that still haunts the Cubs. Not being able to score with other opportunities. Runners In Scoring Position and really small ball play. They try to connect sometimes with the home run and then end up relying on it too much. We all have come to realize that that doesn’t always work out well. Perhaps in the American League, but not in the National League. As far as I’m concerned, they can keep their designated hitter.  I want to live in a world where a pitcher( Anthony DesClafani) can hit a grand slam.

The Cubs are hanging on with 2.5 half games behind the Brewers and St. Louis burning up their heels, this is going to make an interesting finish to the first half of the 2018 season.

As for the return of Kris Bryant?

“He’s not going to be ready for the next two or three days so why mess with it,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Bryant. “Let’s make sure he is well. The 10-day DL makes it more palatable, in a sense. We thought, let it calm down and cool down. The 10-day DL permits you to make decisions like this. The [15-day minimum under the previous rules], you might be a little more patient.”

Now here’s a little theory brewing, I believe once Yu Darvish returns to the lineup and gets his head on straight, the Cubs are going to tear up the standings and leave the Brewers in the dust.

Then again, I tend to Believe it

Cubs Give Dodgers a Splitting Headache

Kyle Schwarber

There’s a deadlock in the National League Central after the Chicago Cubs split a double header with the Los Angeles Dodgers. In the first game, the Dodgers won 4-3 and in the second game, the Cubs downed the Dodgers 2-1.

Splits are tough, man. What’s even tougher occurs when a pitcher messes up his back while taking his pants off. Take Brandon Morrow;

“It’s frustrating any time you can’t get out there, especially when you can’t go for something as stupid as taking your pants off,” Morrow said. “Getting hurt any time is frustrating, but when it’s not related to throwing a baseball, it’s even more frustrating.”

But as the Cubs were frustrated with the Dodgers in Game 1, Joe Maddon was frustrated with the outcome.

“We’ve just got to be able to drive in more runs,” Maddon said. “When you look at their left on base, it’s very similar to ours. It’s an industry-wide situational problem. We’ve got to do better. We had two good guys up there in Tommy La Stella and Albert Almora Jr. We liked both of those situations a lot. It just didn’t work out for us.”

Both scores were narrow margins and with the firepower that the Cubs have in their lineup, they need to get better in scoring more runs. Then there’s the case of Tyler Chatwood. The guy walks more than any other Cubs pitcher last season.

What?

He’s a dangerous dude to have in the rotation. I don’t like that combination, give me Jon Lester’s ball in glove to first base schtick anytime!

“I felt good,” Chatwood said. “I think any time you can keep your team in the game and leave with the lead, it’s successful. Obviously, you want to go deeper in the game.”

The night game was a little different. Albert Almora Jr. was the hero giving the Cubs the win in the 10th with the walk off single.

“I just wanted to get it done. First of all, I wanted to go home and sleep. I wanted to do it myself just because it’s a little payback from the first game.” Almora said.

This season’s been weird. The Cubs weren’t doing so well at first and now they’ve slowly gained some momentum by doing the little things. Kris Bryant getting the triple in the seventh and Almora with the walk off. There’s also Kyle Schwarber who’s putting together a quietly good season.

“They bring their best against us,” Almora said. “To be the best you’ve got to beat the best.”

Believe it

 

 

 

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

Believe it

Cubs Can’t Figure Out Dodgers

NLCS Game 3: Dodgers 6, Cubs 1

It’s easy to point fingers when things don’t quite go as they planned but the truth is that after last night’s heartbreaking 6-1 loss to the Dodgers, the Cubs, who are down 3-0 in the NLCS and face elimination tonight, well, they’re just getting beat by a better team.

“I don’t think there’s any need to change anything,” Chicago’s Kris Bryant said of the club’s approach on Wednesday. “I think we can play even more loose, because what have we got to lose? No one’s expecting us to come back except the guys in this room. I don’t know if it’s a comforting feeling, but I guess it takes a lot of pressure off us because no one’s expecting us to win.”

He’s partially right. They changed things up and they still lost. For some strange reason, the Cubs can’t seem to hit anything thrown in their direction. They’ve been here before and know what’s at stake. All of us arm chair quarterbacks can question Maddon’s bullpen decisions or lineup changes but in the end it comes down to the Cubs not being able to capitalize on situations.

“I’m not going to sit here and throw a lot of hyperbole your way,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s just about our guys. Your back’s absolutely against the wall. Tomorrow is a Game 7. We have three or four Game 7s in a row coming up right now. … We need to gain some kind of mental momentum, and obviously that’s our last chance to do it [Wednesday].”

So, even if the Cubs had an amazing first half and coupled with their incredible second half of the season, the outcome would still be the same. They would have faced the Dodgers somehow and probably still got beat.

Tonight, they have Jake Arrieta on the mound. The former Cy Young winner will look to extend the Cubs season. Remember, the Cubs have been down in a series before.

“It’s just taking one game at a time, really,” Arrieta said. “There is no use in dwelling on what happened the night before or a couple days ago and trying to look too far into the future. I think that’s the mindset that we’ve kind of carried throughout the season, and it’s worked out really well for us.”

Anything can happen. If the Cubs win tonight, they stave off elimination. If the Cubs go on to defeat the Dodgers, everyone will forget the “He should have had Davis in” rants on Twitter. These aren’t the Dodgers of last season. The Cubs aren’t the Cubs of last season either.

“I wouldn’t sit here and say we’re going to lose,” Carl Edwards said. “We’re still confident. We’re ready. It’s a very funny sport. And we’d like to say the tables can turn at any time.”

Believe it

 

 

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.

Believe it

 

Exhausted Cubs Take One On The Chin, And A Bill Murray sighting.

We knew going into the NLCS that it wasn’t going to be a cake walk. The Los Angeles Dodgers had an amazing season and of course, if it wasn’t for the first half, the Cubs would have given them a tough go at first overall. Last night’s exhaustive 5-2 loss came as no surprise.

“[The Dodgers] won 100-plus games for a reason,” the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo said. “They have a really good bullpen. It’s just about bringing those guys into the strike zone. They don’t really have guys who give in.”

Neither do the Cubs. There is good news about yesterday’s game. If the Cubs play their cards right, they probably won’t have to face Clayton Kershaw again, although we know that nothing is written in stone.

Two things that did the Cubs in was the play at the plate where Willson Contreras allegedly blocked the plate, it was the right call but it wasn’t done intentionally. Both players were doing their jobs. Unfortunate yes, but the Cubs should rebound tonight.

Why?

Jon Lester.

“I have all the faith in the world,” Joe Maddon said. “You have to trust your guys. You have to trust the conversation and I do. Jonny said he feels great, so Jonny’s pitching. And furthermore, this time of the year, these kind of battle-tested guys under these circumstances — they look for these moments.”

I do too. The Cubs were beat because of their thrilling series to the Nationals. They were exhausted beyond compare and up against the well rested Dodgers, it was inevitable that the Cubs lost game 1.

“Right now, I think the biggest difference is we have to get our bullpen in order,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “That’s probably the biggest difference between both seasons — that we have to be able to hold small deficits or small leads in the middle and then hopefully get to [Wade Davis] in a positive situation. I think standing out right now, their bullpen is pretty firm, and we have to really get our feet back on the ground.”

Tonight is what I’d call a do over. Lester is a competitor and a pro. A big difference in the outcome.

Oh, that other thing that beat the Cubs was the weirdness of Yasiel Puig. His bat flip was justified but I think he’s a pariah to the Dodgers. In a post game interview, Puig said it wasn’t his first career post season home run, when in fact, it was.

Ah well.

Hey, recognize this guy?

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people standing

He was spotted near where I live in Kingston. The pizza joint is called The Pizza Place    Now, it’s always thrilling seeing Bill Murray in the crowd at Wrigley and I’m assuming that he’ll be there when the series returns home.

Tonight, 8 O’Clock the tides will turn in the series.

“It’s a series, so we just have to come at it the same way and just not panic, really. Just go in with the same mindset and just be ready [on Sunday]. I think we’re going to come in here with clear minds and an upbeat attitude and ready to get after it.” Addison Russell

Believe it

Cubs Roar Back To Defeat Reds

Image result for chicago cubs

The Cubs are on a streak. Yes, they’re having a four game winning streak after their 13-9 take down of the Cincinnati Reds but their post all star break record is 23-12. Not too bad especially being their mantra has been to find ways to win. It’s especially convincing.

Even after Ben Zobrist was late to the party and having to rent a car to get to Cincinnati but when Zobrist showed up, man, he showed up.

“I should have been here a lot earlier,” Zobrist said, managing a half-smile after the game. “I was told I make enough money and should have booked a [private jet], which is probably true, but I guess I’m cheap. I learned my lesson.”

In fact, it was such an unusual game that Anthony Rizzo played third after Kris Bryant injured his wrist after an errant pitch.

“He’ll put that on his Twitter bio: Third baseman,”Kris Bryant said.

The Cubs are back to playing Cubs baseball, loose, fun and precise. This is the time of year when teams that don’t stand a chance in the standings, their home park is an empty mess. It’s so empty that like last night in Cincinnati, you could hear the ball echoing off of the seats after each home run.

No, the Cubs are in great shape heading into the final push for the playoffs. After the Reds, it’s the Phillies with a season ending playing their division rivals who will be very difficult to overcome. The National League Central has been such a tight race this year that a Cubs spot in the playoffs might not seem solidified.

In reality, the Cubs are pacing for an 87 win season. We all know that predictions and stats don’t necessarily mean a thing when it comes to the sport. Anything can happen and the Los Angeles Dodgers, despite owning a record of 89-35, can still collapse in the post season. It’d be nice to have the Cubs dominate again this year, but that’s not reality. Guys like Zobrist are just hitting their stride at the right time.

“I keep telling him, ‘I wanted to keep you rested for this time of the year. This is your time coming up, September/October,'” Maddon said. “This is his time of the year. He’s trending properly right now. Even if he’s not hitting, he’ll accept his walk for the next hitter. Putting him in the middle, he’s surrounded by guys that will drive him in.”

He’s the reigning World Series MVP and that has to count for something, right?

“I think the best of my season is ahead of me,” he said. “I have been feeling a lot better, so I’ve been doing a lot more work in the cage and stuff that I hope starts showing up on the field a little more. It’s been coming.”

Believe it