Cubs Ready For Home Opener

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Two things happened in yesterday’s 3-0 shutout of the Milwaukee Brewers. One, Jose Quintana emerged as a solid ace in training and Ben Zobrist is the best Cubs player this year, he could become the David Ross of 2018.

“You look on paper and [the Brewers] have predominantly right-handed hitters against him,” Maddon said. “That doesn’t bother ‘Q.’ If ‘Q’ is executing his stuff, righties or lefties, he’s pretty good. The guy is so focused going into the game. His work is so good. He likes being here, he likes pitching here. I think you’re seeing the best side of Jose.”

We are. It can only get better.

“We have really high expectations,” Quintana said of the Cubs. “It’s really good when you start winning at the beginning. We talked a lot before games. We want to do good things this year. We know it’s a long season but this month is really important.”

So far, the Cubs have looked a little weary from being on the road, so it’s exciting anticipating their return to Wrigley Field today. It’s fitting that they’re the last team in the majors to roll out their home opener, hey with a place nicknamed the “Windy City” it’s no wonder, I mean April baseball isn’t always the most heartwarming thing on everyone’s mind.

It is one of the most exciting days of the year. It’s an opportunity to sit back and enjoy all that’s good. Sure, it’s going to be cold but for me, there’s very few things that are up there with baseball at Wrigley Field.

“It’s just different when the game starts and you have the adrenaline going, sometimes you don’t notice how cold it is,” Kris Bryant said. “We have plenty of heaters and hand warmers and all the other stuff. We should be fine.”

Anthony Rizzo wants to play in the opener. In fact, it feels almost not the same that he might not be ready today. He’s the Cubs’ Micky Mantle and their leader. So, I’m going out on a limb to say that there’s a good probability we might see him sneak in an At Bat today.

“I want to play (Monday),” Rizzo said. “But at the same time, you’ve got to be smart. You can’t play (Monday) and set myself back five to six days. We’ll see how it goes. (Sunday) will be a big day to see how it really feels.”

The past few years have been night games and it’s made the home opener much different. Today, it’s at 2:20 EST and let’s face it folks, baseball is best played during the day.

“Don’t let anyone say that it’s just a game, I’ve seen other teams and it’s never the same. When you’re born in Chicago, you’re blessed and you’re healed the first time you walk into Wrigley Field

—Eddie Vedder

I wasn’t born in Chicago but walking onto Wrigley Field takes lines off faces and replaces them with smiles. It truly is a magical place. We’re watching from Canada but we’ll be there in spirit cheering on the Cubs while clearing the BBQ for the year’s first taste of glorious Italian sausages with peppers and onions.

This is the year that the Cubs are going to win the World Series at home in the place where it belongs.

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Cubs Get Happ-y in Milwaukee

 

Cubs 5, Brewers 2

“We never quit” has been an ongoing saying within the Cubs organization for a couple of years now, well, since they won the World Series. In yesterday afternoon’s 5-2 9th inning heroics over the Milwaukee Brewers, the Cubs looked like that team that doesn’t quit. Jon Lester hit a sacrifice bunt, now that’s a true non-quitter!

Ian Happ strikes out a lot. He also comes through when it counts, yesterday was no different.

“You’ve just got to keep working,” Happ said. “It’s the reason why we play this many games and it’s a game of averages, because there’s going to be some ups and downs. Hopefully this is going to be the biggest of the downs and I’ll get back going on a normal pace.”

He was the big reason the Cubs turned the corner. Yeah, I’m liking this rivalry a lot. Rivalries over time and situation, the Milwaukee/Cubs rivalry is getting exciting and we’re going to see a good one today.

“We always fight,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We’ve been unable to get the big hit. It was nice for ‘Happy’ to get off the schneid there. Big at-bat. Loved that it went to left center, that’s a good sign as opposed to being pulled. That’s a huge at-bat right there. And of course, Jonny Lester. That could not have been placed more perfectly. We’re playing well. We’re just not getting hits when we need it.”

They are playing well. Whether it’s a miscue or just an unlucky break, the Cubs have managed to claw their way through the month and manage to stay within the pack. It’s great news that Yu Darvish bounced back in this game from his Cubs debut as well.

“Darvish was tremendous,”  Maddon said after the game. “He hit a groove in his delivery. Once he gets to that point, heads up, because he’s going to throw strikes exactly where he wants to. That’s exactly where he was at by the time we had to take him out.”

Also, Brandon Morrow picked up his first save with the club. You know what? It felt like yesterday’s game was the game that dusted off the regular season dust and got them into a sync for the months ahead–I hope. So, what was with the umpire picking on Victor Caratini? There were more than a few missed calls with the guy, I don’t know I’m going to keep my eye on that in the future, it could be the Milwaukee crowd or just a coincidence. Another thing I’ve been meaning to ask is what’s with the foggy atmosphere in Milwaukee?

So, with the series finally today(I’ll be keeping an eye on the Masters as well)the Cubs are gearing up for their home opener tomorrow. What’s on the menu and how do you celebrate it?

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Cubs Commit Costly Errors In Milwaukee

Brewers 5, Cubs 4

So, it wasn’t the outcome the Chicago Cubs had hoped for in their 5-4 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers but it sure was a fun game for the most part. I mean, c’mon Javier Baez‘s Little League Home Run. I know he’s the player that causes headaches for managers and third base coaches but, man if there’s a spark plug in the Cubs’ offence, it’s got to be him.

Whatever is wrong with the Cubs so far in this young season, I believe is slowly getting fixed. Let’s forget the fact that Kyle Hendricks wasn’t his usually stoic self. After all, he did give up two homers which, in fact, was only the second time he’s done that in his career. I know it’s hard for me to pick on the guy when he doesn’t play as well as he usually does, but in this case it looked like the Brewers finally figured him out. I think too the problem with a pitcher who doesn’t throw hard, it becomes much more problematic when they make mistakes.

“They capitalized on two bad pitches,” Hendricks said. “That was definitely two bad pitches, and you don’t get away with either one of them. I thought [I was] making really good pitches early, getting some quick outs, a few hits but they were soft-contact hits. It was a couple bad pitches, and I didn’t get away with it.”

Hey, it happens to the best of us(If the rest of us could throw 90MPH with pinpoint accuracy)

It also happens to the best Rookie of The Year/NLMVP/World Series Champion/All around decent guy, Kris Bryant when he bobbles a throw to first baseman Victor Caratini, I mean  they can’t be Bryzzo everyday especially when the other half is out with back stiffness.

“I honestly shouldn’t have thrown it,” Bryant said. “[Perez] was safe all the way. I was trying to make a play there. It didn’t work out. Sometimes that’s how it is. It’s a little frustrating.”

Yeah, it’s frustrating. This April has been frustrating but with Yu Darvish getting the ball today, things will get better. They have to get better, right? Problem is , Anthony Rizzo will probably be out day to day. Look on the bright side, if you’re feeling frustrated about the Cubs, turn it over to the Masters.

“We played really well,”Joe Maddon said. “We did a lot of things well. We just couldn’t get a hit when we needed it, but we worked good at-bats, pitched really well. We did a lot of things well. We should’ve won that game and we didn’t. Give them credit. They got the two two-run homers and then punched the last one across. But I’m here to tell you, man, we play that game consistently, I’ll take it.”

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Cubs Shut Out Brewers In Style

Cubs 8, Brewers 0

Nobody can say that, “It’s only April” anymore, the Chicago Cubs and the rest of the league are well into the 2018 season. Even though the Cubs/ Brewers series seemed a little lopsided on paper, the Cubs weren’t going to take anything for granted, especially their newish arch rivals. Last night, the Cubs opened the series with an 8-0 destruction of the Brewers.

“When you make mistakes on defense and the other team takes advantage, it normally does hit you in the solar plexus a bit,” Maddon said. “Javy’s had that kind of experience on the bases. He’s always heads up. If you watch him, he’ll look behind as he’s running to see what’s going on. Going back in the day, you’d see [Willie] Mays do that a lot. [Baez] has got extraordinary instincts on the bases.”

There were a lot of miscues and mistakes that the Cubs took advantage of especially Javier Baez who can read plays like very few can in the MLB. It helped a bit when the Brewers committed error after error. I’m not saying they played poorly but the Cubs capitalized on just about every opportunity brought their way.

“Javy never ceases to amaze people with what he’s able to do on the basepaths, let alone everything else,” Jon Lester said. “He’s always going to play the game aggressively, and it’s always going to work out for us. I think the slide was more impressive than him reading that ball and getting home. That’s always a nice thing to have on your side.”

The run for home is something Cubs fans would love to see more of this season.

“I had a good jump and the ball took a little bit to get to him and he speeded up a little bit,” Baez said. “Right before I stepped on third base, I turned and [Cain] bobbled the ball, so I kept going. They let me run the bases how I want to. I obviously have fun out there. If you pay attention to where you need to be and wherever the sign’s coming from, you know everything. At that moment, I was reacting to the play and hustling down the line.”

Last night’s win was an excellent chance to dust the dirt from the pants and get back in form. I loved the lineup last night and seeing Ian Happ back at lead off was a welcome return. The other player that looked really good was Ben Zobrist. Maddon has a thing for Zobrist and last night showed why.

“He’s been seeing pitches,” Maddon said. “He’s been hitting the ball hard. Putting him and (Ian) Happ in front of KB and (Anthony) Rizzo, I thought it might help a little bit to feed those two. And then you move everybody else down, which isn’t a bad thing. Zobrist has really looked good at the plate so I thought it was wise to get him back up near the top.”

It was a very wise decision. The other decision is what to do with Jason Heyward?

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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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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

Believe it.

 

Cubs Continue Their Winning Ways

Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs’ Willson Contreras (40) celebrates with third base coach Gary Jones as he rounds the bases after hitting a three-run home run during the third inning of the team’s baseball game against the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday, July 18, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

It’s inevitable that the Cubs will catch up to the Milwaukee Brewers. After their 5-1 win over the Atlanta Braves, the Cubs are only 2 1/2 back of the Brewers but still 5 1/2 out of the Wild Card spot.

Last year was a breakout year for Addison Russell and while he’s slipping into a groove, it’s been Willson Contreras that’s having a banner year and last night he contributed once again with another home run proving he’s a tour de force with the Cubs.

“[Contreras] is really turning into a leader,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “He was very upset with himself when he hit into that double play his first time up. But he comes back and hits a three-run homer after that. He is definitely turning into a force.”

There’s been some concerns over John Lackey‘s pitching but last night he proved yet again why after 15 years in the League, he’s going to finish on his own terms, which is exactly how he plays the game. Last night, he went five innings only giving up one run. Not bad and definitely not warranting a trip to the bullpen where aging pitchers go to graze.

“I like having him out there for those reasons,” Maddon said. “The stuff is still really good, but the heart is even bigger, and that is a benefit to us.”

That’s where the difference is with Lackey. He gives it everything he’s got when he’s on the mound. From his opinion to his fast ball, he lays it all up there and I believe that this season the Cubs need him more than ever. He’s anchoring that pitching staff who aren’t so young anymore but he’s a battler and that’s what the Cubs are going to be doing for the remainder of the season.

“Really, I had one bad start in my last five as I got beat up pretty good in Washington,” Lackey said. “I felt like I made some adjustments in the last few weeks, and hopefully that can translate to the rest of the season.”

The Cubs still have a long way to go to be where they were last season. Sure, a five game winning streak is something special but on the West Coast there’s the frustrating LA Dodgers and their 10 game winning streak. For me, the NLCS was one of the greatest series I’ve ever seen. I’d love to see a rematch. Of course, I’d love to see the Cubs beat them again but right now, they’re not in the Dodgers league. If the Cubs sneak into the post season, they’ve got a tough road. Fortunately, there road is getting smoother, it almost feels like the first half was part of an extended Spring Training and the Cubs are finally building off of last season’s success and with Kyle Hendrick‘s return next week, it’s looking really good.

“I felt so much more comfortable than in my first start,” said Hendricks. “I felt right out there facing hitters, and felt mechanically right. My rhythm felt good, and I executed many more pitches. Now I feel confident and ready to go.”

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