Cubs See Saw For First In NL Central

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It’s amazing how a day can change the course of the game. Last night, the Cubs fell to the Brewers 4-0 and it just seemed nothing went their way. For example, a hit that would have cleared Eric Thames’ glove, ended up being a leaping grab. Kris Bryant went 0 for 4 and let me be the one to tell you that when he ain’t hitting, the team’s not doing much. Wait a minute, I said that about Anthony Rizzo, didn’t I?

“It’s all about being patient, and that’s who I am,” Bryant said. “The last three, four games haven’t been great, but I think there’s a lot of people who would want to be in my shoes. Sometimes it’s all about perspective. My expectations are really high, and that’s the greatest and worst thing in the world. That’s how I look at it.”

Sometimes I think he’s been hanging around Joe Maddon too much.

It’s no secret that Bryant hasn’t been himself lately. Maddon’s been trying to mix things up by sticking him at leadoff but most importantly, just being patient with the Cubs’ third baseman.

“He hit that ball good to left field, but overall he’s been off his game,” Maddon said. “I am certain he’s going to be fine. There are some really good hitters who have gone through a little bit of a funk. It happens. You stay with the guy, and you know he’s good and he’ll come out of it. In the meantime, you make sure he’s OK because he’s going to beat himself up a little bit.”

It’s hard not to stay with the former ROY and MVP NL/ WSC, I was on a roll with the acronyms, but it’s true. He’ll get out of it and right back on track. Last night, it was all Brewers and they regained their top position, proving that this rivalry ain’t going nowhere.

“We just could not mount an attack,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Anderson has been difficult against us in the past and he was again tonight. There was not a whole lot going on. Two doubles beat us.”

Today’s game should be a wild affair with both teams battling for top dog and then it’s a day off for the Cubs. Will Bryant end his slump, will Rizzo continue his Rizzoing ways, or will the Cubs beat the Brewers, end up in first before heading out to St. Louis for the weekend? Tune in my friends.

“This is where you learn the most about yourself and what drives you and what are you going to do. I still have those feelings in my gut before the game and I know they’re there. I want to go out there and do well, and the day those aren’t there, I shouldn’t be playing. I come to the field excited every day that I can do something that nobody has ever done before, and that’s what keeps me going.” Bryant said

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Cubs Showing That Everybody’s In

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This could be the dawn of a new era for the Chicago Cubs. While the last couple of years has showcased the hitting side of the Northside powerhouse, this year’s version has high lighted a more streamlined lower scoring edition. In yesterday’s 2-0 shutout win over the Brewers, the Cubs, perhaps they’re getting older, a more patient group.

“When you can play somebody in your own division eight times and do well, that’s always a boon,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “They came in winning eight in a row. I have a lot of respect for them. We didn’t beat up their pitching, either. Don’t be deceived here. They pitched really well, too. They played really well, too. We just happened to pitch a little better in the series.

“They’re a very good ballclub, and we just happened to get them this time around,” Maddon said. “They’re never to be taken for granted.”

Having five shutouts in a month against the same team, I wouldn’t blame them if they took things for granted. The Cubs are 1/2 game back of division leaders Pittsburgh Pirates  and the record setting debut of Nick Kingham  

The Cubs pitching was so good over the Brewers that their last four pitchers allowed only 1 earned run.

“It’s pretty cool to be part of it,” Tyler Chatwood said. “You don’t want to be the guy left behind, so I think everybody’s kind of pushing each other and I think that’s what good rotations do.”

So even if their bats fell silent, the Cubs pitching took over and now we can safely say that the Cubs are looking more and more like the team promised at the start of the season. The team has been inconsistent. They win one, lose one and the order and the rotation has been all over the place. It’s great to see them finally coming together. Perhaps, it’s the team getting older, more seasoned and coming into their own but as Ben Zobrist becomes the elder statesman for the club, Chicago has to remember that their ticket to respectability was all ready punched that magical night in Cleveland. Theo Epstein helped build it in a Kevin Costner kind of way, but the rest is on the team to continue that legacy. We’re finally seeing it this season.

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Cubs Get Crafty With Brewers

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The Cubs have won three in a row after yesterday’s 3-0 shutout of the Brewers. Jose Quintana put on a masterful display in front of the chilled Wrigley crowd. With the win, the Cubs are slowly climbing to the top of the National League Central division.

“You have to be able to win games like that, low-scoring games,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We had not been able to early on, we just weren’t pitching well enough, and now we are. I know it was beautiful blue skies, but it was cool out there and the wind was severe. Today’s game was pretty much determined by the elements.”

Perhaps that was the reason of the Cubs struggles early on this April. The good news is that May is around the corner, great weather is coming and the Cubs will be able to gain some valuable ground when they face the Cardinals next weekend.

The Cubs have the Brewers number with four shutouts this season.

“I felt good,” Quintana said Saturday after his best outing of the season. “My stuff was really good. I’m happy we are winning. Tomorrow, we will try to keep going.”

The great thing about the win is that Quintana went deep in the game. Seven innings, that’s the magic number that I believe pitchers should be able to perform at in order for their respective teams to effectively get to October.

Over the past week, the Cubs rotation has been able to do just that and while allowing their bullpen to be healthy and ready to finish.

It was also great to see Kris Bryant back in the lineup after missing four games due to his concussion.

“It was nice to be back out there,” Bryant said. “It was just another ballgame. I felt really normal. It’s really weird: You take four games off, you feel like you’re a little behind.”

The ironic thing is the Cubs were winning while he was nursing his head. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want him to be off again but this is Cubs nation and weird things happen.

“It kind of puts things in perspective a little bit, because we’re out there and everybody wants to get hits and RBIs and home runs and feel great about themselves,” Bryant said. “When something like that happens, you have to take a step back and realize that this game could be taken from you really quick and really soon and unexpectedly. It’s really important to enjoy the game as much as you can.”

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Darvish Proves Critics Wrong

 

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If this is the Yu Darvish that the Cubs had hoped would show up when they signed him, then I guess fans will have to accept it. Yesterday, the Cubs beat the Brewers 3-2 and Darvish was good even though he didn’t get the win.

“I thought he worked the mental game extremely well,” Maddon said of Darvish. “He was right on with everything. He developed a great routine. Pitchers with that special kind of ability, you just get out of your zone somehow and you need to be reminded about a couple things. I promise you, he keeps doing that, look out.”

Ok, to be fair and I really don’t have experience being the highest paid player in the room, but it must be incredible difficult with all the pressure placed on him to succeed. I’ve been a critic myself but who knows? Perhaps management saw something in him that we don’t see.

“[Maddon] really takes care of me,” Darvish said through his interpreter. “He thinks a lot about me. In today’s outing, there was a similar situation as in the previous game. Because I spoke with Joe, I was able to overcome it and kept going.

“He talked [in Cleveland] about not worrying about the previous pitch or what happened in the past, and concentrate on the pitch I was going to throw,” Darvish said. “Basically, it was, ‘Don’t worry about what happened in the past.'”

That’s exactly what he has to do. Yesterday, after a shaky start, he turned it around and garnered eight strikeouts. That’s impressive. My theory is that he’s been used to the LA sunshine and Texas heat. Once it gets warm in Chicago, Darvish will start rolling.

It’s funny that the Cubs rotation has been their undoing this season. High expectations were placed on the pitching and, in fact, it was going to be their saving grace but so far it’s been the hitting that’s really worked well.

“Regardless of where I am, no matter where I’m at, I hear the supporting fans,” Darvish said. “That really cheers me up.”

Both Hendricks and Darvish were consistent in their games and that’s a great sign of things to come.

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Cubs’ Hendricks Stoic Effort

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It’s not even the end of April  and Kyle Schwarber has all ready knocked seven home runs. Yup, the Cubs defeated the Brewers 1-0 in front of the Wrigley faithful.

The Professor  Kyle Hendricks took to the mound and masterfully executed seven scoreless innings.

“That’s a product of when my focus was, just make a good pitch,” Hendricks said. “Every pitch, just on to the next pitch. I was just in a really good mindset today — one pitch at a time.”

He’s pretty focused every time, but that’s just my opinion.

If you noticed an absence at third base yesterday, Kris Bryant stayed on the bench for a third straight game. I’m not too worried about his absence affecting the Cubs because more than likely it’s just precautions but;

“I’m listening to what his needs are right now,” Joe Maddon said. “I’m making sure that the medical procedures are being followed so that we do everything right. It’s never going to be a unilateral decision on my part to insist that he plays, ever. I’m listening to K.B., the doctors, trying to do the right things and get him back out there. It’s early. I really feel strongly that he’s going to be fine, but I don’t want to push it.”

With research into these injuries, I think more teams have shifted away from playing them too soon whether it’s more than likely a minor injury or not. He’ll be back.

Speaking of getting back, Yu Darvish takes to the mound today in search of his first win. The high priced hurler has struggled this season, causing fans to scratch their heads and wonder if the Cubs front office made a big mistake in signing him.

“This guy’s good. This guy’s going to show it. He’s going to show up,” Maddon said, “and the thing (is) as a manager, as a coach, I’m just trying to get him to respect this pitch and then respect that next pitch, but don’t try to over-evaluate it or make it more complicated than that because your stuff, I don’t know, top 10 in baseball probably.”

I’m not saying anything against Darvish’s stuff but there’s a reason why a guy like Hendricks who makes a paltry $760 000 is ahead of a 126 million dollar arm in the rotation.

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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

 

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“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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