Cubs Hit Stride With New York Sweep

Cubs 2, Mets 0

The Chicago Cubs have been playing really well lately, they’ve just finished a sweep of the New York Mets yesterday, beating them 2-0.

As much as sports grow and change throughout the years, there are basic fundamentals about the game that will never change and that is when a pitcher goes deep into a game, the odds increase of the team winning. Jon Lester gave up two hits over seven innings.

“I’m way too old and I had too many pitches going into the sixth to even really feel like I had a chance at it,” Lester said. “The biggest thing is the ‘W.’ I don’t really care about all the other stuff.”

Aw shucks Jon, but it’s true. He pitched a great game. It wasn’t only him, Javier Baez continues to shine, stealing home in the 7th inning to give the Cubs the lead.

“First move to the plate. [Matz] can’t see me,” Baez said. “I was just seeing how high he was going with the leg. The first move, if he would go to the plate, I would come back to third base. He kind of took his time to go to first. I just went for it. I’m glad I made it.”

It’s a rare move but when it happens, it can be one of the most exciting plays in sports.

“It doesn’t happen often that the world is set up the proper way for it to occur and absolutely everything was in place right there,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

The Cubs are two games out of the lead in the National League Central. With a day off today before a series with the Phillies and then the Pirates this weekend, the Cubs could take over the lead this time next week.

“We’re playing well. To go to one of our division guys [in Pittsburgh] and take two out of three, and to come here and win four against a team that seems to always give us a little bit of grief, especially in New York, it’s a good road trip for us. Hopefully, we can keep it rolling. We’re playing good baseball. That’s all you can hope for. Our bullpen has been really, really good for us. As long as our pitchers keep doing what they’re doing, we’ll be solid.” Lester said.

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Almora Comes of Age In Win Over Mets

Cubs 7, Mets 1 (14 inn.)

Yesterday was a marathon of a game but Luke Farrell pitched 4 shutout innings to help spark the Cubs 7-1win in extra innings over the New York Mets. It wasn’t just Farrell but also Albert Almora, the Cubs unsung hero who broke the tie to fuel the runs.

Yup, the Cubs found a way to win, albeit, it was against the Mets but a win is a win.

“I’m a lot chippier and happier right now because we won,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Had we not won that game with all those opportunities, it would have been difficult … We just have to move the ball. We started chasing again tonight.”

Those opportunities transitioned into 24 strikeouts, a season high but they won. Those strikeouts came against the Mets but if the Cubs, and I sound like a broken record, do that against the Nationals, they won’t stand a chance. They were lucky as much as confident that they could break out against the Mets. Yesterday was a great win. Jacob de Grom was aces for the Mets.

“He was unbelievable. It’s been a while since I’ve faced a pitcher like that. Everything was moving away from my barrel. His fastball had some late life, his slider was sharp, and he threw me one of the nastiest changeups I’ve ever seen. We didn’t have very much success against him. Some guys had really good at-bats. I wasn’t one of them. Tip your hat to the guy.” Alma said.

The Cubs have won three in a row and sit in the Wild Card spot. They’re hanging in but need to still put together a solid streak. The other key to the Cubs success is the dominance of Kris Bryant who’s been somewhat struggling of late. Last night, he struck out four times. That has to change. The former NL MVP and Rookie of the year has to show his dominance once again.

Here’s some food for thought; Does Albert Almora deserve an All Star nod? According to Cubbie’s Crib he does. I think so too. His defence has been nothing short of brilliant coupled with his At Bats, he’s providing some much needed depth to the Cubs order.

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Cubs Sweep Mets With Monster Runs

The Chicago Cubs 14-6 victory over the New York Mets signalled two things. How bad the Mets are or who potentially awesome the Cubs could have been all season long. Oh, the other thing signalled was how frustrating two back to back 14 plus runs games are when your fantasy league schedules you for a bye week and the majority of your players play for the Cubs. Yeah, I’m pointing my finger right at you Albert Almora.

The Cubs swept the Mets which is exactly what they needed to do at this point in the season. They open up a somewhat crucial series against the St. Louis Cardinals, who are vying for that coveted playoff spot as well.

“I probably shouldn’t take Clark [Street]. Just go down Lake Shore [Drive]. It’s a good thing, I love it. It’s good for the city, it’s good for baseball. It’s good for your growth moments as a baseball person in the National League. It’ll be exciting. One at a time. Try to get a nice one-game winning streak going tomorrow and move on from there.” Joe Maddon said.

If the Cubs haven’t really dominated this season the way that the Los Angeles Dodgers have done on the west coast, they do have a chance to turn those tides heading into the post season. It’s true that there are probably some cliches out there that veer towards not mattering how you get into the post season, but how you get out of it, is probably going to be on Maddon’s next T-Shirts that he issues to his players.

“It’s up to us to maintain what we’ve earned up to this point,” Maddon said. “We’re very capable of doing that. The Cardinals have done it for many years, in terms of winning championships, the level they’ve played at. I think it’s interesting, entertaining, great. I love being part of it.”

The Cubs certainly have the tools to get the job done(sorry, that one slipped out) and Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant are hitting, it’s going to be an interesting post season. Realistically, the Cubs have a slim chance but they do have a chance.

“Familiarity,” first baseman Rizzo said. “We’re really familiar with them. We see [Carlos] Martinez, [Michael] Wacha and [Lance] Lynn all the time. We know what they have. We know their bullpen. On the other side, they know what we have.”

Geez, it seems like this St. Louis Series is a playoff matchup or something?

“We have to beat better pitching to win this thing,” Maddon said after Thursday’s win. “You have to score runs with outs. We’re scoring runs without homers, sometimes, which is nice to watch and see, execution-wise.”

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Cubs Clawing Their Way Down The Stretch

The thing with professional sports is that it’s thrilling to cheer on a team or individual going for records or championships. Whether it’s last year’s Cubs or this season’s Cleveland Indians going for their 21st straight victory, heck, you can throw in Giancarlo Stanton’s home run quest. We love to see underdogs break records. In many ways, this year’s reigning World Series Champion Cubs are the underdogs going into the playoffs.

They won 8-3 over the New York Mets but truthfully, the Cubs should have had a better record this past month.

“This time of the year, it’s fun to be us right now,” said Kyle Schwarber, who tied a season high with three hits. “We’re being chased. There’s not a better feeling than playing some really good baseball games down the road.”

Well Kyle, there is a better feeling and that’s having clinched the division at this point in the season. We all know that the Cubs have had an up and down season. They haven’t been playing at their peak level like last year. I think on paper, they’re a bit better team then they were last season but as in professional sports, there’s a certain degree of luck attributed to their success.

“It’s unrealistic to believe these other teams aren’t going to press you a little bit. They’re good. Milwaukee has gotten better and St. Louis is St. Louis. It’s a bad method or thought process to think they’re going to fold. … You’ve got to play the games and you’ve got to win. It’s not about anybody else. Cubs win, none of this other stuff matters.” Joe Maddon said.

Perhaps that the Cubs have had to struggle more this season as Schwarber said about being chased, which last year they weren’t being chased but I suspect that other teams were unprepared with the Cubs staggering offence.

“I think it’s good for baseball,” Maddon said. “I think it’s good for us. It’s good for us to find out what we’re all about now and in the future. So there’s nothing wrong with a solid pennant race.”

No, there isn’t. For fans wanting to see their once dominant team struggle to get into the post season, there’ll be a lineup at the manicurist after the season’s over. This is the time of the year when all logic has to be thrown out the window. Switch up the leadoff hitter or the pitcher not hitting last but they have to pull out all the stops. The Cubs need to move the runners and get creative.

“People always make suggestions, but then you look at the names,” Maddon said about Javier Baez. “For me, where do these names fit best for that day based on 1 through 8? For me, I still like him there. … If he’s eighth for you, that’s pretty good. That’s kind of a nice thing too. You like to have that scariness all the way down 1 through 9.”

Scary.

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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

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Cubs Topple Mets

Canuck Cubbie

Somehow, the Cubs bats woke up and stunned the New York Mets 14-3. Was it a fluke? Could it be that having Anthony Rizzo in the lead off spot sparked the carnage or was it the grand slam from Ian “Kid” Happ that added to the victory. Either way, the Cubs played like they meant business, and business was good.

“The thing is, he’s not impacted by that,” Maddon said of Rizzo. “He kind of has fun with it. He doesn’t look at it in any other ways except it’s going to be fun.”

If Anthony Rizzo has fun with hitting in the leadoff spot, then who knows? this could be the start of something great. With the win, Jon Lester earned his 150th victory while striking out 10.

So, although the Cubs dominated the Mets with their offensive prowess, Cubs fans shouldn’t reserve their seats at the victory parade just yet.

“You know what?” Rizzo asked. “Let’s go on a run now. That would be great. Just keep winning. Hopefully, this can be the start of something, but it’s just one game.”

It’s one game. A great game, but even though the Cubs 9 game road drought has ended, there are still concerns going forward such as the return of Kyle Hendricks being put back due to more pain from his tendinitis.

In a lot of ways, last night’s win proved that the 2016 team is still intact and their offence can hit long balls at will but the caveat is clear;

Home runs don’t necessarily win ball games. The Cubs were 6 for 10 with RISP, not a terrible number but looking at their LOB numbers at 8, the Cubs still have a long road to travel before coming out of the mediocrity column in the standings. While Jon Lester’s 150th is great, he feels there’s even more to come.

“Personal stuff is always cool, whatever, but at the end of the day, you play for the Cubs and want to win for the Cubs,” Lester said. “That was a big one for us tonight on a lot of levels — pitching, offense, baserunning, defense. It was a good night for us.”

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Cubs Stop Making Excuses

Canuck Cubbie

It’s obvious that there’s something amiss with the Chicago Cubs. Last night, they lost 6-1 to the New York Mets in a game which saw John Lackey get walloped by home runs. There’s no excuse for the way the Cubs year is shaping up, when they win, there are flashes of the great team of 2016 but when they lose, all that’s left are question marks and little room for excuses.

“I’ve given up a bunch of homers. I need to do a better job of keeping the ball in the yard, for sure,” Lackey said.

To be fair to Lackey, he normally gives up a lot of home runs. The fact though that he’s almost reached his home run total of last year (23) is a little alarming. The Cubs are at a point where they have to decide what they’re going to do with him.

“We can’t keep using that as an excuse that the other team’s pitcher is good. We’ve got to start beating some better pitchers, period. You don’t get to the promised land winning games like that — 3-2, 4-3. Obviously, the double play hurt us. [deGrom] was good, but at some point we have to start figuring out how to put some things together to beat those guys.” Joe Maddon said.

So for the Cubs , they’ve reached their breaking point. With the All Star break one month away, the Cubs have to make changes. I’m sensing that little frustration in the normally glass half full Maddon. He’s probably feeling the heat from the brass.

“The believability that we can do something like that was earned that year (2016), and I think that bled into the following season obviously,” he said. “Now, even though we’re not playing like we’d like to on a daily basis, there’s still a strong believability among us that we can do that again based on what we have done in the past. I think more than anything, the lesson learned is you can do this and then you know what it takes to do this. You finally learn how to win, what does that mean? On a daily basis, regardless of who you’re playing or where, if you play the game properly and you play nine innings hard, you’ve got a shot. That’s all that was learned in that year.” Maddon said.

There’s no denying they earned it last year and in flashes you can still see that team poking its head through the ivy but the Champs are just on the other side of .500 where they’ve been floating all season. In any other year they’d be considered good but given their recent accolades, I’m talking about that spiffy thing flapping over by that old scoreboard, the Cubs have fallen to mediocre.

The Toronto Blue Jays have the same record as the North Siders and are last in the American League East. That pretty much tells you how bad the Cubs have become, or how so-so the NL Central division is, however you look at it.

“Of course I’d like to be 10 games over .500, but we’re not. We’ve earned it. We’ve earned the right to not be 10 games over .500 right now, but we’re capable of doing it.” Maddon said.

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