Cubs’ Contreras Comes Through in Sixth

Willson Contreras

Just like their amazing World Series run, the Cubs came from behind this time to shock the Philadelphia Phillies 5-4.  Despite the Cubs uneven April, they’re starting May off with a different kind of poise.

“That was the theme last year — that we never quit,” Cubs starter Jake Arrieta said. “If we still have outs left, if we’re looking at a deficit, we still feel confident we’re not completely out of it. With our lineup and the ability to string three, four, five quality at-bats together at one time, there’s a chance to score multiple runs in one inning. Us establishing that we can come from behind early in the season in April, moving into May is a big boost for us.”

It’s not a matter of never quitting, I don’t think. The Cubs are a talented group of players that just find ways to utilize those talents and move forward in games. Whether it’s the youthful exuberance of Willson Contreras or the mostly stoic Arrieta, the Cubs have those soft skills to go along with the mechanics of the game.

“You plug into this guy,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “As he learns to play with his hair on fire — maybe not a forest fire, maybe just the burning bush or something, I don’t know — he’s going to learn how to control all that.”

Of course he was talking about Contreras’ two run double that fuelled the comeback.

“Willson is savvy enough to know a ball hit up the middle like that to the shortstop’s left, he was anticipating a throw to first base and he continued to come around,” Maddon said. “We got lucky — that ball hit right on the back of the mound.”

Now, there are two kinds of managers in the game. There are the kinds that would shun a heads up daring run that Contreras did in the sixth, opting more to play it safe and keep Contreras at third but with the speed of Willson it was a no brainer. The other thing to think about is he could have easily been out at home. It all came down to luck.

“By the time I was going to home plate, I saw the catcher going for the baseball and I tried to get around the base, and I did,” Contreras said.

So, John Lackey takes to the mound this afternoon to try and win the series. We all know that the rotation’s struggles are showing cracks. It’ll be up to the order to pull out the stops. With every game, I’m convinced more and more that other teams have finally caught on to the Cubs. If Chicago’s going to do any damage this year, they’ll have to dig down deep and show just how good they can be.

“Our guys are good, they’re well, they’re going to continue to pitch better,” Maddon said. ” … They’re going to pitch very similar to what you’ve seen the last couple of years. I really 100 percent believe that. In the meantime, let’s keep moving it further along.”

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Cubs Pounce on Phillies

Javier Baez

Jon Lester is an example of polar opposites. On the mound, he’s a lethal pitcher, striking batters out practically at will. At the home plate, however, it’s another story. Lester is seen as an easy out; except in those rare occasions when he comes through like he did in the fourth inning in the Cubs 8-3 romp of the Phillies.

“I saw it and swung at it this time for whatever reason, and was able to put the barrel to the ball and get a base hit. I’m just up there trying not to look too much like an idiot and not get hurt.” Lester said.

It was a relief to see the Cubs win in style. I guess what was more of a relief was seeing the stellar play of Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez. Both were in the midst of a slump but last night saw them not exactly break their respective slumps, but contribute to the team in ways that is expected of them. Schwarber rocketed a three run shot to put the Cubs ahead.

“It doesn’t make any difference,” Schwarber said. “I think it’s about just going up there and doing the job. Obviously, getting on base to start the game, I want to do that. You only lead off once. You can come up anywhere in the batting order after that. My job’s to get the job done any way possible.”

Quick, can you guess which Chicago Cub was the last player to hit for the cycle? Well, Javier Baez came close by missing a double. It’s no secret that the slumping Baez was due for a great game. He went 4-4 and hopefully signalling an end to his slumping April.

“I really started slow in April, which is usual for me, although not this slow,” said Baez. “I kept trying and made my adjustments. I didn’t give up during the games and went back to the cage during the games.”

Now I’m not one to nitpick but if Baez realizes that he starts slow in April, why can’t he plan ahead and make adjustments to his game?

“I was watching him in his pregame and I think that something he was focusing on was trying to limit his leg kick a little bit,” Kris Bryant said. “And I saw it in the game. I was pretty impressed. He went from the cage right to the game. I don’t know — it’s just what I saw. I thought he looked awesome today. He was right on everything.”

Oh, and that last player to hit for the cycle was Mark Grace way back in May of 1993.

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Cubs Get Humiliated By Phillies

Brett Anderson

We don’t live in a perfect world we know that. In a perfect world, the Cubs would be beating their chests while other teams try to take away what is theirs. So far this season, the Cubs have put that trophy on a table and tell all teams who pass through Wrigley Field,” We had our turn, now’s your time. It’s your time.”

In last night’s stinging 10-2 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, the Cubs looked more like the team Theo Epstein inherited and less like the one who steamrolled back against the Cleveland team in the World Series.

“I’m not trying to rationalize anything — we had a horrible night — but I think the takeaways are stretching out pitcher Mike Montgomery and Kyle Schwarber getting behind the plate a little bit,” Maddon said.

If this is the sound of a manager that’s worried about his team, I’m expecting big changes coming up. Schwarber behind the plate? Let’s face it, the experiment of Schwarber hitting leadoff isn’t working out as well as everyone hoped it would. Whether the addition of Schwarber behind the plate in the late innings of the game signalled a change was on the horizon, it’s anyone’s guess.

“You look around baseball, right now the best teams in baseball have seven or eight losses,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “What we did last year [starting 25-6] is the anomaly. Realistically, you expect your team to grow and get sharper as the season goes along, and I think that’s going to happen with us.”

It won’t happen if they don’t make changes to the order. Whether it’s Jon Jay, Ben Zobrist or Addison Russell in the leadoff spot, it’s worth a look.

Brett Anderson had a night he’d like to forget. He gave up seven in just over an innings worth of work. perhaps the Friendly Confines hare getting too friendly?

“There were no positives to gain from this outing,” Anderson said. “I have five starts, and I’m averaging three or four innings a start, which is embarrassing from my perspective. Hopefully going forward I can pitch better and give us a chance.”

Last year’s April start wasn’t an anomaly at all. The Cubs, for whatever reason known to them, bonded together and came out and crushed all competition. Whether it was the Dexter Fowler factor or some other magical ingredient, it’s true, the Cubs need to mix it up a bit.

“I could not be happier with the group right now, with the way guys are going about their business,” he said. “It’s just going keep getting better.”

Believe it.

Cubs Win Series over Phillies, Lead All Star Voting

John Lackey

There’s no denying the Chicago Cubs pitching staff, they’re awesome. Yesterday’s 8-1 victory and series winner over the Philadelphia Phillies proved that point. John Lackey pitched seven shutout innings giving up only three hits.

“The whole game was set up because John Lackey pitched as well as he did,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “He knows what he’s doing out there. He does different things with hitters to really set them up. … There’s no way to sit on him. He’s very unpredictable and he’s very smart.”

Albert Almora showed why he belongs in The Show after a beautiful throw from his outfield spot to get Odubel Herrera out at home. Later, the rookie singled, driving Anthony Rizzo home and then on the next play, made it home himself.

“Both of them felt really good,” Almora said. “Both were key parts, I felt, to the game. I’m just happy to help the team out.”

It’s not like his presence isn’t being felt either.

“It’s new, so he’s still in that ‘happy-to-be-here’ stage,” Maddon said. “But I just like the way he’s going about his business, in the batter’s box, around the rest of the guys. … He’s going to be a very good Major League baseball player.”

The Cubs are going to be represented well at this year’s All Star Game. Have you voted yet? In fact, the Cubs lead in the infield. It’s going to be an exciting All Star Game if you’re a Cubs fan. What I’d like to see though is a purely stats driven selection process. Us fans are the reason why the MLB keeps going. Not only do I shell out cash for ball caps, MLB.TV and we’re making a road trip to Pittsburgh next month to see the Cubs play but when it comes to All Star voting selection, I would like to leave it to the stats. Now that being said, I just asked if you’ve voted. Maybe only a few fan vote ins in the future.

The Cubs get a day off today before heading to Atlanta to begin a series with the Braves.  Jason Hammel gets the start.

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Cubs Call Up Almora and Hendricks Shines in Loss

Kyle Hendricks

Even in losing causes, the Chicago Cubs find ways to compete and keep the score close. This is what happened in last night’s 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Kyle Hendricks was yanked after the fifth inning and striking out six batters. He still pitched well but Joe Maddon saw something.

“I didn’t want to take him out,” Maddon said. “I just saw a real low scoring game there and I wanted us to have an opportunity to score. Almora gave us a good at-bat. I was just trying to get a point or two on the board right there, and that’s the reason why I did it. Kyle could have pitched seven, eight, nine innings tonight. He was throwing great.”

I’ve always had the feeling that we haven’t seen Hendrick’s best stuff yet. Do you guys get that?

What every Cubs fan and of course, Albert Almora were waiting for was the Cubs highly touted pick to make his debut and last night the kid had his chance. Though he didn’t get a hit, the 22 year old was excited for the opportunity.

“It’s a dream come true,” Almora said. “Twenty-two years old, and I’ve been playing baseball since I was 4 years old. This is what every kid dreams about.”

Just like Field of Dreams.

So, even though the Cubs lost, it was a good loss to to take. Almora had his call up, Hendricks pitched well and the Cubs kept it close.

“Listen, I have nothing to complain about,” Maddon said. “This was a really good baseball game tonight. The people at the ballpark were entertained, and there was a lot of drama at the end. What can I say, man? It was a really good baseball game.”

John Lackey will try to get the series victory this afternoon at 1pm

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Cubs Could Land Joey Bats

Jason Heyward

The Cubs won their 40th game of the season. They reached that milestone with the help of Jason Heyward, whose May wasn’t that spectacular but June has given the outfielder something too cheer about.

“We just kept the proverbial grinding out of the at-bats,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We scored enough runs, we caught the ball on defense. We’ve had great starting pitching. You score six runs and have to fasten your seat belts in the ninth.”

So, there’s been a lot of talking about how the Cubs are on pace for a 116 win season but here’s how MLB is steeped in too much lore. Anything can happen. The Cubs could go on a major losing streak and other teams can tear it up. Sure, the fastest to the 40 win mark was the Seattle Mariners in 2001, but in the end  it doesn’t matter. Being on pace and doing it are two different things entirely. If anything, fans should concentrate on the pitching staff.

  1. Jake Arrieta, 1.80
  2. Jon Lester, 2.06
  3. Jason Hammel, 2.14
  4. Kyle Hendricks, 2.84
  5. John Lackey, 2.88

Those are pretty impressive and perhaps Kyle should change his name to Jim or something. Lester’s having a great year and last night’s eight shutout innings in the 6-4 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies is making me a believer.

“I feel more comfortable this year,” Lester said. “As the year went on [last season], you could really see Joe open up and become more Joe. We had a little bit more fun once we started winning. That just carried over to this year. … Everybody feels more relaxed this year.”

He still has trouble tossing the ball to first but I guess who cares as long as he keeps grinding away.

There’s rumblings about Jose Bautista coming down to the North Side at the trade deadline. He would be a good fit but he’d also come with a whopping price tag. With Kyle Schwarber down and now Jorge Soler walking off the field in yesterday’s game, this could be a reality.

“Hammies, once you do that, it’s something that really does follow, hopefully not to a severe degree,” Maddon said. “I was a really good hamstring puller. I was one of the best. So I know what it feels like, and I know what the recovery’s like. It’s more painful than breaking something.”

So whether the Cubs cruise to a 116 win season or not, there’s no denying that this has been a special year so far and baseball fans everywhere are taking notice of the “Cubbies”. It’s still a long way to October and the trade deadline hasn’t happened. Not being cynical, just–

Believe it.

Cubs Sweep Phillies. Twenty Games Above .500

Ben Zobrist

CHICAGO, IL – MAY 28: Ben Zobrist #18 of the Chicago Cubs hits a run scoring double in the 1st inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field on May 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 607678467

 

It’s a cliche to say that “On Paper” when a team is amazing but in the Chicago Cubs case, they’re exactly that. putting things from paper into action can seem daunting but then the Cubs are proving that a team can have both.

Take Ben Zobrist. On paper, he’s pretty awesome but on the field he takes it to the next level of awesomeness, so it’s fitting then that after an extremely hot May, Zobrist was exceptionally hot at the plate. So far, he’s second in batting average in the league.

Not bad for a 35 year old.

“I’m trying to figure out myself if I can keep this up, to be honest,” Zobrist said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a month where I’ve hit this well and just kind of all the way around. You just try and keep it going. That’s all I’m trying to do — doing the same things, the same drills, trying to manage my body well and have good at-bats. I didn’t have great at-bats today outside of the ball I hit out. It’s just a daily grind. You just keep working and try to have quality at-bats.”

The Cubs defeated the Philedelphia Phillies 7-2 and now their winning streak sits at five games.

So, just how good are the Cubs? Well, they’re 20 games over .500 That’s pretty darn good if you were to ask me. In fact, it’s scary to think that the Cubs have swept the Angels, Reds, Brewers, Pirates and Nationals this season. Two of those teams are contenders.

”Many times you’ll see a team not have the same sense of urgency on sweep day after you’ve won the series,” Joe Maddon said. ”I really like that our guys aren’t satisfied with just winning a series.”

He’s got a point about that. I believe that a team has to not put the nail in the coffin of opposing teams but come September, every game matters. So series sweeps I think are far more important than just winning series. It can be an intimidation factor.

John Lackey improved to 5-2 on the season and let me tell you that I think he’s become a far better pitcher than I thought he’d be for the Cubs.

“When (Lackey) grabs a lead he’s almost a perfect pitcher to have pitch because he treats every inning like it’s 0-0,” said  Joe Maddon. “He just keeps going after you (and) he ran with that lead extremely well.”

The Cubs are starting a series with the always dangerous LA Dodgers. I say dangerous because arguably Chase Utley is the best player in the game today. The Cubs won’t get the opportunity to face Clayton Kershaw .

“It’s just the way the cookie crumbles,” Maddon said. “Sometimes teams miss Arrieta. [Kershaw] is really good and I got to appreciate it over the last couple years that I’ve seen him more consistently. The game we had here last year with the lights going out, that was really fun. He is exceptional. I always want us to compete against the best. To save that for a little bit later in the season, I’m OK with it.”

Believe it.