Rizzo Breaks Record in Cubs Win

Phillies Cubs Baseball

This could be a scary thing when Anthony Rizzo starts swinging the bat. Yesterday, Rizzo swatted his tenth homer of the season on route to a 4-3 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.

“We come in, we battle. [Wednesday] was a special moment at Wrigley for the whole team and all of Chicago. We’re going in the right direction. We just have to keep playing baseball.” Rizzo said.

In fact it was his 175th home run, beating The Hawk Andre Dawson’s record on the Cubs list.

“They’ve been trying to pitch him a certain way and he’s getting to it,” Maddon said. “He’s really smart. He hits balls [to right], but normally his home runs to me are gap to gap. He’s just getting his hands through on the barrel to the ball really well. … He’s been trending pretty good over the last month and a half.”

So, as the Cubs are steamrolling their way up the National League Central standings they’re 1/2 game back of the Brewers and Rizzo is connecting at the right time. If they could take the Central before the All Star break, things will be all right. If they can get Tyler Chatwood working, then things will be aces.

“His stuff was a little more crisp, a little more sharp execution-wise,” said catcher Chris Gimenez, who has caught Chatwood in back-to-back starts. “He did a good job battling. He’s so worried about trying to execute to the most perfect intent as opposed to really pound the zone. That’s what we’ve been trying to get in his head a little more. Throw the ball on the white and you can expand off it.”

Today’s game is a big one against Pittsburgh. The Cubs need to win and get some leverage heading into Monday’s all too important series against the Brewers. The Cubs are in a good position with the momentum, there’s still room for improvement because all of their wins have come against mediocre teams. They have to put on the burners and get a groove going and I can see it happening. If they can also get their pitching in sync with their hitters, they can win it all.

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Jason Heyward Hits Walk Off Grand Slam

Cubs 7, Phillies 5

What makes baseball the greatest game on the planet? At any given moment, someone will walk off a hero. See what I did there? Last night, Jason Heyward had a walk off grand slam to send the Cubs home with a 7-5 win over the Philadelphia Phillies.

“Things do seem a little more clear,” Heyward said. “I keep saying it, but I’m trying to keep it simple, one at-bat, one pitch at a time, trying to make adjustments on the fly. It’s much easier said than done. I got a pitch to hit there and didn’t miss it. Pitchers don’t make many mistakes. I got one off a guy who’s really good and has good numbers and didn’t miss it.”

It couldn’t have been better. The guy’s had his share of struggles since signing a whopper of a contract with the Cubs a few years ago and after various stance changes and hitting adjustments, the guy’s been probably the Cubs most improved player even though they signed him because he’s such a good player, are you following?

“He’s a huge part of this team. He’s a guy who you can go up to and talk to. He’s going to give you his honest opinion. For him to be out there on the field and do what he does out there in the outfield and what he’s doing at the plate, it’s phenomenal. He’s a great human being.” Kyle Schwarber said.

Remember, Heyward was the guy in the dressing room with the famous speech that helped the Cubs win their first World Series yada yada yada.

That guy.

What makes this one so special was that Anthony Rizzo predicted it a few moments before.

“I asked Cory Mazzoni, ‘Have you ever had a Major League win?’ and he said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘You’re going to get your first one tonight,'” Maddon said. “Rizzo was better than me. He had talked, talked, talked on the bench. I’m saying, ‘C’mon, just a base hit or double down the line’ and he said, ‘No, how about a walk-off grand slam,’ like a nano-second before it occurred. That’s baseball.”

It’s the stuff of legends. Two outs, bottom of the ninth bases loaded and what the hell?

The Cubs are a game back of Milwaukee and playing well at the right time.

Baseball. The greatest game on earth.

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Cubs Lose, But Arrieta wins

 

Phillies 6, Cubs 1

Even the best in the game can have off nights, that’s what happened to Kyle Hendricks in last night’s 6-1 defeat to the Philadelphia Phillies.

“Obviously, Kyle was not on top of his game, missing the plate, the home run early,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We still had plenty of time to get back into it. We worked some good at-bats. We had guys out there, but we could not get the hit to get back into the game. It was kind of a lazy game in a sense, and the engine never turned over.”

No, nothing really quite clicked but to give Hendricks credit, he lasted five innings in a sub par performance but even at that, he had five strikeouts. Not bad but of course, not good enough for the victory.

“I was inconsistent,” Hendricks said. “I wasn’t repeating my mechanics. I just have to get back to work this week and really dial everything in. It starts with fastball command, it wasn’t great. The first inning I felt good, and the second and third, I just wasn’t repeating my mechanics. The focus was there. I’ve just got to lock everything in and get to work this week.”

Which is kind of good news because Hendricks we know, is the type of guy who’ll hunker down and get back to the basics or in his case, the mechanics of the game.

The Cubs paid tribute to former Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta.

“It’s really nice to come back here,” Arrieta said. “I spent a nice day off walking around in Millennium Park. I went to one of our favorite dinner spots, spent some time with people we used to see quite often. I look forward to a great series. Just being in this ballpark is really special.”

Without a doubt, his legacy is forever enshrined in the Cubs organization. He’s part of the Cubs history and 2016.

“All the way around the organization, everybody was here to win. That was the ultimate goal. To have achieved that goal, and looking back on how much hard work it took from everybody involved, it’s just exceptional what we were able to create. I’m looking forward to reliving some of those memories through the players, through my former teammates — just memories that come up from past experiences I was able to have here.”

The only problem Jake is you’re wearing a Phillies Uni.

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Cubs Beat Pirates and Reflecting on Philly

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It could be the easier schedule the Cubs have been playing since the All Star Break but as the old saying goes,” We’ll take it” as the North Siders downed the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-1. Give Mike Montgomery credit for filling in for the injured Jon Lester, they’re big shoes to fill but he delivered big 0 through seven innings.

“I’m going to assume I’m going to be asked to start again,” Montgomery said. “If it changes, it changes. I’ll be able to adjust from there. I let them know, ‘Hey, I’ll do any role.’ I feel comfortable. For now, it’s just coming to the park tomorrow and get my work in and be ready to go.”

The Cubs are in a playoff race and now are 2 1/2 in front of the Brewers. It’s hard to say if they’re on a roll or not and with Lester nearing a return, will they stick Montgomery in the bullpen or add a sixth spot to the rotation?

“I’ve been in different roles this year,” said Montgomery, who subbed earlier this season and was making his 10th start of the year. “You’ve got to look at it and say, ‘Hey, I get to start for the Chicago Cubs and it’s going to be a fun day.'”

So, our family travelled to Philadelphia this past weekend to see Kyle Hendricks and the Cubs demolish the Phillies. It was a great trip, a beautiful city and yes, we ran the Rocky steps.

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The park is really cool and I have a gut feeling that there were just as many Cubs fans as there were Philly fans(no offence, Philly). One of the most special parts was seeing Kyle Hendricks pitch. Throwing eight strikeouts and collecting a couple RBI’s was extra special.

It was dubbed our “Cubs Weekend” because we scooted over to Cooperstown to pay homage to the 2016 champs.

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Of all the trophies, this one has to be that much more special. That was a great moment in history and to see it up close with  2016 World Series Champions chiseled into the base was amazing.

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The Hall of Fame is so great. Whether it’s the drive along the lakes or reflecting on a bench in the gardens of the great hall, it’s like a time warp of those special moments, not just of baseball but in your life.

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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.”

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