Cubs Hang In Against Pirates

The Cubs keep it close and scratch out a 1-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. It came down to a pitching duel between Gerrit Cole and Jose Quintana. Quintana struck out six over six innings of action, while Cole pitched a goose egg over eight solid innings, the Cubs hung on.

“Cole pretty much had no-hit stuff today,” Alex Avila said. “The way he was locating with 97 (mph fastballs), slider, curveball, changeup, he was excellent. You just had a feeling we weren’t gonna have too many opportunities against him. And if he made a mistake, we weren’t able to capitalize on it. He had unbelievable stuff. It was like, try to outlast him, keep the game where it was until we got to their bullpen.”

Speaking of Avila, he’s been a solid player for the Cubs since Willson Contreras went down with an injury. He’s been a key player for the Cubs second half turnaround.

“He’s not overwhelmed by the situation,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Been there, done that. He’s able to slow the game down really well. … Had a couple punchouts before that [the triple], so kind of a tough night before that, but hung in there. Give him credit for maintaining.”

The Cubs are hanging on to their first place spot in the National League Central with a four game advantage over the St. Louis Cardinals. It’s not really a place they’d like to be with expectations for this season running on an all time high, but they’ll take it.

“We’re in first place,” Avila said.

The Cubs will finish out this series today before meeting the Brewers in a crucial series. It’s going to be a tough month with the rest of the Central playing spoiler to the North Siders. I’m hoping for a Cleveland/ Chicago rematch in the World Series but with Cleveland riding a 14 game winning streak, things could take a turn for the worse if the Cubs expect to repeat as champions.

Although stranger things have happened.

Believe it.

Cubs Take It On The Chin In Pittsburgh

ct-cubs-pirates-photos-20170904-015

The Chicago Cubs have had a couple of games where they racked up the score in the double digits against the opposing team, so yesterday’s 12-0 shutout victory was maybe karma coming back to bite them in the behind. The real nail biter was an early exit from Jake Arrieta with a hamstring injury.

“He felt pretty good afterwards,” Joe Maddon said. “He started to loosen up. He was able to go through the delivery motion like he was unable to out on the field.

“Even when he was apparently hurting a little bit, he was still going through all the stuff, stuff I can’t do. He’s putting his nose on his knees, doing other things, and I thought, ‘OK, it might be a cramp.'”

Otherwise the game went from bad to worse.

You know things are bad when position players fill in to pitch, just ask newly acquired Leonys Martin.

“I was afraid to hit somebody,” Martin said. “I was trying to throw the ball over the plate.”

It’s not like it hasn’t happened before, there was the John Baker game where it was a success but more times than not, it’s because of some catastrophe or a bullpen saving thing.

It goes to show you also what happens when guys like Javier Baez sits out and how much they mean to the team.

“My thumb is kind of jammed a little bit, so I’m taking a day off and I’ll be ready to go [Tuesday],” he said before the Cubs played the Pirates. I told the doctor about my thumb, but we were obviously worried more about the head, the contact. So today it’s pretty swollen. I’ve been icing it. Hopefully I’ll be ready [Tuesday].”

I’ve been harping on the easy schedule thing for a while and while I’m not trying to be negative but I’m leery about them heading into the post season. The Cubs should, in a perfect world, be able to handle teams like Pittsburgh even without their regulars playing. The Dodgers and the Nationals are going to prove to be too much for the Cubs to handle. Of course I could be wrong, the Cubs are known to provide some playoff magic.

Today, Kyle Hendricks gets the nod on the mound, and North Side’s favourite Professor hopes to not disappoint. He’s been playing exceptionally well and maybe, just maybe he might be the spark for the Cubs heading into the post season.

“His velocity is back where it needs to be, and now there’s a difference between fastball and changeup,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s looked every bit as good as he did last year [when Hendricks was 16-8 with a Major League-best 2.13 ERA].

Believe it.

 

Cubs Set Franchise Record in Anhilation of Pirates

Image result for chicago cubs

Part of me wants to end the post right here. A 17-3 humiliation of the Pittsburgh Pirates is a rare feet but scoring 17 runs in two games less than a week apart, well, that’s just down right weird and awesome. Let’s just get things a little clear here too; when Cubs pitchers start getting RBI’s, good things happen. Jose Quintana did just that and look at what happened?

Then there’s Ian Happ, the rookie who now has 20 home runs and joins the club along with Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber and Willson Contreras. It’s a tired old cliche, but the Cubs record doesn’t reflect their play since the All Star break. Well hold on now, that doesn’t make sense because they’ve been getting the wins but they’ve been playing like they should have 90 wins, if they played this well before the break.

“We have a lot of good hitters here, a lot of young guys who have learned a lot and are putting good swings on the baseball, especially on a night when we get 20 hits and score 17 runs,” Happ said. “We had a lot of good [at-bats].”

I think too that last night’s victory showed that the Cubs can do all the right things on the bags when they want to. Stealing home, Happ attempting that triple, although caught and more at home in a Little League game but that’s the kind of things the Cubs need to do if they hope to recapture that crown again.

Then there’s Baez stealing home, wasn’t there a film made of that? It’s probably one of the most thrilling plays in the game and none other than Baez could pull that off with flair.

“We had a safety squeeze,” Baez said. “It was the same error as last year [in the NLCS]. We practiced today in early work, and even doing the early work I was going to the plate too fast and breaking to the plate pretty fast. I think on the play [Quintana] squared the bunt too early. I reacted early, too. I was making sure that didn’t happen again and it did.”

Is Happ a rookie contender? I think he should be in the conversation. No other Cubs player has hit that milestone in fewer games.

So, what about the player’s weekend jerseys? my wife and I agree that they should replace their current third jerseys with those from the player’s weekend. They’re sharp looking and heck, why not keep the nicknames on the back?

Believe it

 

Cubs Dominate Pirates

Image result for chicago cubs

The Cubs are coming alive at the right time of the season. It may seem like a broken record to say that and perhaps it’s true, but after last night’s win over the Pirates 4-1 at Wrigley Field. Jake Arrieta did a workman like approach to the game, not his greatest but  not his worst.

“There was a little bit of frustration in the first half with the way things were going. I might have focused on the results a little too much rather than just focusing on trying to execute and refine my repertoire. Now, where I’m at, I feel confident that even if I don’t have my good stuff and if I’m without two pitches, the two pitches I do have are more than enough to get the job done.” Arrieta said.

Of course there was a little frustration with the first half of the season. All around the Cubs weren’t getting the job done. In fact, the National League Central is the weakest in the National League. A division which last year was a powerhouse, has fallen on hard times with its uneven play this season.

Things have changed in the second half of the season, although much of that success is attributed to a weaker schedule, the Cubs find themselves 11 games over .500 and a possible berth in the playoffs.

Guys like Ben Zobrist and Alex Avila are coming through when it counts.

“It felt great,” Zobrist said of his homer, No. 10 for the season and his first at Wrigley Field since June 11. “I’ve been driving the ball more the last week or so. It wasn’t cheap either — drive the ball to the middle part of the field and hope that something good happens. Everything felt really good on that.

Don’t forget that home run on Saturday coming off the bench.

I’ve maintained it all along, it’s the guys at the bottom of the rotation that’ll get the work done for a team. The Cubs may not achieve 100 wins this year but if they play their cards right, it’s not unthinkable to reach in the high 80’s.

Would it be a failure?

Naw, last season surprised the experts but every team has crafted their playbook around the Cubs and are prepared. If the Cubs advance to the post season, and there’s no reason they won’t unless they have an epic Red Sox collapse    .

The Cubs will have to maintain their  poise throughout September and into the playoffs.

Believe it.

 

 

Cubs End First Half The Right Way

Chicago Cubs

There’s always something unfair in sports. There are winners and losers. It’s definitive and decisive in the results and yesterday, the Chicago Cubs had their definitive ending to the first half of the 2017 season in a 14-3 loss to their division rivals Pittsburgh Pirates. It was a poignant score at the end of the first inning, a 10-0 inning chasing exit for Jon Lester.

“I think people just want to get away, get away from this, get away from the grind. [The Cubs’ record] is not for a lack of effort, it’s not for a lack of preparation. It is what it is. Take four days to regroup, refresh and show up Friday ready. I think the big thing for us is to play good baseball, play solid baseball. Forget the record, forget the batting averages, our ERA, and just get back to playing good sound baseball. The talent on this team will speak for itself.” Lester said following the game.

This is true. of course their record doesn’t fully represent what this team can do. Just like any other sports cliche but that one applies to the 2017 Cubs. They’re good, we know it and they know it. So what happened to them in the first half? Well, lets’ see:

These are just a few of the low lights that have occurred so far this season with the Cubs. If this were any other season or any other Chicago team, fans would be staying away from Wrigley’s sacred ground. The truth is that people still believe in them.

“I’m still very confident,” Maddon said. “I believe in our guys and I’m eager to see us coming out of the break.”

If this were any other year, big changes would be happening. Maddon would be out of a job, trades would happen but this is the Chicago Cubs. They’re World Series Champions and possibly poised to be World Series Chumps if they continue playing the way they’re doing.

The fitting end to the first half couldn’t be better. Last year, the Cubs faced the Pirates in the series before the break, and it signalled a turnaround to their mini slump. They went on a tear after the All Star break and never looked back. Could this be the same?

Of course it’ll be one of the greatest turnarounds in professional sports history. I can read the headlines now:

“The Chicago Cubs Win The World Series After Posting Sub .500 first half” It certainly can happen with someone like Joe Maddon in the dugout. They have an easy schedule. Perhaps Cubs fans were so used to losing that we forgot how to get used to winning?

“If I had a reason, I would’ve fixed it out there,” Lester said. “Unfortunately, it’s never a good time to have a bad start. I really don’t know — I don’t know what to say to make it better, to give you a reason. It kind of speaks for itself. It’s embarrassing.”

Believe it

 

Cubs Make it An Extra Special Father’s Day

Canuck Cubbie

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher John Lackey delivers in the first inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh, Sunday, June 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

The Chicago Cubs were out in their finest Father’s Day blue uniforms and they didn’t disappoint in their 7-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Cubs haven’t won a road series since April and the season so far, has had their share of ups, downs and set backs. Yesterday, with Anthony Rizzo in the leadoff yet again, the Cubs sent Father’s everywhere home smiling.

“It’s crazy, it’s weird, it’s funny but it’s great,” Rizzo said. “The game can’t start until I get in the batter’s box. The objective is, the pitcher is going to throw strike one, they want to get in a groove, and I have to be ready to hit.”

It is crazy to think about Rizzo in the leadoff, but in the midst of a 12 game winning streak, yesterday, Rizzo crushed a two run homer and collected three hits. The Cubs haven’t been doing their best this year, it’s no secret about that and everybody has a different theory on it. It’s exciting when a guy like Rizzo does this well in a position that he’s unfamiliar with and gives us reasons to cheer.

“You look at him, he’s a middle-of-the-order first baseman,” MVP Kris Bryant said. “He’s the last guy you would expect to hit leadoff. He’s on base all the time now. It’s nice to get to the pitcher with that first at-bat of the game. Hopefully he can keep that up.”

There’s no question about him keeping that up. Yeah, he’ll have his good days and bad ones too but I can guarantee that with Rizzo in the leadoff, it’ll be, “You go, we go!” situation and Dexter Fowler is smiling in St. Louis.

Someone else who’s smiling is John Lackey. The Cubs’ veteran pitcher has had his struggles this season and although I’m a fan of his style, he’s a difficult pitcher to gauge because you never know who’s going to show up on the mound until that first pitch. Will it be the lights out, wily grizzled hurler? Or the frustrated, mad at every guy in the game, tired, past his prime, Everyone has that one last pitch kind of warrior? Yesterday, it was the wily veteran doing nothing fancy but allowing few runs and getting the job done.

“I’m just going to try to do my job,” Lackey said. “It was really cool to pitch on Father’s Day as a dad.”

The Cubs may be onto something now. Last year, it was in Pittsburgh just before the All Star Break when the tides turned and the Cubs fell out of their slump. Could this be the great Father’s Day slump buster?

“Gosh, the way Rizzo started the game again and got the momentum rolling,” Maddon said. “I think he likes doing it. He likes the idea of getting that extra at-bat.”

Believe it

 

 

Cubs Have Wild Win. Rizzo’s Chance At History Recalled

Canuck Cubbie

The Cubs put on a show yesterday but almost gave up the hitting performance in the ninth with a rally by Pittsburgh. In the end, it was the Cubs overcoming the Pirates 9-5.  The festivities got off to a thrilling start after Anthony Rizzo launched what could have been his third lead off home run in as many games, but after a video review it was called foul.

“Now the burden of proof came back to whether or not it was fair or not,” Maddon said. “If it had been confirmed foul, I’m fine. But the play stood. If we had gone right to replay immediately after this thing was hit, and they said it was foul, I would’ve been in that game for nine innings. But the way it came down procedurally, I totally disagree with. There’s no argument you can give me. You have basically neutered instant replay by the way it was handled tonight.”

Joe’s got a point. The ball was clearly foul but the evidence was inconclusive and yet, they still called foul. The way I look at it, the game’s in the beautiful PNC Park so chalk it up to hometown advantage. Joe was ejected and the always even tempered Anthony Rizzo even looked a little hot headed.

“That was absolutely a home run,” Rizzo said. “There is no way it could have gone over the pole foul because this is one of the shortest right fields in the league. I hit it too hard for it to have time to go foul. I respect the umpires and I never like to criticize them because I know they give their very best but they got that one wrong. At least, we won the game and that’s all that really matters.”

The ninth inning took on a life of its own after the Cubs plated six after bench all star Jon Jay got things going with a go ahead single and the rest was history.

The problem I have with the win is that the Cubs could have done a better job in the ninth holding off Pittsburgh. Yeah, they got the win but showed some of the cracks that have formed in the World Series champs. I’ve got a good feeling though with Rizzo in the lead off. Three games. Almost three home runs.

“Anthony probably had a chance to go into the record books, with three leadoff home runs,” Maddon said. “Our game is based on that stuff [statistics]. The first-base umpire was demonstrative that baseball was fair … Why change it?”

Believe it