Cubs End Winning Streak But Face Tough Week

Image result for chicago cubs

Yesterday’s game was a tough loss. It could have been the foggy conditions but the 7-1 loss was taken on the chin. Kyle Hendricks pitched decent but gave up a home run to Josh Harrison. It was one of the shortest games for Hendricks this season.

The Cubs took Hendricks out of the game in the fifth for a chance to get some runs on the board. It didn’t quite work out the way they wanted too but that’s baseball.

“Got a chance to get on the board and you’ve got to take it,” Hendricks said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t work out, but nine times out of 10 with Tommy that’s going to work.”

“It was all set up,” Maddon said. “We’ve got the best pinch-hitter in the league coming up, and he just happens to hit into a double play, which is going to happen on occasion. Kyle did his job, everything was right there, we just did not get the hit.

“National League, baby. He was taken out of the game on a National League move. American League, he’s going back out.”

The Cubs open up a series in Milwaukee tonight and it won’t be pretty. Everyone says that this is the most important series of the season, or at least I do, but in this case it has to be true for the Cubs. They’re half a game behind the Brewers for the National league Central, they’re in a heated rivalry this season with them and it’s in Milwaukee.

“I think the best way to approach when you’re playing really good teams within your division is to not get too farsighted,” Joe Maddon said. “This is the micro time, man. It’s about Monday. Then it will be about Tuesday. Then it will be about Wednesday.”

As much as I think Joe Maddon is the most awesome manager in the game, his grasp of the obvious is just too, well, obvious. It’s going to be a tough week because after the Brewers series, the Cubs will have a day off before heading to St. Louis to face the Cardinals. This will be the week that will define the rest of the Cubs’ season.

“Maybe that they might be coming for us a little harder. They know the outcomes of this season so far,” he said. “But again, being in our division, regardless of what’s happened, it’s going to be thrilling, competitive [games] no matter what. We know we’re going to get their best, and we’ve just got to go up there and keep playing good baseball.”

Believe it

 

Something Happ-ened in Chicago

Image result for ian happ

Um, Ian Happ was incredible in yesterday’s 3-1 win over the Pirates and Kris Bryant was next to awesome in the leadoff. Bryant has been in a little bit of a slump lately and Joe Maddon being Joe Maddon decided to mix things up and try the other half of the Bryzzo team in the leadoff position. It was Bryant’s first time in the spot and it worked. He went 3 for 4 and of course, the Cubs won.

“My expectations of myself are high and I get frustrated with myself easily, because I expect a lot of myself and my teammates expect a lot of me and I want to give it all I’ve got,” Bryant said. “Sometimes, when you don’t feel right in terms of mechanics and stuff like that, it’s frustrating. That’s kind of where I’ve been at. I think there are a lot of people who would love to trade what I’m doing this year, and that’s my perspective now.”

Another guy in a slump is Ian Happ but yesterday his glove was on display catching three amazing grabs out in the field.

“I was kind of fueled by being told I couldn’t play a bunch of defensive spots and being labeled as a hitter only and a minus defender,” Happ said. “Being able to make the plays and help the guys is all that matters.

In the end that’s all that matters. The Cubs are still a half game back of Milwaukee and slowly catching their second wind in the standings.

So, we know that Anthony Rizzo has had a slow start this season but lately he’s been on a tear and appropriately, a few years ago Joe Maddon stated that “When Dexter Fowler goes, we go” Now that Fowler is no longer a Chicago Cub, Anthony Rizzo, their fearless clubhouse leader has graciously stepped up into that role on the team. In an article by Cubbie’s Crib, they talk about that phenomenon with the Cubs that they’re winning when Rizzo is hitting. It’s true, moments before Jason Heyward hit his grand slam the other day, Rizzo predicted it would happen.

The Cubs are playing great ball at the right time. It was after the All Star game last year when they put on the jets to turn the season around but doing it this time gives them a great cushion. There’s no doubt the Cubs are going places but the key to a successful run now is Yu Darvish. Or do they really need him?

Believe it

Cubs’ Rizzo Adds Insult To Injury

Image result for chicago cubs

 

Rivalries aren’t like they used to be. Now that I sound ancient, listen to me, it’s true. The old Yankees/ Red Sox showdowns were, and still but not to the same extent, heated exchanges that brought some of the best and the worst in players. Today is different. There are much more teams and sometimes, even though the Pirates/Cubs have been playing each other for years, the rivalry is based on one particular incident.

Anthony Rizzo. The slide felt around Pittsburgh. Yesterday, MLB ruled he blocked the catcher from making the throw. Last night, North Side’s famed first baseman was booed at PNC every time he stepped to the plate. The Cubs came from behind to win 8-6. To add insult to injury, Rizzo punched a ball deep and a fan caught but not before it was ruled a home run.

“They tried,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of the Pirates’ fans. “When you create rules like this and a player just plays hard and well, a fan base is going to get the wrong impression. Most people will tell you what they’ve heard and not what they think. That’s always my concern. The moment it happened, it was one of my biggest concerns last night was that ‘Riz’ would be looked at in an unfavorable way.”

It sure did look like the fan was leaning over the rails just a bit to make the grab and Rizzo got away with another one. My favourite part of the game is the debates. Despite replays and reviews, baseball will always be a debatable game. Did he make the grab? Was his foot on or off the bag? It’s an honourable game and sometimes things happen, last night the Cubs were lucky.

Rizzo and the Cubs are on a good streak and dare I say, playing some good ball.

“You feel more relaxed,” Rizzo said about being on a good streak. “That’s the biggest key of anyone is being more relaxed. The preparation is pretty much the same, same drills beforehand, same video work. Balls are falling in. I’m probably gripping the bat a little less tighter than I was a couple weeks ago.”

But we’re Cubs fans—Shhh

Believe it

Cubs Let Everything Slide With Win Over Pirates

Cubs 7, Pirates 0

On a day where people paid tribute to the brave heroes who have served and continue to serve, it’s fitting that Mike Montgomery had the opportunity to step onto the pitcher’s mound and deliver the Cubs to a 7-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“I was just trying to make good pitches throughout and keep my mindset on giving this team as much innings as we could get,” Montgomery said. “Obviously, [Sunday] night and with the travel, the bullpen needed as much help as they could get, and I knew that. I was doing it for those guys.”

I’m glad it was Montgomery with the shutout. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy. In the wake of Yu Darvish‘s injury, it’s guys like Montgomery that should come through with the big stuff.

Speaking of big stuff, Anthony Rizzo got into a little bit of controversy after Rizzo slid home and swept the catcher Elias Diaz‘s leg forcing an errant throw to second, thus stopping a potential double play.

Was it wrong? Should Rizzo have not swept the leg? I’m biased on this one folks, Rizzo was doing what players do and that’s helping their teammates, nothing more. He wasn’t trying to hurt Diaz. A little friendly competition but what if he did hurt Diaz? Then it would have been a little different debate.

“You just say, ‘Man, are you all right? I’m not trying to hurt you there,'” Rizzo said of his conversation. “I think there’s a clear sense when someone is doing something with intent and trying to hurt someone [versus] just playing hard. I’m going to take the side of playing hard. That’s what I pride myself in.”

Of course we don’t know what Diaz’s response to that was, now do we?

“It’s the perfect play by Rizzo,” Maddon said. “My concern is they’re teaching fans the wrong thing. The fans’ reaction to ‘Riz’ the next time up indicates they think he did something wrong and that’s what’s so wrong about all of that. The player did not do anything wrong but because of new rules, it makes him wear the black hat for the moment. That’s how you should teach your kids to slide to break up the double play at home plate.”

The Cubs have won two in a row and now have the momentum heading into the final game of the series.

Do you think it was a bad slide?

Believe it

Cubs Get Stymied By Pirates

Image result for chicago cubs

I’m going to blame it on the cold weather. but in the Chicago Cubs’ 6-1 drubbing at the hands of the obscenely mighty Pittsburgh Pirates, the Cubs just couldn’t get it done. Well, at least I’m sticking to my cold weather theory. I think it must be hard for a guy like Kyle Hendricks to deliver the control that he’s so accustomed to in the cold weather. Then again, the Cubs do miss Anthony Rizzo.

“It’s definitely early,” Kyle Schwarber said. “I think we’d like to piece some wins together. We’re not going out there and pressing for that. We know if we go out there and do what we need to do, things will happen. It’s just been an unfortunate series of events with everything that’s going on. We’ll keep going out there and playing our ballgame.”

The problem is that in baseball, unlike other sports, a team can’t win one, then lose one and keep up the pace. In football, a team still has a chance to make the post season if they keep that pace or in hockey, they can rely on points but baseball, man, that’s a different breed altogether. It’s almost like pinpointed accuracy in the standings. Teams have to win April and August if they want an outside chance of competing.

“In the snap of the fingers, it went from balmy to embalming, I guess,” Joe Maddon said. “It got cold very quickly. You could see the wind came on. It did impact. The ball still carried, it seemed. It was two different ballparks completely. That’s the beauty of the place.”

So there you have it. It’s got to be the cold. Then again, Hendricks style of pitching has to be bang on, if he’s off just a little bit, it’s harder for him to get his game back. We’ll have to wait and see when Rizzo gets back. Pittsburgh is good and I’m a little scared in the standings on how they’ll be this season. The weather’s been funky and so has the Cubs’ game.

“We were making good pitches, putting together good [at-bats], but so are they,” Hendricks said of the Pirates. “They’re really good right now and putting together good quality at-bats. They’re a tough team.”

Up next is the Atlanta Braves and man, do I hate that team. Their records are similar and I hope the Cubs stick it to them. Yu Darvish gets the ball in his Wrigley debut. This is the series, the Cubs get it back.

Believe it

 

Cubs Destroy Pirates, Baez Hits Two Home Runs

Image result for chicago cubs

Um, so what’s up with Javier Baez? It seems like he’s a one man show. He continued his amazing April last night, rocketing a couple of home runs in the Cubs 13-5 toppling over the Pirates but that wasn’t all, Baez stole home on a gutsy play that worked out well.

“I went a little late on that,” Baez said of his dash home. “I was going on contact. I saw the ball. I was paying attention for the ball in the dirt. It kind of caught me in-between, but I scored.”

Yeah, I don’t think Maddon minded too much on that. In fact, if you guys are keeping tabs on Baez(and I know you are) that’s four home runs in two days. Can he keep up that pace? Will he set a franchise record? Tune in for the next Adventures of Javy.

“I’ve been working on focusing on just me and the pitcher out there,” Baez said. “Forget about the whole field, everything really. Launch angle. The miles off the bat, all this stuff, I was hitting with all this stuff. I clear my mind and it’s all about compete. So that’s how I’ve been taking it.”

All right, people criticize Jason Heyward on his plate appearances but there’s no denying that he’s a master and a beast in the outfield. Before the game, the Cubs had a special ceremony that presented Heyward with his fifth Golden Glove award. It’s well deserved and I know that the Cubs brass didn’t sign Heyward on his offensive prowess.

“I don’t know how many times I’ve told him, ‘I feel so much better when you’re on the field,'” Maddon said. “I think the receiving of the Gold Glove Award is one of the top awards in all baseball. I love having guys win that award. Normally, if you have a couple of those, you have a pretty good year as a group.”

I think it’s money well spent.

So yeah, yesterday’s victory is signalling to everyone that the Cubs are looking better and slowly getting into that groove for the season. I like it, I like it a lot. Really though, I didn’t expect Baez to turn on the jets like this.

“You’re going to go scout, watch guys run the bases and they’ll tell you what they’re instincts are like in the game of baseball,” Maddon said. “[Good players] see things. It’s like a good running back. … He’s among the best I’ve ever seen or ever had.”

Which, if the Cubs are hoping to return to that glory season of 2016 and win one on Wrigley Field soil this year, it’ll be from guys like Baez.

Believe it.

 

Welcome Home, Chicago Cubs

Image result for chicago cubs

There was a huge difference in the attendance between the White Sox and the Cubs home opener. The noticeably empty seats at the White Sox(ok, ok, it snowed and was cold) compared to the 40 000 + soaking up the sweet cold air at Wrigley Field to cheer on their North Side heroes. The good news is they played a game, the bad news is they lost 8-5 to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Javier Baez kicked off Opening Day in style with two home runs. Along with Ben Zobrist, the two have quickly become the players to watch this season.

“To be honest, I was trying to hit the ball on the barrel and not get jammed because of the weather,” Baez said. “I stayed short to the ball. The second at-bat [in the fifth], I came back to the old at-bats against him. He got me, but I got him back again.”

The Cubs are playing .500 ball so far and that won’t sit too well in most fans books, I mean you can make all the excuses in the world but excuses won’t change the score. The Cubs have missed opportunities and yeah, Anthony Rizzo is injured for a bit but there’s plenty more baseball to come. I’m just happy Opening Day arrived and baseball is officially back at Wrigley Field.

“I felt I had really good stuff today and they were able to foul it off rather than get weak contact outs or something, so they did a good job of that,” Tyler Chatwood said. “They’re hot right now. It seemed like whenever they put the ball in play, good things happened for them. You’ve got to be able to get out of that.”

He’s right about that. Pittsburgh is playing extremely well and could give the Cubs a run for the National League Central title.

“We didn’t play badly,” Joe Maddon said. “They hit the ball well today. They’re swinging the bats really well right now this early in the season, so you have to give them credit.”

So, I think it’ll take some juggling the lineup, warm weather and a healthy lineup to change the Cubs’ course. .500 ball isn’t bad, but then again in a season where the Blue Jays are 8-2, the Cubs record isn’t all that great.  Last season, the team kicked it up a notch in the second half, but we know that they ran out of gas in the playoffs. Maybe it’s just the optimist in me but I think the Cubs will be just fine. Once they get their swing, it’ll be lights out. Nobody said they were going to win over 100 games this season.

Baseball’s back!

Believe it!