Chicago Cubs Stay Classy

Joe Maddon

May 25, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon (70) departs for a road trip wearing a suit based on the character Ron Burgundy from the movie “Anchorman” after a game against the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-350302 ORIG FILE ID: 20170525_gma_bb6_410.jpg

The Chicago Cubs have become a home run machine after taking the series from the Giants in a 5-1 victory. Three home runs were hit with Kris Bryant, Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist launching rockets into the Wrigley Field bleachers.

“As a group, we did a great job of getting back to keeping it simple and not trying to do too much,” Heyward said. “Just try to take it easy and relax and have a good approach (at the plate). Be aggressive in the strike zone and kind of make them come to us.”

They’re getting contributions from everyone and including Heyward, who has had to tweak his swing during the offseason. Either it was his speech in last fall’s dramatic and historic game 7 World Series that prompted him to adjust his swing or he’s cashing in his first pay check from the Cubs, Heyward is a much better player this season at the plate.

“I don’t feel you can ignore [last year],” Heyward said. “You have to be aware and make adjustments. We’re going to fail way more times than we’ll succeed. That’s why it’s a humbling game. You always take failure and learn from it and go from there.”

With the win, the Cubs now take over top spot in the Central Division(In my humble opinion, it’s a spot where they belong)before heading to Los Angeles to take on the Dodgers. It’s not that I hate the Dodgers but rather they make me nervous. They’re so good and it’s a west coast game so it’s on really late. People can talk about winning their divisions but these west coasters are the games to win. They’re the kind of games that can mess a team up in their rhythm.

“We don’t care about last year,” Heyward said. “It’s not going to do anything for us now other than having experience. Right now is right now. We have to go play tomorrow, and that’s going to be another thing. … Last year was awesome, but we have to play right now, and I feel right now we’re doing a great job playing baseball the way we can collectively and let things come to us. We’re not trying to do too much, not trying to create excitement. It’ll be there.”

Heyward is right. Last year was awesome and perhaps unique. This season the Cubs are out to prove that they’re champs and put a stamp on the World Series. So, as the Cubs hit the road in Anchorman style, if Joe Maddon’s motto from last season, “Try Not To Suck” this year is,

“Stay classy, Chicago”

Believe it

 

Cubs Don’t Take Anything For Granted

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs bring the power against the San Francisco Giants as Anthony Rizzo crushes two home runs in the 5-4 victory. Kyle Hendricks pitched seven solid innings allowing only two runs. The Cubs are taking cues from Rizzo, the Cubs clubhouse leader.

“I’ve been on some streaks sometimes, but I want to be as consistent as possible,” Rizzo said. “But you take it. You ride it. You ride it out and you enjoy it.”

Nobody needs to tell you that when the leader leads, good things happen. Rizzo has homered in his last four games. The Cubs are slowly clawing their way back to the top of the standings with a half game back of the Brewers. What’s most impressive though is coupled with Jon Lester‘s complete game performance, Hendrick’s seventh inning endurance is proving to be a catalyst in their wins.

“That was probably the strongest I’ve felt deep into a game [this year],” said Hendricks, who led the majors last year with a 2.13 ERA. “The game before this was the previous time I’d felt stronger. But today, definitely the best.”

As I was building off on yesterday’s post, starter’s need to go deep again. Usually when they go deep into games, team’s are going to win ballgames. That’s logic. They might not be pretty wins but endurance and the ability to get batter’s out anyway they can will do it.

“When our starters go deep, it’s always fun to play behind them,” Rizzo said.

Of course it’s fun, there’s usually a cushion to play behind and the order can relax leading to perhaps more multi homer games. The Cubs are settling into a nice groove. They’ll go for the series win today before a weekend series against the Dodgers. The Cubs need to win these west coast matches this early in the season if they want to continue their quest for a repeat World Series.

“When you get a lead like we did tonight, you want to win those games. We’ve got a good home-field advantage, one of the better ones in sports as far as the fan support. We don’t take that for granted.” Jason Heyward said.

Believe it

 

 

Cubs Keep It Entertaining And Almora Goes Airborne

Willson Contreras

Nobody can ever say that the Chicago Cubs don’t ever quit. In just about every game that they come up short, there’s been some reminder of that. Last night, the Cubs came up short against the San Francisco Giants 6-4 but it wasn’t for a lack of trying.

“If we keep playing that game, it’ll make me a happy person. I thought we played really well. We had really good at-bats, played our defense. That’s what I’m looking for, more of that. When you lose a game like that, my thought has been if we keep playing like that, we’ll win plenty.”Joe Maddon said.

My problem with games like that is they’ll have a difficult time winning any of those games if they can’t follow through and win them. If the Cubs were the team they were a few years ago, then “fighting back” and “never quitting” were great terms to apply to them because they were an up and coming team. Not now, they’re the freakin’ World Series Champions!

“Obviously, we’re not tired of saying that we never quit,” Javier Baez said.

Of course there were a lot of positives to take away from the game like Ian Happ. The guy’s hitting .357 with seven extra base hits. They’ll find a way to keep the rookie in the lineup.

“It’s not easy to do,” Jason Heyward said. “Some guys come up and there are a lot of questions or whatever … He does what he’s asked.”

It wasn’t just about Happ either. The resurgent Javier Baez and the ultimate team player , Ben Zobrist each served up souvenirs for excited Wrigley attendees but all that amounts to nothing when it comes to actually winning the games. It’s easy for me to say that the Cubs need to get out early and stay ahead or if they’re coming from behind to actually win the game. Oh wait, there was Albert Almora‘s awesome Kevin Pillar impression in the first inning when he went airborne.

The true indication of the Cubs turning the corner will come with Ben Zobrist in the leadoff spot. He’s a great hitter and if he continues, they will win a lot more games.

“That first at-bat, you kind of feel like, ‘Well, maybe I should be patient,'” Zobrist said. “But then again you don’t want to let a ball right down the middle go by.”

Believe it

Chicago Cubs Advance To NLCS

NLDS Champions

In what will go down as one of the most thrilling playoff games in MLB history, the Chicago Cubs came from behind in the 9th inning to win the NLDS three games to one and a final score of 6-5.

To tell you I was starting to get worried yesterday was an understatement. The Cubs sure didn’t look like that behemoth team that won 103 games during the regular season.Their bats fell silent. Where was Anthony Rizzo or Kris Bryant? No, it was up to David Ross to provide any of the long ball excitement in game #4. I’ll tell you though, I’ve gained so much respect for Javier Baez. He’s been the spark plug for the team providing what Fox analysts described as “Not humanly possible!” stuff by the second baseman. He’ll surely be an MVP candidate this post season.

“He was incredible,” Pedro Strop said. “Javy can do anything. He owned this series. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Baez got the game winning hit in the ninth to put a damper on the Giants series.

John Lackey settled into a groove but it was Matt Moore’s steady workmanlike approach that kept the Cubs at bay. Now, it may sound like I’m heaping so much praise on the Giants but call it what it was, playoff baseball. The Cubs caught a break in the ninth with that rally.

“We’ve had several games that feel like that during the season but when you do it in the postseason, it gives you a whole ‘nother level of confidence late in the game,” said Ben Zobrist, who delivered a key RBI double in the ninth. “Once [Kris Bryant] and [Anthony Rizzo] got on, you kind of felt like, something good is going to happen here. Really, the last two nights, that’s what the Giants have done, they’ve put great at-bats together, rallies together. Tonight was our night.”

That “Something good” was Willson Contreras who crushed a two run single. You could see it on his face and who better to do it than the rookie? A symbolic gesture to the Cub’s Way and the brass in head office who built this team.

The Cubs needed this kind of adversity. I was hoping for a Mets/ Cubs matchup in the NLDS but in hindsight, this was the series that the Cubs needed. They haven’t been tested to this degree all year and the San Francisco Giants taught these young Cubs what playoff baseball is all about. One streak comes to an end but hopefully a new tradition begins and a curse finally brought to rest.

“We don’t quit,” Joe Maddon said. “That’s really what it comes down to. You hear that all the time, everybody says it, but you have to actually live it. And I have to tell you, I’ve seen it so many times from this group. That’s a big part of our philosophy. And I like to keep things simple, and that’s simple. … We just play 27 outs.”

Believe it

Cubs Wake Sleeping Giants

Chicago Cubs

If there are things that can make a Cubs fan nervous are extra inning games during October. Last night, the Cubs duked it out with the Giants and let me tell you folks, it wasn’t supposed to happen like that. The way it was supposed to happen was the Cubs were supposed to sweep the Giants and take a break before meeting either the Nationals or the Dodgers in the NLCS.

That’s the way it was supposed to happen.

Instead, the Cubs fell to the Giants in extra innings 6-5. After the Cubs had a very shaky 8th inning where the Cubs watched as their 3-2 lead evaporated at the hands of October’s even year darlings. I could tell that things were going to unravel the moment I saw Aroldis Chapman walking to the mound. Six more outs? For a guy that can throw 105MPH, that is really a tough thing to ask of him.

Now, before I harp all over the loss, there were some amazing things that happened. Jake Arrieta was almost his old self and I swear that beard isn’t real. He puts that on before practice and looks at that stare in the mirror. It’s not real folks, but last night proved that fearing the beard is what it’s all about. He got a home run off of Madison Bumgarner that put the Cubs up 3-0. Between Travis Wood and Arrieta, Maddon should move them up to cleanup.

“I just wanted to put a nice, easy swing on it and try and find the barrel,” Arrieta said. “That’s what I was able to do. It put us in a good spot. We had a chance to win the game, but they made some plays and swung the bat really well to turn the tides in their favor.”

Also, there was Albert Almora‘s catch in the bottom of the ninth that secured the extra innings clash. It was a catch of beauty.

Kris Bryant‘s two run home run to send the game into extra innings was huge.The only outcome greater than that would have been if they won. Playoff baseball at it’s best.

“It was a fun [game] to be a part of even though we didn’t win,” Bryant said after the longest game in Cubs’ postseason history. “We gave it all we’ve got. Great at-bats, one through nine, and from our pitchers, too. It was just a great game.”

In the end, he’s right. An amazing game that can be savoured even though the Cubs lost. Although, if they were down two games and still lost, I’m sure us Cubs fans would be singing a different song.

The Cubs and the Giants clash again tonight and the champagne better be chilled.

Believe it.

Cubs Looking To Wrap Up NLDS

NLDS

The Toronto Blue Jays swept their first series in history and move on to the ALCS and for Canadians, it couldn’t have been a more Happy Thanksgiving then seeing Russell Martin have the game winning hit that sent Josh Donaldson home.

The Chicago Cubs and Jake Arrieta are making plans to head to the NLCS if they can wrap up their series against the San Francisco Giants tonight. Arrieta will be facing Madison Bumgarner at 9:38 pm eastern. We all know that Arrieta is the reigning National League Cy Young winner but this year, the emergence of Kyle Hendricks and the solid Jon Lester have pushed Arrieta into the three spot on the depth chart.

“I’ve had these moments in the past, and it’s just something you really want to relish and try to embrace and enjoy as much as you can,” said Arrieta, who went 2-1 with a 3.66 ERA in three postseason starts last year. “You play the long season — regular season — to get to this moment, to have these types of opportunities, and you prepare and you move forward accordingly and try to take care of business. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

Tonight’s game is part of the puzzle that Theo Epstein has put together. The dramatics will be intense and I’m sure Bill Murray will be dancing in the stands. Joe Maddon is the perfect manager for tonight’s game. He’s loose and intense, fun and strict all wrapped up and sporting those Buddy Holly frames.

“There’s a power in letting the guys be free and play kind of without any restraints and thinking [about] things,” David Ross said. “He wants you to kind of just play the game, almost like in Little League. When you make mistakes, which we have done all year, you learn from them, try to teach and move on. These guys continue to grow. … There’s a continual growth, and that stems from Joe.”

That’s exactly what he brings to the table. Looking at guys like Kyle Hendricks who looks almost like he should still be playing Little League, the Cubs team is deceptive. However, tonight the Cubs are going to have their hands full against a Giants team that’s struggling to remain in the series and although Arrieta hasn’t had his best season after his award winning 2015 campaign, he’s focused, rested and ready.

“Well, from a numbers perspective, I would have liked maybe to be a little bit better,” Arrieta said on Sunday. “But at the same time, [I] took the ball every five days, had a lot of great things throughout the season to be excited about. … I’ve prepared the same way from start to finish and really like the process and trust the stuff moving forward, and know that it’s more than good enough to have a lot of success for this team in the postseason.”

Believe it.

Cubs Put Giants On Brink, Take 2-0 Lead in NLDS

Chicago Cubs

If to show that the pitchers can get into the game and contribute, Kyle Hendricks hit a blooper,knocking in two runs but it was the first home run by a reliever since 1924 that got all the attention. Travis Wood did just that as the ball flew into the stands for a souvenir on way to the Cubs routing the San Francisco Giants 5-2 and taking a 2-0 lead in the NLDS.

“It was a special moment for me personally,” Wood said. “I figured he was probably going to start me out with a cutter, and I made a good swing on it.”

A scary part came in the fourth inning when Kyle Hendricks was hit by a line drive that came directly back to him and hitting him in the forearm. After a few test throws, Joe Maddon and the pitching staff decided to pull him from the game. X-Rays are negative so he should be good to go for his next start.

“My message to him was, ‘OK, even if you could finish this inning, more than likely you’re going to go in, sit down, and it’s going to swell up, you got to get ice on it, you’re probably not going out the next inning anyhow,'” Maddon said. “So why mess with it right now? Why make him throw more pitches? He knew he wasn’t right.”

After seeing that first test throw, Hendricks knew as well that even if he stayed in, it might have caused some more damage to the arm. You know something? It was probably the best thing to happen to the Cubs this post season. Having Hendricks leave the game, and he’s my favourite player, showcased the versatility and strength of the club.

“It was definitely disappointing in a way,” Hendricks said. “But you can’t look at it like that. The situation happened like it did. I had to come out. And that’s what we have done all year is relied on everyone on this team.”

I mean really, who doesn’t want to stay in the game during a NLDS appearance? Of course, if Hendricks didn’t leave the game then Travis Wood wouldn’t have hit that home run.

“[Catcher David Ross] told him and I told him he’s not allowed to talk the entire flight,” Lester said. “Four and a half hours. We’ve made it 10 minutes without him saying anything. It’s a sad state of affairs for us pitchers right now to have to listen to this on the way to San Francisco, and the next however many days until he gets to hit again or play left field.”

We all know what Wood can do in left field.

Did anyone catch Bill Murray at the game again last night? He was trying to get everyone up and moving in the stands. He is probably one of the biggest Cubs fans in the game and I hope he helps end curses. Hey, who better than a ghost buster, right?

Chicago Cubs

Believe it.