Cubs Bring El Mago

Image result for chicago cubs

A lot of good things happened yesterday as the Cubs defeated the St Louis Cardinals 8-5 in front of a dry crowd under sunny skies. Yup, that was a good ol’ fireball the Cubs played under.

“Good approach, good at-bats,” Joe Maddon said of the Cubs’ 14-hit attack, which involved using the entire field. “It is so fun to watch. Keep your launch angles, keep your exit velocities, give me a good at-bat. Those were really good at-bats. Staying inside the ball, using the whole field — I promise you if they stay on that path, balls will still go out of the ballpark at the pace they’re capable of. With that, you’ll see better situational hitting, you’ll see higher batting averages, on-base percentages. I loved our approach today.”

Or the Cubs just really suck at playing in the rain. Plus, the Cubs got back to the basics and played small ball. Get on base and move the runners. Sounds pretty simple but for some reason, when players reach the big leagues, they see the back of the yard and there’s a big target where they try to hit the ball deep. That’s good and all but getting runners home and loading the bases is the fundamentals they need. The Cubs finally did that yesterday.

“It is [an art form],” Maddon said. “It’s just good hitting. We worked really good at-bats. I’d love to stay with that if we can. Use the whole field.”

The other advantage of April baseball is that teams have a long road ahead of them and they can experiment. Mix up the order and move the players around. Javier Baez is swinging a hot bat so far so why shouldn’t he do it? He batted second and looked good there.

“That’s good to know,” Baez said when told about Maddon’s motives. “I was trying to stay focused on the same approach, same swings. I didn’t get excited, but that’s one of my goals is to end up there in the lineup. I feel great, I’m still seeing the ball really good. I chased a few pitches today, but I took good at-bats.”

Love him or hate him, Baez has become the exciting player the Cubs hoped he’d be. In a world of high salaried performers, Baez shows up at the plate looking like that kid in the sandlot hitting a home run for the very first time. He looks like that all the time.

“The guy’s an exciting ballplayer,” Chicago’s Kyle Schwarber said of Baez. “I feel we’re always talking about Javy Baez. I’m not going to get tired of it. He’s a heck of a ballplayer and a lot of instincts and he’s a leader and he’s fun to watch.”

Believe it

 

Cubs Left Out In The Cold

Image result for chicago cubs

Why are there always good things to happen to the Chicago Cubs even when they lose? Coming hot on the heels after a couple of “Inclement weather” warnings, the Cubs fell back into the baseball groove last night with a 5-3 loss to their arch nemesis (If they were stuck in the Marvel Universe) the St. Louis Cardinals.

Nick Fury: What’s your super powers?

Chicago Cub: Bad luck, curses and inclement weather

Fury: Damn, you’re pairing with Hawkeye

When I say good things that happen, I’m talking El Mago Javier Baez. A triple short of the cycle and yet, they couldn’t find a way to win.

“It’s going to happen,” Joe Maddon said. “I’m fully confident it’s going to happen. The bullpen has done a wonderful job, and the starters are really good. There’s a lot to look forward to with the starters because they’re really good, and as things settle in, they’ll really start piling up the innings. I mean that, I’m not just saying it.”

I’m glad that Anthony Rizzo has returned to the lineup. His much needed help is a welcome sign to the struggling 7-8 North Side Blue Bears. As much as what’s happening on the field is to blame for their uncharacteristic record, the weather, postponement of games and the frigid temperatures around the league are probably the main cause of their poor play. I mean look at all those snowbirds returning from Florida to Canada only to be welcomed by a mountain of snow, “What do you mean I can’t break out my 7 iron?” I guess it happens in baseball as well.

“You know those sunny days are coming, both on the field and as a group, so we’ll just keep playing through it,” said Rizzo.

Playing through it is about all they can do. Sunny days are coming but when I see players on the field with toques, that’s a sign that either global warming is a serious threat to America’s National Pastime or we may be doomed to have domes throughout MLB.

I’m kidding about the toques.

So, perhaps Rizzo is right by suggesting playing fewer games?

“I think we play too much baseball,” Rizzo said Tuesday during his weekly appearance on ESPN 1000. “Yes, guys are going to take pay cuts. But are we playing this game for the money or do we love this game? I know it’s both, but in the long run it will make everything better.”

What do you mean, play fewer games? Cut baseball? Blasphemy!

“I think playing in the cold sucks,” continued Rizzo, who was activated from the 10-day disabled list on Tuesday. “I was thinking about this the other day. When you think of Cubs and Cardinals, you think of a beautiful Saturday at Wrigley Field. You don’t think about playing in 20 degrees.”

He has a point. Cut the season by 10 games, it’s a lot of venue cutting, but the mighty minds of accounting and finance can work something out because empty seats look bad. Wait a minute, what about playing more doubleheaders?

Believe it

 

National League Central Division Champions!

Image result for chicago cubs

For the second straight year, the Chicago Cubs are National League Central Division Champions. Of course, nothing means more than the World Series but this is huge because it’s their third straight year into the post season and as any Cubs fan will tell you, that doesn’t happen that often. After beating the St. Louis Cardinals 5-1, the Cubs popped the corks off of the champagne, and as has become a tradition in our family these last few years, we’ve binge watched the Chicago Cubs in October.

“We had a lot of things that were not easy about this year, starting with guys naturally being fatigued, but you also have the fact that every team in our division played well this year,” Jason Heyward said. “It’s one of those years when you have to do everything right to get it done. We had a lot of growing to do this year.”

Sure, the blame was put on to World Series hangover during the first half of the season, but I’ve maintained that they struggled during the first half because other teams studied them hard and adapted to the Cubs style of play. That’s how they got beat. The second half revealed that the Cubs were just a good ball team and guys like Javier Baez, stepped up his play and really plugged up the middle while keeping his mighty bat going.

“Without Javy being here when Addy got hurt, it would not look the same right now,” Joe Maddon said of the Cubs’ position in the standings. “I promise you it would not look the same. The ability to plug up the middle of the field the way Javy has done in the absence of Addison, we would not be in this position right now.”

If the Cubs took everyone by storm last year, then this season was learning how to keep the momentum going and adapting to winning ballgames. If you look at the statistics, there’s no leaders this season, it’s been a total team effort.

“We’ve created a culture here where it’s win or bust,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said as he got splashed in the face with beer. “We’re not supposed to be here. I know on paper we are, but after a championship season, the numbers, the studies, the stats show we shouldn’t be here. People don’t do this. We’ve done it, and it feels good. And we’re in a good spot going into the postseason. We’re rolling.”

I’d love to see a dynasty forming with a repeat winner that isn’t named Yankees.

It’s exciting times to be a Cubs fan. There’s even a film coming out based on David Ross’s book, “Teammate” where none other than Bill Murray is tapped to play Joe Maddon. I mean come on, who else could do that role justice? The only question that remains is, who is going to play Bill Murray?

Believe it

 

Cubs Are Still # 1 in My Books

Cubs Cardinals Baseball

I’m not a huge fan of champagne celebrations after every plateau reached in sports, I’d rather see them save it for the big ones like series wins and of course, the big victory. So, last night’s loss to the Cardinals 8-7 was bittersweet. It was a hell of a game with the Cubs’ now trademark comebacks even though they came up short on this one, it still feels good knowing that the post season starts next week and the Cubs clinching will go down to the wire.

“Let’s just play tomorrow, let’s not overreact to anything,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “I love the comeback, I love the energy. [Jake Arrieta] just had a tough night.”

That’s about all you can do. Jason Heyward ad a three run shot and then almost immediately, Ben Zobrist cranked one over the wall to bring the Cubs within a run of tying up the game, but that’s about as close as the Cubs would get.

There were a couple of moments that Cubs fans cringed over when Albert Almora crashed into the outfield wall, team staff rushed over but so far so good and there’s nothing seriously hurt with the outfielder.

“That’s a scary thing,” Jason Heyward said. “The wall is undefeated. That’s one of the things we always have to worry about. What I love about [Almora] is that he’s so fearless when it comes to that. It looked like he tripped into it going after the ball hard.”

Yeah, it looked really terrible.

“I tried to cut [the ball] off before it hit the wall and when I went to slide, I noticed I wasn’t going to get to it and when I looked up the wall was right on me,” Almora said. “There was no slowing down. Luckily, nothing’s broken, nothing’s damaged. All good.”

The other thing that happened was a ball went off of Willson Contreras‘ knee causing him to hobble around for a moment or two but nothing serious.

The writing on the wall last night occurred when the Cubs failed to capitalize on a couple bases loaded situations.

“These guys are going to make it as tough as possible on us, as we expect. We have to do our best to take care of business tomorrow, and then we’ll see what happens.” Arrieta said.

So, the Cubs magic number remains at 1. Leave it to the St. Louis Cardinals to frustrate the World Series Champions. This season, the Cubs haven’t made it easy on themselves or their fans. A frustrating first half, a comeback second half and an exhausting race to the finish line. What do the Cubs have in line for October?

Believe it.

Cubs Magic Number is 1

Image result for chicago cubs

The Chicago Cubs magic number is 1. It’s awkward that the Cubs are late to the party,  being the last team to clinch their respective division but that’s where they sit after cruising to a 10-2 victory over heated division rival St. Louis Cardinals.

“This team is a proud, wonderful organization with one of the best histories in all of Major League sports,” Joe Maddon said of the Cardinals. “There’s nothing that will come easily when you play against St. Louis, especially when you play here.”

When the Cubs play in St. louis, you can bet that it’ll always have that special playoff atmosphere.

Jon Lester looked better in last night’s win, he’s looked off since coming off the DL but last night, the Cub’s ace was sharper.

“I felt better,” Lester said after the game. “Command could have been a little bit better, but I’ll take the good out of that game. Little bit sharper today than it has been in a little while. That’s good. Moving in the right direction.”

The direction the Cubs are looking will be their third straight season in October. Now, if you haven’t been following Chicago’s famous North Siders, this is a big thing. Three straight seasons playing October baseball and oh yeah, you can throw in a World Series in the mix there as well.

“It’s starting to smell like playoff baseball. I know these guys are amped up. You can see throughout the night, it seems we were pretty aggressive in the zone. It’s definitely feeling like playoff baseball, and Jonny Lester was great tonight.” Addison Russell said.

Speaking of Russell, the Cubs star shortstop almost got a tip for delivering a fresh tray of nachos after up ending a fan’s snack when he dove into the stands after an errant ball.

Image result for addison russell nachos

“You don’t get in front of a man and his nachos,” Russell said.

So, with playoffs just around the corner, the Cubs are looking to hone their skills before the post season begins next Tuesday. The Cubs are defending champions and there’s a lot of teams gunning for their title. Teams like LA Dodgers and Cleveland whose still hurting from last October’s thriller.

“We’re excited,” Lester said. “We’ve been playing good baseball since the break. Everybody in here is excited, everyone is playing well, everyone feels good about themselves. This game is such an up-and-down game, you think you’re going good one day and the next day you can be brought back down. Everybody’s feeling good now, riding that wave. Hopefully, we can continue to play good baseball as we move toward the postseason.”

Believe it

 

 

Professor Hendricks Lectures Cardinals

The Cubs may not be as dominate as they were last season, but quietly they’ve done Cubs things that have pushed them passed the 80 win mark and are moving away from the rest of the National League Central. Take for example, yesterday’s 4-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

This has been an interesting, if not crucial series against the Red Birds. There was John Lackey‘s rightful outrage against Umpire Jordan Baker that led to both Lackey’s and Willson Contreras‘s ejection. That was the Friday afternoon game and the intensity carried forth into yesterday’s game.

If you’re a loyal Canuck Cubbie follower, it’s no secret that Kyle Hendricks is my favourite player in baseball. His style has been compared to Greg Maddux, and yet I think it’s something entirely different. The fact that Hendricks pitches in this modern era of the game is a really special thing indeed. Nothing over 90 MPH and a very rare fast ball. Yesterday, Hendricks pitched his longest game of the year.

“It’s good to feel strong, even at that last pitch,” Hendricks said. “I still felt good. I still had plenty in the tank. That was my takeaway from today.”

Yet, he’s not always a lights out kind of pitcher. Sometimes he has his bad games but since he’s come off the disabled list, his confidence is growing and since his debut own 2014, Hendricks is becoming a team leader and perhaps someday we might see him at Cooperstown. It was a huge contrast in styles between John Lackey’s wild outing and Hendrick’s cool demeanour.

“We’re somewhat aware of where the teams are at,” Hendricks said, “but it’s not what we’re focused on. We’re focused on the field, what needs to be done, pitch to pitch. That’s really where our focus is and where it’s stayed. So two games, five games, whatever it is, it is. We have to win ballgames down the stretch. Period.”

It’s the right poise and confidence at the right time of the year.

“Everything was working from the side,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Hendricks, who has a 2.42 ERA in 11 starts since coming off the disabled list. “They were having bad takes. They were taking pitches that were called strikes. His fastball was the best he’s had all year. … His confidence could not be higher.”

Believe it

Cubs Sweep Mets With Monster Runs

The Chicago Cubs 14-6 victory over the New York Mets signalled two things. How bad the Mets are or who potentially awesome the Cubs could have been all season long. Oh, the other thing signalled was how frustrating two back to back 14 plus runs games are when your fantasy league schedules you for a bye week and the majority of your players play for the Cubs. Yeah, I’m pointing my finger right at you Albert Almora.

The Cubs swept the Mets which is exactly what they needed to do at this point in the season. They open up a somewhat crucial series against the St. Louis Cardinals, who are vying for that coveted playoff spot as well.

“I probably shouldn’t take Clark [Street]. Just go down Lake Shore [Drive]. It’s a good thing, I love it. It’s good for the city, it’s good for baseball. It’s good for your growth moments as a baseball person in the National League. It’ll be exciting. One at a time. Try to get a nice one-game winning streak going tomorrow and move on from there.” Joe Maddon said.

If the Cubs haven’t really dominated this season the way that the Los Angeles Dodgers have done on the west coast, they do have a chance to turn those tides heading into the post season. It’s true that there are probably some cliches out there that veer towards not mattering how you get into the post season, but how you get out of it, is probably going to be on Maddon’s next T-Shirts that he issues to his players.

“It’s up to us to maintain what we’ve earned up to this point,” Maddon said. “We’re very capable of doing that. The Cardinals have done it for many years, in terms of winning championships, the level they’ve played at. I think it’s interesting, entertaining, great. I love being part of it.”

The Cubs certainly have the tools to get the job done(sorry, that one slipped out) and Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant are hitting, it’s going to be an interesting post season. Realistically, the Cubs have a slim chance but they do have a chance.

“Familiarity,” first baseman Rizzo said. “We’re really familiar with them. We see [Carlos] Martinez, [Michael] Wacha and [Lance] Lynn all the time. We know what they have. We know their bullpen. On the other side, they know what we have.”

Geez, it seems like this St. Louis Series is a playoff matchup or something?

“We have to beat better pitching to win this thing,” Maddon said after Thursday’s win. “You have to score runs with outs. We’re scoring runs without homers, sometimes, which is nice to watch and see, execution-wise.”

Believe it