Cubs Are Lovable Losers Again

Canuck Cubbie

The tale of the Cubs this season has been very different depending on what team shows up. In yesterday’s 5-4 win over the Washington Nationals, the Cubs used the ninth inning to stage a comeback.

“A win’s a win — it doesn’t matter how it looks, how we get there,” Chicago starter Jon Lester said. “We’ll take two of four from a really good team. Hopefully, this can build a little momentum for us.”

The funny part about momentum building victories is that it doesn’t always happen. Yes, they took two of four from a really good team but in the wake of Miguel Montero‘s DFA, the Cubs have probably revealed the cracks in the organization. Nobody ever accused Montero of not speaking his mind. This time however, it cost him his gig with the Cubs.

“I reminded [Montero] of the standard we try to hold our players to when it comes to being supportive of one’s teammates and being accountable for one’s play and for being a good teammate,” Theo Epstein said Wednesday. “I reminded Miggy that we expect when something goes wrong on the field, we expect our players to take the blame and step up and proactively assume the blame, even if it’s not their fault.”

This season has suddenly felt like a “Do Over” because of all the injuries to key players like Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward and now Kris Bryant. Last season at this time, the Cubs were running away with the title but this year is different. The Cubs are six games out of a Wild Card spot and truthfully, all negativity aside, the Cubs won’t stand a chance of even getting the Wild Card position if they continue to split series against teams like Miami and the Nationals.

Why?

Those two teams are on opposite sides. If the Cubs can’t really beat the best and can’t really beat the worst baseball has to offer, then what does that say about the Cubs? It says it’s a team that is struggling.

“I don’t think we’ve established our identity yet. I don’t think we’ve found our edge yet that we’ll need to play with to win games,” Epstein said. “Wins don’t just happen because you’re talented and you show up. You have to come to the park with an edge every day and come together as a team and play together to win and play with a certain edge. We’re going to find it.”

There you have it. They’ve got a good team in there somewhere but in a way, the team was dismantled last season with the losses to Aroldis Chapman and Dexter Fowler. It was inevitable with those two but what it’s shown baseball fans is that the team of 2016 was a magical one. If suddenly, the team can turn it around and go on a tear after the All Star break, then miracles do happen. It’s poignant that that the Cubs find themselves struggling. The perennial underdogs continue to be in that position despite a World Championship. #ThatsCub

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Is There Trouble In The Cubs Locker Room?

Canuck Cubbie

Is there trouble in the ranks of the Chicago Cubs clubhouse? After a horrible 6-1 loss to the Washington Nationals, the team needs to regroup badly. Jake Arrieta allowing 6 walks is unacceptable. However, I’m starting to believe that there might be a rift forming within the Cubs team.

“It really sucked because the stolen base goes on me,” Miguel Montero said. “When you really look at it, the pitcher doesn’t give me any time. It’s like, ‘Oh, yeah, Miggy can’t throw anybody out.’ Yeah, but my pitchers don’t hold anybody on. It’s tough. … I don’t get a chance to throw. That’s the reason they were running left and right. They knew he was slow to the plate, simple as that.”

There you have the fatal flaw of Jake Arrieta. He’s slow to the plate. Now, I like Miggy. Yeah, he was a little but whiny during their playoff run, but if you remember, he hit a grand slam. He comes through in the clutch. In many ways, he’s their outspoken leader. He’ll say everything that needs to be said on the team. Yeah, he’s a part time player but even still he comes through.

“I can pitch at his level,” Arrieta said. “I just haven’t done it consistently. He’s been very good throughout his career. I’ve had a couple good ones, a bad one, a couple good ones. I’d like to be more consistent throughout.”

So where do you find that consistency? Is it trading for pitching? We know the Cubs are in the market so that’ll be addressed soon.

Do you blow up a World Series team and start again? We know that’s not the answer but we also know that the team has suffered key losses in the off season that has contributed to this fluctuating season.

“That’s the million-dollar question right there. If I knew the answer, I’d be talking to the guys to figure it out and get it going. It’s tough. It’s one of those days, you get beat and go home. We played sloppy — we all did. You go home and you think about it, and it’s going to be hard to sleep on it. It was just a bad game. I respect Scherzer. I’ve known him for a long time and he’s a great pitcher, but I felt the game could be a little bit closer.” Montero said.

Big changes are coming, that’s for sure. Whether the Cubs need a break and regroup during the All Star game on July 11th, we’ll have to wait and see. What they can’t do is shrug it off saying “We have to go home and think” No, the Cubs have raised the bar this year and now it’s time for change. Truthfully, I’m betting on Montero not being around at the deadline.

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Cubs Narrowly Escape Game 1

Canuck Cubbie

Chicago Cubs’ Javier Baez, bottom right, steals third during the eighth inning of a baseball game against Anthony Rendon, Monday, June 26, 2017, in Washington. The Cubs won 5-4. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

It was a highlight reel of everything that was great about the Chicago Cubs this season and everything that was not so great about the North Siders in their 5-4 victory over the Washington Nationals. From Javier Baez‘s spectacular catch to Wade Davis’ 9th inning collapse, it was the best of times and the worst of times.

“I love when we participate with that kind of intensity,” manager Joe Maddon said after the game. “I’m not saying we haven’t, but coming in here against a really good team, under the circumstances, it was kind of fun.”

There it is. Joe Maddon finally admitted that the Cubs haven’t been very good this season. Sort of. The Washington Nationals are a very good team and the Cubs meanwhile, are in a division that isn’t the strongest division in the game. So the test of how good the Cubs are isn’t all that accurate. In fact, the Cubs are still in the hunt to win the National League Central but compared to the rest of the league, Chicago isn’t doing too well.

“It’s nice before you play [Max] Scherzer — it’s always nice [to win]. To play so well and not win that game, that would’ve been awful, that would’ve been tough. Honestly, every night to me is the biggest game of the year. Tonight, playing a good team like that, playing in Washington, we have our youngest pitcher pitching against a guy who is pretty darn good. Butler beats Gio tonight … I think that’s pretty good stuff.” Maddon said.

Eddie Butler did a spectacular job last night allowing no runs in his five inning stint. If last night was a wake up call for the struggling team, then they looked no further than to Javier Baez’s leadership abilities. This is the time of the season to rally the troops and take stock of where the team is heading. They must accept the fact that they’re not the team they were in 2016. That was a fluke and admitting to it being the lightning in the bottle season, will give them the dose of reality they need moving forward.

“Games like this are what we need right now,” Baez said. “The Nationals are like St. Louis. Always good competition. … Before the game, everyone was into it. Go out there, and play hard.”

The good news is that guys like Jason Heyward, Kyle Hendricks and Kyle Schwarber won’t be out too much longer and the Cubs can go back to winning ball games.

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Cubs vs Blue Jays World Series?

Chicago Cubs

Tonight, the Chicago Cubs will find out who they’ll play in the NLCS. Will it be the Los Angeles Dodgers or the Washington Nationals? I’m taking the Nationals. The Cubs played better this season against them. If only because of that four game sweep back in May, the Cubs are going to have an easier time. Sure, the nationals are stacked but the Cubs are better defenders and I’m trusting in 2016’s playoff hero so far, Javier Baez.

Max Scherzer is pitching tonight so he won’t be ready for Saturday. There’s Dusty Baker managing against his old team and we all know what happened last playoffs at Wrigley when Dusty was in a Wrigley dugout? Speaking of superstitions, I think the Cubs have finally chased whatever superstitions haunted them. This being the season of ghosts and unusual occurrences, that last game 4 between the Giants/Cubs wasn’t so much about curses or anything but we were watching a team dig down deep and fight their way back.

“I think the biggest thing is nobody really cares in there about a curse or a goat or anything else,” Cubs pitcher Jon Lester said. “If we make a mistake, we’re not going to blame it on a curse or anything else like that. We’re going to blame it on ourselves and be accountable for it and move on to the next play or the next moment.

“Plus, I think we’ve got too many young guys in there that don’t even know what that stuff is,” Lester said. “It’s almost better to play naive and just go out and worry about us, worry about the Cubs, and not anything else in the past or, like I said, any animals.”

I hope Daniel Murphy decides to not go bear hunting this fall.

Cubs in 5

So, should the Cubs move on to the World Series I’d love to see them go up against the Toronto Blue Jays. It’d be a classic matchup that would rival the Giants/Cubs NLDS. Imagine Edwin Encarnation vs Kris Bryant. Jose Bautista against Anthony Rizzo or Addison Russell taking on Troy Tulowitski?

The Cubs are so evenly matched against the Blue Jays that it would take on epic proportions. I’m not tempting fate, just daydreaming. Neither team has played each other this year, which would add to the suspense of the series. “Canada’s Team” vs the Chicago Cubs.

Cubs in 6

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Cubs Preview October

Anthony Rizzo

Well that was exciting! The unofficial preview to October ended in spectacular fashion despite the North Siders dropping the season series to the Washington nationals by a score of 5-4 in extra innings.

“Neither team wants to lose, both teams are totally invested — it was fabulous,” Joe Maddon said. “Of course, I wanted to win the game. Regardless, I was very happy to be part of that game today. It tells me a lot about our group and why I feel really, really strongly about our group in the future. That had a lot of strong indicators.”

The Cubs get an off day today to according to the schedule but it could easily be considered a great day to recoup and lick their wounds with a hard fought series like that. The way the Cubs battled back in yesterday’s game was nothing short of incredible. You had Anthony Rizzo‘s two run rocket in the ninth and then Addison Russell wanted in on the fun in the 12th inning, hitting an RBI single.

“They’re the two best teams in baseball going at it, exchanging punches,” Jason Hammel said of the series. “It was exciting. We had our chances to do it and they answered back, and that’s what you’re going to get out of two teams who know how to do something and create something that’s not there. We had our chances and they answered late.”

If it’s that tired cliche of “That’s the kind of loss a team should take, then yesterday was it.    They were two young teams hungry for the win and it felt like an old sandlot game, or perhaps a chess match. The only glaring concern was the bullpen. We know that help is coming in the form of Joe Nathan and Brian Matusz, plus there’s the trade deadline. if the Cubs can shore up some arms after the deadline, then there’s no telling where this team is headed in October. Heck, we even can look into the future a bit and guess it is th Washington Nationals.

“I don’t want to — I guess I will say it,” Anthony Rizzo said. “It kind of had that playoff feel. You can’t ever take anything for granted there. That was a fun game. A crazy game. The type of games you see in October.”

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Cubs and Nationals Could Be Playoff Preview

Kyle Hendricks

Compared to their debacle over the Atlanta Braves on Sunday, last night’s 4-1 loss to the much better Washington Nationals proved that this week is going to test the Chicago Cubs on their way to October.

Max Scherzer controlled the game, striking out 11. It could very well come down to these two teams in the National League in October, they’re that good.

“That’s what you’ll see when you get two really good baseball teams is you’ll see a lot of that close action and it’s a battle of inches that permits you to win or lose those games and they won the battle of the inches tonight,” Maddon said.

This week will be tough because after the Nationals, the Cubs will face the Pirates and the Cardinals. See what I mean? This week will show what kind of team the Cubs are.

“You’ve got to beat the good pitchers,” Maddon said. “In order to win in the playoffs, you have to beat good pitchers. [Scherzer] is one of them. We beat him one time, he beat us this time. In the playoffs, you see good pitching. That’s why teams get to the playoffs is they have good pitching. Bottom line, you have to compete against the good ones.”

Not only good pitching but an all around great team in the Nationals. It’s really good that the loss came at this time of the year. It’ll expose what the Cubs need to improve on going forward in the season.

“You’re dealing with arguably the best team in baseball right there,” Addison Russell said praising the Nationals. “Guys that come in every day wanting to win and they have the bats and arms to prove it.”

The fact that the Cubs were 43-18 heading into last night’s matchup and was their best start since 1918 was an exciting momentum builder. It kind of felt like a playoff game.

“I don’t know about that,” Kyle Hendricks said. “It’s still June. We have a ways to go. We faced them at home. It’s just two good teams facing off at this point. It’s good competition, really good baseball. We’ll enjoy these next two games.”

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Mrs. Baez Proud of Her Cub

Javier Baez

It’s fitting that Javier Baez hit that walk off home run. It’s just downright poignant, in fact. Yesterday, in case you hadn’t heard the party rumbling as far as Canada that the Chicago Cubs beat the Washington Nationals 4-3 to sweep the series.

On Mother’s Day of all days to hit a walk home run is just special. Mrs. Baez is proud of her son.

“You can see how much power he’s got,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “That was pretty much a one-hand flip of the bat. That had rockets on it, man, and that was really well struck.”

So what if Jake Arrieta didn’t get the win? We just discovered he’s human and every human has a day off.

“An incredible series and a pretty special way to end it the way Javy did today,”Arrieta said.

This was definitely the series that’s going to define the rest of the Cubs season. The way they battled back in yesterday’s matchup and reached down deep in the end to get that home run by Baez. If this is their year, it’s going to be one to remember. They’re dominating every team in every game  in just about every category. The other thing that’s making it so special, that little secret that every Chicago Cubs fan knows, is that there is nobody on this planet that remembers the last time the Cubs were so dominant. There was nobody alive the last time they won the World Series.

The fact that they’re 24-6 and have won seven in a row is huge, but does it, or will it transform into a World Series victory? Odds are in their favour, but here are some interesting results.

The Chicago Cubs have outscored their opponents 180-79 and their 6.21 Runs Per Game average is tops in baseball. Now, I can just gush all that I want about these North Siders but nobody can deny that they’re the feel good story in sports for the season. Long time fans aren’t pointing their fingers, “I told you so”No, they’re just smiling with satisfaction that their time has come and they’re playing great baseball. If, at the end of the season and they don’t win it all, it could be disappointing in that “I opened a Christmas present and wasn’t expecting this?” kind of way, but they will wear that shirt with pride knowing they gave it their all and that’s all that anyone can expect.

“Year 2 is easier to vibe to the same frequency as him Maddon,” Anthony Rizzo said, using his manager’s vernacular. “We don’t really wrap our head around it [the team’s record], but it is a good start.”

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