Exhausted Cubs Take One On The Chin, And A Bill Murray sighting.

We knew going into the NLCS that it wasn’t going to be a cake walk. The Los Angeles Dodgers had an amazing season and of course, if it wasn’t for the first half, the Cubs would have given them a tough go at first overall. Last night’s exhaustive 5-2 loss came as no surprise.

“[The Dodgers] won 100-plus games for a reason,” the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo said. “They have a really good bullpen. It’s just about bringing those guys into the strike zone. They don’t really have guys who give in.”

Neither do the Cubs. There is good news about yesterday’s game. If the Cubs play their cards right, they probably won’t have to face Clayton Kershaw again, although we know that nothing is written in stone.

Two things that did the Cubs in was the play at the plate where Willson Contreras allegedly blocked the plate, it was the right call but it wasn’t done intentionally. Both players were doing their jobs. Unfortunate yes, but the Cubs should rebound tonight.

Why?

Jon Lester.

“I have all the faith in the world,” Joe Maddon said. “You have to trust your guys. You have to trust the conversation and I do. Jonny said he feels great, so Jonny’s pitching. And furthermore, this time of the year, these kind of battle-tested guys under these circumstances — they look for these moments.”

I do too. The Cubs were beat because of their thrilling series to the Nationals. They were exhausted beyond compare and up against the well rested Dodgers, it was inevitable that the Cubs lost game 1.

“Right now, I think the biggest difference is we have to get our bullpen in order,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “That’s probably the biggest difference between both seasons — that we have to be able to hold small deficits or small leads in the middle and then hopefully get to [Wade Davis] in a positive situation. I think standing out right now, their bullpen is pretty firm, and we have to really get our feet back on the ground.”

Tonight is what I’d call a do over. Lester is a competitor and a pro. A big difference in the outcome.

Oh, that other thing that beat the Cubs was the weirdness of Yasiel Puig. His bat flip was justified but I think he’s a pariah to the Dodgers. In a post game interview, Puig said it wasn’t his first career post season home run, when in fact, it was.

Ah well.

Hey, recognize this guy?

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people standing

He was spotted near where I live in Kingston. The pizza joint is called The Pizza Place    Now, it’s always thrilling seeing Bill Murray in the crowd at Wrigley and I’m assuming that he’ll be there when the series returns home.

Tonight, 8 O’Clock the tides will turn in the series.

“It’s a series, so we just have to come at it the same way and just not panic, really. Just go in with the same mindset and just be ready [on Sunday]. I think we’re going to come in here with clear minds and an upbeat attitude and ready to get after it.” Addison Russell

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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?

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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.”

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Cubs Swept By Brewers

I guess the best part about the weekend series against the Milwaukee Brewers was, in fact, the return of Willson Contreras.  The Cubs were swept yesterday with a score of 3-1. It was a crucial series with both teams vying for the lead in the National League Central division. With the Brewers sweep, the Cubs only have a two game lead.

“We’ve been in so many different ballgames and so many different situations between this year and last year. We know what we need to do. As far as attitude, team demeanor, grinding pitch to pitch, we’re doing what we can.” Kyle Hendricks said after the game.

Having Contreras back at this time of the year will hopefully pay huge dividends for the team. They have a day off today and then face the New York Mets, a great chance to make some of those wins back. Pittsburgh will play the Brewers and they’re on a five game losing streak.

Do the Cubs need retooling or some inspirational speech going down the stretch?

“There’s nothing I could say to them that would make a difference right now,” Joe Maddon said. “They need to see consistency from me.”

It’s true, at this stage of the game, the Cubs know what needs to be done and no manager’s cliched speech filled with, “We need to get runners on base, score or execute pitches” isn’t something the team needs to hear or hasn’t heard before. Of course, when Jason Heyward delivered his now legendary locker room soapbox chant sermon, the Cubs hadn’t had a championship in over a hundred years. This year it’s different. The Cubs know what it takes to win.

“You go over and ask that [Brewers] clubhouse what happened when they got swept by Cincinnati — it’s the way the game goes,” Heyward said. “It’s baseball. I’m not saying, ‘So what?’ but that’s part of the game. Teams will pitch well sometimes, sometimes you’re not going to hit well, sometimes balls will go at people, sometimes it’ll be what it is.”

That’s true also, otherwise it wouldn’t be a sport. Some folks might say, “Well, at least they won.” However, I’d like to see last year’s dominance take hold during the post season and the Cubs march on to a dynasty.

Take that Yankees

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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.

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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?

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Cubs Continue Their Winning Ways

Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs’ Willson Contreras (40) celebrates with third base coach Gary Jones as he rounds the bases after hitting a three-run home run during the third inning of the team’s baseball game against the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday, July 18, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

It’s inevitable that the Cubs will catch up to the Milwaukee Brewers. After their 5-1 win over the Atlanta Braves, the Cubs are only 2 1/2 back of the Brewers but still 5 1/2 out of the Wild Card spot.

Last year was a breakout year for Addison Russell and while he’s slipping into a groove, it’s been Willson Contreras that’s having a banner year and last night he contributed once again with another home run proving he’s a tour de force with the Cubs.

“[Contreras] is really turning into a leader,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “He was very upset with himself when he hit into that double play his first time up. But he comes back and hits a three-run homer after that. He is definitely turning into a force.”

There’s been some concerns over John Lackey‘s pitching but last night he proved yet again why after 15 years in the League, he’s going to finish on his own terms, which is exactly how he plays the game. Last night, he went five innings only giving up one run. Not bad and definitely not warranting a trip to the bullpen where aging pitchers go to graze.

“I like having him out there for those reasons,” Maddon said. “The stuff is still really good, but the heart is even bigger, and that is a benefit to us.”

That’s where the difference is with Lackey. He gives it everything he’s got when he’s on the mound. From his opinion to his fast ball, he lays it all up there and I believe that this season the Cubs need him more than ever. He’s anchoring that pitching staff who aren’t so young anymore but he’s a battler and that’s what the Cubs are going to be doing for the remainder of the season.

“Really, I had one bad start in my last five as I got beat up pretty good in Washington,” Lackey said. “I felt like I made some adjustments in the last few weeks, and hopefully that can translate to the rest of the season.”

The Cubs still have a long way to go to be where they were last season. Sure, a five game winning streak is something special but on the West Coast there’s the frustrating LA Dodgers and their 10 game winning streak. For me, the NLCS was one of the greatest series I’ve ever seen. I’d love to see a rematch. Of course, I’d love to see the Cubs beat them again but right now, they’re not in the Dodgers league. If the Cubs sneak into the post season, they’ve got a tough road. Fortunately, there road is getting smoother, it almost feels like the first half was part of an extended Spring Training and the Cubs are finally building off of last season’s success and with Kyle Hendrick‘s return next week, it’s looking really good.

“I felt so much more comfortable than in my first start,” said Hendricks. “I felt right out there facing hitters, and felt mechanically right. My rhythm felt good, and I executed many more pitches. Now I feel confident and ready to go.”

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