Are The Cubs Slumping?

David Ross

There’s a campaign to elect David Ross into the All Star Game #VoteRoss and judging from yesterday’s game, that campaign is growing all the time. Ok, despite the 4-2 loss against the Marlins.

David Ross cracked his sixth of the season proving once again that Father Time need not be invited to these games. Ross’s home run tied up the game but with starters out from injuries, the Cubs didn’t have a comeback miracle.

“There’s some young guys here and it shows at times, but I think there’s a lot of talent and we’re trying to figure out how to play best as a team,” Ross said. “It’s just a little rough patch. There’s a reason that the guys who were starting and are injured were starting. We have to hold down the fort until they get back.”

With newcomer Willson Contreras at first due to Anthony Rizzo out due back tightness.

“This is totally different than it was before,” said Rizzo, who may need more than one day to heal. “We’re just being smart and being cautious about it.”

Was Contreras nervous about filling in for the big guy?

“I have no problems playing first base,” Contreras said. “Once they told me, ‘You’re playing first base,’ I said, ‘OK, I’m ready to play first base. No problem with that.’ I want to play every day, I want to do the little things to win the game, to make the playoffs, to make the World Series. I’ll do everything for my team.”

So, the Cubs have lost four in a row. Are they slumping? Are injuries piling up or is the grind of the season finally getting to the fearsome Cubs of the North Side? Their projected win total is slipping from 114 to 107 of the season. Their chances of eclipsing the 2001 Seattle Mariners is slipping away.

Is it fair to say that all these stats make up a great team or is it the final product of winning the big one? I’m on the side of finally winning the big prize. Of course, the Cubs have had their history of losing seasons and failing to come through. We all know the history.

We’ll have to wait and see.

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Cubs Get Swept By Hated Cardinals

Miguel Montero

Things got ugly for the Cubs yesterday in their 7-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. The bad news was Jake Arrieta left the game after five innings. Sure, the Cardinals swept the Cubs but is it time for panic?

The games were tight and played every bit as hard as a rivalry should be played but in the end there’s only one winner and this time it was the Cardinals.

“They came in and just beat us,” Anthony Rizzo said. “To get back into a race, you have to beat the teams ahead of you, and that’s what they did. We’re in a good position leaving here, but getting swept at home from a division rival is not ideal.”

To show you how competitive these two clubs are, the Cardinals have not swept the Cubs at Wrigley Field since 1988.

Wow!

No, it’s not the ideal situation the Cubs wanted to be in. If you wanted to pull the adversity card, then now’s the time to play it and not say in September when teams are getting ready for the playoff crunch.

I don’t believe so. Every team goes through this period at this time of the season.

“It’s a game of adjustments,” Arrieta said. “I have to take it in stride and learn from it and go back to work tomorrow and combat the things that teams have done against me recently. It’s an easy fix. I think the byproduct will be very positive.”

Another thing that I thought about and I could be wrong but the rivalry between these two clubs is fierce so both teams are under a very sharp microscope.  Speaking of being under the microscope, Miguel Montero left the game due to a knee injury.Not

“All the tests are good, he felt fine,” Maddon said after the game. “As of right now, I don’t anticipate anything wrong with him.”

Lately Montero has been in a transitioning role as mentor to Willson Contreras who’s continuing his hot streak with the bat after yesterday’s home run.

“Great at-bat again,” Maddon said. “Works good at-bats. The kid wants to stay here.”

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Cubs Pecked By RedBirds

Chicago Cubs

The best part about rivalries is that they can go either way. Take for example last night’s 4-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. That’s two straight losses for the Cubs. Let’s face it, the Cardinals aren’t having a great season. So far they’re 10.5 back of the Cubs but nobody would have known that judging from these last two games.

“It’s going to happen again,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “I have no complaints about the last two nights. Zero. We played well, we played good baseball. If you’re a baseball fan, you saw good baseball. They scored one more run than we did — give them credit.”

He’s right. The Cubs played well but I’m thinking because these two teams seem to beat each other up when they get together that it almost has a playoff type vibe to it. Everything gets ramped up a notch. As such though, even the bad teams can make good pitchers look bad.

“For whatever reason, I was getting behind hitters, and I had to go back to what I do best, which is sinker, slider,” Jason Hammel said. “Once I did that, we were able to keep it close. I just have to do a better job of keeping the ball in the yard. Mistakes up in the zone cost us.”

However, guys like Chris Coghlan who was filling in for Dexter Fowler, If you ask me was kind of strange seeing how the Cubs traded Coghlan to the Athletics in order to make room for Fowler.

What?

Coghlan had a great game and proved everyone right by bringing him back. The former Rookie of The Year 2009 reached the bag three times. It goes to show you that there’s no place like home.

All right, so despite the loss, the Cubs are still 47-22 and lead the league with a run differential of +169. Not too shabby. They’re frustrating Vegas.

But despite their dominance, the Cubs are getting down to crunch time in the season where injuries start to take over like Fowler’s injury. The Cubs have sent Adam Warren to Iowa in order to get a little R & R but plan to call him back up soon.

“This is when it gets a little bit sticky at this time of the year,” Maddon said. “You want to make sure they’re healthy and well … I love it. I’ve been part of this before, primarily after the break.”

Speaking of healthy, Cubs’ ace Jake Arrieta will get his start in the series finale today at 2:20. If anything, it’ll be solace should the Cubs pick up the win.

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Cubs Rookie Mistakes Look Good

Albert Almora

Whether it was the infectious enthusiasm of the 22 year old Willson Contreras or the rivalry between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs last night but there was definitely something different in last night’s 3-2 loss to the Cardinals.

All right, I’m going to add here that the Cubs didn’t really lose as per say because as tight games go, this was one of the best.

I even forgave Albert Almora for trying to move to third base. It was close, the Cubs needed a runner in scoring position(even though Almora was all ready at second) so why not try to go for it. it was, after all in the ninth inning.

“I have no problem with Albert,” Maddon said. “Molina made a really good play, and they made a good tag. I never want to coach the aggressiveness out of that young man. I think he’s been playing great. They made a good play. His judgment might have been impacted by the fact the ball hit the umpire in the foot.”

He’s right, I truly believe that coaching the aggressiveness out of these young players is absolutely the worst thing managers and coaches should do. Yeah, ok they lost last night but come October, those skills that these young guys acquire now will surely come in handy when the temperatures dip and they can barely see the bases through the foggy breath of those third base guys.

“I made an aggressive move and it cost us the game today,”  Almora said. “I feel like I let my team down today. It’s a tough one to swallow.”

Not so fast. Last night, it might have felt he let the team down but the Cubs have two more to win against their rivals. I’ll tell you right now that all that fist pumping and energy from the kids is a great thing. it’s the promise of the premise that Theo Epstein has been preaching to the city of Chicago and us Cubs fans throughout. The team’ll go on learning curves, they might win a whole bunch of games but there’ll be mistakes, bumps in the road and in the end it’ll be worth it.

Contreras threw Matt Carpenter out in the ninth at second. It was awesome to see that and  it was just the beginning. These kids have paid their dues in the minors and they’re fully prepared for the “Show”. It was a beautiful throw.

“That had some hair on it and it was absolutely accurate,” Maddon said. “You look into the crystal ball in the future, and you’ll see a lot more of that. He’s a game changer where the other team won’t go.”

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Cubs send Fathers Home Happy

Wilson Contreras

CHICAGO, IL – JUNE 19: Willson Contreras #40 of the Chicago Cubs celebrates after hitting a two run home run on the first pitch of his MLB debut during the sixth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field on June 19, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)

There’s no questioning the pride fathers across the world feel when their children do magical things for the first time. Taking their first steps to getting their driving license, it’s an awesome feeling to see the kids succeed. Yesterday morning, my son Darcy was so excited he ran downstairs to give me a Father’s Day present. It’s a beautiful mug and the best mug ever. Love you, Buddy.

Coffee Mug

Wilson Contreras‘s Father had a reason to feel pride after watching his son smash a home run at his very first MLB At Bat and at Wrigley Field no less.

“I was ready for my first Major League at-bat, but I didn’t imagine it was going to be a homer,” Contreras said.

The fact that the Cubs are all ready having an amazing season with these milestone moments further adds to the mystique and lore of the North Siders.

The Cubs went on to humiliate and sweep the Pirates by a score of 10-5. From Kyle Hendricks outstanding 12 strikeouts to Contreras’s first ever blast, the Cubs showed their might.

“I think we are [the best team in baseball] right now. There’s a lot of season left, so we hope to get better. A lot of other teams are coming for us.” Hendricks said.

It’s amazing to think too that Hendricks is the number five in the rotation so when guys like Contreras can blast like that and Hendricks puts on a performance alongside Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant‘s home runs, there’s no questioning the strength of the Cubs.

The Cubs shouldn’t rest on their laurels just yet. As Hendricks pointed out, other teams are coming for them. If you don’t think the San Francisco Giants’ eight game winning streak is something to fear, then maybe baseball’s not your thing. Don’t forget, the Cubs got roughed up by a very dangerous Washington Nationals team last week and then over in the American League, the East Division is heating up with the Orioles, Blue Jays and Red Sox. Oh yeah, the Texas Rangers are holding strong and I’m cautious with the Cleveland Indians, they’re looking better and better as the season moves along. So you see, there’s plenty of ball left and although Chicago is writing a Fairy Tale better than the Grimms, it could end up being a cautionary one.

“It’s just the same gig,” Joe Maddon said. “I think we’ve played well against just about everybody…I don’t get into all that division stuff. Just win the game you’re playing today and at the end of the season, you’re in pretty good shape.”

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Happy Father’s Day!

 

Wrigley Field

Even the old guys get in on the fun after the Chicago Cubs downed division rivals Pittsburgh Pirates 4-3. That “Old Guy” is David Ross. You might have heard of him if you’re a fan. He’s the guy on his farewell tour, he’s 39 and he hit a home run to help his team with the win.

“To be in the position I’m in and get a curtain call, my second curtain call ever in my career, and they both happened here, and just the appreciation, it’s fun,” Ross said. “It’s a great feeling and one I think I’ll cherish for a long, long time.”

That home run was his fifth of the season. He only hit one all season last year and in yesterday’s victory again showed the depth and diversity in the Cub’s lineup. Jon Lester didn’t have his best game but the lefty dug down deep when there was a bases loaded situation only giving up a run. They’ll remember those games in October.

“I don’t think the guys are concerned about that,” Lester said. “We’re just trying to worry about us and who we’re playing. I think that’s what makes us really good is we live in the moment. We either enjoy the victory or talk about the loss and move on to the next one. “Obviously, it’s nice to have a cushion, but you can’t worry about leads right now. We have a lot of baseball to go.”

Ok, so it’s Father’s Day. The blue bats are out and this picture was taken at Wrigley Field last May. Ironically enough the Cubs were playing the Pirates and Arrieta was on the hill. It was one of his few losses. Even though the Cubs lost, it was a great game and we had a lot of fun even Darcy ran the bases. We’re heading to Pittsburgh in July to see the Cubs play. It’s going to be awesome.

Believe it.

 

Cubs Dominate Pirates, or Was it Arrieta Dominating?

Jake Arrieta

I’m going to be honest with you guys. Jake Arrieta is not the best pitcher in the game. Sure, he threw 11 strikeouts yesterday and his ERA is second only to the immortal Clayton Kershaw. Oh yeah, then there’s that Cy Young award he won last year.

Wait. I almost forgot he’s 11-1 on the season, but he’s not the best pitcher in the game.

Yesterday he went to work and his command wasn’t the best but he still found a way to help the Cubs win a 6-0 shutout over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“Execution is the most important aspect of facing a team multiple times, especially a short time span or a division rival that you see a lot,” he said. “The more times a guy sees you, the more exposed you’ll be on mistakes. I don’t care if a guy is 0-fer against me in 30 at-bats. The more he sees me, the more comfort that’s probably gonna be there. When you face a team multiple times like that, you have to try and minimize the mistakes, because at some point they will take advantage of it.”

Ah, but he’s the most realistic pitcher out there and that makes him dangerous. That’s why he’s able to craftily pick apart opposing batters with ease and skill. Maybe he’s the most empathetic pitcher in the game?

“We have no reason to be fearful of anything,” said Arrieta. “We’re what, 2 1/2 months into the season? And we’ve all shown the ability to have a lot of success consistently thus far. I think that breeds more confidence. The mindset going out there is [the starters] seem to be in attack mode from the get-go and trusting their stuff. That’s kind of what happens when you have that mindset. You have guys with good stuff, who know how to pitch, who learn from each other.”

But he shouldn’t stop at the pitching, they’ve also got guys like Matt Szczur, who launched a home run at his first At Bat of the game. I think it’s those guys that have been crucial to the Cubs’ success this season.

Yesterday, the Cubs called up Willson Contreras as their much coveted rookies are making their presence felt in the Cubs lineup. If the Cubs do make it to post season glory, and I’m not just talking about the playoffs folks, the Cubs will have a had a season to remember and in many ways, it’s almost cinematic the way that the young Cubs are doing so well.

“My first thought was, ‘Wow, now is my time,’” Contreras said. “Since I got here, I’ve been living my dream.”

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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 Prove The Kids Are All Right

Albert Almora

As much as baseball is a team sport, it’s also an individual effort. Last night, Albert Almora Jr. had his moment to shine and go down in Cubs lore with an RBI double. The Cubs rookie broke a 3-3 tie in the ninth and the Cubs went on to edge the Washington Nationals 4-3.

It’s the stuff of of films.

“You try to stay calm for that,” Almora said after the game. “That’s the biggest thing. Knowing I belong and wanting to come through for the guys right there. Just trying to stay calm and do my job.”

In what is probably the biggest series so far against the Nationals, Almora is humble enough to know that it’s not all about him. Even as the other Cubs “new guys” like Kyle Schwarber, who in last year’s playoffs kept his cool under pressure along with Addison Russell and 2015 Rookie of The Year Kris Bryant have all carried themselves well which doesn’t always occur on young teams.

“The guy has been up here for five minutes, and he’s not passive,” Joe Maddon said. “A really interesting game of baseball. The Giants were a team we had to earn our stripes against. The Nationals are the same kind of team.”

He’s not kidding either. Last night was a huge game for the Cubs and like I said yesterday, it could be a potential playoff preview. The other thing that impressed me so much were the Cubs ability to stay focused in the ninth. Of course, a team doesn’t have a record of 44-19 without remaining cool. Another thing to look at is it’s the middle of June and the team has remained strong even through a mild road slump last month and injuries to Jorge Soler and Kyle Schwarber.

“I did it for [John] Lackey,” Almora said. “I did it for [Pedro] Strop, I did it for [Hector] Rondon, for [Travis] Wood, for all those guys. I did it for Ross as well. I could go on and on. I’m trying to be a team guy.”

As the trade deadline approaches, the rumours are heating up about Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller becoming Cubs but as I’ve written here, I remain steadfast in my opposition against Chapman becoming a Cub. It’s not going to be right for the Cub’s Way in the clubhouse no matter how good he is.

The Cub’s bullpen did a fine job last night with Hector Rondon recording 5 outs. They’re still fresh and although they don’t have that 104MPH fastball that Chapman has, they know the team’s chemistry and that’s all that matters.

“I told them, if they want to put me in for three innings, I’m sure I can go,” Rondon said. “I don’t care what inning he puts me in.”

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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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