A five game losing streak is always disheartening, discouraging and a little on the disappointing side but there’s one thing that every ballplayer knows too well, it’s the best kind of knowledge that any little league, Single A, Double A or Triple A manager will tell that player;
Last night it was on Kyle Hendricks‘ shoulders to put the brakes on the skid and that’s exactly what they did in a 1-0 victory over the slumping New York Mets. Over six shutout innings, the “Professor” Hendricks held a lecture on the mechanics of pitching. His lanky, unorthodox style allowed only three hits and laid the foundation for Matt Szczur to gain an RBI double.
When Kyle Hendricks pitches, he makes it look easy. I’m in awe how he can strike anyone out but he does. After a great rookie season, Hendricks has been in a bit of a slump but last night, he was on fire.
What’s impressive about Hendricks is his ability to work hard on his game. Joe Maddon is a big supporter of him.
“He hasn’t pulled me aside just one-on-one to talk. But when I see him, he just tells me to be myself. Every day he sees me, ‘Hey, just be yourself.’ And that’s been a thing for me,” Hendricks said. “At times I’ve tried to do too much mentally. Sometimes physically, too, with my mechanics. At the end of the day I need to be myself and just go out there and pitch my game. This was much better. I just focused mentally on every pitch, to make a good pitch. That was the only thought I had.”
I was hoping that Hendricks would have a Cy Young type year after last season’s 7-2 record but in many ways he fits in with the Cubs young lineup. It’s all a learning process and there’s still great years ahead for the Professor.
“We pitched really well,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “They pitched really well. A 1-0 win is always pretty spectacular. But we still have to do a better job offensively. I’m sure they’re saying the same thing on the other side.”
The Cubs learned a lot of things in yesterday’s 4-1 loss to the Cardinals. Yeah, yeah, I know what you must be thinking but everyone didn’t expect the Cubs to wipe out the Cardinals. Yeah, I thought they might have took at least one game in the series but it wasn’t to be.
“They’re quality hitters, professional hitters,” Jason Hammel said of the Cardinals. “That’s what you get in the big leagues. You can’t be in the middle of the zone, and that’s where I was when I came back [from the delay].”
I’m going to chalk up the weekend sweep to rookie syndrome. All right, I’ll include everyone else on the team as well. This is the first time that all the team as a unit has faced the Cardinals in this way when the Cardinals have been that good with a Tornado watch in effect and a rain delay. Whew! There’s a statistic for ya, you Saber Heads out there. TWIP (Tornado Warning Innings Pitched)
“You have a young, inexperienced group offensively, and they’re being schooled a little bit,” Joe Maddon said of his team. “Eventually, it will come back to us. They’ll benefit from it. Right now, [the Cardinals] got us — I get it. I thought we pitched well, played really good defense. We did a lot of things well, we just could not get the hit.”
I knew there was a reason. Maddon’s got a point, as usual. The Cardinals are a good team and poised to make it to the World Series if I were a betting man. The Cubs have shown flashes of awesomeness this season and glimpses of not so awesomeness tendencies which is kind of what people expected going into this season. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer warned us as well that the Cubs will compete in 2015 but a World Series title? Well, that’s just Hollywood.
The cold hard reality is that the Cubs won’t catch the Cardinals this season. Last night, the Cardinals beat the Cubs 8-1 leaving the Northsiders with a four game losing streak and 10.5 back of the Redbirds.
There was a brief moment when I said to myself,”Hey Canuck Cubbie (Because that’s what I call myself when I’m looking at box scores and standings and making sure my wife isn’t around because if she heard me referring to myself as Canuck Cubbie, that would put an end to anything baseball) the Cubs might actually have a shot at a division title!”
This was before their unsavoury record against the St. Louis machine.
Donn Roach was activated and did an outstanding job but it was a little deflection that led to a bases loaded situation and when those bases are loaded with the Cardinals, man, that’s a hard situation to get out of.
“I’d love another shot, yes,” Donn Roach said. “You take away the mistake I made trying to make the play, and it could’ve been a better outing than it was.”
Now, the Cubs can focus on getting that wild card spot. We know they’ve got the team to keep the pace in the Wild Card spot, but needing to stay focused and getting solid outings from their pitching staff (That’s right Jon Lester, I’m looking at you.) will go a long way to keeping that momentum going. That’s the direction they’ll be heading down come the deadline.
“We know we have to add starting depth,” Jed Hoyer said. “We’ll see where we are as we get closer to the Deadline. You can’t make someone available. That’s why I think it’ll be a Deadline where we have to try to be creative and think through different avenues.”
Help is kind of coming in the form of reliever Neil Ramirez. He’s been on the DL since April and hopes to see some action tonight in the finale. An all around great guy, we still have that ball he gave our son last year.
“That’s why they are so good, because they didn’t give us any chances. If they have an opportunity to score runs, they score. We have to keep grinding. It’s a good test for us.” said Starlin Castro
At least they know they’re not the best yet.
Rivalries usually bring out the best in teams but unless it’s the Cubs vs Cardinals, the rivalry can seem a little lopsided at times. Last night the Cubs lost a close one in extra innings 3-2 then again who could blame the Cubs because the Cardinals are in first place for a reason.
“We have to win these games, especially when we’re ahead late like that,” said Chicago starter Jake Arrieta, who left with a 2-1 lead after seven solid innings. “At the end of the day, they found a way to get it done and we didn’t. We have to learn something from it and come out tomorrow a little better prepared.”
I don’t think it’s a case of being more prepared because Arrieta pitched a pretty decent game. What it came down to was an overthrown ball from Mike Baxter to home plate which David Ross was unable to snag. Now, I’m not blaming Baxter because these things happen, just keep in mind that this is baseball and there’s such a thing as bad luck. Both teams played hard and have a history together. In fact, I’d go out on a limb and say as far as rivalry games go, this one was great.
“The problem there was leaving so many guys on base,” Joe Maddon said. “You get down to a one-run game and extra innings, we had many opportunities and didn’t take advantage of them. That’s the tale of the tape right there.”
Aye, there it is.
Now, we have a pinball game at home. It’s a baseball tabletop game and we have a lot of fun playing it. You can score singles, triples-you name it. It’s wooden with a retro style to it. Pretty cool stuff. My son left the runners stranded and he’d say, “Daddy, I left them stranded!” except he wasn’t bummed about. He thought it was awesome that he left them on base.
Every sport is simple-essentially. Hockey? You score. Baseball? Bring the runners home. Football? Touchdown.
“We know what the Cardinals are doing,” Arrieta said. “We know we have to do some things a little better to kind of trim that lead [in the division]. At the end of the day, it’s about coming out and trying to win the game that day and not worrying too far into the future. We have more than enough time to put together some good stretches to kind of minimize that number a little bit.”
It must be frustrating being Jon Lester. I mean, sure he’s their big free agent and the expectations on him are running high but let’s face it folks, something’s bothering him. Yesterday, the Cubs lost 4-0 to the Dodgers and not everything was going right for Lester.
His record is 4-6 but should be the other way around, at the very least. In the second inning, Lester got into a tete a tete with Umpire Andy Fletcher. Words were shared but it followed a walk to AJ Ellis.
“I didn’t say anything directly to him,” Lester said. “I don’t know why he was so upset. I had my head down when I was yelling. Nothing was directed at him … and I don’t know what was going on. It had nothing to do with the umpire’s strike zone. I have to execute better.”
So, let me ask you this; Is he the Jon Lester that Theo Epstein thought he was getting? Is Jon Lester over rated? I’m not complaining about the guy, just asking some much needed questions. It’s easy for me to rail against Jon, I’m just a fan. It could be the National League style, I don’t know. I assume that Jed Hoyer and Epstein took that into consideration before signing him.
“The fastball was not going to where he wanted it to go, and that was a problem,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Lester.
That’s all it could have just boiled down to as well. Just one of those games. The All Star break is coming up soon and as we all know it is a chance for players to relax a bit, have fun and hopefully get their groove back.
In other news, Kris Bryant left the game early due to flu symptoms. Many through social media speculated he was being traded:
“With all due respect to the fans, unless I was running for mayor, I’d be worried about what they have to say a little more,” Joe Maddon said. “It’s about what we think right now. All the social media and all the components that create all the stir, it’s probably kind of fun. … For me, I think if it accelerates interest in our game, I’ll take it. Other than that, I really don’t pay attention to it.”
Ah, some folks.
You know the old saying of “All good things…” Well, last night the Cubs winning streak did just that at four games. It was bound to happen and that was all there was to it. The Dodgers roughed up the Cubs 5-2 but take solace that there were a couple of amazing plays and highlight reel standouts.
Anthony Rizzo’s outstanding double play to get Andre Ethier and toss it to first to get Yasmani Gandel out. It was pretty sweet.
“I got to the ball and I kind of heard Ethier mutter something, and that’s when I knew I was able to tag him,” Rizzo said. “I looked at the replay, and I guess he paused to not get hit by the ball.”
The game ended when Chris Denorfia tried a risky move after he hit the ball off the left field wall and attempted to run to second baseball was called out. now, it was in the ninth and I could see Denorfia’s reasoning behind running to second but when the game is on the line, I think the safer move by staying at first would be the logical play.
“It’s not a smart baseball play,” he said. “It’s something I know not to do, to get thrown out when we’re trying to put an inning together. A lot of things went good for them. It didn’t matter — I shouldn’t have gone to second.” Denorfia said.
However, it appeared that Denorfia was safe by an arm hair but the Umps disagreed after it went under review.
“To say it stands is not a really cool way to go at that particular moment with the game on the line, and it was obvious from that one shot that [Denorfia] was absolutely safe, no questions asked,” Joe Maddon said. “Right now, I’m curious if you need more than one confirming opinion in regards to making the change, becuase that might be the worst non-overturn I’ve seen at this point.”
So, whether he should have gone to second with the game on the line or if it was the right call by the umpires, baseball is a cruel game which can leave heads being scratched all over the nation. Chris Denorfia was a hero one day and another, well that’s just not fair.
There was a big reason to celebrate in last night’s 1-0 victory over the Dodgers. Chris Denorfia sealed the deal with a sacrifice in the 10th inning. The Cubs have now defeated two of the best pitchers in baseball on consecutive nights. Will that boost the confidence?
But there were two other plays that stood out last night. Jason Hammel was nothing short of incredible throwing just over seven innings.
“That’s got to give you some kind of confidence that you can do it against the best,” Joe Maddon said. “You have to pitch better than good pitching, and we did it two nights in a row. That’s the key to the whole thing. We pitched so well and played defense so well and were able to muster enough runs to win both games.”
The other play of course was Super Dad Keith Hartley and his outstanding grab to rob Adrian Gonzalez if only temporarily, all the while holding his baby.
“That was outstanding,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Hartley. “You worry about the baby, of course, but it looked like he had it under control. It looked like he did it before, almost. That was a great play.”
It would be nice if the Cubs could snag the series win over the Dodgers because they face their nemesis St. Louis Cardinals on the weekend. I mentioned yesterday how important these two series are for the Cubs at this point in the season, but the Cubs are coming off of winning four in a row and nine games over .500 It’s been quite awhile since that’s happened in fact 2009.
So, who do you think is the Cubs most underrated player so far this season? Is it Addison Russell, Chris Coghlan or Miguel Montero? Russell made a great grab last night and almost always seems to come through unexpectedly. His numbers don’t tell the story of how good he is. Same with Coghlan.
“We’ve got three months to go,” Hammel said. “We’re playing good ball right now. I know everybody in [the clubhouse] would like a little more time to catch their breath in some of those innings — we play nothing but one-run ballgames. It just shows the character. We don’t quit, we just keep coming.”
The night the lights went out in Chicago. Yup, that’s what they’ll be calling it years from now. Last night’s 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers could prove to be a pivotal one this season as both teams are evenly matched but what stood out the most was it came over Clayton Kershaw.
The fact that they won after losing Tsuyoshi Wada and Dexter Fowler early on in the game is a testament to how good this team can be.
“My reading was that we’re not really concerned right now,” Maddon said of the injuries.
They shouldn’t be concerned when they have a guy like Kris Bryant knocking two out into the stands and sending fans home with a souvenir. This was Bryant’s first multi home run game in his young career. I’ve got me a feeling that he just might break the single game record before his career is over with.
“It’s another notch in the belt, I guess,” Bryant said after his night. “It’s cool to do that. Those are always good games you’ll remember forever.”
The fact that there was a delay in the game while some of the lights dimmed and that really cool orange hue in the sky was also a reason for a special game. Although Joe Maddon was wrong about arguing with the umps when it came time to maybe cancel the game. A guy like Kershaw was dialled in but after the delay he was through. Not that I’m sticking up for the other guy but if I were Mattingly, I’d be slightly disgruntled.
“I didn’t like the idea that we had to play against a guy that’s really, really, really, really, really, really, really good,” Maddon said. “You had to see spin and everything, and I didn’t like the fact that we had to go out and play without all the lights on”
Speaking of really, really, really, really good. The Chicago Cubs are in a wild card position. If they make the playoffs it’ll be the first time since 2008. Now, of course there’s a lot of baseball left to play but these next two series are turning points with the team. LA now and then the Cardinals. With the trade deadline approaching I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Starlin Castro could be moved.
“I don’t think you’re ever happy where you are,”Theo Epstein said. “Otherwise, you’d just go home or wish the season was over. We’re just constantly trying to improve, gain more consistency, but, of course, we’re thrilled with the character of the team, identity of the team.”
One of the true factors in determining if a pitcher is worth his salt is whether he pitches a complete game or not. Just like Wayne Gretzky’s famous quote,”The more times you shoot on the net, the more times the puck will go in” Or something really close to that can apply here. The longer a pitcher pitches in a game, the likelihood they’re going to win.
Congratulations Jake Arrietta on your complete game. Cubs 8 Twins 0
“I got better as the game went on, and a little more comfortable and found a really good tempo and timing with my delivery,” Arrieta said. “I was pretty crisp with everything.”
Another indication of how well a team performs occurs when the top of the order gets the job done as well. Hats off to Dexter Fowler on a grand slam in the 8th inning.
Sure, it’s easy to say that and you’re probably saying to yourself that it’s a no brainer that a team will win if these guys do their job to perfection but I believe that too many people rely on the Anthony Rizzos and Kris Bryants to get the job done and yet, it’s these little things that can take the wind out of the other team. Personally, I love those complete games. Fantastic because it’s that kind of game that’ll shake opponents in their boots come the playoffs. Yeah, a pitcher can pitch 2/3 of a game and still come up with the win but I’d imagine there’s no greater relief and pride to be there on the mound through those nine innings and walk away with a victory. Almost like Picasso walking through an art gallery looking at the fans admiring his work.
Speaking of Picasso, Anthony Rizzo who is an artist at first base is poised to play in the upcoming All Star game. Yesterday, he connected with his 15th home run of the 2015 campaign. Is he the best in the league? Perhaps.
“It’s remarkable to watch him every day. I know there are other really good first basemen and it’s probably the most loaded position there is, but what he’s done is remarkable. I’ve not seen it in person.” Maddon said.
Look it, I don’t feel sorry that I called out Starlin Castro the other day. Even though he got the winner again yesterday in a 4-1 victory over the Twins, I think that for every great game he has, Castro has two bad ones. How many times do we here,
“Every day is a new day,” Castro said. “I try to keep it going, keep the head up, and try to help the team to win.”
He pulls his quotes from the book of cliches. Over the course of his career, he’s looked like a player that hasn’t yet discovered what kind of player he wants to be.
“To be upset or angry with somebody, to me that would only come when I thought somebody didn’t care, and it would require more than getting upset,”Joe Maddon said. “This guy does care and he does work. How do you get rid of them? By continuing to talk about them, address them after they’ve occurred. He was very accountable to it. To me, the accountability component is important because you can’t get better without it.”
It seems like a broken record that every time Castro has a bad game, Maddon sticks up for him and he goes out and has a good one.
Then he has a bad one.
Another player that’s talented and struggling is Jon Lester. The difference being is Starlin doesn’t have any expectations going into games and he surprises when he has those great games but Jon Lester is different. He’s their Ace. He’s expected to win every time. Somehow though, he’s winless in six and yesterday he was pulled after 6 1/3 innings.
“I never want to come out,” Lester said. “That’s the way I’ve always been. I don’t want to leave games. That’s why you have managers and pitching coaches to make those decisions for you. I may not be happy at the time, but I’ll never second-guess the manager on what he’s trying to do.”
There’s an easy way to fix Lester. Throw him out of his comfort zone. Have Miggy Montero catch him and get him to start throwing to first. He’s in a different league now so he needs a different style.
Happy Father’s Day to all those Dads out there. Take your kids to a ballgame, watch one on tv, go outside and play ball. If they don’t like baseball, go do something really fun.