It was a pretty exciting day for Chicago Cubs, their fans and David Ross. Yesterday, the Cubs defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 5-0 with Jake Arrieta earning his 18th victory of the season. Before the shellacking, Cubs catcher and clubhouse grandfather David Ross, was honoured for his years in baseball.
“The things they said about me is kind of overwhelming, and the way they treat me, and how much respect they have for me,” Ross said. “I’m a guy who tries to work hard and ends up with some years in the big leagues and has done some fun things, and with this group, trying to win a ring this year, the emotion comes from looking back when you reflect on your career. I don’t try to do that, because it gets really emotional.”
On top of the win, the Cubs clinched home field advantage through the NLDS and the NLCS after the Pittsburgh Pirates downed the Washington Nationals 6-5.
Arrieta now has 18 wins on the season and is in a three way tie topping the national league with Max Scherzer and teammate Jon Lester.
“That was more reminiscent of what we saw last year,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Arrieta, the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner. “He’s not 100 percent there, but that was pretty darn good. [The Cardinals are] a good hitting lineup. That lineup they threw out today was a great test to see where he’s at.”
Of course this is the best time for Arrieta to get going, he struck out 10 batters in the rout of the Cardinals.
“The big thing for me is controlling my effort,” Arrieta said. “When I’m able to do that, my stuff speaks for itself. … Sometimes the competitiveness, the stubbornness gets in the way. Once I push that to the side, the stuff works pretty well.”
October 7th the Cubs begin the journey for the history books. Their 98th win of the season was the most by a Cubs team since 1945, which was the last time they played in a World Series game. Another interesting fact is if the Cubs can win two more games for their 100th win, it’ll mark the first time they have reached that milestone since 1935 which was another year they made it to the World Series. The bad news in winning 100 games in a season is the unfortunate statistic of during the last 30 seasons, a major league team finishing the season with 100+ victories, have only won the big prize twice. That was the Yankees in 1998 and 2009.
Yup, those aren’t incredibly satisfying odds, but then again, this 2016 Chicago Cubs isn’t no ordinary team. They’re different. They’re relaxed, confident and they’ve got destiny on their side.
So what makes the 2016 edition of the Chicago Cubs look and feel different? They’ve had really good teams in the past in particular,2007-2008 with grizzled manager Lou Pineilla and Stars like Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez and Geovanny Soto. You have to admit, that was a good team. But as we know too well, great teams don’t necessarily guarantee a successful post season.
Going into the series against the St. Louis Cardinals marks the final regular season home series for the North Siders. It’s a fitting end to an extraordinary season. Two bitter rivals going head to head at Wrigley Field and an opportunity to put the brakes on the Cardinal’s Wild Card dreams.
As the season rounds third and heads home before going into the gruelling post season march to destiny, there’s a lot riding on the Cubs. However, I think there’s a lot more riding on the fans then on the players.
“We understand that Wrigley Field is a special place, but I don’t think anybody is worried about history or what happened before,” catcher David Ross says. “If you go out and work as hard as you possibly can and play as hard as you possibly can, the only thing left is winning and losing. You don’t have a lot of control over that. It’s either your night or it’s not.”
Look at it this way, there’s no fan or player alive today that remembers the feeling of seeing the Cubs or playing on a team that won the World Series. There’s a lot of other players you can catch at Cooperstown who will share stories of glory days gone by but not the Cubs. Billy Williams can never tell you about the time he and Ernie Banks made that amazing run in the 1960’s. It never happened. We wish it did.
All those close years dashed by mathematics or happenstance. So let’s blame a curse or some poor fan who happened to be in the wrong place, but of course that wrong place was Wrigley Field and that place is the same place where we as fans gather and feel that we’re at the right place, this year, this team. Where history and myth collide like maple to leather and for one simple reason;
We believe it.
The Cubs are after the prize. Only three more victories and they’ll have 100 wins. It’s monumental, it’ll be their first 100 win season since 1935. Now, I’m not one for hexes or curses, Superstitions, yeah. The Cubs made the World Series in 1935. So, after last night’s 9-2 series sweep over the Cincinnati Reds, they’re one step closer to destiny.
“That’s a number I’ve never achieved on the win side,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of the goal to reach 100. “I’ve achieved it on the loss side. Achieving that doesn’t feel good. That was my first year as a manager with the Devil Rays. We exceeded 100 that year.”
Well, if it makes you feel better Joe, the Cubs have reached that total too and it doesn’t feel good for the fans either. The Cubs’ magic number is 2 after last night. The thing that was really impressive about last night’s win was the plays of Ben Zobrist and Miguel Montero. Zobrist who had three hits and an RBI. Montero contributed with his hot bat getting three hits and three RBI’s, these two players are peaking at the right time.
“This is where you talk about September provides its own energy,” Maddon said. “These guys are not fatigued. They’re actually very excited and they’re really doing a lot of good things.”
The win was good for John Lackey. The veteran hurler is slowly finding his groove and the Cubs will need his presence in October to back up the big three in Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jake Arrieta.
“Lackey’s pitched in a lot of big games,”Maddon said. “John’s definitely not afraid of it. John kind of likes it. I’ve been there and seen it, both sides. He’s the kind of guy that, if you’re around him, he’s going to promote courage or fearlessness among the people he’s around.”
The big guy will intimidate and hunker down this fall. There’s been many warnings about the Cubs playoff chances, one being the Toronto Star but this year feels different. Most of the players don’t know about the curses. They’re here for one job and one job only.
“For me, this year is a completely different attitude from last year,” Kris Bryant said. “To clinch so early and have this time to work on stuff and just kind of tune up for what we hope to be a long playoff run, we’re very fortunate for that. Me, I’m just trying to stick with a good approach and not let the numbers on the scoreboard get to me.”
Bryant collected his 38th home run of the season and his race for Home Run King against Nolan Arenado.
“I don’t really watch the home runs, where they go or anything, but certainly this is one of the best parks to hit a home run in, just because you can hit it onto the street there,” Bryant said. “It’s been a really fun year, so to say that any home run onto Waveland, you get used to it, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it. It’s a lot of fun.”
If the Cubs finish first, there’ll be a lot more fun on Waveland.
The Cubs seem to be turning back time in more ways than one. First, there’s the amazing season where the Cubs are looking more like they did in 1908 and now, David Ross chugging home off a hit by Jon Lester, a symbolic victory lap for the retiring catcher. Last night, the Cubs downed the Cincinnati Reds 6-1 in front of a packed Wrigley Field and Jon Lester was, well Jon Lester.
“This is the guy you were going to get when you signed him to the deal he signed,” said Cubs catcher David Ross, who scored on Lester’s double. “This was a guy that I know and I expected him to pitch like this. I think he expects to pitch like this. He’s pitching really well and it’s nice. It’s just one of many guys who are throwing good on the staff.”
If the Cubs win it all this season, Cubs President Theo Epstein is going to come off looking like a genius. Jon Lester will win the Cy Young award over Kyle Hendricks even though he trails the crafty “Professor” in ERA. Sure, Hendricks would be the sentimental favourite and I feel he deserves it more than Lester because everybody knows what Lester can do, he’s just good. However, what Hendricks has done this season is incredible and he has matured into a bona fide ace on the staff.
“Obviously Kyle has had an unbelievable year,” Lester said. “If I had a vote, he’d be my vote. Just because I get to see him every day. I get to see how he goes about it, how he prepares and executes. He’s my guy. That’s who I would vote for right now, tomorrow, the next day or whenever.”
Awe man, I just liked Lester that much more. He’s saying all the right things but for a guy to go out and be that good and still acknowledge what his teammate is doing, well that just says everything about who the Chicago Cubs are.
With the win, the Cubs have officially secured home field advantage for the NLDS after the Los Angeles Dodgers lost last night to the San Francisco Giants 2-0. I’m sure people are getting a little frustrated with me when I rattle off the stats on why this year is a special one. My friends and family sometimes roll their eyes at my excitement but all you guys know that this is a special season unlike any other. This is an historic one. Here’s a question that might be on the wrong side of hypothetical.
What if the Cubs won in 1945?
Would the magnitude be on the level that it is?
No matter how good the Cubs are, there’s still one more thing…
“If you ask anybody in that clubhouse, the MVPs, the Cy Youngs, the Rookie of the Years, all that stuff, it’s all great and dandy,” Lester said. “At the end of the day, we want to win a World Series. I think guys are kind of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel right now.”
The longest drought in professional sports history and the oldest serving Major League baseball team squared off against each other last night and to say that the Chicago Cubs needed that victory is an understatement. In their 5-2 defeat of the Cincinnati Reds, three important things happened; Jason Heyward, Addison Russell and Willson Contreras all hit home runs to secure the victory but the big fourth important thing was Jason Hammel. He broke out of his funk and received his 15th win of the season.
“Overall, it was a good sign for me,” Hammel said of his outing. “Fastball command got better as the game went along. And the team continues to prove that if you hang around for a little while, they’ll make it exciting.”
Does that include sticking around for 108 years? After the win, the Cubs became the first team this season to have four pitchers with 15 or more wins. That’s impressive and what’s more impressive is Jason Hammel’s resiliency. With his 15th victory, Hammel has kinda been struggling this season so it’s great to see him with the win. It really hasn’t been the best second half for the hurler. If people believe that it’s an audition for the playoffs, it could just be a warm up.
“[My] individual numbers would be a lot better minus those runs, but overall, it’s the whole body of work and continuing to trust the process and the things that I’ve been working on,” Hammel said. “Everybody’s going to have a bad one, and unfortunately for me, they were really bad. But we continue to move on. Obviously, tonight was a step in the right direction. I felt good about it.”
It’s always better to look at the overall team accomplishment than the individual performance. Sorry if I pulled out that horrendous sports cliche but there’s no other way to put it.
If the season were to end today, the St. Louis Cardinals would have that final Wild Card position and man, wouldn’t that be great for the Cubs to face the Cardinals in the division series? Of course the Cardinals would have to get by the New York Mets but it would be worth the wait.
“Right now, it’s only about winning,” Joe Maddon said. “That’s it. We want to get this whole thing functioning properly, so when we get to the postseason, we’re able to do the things that we want to do.”
If the Cubs make it to the World Series, I hope Cubby Bear will save two seats for a couple of Canuck Cubbies.
This wasn’t the way the Chicago Cubs were supposed to finish out the 2016 season at home, with a loss? The Professor Kyle Hendricks took the loss against those always frustrating Milwaukee Brewers at a score of 3-1. Despite a great game where the hurler struck out nine, the Cubs struggled to get runs.
“Here’s a guy who we have not supported run-wise a lot this year,” Maddon said. “He definitely pitched well enough to win. It’s just unfortunate. He didn’t have his best stuff, but nine punchouts and two runs over six innings is a pretty good day.”
Maddon’s right. There was no run support for the pitcher and when it comes to October, this could prove extremely frustrating for the North Siders. The Cubs rank 10th in Batting Average with runners in scoring position. Those aren’t great odds when it comes to the post season. This is an area of concern that’s plagued the Cubs before and you know something? It’s not going to get much better going forth unless they change their approach.
“We’re always trying to win. We’re always trying to do what we can approach-wise and get our pitch to hit. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances of the game are. We’re playing for ourselves, playing for each other and playing for home-field advantage in general. We respect the game. We haven’t done anything yet.” said Jason Heyward.
That may be so, but it doesn’t explain how a team could lose to a bottom feeding division rival this late in the season. This is the time of the year when playoff teams should be warming up towards October. Am I mad?
The Cubs should have had that series. Milwaukee is terrible, and the Cubs should have ran up the score against them, unleash the beast and practice stuff that they could have done next month.
“The game is not an easy game. You’re going to run into teams playing well,” Heyward said. “People would be talking about the Brewers making a push to make the playoffs if this was the first half. Sometimes there is less pressure on a team and they play better when they have nothing to lose.”
The Cubs are clawing their way to the top. it’s not enough for them to just finish at the top of their division, they must win first in the National League.
“It’s important to win,” Heyward said, looking at the question more in the abstract. “They don’t fly a ‘W’ for no reason. We don’t celebrate every win out here for no reason. That’s the bottom line, it’s important to win. If you go out there every day as if you’re going to put your best foot forward, then you don’t have to worry about anything else. That’s been the biggest thing, to kind of keep it where we don’t have to think too much. If you want to win, that means you want to keep the best record in baseball.”
Either there were a lot of hangovers in the clubhouse or Jake Arrieta isn’t quite the indestructible machine he was last season, although he’ll still collect at least 17 wins this year. Yesterday’s 11-3 loss against the Milwaukee Brewers was not just a tough loss but a loss that only a day earlier, Tom Ricketts stated that, “Even when we lose, it’s by one run.”
So much for that idea.
“I just need to find that comfort with the sinker in the strike zone, first pitch, and after that, it opens up a lot of doors,” Arrieta said. “It has a lot to do with the guy who’s in the box and the execution. It needs to be better early in the counts to prevent guys from taking pitches and getting into 2-1, 3-1 counts. I just need to tighten that up moving forward. I have a couple starts before October, and just to prepare for that, that’s the mindset.”
When people say he won’t make twenty wins and being the first Cubs pitcher to have back to back 20 win campaigns, he’s still been freakin’ awesome and should be proud of what he and the Cubs have been doing this year.
“Twenty is great, but at the same time, the position I’m in with our team is more rewarding,” Arrieta said about being a part of the NL Central champs. “It stinks to lose the game and get the loss and let the lead slip away the way I let it, but at the end of the day, I’ll come out here tomorrow, learn from it and get back to work.”
The Cubs were off to a 3-0 start but the lead was squandered due to the most hated man in baseball Ryan (I still haven’t given back that MVP award) Braun who by the end of the game, collected 5 RBI’S and 2 HR. Does it really count? C’mon!
Today is a new day and Cubs player’s have taken their hangover cures as Kyle Hendricks takes to the mound after a fantastic start earlier in the week where he carried a no hitter into the ninth inning. He has been the feels good story of the year. It’s an important game today for Hendricks, who hopes to keep pace in the Cy Young contention but it’s an important game today because the Cubs need to finish first to gain home field through the National League playoffs.
“We want to have the best record in baseball,” Maddon said. “Does it matter at the end of the day? We’ll find out. Competitively speaking, who you are as an athlete and what you do, you want to be the best.”
I’d like to give a shout to the Ottawa Champions Can Am League Baseball team. They’re located in Canada’s capital. They’re my hometown team and in their second year in the Can Am League, they won the League championship over Rockland Boulders 3-1 in game five. Congratulations, I know you’ll be cheering on the Cubs.
The man who struggled all season long and was in danger of missing out in October came through yesterday. Miguel Montero clobbered the ball in the 10th inning with a home run and give the Cubs a 5-4 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.
Then the party started.
“This is what we work for,” Montero said after spraying champagne in the clubhouse and dancing with his teammates. “A lot of people play for many years in the big leagues and never get that chance to experience something like that. It’s a great experience and great feeling. I’m proud of every single guy on the team.”
The Cubs officially clinched the National League Central Division yesterday in style. Everybody was talking about it being inevitable but for the Cubs to clinch this early is still a remarkable achievement. For the players, the Chicago Cubs hardworking staff who tirelessly work their butts off every game day to ensure that all of us fans have the ultimate experience at one of baseball’s most hallowed grounds, and us fans, it was pure bliss seeing the Flying W wrapped around the players in their celebratory photo shoot. Hell, Theo Epstein watched from the stands.
“Normally we’re in a suite and it’s very standard type of deal, where we’re watching the game and keeping an eye on things. To enjoy the real Wrigley Field and sit out there, feel the breeze, be among the fans, have a beer, it was wonderful. Even better than I thought it was going to be.” Epstein said.
Anyone who’s had the privilege of going to Wrigley Field agree with what he said. There’s a rumour going around that David Ross walked the neighbourhood after Thursday’s loss in search of the Giants/Cardinals game. When he found a spot to cool his jets with a beer, the bartender recognized him and proclaimed, “Shots all around!”
That’s what the Chicago Cubs have meant to the fans in Chicago and abroad. It’s been such a cool season and they can very well coast the rest of the way, but why should they? The next step is first overall.
In fact, it was extremely fitting that the Cubs won in that way. To come from behind and a walk off home run. That’s the Cubs’ way.
“The camaraderie, the chemistry, even hanging out outside the field, it’s really a close bunch of guys,” pitcher Kyle Hendricks said. “It’s a special group of guys. We have veteran leaders, and a lot of great young players who just put the work in. Humble guys, all they want to do is come to the ballpark and win.”
Come to the ballpark and win. That’s a great attitude and one that was very different a few years ago. It was a few years ago when the Cubs just wanted to compete with the best, but now it’s to win.
“This is unique,” Maddon said. “I’d heard it before — [a player told me] everybody should be a Cub at some point in their Major League existence if they had the opportunity. There’s nothing like it. … To play here under these circumstances, in this ballpark, with these fans is different in all the best ways.”
Congratulations Chicago Cubs on becoming the 2016 Central Division Champions!
It wasn’t the best way to clinch the National League Central Division but after the Cubs lost to the Milwaukee Brewers 5-4 they had to watch the St. Louis Cardinals. That’s right, the Cubs watched the Cardinals lose to the San Francisco Giants 6-2. There were no champagne corks bouncing off of the ceiling, no plastic laid on the dressing room floors and no goggle wearing Jake Arrieta shaking a bottle and spraying Jon Lester but they’re in.
“It would have been wonderful to do that for the fans right there,” Maddon said. “We were unable to do so. That’s part of the uncontrollable nature of the game.”
They’ll have to hold on to the celebrations for another day, that’s all. As for their loss to the Brewers, the Cubs played a good game despite the score. Jorge Soler was ready to party after sending a rocket into the stands for a take home in the second but the Brewers bounced back.
“Last year was exactly the same,” Cubs catcher Miguel Montero said after Thursday’s game. “Regardless, we have to come back tomorrow and win the ballgame. We’ve been playing good enough to not quit now. We want to keep rolling.”
There’s no need to rest on laurels after the the clinch. You see, one of the pesky parts about the now important All Star Game is that the winner gets home field advantage during the World Series. I like the idea,but the Cubs won’t have it this season because of the American League winning the summer classic. However, the Cubs have an opportunity to gain home field advantage if they can snag first overall. The magic number is 10 for that. Any combinations of wins/losses by the Cubs or the Washington Nationals will secure that advantage.
“The Cardinals won 100 games last year,” Lester said. “No matter what you do during the season, it’s nice, it’s fun, it’s the process, but what matters here is another month. What this team will be remembered for is next month, not during the season and how many wins and all that stuff.”
Leave it to Jon Lester to bring us down to earth. He’s right. Next month is a whole new ballgame. It doesn’t matter that the Chicago Cubs have been in first place all but one day this year. When the team that pops champagne at the end of October hoists that trophy, it’s going to be about what they did in October. The pitching, the offence and the error free defence that will get them to the end of the month. The acrobatic grabs Anthony Rizzo made this year mean nothing now.
“To be this young, to be this good, that’s the part that’s a little bit different to me,” Maddon said Thursday. “That’s the part that really stands out. … Everybody’s saying how good we are, and that’s wonderful, but I’m telling you, these guys are going to get better. They are that good. They deserve every moment they’re going to have this season, but they are going to get better. They just need more experience. As they gain more experience, we are going to get better.”
One game and the Cubs can clinch their division. Yesterday, the Cubs defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in a 7-0 romp of their Central Division rivals. Jon Lester was incredible through eight shutout innings and Anthony Rizzo crushed two home runs to seal the deal.
“Everybody talked about [clinching] coming into St. Louis, and we had a chance,” Lester said. “We have to focus on the baseball side when we show up to play. Obviously, it’s right there in front of us. We have to try to win [Thursday].”
It would have been nice if Kyle Hendricks got the no hitter and it would have been amazingly poignant that the Cubs clinched their division in St. Louis but now they must settle against doing it versus the Milwaukee Brewers. At least it’ll be on home turf and the friendly folks down on Addison will rejoice and fill the streets with all the noise. We know that the Cubs are going to win the division unless catastrophe strikes, but what about finishing the regular season with the best record in baseball?
“I’m just worried about winning the division, and keep moving from there,” Maddon said. “If you win it, it’s easy. It’s beautiful, the prose is written, everybody’s wonderful, praise occurs. That’s one way. If it weren’t to occur, then it’s up to whomever wants to write whatever they want to write [and] what their perception is.”
The Cubs season is magical on so many levels. Even yesterday’s David Ross home run with he hit it farther then Anthony Rizzo at 429 is a monumental achievement of sorts.
“Can we get that in the paper somewhere?” Ross said. “[It was] 429, and I think I got it more than that. I’ll let [Rizzo] know.”
In the last of a long road trip, the Cubs head back to Wrigley to accomplish what hasn’t been done since 2008. They’ve got the one and two ERA leader on their team, 3rd place in wins with Lester and Jake Arrieta tied, second and fourth place pitchers in WHIP. They have the runs leader in Kris Bryant, and the National League wins leader in Arrieta. I mean holy crap, this is an historic team even if they don’t win that coveted trophy.
“I can imagine that for those people following us really closely, watching all the games, coming to a lot of games, that this is a sweet time for them to really enjoy the moment,” said first-year Cub Ben Zobrist, who mentioned that teammates talked in recent days of clinching on the Cardinals. “I think for the guys that have been here for a while and have endured some of the trouncings they’ve taken here in the past from the Cardinals, that might be sweet for some of those guys. But for the rest of us, it would be probably even sweeter to do it at home.”
Game time is 8:05 Eastern. The beer will be cold.
Hey Chicago, what do you say?