Results tagged ‘ Chicago Cubs ’

The Gloves Come Off in Cubs Sweep of Pirates

Chicago Cubs

Has anyone been able to figure out Chicago Cubs’ ace pitcher, Jon Lester? Yeah, neither have I. He pitched 5+ innings of great ball. The Cubs swept their rival Pittsburgh Pirates in a 6-2 victory. Lester was incredible and the Cubs are looking more and more like the World Series favourites in this young season.

“We pitched really well, and we’ve done that the whole year,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “The offense was good again, but the part that permits the offense to get into the flow of the game is the pitching has been so good. We’ve been able to stay at least even most of the time or on top of the other side, and offensively, we keep having good at-bats during the course of the game and then have a chance to wear people down by the end. That’s pretty much been [the] road map to this point.”

So would somebody tell me why does Jon Lester continually not throw to first?

I say continually because like last year, Lester threw his glove with the ball inside, to Anthony Rizzo.

Not technically illegal, but still, why can’t he toss the ball and keep his glove?

Anyways, as long as it gets the job done.

Pitching is one thing, but the run differential that the Cubs are amassing this season is incredible. They’re not just winning series after series but they’re downright demolishing other teams. Their run differential is unreal. They’re averaging 6.12 runs per game!

“I feel like we constantly put pressure on the other team,” Cubs catcher David Ross said. “I don’t think we’re waiting for our break, obviously that’s what you are striving to do, is play clean games. We get a little break there and the three-run shot by Zobrist.”

They can get depth from every player. Sure, Jason Heyward was a big offseason signing, but they got him for his defence.

“The fact that we can give Jason [Heyward] some rest and still play well is a good thing,” Maddon said. “Go up and down the lineup — everyone is contributing.”

Even the pitchers are outhitting some DH’s in the American League.

I was a little sceptical but after yesterday’s win, I think the Cubs can maintain their winning ways throughout the season.

“I don’t think anybody in here views any series different from any other,” Jake Arrieta told the Tribune’s Paul Sullivanon Sunday. “I don’t. I think everybody here has a pretty good understanding there’s not a game throughout the season that isn’t important.” Looking ahead at the May schedule, certainly the Cubs will face tougher opponents, but the focus will remain the same—raise the W flag. Keep your eye on the prize.

Believe it

 

 

Cubs Kick Sand In Pirates’ Face

Chicago Cubs

There was a time being a Chicago Cubs fan meant being treated like that kid in the back of those comic books, you know the kid who gets sand kicked in his face every time he tries to ask out the girl, play beach volleyball or just minding his own business.

Chicago Cubs

This year is that day. People aren’t laughing at the “Lovable Losers” anymore. Last night Jake Arrieta earned his sixth victory of the season on route to a 7-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. The last time a Cubs pitcher won his first six starts, a three fingered guy named Mordecai”Three Finger” Brown did it. I don’t have to tell you how long ago that was but when a guy has a name like Three Finger, you know the Model T was a pipe dream.

“I think the turnover is so fast,” Arrieta said. “I have to come out tommorow and get ready for my next start back at Wrigley Field, so you try and enjoy it, but it’s short lived because of the goals that we have here. We play so many games, so it’s smart to turn the page as quick as possible and get on to the next work day.”

The thing that is working so well for Arrieta is he does it from all sides. Whether it’s jogging to first to help Anthony Rizzo with the out or taking his At Bat, the guy is a true definition of the Workhorse pitcher.

“The last couple games he struggled with his command.” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “I thought he righted himself pretty well tonight. I thought, and I don’t know this for sure, but he might have backed off velocity-wise to gain command. By the end of the game that ball was moving a lot and you could see some of the takes by Pirate hitters, and they were strikes.”

For years, the National League Central belonged to the St Louis Cardinals or one of the other teams with the rare occurrence of a Cubs team making a push, but this season the distance between the competition is getting larger and larger. The Cubs are five games ahead of Pittsburgh and seven games ahead of the Cardinals. However, before we hand over the championship to the North Siders an expert warns,

“We interrupt the coronation of the Cubs to remind you that the NL Central features two other contenders with powerful offences.” Ken Rosenthal from Fox Sports.

This is the Cubs after all, and no matter how strong their team is in spring, it’s that season when the days are hot and the nights cool that really matter. When children are back in school telling their friends how awesome their summer was, it’s that time of year when their friends believe the cool stories of the lazy crazy days.

Not going to lie to you, I’m excited for the Cubs but there’s a skeptic in me, a little crack in the belief, then it gets healed when I see that Ivy.

Believe it.

Cubs and Pirates Renew Rivalry

David Ross

Sure, there’s a lot of history between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs, but beginning last year, the bad blood that’s been spilled between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cubs stemming from the Wild Card matchup is beginning to boil over.

Last night, the Cubs faced the Pirates for the first time since that infamous Wild Card game in October and like that game, the Cubs came out on top with a 7-2 dominating performance.

Let me get this out of the way first. There’s a lot to like about the Pittsburgh Pirates, in fact a piece of them I’ll always carry with me going way back to those really cool stove top hats of the late seventies and early eighties.  That, and they’re similar to the Cubs in their approach. They’ve got a great manager in Clint Hurdle and some really exciting players with Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregor Polanco.

But—

This is a Cubs blog.

“It’s an actual organic rivalry,” Maddon said. “I really don’t like contrived rivalries. I have no time for that. This is legitimate. It’s gone on for many years. I think it’s great. It’s great for baseball, it’s great for the fanbases. It’s great for the players, it’s interesting. It’s pertinent. I really enjoy that stuff.”

That Wild Card game last October spilled out last night. With heroes like Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist and even David Ross who got two RBI’s all showing the Pirates how it’s done.

But the fun didn’t stop there when Joe Maddon decided to use MLB’s New Takeout Rule in the seventh inning after Clint Hurdle did a successful challenge erasing a double play.

“I had no clue what I was doing,” Maddon said. “I just knew I could challenge. At that particular juncture, why not? Give it a roll. Bottom of the seventh inning, who knows what they’re going to think?”

Tonight should be the matchup Cubs fans have been waiting seven months for when Jake Arrieta returns to face his nemesis. The Cy Young winner and April’s newly crowned Player of The Month. He pitched a 4-0 shutout in that game, can he do it again?

“When you bring it up,” Arrieta said. “That was a neat experience and it was something that was huge for us as a team and for the organization, but it was short lived and we’ve moved on and played the Cardinals and the Mets [in the NLDS and the NL Championship Series] and our season was cut a little bit short. But we’re in a better spot now this early in the season and we like where we are.”

Believe it

 

Cubs Lose in Extra To Braves

John Lackey

 

That was a close game. Even though the Cubs lost to the Atlanta Braves in extra innings 4-3, it was exciting. You can’t win them all, right?

“We did a lot of things well,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We had one mistake on defense, and I thought it was a little bit of a tough hop for Addy, but otherwise, they hit some balls well today, and we hit some balls well today without any luck. I appreciate how our guys came back and had a chance to win the game. It was another entertaining game from the fans’ perspective. I like the fight in our group.”

Listen, I’m not a huge Atlanta Braves fan, Never have been and never will. I don’t know what it is about them that turns my stomach, but there’s just this “Blech!”feeling overtime I watch them play. It could be all those years on TBS. I don’t know.

Now that John Lackey is with the good guys, I’ve had more opportunity to take a look at him and man, he’s earned my respect. He’s tough as nails, especially after those few choice words he said to Tyler Flowers in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Ok, so to recap a bit, Lackey threw a high pitch and then there were a some words exchanged that were the equivalent of Potty words that my son would say.

“We had a little discussion,” Lackey said. “It’s still baseball. I’m not a pitching machine. If you want me to throw it over the plate for you, we can go somewhere else. This is the big leagues.”

Lackey’s a big guy. He throws me a pitch, I’m going to say,”Which way would you like me to move, sir.”

The great news was that Kris Bryant was back after a precautionary rest when he sprained his ankle. I got a little worried that he might be out of the Cubs lineup a little longer.

“Felt good,” Kris Bryant said. “I think that was their concern, if I could run down some balls out there. But I felt fine going through all the routes.”

Cubs take to the road and head to Pittsburgh in an apparent theme trip. I’m excited because we head to Steeltown in July to catch the Cubs/Pirates.

Joe Maddon has the players dressed in crazy suits and it’s certainly going to be a crazy series after last season’s Wild Card game and we all know how that ended, didn’t we?

“I think we all enjoy going there because we know we’re going to play a high-quality team,” said Arrieta, who will start Tuesday’s game. “We know that in order to beat these guys, we’ve got to be on top of our game, we’ve got to play good defense because we know their lineup is strong. They’ve got the ability to do a lot of things — they can run, hit for power, they can move guys around. Being able to neutralize that team in Pittsburgh is a challenge.”

Believe it.

Chicago Cubs Tops In April

Chicago Cubs

Well, that was an April to remember. The Chicago Cubs had one of the best April’s in team history, going 17-5 and they’re on pace to have 125 win season. I doubt they’ll reach that number, but the fantasy of it coming to fruition is pretty amazing.

“Everybody is talking about the offense, but primarily the pitching and defense has set this up,” manager Joe Maddon said.

Two key areas the Cubs needed improvement on over the last couple of years was their patience at the plate and those RISP’s. This season has shown a marked improvement in those categories. The Cubs have outscored the competition 136-57 and drawn a league leading 121 walks. Not surprisingly, the Cubs are second in the MLB in runs with 136. I say not surprisingly because they trail the St. Louis Cardinals.

“These pitchers just can’t keep making that many good pitches if you force them to throw so many,” Maddon said. “That’s part of the concept people don’t get into enough. It’s not easy to keep dotting corners, getting the breaking balls underneath the bat, elevating when you want to.”

Another least surpassing statistic is pitching. The Cubs are second behind the Washington Nationals in ERA with 2.39 It’s going to be hard to keep that number down as the season wears on, but the Cubs have been outstanding.

So with that being said, the bullpen is the area that can suffer because of the great pitching the Cubs have been doing. The bullpen hasn’t seen much action this season because of this. As much as I’m a fan of pitchers going deep into games and getting no hitters, yeah that’s right Jake, I’m talking to you. Give the bullpen a chance.

“More than anything, it’s about the bullpen,” Maddon said. “The bullpen has not been by any means overtaxed during the first month of the season. We talked about that in spring training. We talked about it every year, not overworking the bullpen in the first month. So they’ve not been tested a whole lot.”

That could be a problem.

“The starters, they’ve just done a really wonderful job,” Maddon said. “A couple guys have had a couple blips, but for the most part, you can’t ask for a better month out of the entire group, starting and relieving.”

All right, some Sunday musing.

Ok, I collect baseball cards. It’s something I’ve been doing for the last ten years. I don’t have the biggest collection, but I have a focus to what I’d like to achieve. Yesterday, I added Kyle Schwarber to the wall. Now I have Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Addison Russell‘s rookie cards up on the wall. I’m not into collecting all the various formats, just the regular old Topps cards. Sure, I could run out and get the complete set, but that just wouldn’t be collecting now, would it? It’s a fun hobby and it looks great in the man cave.

Right now, I’m trying to get a 2016 Media Guide of the Cubs. I’ve phoned the hotline, but all I get is the answering machine. I leave my info, but nobody calls back. If anyone has any information on getting a media guide, let me know.

Believe it.

 

Szczur Comes Through In Grand Fashion, Lester Needs To Get A Grip

Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs’ Matt Szczur watches his grand slam during the eighth inning a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, Friday, April 29, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

Good teams win ball games but great teams find ways to win in close games. Yesterday, the Chicago Cubs did just that as Matt Szczur found a way to help his team come through and defeat the Atlanta Braves 6-1.

It was a Grand Slam. It was his first career Grand Slam. It was magnificent.

It was fitting that Szczur connected with the ball during the game. He’s the type of guy the Cubs rely on in these situations. The type of guy who fills in when others are injured, and the type of guy who provides that depth that the Cubs are proud of on the team.

“He’s kind of a manager’s, a coach’s dream player,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He stays ready, he’s very versatile. There’s so many good things about him. The last step for him was for him to realize he belongs in the Major Leagues and he could do this. You could hear it conversationally. He talks differently. He’s more confident. … Once you know it, you can do well here.”

But then maybe it’s the excitement of being in the Cubs organization this season. There’s an electricity that carries itself throughout the clubhouse and connects with the players. Could it make the player more focused and able to go yard in a bases loaded situation?

“I want to be the best guy off the bench,” Szczur said. “I feel it’s the same thing for everybody else on the team. We just want to make an impact.”

If there is an Achilles Heel on the Cubs team this season, then it’s got to be Jon Lester. I’m not talking about his pitching. We know he’s got the stuff of champions, but it’s that inability to throw to first that is wreaking havoc on a Cubs rotation.

In the seventh inning, Lester struggled with a bunt off of Erick Aybar and he never recovered.

“No matter what I say about the bunt in that inning, nobody’s really going to believe what I say,” Lester said. “You know, I never had a handle on it. I fielded it. The ball kind of rattled around in my glove and I reached for it twice and didn’t have a handle on it. I ate it. You can believe me or not on that. But there’s no point in rushing a throw when I don’t have a handle on the throw.”

I believe him, but the question everyone needs to ask is why?

Why does Lester have problems throwing to first and how can he fix it? Without knocking the guy, I don’t understand how a pitcher with one area of concern, can’t seem to get a grip on the problem?

It’s early in the season, but I’d bet a dime to a Loonie that Lester will be a reason the Cubs might not hoist that shining trophy in October.

Believe it.

Arrieta and The Cubs Roll Out The Barrels

Jake Arrieta

Jake Arrieta didn’t get a back to back no hitter but the Chicago Cubs still came out on top of the Milwaukee Brewers, Arrieta improves to 5-0 and the Cubs are off to their best start since 1907.

It’s hard to think of yesterday’s performance by Arrieta to be a case of, “Meh?” but it’s those expectations of the dominant North Sider that fans and critics have come to believe in.

He could have pitched the whole game being the iron dude that he’s become, but so what if Bob Gibson’s record wasn’t broken for quality starts(Gibson has 26, Arrieta at 24). I’m not in these athletes position and I’m sure Jake’s feeling a little bummed this morning but baseball is first and foremost a team sport, so Jake had a good run and the Cubs won another series, they’re off to their best start since before the Titanic sunk and Arrieta’s ERA is 1.00.

That is awesome.

“In this position last year, I might have been a little more frustrated with that decision,” Arrieta said. “I think it was 92 pitches after five, and I really had to work through that outing. You take everything into consideration and the extra off-days and the rainout [Wednesday], cold weather, extended pitch counts, long first inning — it is the right way to go. Our most important ballgames are still ahead of us. From this point moving forward, we’re still lined up well.”

Cubs’ 2015 Rookie of the Year, Kris Bryant  will undergo an MRI to see if there was any further damage to his leg after he hobbled out of the fourth inning and the game. Let’s hope it’s not serious.

Then there was David Ross. On his farewell tour, he hit his second home run of the season and needs two more to reach that coveted 100 spot. If he reaches that milestone, it’ll be quite the retirement party. Last week, he was caught his first no hitter and is on his way to having his best season.

“Two more,” Ross said. “I’m trying not to think about it. I’m a lot happier with my approach this year and feel so much better in the box. At least I’m contributing and working at-bats and making guys throw more than three pitches to get me out. [My teammates] pride themselves in going out there and being tough outs, I just want to be in the mix.”

The Cubs are 16-5. It’s still early in the season but the injuries are piling up with Kris Schwarber, Kris Bryant and Miguel Montero. I’m not worried because the depth is there but just a little concerned. Can the Cubs keep up their winning ways? Arrieta is 5-0 to start the season. Will beat his win total from last year and most importantly,

Will the Cubs go all the way?

Believe it.

Russell Powers The Cubs Past Brewers

Addison Russell

 

If you look up the statistics, triples are a lot more difficult to get then home runs. Very rarely, do you see a player with more than 10 triples in a season. In fact, Curtis Grandson is the only active player with over 20 in a season. Last night, Addison Russell came through when the Chicago Cubs needed him most by destroying a two run triple in the sixth inning as the Chicago Cubs went on to down the Milwaukee Brewers 4-3.

Now, I’m only a little bit superstitious but the Cubs are off to their best start since 1907 with a  15-5 record.

“He’s not shy,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Well, he’s shy, but he’s not shy. He’s not afraid of that moment. He hits that gap in big moments, that right-central gap. This last road trip, the part I liked about his at-bats was that he was accepting walks. A big part of what you’re seeing now is that he’s swinging at better pitches.”

That’s what the Cubs have been doing. With a league leading 103 walks, the Cubs are getting on base and playing great small ball. It really doesn’t matter how you get on base as long as you get on and keep moving the runners. Do you remember a couple of years ago when the Cubs were horrible with runners in scoring position? The Cubs have been solving that problem this year. Second in the league with 116 RBI’s just slightly behind league leaders St. Louis Cardinals.

That’s how you win ballgames.

I was blown away by the pitching of Kyle Hendricks.  His pitching is fast and surgeon like. A low baller, with no style, he got to work in the cold confines of Wrigley Field and lasted for five innings. When he was pulled, although he could have gone deeper in the game, he was a professional.

“I want to say about Kyle right there, a lot of guys would’ve been crying, a lot of guys, ‘Why me?'” Maddon said. “He did not do that for one second. He understood the situation completely. I want to tell you that doesn’t happen every time. He was pitching great. There was no reason to take him out. It was a National League move entirely right there, it’s a National League move with the wind blowing in your face. … I really commend him for getting it.”

He’s the perfect pitcher for the five slot and arguably the best bottom of the rotation pitcher in the game.

Which sets the stage for tonight’s game with Jake Arrieta. Will he make it two in a row? Before last night’s game, Jake was presented with a watch, framed jersey and photos of his big day. With Arrieta’s recent success, there’s been some rumblings on the use of performance enhancing drugs. It’s hard not to get the rumour mill turning when a guy pitches two no-hitters in 11 outings.

“I think it’s funny,” he said. “I’ve always been in good shape. I just sucked early in my career from a statistical perspective. My body has always been very similar to how it is now. The results are different, so people want to question things. That’s the nature of sports.”

Say it ain’t so, Jake.

Believe it.

The Unofficial Blogger of The Chicago Cubs In Canada

Chicago Cubs

The love fest continues for Jake Arrieta. Yesterday, he was named “National League Player of the Week” add that to his growing collection of trophies and accolades.

Now, being the tried and true blue Chicago Cubs fan that I am, waiting for the wheels to fall off or some other tired cliche of things that could happen this season, I’m sceptical that this streak of success will continue.

Of course he’s going to have bad games, that’s a given but let’s just enjoy the ride while we’re still on it.

“It feels different the second time,” Arrieta said. “I was a little more relaxed as the game progressed. Based on the way I threw the ball before the game started, I anticipated having to grind through some at-bats and some innings a little more than I did. I was able to get the ball in on left-handed hitters for some called strikes and then go below the strike zone when I needed to for some big swings and misses. You put it all together and have conviction with what you’re throwing out there and good things can happen.”

Now, it’s easy to say that both the Washington Nationals and the Cubs have had easy games so far, with records of 14-4 and 14-5, but nothing is a sure thing. The Cubs have set out to deliver on their promise that they just don’t want to compete anymore, they’re in it for the long haul of making it to the end of October.

So, what is it with the chemistry that the Cubs have together?

“I think it’s because how close our group is,” Anthony Rizzo said. “Jake throws a no-hitter and 20 guys are hanging out at the hotel.”

Just as the Cubs are on a quest for the World Series and end all droughts and curses, I’m on a quest of my own to be recognized as the “Unofficial Blogger of The Chicago Cubs in Canada” Sure, it’s self promotion and maybe a little bit lame, but I want that title Officially/Unofficially. To be known as the flag waver of the North Siders across the border in the Great White North of Canada, would be an honour(notice the spelling) and a privilege. When the Cubs finally hoist that trophy of flags up high, I want the Chicago Cubs to know that they’ve got huge support North of Lake Michigan.

If you want to have this title bestowed on me, tag it #CanuckCubbie with “Eh!” and share it around.

Believe it!

Rizzo Gets Two As Cubs Bring The Hammer Down

Anthony Rizzo

It almost seemed like the loss that the Cubs took from the Reds awoke a sleeping Giant(I’ll save this for their series against San Francisco). Yesterday, the Cubs came roaring back and pummelled the Reds 9-0.

Anthony Rizzo put on a hitting clinic by hitting two home runs. Rizzo is a hitting machine this season going yard eight times. He’s in good company and now belongs in the top 20 all time Cubs with 109 moon shots. He’s only 26.

“It’s just baseball,” Rizzo said. “I opened up my stance a little bit but nothing out of the ordinary.”

On the other side of the plate, Jason Hammel pitched six scoreless innings giving up only three to improve his record to 3-0. The Cubs are in third place with an ERA of 2.51 and second in strikeouts. Hammel is second in the majors in ERA with .75.

“The offence gives us chances to go out there and be aggressive in the strike zone,” Hammel said. “Where you usually get into trouble is when you’re not throwing strikes. As a starting staff, we want to be the backbone, we want to be that foundation. I feel we’ve done a good job of that so far.”

It’s funny because my spell check picked up “Hammer” instead of Hammel.

With the win, the Cubs sit at second place overall and first in the National league Central division.

The difference with the Cubs this season is they’re hitting the ball a lot. Wayne Gretzky once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Well, it’s the same in baseball. Is there a different approach to the way the Cubs have been outscoring their opponents in 2016? Is it more batting practice?

“If they need it, go ahead and do it,” said Joe Maddon. “We have cages inside that accomplish the same thing. If you want to see where the ball goes, come outside. Guys working on hitting the other way or keeping the ball out of the air, do it outside. But, just to come out here and stretch out … not a big advocate of that.”

The Cubs return to Wrigley Field tomorrow when the’ll host the Milwaukee Brewers. Kyle Hendricks gets the start. Although, Hendricks is 1-2 for the season, I believe we haven’t seen what Hendricks can do. The success of the first four will determine how he can improve. Tomorrow could be a turning point in Hendricks’ season.

Believe it.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 352 other followers

%d bloggers like this: