Chicago Cubs, Jake Arrieta, Jonathan Herrera, Wrigley Field

Cubs Sweep Mets behind Arrieta, Herrera; Hold Mets to One Run in Series

The Cubs bats finally woke up today, although against the hapless Mets, it didn’t really matter all that much. Jonathan Herrera, filling in for Kris Bryant who had the day off at third, led the charge after putting down a sacrifice bunt to the pitcher that scored the game’s first run. He added a two-run […]

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Chicago Cubs, Joe Maddon, Kyle Hendricks

Cubs Get Back on Track as Hendricks Goes Six Strong

Posted on 01 July 2015

The Cubs snapped their recent five game losing streak with a 1-0 win Tuesday night vs. the Mets at Citi Field thanks in large part to Kyle Hendricks’ six strong innings of three-hit ball, a lights-out bullpen, and some Maddon “Magic”. Hendricks bounced back from his three game slump to keep the Mets at bay all evening; never allowing a runner past second base and striking out six.

KH vs. NY Mets

“Today was much better as far as mentally,” Hendricks said, “just focusing, making every single pitch.”

The Cubs bullpen backed him tremendously with Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, and Jason Motte each pitching an inning of no-hit, no-walk ball for the Cubs to claim their first win in a week.  Unfortunately, the Cubs continue to struggle to produce runs as they have scored just seven runs total in their last six games, while going 4 for 37 with RISP until Tuesday night. Luckily, they were still able to out-duel the Mets who have struggled even worse than the Cubs have to hit and score; producing the winning run on a Matt Sczcur sixth-inning, two-out double to deep left center that enabled Kris Bryant to cross the plate.

“A 1-0 win is always pretty spectacular, but we still have to do a better job offensively,”  Cubs skipper Joe Maddon said. “I know they’re saying the same thing on the other side.”

Spectacular is one way to put it; magical is another. After a tough weekend in St. Louis, Maddon decided that the Cubs needed a positive distraction to loosen them up a bit and forget about their losing streak. He brought in a magician to perform for the team before the game, a tactic that harkens back to his days in Tampa where he was known for such unconventional, psychological exercises. The intent was to take the pressure off his team and for a night, it worked.

“Just trying to lighten things up a little bit,” Maddon said. “We’re always trying to create some magic around here, so why not bring a magician in?”

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 05:  Manager Joe Maddon #70 of the Chicago Cubs looks on before a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on June 5, 2015 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Correlating the win with the pregame stunt is a fool’s errand as such things are hardly quantifiable, but in speaking with players, the guys who go out and make it happen, they found Maddon’s trick to be humorous as well as helpful. Whose to say that ploys such as these, however silly and small, don’t make a difference for guys looking to bounce back from adversity?

“I just felt more comfortable and, I’m sure the guys felt the same, because he kind of tones it down a little bit, lets you relax,” Matt Szczur said about Maddon. “It was a fun time.”

Fun times are what Cubs fans are looking for and they got a taste of it last week. Maybe this week the Cubs will work a little magic of their own.

Next Up:

Jon Lester takes on Bartolo Colon at 6:10PM CST tonight.

Let’s Go Cubs!

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Chicago Cubs, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks

Cubs Slide Hits Five After Weekend Sweep in St. Louis

Posted on 29 June 2015

The Cubs has us all riding high less than a week ago after besting Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke on back to back nights to rise to nine games over .500 , but that shine wore off quickly as they dropped their next two contests and headed to St. Louis for a weekend series with the Cardinals, AKA the best team in baseball,  where that stumble became a skid after the Cards swept these young Cubs and extended their losing streak to five games.

Wong

On Friday night the Cubs put up a good fight behind Jake Arrieta’s strong seven innings of three-hit, one-run ball. They even took a 2-1 lead heading into the bottom of the eighth inning, but those plucky Cards battled back to tie it, then take the victory in ten innings after Justin Grimm loaded the bases and Mike Baxter’s throwing error on a fielder’s choice from Johnny Peralta allowed Peter Bourjos to score the winning run.

Saturday’s result was the opposite as the Cards cruised 8 – 1 with the Cubs calling up Donn Roach from Triple A for a spot start and lasting only 3 and 1/3 innings.  Sunday wasn’t much better as the Cards took the game 4-1 and swept the series after outscoring the Cubs 15 – 4 over the weekend. Four runs. In a series.  That won’t get you many wins, especially against these Cards who now boast a 51 – 24 record; a solid 27 games over .500 with an 11.5 game lead over the third-place Cubs. This may have officially put the division out of reach but the way the Cardinals are playing, that was bound to happen sooner or later, probably sooner.

There were few positives to take away from the weekend and sometimes a team just need to ride out the bumps in the road, keep their nose to the grindstone, and find a way to get back on track. While this has been the Cub’s longest losing streak of the season, a silver lining has to be that it has taken this long to experience such a streak.  This team is still talented, and is still very much in contention for a wild-card spot.

Let’s hope that after taking a day off to collect themselves, the Cubs can bounce back against the Mets in NYC. Kyle Hendricks takes the mound tomorrow vs. Jonathon Niese. First pitch is 6:00PM CST.

Go Cubs Go!

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Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs, Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks

Turner, Gonzalez Help Dodgers Turn Back Cubs; Look for Split

Posted on 25 June 2015

Justin Turner hit a three run homer in the third inning to follow up Adrian Gonzalez’s solo-shot in the second which was more than enough to turn back the Cubs 5 – 2 last night at Wrigley Field against the struggling Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks lasted just five innings in giving up four runs on four hits; another disappointing outing for the second year starter at a time when the Cubs need quality starts badly. His rough patch has ballooned his ERA to 4.46 after too many big hits.

Justin Turner

“I thought I was turning it around there for a little bit, but the last two starts, just giving my team zero chance to win, which is pathetic, really,” he said after the game.

The Cubs managed just two runs on Addison Russell’s fifth inning double and Anthony Rizzo’s same-inning, double-play RBI which was not enough to make up for Hendrick’s mistakes.

While Hendricks is on a down-turn, the Dodgers’ Justin Turner is on a tear. His home run was his fourth in his last six games as he is currently batting .320 and showing no signs of slowing down.  The result was disappointing for the Cubs who came in hoping to earn a series victory after posting two consecutive victories over the Dodgers best arms in Kershaw and Greinke. Now a split seems like the probable result as the Cubs are down 4 – 0 through eight innings today.

Jon Lester has lasted only four innings while giving up an almost identical stat line to Hendrick’s outing yesterday; allowing four runs on four hits while also issuing four walks. This is not the way to finish off the series, especially with Lester on the mound. Lester’s struggles are starting to become a problem as he’s posted a 4 -5 record to date with a 4.03 ERA.  This isn’t what the Cubs paid for and with the calendar on the cusp of July, it’s difficult to write it off as early season struggles. It’s hard to say what the fix is but here’s hoping the proven veteran can turn it around. They’ve made it this far with his mediocre performance; imagine what they could do if he starts pitching like the ace he’s capable of being.

Lester struggles

So it appears that the Cubs will have to settle for the split still down 4 – 0, so we’ll turn our attention to the weekend as the Cubs head south on I-55 for a series at Busch with the NL Central-leading Cardinals, a prime opportunity to make up some ground in the division, especially since the clubs will play seven times in the next two weeks.

Friday night’s game features Jake Arrieta vs. John Lackey in 7:15PM CST start time.

Let’s go Cubs!

 

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Chicago Cubs, Chris Denorfia, Jason Hammel

Hammel, Cubs Send Dodgers Aces to Back to Back Losses for First Time This Year

Posted on 24 June 2015

Something is brewing on the North Side; something young, something fun, but most of all, something good. Yes, the often used Cubs hashtag #Wearegood can now be considered something more than just a fun gimmick. After beating two of the best pitchers in the game on back to back nights against a division leading team, it’s safe to say that these Cubs are good and the positive energy they are exuding has taken the fan base by storm.

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 23: at Wrigley Field on June 23, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Last night, despite it being a Tuesday in June, felt bigger than any game has at Wrigley in a long time. With Zack Greinke on the mound for the Dodgers; a team that hadn’t experienced back-to-back losses when their aces (Clayton Kershaw and Greinke) pitch in succession, and coming off a bitter defeat the night before that rendered Kershaw disgruntled and perturbed, the Cubs knew they would have to grind to do what no team had done yet this season.  And that is exactly what they did. Jason Hammel threw quite possibly his best game all year in pitching 7 and 2/3 innings while allowing just two hits and a pair of walks to carry the Cubs through this pitcher’s duel as Zack Greinke put up almost identical numbers,though only lasting six innings.

After nine innings of play and neither team able to push across even a single run, the clubs headed to extras and while the game was far from over, you couldn’t help but think that Cubs at least had an advantage. They are 18 – 12 in one run games, with nine wins in walkoff fashion, and 8 – 3 in extra innings contests. Those are pretty impressive numbers and while they scream for a regression to the mean, you also can’t deny how clutch this team has been in such contests.  This time it was Chris Denorfia’s turn to play the hero as his tenth inning long sac fly to center field drove in the winning run with the bases loaded and one out. Cubs Win 1-0. The Cubbie Magic had struck again.

Denorfia walk off

“I believe in magic but I believe it has to be earned,” Manager Joe Maddon said.

These Cubs are earning it and then some but there is still a long way to go as even with this four game win streak they still sit a half game back of the Pirates and 6.5 back from the Cardinals, the only two teams in the National League with better records than the Cubs. That’s right, the three best teams in the National League all reside in the Central at the moment.

“We have three months,” Hammel said. “We’re playing good ball right now. We’ve been playing good ball for three months. We don’t quit, We’re going to keep coming.”

Consider that a warning shot across the bow of the good ship “N.L”  You are all on notice.

 

Tonight: It’s Kyle Hendricks vs. Mike Bolsinger as the Cubs go for a fifth straight and a series victory over the Dodgers. Game time is 7:05PM CST.

Let’s Go Cubs!

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Chicago Cubs, Kris Bryant, Travis Wood

Bryant Goes Deep Twice to Lead Cubs over Kershaw, Dodgers

Posted on 23 June 2015

The slump-busting continued last night as Kris Bryant became the latest Cub to bounce back from a rough patch to blast the Cubs to victory, and what a victory it was. Facing the reigning NL MVP and CY Young winner in Clayton Kershaw, nobody would have batted an eye if the Cubs dropped the opener to the Dodgers given the stuff he has and how well the Dodgers have played to date, but these Cubs don’t bow to anyone and Kris Bryant let that be known as he jacked a curveball into the right field bleachers to turn a 1 run deficit into a 2-1 lead.

KB vs. CK

Bryant’s blast broke an 0 for 13 slump and after he added another homer to left in the bottom of the eighth inning, he had his first multi-homer game in the Bigs and firmly planted himself in the middle of All-Star and Rookie of the Year conversations.  Matt Szczur also homered off Kershaw which provided enough cushion for a Cubs bullpen that was outstanding after Tsuyoshi Wada left the game in the third inning with cramping in his left arm.  Travis Wood came on for three innings of relief followed by James Russell, Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon, and Jason Motte who combined to collectively throw seven innings of three-hit, one-run ball. After your starter goes down you expect it to be a long, tough game on your pen, but the Cubs relievers stepped up and nabbed them a huge win, 4 – 2 to put them eight games over .500 which is only good enough for third place in arguably the toughest division in baseball.

You can’t draw up a better way to start a series after taking down a top team’s ace in the opener and your top hitters brimming with confidence. Tonight the Cubs will send Jason Hammel up against the Dodgers Zack Greinke in what should be an excellent pitching match up.  The Cubs hope to make it four straight victories against a team that hasn’t dropped back to back contests when their two Aces pitch in succession.

First Pitch is 7:05PM.

Go Cubs Go!

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Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs, Dexter Fowler, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Schwarber

Cubs Thump Twins behind Arrieta, Rizzo; Schwarber Heads to Iowa

Posted on 22 June 2015

Jake Arrieta and Anthony Rizzo both had a slump-busting weekend and temporary call-up Kyle Schwarber did his part to get the Cubs back on track. Arrieta pitched a complete-game, four-hit shutout while striking out seven to rebound from his worst start of the year and claim the ‘W’. The offense backed him admirably behind Anthony Rizzo’s solo-shot in the fifth inning, his third home run of the series, that has officially ended his minor slump. Dexter Fowler added a Grand Slam in the eighth inning to put the game out reach and notch the Cubs another series win.

Not to be overlooked however, are the contributions made by Cubs prospect Kyle Schwarber. In his five game stint as DH for the Cubs Interleague roadtrip through Cleveland and Minnesota, Schwarber had a .364 Batting Average with six RBI’s and a home run. That’s pretty good for a guy playing in Double A at this time last week. He is clearly a Major League ready hitter but the Cubs also want him to be a Major League ready catcher so he will return to the minors with a step up to Triple A and a nice showing in the Bigs at the plate, albeit a small sample size, to build off of.

The Cubs hope to build off of it as well, sitting at 37 – 30 and still very much in the hunt despite remaining third in their division. The Cardinals and Pirates continue to win but the Cubs aren’t showing any quit as both they and the Pirates currently occupy the top two spots in the NL Wild Card chase.  If there was ever a game they needed a carry over from, it’s this one as Clayton Kershaw and the NL West leading Dodgers come to Wrigley for a four game series that will challenge the Cubs considerably. Kershaw is arguably the one of the game’s best pitchers and he has been on strikeout tear lately posting at least 10 K’s in each of his last three starts. The Cubs offense will no doubt bear the load in this one, as their success will be largely predicated on if they can get to Kershaw but Tsuyoshi Wada will have to do his part as well to keep these Dodgers in check. Another four hit performance like his last outing would be a good starting place.

Game time is 7:05PM CST.

Let’s Go Cubs!

 

 

 

 

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