Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs, Dexter Fowler, Joe Maddon, Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant, Kyle Hendricks, Kyle Schwarber, Starlin Castro, Wrigley Field

Bryant Pulls Cubs Back from Brink with Walk-Off Home Run to Down Rockies

Things looked pretty bleak heading into the bottom of the ninth Monday night as the Cubs had just turned a three run lead into a one run deficit after Jason Motte failed to record an out during his brief appearance and Rafael Soriano couldn’t clean up the mess he inherited allowing three runs to score, […]

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Chicago Cubs, David Ross, Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel, Joe Maddon, Jon Lester

Cubs Swept by Phillies as Disastrous Weekend Comes to an End

Posted on 27 July 2015

This past weekend was one to forget for Cubs fans, except most might not be able to. Not only were the Cubs swept in humiliating fashion by the worst team in baseball, they were also on the wrong end of a No-Hitter (delivered by trade-bait, Cole Hamels), something that hadn’t happened to a Cubs team in almost 50 years. What was once the longest active streak in the Majors is now the shortest and what was once a team in command of a potential Wild Card berth is now a team in a 2.5 game hole. This was not how this weekend was supposed to play out.

Things started out poorly on Friday as Jason Motte failed to hold a 3 – 2 lead with one out in the ninth inning, allowing an RBI-ground rule double by Cody Asche to tie the game. Jeff Francoeur hit a two run homer in the tenth inning to allow the Phils to steal game one, 5 – 3 and wasted a decent effort by Jon Lester who allowed two runs on seven hits in seven innings of work. Fair enough. Saturday would be much better, right? After all, we had Jake Arrieta going against Cole Hamels.  WRONG.

Cole Hamels no hitter

Hamels was masterful on Saturday pitching a complete-game, No-Hitter while walking two and striking out thirteen in what was most likely his final start for a Phillies club that can ill afford to hold on to someone as valuable as himself with the atrocious record they currently occupy. Still, this was about what Hamels did on Saturday, not what he will do for one lucky team in the near future. Hamels had his stuff working and was for sure aided by a decent wind blowing in on a few hard hit balls to the warning track that on any other day are home runs. On Saturday, they were not however, and Cubs fans were forced to watch history made in their ballpark at their expense, a 5 – 0 loss that will sting for some time. There really isn’t much more to say as the Cubs offensive woes were on full display and turned what should have been a chance to gain some ground in the division into at least a 2-1 series defeat and at most, a sweep by a pretty terrible Phillies squad.

The latter result was realized on Sunday as the Phillies completed the three game sweep, this time an embarrassing 11 – 5 defeat in which Cubs starter Jason Hammel was chased after 3.2 innings while giving up six runs on eight hits and making this hapless Philly team look like a bunch of All-Stars. The only takeaway on another terrible day for the Cubs was Manager Joe Maddon calling on backup, veteran catcher David Ross to pitch the ninth inning and save some arms in the bullpen. This is the second time Maddon has doneso in 2015 and Ross did not disappoint again, pitching a 1-2-3 inning and keeping his career ERA at 0.00. Ross also homered in the bottom half of the inning to lighten the mood of an otherwise thoroughly disappointing weekend.

David Ross Pitching

Prior to this series, most would have pegged the Cubs to be the ones handing out a sweep and not the other way around but baseball isn’t played on paper and the Phillies showed up and kicked some butt. The Cubs got a good look up close at what Cole Hamels can do for a team but his asking price was probably too high before Saturday’s historic start; now the Cubs might not even be in the same zip code as teams with a greater sense of urgency may be more inclined to overpay. It would be nice to see the Cubs make a splash at the deadline but it appears they will more or less stay the course on their plan, already a year ahead of schedule and not willing to sacrifice the future for a one game Wild Card that is essentially a coin flip.

The Cubs will need to shake this one off and move on. Yes, it was a pretty embarrassing weekend but it was just one series, and despite the Phillies’ poor record, they still employ a roster of professional baseball players who play just as hard as these Cubs do. Even the best of teams take a tumble, but it’s imperative for the Cubs to stop this slide at three and keep pace in the Wild card chase.

Tonight they turn to Kyle Hendricks as he takes on Jorge De La Rosa and the Colorado Rockies in the first of a three game series at Wrigley Field. First pitch is 7:05 PM CST.

Let’s Go Cubs!

 

 

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Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs, Chris Denorfia, Hector Rondon, Jorge Soler, Kyle Schwarber, Starlin Castro, Tyler Teagarden

Teagarden the Unlikely Hero as Cubs Top Reds; Salvage Split

Posted on 23 July 2015

This wasn’t exactly how you would draw it up but it sure does make a good story. After falling in an 0 – 5 hole in the 2nd inning, no one would have blamed you if you flipped the channel. These Cubs don’t score three or four runs very often, let alone five. But that’s precisely what they did in the next half inning! Starlin Castro and Chris Denorfia each had RBI doubles and Kris Bryant tied the game on a pinch-hit single, a mild relief from his recent slump.

Teagarden Game winner

The game would stay tight thereafter until the bottom of the eighth when Hector Rondon loaded the bases with one out but was able to work out of the jam. The Cubs threatened in the top of ninth, first with Anthony Rizzo’s single to left center that pushed Dexter Fowler to attempt to score from second. He was thrown out but Rizzo was able to advance to second on the throw which would prove critical. With Aroldis Chapman on the mound, the Reds intentionally walked Jorge Soler to get to pinch-hitter, Tyler Teagarden; He of .154 batting average. With two outs already and a huge opportunity, I’m sure many Cubs fans were thinking “Just don’t strike out!”. Their fears were unfounded as the improbable occurred. Teagarden hit a single right up the middle into shallow center off of an Aroldis Chapman 101 MPH pitch, driving in Rizzo and providing the winning margin, 6 – 5. Even typing that last sentence felt strange.

Add another highlight to this Cubs season as this train just keeps on rolling with August just around the corner.  While the pitching staff got battered this series giving up 23 runs in four games, there are still many positives to take from this series, namely Kyle Schwarber going 7 for 16 and leading the charge on offense. Battling back from several deficits throughout is a great sign as well; This team is showing it won’t quit. They still need pitching and hitting but we should know more on that front by this time next week. With an off day today, the Cubs can rest up for a three game series this weekend at Wrigley Field with the MLB-worst Philadelphia Phillies. If there was ever a gimme on the schedule, this should be it as these Phils have stunk up the joint en route to a 34 -63 record thus far, the worst record in baseball by a large margin.

Still, you have to go out and play the games and these Cubs haven’t been invincible by any means. Let’s hope they sharpen their focus as a big week could do wonders in the standings as the countdown to October begins. The Cubs at 51 – 43 are clinging to a half game lead for that second Wild Card spot.

Tomorrow it’s Jerome Williams for the Phils vs. Jon Lester for the Cubs. Game time is 3:05PM CST.

Let’s Go Cubs!

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Chicago Cubs, Justin Grimm, Kyle Hendricks, Kyle Schwarber

Cubs Hope to Bounce Back in Nightcap; Look for Split with Reds

Posted on 22 July 2015

The Cubs have had their highs and lows throughout this series with the Reds which concludes this evening with the second game of a day-night doubleheader at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. The Reds took game 1 on Monday night behind home runs from Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce, and Marlon Byrd. Still the Cubs hung tough and gave themselves a chance tallying four runs for the third game in a row before falling by one run, 5-4.

Schwarber dingers

Chicago bounced back on Tuesday night as Kyle Schwarber, just over a week removed from his All-Star Futures Game MVP performance, showed why he has climbed so quickly through the Cubs farm system to reach the majors. Heading into the ninth inning with the Reds leading 4-2, Schwarber stepped to the plate with no outs and Dexter Fowler on first. He quickly fell in in an 0 – 2 hole before fouling off three pitches and taking three balls. His perseverance paid off as he took the next pitch 397 feet into right field for a two-run home run to tie the game.  As the game slide into extra innings and both teams deadlocked at four runs a piece, Schwarber stepped to the plate again and delivered another dinger, this time 385 feet to right, to put the Cubs up 5-4 and after three quick outs from relief pitcher Justin Grimm, that was enough to earn the win. It was an incredible night for the rookie who grew up outside Cincinnati as a Reds fan. He had a sizable following of family and friends cheering him on as this game went on past midnight. Great to see a jolt in this Cubs’ offense. Let’s hope he keeps it up!

Mike Leake

Wednesday’s early afternoon game of the doubleheader saw the Cubs give all that momentum right back to the Reds as Cincinnati jumped on Kyle Hendricks early sending five men to the plate before Hendricks even recorded an out. Staked to a 4 – 0 lead after one inning, the Reds never looked back as Mike Leake kept the Cubs off-balance all day going eight strong innings while allowing only one run on four hits to pair with six punch-outs. Kyle Schwarber provided the Cubs’ only run, a third inning RBI single. The Reds would get that run back in the fifth inning on a Joey Votto solo-home run and tack on four more runs in the seventh turning this one into a laugher, your final score being 9 – 1. Lucky for the Cubs they won’t have to stew in this loss long with the night game of the doubleheader set to begin at 5:00pm.

Dallas Beeler will face off against the Reds’ Tony Cingrani as the Cubs hope to salvage a split against the middling Reds, who are most likely in the sellers category sitting eight games under .500 with the trade deadline looming. The Cubs need to take care of business against these guys given their current state. Let’s hope the bats show back up tonight as Kyle Schwarber can’t do it all himself.

Let’s Go Cubs!

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Chicago Cubs, Jake Arrieta, Jorge Soler, Kyle Schwarber

Cubs Take 2 of 3 in ATL; Recall Schwarber from Triple-A, Designate Jackson for Assignment

Posted on 21 July 2015

A day after Jon Lester allowed only two hits in 7+ innings of work, Jake Arrieta almost matched him throwing seven innings of three-hit ball while striking out ten as the Cubs beat the Braves 4 – 1 to take their first series at Turner Field since August 2011.

Arrieta beats braves

It was all Cubs in this one as Arrieta picked up his 11th win, a career-high and the most by a Cubs pitcher since Carlos Zambrano , back in 2011 as well. The Cubs starting pitching has been flat-out dominant of late, posting a 1.29 ERA over the last 16 games. That is some great stuff but it doesn’t mean much if you don’t score runs. Thankfully, the Cubs offense produced four of them on back to back nights to help them keep pace in the Wild Card.

Jorge Soler homered in the third showing he might be getting his swing back after a stint on the DL before the break. Chris Coghlan and Jonathan Herrera also produced RBI’s to get the Cubs the W. This is what this team needs to do with the abundance of mediocre teams they are set to face the next few weeks. Take care of business and beat the teams you should.

Kyle Schwarber will get a chance to aid that cause after getting recalled from Triple-A Iowa for Friday’s game with Montero down with a thumb injury. He had three hits in his second half debut but was relegated to a bat off the bench the next two nights as Maddon massages him back into this lineup carefully. He is slated to catch 3 out of the 4 upcoming games in Cincinnati which should have Cubs fans drooling at the thought of him continuing his tear.

Schwarber three hits

The Cubs have also decided that it was time to move on from Edwin Jackson as they have designated him for assignment in preparation to call up Rafael Soriano. While for some this news may be grounds for celebration as Jackson’s results have been disappointing to put it mildly, that is not the case inside the Cubs’ clubhouse as Jackson’s departure caused several teammates to offer their regrets at losing such a positive clubhouse guy, great team player, and even better human being. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out in baseball, and the relationship between the Cubs and Jackson is evidence of that. While he never lived up to his contract in terms of dollars, he did show up to work for years as the Cubs had little going on the field. He mentored younger players and exhibited professionalism even as his performance slipped and his role changed. Still, the Cubs gave him plenty of chances to turn it around, but it just wasn’t meant to be. A fresh start will benefit both parties and all involved have handled it with class.

Next Up: It’s Clayton Richard on the mound in Cincinnati tonight to take on Michael Lorenzen and the Reds. Game time is 6:10PM CST.

Let’s Go Cubs!

 

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Chicago Cubs, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber

Looking at the Cubs Potential Trades & Rumors: Part 2

Posted on 17 July 2015

Part 2 of this series takes us to the team I consider the most likely trade partner, the Oakland Athletics. These clubs have a history, most notably last summer’s blockbuster trade that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the A’s in return for Addison Russell. We all know how that panned out. The A’s lost a heart-breaking Wild-Card game to Royals who rode that momentum all the way to the World Series. The A’s then shipped Samardzija to the White Sox, Hammel returned to the Cubs in free agency, and the Cubs now retain one of the best young players in the game in Addison Russell. Don’t tell me Billy Beane won’t want to make up for that now that the two club’s positions have been somewhat reversed. It is now the A’s who have what the Cubs need as they should be sellers after under-performing in the first half to the tune of a 41-50 record.

Scott-Kazmir-2

The Cubs need pitching and a veteran outfield bat. The A’s have both in Scott Kazmir and Ben Zobrist. Kazmir is a veteran pitcher who currently holds a 2.56 ERA and after a year away from baseball in 2012, has rebounded nicely. He should command a decent contract in free agency but would be a nice arm for the Cubs to add that could bolster the rotation. Package him with utility man Ben Zobrist, a Joe Maddon favorite from his days in Tampa, and would it be too crazy for the Cubs to entertain dangling Javy Baez or Billy Mckinney and a few other prospects to make this happen. A perfect marriage is somewhere with these two teams as the A’s would love to replenish their farm system after last season’s trades hurt them in the long run.

Verdict: Pull the trigger! (So long as Kyle Schwarber is NOT included in any deal.)

 

The last trade partner is also the most intriguing in terms of upside as any deal here would carry great risk but also great reward. It’s no secret that the Cincinnati Reds are going to be sellers at the deadline and after the All-Star game is over and the hoopla in the Queen City dies down, I expect that talk to intensify with the likes of Johnny Cueto, Aroldis Chapman, and Jay Bruce all being dangled as trade bait. Neither pitcher will be cheap to acquire and that means that the price paid will most likely be for a rental; always a gamble as Oakland can attest to firsthand after last year.

Apr 7, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto (47) pitches during the second inning against the Washington Nationals at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Do the Cubs want to risk Schwarber or Baez in a Cueto deal? It would be a “wild card” move in hopes of making the Wild Card game, but would that be worth it if Cueto walks at season’s end? It’s never easy making these kind of decisions, but my gut says there would have to be more than just Cueto in any deal for prospects to afford the Cubs some insurance. This is intriguing and there will be many teams who jump into the Cueto market, but the Cubs do have pieces, it’s just a question of whether or not a move can be made that doesn’t trade on the Cubs future in favor of the now.

Verdict: Up in the air.

 

As you can see, there are a lot of potential trades and an equal, if not greater, amount of speculation out there. Ultimately, I think the Cubs will make a few moves but nothing that rocks the boat too much. Just a few pieces to stabilize the pitching staff and provide some depth, while picking up a veteran bat from somewhere. My instincts tell me that none of the Cubs top level players or prospects will be made available in any trade with the exception of Javy Baez. I think Theo Epstein wants to see what he has in this club for a full year before making the tough decisions on Starlin Castro, Kyle Schwarber, etc.  Hopefully, a few teams get desperate to offload some players and the Cubs can stay healthy. The next two weeks will tell us a lot. Enjoy the ride!

 

 

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Chicago Cubs

Looking at the Cubs Potential Trades & Rumors: Part 1

Posted on 16 July 2015

Given the All-Star break this week and the rare back-to-back days following the game that provide no actual contests for us to discuss, let’s turn our attention towards the second half and look at some of the potential trades the Cubs could make and the always entertaining rumors that accompany such speculation.

Cole hamels

For starters, you can’t have an article like this and not begin with Cole Hamels. The Cubs need pitching, preferably a starter, and Hamels, the ace of a once-proud, now-crumbling Phillies organization, should be available despite his outlandish contract given that the Phillies own the MLB’s worst overall record by an almost solid TEN games. But this is the Phillies we are talking about, so who knows how long they will hold on to one of their last few valuable assets. More likely than not, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. will demand a king’s ransom of young talent and is already rumored to be backing off from trading his ace. I just don’t see the Cubs gutting their farm system or giving up any of their plethora of talented middle-infielders to make something like this work, especially with the chance to sign the David Prices of the world in the off-season without giving up any talent in return.

Verdict: Not likely.

 

papelbon

Sticking with the Phillies, there is yet another player whose services the Cubs would not mind acquiring in closer Jonathan Papelbon, a former teammate of Jon Lester on Boston’s 2007 World Series Champion team, and current All-Star sporting a 1.60 ERA in 32 appearances with 14 saves. Having a lock-down, animated, and confident closer is something the Cubs could use rather than the platoon approach they currently employ, but his fiery antics and his $13 million contract with a vesting option for an additional $13 million next year might be too steep a price to pay for a 34 year old who is effectively forcing his way out the door of his current team; something the feel-good, magic-wielding Cubs might want to keep away from their tight-knit clubhouse.  So long as the deal doesn’t gut the farm and the contract option can be adjusted this still remains a possibility and the rumors have grown increasingly louder in recent weeks.

Verdict: Maybe, but don’t count on it.

 

Now for the more realistic trade partners, or rather the teams that match up well with the Cubs in terms of offering and needs. It doesn’t hurt that these clubs have been trade partners with the Cubs in recent years as well.

First up is the San Diego Padres; Partners in the trade that sent Anthony Rizzo to the Cubs and Andrew Cashner to the Padres, a trade that you could say the Cubs clearly won given Anthony Rizzo evolving into one of the best first basemen and all-around players in the MLB, not to mention Andrew Cashner’s injury history. Still, a couple of Padres’ pitchers should be of interest to the Cubs and I’m sure San Diego wouldn’t turn down some young, inexpensive talent in return given their bloated payroll from last off-season’s all-in spending spree.

james shield padres

One target is James Shields, the same man who the Cubs balked on last year when the bidding got too rich for the Cub’s blood at the time. It was a smart decision then and remains so now, with bigger, more dependable free agents on the horizon at season’s end. There would have to be some type of deal worked out in terms of money for the Cubs to consider this but the Padres don’t have a ton of flexibility in that department. Still, Shields would certainly stabilize the back end of the rotation, slotting in at the 3-4 spot behind Arrieta, Lester, and maybe Hammel, right before Hendricks  thus allowing Tsuyoshi Wada to return as an inning-eating, long-man in relief.

Tyson Ross is another Padres pitcher who the Cubs should take a look at as the 28 year old with a 3.00ERA since becoming a full-time starter last year could plug in to the back end of the rotation and provide some depth.  He would be considerably cheaper than Shields but not as big of a splash.  I think he’s more likely than Shields just in terms of cost but I think the Cubs will stay true to their intention to pursue the highly-touted free agent crop this coming off-season.

The common theme here is don’t expect the Cubs to break the bank or sell the farm this year as they are currently playing with house money. No one expected them to be where they are since 2016 is the oft-talked about “Year” for this team to take the next step and they can retain a large portion of their talent and money by signing some under the radar and cheaper inning-eaters and waiting til the off-season to make the big acquisition.

Verdict: Getting warmer but still don’t think the Cubs will overspend.

 

Next Up: Part 2…

 

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