Archive | April, 2015

Cubs Put On a Clinic On the Basepaths; Lead NL in Steals

Posted on 29 April 2015 by Bob

Cubs steals

The Chicago Cubs lead the National League in stolen bases for the month of April. Yes, you read that correctly. The Cubs have 25 stolen bases so far this season enough to put them at #1 in the NL after last night’s five steal outburst with four of those swipes coming on a pair of double steals in the fourth inning. It was the first time the Cubs had stolen four bags in an inning since almost eighteen years ago against the now defunct Montreal Expos. How is that for some history?

These Cubs have a head full of steam at the moment, winning four straight behind exceptional two-out & two-strike hitting. These Cubs are nothing if not resilient. No matter the count, the inning, or the score these Cubs fight until the last out. Their aggressive approach chased Pirates starter Jeff Locke last night just shy of four innings as they racked up plenty of hits after falling behind two strikes or even two outs. Those hits are a boon for the offense and demoralizing to the opposition. “I love two-out runs, man,” Manager Joe Maddon said. “They really hurt the other side badly. When you get ’em, there’s nothing more glorious than that. A big part of that is we are grinding out every moment of every at-bat.”

The new look Cubs are playing fast, smart, and fun baseball providing Cubs fans with the best April in a decade despite the consistently low temperatures. Hopefully as the mercury rises, the Cubs power will be unleashed and you can add home runs to this Cubs team’s resume. It would be a fitting cherry on top for a team doing all the little things so well right now.

 

Next Up:

The Cubs look to keep the streak alive sending Kyle Hendricks to the mound to face the Buc’s Gerrit Cole and his 2.19 ERA.

 

First pitch is 7:05PM CST.

 

 

 

 

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Hammel, Cubs Spin Another Gem; Take Three Straight

Posted on 28 April 2015 by Bob

 

Hammel at Wrigley

The Chicago Cubs rode Jason Hammel into the eighth inning Monday night as he spun a four-hit, seven-strikeout performance for the Cubs third straight victory. Stretching Hammel deep into the game was just what the doctor ordered for the Cubs bullpen as they got some much needed rest. They only needed Pedro Strop for one inning as he came on to retire the side 1-2-3 and cap a masterful performance.

Bryant and Rizzo each delivered two hits and two RBI’s to propel the Cubs to a 4-0 victory as the team returns for a six game homestand at Wrigley. This one-two punch is becoming as formidable as any in the league and  a primary reason behind the team’s winning record to start the first month of the season. “We preached it in spring training — we’ve got to survive April,” Rizzo said. “We can’t put ourselves in a hole like we’ve done in years past and we’re doing a good job of coming to the park every day, playing with a lot of energy, having fun and really playing with a purpose.”

This team is on a roll and doing it against their division rivals which is always a plus. The Cubs look to keep it up tonight as Travis Wood takes the mound vs. Jeff Locke.

Tune in at 7:05PM CST.

Go Cubs Go!

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Cubs Young Talent Continues to Shine in Big Moments

Posted on 27 April 2015 by Bob

russell in cinci

Addison Russell, the Cubs most recent call-up and the youngest player in the National League, overcame two strikeouts to deliver the biggest hit of his young Cubs career, clearing the bases with a three-run double to deep right center in the fourth inning at Cincinnati on Sunday. Despite recording eleven strikeouts through his first six games, the rookie came through big time helping the Cubs to tear this game wide open and help the team off to it’s best start since 2008 after beating the Reds 5-2.

The Cubs are rolling right now coming off a 4 – 2 road trip after Saturday’s game vs. the Reds was rained out. Winning series is the goal and something that the Cubs have begun to do with regularity. The real test will be sustaining it as the calendar flips to May this Friday and the rival Brewers come to town. It’s only been a month but you have to believe that Cubs fans will take what they have gotten to this point and then some. Most thought this team of youngsters would struggle out the gate but getting off to a good start bodes well for the 2015 season.

Recalling past summers where the Cubs started off poorly only to play better ball as the season went on, this nice start has to please Manager Joe Maddon and what appears to be a team in ‘Win Now’ mode, something that should keep the Cubs in contention for a wild card spot throughout the year.

 

Next Up: Jason Hammel takes the bump vs. the Pirates Vance Worley tonight. Gametime is 7:05PM CST.

 

 

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Cubs Bullpen Falters Again; Offense Doesn’t Capitalize in Split Vs. Pirates

Posted on 23 April 2015 by Bob

The Cubs were in prime position entering the sixth inning, up 4-1 and chasing Pirates pitcher Jeff Locke to get to the Bucs’ used and abused bullpen, but the script was flipped as the Pirates relievers shut down the Cubs potent offense over the last four innings allowing a single hit while the Cubs’ pen gave up five hits and turned a 4-1 victory into a 5-4 defeat as Pittsburgh managed a split in the four game series. The Cubs offense also didn’t capitalize on its opportunities as Castro grounded into an inning-ending double-play with the bases loaded in the fifth inning after Bryant had walked to bring in a run.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates

This was the prime opportunity for the Cubs to put the game out of reach but it slipped through their fingers. It’s hard to place the blame on Castro though as he recorded another two hits today to make it eight for the series. Still, these opportunities are what separate the good teams from the great and the Cubs will need to put games like these away in the win column if they are to make a run at a playoff spot.

The injuries to Justin Grimm and Neil Ramirez are gaping holes right now that need to be filled and quickly. Brian Schlitter’s stuff is clearly not working now as his ERA has grown to 9.53 for April. Someone needs to step up.

Despite the split, the Cubs can still be somewhat pleased as they hold tight to second place, two games back of the Cards in the NL Central, while also ruing what might have been in several close losses in this young season.

 

NEXT UP:

The Cubs travel to Cincinnati for a three game series vs. the Reds starting Friday with Jon Lester taking on Mike Leake. First Pitch is 6:10 PM CT.

 

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Kris Bryant’s Big Night Powers Cubs; Addison Russell Gets the Call

Posted on 21 April 2015 by Bob

There’s joy in Cubville and all around Chicago these days with the Bulls and Blackhawks both up in their respective playoff series, which normally would be enough to tide Chicago sports fans over. Add in a huge Cubs victory Monday night against a team many have pegged for a playoff spot along with another hyped prospect being called up and Chicago’s proverbial cup runneth over. While it’s not the playoffs for the Cubs YET, the buzz is palpable as the team has gotten off to a great start, highlighted by perhaps the team’s most complete win of the season Monday night in Pittsburgh.

KB PNC

The Cubs young talent was on full display with Rizzo, Soler, Bryant, and Castro combined for 11 hits and Jake Arrieta calmed down after allowing an early run to record seven strikeouts while only giving up three hits and no walks. The play of the game was Bryant’s two-run double in the seventh which he stretched to a triple after the Pirates threw home to try and tag Rizzo.  It became a “Little League Home Run” shortly after as Bryant rounded third and the Pirates threw to the bag to try to catch him in a rundown. Already too far down the line, Bryant raced home and Pirates Catcher Francisco Cervelli bobbled the throw at the plate resulting in an error as Bryant crossed home safely .  It wasn’t a home run technically speaking, due to the errant throw and the error, but it had the same result nonetheless. Bryant also had an RBI single in the fifth making him responsible for four of the Cubs’ five runs.

AR Called up

Shortly after the game, news leaked that the Cubs would call up Addison Russell to play 2B Tuesday night in Pittsburgh putting MLB on notice that these Cubs are here to win. The future is now on the Northside and if the Cubs can keep their nice start rolling the Central and N.L. better watch out.

It’s Wood Vs. Liriano tonight at PNC Park. Tune in to watch these Cubs debut the lineup we have all been waiting for. Game time is 6:05 PM CT.

 

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Cubs Win in Walk-Off Fashion Saturday; Come Up Short on Sunday

Posted on 20 April 2015 by Bob

San Diego Padres v Chicago Cubs

The Cubs’ wild, roller-coaster of a young season continued this weekend with two games vs. the Padres. After falling in Kris Bryant’s debut on Friday the Cubs got hot Saturday as the game went on, notching six runs over three innings led by Miguel Montero’s pair of home runs. Staked to a 6-2  lead entering the ninth inning the Cubs bullpen collapsed as Phil Coke gave up hits to the only two batters he faced and then the usually dominant Rondon couldn’t work out of the jam giving up four hits himself as the Padres were able to tie the game and take it into extras.

From there Zac Rosscup shut things down allowing only a hit over two innings and the Cubs loaded the bases in the eleventh enabling Starlin Castro to play the hero with his single just past Will Middlebrook’s glove sending Anthony Rizzo home for a walk-off win. It shouldn’t have been this hard but the Cubs will take the “W” and the late-inning clutch hitting. Bryant, making his second big-league start, had an outstanding day at the plate taking three walks to pair with 2 hits and an RBI. This is the Bryant we expect to see more of.

Sunday provided more of the same with the Cubs staking Lester to an early 2-0 lead before he gave up a two-run shot to Middlebrooks to tie the game. Lester did have a heads-up, highlight-reel play however as a hard-hit ball up the middle got stuck in the webbing of his glove. Unable to free it in time to make a throw, he tossed his whole glove to first where Anthony Rizzo alertly had dropped his glove to enable him to receive Lester’s mitt. They recorded the out and the crowd went wild. Sadly, there was little to celebrate the rest of the way as the Padres roughed up the Cubs bullpen yet again on a cold, wet day at Wrigley. Through his first three games Lester is the first to tell you his game isn’t up to snuff but there are signs of progress even though that’s not what Cubs fans want to hear after the man cashed in to the tune of $155 million this past off-season.

Lester throws glove

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Bryant Finally Arrives But Cubs Fall Late to Padres

Posted on 18 April 2015 by Bob

Kris Bryant Debut

Kris Bryant made his much-anticipated, widely-watched debut on a beautiful Friday afternoon at Wrigley yesterday but that wasn’t enough as an inconsistent strike zone and some strikeouts in crucial situations ultimately did the Cubs in.

Bryant, the highly-touted prospect got the call after injuries to Mike Olt and Tommy La Stella essentially forced the Cubs hand to bring him up one day after his service time pushed his free agency eligibility back one year. He struggled at the plate, striking out three times and grounding out to end a critical seventh inning but his glove was exceptional as he made several nice snags and on-point throws to first. His position at the hot corner seems to be secure for the foreseeable future.  Manager Joe Maddon seemed pleased stating, “We did bring him up for his glove, didn’t we? He had a really good game at third base. Really played well over there.”

Overshadowing Bryant’s first game in the big leagues was the inconsistent strike zone outlined by Home Plate Umpire Sam Holbrook. In the seventh inning, Cubs relief pitcher Brian Schlitter appeared to strike out Padres CF Wil Myers to end the inning on a pitch right down the middle just above the knee but Holbrook ruled the pitch a ball and on the next pitch Myers crushed a three run shot into the bleachers providing the final margin of victory for the Padres.  Maddon, displeased with Holbrook’s strike zone all game, could be seen visibly shouting “all five runs” in reference to the Padres taking advantage of Holbrook’s inconsistent strike zone to record each of their five runs. He was ejected for arguing balls and strikes.

It was tough to see the Cubs give this one away after being in control for much of the game but sometimes it’s just not your day. The important thing is that the Cubs continued to get on base after getting down a run, they just couldn’t push anything across.

They’ll get another chance today as Bryant searches for his first hit. Kyle Hendricks takes the mound for the Cubs against Tyson Ross. Game is in progress.

 

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Wood Powers Cubs to Fourth Win in Five Tries

Posted on 16 April 2015 by Bob

Travis Wood bounced back from his first start to power the Cubs past the Reds allowing only three hits through the beginning of the eighth inning while striking out seven. Anthony Rizzo provided some early run support with a two-run shot and the Cubs never looked back as they shut out the Reds and laid claim to first place atop the NL Central Division.

Travis Wood

Starlin Castro had an outstanding game as well providing two hits and a walk but his biggest contribution was his glove.

“How about our shortstop? He had a hell of a game at shortstop tonight. Played both left and right, had some great throws, double play was huge,” said Manager Joe Maddon, referencing a double-play ball snared by Castro that ended the Reds threat.

Starlin-Castro

This was a complete team effort from top to bottom and sends the Cubs into an off day brimming with confidence before a weekend series at Wrigley versus the new look San Diego Padres.

Friday’s game pits newly acquired Padre: James Shields vs. Jason Hammel with first pitch at 1:20 PM.

 

 

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Cubs Fall to Reds as Rally Comes Up Short

Posted on 15 April 2015 by Bob

Jake Arrieta 2

The cardiac Cubs young season continued Tuesday night as Jake Arrieta surrendered three runs in the fourth inning providing enough for the Reds to hold on to the win in the ninth.  Arrieta, usually lights out against the Reds, couldn’t continue his success as Reds hitters found some gaps to get guys across home plate.  The Cubs didn’t go quietly however as pinch-hitter Wellington Castillo launched a two-run home run in the eighth to ignite the Cubs dormant offense and Castro and Szczur were able to reach base in the bottom of the ninth before the Reds flame-throwing Aroldis Chapman struck out Mike Olt to end the threat.

Despite the losing effort, the Cubs battled yet again keeping fans in the stands and on their feet until the final out. This new brand of baseball appears to be invigorating for both the team and the fans. The bullpen was once again stellar allowing no hits and zero runs while proving to be quite a strength so far. The same cannot be said of the Reds bullpen which almost saw a win slip through their fingers for the second night in a row.

The series concludes tonight with former Cub Jason Marquis taking on Travis Wood in the rubber match with first place in the NL Central on the line. First Pitch is 7:05 PM.

 

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Cubs Ride Late Heroics to Three Game Win Streak; Hope to Keep it Rolling

Posted on 14 April 2015 by Bob

How about them Cubbies?

The Chicago Cubs FINALLY have a little swagger in their step as they enter Tuesday night’s game vs. the Cincinnati Reds riding a three-game win streak with two of those wins being decided by final at-bats. The Cubs shocked the Rockies Sunday afternoon on Dexter Fowler’s 9th inning two-out, two-strike blast off of former Cub, LaTroy Hawkins. The Cubs followed it up with an extra-innings walk-off win Monday night that has the Cubs two games over .500 for the first time since 2009. The phrase, “It’s still early” will continue to pop up in these posts for the better part of April and May whether the results are good or bad, but Northsiders have to be feeling upbeat this week after the last half-decade watching the Cubs fall behind early and then have their bats silenced too.

There’s fight in these Cubs, that’s for sure and man, is it fun to watch. Monday night’s contest saw Jon Lester fall behind 3 – 0 early in the first inning only for the Cubs to come back and tie it in the bottom half. Lester again gave up three more runs in sixth inning, watching his ERA balloon to 7.84 on the season. Surprisingly, the Cubs Ace was the only cause for concern last night as his teammates picked him up in a big way.

Jorge Soler

Jorge Soler led the way with three hits, two of them Home Runs, and four RBI’s. Chris Coghlan added three hits as well, providing a solo dinger in the sixth. The Cubs not only battled, they persevered, outlasting the Reds in ten innings and providing these young Cubs with some much-needed confidence that they can came through late. After the sixth inning, Lester exited and the Cubs bullpen was lights out from there on allowing only three hits over four innings and no runs.

Most fans would agree that games like these are the ones that the Cubs of yesteryear would find a way to lose. The fact that they haven’t in the last three games should prove that these aren’t those same Cubs. It’s still early but having minor victories feels good again especially if they lay the foundation for greater ones.

 

Next Up:

Tonight Vs. the Cincinnati Reds, Jake Arrieta takes the mound against Anthony Desclafani. Game time is 7:05 PM.

 

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