Archive | Chicago Cubs Management

Kris Bryant Wins N.L. Rookie of the Year; Maddon Takes Home Manager’s Top Honor

Posted on 18 November 2015 by Bob

Two down. One to go. That’s the attitude of most Cubs fans after Kris Bryant earned Rookie of the Year honors on Monday, only to see Joe Maddon take the Manager of the Year award the following night. Now all attention turns to tonight when the winner of the N.L. Cy Young Award will be revealed and the Cubs Jake Arrieta is a good bet to take that one home too.


Not that Arrieta is without stiff competition; in fact, this may be the closest race in MLB history with Arrieta, Zack Greinke, and Clayton Kershaw all having legitimate claims for the award given their performances this season judged by a variety of metrics. Greinke only managed a 1.66 ERA over the course of a full season, winning 19 games in the process. Then there is Arrieta, with his 1.77 ERA to pair with 22 wins and a 0.75 ERA since the All-Star Break. There has never been a performance like his in that time frame. Ever. Then there is Clayton Kershaw, who in any other year would have been a lock for the award with his league -leading 301 strikeouts to pair with his league-leading 232.2 innings pitched. Sure he had a 2.13 ERA which is higher than his counterparts but given his impressive numbers elsewhere, he is hard to overlook. It’s crazy that he is probably going to wind up in third place, but that shows you just how incredible these three were this year. Someone has to go home empty-handed; I just hope it’s not our Jake. We’ll find out tonight at 5:00PM CST on MLB Network. Hopefully the Cubs have one more ‘W’ up their sleeve in 2015.

Kris Bryant ROY

Looking back, the Cy Young campaign makes the ROY and MOTY races look like cakewalks.  Early on, the Dodgers Joc Pederson jumped out in front of the rookie race, mashing 20 homers prior to July 1st but he faded down the stretch, ending up with 26 homers(the same amount as Bryant) but as one man faded, another continued to climb, using every at bat to get better and weathering slumps like a veteran rather than the first year player that he is. He was the unanimous selection garnering all 30 first place votes, in what felt like a predestined coronation coming to fruition.  Bryant clearly lapped the field down the stretch, using his talent and instincts to help guide his club to 97 wins and a Wild Card berth. He batted .275 with 99 RBIs and led all N.L. rookies in OBP, slugging and OPS. Yes, he had the dubious distinction of leading ALL N.L. hitters in strikeouts at 199, but the Cubs will surely take the bad with the good when the good is this great. Besides, it’s not like that trend should continue as Bryant has shown the approach and intellect to learn from his mistakes, make adjustments, and get better as the season progresses. He did it well in year one, imagine what this guy will look like in a year or two once he’s been at it for a while.  The future is bright for Bryant and his other young Cubs teammates who exceeded expectations in their first year together.

Joe Maddon MOTY

The Manager of the Year race, while much closer than the ROY, still felt like it belonged to one man and one man only. Sure, the Cardinals Mike Matheny did a phenomenal job leading his injury-ravaged club to an MLB-leading 100 wins in the toughest division in baseball but the Cards were expected to do as such. While no one can predict injuries, the Cardinals are as good as any team in baseball at creating redundancies in their system and the “next man in” philosophy, so it’s hard to say Matheny deserved the award just for plugging in pieces he had because his hand was forced. When you have a winning culture, that’s expected.  Likewise, Terry Collins finally got the most out of his Mets squad behind a stable of young pitchers, the trade for Yoenis Cespedes, and getting most of his guys healthy after the All-Star break but still; the Mets managed the lowest win total on any N.L. playoff participant in a weak division and probably don’t sniff the playoffs without acquiring Cespedes. Clint Hurdle also did an excellent job in guiding his Pirates to 98 wins and a third consecutive playoff berth, but all these accomplishments pale in comparison to the job Joe Maddon did, turning a 73 win team into a 97 win club, while starting four rookies in the field, and displaying incredible dexterity managing up a group of youngsters from the bottom of the barrel  to the third best record in baseball in the Major’s toughest division. Maddon had an answer for everything it seemed, from slump-busting tactics(See: Petting zoo, pajama trips), to position changes (See: Castro to 2B, Russell to SS), all while fostering an encouraging environment where rookies were free to make mistakes without looking over their shoulders.

It’s hard to put a quantitative value on what a Skipper does exactly, but it’s easy to see the impact he had in getting this team to coalesce around him and believe that playoffs were not just a hope, but an expected destination in his first year at the helm. He said as much at his introductory press conference, but then more importantly, backed his words up and gave Cubs fans a whole lot to cheer for and an incredibly fun summer to remember. Sure, Maddon inherited a roster chock-full of young talent but how often does a team this young produce the results we saw in 2015? More often than not, rookie years feature flashes of brilliance paired with prolonged slumps as young men and young teams go through the growing pains required to mature in this league. Maddon was able to weather and even diminish the speed bumps his team faced as proven by the contributions of Bryant, Russell, Soler, and Kyle Schwarber who all provided outstanding performances down the stretch when summer had begun to fade and October beckoned.

Maddon is also an incredible talent that the Cubs had to have and he has proved to be worth every penny so far. Does this club get as far with Renteria at the helm? While there is no definitive way to answer that, my money is on NO. I’ll let the results speak for themselves.

So the Cubs will look to make it 3 for 3 in major awards tonight and can also hang their hat on Anthony Rizzo’s incredible season which, although it did not land him on the N.L. MVP ballot, clearly helped to carry the Cubs as far as they went. He was this club’s  proverbial captain and provided veteran leadership despite being a young Cub, himself.

Let’s Go Cubs!

Cubs beat cards

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Cubs Magic Number Down to 2; Head into Showdown with Bucs

Posted on 24 September 2015 by Bob

After 152 games over the course of five and a half months, the big picture is starting to come into focus as the Cubs magic number to clinch a postseason berth for the first time since 2008 is down to two. Any combination of Cubs wins and Giants losses that adds up to two will do the trick meaning the Cubs could clinch a spot by Friday at the earliest. It’s pretty incredible to see how far this team has come in just a years time and now that the payoff is on our doorstep, well it feels pretty damn good.


This team is playing very good baseball of late and despite being in third place in our division behind two teams that have already clinched postseason berths, there seems to be a consensus forming that this Cubs ball club is the one opposing teams would least like to face. Just this month alone, Chicago has taken 4 of 6 from the Cardinals and their best record in baseball, while also collecting 3 of 4 from Pittsburgh with a pivotal series looming this weekend at Wrigley.

The Cubs currently sit three games back of Pittsburgh for the top Wild Card spot and seven back of the Cardinals for the division lead. With ten to play, the division dream is slowing fading as the Cardinals would basically have to suffer a complete meltdown and the Cubs would probably need to win almost every game from here on out. Stranger things have happened but this is still far-fetched. What is not out of the question though is Pittsburgh catching the Cardinals to overtake the division lead. They remain just four games back and do face St. Louis head-to-head in the three game series early next week. So while it’s almost 99.9% certain that the Cubs will lock down the final, at-large playoff spot, the seeding is still very much wide open. The only thing that’s certain is that the NL Central currently has the three best teams in all of baseball record-wise and that it’s a damn shame they will have to beat up on each other in the first two rounds of the playoffs when anyone of them could go the distance this year.

But let’s not worry about that just yet, as the Cubs are still very much in control of their destiny. After their last off-day of the season today, the Cubs open up a three game series with the Bucs at the Confines that could go a long ways towards determining who will host the National League Wild Card game. A Cubs sweep would draw the clubs even with seven to play, while even a series win would narrow the gap enough to make this a race to the finish. Yes, it’s an exciting time to be a Cubs fan and I hope that most fans take the time to appreciate just how special a year this has been to date and we haven’t even reached the postseason yet.

Cubs Galore

Look at the multitude of successes this Cubs club has achieved so far:

*They have the de facto Rookie of the Year in Kris Bryant, who has hit 26 homers (A Cubs rookie record), 98 RBI’s (and counting), and a .276 BA.

*They have an MVP candidate in Anthony Rizzo, who in just his fifth season is the leader of the Cubs resurgence. He boasts 30 home-runs  to go with 95 RBI’s of his own. He’s batting .282 and he has been the consistent and guiding presence on a team full of youth and inexperience.

*They have a Manager of the year candidate in Joe Maddon, who has taken a club that lost almost 90 games a year ago and brought them to the brink of the postseason. He has done this with patience; he has done it with fun. He has put players in a position to succeed and used mistakes as “teachable moments” rather than public beratements. He’s used psychological tricks and magicians, philosophical quotes and zoo animals. As Cubs GM Jed Hoyer put it:

“Joe was the perfect manager for this team. He’s just got a great blend of the player-development side of managing and the ability to really use the analytics. He knows the right time to step on the gas and the right time to give guys a hug. Players love playing for him. That’s the bottom line.”

There’s no way to know how anyone else would have manged this team, or how far they could have gone under different leadership which is why we should be thankful for what we do know and what we have; a manager who is about take his team to the playoffs.

*They have done this with an influx of youth, at one point starting four rookies and at critical positions. From Kris Bryant at 3B, Jorge Soler in RF, Addison Russell at SS, and Kyle Schwarber as jack of all trades, platoon man. Each had big moments to propel this team to the heights they’ve crested today and each figures to play a large role in the future of this Cubs team. They have exceeded expectations and then some, and there are more on the way as players like Javier Baez have shown signs of improvement in their brief time since being called up.

*They have had veterans and castoffs step up and shine throughout the season. Guys like Chris Coghlan, Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero, David Ross,  and Starlin Castro all helped contribute, sometimes out of position and in nontraditional ways.

*Most of all, they have had Jake Arrieta, arguably the best pitcher in baseball. He is currently Major League Baseball’s only 20 game winner and owner of a sparkling 1.88 ERA. His second half has been historic and he finds himself in the thick of a Cy Young Race. This team would be nowhere near where they are now without him.  He has helped anchor a staff that has shown signs of promise throughout the year, getting better production from Jon Lester in the second half and provided rest to a bullpen that has at times been shaky except for closer Hector Rondon. He is the unquestioned Ace of this team and the Cubs will no doubt pin their Wild Card hopes to his arm.

Take a good look at that list of accomplishments and tell me how no matter what happens the next two to six weeks that this season cannot be considered a success. It has been special, it’s been fun, and it’s not over yet. Ask any Cubs fun what kind of season they want and I believe the answer would be a season just like this. So take the time to stop and smell the roses as we all know moments like these are never guaranteed. Enjoy it and appreciate that it is a year ahead of schedule. The next few weeks are just icing on the cake.

Tomorrow the quest enters it’s final stretch as Jon Lester takes the mound against the Pirates ace Gerit Cole with first pitch coming at 1:20PM CST. A win could put them in and a step closer to hosting playoff baseball on the Northside for the first time in seven years.

Let’s Go Cubs!

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Cubs Split DH with Bucs; Remain 4 Back of Top Wild Card Spot

Posted on 16 September 2015 by Bob

The Cubs split a day/night double header with the Pirates in Pittsburgh yesterday dropping the opener 5 -4 before taking the night cap 2 – 1. Both contests featured lots of drama from the two N.L. Wild card front-runners but ultimately the day ended as it began, with the Cubs 4 games out from the top Wild Card spot.

Game 1 saw Cubs starter Jason Hammel struggle early allowing three runs in a disastrous first inning where he gave up a walk, HBP, an RBI-single, another walk, and a 2 run, RBI single all while recording just one out. Thankfully he got out of the inning after that but giving up those early runs, especially after your team strikes first, is no blueprint for success.  Hammel would give up an RBI-double in the fourth inning to Neil Walker before being pulled to start the fifth frame. Trevor Cahill came on in relief and pitched a couple of steady innings, allowing just one hit while punching out four. That would be enough to get them to the seventh where the Cubs were finally able to break through and chase Bucs starter Gerrit Cole from the game on Tommy La Stella’s RBI double making it a 4 – 2 game. Joakim Soria came on and got Addison Russell to line out to short before hurling two wild pitches, that each allowed a run to score and knotted the game up four all before getting Kyle Schwarber to strike out and end the inning.

Both sides went 1-2-3 over the next inning before the Cubs were undone by a throwing error from Miguel Montero that allowed pinch runner Pedro Florimon to reach third base with only one out. Starling Marte then hit a sac fly to left which would plate Florimon and provide the winning margin as the Cubs side went down 1-2-3 yet again in the ninth. It was a disappointing finish as the Cubs had their chances to steal this one despite the calamitous first inning, but a couple of mistakes doomed them. Still, the Cubs had a chance to get even in the nightcap with Jon Lester on the bump and boy, did they take advantage.

Lester Complete Game Gem

Lester was outstanding; hurling a five-hit, one-run, nine strike-out, complete game on 111 pitches in Game 2. He was just what the doctor ordered for a pitching staff (outside of Arrieta) and bullpen that had been scuffling of late.  He gave manager Joe Maddon no reason to turn to his pen, pitching with confidence and working out of the few jams he got into, the most notable being the seventh inning when after allowing two straight singles to lead off the inning, he got Michael Morse to ground into a double play. Although a run would score on the play, major damage was averted and Lester was able to get through the rest of the game unscathed.

Run support was minimal at two, but that would be all Lester would need as he made his 2-1 advantage hold up over nine frames. Anthony Rizzo provided the game’s initial run on an RBI single in the first. Dexter Fowler contributed the game’s difference maker, an RBI-double in the fifth. This one was more about pitching anyways and tonight was all Jon Lester. He showed why the Cubs signed him this off-season and while no one will confuse him with Jake Arrieta (A sentence that would seem very strange 12 months ago), he is rounding into form as  the #2 in the Cubs 1 – 2 punch. Hell, he even picked a man on first as Starling Marte tried to do what so many have done this year; run rampant on the base paths. Lester calmly stepped off the mound and threw to Rizzo who was able to eventually catch Marte in a rundown.

“This is what he does,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He likes pitching in big games in the latter part of the season. It’s not a surprise.”

Not a surprise but just in time as the Cubs enter a critical stretch that features eight more contests vs. the Pirates and Cards combined. They will need every win along the way to catch those teams which makes these head to head match-ups so important as the results are two-fold. Chicago currently sits four back of the Bucs and seven off of the division-leading Cardinals. The Giants are the Cubs last true threat to a playoff spot as they sit 7.5 back with 18 games to play.


We are in for a dramatic finish and what better way to kick off the home stretch of the season than throwing Jake Arrieta on the mound with a chance to make a big dent in the Pirates lead. He will face A.J. Burnett with first pitch at 6:00PM CST in Pittsburgh.

Let’s Go Cubs!

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Cubs Shelled by Reds as Bullpen Falters Late; Drop Opener 13 – 6

Posted on 01 September 2015 by Bob

One night after Jake Arrieta’s no-hitter and a red-eye flight from LA back to Chicago, it was probably expecting too much for this team to play aesthetically pleasing baseball, let alone get a win.  The Cubs offense did their part, tallying six runs which on most occasions would be more than enough for a win, but the bullpen completely crumbled as Justin Grimm, Travis Wood, and James Russell gave up 10 runs combined after Kyle Hendricks’ modest five innings of five-hit, three-run ball. Yes, six of those runs came in the ninth with the Cubs already trailing by two and the game seemingly over, but it’s still not a good sign when on the cusp of September the back end of your bullpen remains dicey.

Grimm struggles vs. REDS

The game was scoreless through three innings and 1 – 1 after four when Cincinnati’s Brandon Phillips broke the game open with a two-out, two-run RBI single to put the Reds out in front. The Cubs would battle back in the bottom half of the inning as Addison Russell had a two-run, RBI double to knot the game back up. Kyle Schwarber would single in another run, as would Kris Bryant, to tip the balance back in the Cubs favor, 5 – 3.

It all went out the window after Hendricks left the game and Grimm came on to start the sixth inning immediately walking Ivan De Jesus before serving up a homer to Eugenio Suarez. History would repeat itself as Grim allowed Tucker Barnhart to reach on a single to right before pinch hitter Adam Duvall went deep to left field with a two-run shot of his own to put the Reds in front for good. The score remained as such until the ninth inning; one of the worst you will see all year from this Cubs team as Travis Wood walked three batters while collecting only two outs. James Russell came on only needing to get one man out but gave up an RBI single and a double in addition to not one, but two errors from second baseman Starlin Castro that lead to runs.  Mercifully, Jay Bruce ground out to second to end the inning and the Cubs bullpen’s woeful night. Addison Russell added a solo home run off of Reds closer Aroldis Chapman in the bottom of the ninth to provide a minor silver lining. The Reds took the game 13 – 6.

Castro struggles

Cubs manager offered his assessment and from the sounds of it, he didn’t like the book:

“(It was) kind of a bad ending,” Maddon said. “It didn’t start too good, the middle part of the book was actually a pretty good read and then eventually it became a nasty ending. I’m over it already. Just throw that one away.”

That’s what the Cubs will look to do tonight as the calendar has finally flipped to September and the finish line has come into focus. They stand 5.5 games behind the Pirates for the top Wild Card spot, and are 5.5 games ahead of San Francisco for the second and final Wild Card position. They are firmly entrenched in a playoff race, something that would have sounded very hard to believe at this time last year.

They look to get back on track tonight in a make or break start for the struggling Dan Haren as the roster expands to 40. He will face Anthony DeSclafani for the Reds with a 7:05PM CST start. Hopefully, we will get a look at the newly acquired outfielder, Austin Jackson at some point for the Cubs. Javy Baez will also start at second base due to the roster expansion.

Let’s Go Cubs!


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Cubs Drop Finale Vs. Sox; Win Streak Ends at 9

Posted on 18 August 2015 by Bob

The Chicago Cubs finally dropped a game in the series finale vs. the South Siders on Sunday capping their win streak at nine games and 15 of their last 17. The Cubs simply ran into a buzz-saw in the form of Chris Sale and boy, did he make the streaking Cubs look silly in striking out 15 batters while allowing only one hit in seven, dominant innings of work. It’s a lot easier to take such a loss when the team has been playing as stellar as these Cubs have the last two and a half weeks. Whereas earlier in the season, a performance like Sunday’s could be viewed as the norm, it has now become the exception; a sign of how far this team has come and how even talented hitters on a hot streak aren’t immune to struggles against one of the game’s best.

Chris Sale

That’s not to downplay how lights-out Sale was though. He carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning before Dexter Fowler was able to single into left. He struck out the side in the first inning and did so in the seventh as well, his last inning of work. The White Sox backed him with three solo home runs from Jose Abreu, Alexei Ramirez, and Melky Cabrera off of Cubs starter Dan Haren, to jump out to a 3 – 0 lead. Despite his dominance, the Cubs had a one last opportunity in the ninth inning against Sox reliever David Robertson. Down to one out left and nobody on, Jorge Soler homered to right to make it 3 – 1, followed by an infield single from Addison Russell which brought the tying run to the plate in Starlin Castro. He grounded out to end the game keeping the final score at 3 – 1.

Manager Joe Maddon tried to spin the positives on a day when there weren’t many at the post-game presser:

“The best thing we did was get his pitch count up enough to get him out before the ninth inning,” Maddon said, half-smiling, after the game. “He’s really tough for us.”

While that’s an understatement, at least the Cubs can rest easy knowing they won’t have to face him again this year. For all their hard work these past couple weeks they now sit at 67 – 49, with a four game lead over San Francisco for the final Wild Card spot, and are only two back of the Pirates for the top Wild Card position. That’s a pretty good place to be right now and makes the eight game deficit they face in the division that much more incredible. Put this team in almost any other division in baseball and they would be the front runner; in the N.L. Central, they’re a third place team which doesn’t sound great until you consider they’re also the third best club in the entire National League and sport the fourth best record in all of baseball.

Wild card preview

We’re definitely in for some fireworks down this stretch run, for if everything holds as is, the Cubs would be setup to potentially face both division foes who currently reside ahead of them. That’s still a ways off, but October 4th is beginning to get a little larger on the horizon and the Cubs are playing not only meaningful, but exciting baseball this late into the season.

Here’s to hoping the team can stay hot. Tonight it’s Anibal Sanchez vs. Jason Hammel as the Detroit Tigers come to Wrigley for a two game Inter-League series. First pitch is 7:05PM CST.


Let’s Go Cubs!



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Cubs Bust Out the Bats & Brooms vs. the Champs; Open Up Wild Card Lead

Posted on 10 August 2015 by Bob

It seems like all season we’ve been waiting for this Cubs team, a year ahead of schedule, to put it all together and go on one of those hot streaks that playoff-caliber teams do. This weekend we finally got our wish as the Cubs bats not only exploded but they did so against the defending World Series champion, San Francisco Giants in a historical four game sweep at Wrigley Field in which the Cubs trailed for all of one inning.

Coming into this series the Cubs sat a half game behind the Giants in the Wild Card chase and hoped to remain competitive against a squad with loads of playoff experience; a 2-2 split would not have been shocking. Instead, the Cubs exited on Sunday with a 3.5 game lead for the second Wild Card spot and all the confidence and bravado one acquires when they outplay a good baseball team in four consecutive games.

Arrieta the General

There were stars aplenty throughout the series, most recently Jake Arrieta, who on Sunday pitched 7.2 innings of four-hit, shut-out ball while striking out six and capturing his 13th win of the season. He was bordering on dominant yet again  He also legged out a triple in the second which would prove beneficial after Addison Russell hit a sac-fly to bring him into score and upped his lead to 2 – 0, which would remain the final score, but not without some indigestion in the ninth.

Hector Rondon came on to save the game in the ninth but quickly found himself in trouble as he allowed the first two men reach; Brandon Belt on a single and Brandon Crawford on a double, before hitting Ehire Adrianza with a pitch to load the bases with no outs. The odds were not good and I’m sure many Cubs fans had that sinking feeling they’ve felt so  many times over the past years when the club has managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory but in dramatic and perhaps narrative-changing fashion, Rondon struck out Hector Sanchez, Angel Pagan, and finally after 36 pitches in the inning, he got Gregor Blanco K’ed on a pitch just off the plate that was expertly framed by Miguel Montero to escape the jam and send the Wrigley Faithful into a frenzy, the likes of which we haven’t seen in seven, long years. These aren’t last years Cubs, that much is true.

Rondon Celebrates

After claiming 10 wins in their last 11 games and sweeping the Giants, the Cubs have put the N. L. on notice that they don’t desire to be just a cute, feel-good story. They want to win, and currently they have the leadership and execution to do so. Joe Maddon has been pulling all the right strings both on the field and off as he continues to lead this mostly young bunch to heights unknown to teams that start four rookies. It seems that all the people brought in this off-season are doing exactly what they were brought in to do. Jon Lester is back on his game and becoming the top of the rotation force they expected. David Ross has provided valuable experience in teaching Kyle Schwarber and has been a surprise bat in some clutch situations over the last several weeks. Dexter Fowler is working some deep counts to get on base and set the table while Miguel Montero is back from his injury behind the dish, framing pitches to get his team the W. Couple that with the impressive tear the rookies have been on and this team is primed for some October baseball.

With an off day on Monday, the team has a minute to take a breath after a successful and yes, FUN series. They return to action on Tuesday as Dan Haren will make his second start for the Cubs vs. Milwaukee’s Taylor Jungmann. Game time is 7:05PM CST and the Cubs look to improve upon their burgeoning, 62 – 48 record and try to close the gap on Pittsburgh who remains on top of the Wild Card heap with a 3.5 game cushion.

Let’s Go Cubs!

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Cubs Rounding Into Form Behind Schwarber’s Hot Streak; Go for Series Win vs. Giants

Posted on 08 August 2015 by Bob

What do you do with a man who has 8 hits, 9 runs, 3 home runs, 8 RBI’s and a .421 batting average in 19 at-bats the last seven days?

You find a way to keep him in the lineup, that’s what.

It doesn’t matter if you have to play him out of position because you have two other catchers who bring their own talents to the position. It doesn’t matter if said move means bumping a veteran, three-time All-Star at shortstop to the bench in favor of the more-talented, hotter-hitting rookie to make room. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as it’s done with the macro, the big-picture, driving your reasoning. None of it matters so long as the Cubs win and lately they have been doing a lot of winning; for that, they have that man, Kyle Schwarber, to thank.

Schwarber stays

Schwarber had another excellent day on Friday collecting a double, an infield single, and a stolen base as the Cubs beat the Giants 7 – 3, increasing their Wild Card lead to 1.5 games and going a season high 12 games over .500 at 60 – 48. He is just on fire right now and providing a huge lift to a team all to dependent on Anthony Rizzo for much of the season. His vigor has been contagious as the Cubs have scored  4 or more runs the last eight games and getting just about everyone involved in the process; a sight for sore eyes coming from an offense that just a month or so ago was slogged down in a series of one and two run outputs for entire games.

It’s starting to feel different at Wrigley as the season enters it’s third act and the Cubs show little signs of waning, turning on the after-burners with a playoff spot in their grasp. Jon Lester is no stranger to this vibe having played on the World Champion Red Sox teams and his performance of late has reflected that. He was tough yesterday scattering six hits and two runs in seven innings of work while lowering his ERA to 3.22. He has now gone seven or more innings in seven consecutive starts becoming the workhorse leader this team signed him to be.

Castro sits

All the Cubs pieces are currently functioning at a high level as the bats are popping, the starting pitching has been going deep into games, and the bullpen has, for the most part, been shutting the door. Manager Joe Maddon has been pushing all the right buttons, none more important than realizing he must keep his young, hot hitters on the field regardless of position or reputation. This has come at the cost of sitting Starlin Castro to allow Schwarber to play left field when not catching, and moving Addison Russell to his natural position at shortstop, and bumping Chris Coghlan to second base. This can’t be easy for Castro but everyone watching knows that he is not producing at the rate of those given the nod ahead of him. It is necessary for the Cubs to put their best team on the field that gives them the greatest chance to win. So far, so good. It will be interesting to see how this plays out and affects Castro moving forward but you can’t argue with the results so far.

Today it’s Kyle Hendricks vs. Matt Cain in game three as the Cubs go for the series win. Game time is 3:05PM CST.

Let’s Go Cubs!


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Cubs Train Keeps Rolling; Within 3 Games of Pirates For 1st Wild Card Spot

Posted on 05 August 2015 by Bob

A month ago Jake Arrieta was left off the All-Star roster. Now he is firmly entrenched in the Cy Young discussion. I would normally say”what a difference a month makes” or some other platitude here but that would be simplifying what Arrieta has done this season. He hasn’t just “come on strong” this last month and half; the guy has been doing this all year and in doing so has the Cubs in a playoff race for the first time in seven years.

Arrieta dominant again

One could make the argument that Arrieta has been the most consistent Cub this season; yes, even more so than Rizzo, who is putting up impressive numbers in the N.L. as well. Arrieta (12 – 6) is flat out dominating opponents, the latest being the Pirates who managed a measly two hits and three walks in Arrieta’s seven innings of work last night at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. He  now has a 2.50 ERA and Manager Joe Maddon seems to think there’s another gear in him.

“He’s an interesting pitcher. I will say it again, he’s not there yet,” Maddon said. “He’s still learning how to utilize all his weapons. There’s another level of Arrieta.”

A pretty scary thought given where the man is at right now. If the regular season ended today, are you sure it’s Jon Lester and not Arrieta you want on the mound for a one game playoff? I’m not so sure, and anyone who is, clearly would be banking their opinion on past performance, and not what is happening right now. Jon Lester is definitely rounding into the form we expected after his off-season signing but Arrieta’s presence has been a stabilizing influence on the club all year long and may be what the Cubs need in a pressure situation. Long way to go still, but this guy has been something else and is finally getting the credit and respect he deserves. He has earned it.

“Each win breeds more confidence throughout the ball club,” Arrieta said. “We need to keep it rolling as long as we can. It’s important to find your stride at this point in the season.”

With the defense posting a shutout, all the offense had to do was scratch one across. They got five, and the guys looked on-point last night. Jorge Soler took a nice walk to bring the first run in while Starlin Castro and David Ross doubled and singled in runs, respectively.  Castro added another RBI double in the fifth inning and Soler singled in the final run in the sixth.  The Cubs posted 14 hits, including three from Chris Denorfia. They still left quite a few men on base, but when your Ace is hanging zeros on the other team, five runs is good enough to get the job done as the 5-0 win made it six straight W’s for Chicago who moved to 11 games over .500 and within three games of the Pirates for the first Wild Card spot while maintaining a half game advantage for the second spot over San Francisco.

Dan Haren Cubs

These Cubs are hot right now and will need a big start from newcomer Dan Haren in the finale tonight vs. the Bucs’ Jeff Locke to send the Cubs home with a nice six-win road trip. Game time is 6:05PM CST.

Let’s Go Cubs!

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Rizzo Homers Again as Cubs Cruise Past Brew Crew

Posted on 01 August 2015 by Bob

Anthony Rizzo is on a roll, homering in each of the last three games as he led the Cubs past Milwaukee on Friday night at Miller Park. Jason Hammel gave up a solo-shot to Ryan Braun in the bottom of the first to make it 1-0 but Chicago got that run right back in the second inning when Starlin Castro singled in Kris Bryant. From there Hammel scattered five hits over the remainder of his almost six innings of work to pick up the W, his seventh straight decision vs. the Brewers.

RIZZO HR - 3 in  row

While Rizzo and Jorge Soler each had two hits a piece, it was the oft-maligned Castro who drove in two runs and looked rejuvenated after slogging through a rough year at the plate.

“He had three really good at-bats for us,” Maddon said. “(He) did a nice job at shortstop, but he’s capable of that. I mean, that’s who he is.”

Hector Rondon picked up another save, his 15th this year and the Cubs are now back to eight games over .500 at 55 – 47 and only one game game for the second Wild Card berth as San Francisco lost to Texas on Friday night. The Cubs also posted a 15 – 12 record for the month of July, and have now played .500 or better in every calendar month of this 2015 season.

Yes, things are looking up on the North Side and they get a chance to go nine games over .500 tonight as Kyle Hendricks takes the mound vs. former Cub Matt Garza with first pitch coming at 6:10PM CST.

Let’s Go Cubs!

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

Posted on 28 July 2015 by Bob

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, including another home run. It was 8 – 7 Rockies  and it appeared as if the Cubs were headed to their fourth straight defeat. It appeared there would be no celebrating these Cubs’ tenacity in fighting back from a four-run deficit to plate six men in the fourth inning. It appeared that this team’s slump-busting, offensive break-out would all be for naught; and as Kris Bryant stepped to the plate with one man on and two outs, it appeared that this game was basically over.

With one swing of the bat, #17 turned those appearances on their head.

Kris Bryant Walk-ff home run

Bryant launched the second pitch he saw into the left-center bleachers scoring Dexter Fowler, and collecting his first walk-off home run at Wrigley Field. More importantly, the Cubs picked up a big win at a time they desperately needed to do so to keep pace in the Wild Card chase.  Kyle Hendricks had another so-so outing going five innings while allowing seven hits and four runs, which still would have been enough for the win if the bullpen hadn’t collapsed.

Lost in the late-game theatrics was the fact that the Cubs bats finally returned, albeit for just one night, from the milk cartons they’ve currently been occupying. The Cubs were efficient, collecting nine runs on eleven hits, three of which came from the struggling Starlin Castro. The Cubs had a huge fourth inning as they batted around the order and chased Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa from the game. Fowler and Kyle Schwarber both drew walks and Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Jorge Soler, and Castro all singled to either push men across or into scoring position. Addison Russell had an RBI double to cap the Cubs scoring in the merry-go-round inning and put Chicago up 6 – 4.

Despite tacking on another run to make it 7 – 4, the Cubs closer-by-committee approach completely fell apart in the ninth, something that just cannot happen. Carlos Gonzalez hit his second homer of the game to take the lead off of Soriano, who has now given up two home runs in only four relief appearances.

“We have to nail down a three-point lead in the ninth,”  Joe Maddon said. “We have to get better there. … We’ve given some of those things away. We almost gave one again tonight. We grabbed it back. Move it along.”

Thank the baseball gods for Kris Bryant. Without him this season could have been headed for a tailspin but hopefully his ninth inning heroics rubs off on a club which is in dire need of some good fortune.

“It wakes us up a little bit,” Bryant said. “We were a little nonchalant the last couple of games. Myself included. The energy of a walk-off win is going to pay for us moving forward.”

Castro vs. Rockies

They will need every ounce of that energy as the deadline looms and the Cubs largely looking to stand pat. There are still lots of question marks after last night; one being who can handle the closer’s role on a regular basis? Does the answer lie outside the Cubs’ clubhouse? All is still quiet on the Cubs front as other teams dive head-first into blockbuster deals. Stay tuned.


Tonight it’s Dallas Beeler for the Cubs vs. Yohan Flande for the Rockies. Game time is 7:05PM CST.


Let’s Go Cubs!


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