Archive | Chris Coghlan

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.

KB ROY

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 Win 5th Straight as Kris Bryant Hits Walk-Off Home Run to Down Tribe

Posted on 24 August 2015 by Bob

The month of August can be a grind for MLB teams with the All-Star break behind them but October still a ways off. It’s hot, guys are tired, and five months of almost daily baseball can leave a team fatigued mentally as well. It’s usually when the playoff picture begins to come into view, as contenders rise to occasion and the pretenders fall back to the pack. I think it’s safe to call these Cubs contenders after the incredible month they’ve had, with still one week left in August.

The Cubs are 17 – 4 this month so far and after playing an incredible seventeen straight games in Chicago (14 at home, 3 on the south side), finished the “extended” homestand at 14 – 3. Is that home cooking? Some might argue such, given the winds have been blowing out at Wrigley resulting in a high number of balls leaving the yard, but that argument doesn’t hold much water when you consider that each team has to play in the same conditions. This Cubs team is, simply put, very good.

KB Wrigley Walk-off #2

After starting the most recent part of the homestand by getting absolutely mauled by Tigers for two straight games, the Cubs regained their rhythm against Atlanta resulting in a four game sweep and put the cherry on top today as the Cubs won in walk-off fashion behind Kris Bryant’s home run in the bottom of the ninth inning, 2 – 1.  Jon Lester and the Indian’s Corey Kluber battled all afternoon in a low-scoring affair, each giving up only one run a piece while scattering six and four hits respectively. These two were at the top of their game today, and Kluber even flirted with a no-hitter into the sixth inning. The difference being that the Cubs were able to chase Kluber a bit sooner than the Tribe could get to Lester as Jon lasted 8 2/3 innings before allowing the game-tying run to Carlos Santana on a single with two outs in the ninth. That set the stage for the red-hot Bryant to play the hero and cap the Cubs homestand with a bang. Anthony Rizzo provided the game’s first run on a RBI-triple in the seventh, which plated Chris Coghlan who had doubled to left.

It would have been disappointing had the Cubs lost today after coming within one out of a shutout, but Kris Bryant stepped into the batters box with two outs  and made everyone forget the drama of the previous half inning by blasting his 20th home run of the season. The Cubs now sit 21 games over .500 in their relentless pursuit of the Pirates and Cardinals in both the Wild Card and division races; races that still remain open despite the torrid pace each of those clubs is on in their own right.

cubbies-bear-logo

The Cubs now head out on the road for the first time in a while but should have little worry as they currently boast the National League’s best road record at 33 – 25. They will still be tested however as they venture west to face, first the Giants and then the Dodgers in a pivotal road trip that could see them open up an even greater lead in the Wild Card chase as they currently have a 6.5 game cushion over San Francisco for the second spot.

It will be Arrieta vs. Matt Cain tomorrow night by the Bay with first pitch coming in at 9:15PM CST.

Let’s Go Cubs!

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Cubs Get Down Early But Storm Back For Second Straight Win

Posted on 22 August 2015 by Bob

The Cubs got back to their streaking ways on Friday, picking up their second win in a row against the visiting Atlanta Braves after dropping three in a row earlier in the week. The offense continues to impress whether it’s getting out to an early lead or battling back later in games with a “never say die” attitude. It was the fourth game in a row in which the Cubs scored five or more runs making it seven of their last eight contests to reach that threshold. They got it done behind Chris Coghlan’s solo home run in the first to tie the game up at one all. In the fifth, Chris Denorfia grounded into a fielder’s choice that allowed Miguel Montero to score on a throwing error by Braves third baseman, Pedro Ciriaco. Still the Cubs were only able to scratch that one across, while stranding two men on base.

KB doubles vs. Braves

The real damage was done in the bottom of the sixth, as an Anthony Rizzo walk set the table for Kris Bryant’s RBI-scoring double. Montero followed with a double of his own, allowing the Cubs to take the lead 4-3. Rizzo added an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh, as he singled to right bringing Addison Russell in to score and provide what would be the game’s final score, 5 – 3.

The starting pitching left much to be desired but it wasn’t as bad as the club’s two games against Detroit this week. Kyle Hendricks lasted five innings while giving up seven hits and allowing three runs. He did strike out seven and lasted much longer than his last start (3.1 innings), so there was progress however minor it may seem.

“It was better,” Hendricks said. “It’s still a little frustrating.”

Skipper Joe Maddon concurred, offering some positive reinforcement:

“The beginning was just a little bit sketchy, but then he did settle into that guy,” Maddon said. “I saw a better down angle, I saw the ball down better, I saw some called strikes that they didn’t like, which only means that the ball is moving back over the plate.

That may be a glass half-full assessment but without a formidable offense and excellent outing from the bullpen, the outlook wouldn’t appear as rosy. Jason Motte, Justin Grimm, Pedro Strop, and Hector Rondon each pitched one inning of scoreless relief with Rondon being the only one to give up a hit. That proved crucial as the game wore on and Cubs missed a few opportunities to put more runs on the board. Motte picked up his eighth ‘W’ while Shelby Miller took the loss for the Braves.

So notch another Cubs comeback win in the books, another climb through adversity to come out on top; an experience that should prove helpful come October. Chicago improved to 69 – 51 on the season, gaining a game on the Pirates and Cardinals who each suffered losses and keeping a four game cushion over San Francisco for the final Wild Card spot.

They go for win #70 today as the try to take their third straight from Atlanta behind Dan Haren on the mound. He is opposed by Williams Perez for the Braves with the game set to start at 3:05PM CST.

 

Let’s Go Cubs!

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Cubs Lose Shoot-Out to Tigers After Rain Delay; Look for Season-Split with Detroit

Posted on 19 August 2015 by Bob

Offense was out in full force at Wrigley Field Tuesday night; unfortunately so was the rain. The Cubs dropped a shoot-out to the Tigers 10 – 8 last night in a long, wet contest that was delayed over two hours due to heavy winds, rain, and tornado warnings in the Chicago land area. The game finished just after 1:00AM Wednesday morning as the Cubs, who had battled back from deficits of 3 – 0 and 6 – 2, were able to knot the game up at six a piece in the seventh inning on Anthony Rizzo’s single to right center, but Pedro Strop gave it all back in the top of the eighth inning as he loaded the bases before recording an out and allowed three runs to score before working out of the inning.

Kinsler

Ian Kinsler went five for five at the plate for Detroit, netting two RBI’s, the second of which came in the ninth and provided  a comfortable cushion as the Cubs would tack on two more runs in the bottom of the inning but that was still not enough, as the Tigers took the game 10 – 8 behind 19 hits. Jason Hammel was off his game again lasting only three innings (Although the rain did play a small part) and giving up five runs on nine hits. He gave up home runs to both Kinsler and J.D. Martinez in the first, and another homer to Anthony Gose in the second. This really taxed the bullpen as the Cubs were forced to use six relievers to finish the game.

A tarp covers the field during a rain delay at a baseball game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago Cubs, Saturday, June 13, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

The Cubs did their part offensively behind a pair of home runs; the first from Chris Coghlan, a two-run shot in the second, and the other being a three-run, 419-foot blast to right in the fifth from none other than the phenomenal Kyle Schwarber to pull the Cubs within a run and get them right back in this game. You could feel the momentum shifting in the middle innings as the Cubs clawed their way back into this. It felt like they might outlast the Tigers and keep their incredible run going but alas, Pedro Strop completely fell apart in the eighth. A run or two might have been able to be overcome but not three that late in an already long and exhausting game.  While it’s frustrating to drop two straight, it’s a sign of how far this team has come when two straight losses is a rare and unexpected occurrence.

Luckily, the Cubs have Jon Lester going tonight vs. Daniel Norris, so that SHOULD help out a tired bullpen as the Cubs look to salvage a season-series split with the Tigers and keep pace in the Wild card chase. Game time is 7:05PM CST.

 

Let’s Go Cubs!

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Cubs Win Eighth Straight; Top Sox in Opener

Posted on 15 August 2015 by Bob

The Cubs train is rolling right now and is showing no signs of slowing down as they topped the White Sox, 6-5 in the opener Friday at US Cellular Field behind some solid relief pitching and a couple of big bats. The Cubs have now won eight straight games and 14 of 15 to climb to 66 – 48 and just a game and half back of the first wild card spot and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Coghlan Cubs Win

The latest heroes in this amazing run were the bullpen and the bats of Chris Coghlan and Anthony Rizzo. After starter Kyle Hendricks lasted only 3.1 innings while allowing five runs on eight hits, it looked like the Cubs current streak was headed for it’s end but Clayton Richard came on for two innings of relief and allowed only one hit to get the Cubs to their late-relief men and keep the game in hand. Yes, Clayton Richard was the hero; the same guy who has twice been designated for assignment this year and picked up by no one off the waiver wire each time. He earned high praise from his teammates and manager alike on Friday:

“He was huge,” Anthony Rizzo said. “Clayton coming in, giving us those innings was huge. He threw up zeros.”

“He really defined the game at that point,”  Manager Joe Maddon added.

Richard enabled the Cubs to extend the game but they needed some big bats to get over the hump and bag another W. They got exactly what they needed from Chris Coghlan who hit a three run homer in the third to put the Cubs up 4-2. After they fell behind 5-4, Coghlan came through again with another homer to center to knot the game at five a piece. Anthony Rizzo stepped up just after with a jack to the right field seats to put the Cubs on top for good and for the second straight game the Cubs hit back to back homers in the same inning.

Justin Grimm, Pedro Strop, and Hector Rondon closed out the game allowing one hit over 3.2 innings and  Strop provided some theatrics as he and Alexei Ramirez got engaged in a little back and forth with Ramirez on second and Strop trying to keep him honest on the bag. After Ramirez wagged his finger at Strop, effectively telling him he wouldn’t catch him off the bag, Strop struck out the final two batters and turned towards Ramirez and delivered not one, but two emphatic fist pumps to show him  who was really in charge. It was fun to watch and provided an emotional boost to the Cubs fans watching in the seats and at home as Twitter went nuts after Strop’s antics.

This team is truly special to watch and they are showing up everyday believing they will win; knowing someone among them will step up to make the difference. From Clayton Richard to Chris Coghlan and everyone in between, this team is full of feel-good, bounce-back stories; guys who have suffered through slumps, injuries, and bad luck to find their way back to the lineup and help their team get a W. I’m not sure how long this charmed streak will last but it’s been a blast to watch. The fun is definitely back on the North Side. Let’s see how far these Cubs can take it!

Tonight it’s the Cubs Arrieta vs. Quintana for the Sox at 6:10PM CST.

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 Slam Tigers 12-3 as Bats Come Alive; Rebound from Shutout

Posted on 11 June 2015 by Bob

A night after being shutout 6-0 in a rare visit to Comerica Field in Detroit, the Chicago Cubs rebounded and then some jumping on the Tigers early as they raced out to 5-0 lead behind Chris Coghlan’s three-run homer in the top of the third and a pair of RBI-singles.

Yoenis Cespedes responded in kind for the Tigers, jacking a three-run shot in the sixth inning to cut the Cub’s lead in half, but the Cubs piled on in the next half-inning plating six more runs behind a combination of walks and singles, along with another three-run blast from Miguel Montero to push the lead to 12-3, which would wind up being the final.

Coghlan dinger in Detroit

It was a sweet victory given the previous night’s outcome, and a fitting end to a 5-4 road trip that saw the Cubs see-saw between bad losses and complete wins to stay five games above .500 and keep in the hunt in the Central.

“I just like the idea that we’re able to come back,” Manager Joe Maddon said after getting shut out. “The bounce after the fall. We’ve done that pretty well this year.”

Jake Arrieta pitched six innings of eight-hit ball with his only real mistake being the three-run shot he served up to Cespedes. That was good enough to pick up his sixth win of the year. On the other side, the Tigers had to throw six pitchers out there as starter Shane Green lasted only three innings after allowing five runs on seven hits and a walk.

Arrieta in detroit

Despite the Tigers struggles early this season, the team has talent and for the Cubs to respond to the pounding they took on Tuesday by dishing out one of their own the following night is something to be lauded.  This season has been ebb and flow from the onset but the Cubs have managed to keep their heads above water as we inch closer to the All-Star break.  There have been bumps but it appears that you can’t keep these Cubs down for too long given that their longest losing streak is four games, something that the Detroit Tigers can’t say.

The Cubs return to the Friendly Confines tonight to face Cincinnati as the right field bleachers section will finally be opened up. Tsuyoshi Wada faces the Reds’ Michael Lorenzen in a 7:05PM CST start time.

Lets Go Cubs!

 

 

 

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