Archive | Dan Haren

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 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 Stay Red Hot in Winning 11 of 12; Beat Brewers 6 – 3

Posted on 12 August 2015 by Bob

It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen a run like this from our beloved Cubbies so let’s all take a moment and appreciate what this team has accomplished these last twelve games.

Here are some numbers:

*The Cubs have won 11 or their last 12 games to improve to fifteen games over .500 with a 63 – 48 record.

*The Cubs have a 3.5 game lead for the second Wild Card spot and after the Pirates loss to the Cardinals last night, are only 2.5 games back from the first spot.

*In the last 12 games, opposing starting pitchers have lasted on average 4.8 innings in games and only one has reached the seventh inning. In the last 8 games, no opposing starter has pitched six innings.

*The reason for opposing starter’s lack of success against the Cubs? This red-hot lineup is seeing 3.98 pitches per plate appearance, good for tops in the N.L. as the league average is 3.78.

*The Cubs have scored 58 runs the last 12 games, which is almost a five run per game average (4.83), a far cry from the earlier offensive grind the team experienced putting up one to two runs a game.

Chicago Cubs starter Dan Haren delivers during the first inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

Yes, the Cubs are really putting it altogether of late, getting it done with pitching, hitting, and defense. They are getting production from rookies (Bryant, Schwarber, Soler, Russell) and veterans (Rizzo, Fowler). Even the Cubs weak spots are being converted into positives as Starlin Castro, resigned to the bench the last four games, returned as a late inning replacement at second base last night, and while he didn’t record a hit, he did impress fans and players alike with his hustle in attempting two rather difficult plays. He received a loud ovation for a difficult catch on an Elian Herrera foul pop out in the ninth. That had to feel good for the maligned veteran, struggling through the worst stretch of his still relatively young career.

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 11: Jorge Soler #68 of the Chicago Cubs is safe a s home as Jonathan Lucroy #20 of the Milwaukee Brewers makes a late tag during the second inning on August 11, 2015 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

Dan Haren was serviceable in his second start with the Cubs (exactly what they brought him in for), as he pitched 5.1 innings of five hit ball while allowing three runs, two of which came on an Adam Lind home run in the top of the sixth. Otherwise, Haren and the Cubs bullpen did a fine job of keeping Milwaukee from getting anything going. The Cubs offense did their part, chasing Brewers starter Taylor Jungmann after 2.2 innings and stretching that Milwaukee bullpen early in this series. Anthony Rizzo and Jorge Soler each drove in 2 RBI’s and the Cubs pretty much took control from the onset and never let up. The final score was Cubs 6, Brewers 3 despite the teams both posting seven hits. The Cubs simply did more with their opportunities, something they seem to be doing with great regularity these days.

The look for more of the same tonight as Jason Hammel is set to face Matt Garza. First pitch is 7:05PM CST.

Let’s Go Cubs!

 

 

 

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Win Streak Ends But Cubs Don’t Go Down Without a Fight

Posted on 06 August 2015 by Bob

The Pirates jumped on the Cubs early Thursday night as Gregory Polanco went deep in the first at-bat for Pittsburgh against Cubs’ newcomer, Dan Haren. Pedro Alvarez added an RBI single in the first inning as well to give the Bucs and early 2 -0 lead. Andrew McCutchen homered to center in the third to make it 3 -0 before Anthony Rizzo finally put the Cubs on the board with an RBI-Sac fly in the top of the fourth. Haren was not at his best and is prone to give up the long ball but was able to go more than two innings so it’s progress in that department.

Schwarber slide

Even after getting down 4 – 1, the Cubs battled back behind Kyle Schwarber and Anthony Rizzo’s big bats. Each of the sluggers hit home runs in the sixth inning (Schwarber’s was a two-run shot), to tie up the game and show the Pirates that these Cubs are coming for them. Unfortunately, the Cubs bullpen let them down as Travis Wood, Pedro Strop, and Jason Motte all gave up a run in their respective appearances in the later half of the game, putting the Cubs in a three-run hole, 7 – 4.

The Cubs stuck with it though as the top of ninth saw Starlin Castro single and Matt Szczur double, to put men on second and third with only one out. Addison Russell then grounded out to the shortstop allowing Castro to score from third to tighten up the game, but Dexter Fowler came to the plate as the tying run and struck out swinging to end the threat and the game, 7 – 5. The Cubs win streak was snapped at six.

Dan haren

It’s hard to nitpick the Cubs, who battled fiercely in this one but came up short, especially since they just completed one of the most successful road trips they have had in years. They went 5 – 1 on their stops in Milwaukee and Pittsburgh to up their N.L. leading road record to 31 – 24. Now they need to apply the same tenacity on the road to their home contests as starting tonight the team will be in Chicago until August 23rd, with 13 homes games at Wrigley and 3 “road” contests on the South Side vs. the White Sox. Hopefully, this will lead to a more comfortable and relaxed squad, free from the toll that excessive travel can take on the body.  Throw in playing in front of the home crowd who are hungry for a winner and this could be a special opportunity for the Cubs to turn up the heat on their division rivals, something voiced by Jake Arrieta and Anthony Rizzo over the last few days.

“It’s definitely something you circled and highlighted,” Rizzo said. “I’ve been looking forward to it all year, really. It will be nice to be home for that long.”

It all starts tonight against a team the Cubs have been dancing with in the Wild Card Standings for what seems like all season. The defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants come to town for a four game set that could see one of these clubs open up a little breathing room in the standings that currently have the Giants a half game ahead of our Cubs. Tonight the Cubs trot out Jason Hammel to square off against the Giants’ Chris Heston. First pitch is 7:05PM CST.

Go Cubs Go!

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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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Down 2 Early, Cubs Battle Back Behind Rizzo’s 3 Run Homer; Acquire Dan Haren from Marlins

Posted on 31 July 2015 by Bob

The Cubs found themselves in an early hole Thursday night as Jake Arrieta surrendered one run on a Johnathan Lucroy double and another on a Ryan Braun infield single to make it 2-0 Brewers through three innings.  The Cubs bats were seemingly silent yet again, managing just two hits through seven innings, both courtesy of Anthony Rizzo.  But he wasn’t done yet.

Rizzo HR and Fowler

After Addison Russell and Dexter Fowler both singled to lead off the eighth inning, the cleanup man did what he does best. He homered to right center to drive in three runs and not only put the Cubs on the board, but also ahead where they would stay, adding another two runs in the ninth from Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber to give us our final result: a 5- 2 Cubs win. It was good to see Rizzo step up and deliver for the Cubs who really need to take care of business against this lowly Brewers club.

“It feels great. It really does,” Rizzo said afterwards. “Talking to the guys before the game, I was saying ‘let’s get off to a good start on this road trip.’ Last few road trips we’ve lost the first game. Winning the first one was big.”

Jake Arrieta’s stuff wasn’t his usual ‘ace’ effort, but he went six while allowing only two runs and the bullpen put together a three inning scoreless stretch while ceding just one hit to finish off the game. Hector Rondon looked strong in gathering back to back saves the last two nights and it appears he has grabbed the closer’s role back from Motte for the time being.

 

Dan Haren Cubs

 

UPDATE: The Cubs finally made their much-anticipated trade deadline moves today acquiring Dan Haren from the Miami Marlins in exchange for minor league prospects, Double-A pitcher Ivan Pinyero and infielder Elliot Soto. Haren should be a serviceable back of the rotation starter this team has been sorely lacking the past several weeks. The Cubs desperately needed someone to eat innings as Dallas Beeler has put tremendous pressure on the bullpen in his failure to go far in games. The Cubs gave up essentially nothing for the rental so this move gets a thumbs up as it should steady the ship and help to keep the Cubs in the hunt.

The Cubs also added a relief pitcher to the bullpen in Tommy Hunter who was acquired from the Orioles in exchange for Junior Lake. This should help as the bullpen picks up an accomplished arm at the expense of Lake, who has shown promise this year but hasn’t been able to sustain it enough to stay up in the Majors. Sad to see Lake go but the Cubs need all the pitching depth they can get right now so this move is a solid one as well.

The downside from the deadline has to be the Cubs inability to get a deal down for Tyson Ross and Craig Kimbrel of the Padres. While much of that can be chalked up to the Padres stiff asking price, it still would have been nice to grab Ross, who is under contract for a couple years and Kimbrel who is one of the top closers in the game. This would have been the ‘sexier’ play and would have probably cost Starlin Castro and Javy Baez but would have been worth it. It’s pretty shocking the Padres decided to hold onto all their pieces given they are 7.5 games out of the second wild card spot, but this is what makes baseball fun.

Now if the Cubs would just start swinging those bats with some consistency…

 

Tonight it’s Jason Hammel vs. the Brewers Taylor Jungmann. First pitch is 7:10PM CST.

Go Cubs Go!

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