Archive | David Ross

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 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 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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Cubs Swept by Phillies as Disastrous Weekend Comes to an End

Posted on 27 July 2015 by Bob

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

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

Cole Hamels no hitter

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

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

David Ross Pitching

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

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

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

Let’s Go Cubs!

 

 

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Cubs Throttle Indians behind 18 Hits; Wada Figures It Out

Posted on 18 June 2015 by Bob

The Cubs bounced back from a shutout on Tuesday and deliver one of their own on Wednesday behind Tsuyoshi Wada’s four-hit, six-strike out gem. He had just a little help from the offense as well, as the Cubs piled up 17 runs on 18 hits, both of which are season highs.  The whole team got in on the action as every starter collected at least one hit with rookie Kyle Schwarber leading the way with four, including his first big league hit; a triple to right field.

Kyle schwarber

One night after posting a goose egg, the Cubs kept the scorekeepers busy last night bringing nine men to the plate in both the second and third innings while tallying TEN runs. Chris Denorfia homered and had 4 RBI’s, Addison Russell added a two-run shot of his own along with a beautiful, diving stop to rob Mike Aviles of a hit to end the fifth inning. Anthony Rizzo broke out of his hitless slump to record a double and a two-run homer.  Hell, even part time catcher David Ross and pinch hitter Mike Baxter added hits just to let you know the type of night the Cubs were having.

Kris Bryant, not wanting to be left out, hit his first grand slam in the top of the ninth to push the lead to 17 and end the Cubs charmed night at the plate, albeit the last seven runs came off of Indians position players forced into action by the smoldering remains of what was once the Indians bullpen. Any game you are forced to use nine different pitchers, as the Indians did, will not end positively for your club as Indians skipper Terry Francona noted:

“Getting in that situation doesn’t feel good,” Francona said. “Early on, we started asking ourselves,  ‘Can we not ruin our bullpen tonight?’ It turns out we had to. It’s still not a lot of fun.”

CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 8: Tsuyoshi Wada #67 of the Chicago Cubs pitches in the third inning of the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on July 8, 2014 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Conversely, the Cubs got everything you could ask for and more out of Wada’s longest start of the season and Yoervis Medina’s two innings of hitless relief. This was exactly the complete game this blogger called for in yesterday’s post; the kind of victories that have been so few and far between.  Maddon was emphatically pleased telling Wada to call himself a “badass” at the post game presser and ruminating on what it was like to see his stable of young talent in action last night, especially Schwarber’s sensational night at DH.

“Yeah, you get a glimpse of what it could look like when everyone is here, Again, I just look at what it’s going to look like,” Maddon said. “They’ve done things together [off the field] before they got here. That always helps the transition period. I can see the interaction among the group. It’s that, combined with really solid leadership from the veteran guys.”

It always feels good to be on the winning end of these blowouts and let’s hope these Cubs get addicted to it.

 

NEXT UP: Jason Hammel is on the mound for the Cubbies tonight against fellow righty, Danny Salazar. Game time is 6:10PM CST.

Go Cubs Go!

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Cubs Shutout in Loss to Tigers as Sanchez Goes 7.2 Strong

Posted on 10 June 2015 by Bob

Anibal Sanchez went 7.2 scoreless innings while scattering six hits and striking out seven to lead the Tigers past the visiting Cubs, 6 – 0 Tuesday night in Detroit. Jon Lester took the loss after surrendering five runs on nine hits and not making it past the fifth inning, a regression that has to be upsetting to Cubs fans expecting their ace to show up.

Anibal Sanchez

“He had good stuff, but they kept finding places to hit the ball,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “They weren’t pummeling him by any means, but they never let him get into a groove.”

David Ross Robbed

Instead it was the other pitcher who was allowed to get into a groove and the defense backed him up, robbing David Ross of a potential home run in the second inning and allowing only a couple of Cubs to get past second base all night.  So the Cubs’ roller coaster of a season continues as they go from the highs of taking three of our four in D.C. to the lows of posting a goose egg in Detroit after an off day. It can be maddening but as long as the record stays above .500 and the Cubs keep treading water, they will remain in the conversation for a playoff spot.

The Cubs look to salvage a split tonight as they send Jake Arrieta to the bump vs. the Tigers’ Shane Greene. The Tigers have now won three straight.  Game time is 6:08PM CST.

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Cubs Plate Two in the First; Make it Stand Up in the Ninth

Posted on 05 June 2015 by Bob

Jake Arrieta got some early run support as the Cubs jumped on Gio Gonzalez in the first inning for two runs and the defense made that hold up late as Chicago took the series opener from the Nats, 2-1 in Washington D.C.  It was the Cubs’ 15th one run win out of the 25 such games they have played, good for tops in the Majors in both categories.

After an almost two hour rain delay, the Cubs offense wasted no time getting started as the first four Cubs batters reached safely with Junior Lake taking a walk to plate the first run. After that, Starlin Castro grounded into a double play that enabled Kris Bryant to score from third. That was more than enough to get Arrieta going as he went six strong innings while giving up only six hits and a single run. The Cubs then used five relievers to close out the game but not without a bit of drama in the bottom of the ninth and Chicago clinging to a one run lead.

Arrieta vs. Nats

The Nationals put two men on with two outs in the bottom of the frame when Catcher David Ross picked off the Nationals’ Clint Robinson who had taken too large a lead from first base on the pitch, a high ball from Hector Rondon. Anthony Rizzo deftly applied the tag and the Cubs were winners on a play you don’t see too often, especially with the would-be tying run already on second base. Skipper Joe Maddon was pleasantly surprised.

“Rock ‘n’ roll,” he said. “I had no clue. I just have to give Ross a lot of credit there, and Anthony to put the play on. If he had thrown the ball in the right-field corner, I would have been fine. I would have absolutely been fine with the whole play. They saw something and went with it. It was all them, spectacular.”

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 04: David Ross #3 of the Chicago Cubs picks off Clint Robinson #25 (not pictured) of the Washington Nationals at first base for the last out in the ninth inning at Nationals Park on June 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. Chicago won the game 2-1. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

Letting the players ‘play’ and take risks is something Maddon has stressed throughout his tenure as he feels this fosters confidence and inhibits fear of making mistakes. Clearly Rizzo felt comfortably taking action on something he had noticed and discretely relayed that to Ross.  His manager had his back regardless of the outcome; the rest is history.

The Cubs look to win their first series outright since taking two of three from the Padres back in mid-May. Tsuyoshi Wada goes for his first win since late last season as he faces the Nationals Tanner Roark. First pitch is 6:05PM CST.

Go Cubs Go!

 

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Cubs Split Rain-Shortened Series with Royals; Turn the Page to June

Posted on 01 June 2015 by Bob

The Chicago Cubs had a wet and wild weekend that ran the gamut on temperature and timely hitting as they split their series with the visiting Kansas City Royals at Wrigley Field. Friday’s game saw temperatures hover around 80 degrees while also dousing the crowd with spells of rain as clouds rolled in and out over  Lake Michigan. The game featured much of the same as the Royals sprayed the Bleacher Bums with three solo home shots over the first four innings and then the Cubs clawed their way back with a few dingers of their own, as Addison Russell tied the game up 4 – 4 in the bottom of the seventh on a solo-shot off the vaunted Royals bullpen that seemed to set the stage for another close game down the stretch.

It was not meant to be as the Cubs came undone in the eighth behind a terrible outing from Pedro Strop and an ugly error by Dexter Fowler that allowed the Royals to go up 7 – 4 and effectively end the contest. The final score was 8 – 4 as the Cubs looked forward to Saturday and a chance at redemption.

Mother Nature had other plans as temperatures dropped into the 40’s and torrential rains forced Saturday’s game to be postponed until September 28, potentially the last home game of the regular season for Chicago, and one that could carry playoff implications if these two teams keep pace.

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 31: David Ross #3 of the Chicago Cubs gets the game winning hits a, a single in the iith inning against the Kansas City Royals at Wrigley Field on May 31, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Royals 2-1 in 11 innings. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Sunday offered more of the same as temps stayed low but the rain yielded enough to allow the game to be played, and what a game it was; an 11 inning walk-off win as David Ross hit an RBI single just out of reach from Royals Shortstop Alcides Escobar and the Cubs were able to come away with the ‘W’, despite squandering chances in both the 9th inning and earlier in the 11th to scratch a run across. The Cubs haven’t been consistently pretty as of late, but they extended their one-run game win record and posted a .500 record for the month of May to keep them afloat at 26 – 22 overall. To do so against a wildly talented Royals squad that played in the World Series last year and is among the top teams in the American League should give the Cubs a bit of confidence, even if they aren’t quite on the Royals level, yet.

Next Up: Jason Hammel takes the bump vs. Jose Urena and the Marlins in Miami tonight. First pitch is 6:10pm CST.

 

 

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