Archive | Hector Rondon

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 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 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 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 Sweep Brewers; Move to Ten Games over.500

Posted on 03 August 2015 by Bob

After a weekend series sweep in Milwaukee, the Cubs are rounding into playoff form and appear to be primed for a run the likes of which we haven’t seen this season. Chicago has now won five straight and moved to ten games over .500 for the first time in 2015, a feat they haven’t accomplished since 2008. In doing so they have vaulted themselves back into a tie with the Giants for the second Wild Card spot with the teams set to meet later this week At Wrigley Field for a four game series.

Clayton Richard

The Cubs got it done with pitching and hitting on Sunday as Clayton Richard pitched six innings while giving up five hits and just one run, a ground-out RBI by Hernan Perez in the third inning, to earn the win. Pretty much everyone got in on the action for the Cubs as Anthony Rizzo grounded into a fielder’s choice to score Dexter Fowler in the first inning; Addison Russell then homered to center field in the second to make it 2 – 0. After Perez added that run for the Brewers, Richard doubled in the fourth, to plate Jorge Soler and help his own cause tremendously. Kris Bryant then added an RBI single in the fifth to make it 4 – 1. Sliding hard into second on the play, Bryant appeared to hit his head and neck on Brewers shortstop Jean Segura. He left the game but should not miss anytime moving forward. Rizzo’s home run streak was snapped at four consecutive games.

It wasn’t over yet though as Milwaukee put two runners on with no outs in the ninth off of Hector Rondon, but he was able to work out of the jam despite giving up two runs and having to face an extra batter after Starlin Castro committed a huge error on a routine put-out that almost cost the Cubs dearly. Rondon picked up yet another save and the Cubs might have finally realized their potential as they took the contest 4 – 3 and upped their record to 57 – 47.

“I think this was a series we needed to take advantage of,” outfielder Chirs Coghlan said. “We did.”

So the Cubs finally did what they are supposed to do. Beat up on the bad teams and don’t let up. Chicago battled back from deficits quickly over the weekend and when they got on top, they kept swinging away to add runs and kept grinding on defense until the final out. It would have been nice to have this result a week ago but maybe this confidence boost will have a bigger impact with series against the Pirates and Giants this week, the two teams the Cubs are vying for a Wild Card spot against.

This is a big week for the Cubs as we are now into August and the homestretch will be here before you know it. They have nine games against the Pirates and seven against the Giants so the opportunities are there; it’s up to the Cubs, these young, ferocious Cubs, to make them count. They’ll get their chance to extend their win streak tonight as Jon Lester is set to pitch vs. Francisco Liriano with first pitch coming at 6:00PM 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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Teagarden the Unlikely Hero as Cubs Top Reds; Salvage Split

Posted on 23 July 2015 by Bob

This wasn’t exactly how you would draw it up but it sure does make a good story. After falling in an 0 – 5 hole in the 2nd inning, no one would have blamed you if you flipped the channel. These Cubs don’t score three or four runs very often, let alone five. But that’s precisely what they did in the next half inning! Starlin Castro and Chris Denorfia each had RBI doubles and Kris Bryant tied the game on a pinch-hit single, a mild relief from his recent slump.

Teagarden Game winner

The game would stay tight thereafter until the bottom of the eighth when Hector Rondon loaded the bases with one out but was able to work out of the jam. The Cubs threatened in the top of ninth, first with Anthony Rizzo’s single to left center that pushed Dexter Fowler to attempt to score from second. He was thrown out but Rizzo was able to advance to second on the throw which would prove critical. With Aroldis Chapman on the mound, the Reds intentionally walked Jorge Soler to get to pinch-hitter, Tyler Teagarden; He of .154 batting average. With two outs already and a huge opportunity, I’m sure many Cubs fans were thinking “Just don’t strike out!”. Their fears were unfounded as the improbable occurred. Teagarden hit a single right up the middle into shallow center off of an Aroldis Chapman 101 MPH pitch, driving in Rizzo and providing the winning margin, 6 – 5. Even typing that last sentence felt strange.

Add another highlight to this Cubs season as this train just keeps on rolling with August just around the corner.  While the pitching staff got battered this series giving up 23 runs in four games, there are still many positives to take from this series, namely Kyle Schwarber going 7 for 16 and leading the charge on offense. Battling back from several deficits throughout is a great sign as well; This team is showing it won’t quit. They still need pitching and hitting but we should know more on that front by this time next week. With an off day today, the Cubs can rest up for a three game series this weekend at Wrigley Field with the MLB-worst Philadelphia Phillies. If there was ever a gimme on the schedule, this should be it as these Phils have stunk up the joint en route to a 34 -63 record thus far, the worst record in baseball by a large margin.

Still, you have to go out and play the games and these Cubs haven’t been invincible by any means. Let’s hope they sharpen their focus as a big week could do wonders in the standings as the countdown to October begins. The Cubs at 51 – 43 are clinging to a half game lead for that second Wild Card spot.

Tomorrow it’s Jerome Williams for the Phils vs. Jon Lester for the Cubs. Game time is 3:05PM CST.

Let’s Go Cubs!

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