Archive | Jake Arrieta

Addison Russell Delivers in Win over Brew Crew; Cubs Reach Ten over .500

Posted on 27 April 2016 by Bob

The Chicago Cubs upped their record to an MLB-best 15 – 5, on a chilly Tuesday night at the Friendly Confines behind a sharp outing by Kyle Hendricks who pitched five innings while giving up just two hits and one earned run. Hendricks was lifted in the bottom of the fifth but not due to his performance. Manager Joe Maddon simply found an opportunity to manufacture runs on a night that cold temps had made runs hard to come by.

Hendricks

Facing a 1 – 0 deficit with just one out and two men in scoring position; Joe Maddon figured this was the time to strike. With the pitcher’s spot due up; Maddon lifted Hendricks, after just 69 pitches, in favor of Tommy “3am” La Stella. With runs at a premium, Maddon went all in and although La Stella merely walked; he extended the inning and allowed the next man up the opportunity to drive one in, which Dexter Fowler ably did sending a deep sac-fly to center and scoring Soler from third to knot the game up one-all.

Russell Triple Flex

This set the stage for Addison Russell’s late-game theatrics in the sixth inning. After Kris Bryant reached on an error and Ben Zobrist walked, Russell smacked a two-out triple to deep right-center scoring both men and breaking the game wide open for the Cubs. Anthony Rizzo, thankfully added an RBI single in the bottom of the seventh to make it 4 – 1; a margin they would use to hang on as the Brewers Ryan Braun delivered an RBI double off the bench in the eighth to bring Milwaukee within a run.

Hector Rondon came on to close in the ninth and made things interesting. After recording the first two outs on a strikeout and groundout, Rondon gave up a single to CF Kirk Nieuwenhuis eliciting some unease from Cubs fans not accustomed to tight contests this year. Brewers third baseman Aaron Hill stepped to the plate next and almost delivered a Brewers’ walk-off celebration, as he flied out to deep left field with Cubs fans holding their breath. The ball appeared to be held up in the wind, saving the Cubs from a potential collapse.

The Brewers and Cubs seemed to be in agreement on this as Milwaukee center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis intimated:

“He’s been a good guy in these spots lately and almost came up with that one at the end there; I think that ball is gone for sure if the wind is not blowing.”

Hector Rondon gave off a look of relief as catcher David Ross came out to congratulate him; knowing how close the Cubs had coming to being on the other end of the one-run game.

Still, the results persist as the Cubs had to play through the wind and cold as well and came away with a 4 – 3 ‘W’. They were able to hang on for the victory and ascend to pole position in the the MLB standings. Their 15 – 5 record gets them off to their best start in over 100+ years and their ten game margin over .500 is a benchmark in how far this team has come from even a year ago. Last year, it took until the dog days of August to reach the milestone; a full three months later than the club this year. That’s a nice testament to this team getting hot of the gate but doesn’t mean anything in terms of how they will handle the grind of a long season. Nevertheless, it shows how dialed in these guys are; the focus and drive of players not only wanting to be better than last year, but the best version of themselves. The Cubs know the expectations and are embracing them fully.

“We talked about this in the spring,” Anthony Rizzo said. “About turning up the levels to get ready for this.”

It appears that the dial has been turned to ’11’ with little chance of being turned down. A formidable combination of excellent pitching with batting-practice type power at the plate has taken the league by storm.

A storm is where we find ourselves tonight as cold temps and rain have enveloped Wrigley creating a dreary atmosphere for Jake Arrieta’s first start post no-no. He is set to face off against Milwaukee’s Taylor Jungmann with first pitch coming at 7:05Pm CST.

Here’s to hoping the rain clears up so Arrieta and Co. can stay on schedule.

Let’s Go Cubs!

Comments (0)

Cubs Romp Over Angels to Kick Off ’16

Posted on 06 April 2016 by Bob

The Chicago Cubs got things off to a rousing start in 2016, unloading on the Los Angeles Angels in a two game series at Angel Stadium to the collective tune of 15 – 1. Jake Arrieta picked up where he left off going seven strong innings and allowing only a pair of hits while striking out six and walking one on Monday night. He was backed by the revamped Cubs offense that got on the board early and often. Dexter Fowler was the catalyst collecting three hits and setting the table for the heart of the order. Miguel Montero hit the Cubs first home run of the year and Matt Szczur drove in 3 RBI’s on a bases clearing triple.  It was a perfect start to the season, flexing both pitching dominance and an incredibly versatile lineup.

Game 2 was much of the same with Jon Lester doing his best to mirror Arrieta throwing seven innings of four-hit, one-run ball while striking out four. Fowler and Rizzo led the way with two hits a piece as the Cubs offense once again lit up the scoreboard, throwing up six runs. Lester allowed the only run for the Angels in the brief series and Chicago’s pitchers combined to hold the Angel’s big guns, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, hit-less over the two games. The two teams are set to meet again in August at Wrigley for another two game set.

When starting a new season, this is exactly how you would draw it up on paper. Jake Arrieta looked dominant and Jon Lester looked very comfortable, both good signs given Arrieta’s work load and Lester’s struggles early last year. The offense showed plenty of pop but also the ability to grind out at bats against some tough pitching, collecting twenty hits the last two days. This is precisely what people expected the 2016 campaign to be, leading many to believe that this Cubs team has the juice to go the distance. 2 games doesn’t make a season but the Cubs have come out firing on all cylinders.

Up Next: The Cubs begin a four game series in Arizona tomorrow with John Lackey facing off against Rubby De La Rosa in game one. Game time is 8:40PM CST.

Comments (0)

Spring Training Begins as Cubs Look to Build Upon 2015 Success

Posted on 04 March 2016 by Bob

After a brief and mild winter the Chicago Cubs full squad returned to Mesa, AZ last week to commence spring training and with it, another season in their quest for a World Series title that has eluded them for the last century and counting. Of all the squads that have come and gone since then, perhaps none have been better poised to lift the hardware over their heads in the crisp, November air. None have been as “hyped” as well.

Embrace the Target

Expectations are sky-high entering 2016, as they should be. Fresh off a turnaround season that saw the Cubs float from last place to the NLCS, there will be no sneaking up on teams this year. 2016 is the year that was circled in pen when Theo Epstein was signed back on October 12, 2011. ‘This is the year’, ‘The time is now’, and ‘Embrace the target’ are the mantras (old and new) that the Cubs will live by this season. While some will say pegging the Cubs as the favorites on paper is detrimental to the team’s success, I would ask “what choice does one have with a roster like this?”

The Cubs return an incredible young core led first baseman and MVP candidate, Anthony Rizzo. He is flanked by Rookie of the Year: Kris Bryant, phenom shortstop: Addison Russell,  and the one man wrecking crew that is Kyle Schwarber. Throw in the best right fielder in the game; the newly acquired Jason Heyward and World Series Champion/two-time All Star second baseman Ben Zobrist and it is clear why the prognosticators have chosen the Cubs as the favorites (and we haven’t even discussed the pitching yet).  This team amazingly got better without having to give up any of it’s highly-rated but largely unproven talent (the lone casualties being Starlin Castro and Chris Coghlan, who while solid contributors were not long term answers for this squad moving forward).

Heyward Cubs Spring training

As if the off-season hadn’t been kind enough to the North-Siders with the additions of Heyward, Zobrist, and starting pitcher John Lackey (on an incredibly affordable deal), the Cubs welcomed Dexter Fowler back last week on what is essentially a one year deal. Media reports had linked Fowler to the Orioles and many Cubs players thought that a deal had been finalized but Fowler had remained in contact with Cubs and ultimately wanted to be here with this team, even if he left money on the table to do so. The rich definitely get richer as the Cubs lineup will now be a veritable murderer’s row looking something like this on any given day:

  1. CF Dexter Fowler
  2. 2B Ben Zobrist
  3. 1B Anthony Rizzo
  4. 3B Kris Bryant
  5. C Kyle Schwarber
  6. RF Jason Heyward
  7. LF Jorge Soler
  8. P
  9. SS Addison Russell

It’s not as if the talent ends there either with Miguel Montero still likely to resume the starting catcher’s role and Javy Baez waiting in the wings as a super utility player capable of filling in at a number of positions both infield and out. Depth is a wonderful thing to have, as any big league skipper will tell you. The grind of a season coupled with a rash of injuries can sink a team faster than you think making the Cubs’ focus on redundancy and utility a needed insurance policy that any team with championship aspirations should carry.

The depth isn’t limited to position players either as, unlike last year, the Cubs have great depth and multiple, quality starters led by Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta. Jon Lester and John Lackey round out a top three that look to be as formidable as any in the National League save the NY Mets. Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks look to be in line for the final rotation spots but will need to prove it this year after somewhat rough outings in the second half and playoffs of 2015. In the event that they stumble, the Cubs added insurance in the form of resigning Travis Wood and Trevor Cahill, both former starters turned bullpen long men. They added Adam Warren in the Castro trade with the Yankees who could compete for the fifth of sixth spot, provided his value isn’t better served in the pen. They also acquired Aaron Brooks from Oakland in the Coghlan tried which freed up money to sign Fowler and netted another potential spot starter/bullpen arm who will most likely start the year in Triple-A.

The team, as is, appears set with the season a little over a month from starting but one has learned to expect the unexpected from this Cubs’ front office. Still, there is one thing that should not be unexpected and that is for this club to get every team’s best shot on the field, hence Maddon’s acceptance of the hype in his theme for this season: “Embrace the Target”.

Maddon Spring Training

“I’m really a big believer in running towards the fire instead of away from it,” Maddon said. “I want our guys to get comfortable with the concept of everyone speaking so glowingly of us.”

He steered a young and inexperienced club through rough seas in his first year but this season it will be mostly uncharted waters. Here’s hoping to churn that hype into a calm and steady wake as the SS Cub sets sail.

 

 

Comments (0)

Free Agency Musings, Cubs Make Lackey Official, & Where Will Heyward land?

Posted on 08 December 2015 by Bob

The Winter Meetings have commenced and twitter is abuzz with transactions, musings, and flat-out fiction. It’s silly season in Major League Baseball and man, is it fun! There is a palpable sense of excitement from almost every fan base (save a few) as teams tinker with how to build their team for the 2016 season and the internet is flush with the wishes, dreams, and speculations of every kind. Talk of “mystery teams” and “cooling periods”, “untouchables” and “dominoes falling” is enough to make your head spin. Today, we will dig in on the happenings from a Cubs perspective as much as we can. There is a lot of stuff flying around out there and a move could be imminent per several sources close to the team.

First things first, the Cubs made their signing of John Lackey official today at two years and $32 million. Although he comes at the price of a draft pick, this was a shrewd move that adds a quality starter for 2016 without tying up big money long term. If the Cubs do make a big splash on a guy like Jason Heyward in the coming weeks, this was the deal that provided the flexibility  to do it. So all around, a pretty good deal for the Cubs. The fact that he was taken from the Cardinals is just the icing on the cake. Now, your top three starters project as Arrieta, Lester, and Lackey. That’s a pretty great jumping off point.

Jason heyward

So now, Jason Heyward, the big fish that the Cubs would be thrilled to land. Not only would this weaken the Cardinals as well but it would dramatically improve the Cubs with the needs of lead-off man and plus-defender in center field filled. Heyward is young (just 26) and is rumored to be seeking a 10 year deal. As of this moment, there appears to be nothing official but “Cubs” and “Heyward” keep popping up in conjunction with one another causing many talking heads to speculate that Chicago may be the front-runner and making the hardest push to sign the prized free-agent. We’re on the edge of our seats as this would be a colossal move (if the Cubs were able to pull it off) that would have a ripple effect on not only the Cubs’ moves from here on but throughout the league as well.

Another notable target linked to the Cubs has been the Braves’ Shelby Miller. Miller, while not a free agent, is a solid young starting pitcher that would expand the Cubs depth even further but would come at the cost of  a Javy Baez or Jorge Soler, possibly more. Sources say that this potential deal has cooled considerably today as Atlanta’s asking price is said to be too high (Think guys on the Bryant, Schwarber level). We can’t rule anything out at this point but this one looks unlikely at this point.

Trevor Cahill

Trevor Cahill is also reported to be signing a one year deal worth $4.25 million. Cahill had a nice second half with the Cubs and could potentially be stretched into a starter’s role much like Travis Wood if/when needed but will mainly be used to fortify the bullpen as he did these past few months.

Today started with a great deal of buzz but it’s almost 5:00PM CST and no major deals to report for right now. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? Hopefully it’s Heyward with a bow on top as an early Christmas present!

Let’s Go Cubs!

 

Comments (0)

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

Posted on 18 November 2015 by Bob

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

CY YOUNG

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

Kris Bryant ROY

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

Joe Maddon MOTY

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

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

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

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

Let’s Go Cubs!

Cubs beat cards

Comments (0)

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!

Comments (0)

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

Posted on 16 September 2015 by Bob

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

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

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

Lester Complete Game Gem

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

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

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

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

cubbies-bear-logo

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

Let’s Go Cubs!

Comments (0)

Cubs Falter in Finale vs. Cards; Still Take series 2-1

Posted on 10 September 2015 by Bob

After an offensive explosion that saw Chicago score 17 runs in the first two games of the series, pitching and defense had their day in the finale; a tough 4 – 3 defeat that the Cubs probably should have won, but are now left to lament what might have been falling back to 7.5 games out for the division lead.

Things started out promising yet again for the Cubs on Wednesday as they opened the scoring early on an RBI-double from Anthony Rizzo and and ground rule double RBI from Tommy La Stella in the top of the first inning. Jason Heyward answered for the Cards with a single to left which plated Matt Carpenter. Dexter Fowler singled in another run in the top of the second to open up the Cubs lead 3 – 1, where it would remain until the eighth inning, when the Cubs bullpen sunk to it’s nadir after Jon Lester exited the game pitching seven innings and allowing only two hits and one run while striking out seven.

Cubs beat cards

Pedro Strop started the tumble recording the first out before giving up a walk and a hit. He was pulled for Clayton Richard who gave up an RBI-single to Carpenter, the only batter he would face. Fernando Rodney came on after that, serving up a two-run double to Stephen Piscotty and handing St. Louis a one run lead before recording the final two outs. Jon Lester deserved better but had to settle for a no decision as the bullpen cost the team a chance to sweep the Cardinals IN St. Louis and climb to just 5.5 games back for the DIVISION lead. They would instead have to take comfort in the fact that they outplayed the red birds for 26 out of 27 innings and won a series on the road against the team with the best record in baseball. Not so much moral victories or silver linings as valuable experience gained for a team ready to make a postseason run.

Still, the bullpen issues are beginning to linger at a time when they need to be fortified. I’m not sure there are any silver bullets but it’s disconcerting to drop a two run lead when you’re two innings from  victory. They need to shut them down and of late, they haven’t been, outside of Hector Rondon. While 5.5 was still a ways out, it was much more workable than the 7.5 games back they find themselves at now. Stranger things have happened but it appears as if the Cubs are most likely headed to a Wild Card berth. They are only 3 games back of the Bucs for the top WC spot and will face them seven more times. October is just 20 days away and the Cubs hold a 9 game lead for the final spot with 24 games left.

It’s tough to take the sting out of a tough loss but it’s clear that this Cubs team is light-years different from the club that came here in May and June and took some beatings. This September Cubs team showed it has pop and pitching and if not for one, incredibly poor inning, might have swept those always-pesky birds, putting them on notice that this thing ain’t over.

Chicago is back it at tonight in Philly as Jake Arrieta is on the bump vs. the Phillies Adam Morgan. First pitch is 6:05PM CST.

Let’s Go Cubs!

Comments (0)

Cubs Poised for Playoff Push; September Call-ups & Other Notes

Posted on 04 September 2015 by Bob

The Chicago Cubs are poised for a playoff push despite dropping 2 of 3 to the Cincinnati Reds earlier this week as they currently hold a seven game lead over the slumping San Francisco Giants who have dropped six straight and are only four games back of the Wild Card-leading Pittsburgh Pirates.  Today’s game is currently in progress as the Cubs hold a commanding 14 – 4 lead over the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks in the seventh inning. A couple of early walks by Kris Bryant and Javy Baez drove in runs  and a pair of home runs from Addison Russell put the Cubs out in front 6 – 1 after four. Then, in the bottom of the fifth, the Cubs tacked on EIGHT runs behind an RBI-single and a walk, followed by an Anthony Rizzo Grand Slam. Even newcomer Javy Baz, got in on the action added a two-run blast of his own to blow this game wide open.

Rizzo & Bryant

It’s good to see the Cubs having a good day at the plate and getting everyone involved after a disappointing series vs. the Reds. Hopefully they can keep it rolling as today the Cubs announced that Kyle Schwarber will miss this weekend’s series with a strained right rib cage. While this is cause for concern upon first notice, it sounds like the move is more of a precaution than anything else. If anything, it will give the Cubs some time to tinker with some new guys and spread some playing time around to keep everybody on their toes. The Cubs have plenty of new faces on the roster after September call-ups and some waiver acquisitions, notably Austin Jackson who got the start in right field today due to Schwarber’s injury. Javy Baez got the start at third and has made the most of it thus far collecting three hits (including a home run) and a walk. Quentin Berry, recently signed to a minor league deal, has replaced Dexter Fowler in center field to start the seventh inning, and Tsuyoshi Wada is now pitching in the eighth as the Cubs are throwing pretty much everyone out there in this blowout of a game.

The Cubs appear poised to go up 7.5 on the Giants and only 3.5 back if they hold on to this 10 run lead in the eighth with each of those clubs set to play later tonight. Jon Lester pitched five innings of five-hit, two-run ball but there was no reason to keep him in this laugher with a 12 run lead. It was good to see him have a better outing this time around and build some momentum for the stretch.

Tomorrow it’s Jake Arrieta for our Cubs vs. Robbie Ray for the D-Backs with a 1:20PM start. Arrieta will be pitching for the first time since his no-hitter and hopes to continue his dominant stretch into September with a playoff chase and Cy Young race for motivation.

Let’s Go Cubs!

Comments (0)

Arrieta Throws No-Hitter; Improves to 6 – 0 in August as Cubs Top Dodgers to End Road Trip

Posted on 31 August 2015 by Bob

Jake Arrieta capped an August to remember by throwing his first career no-hitter against the Dodgers in LA on Sunday night, snapping a four game skid in the process and getting the Cubs back on track as they end their west coast road trip and head back to the Friendly Confines.

Aug 30, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta (49) reacts after thawing his final pitch of the ninth inning for a no hitter against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Cubs won 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-217228 ORIG FILE ID: 20150830_mta_aj4_250.JPG

Arrieta had flirted with no-hitters before but this was different. It feels like this entire season has been building to this moment and Arrieta finally got to show the country just how good a pitcher he is. He was simply dominant, striking out 12 while walking only one man in 116 pitches to notch his MLB-leading 17th win. He was aided by some great defense behind him as well, and a fielding error by Starlin Castro at second base that some felt should have been ruled a hit, but was ultimately upheld as an error seeing as Castro should have made the play. Castro would atone for his “happy” accident later in the game by snagging a line drive off the bat of Carl Crawford that had hit written all over it.

Kris Bryant provided the game’s only score, a two-run homer in the top of the first off of Dodgers starter, Alex Wood that would prove more than enough as Arrieta was damn near perfect. He lowered his ERA in August to an astounding 0.43 and his season ERA to 2.11 while tallying his 14th consecutive quality start. There is no more beating around the bush; this man is the Cubs ace, their true #1, their stopper, and almost 100% positively their starter in a potential one game, Wild Card playoff. If you need any further proof (and you shouldn’t), take a look at this road trip. The Cubs finished 2-4 with both wins coming courtesy of Arrieta. Sure, they had to face Madison Bumgarner and Clayton Kershaw so that record comes with some qualifiers, but Arrieta has put this team on his back and carried them into September contention. It’s rare for a team to come home after a roadtrip with that record and feel good about it, but Arrieta’s gem on Sunday Night Baseball changed the narrative and sent the Cubs back home fired up as they near the stretch run.

Arrieta no hitter 2

Arrieta HAS to be included in the Cy Young discussion now as even before his No-No he had been among the game’s best this season statistically. While much is made of the ROTY and MVP campaigns for Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, Jake Arrieta has been the team’s north star; consistently giving them his best stuff and keeping the good ship Cub afloat in rocky waters.  He personifies what this team is all about and the Cubs will undoubtedly go as far as he can take them. Hopefully this inspires the back end of the rotation to step their game up and try to emulate Arrieta’s discipline and confidence on the mound. Lord knows we need it right now if we have any shot of catching the Pirates.

Arrieta No hitter

Up Next:

The Cubs return home tonight to Chicago to open up a three game set with the Cincinnati Reds. It’s Kyle Hendricks vs. the Reds Michael Lorenzen with first pitch at 7:05PM CST.

Let’s Go Cubs!

 

 

Comments (0)

Photos from our Flickr stream

See all photos

Advertise Here