Archive | John Lackey

Lackey Carries Cubs Past Cards in Return to Busch

Posted on 19 April 2016 by Bob

In his much-ballyhooed return to St. Louis, John Lackey put on quite a show. He may wear a Cubs jersey now but the man clearly still feels at home in Busch Stadium scattering four hits over seven innings while striking out 11, just shy of his career high. More importantly, he allowed zero earned runs, building on his 1.93 home ERA at Busch last year. Pretty impressive for 37-year-old. He even added an RBI single late in the game; perhaps to let the Cardinals know he was worth more than just a qualifying offer.

Lackey Mows Down Cards

“You could tell he was amped up,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. That’s one way of putting it.

On a night when much of the attention was supposed to be on Jason Heyward; it was his older, less sought-after  teammate who stole the headline. That’s not to say J-Hey didn’t contribute.  Heyward struggled at the plate, going 0-4, but  compensated with his fielding, leaving his feet to make several catches in right field to support his pitcher. They did all this amidst a chorus of boos from the Red Bird faithful; something that seemed to invigorate rather than intimidate the two former Cardinals.

“I’ve seen booed, that ain’t booed,” Lackey said. “That was pretty soft boo.”

The escalation of this rivalry has been hastened by the results of last year’s NLDS and the defection of two key players to the North Side. Now the action on the field threatens to elevate it to a fever pitch.

Chicago Cubs' Dexter Fowler, right, rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run off St. Louis Cardinals' Mike Leake, left, during the sixth inning of a baseball game Monday, April 18, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Even though the Cubs were able to pile on, beating the Cards by a final score of 5 – 0, the game was very much a pitcher’s duel heading into the sixth inning. To that point, Lackey and Card’s starter Mike Leake had allowed just a few hits apiece, each displaying the ability to work out of jams with men in scoring position. Then Dex Fowler came to the plate and ignited the Cubs offense; depositing a monster home run 435 feet to dead center (his third of the year) and breaking the stalemate. The Cubs piled on in the seventh with Jorge Soler launching a zinger to shortstop Aledmys Diaz who could not corral it cleanly and then sailed the throw to first over first baseman Brandon Moss’ head, allowing Kris Bryant to score from third, Miguel Montero to advance to third, and Soler to take second on the errant throw. Addison Russell would then hit a sac-fly to center to plate Montero before Lackey delivered his RBI-single to score pinch runner; Matt Szczur.

The Cubs would add their fifth and final run in the eighth when Kris Bryant would single home Ben Zobrist, who had doubled to lead off the inning in breaking out of an 0 for 24 slump that I’m sure was as much a relief for him as it was for fans of the new second baseman. All around it was a night full of positive takeaways for the Cubs as they got a leg up on their division rivals at their house and did so with some moxie and swagger that will prove helpful should the teams find themselves in a playoff chase/series yet again.

The series continues tonight as Jason Hammel takes the ball against the Cardinals’ Jaime Garcia. First pitch is 7:15PM CST at Busch Stadium.

Let’s Go Cubs!

 

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Cubs Drop First Series of the Year to Rockies; Look to Rebound vs. Cardinals in St. Louis

Posted on 18 April 2016 by Bob

The Cubs finished up their opening home stand with a loss to the Colorado Rockies on Sunday afternoon, falling 2 – 0 despite a pretty solid outing from Jon Lester. The lefty threw 7.1 innings, giving up four hits and striking out ten. His lone mistake; a solo home run by Rockies third basemen Nolan Arenado provided all the offense Colorado would need as the Cubs were held scoreless for the first time this season. Arenado would add another solo-shot in the ninth inning off of Justin Grimm to provide some insurance. The Cubs offered little of note outside of two plays by Jon Lester that will surely find their way to Sports Center, albeit for different reasons. The first, an awkward throw to first on a bunt attempt that Lester fielded quickly but bounced twice en route to Rizzo’s glove, shockingly recording an out.  The second was a double by the pitcher; his first extra-base hit and one that almost jump-started a Cubs rally before being snuffed out. Some things change, others stay the same.

Lester throws to first

In the other dugout, Rockies pitcher Tyler Chatwood was outstanding allowing only two hits over seven innings and the Colorado bullpen followed suit, giving up just one hit and zero walks the rest of the way. A pretty impressive feat given the potency of this Cubs lineup and the gorgeous weather at Wrigley Field on Sunday. Losing a series for the first time this season, while disappointing to a rabid Cubs fan base, will (believe it or not) happen from time to time throughout this season; even with a lineup as solid as the Cubs.  That’s baseball, and I’m sure Manager Joe Maddon has already turned the page, as two games in which the Cubs didn’t play their best don’t make a trend. Finishing up the home stand at 4 – 2, and 9 – 3 overall, the Cubs can hold their heads up high as they head to St. Louis to face the Rival with-a-capital-R  Cardinals in the clubs’ first meeting since the NLDS last October. Ask any Cubs fan on the street for the result in case you missed it.

Heyward a Cub

This is indeed a big series for a multitude of reasons. First and foremost, the Cardinals have to carry a bit of a chip on their shoulder after winning the division and sporting the best record in baseball last season, only to be chased from the playoffs by an upstart Cubs squad they had suppressed for a long, long time. Adding insult to injury, two of the Cards top contributors; John Lackey and Jason Heyward traded in their Cardinal Red for Cubbie Blue (and less money to boot). They will surely hear it from Cardinals fans tonight as they begin a three game series at Busch. Lastly, these are division games between the two teams picked to contend for the division title this year. They will face each other 19 times and both squads would tell you how important it is to get a leg up on the other, especially for the Cubs being on the road.

Lackey a Cub

Bragging rights abound in what is becoming the juiciest rivalry in baseball. The Cubs hope to stop their series-losing streak at one while I’m sure the Cardinals will look to set the tone that they are still the team to beat in the Central.

Lackey is set to square off against the newly-acquired; Mike Leake for the Red Birds. Game time is 7:00PM CST.

 

Let’s Go Cubs!

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Cubs Go on a Walkabout in Rout of Reds

Posted on 14 April 2016 by Bob

With the drama and theatrics of Opening Night behind them, the Chicago Cubs got down to business Wednesday night and ensured in the first inning that this game would not be close. In fact, it was pretty much over from the start as the Cubs sent eleven men to the plate and Cincinnati Reds starter; Alfredo Simon, threw 49 pitches but was still unable to record a third out. The Cubs scored five runs in the inning with a combination of walks, hits, extra-base hits, and a HBP. Everyone got in on the action with exception of Jason Heyward who recorded two K’s in the first but would come through later in the game.

“I’m a pitcher who throws a lot of strikes, but today my balls were away, and that was the trouble,” Simon said.

Trouble, indeed, as Reds pitchers issued ten walks total on the night. That brought the Cubs’ season total to a Major League-leading 48 walks en route to a 7 – 1 start and first place in the division. This plate discipline has been a welcome change from a team that led the league in strikeouts a year ago. It has forced opposing pitchers to pick their poison; either try to get guys to chase with stuff off the plate and run the risk of issuing free passes and driving your pitch count up, or throw strikes over the plate against a team loaded with contact and power hitters. Not a fun position to be in, which is exactly the point.

Chicago Cubs starter John Lackey delivers a pitch during the first inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday, April 13, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

Chicago Cubs starter John Lackey delivers a pitch during the first inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday, April 13, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

“This lineup’s deep,” Cubs starter John Lackey said. “Looking from the other side as a pitcher, it’s tough to get through without suffering a little bit of damage.”

Anytime you can knock a starter out of the game early, that’s a good sign for your offense. To be so relentless as to chase a starter before the first inning is over? That’s a sign you’re primed for a big night. The Cubs never looked back after that five run first inning, tacking on a pair of runs in third behind Jason Heyward’s two-out single and then another pair in the fourth courtesy of a Kris Bryant solo home run (his first of the season) to left and a Miggy Montero score off a wild pitch. The Reds showed little resistance from there on, scoring only one more run in the seventh inning on a Ivan De Jesus RBI-ground out. Your final score: Cubs 9, Reds 2.

KB Homer in April

Not only do the Cubs lead the Majors in walks but their run differential currently sits at +36, also good for tops in baseball and a testament to not only the Cubs explosive offense but the excellent pitching they have had thus far. John Lackey, backed by tremendous run support yet again, went 6 and 2/3 innings while allowing two runs on six hits while striking out seven and allowing three free passes.  He even drew a walk himself in the protracted first inning, furthering his own cause while demonstrating just how contagious the team’s plate approach is.

The Cubs are clicking on all cylinders right now, avoiding the slow starts of years past and exhibiting a patience at the plate that has been sorely lacking the last several years. Tonight, they go for the sweep as Jason Hammel is on the mound vs. the Reds Raisel Iglesias. Game time is 7:05PM CST.

Let’s Go Cubs!

 

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