Posted on 11 May 2015 by Bob
The Cubs dropped their third series in a row and second to Milwaukee in a week’s time, falling 3-2 on Sunday in 11 innings at Miller Park. The cause yet again was pitching, this time it was the bullpen that gave in. Starter Kyle Hendricks delivered five and 1/3 innings of five hit- shutout ball but Zac Rosscup came on in the seventh and gave up two separate solo shots to turn a 1-0 lead to a 2-1 deficit.
Sure, the Cubs battled back to tie it on Anthony Rizzo’s eighth inning double but the Cubs’ bats were effectively silenced the rest of the way and the Brewers were able to scratch out the win on Martin Maldonado’s run scoring single in the 11th inning. This record is broken and it’s repetitive result is getting old fast. The Cubs should not be .500 right now, they should be well over and perhaps just a few games behind the Cardinals. They have simply given away too many games they had no business giving away. I’m not just talking the occasional back and forth slug fests we’ve seen that sometimes just don’t tip your way; I am talking about building a big lead only to see it unravel in the middle innings. The Cubs need help and it’s not very clear where they are going to get it from. Of course, this issue wouldn’t be as glaring if starters were going deeper into games but that hasn’t been happening with any consistency either.
Although they finally get to play an out of division opponent for the first time in weeks tonight, I’m not so sure that’s a good thing given that they have to play the NL East-leading New York Mets, a team that is 20-11 and getting back into form after winning their last two series. At least the Cubs get to trot out Jon Lester who appears to have righted the ship. He will face the Mets Jacob deGrom who struck out nine in his last outing vs. Baltimore.
It will be important for Lester to set the tone tonight and not take a step back. He needs to own this game and show the rest of the staff what it looks like to be an Ace. The further into this game he pitches, the better off the Cubs will be giving their bullpen some rest and taking away their ability to extend the current slide they are on. Add in the recent power displays by Kris Bryant and Addison Russell to go with the opening of the Budweiser Bleachers and the Cubs could be primed for a special night.
First pitch is 7:05PM CST.
Posted on 07 May 2015 by Bob
A wildly-entertaining, back and forth series came to an end on somewhat of a dud Thursday at Busch Stadium as the Cardinals dominated behind John Lackey’s arm and his bat en route to a 5-1 victory and another series victory for the red-hot redbirds. Jake Arrieta, usually at the top of his game vs. the Cardinals, gave up five runs on nine hits while his pitching counterpart, Lackey, paced the Cards pitching seven and 2/3 innings and allowing only five hits and a single run.
The Cubs recent offensive explosion was quieted as Anthony Rizzo’s streak of reaching base came to an end after fifteen games. Jorge Soler and Chris Coghlan each had two hits a piece while the rest of the lineup mostly struggled. The only other bright spot was seeing reliever Justin Grimm return to action and strike out two, although he also had a wild pitch that brought in a run.
Overall, the Cubs can learn from this series as the team in the other dugout is the one they will need to emulate if they are to make it to the playoffs this year. This Cardinal team is deep and has a proven track record of never giving up while the Cubs are young and inexperienced. Still, that doesn’t mean these Cubs can’t learn from this series and keep up the fight they showed throughout most of it. Still, the Cubs rotation has to start performing better as the pressure put on the bullpen has become too much to bear. These starters were pegged as one of the better staffs in the NL but for the most part haven’t come close to even being a strength.
The Cubs lost quite a bit of ground in the division as they sit 6.5 back but there is still plenty of time to turn it around. Hopefully the offense shows up this weekend in Milwaukee and takes out some of their aggression on the league-worst Brewers. The way the Cubs are pitching, it’s their only hope.
Next Up: Jason Hammel squares off against the Brewers’ Jimmy Nelson tomorrow night in Milwaukee. Game time is 7:10PM CST.
Posted on 06 May 2015 by Bob
Another big lead, another pitching meltdown. Another shoulda-woulda-coulda loss for the Cubs against the team they really can’t afford to lose to. This time it was Kyle Hendricks’ turn to cough up a 4-1 lead after Matt Carpenter’s three-run homer in the fifth inning. Edwin Jackson then came on in relief and proceeded to do Edwin Jackson-like things surrendering two runs on four hits and putting this game effectively out of reach for a Cubs offense that has to be asking their pitching counterparts: “What more must we do?”
Joe Maddon summed it up perfectly stating, “That, for me, is so vital. To hold a small lead or small deficit in the middle sets a team apart. You look at what we’ve done this year, we’re still over .500, we’d be in pretty good shape if we did a better job of handling the middle part of the ballgame.” The fact that Cubs are still over .500 does show progress in and of itself, but having a five game cushion over the .500 mark reduced to one in less than a week’s time is pretty troubling given the Cubs offensive outburst over the last couple games. Anthony Rizzo continues to be a monster, notching another three hits as well as walk to up his OBP to .473 and ensuring the Cubs stay in these games.
If I were to tell you that the Cubs would score 13 runs over two games and their record would be 0- 2, you would laugh and rightly so, but this is no laughing matter right now and probably the first time all year that the Cubs have encountered a problem as troublesome as this. They need their starters to take games deeper and they need their bullpen to make those leads or close games stand up. They’ll get their chance tonight with Jon Lester taking the mound against Cardinals starter Lance Lynn. Lester appears to be rounding into form and could be a big help in quashing this recent, poor-pitching trend.
Here’s to hoping both the offense and defense show up tonight. First Pitch is 7:15PM CST at Busch Stadium for game three of this four game series.
Posted on 05 May 2015 by Bob
The Cubs bats finally woke up from their weekend long nap in time to bat around the order and notch five runs in the first inning Monday night at Busch Stadium in St. Louis vs. the Cardinals. The only problem is they couldn’t make it stand up. Twice.
Cubs Pitcher Travis Wood followed the Cubs excellent offensive explosion by imploding on the mound and serving up a grand slam to Mark Reynolds to put the Cards within a run. After Anthony Rizzo homered to make it 6-4, the Cubs added two more over the next three innings to obtain what should have been a safe 8 – 4 lead entering the later half of the game but the Cards struck back with two runs of their own in the sixth inning before rocking the Cubs bullpen for another four runs in the seventh and turning that comfy lead into a two run deficit that the Cubs couldn’t overcome. A wasted effort to be sure.
Addison Russell added a solo shot in the ninth to make the score a bit closer but the Cubs got nothing else going and dropped a game they should have won to the team with the best record in the majors and also the one they are looking up to in the NL Central standings. To say that pitching was the problem is an understatement, as everyone from the starter Wood, to Strop and Rosscup in the bullpen, bear responsibility for this tough loss. “Starters need to [be] going deeper,” Maddon said. He’s correct, but the bullpen needs to shows some consistency as well especially with a lead.
A silver lining is that this team shows the same type of fight as the team that defeated them last night. As Cardinals first baseman Mark Reynolds stated after the win, “We’re never out of it.” His sentiments could very well be said about the Cubs as they continue to battle in games after getting down. There are no moral victories however; you just hope that the players can learn from losses like this and do enough next time to make sure it’s the other team ruing what might have been.
Kyle Hendricks is on the bump for the Cubs vs. the Cardinals Tyler Lyons, a Triple-A call up making his season debut. First pitch is 7:15PM CST.
Posted on 01 May 2015 by Bob
Addison Russell beat out fellow rookie Kris Bryant in the race to hit their first home run as Russell’s solo shot in the third inning held up as the winning run and only score of the game Friday afternoon at the Friendly Confines. It was nice to see the rookie have a big moment on a day when the Cubs got plenty of hits but failed to push anyone on base across. Hopefully this inspires Bryant to make it a good old fashioned arms race but with the way Bryant continues to find a way to get on base, no one is losing any sleep over his homer-less streak.
Jon Lester also picked up a “first” on Friday, his first win of the season and his first win as a Cub and at Wrigley Field. While the win came a month later than many would have hoped, Lester had a great day allowing only three hits with four K’s in seven innings of work. He appears to be rounding into form as the weather begins to turn and we enter the month of May. He settled down after the fourth inning and the Cubs didn’t allow another Brewer on base until a two-out double in the ninth inning by Jason Rogers.
It was a far from perfect game offensively but the result is what matters as the Cubs advance to 13 – 8 on the year and continue their chase of the division leading Cardinals.
Next Up: The Cubs look to take another series as they send Jake Arrieta to the mound on Saturday vs. the Brewers’ Mike Fiers. Game time is 1:20 PM CST.
Posted on 27 April 2015 by Bob
Addison Russell, the Cubs most recent call-up and the youngest player in the National League, overcame two strikeouts to deliver the biggest hit of his young Cubs career, clearing the bases with a three-run double to deep right center in the fourth inning at Cincinnati on Sunday. Despite recording eleven strikeouts through his first six games, the rookie came through big time helping the Cubs to tear this game wide open and help the team off to it’s best start since 2008 after beating the Reds 5-2.
The Cubs are rolling right now coming off a 4 – 2 road trip after Saturday’s game vs. the Reds was rained out. Winning series is the goal and something that the Cubs have begun to do with regularity. The real test will be sustaining it as the calendar flips to May this Friday and the rival Brewers come to town. It’s only been a month but you have to believe that Cubs fans will take what they have gotten to this point and then some. Most thought this team of youngsters would struggle out the gate but getting off to a good start bodes well for the 2015 season.
Recalling past summers where the Cubs started off poorly only to play better ball as the season went on, this nice start has to please Manager Joe Maddon and what appears to be a team in ‘Win Now’ mode, something that should keep the Cubs in contention for a wild card spot throughout the year.
Next Up: Jason Hammel takes the bump vs. the Pirates Vance Worley tonight. Gametime is 7:05PM CST.
Posted on 21 April 2015 by Bob
There’s joy in Cubville and all around Chicago these days with the Bulls and Blackhawks both up in their respective playoff series, which normally would be enough to tide Chicago sports fans over. Add in a huge Cubs victory Monday night against a team many have pegged for a playoff spot along with another hyped prospect being called up and Chicago’s proverbial cup runneth over. While it’s not the playoffs for the Cubs YET, the buzz is palpable as the team has gotten off to a great start, highlighted by perhaps the team’s most complete win of the season Monday night in Pittsburgh.
The Cubs young talent was on full display with Rizzo, Soler, Bryant, and Castro combined for 11 hits and Jake Arrieta calmed down after allowing an early run to record seven strikeouts while only giving up three hits and no walks. The play of the game was Bryant’s two-run double in the seventh which he stretched to a triple after the Pirates threw home to try and tag Rizzo. It became a “Little League Home Run” shortly after as Bryant rounded third and the Pirates threw to the bag to try to catch him in a rundown. Already too far down the line, Bryant raced home and Pirates Catcher Francisco Cervelli bobbled the throw at the plate resulting in an error as Bryant crossed home safely . It wasn’t a home run technically speaking, due to the errant throw and the error, but it had the same result nonetheless. Bryant also had an RBI single in the fifth making him responsible for four of the Cubs’ five runs.
Shortly after the game, news leaked that the Cubs would call up Addison Russell to play 2B Tuesday night in Pittsburgh putting MLB on notice that these Cubs are here to win. The future is now on the Northside and if the Cubs can keep their nice start rolling the Central and N.L. better watch out.
It’s Wood Vs. Liriano tonight at PNC Park. Tune in to watch these Cubs debut the lineup we have all been waiting for. Game time is 6:05 PM CT.
Posted on 20 April 2015 by Bob
The Cubs’ wild, roller-coaster of a young season continued this weekend with two games vs. the Padres. After falling in Kris Bryant’s debut on Friday the Cubs got hot Saturday as the game went on, notching six runs over three innings led by Miguel Montero’s pair of home runs. Staked to a 6-2 lead entering the ninth inning the Cubs bullpen collapsed as Phil Coke gave up hits to the only two batters he faced and then the usually dominant Rondon couldn’t work out of the jam giving up four hits himself as the Padres were able to tie the game and take it into extras.
From there Zac Rosscup shut things down allowing only a hit over two innings and the Cubs loaded the bases in the eleventh enabling Starlin Castro to play the hero with his single just past Will Middlebrook’s glove sending Anthony Rizzo home for a walk-off win. It shouldn’t have been this hard but the Cubs will take the “W” and the late-inning clutch hitting. Bryant, making his second big-league start, had an outstanding day at the plate taking three walks to pair with 2 hits and an RBI. This is the Bryant we expect to see more of.
Sunday provided more of the same with the Cubs staking Lester to an early 2-0 lead before he gave up a two-run shot to Middlebrooks to tie the game. Lester did have a heads-up, highlight-reel play however as a hard-hit ball up the middle got stuck in the webbing of his glove. Unable to free it in time to make a throw, he tossed his whole glove to first where Anthony Rizzo alertly had dropped his glove to enable him to receive Lester’s mitt. They recorded the out and the crowd went wild. Sadly, there was little to celebrate the rest of the way as the Padres roughed up the Cubs bullpen yet again on a cold, wet day at Wrigley. Through his first three games Lester is the first to tell you his game isn’t up to snuff but there are signs of progress even though that’s not what Cubs fans want to hear after the man cashed in to the tune of $155 million this past off-season.
Posted on 18 April 2015 by Bob
Kris Bryant made his much-anticipated, widely-watched debut on a beautiful Friday afternoon at Wrigley yesterday but that wasn’t enough as an inconsistent strike zone and some strikeouts in crucial situations ultimately did the Cubs in.
Bryant, the highly-touted prospect got the call after injuries to Mike Olt and Tommy La Stella essentially forced the Cubs hand to bring him up one day after his service time pushed his free agency eligibility back one year. He struggled at the plate, striking out three times and grounding out to end a critical seventh inning but his glove was exceptional as he made several nice snags and on-point throws to first. His position at the hot corner seems to be secure for the foreseeable future. Manager Joe Maddon seemed pleased stating, “We did bring him up for his glove, didn’t we? He had a really good game at third base. Really played well over there.”
Overshadowing Bryant’s first game in the big leagues was the inconsistent strike zone outlined by Home Plate Umpire Sam Holbrook. In the seventh inning, Cubs relief pitcher Brian Schlitter appeared to strike out Padres CF Wil Myers to end the inning on a pitch right down the middle just above the knee but Holbrook ruled the pitch a ball and on the next pitch Myers crushed a three run shot into the bleachers providing the final margin of victory for the Padres. Maddon, displeased with Holbrook’s strike zone all game, could be seen visibly shouting “all five runs” in reference to the Padres taking advantage of Holbrook’s inconsistent strike zone to record each of their five runs. He was ejected for arguing balls and strikes.
It was tough to see the Cubs give this one away after being in control for much of the game but sometimes it’s just not your day. The important thing is that the Cubs continued to get on base after getting down a run, they just couldn’t push anything across.
They’ll get another chance today as Bryant searches for his first hit. Kyle Hendricks takes the mound for the Cubs against Tyson Ross. Game is in progress.
Posted on 16 April 2015 by Bob
Travis Wood bounced back from his first start to power the Cubs past the Reds allowing only three hits through the beginning of the eighth inning while striking out seven. Anthony Rizzo provided some early run support with a two-run shot and the Cubs never looked back as they shut out the Reds and laid claim to first place atop the NL Central Division.
Starlin Castro had an outstanding game as well providing two hits and a walk but his biggest contribution was his glove.
“How about our shortstop? He had a hell of a game at shortstop tonight. Played both left and right, had some great throws, double play was huge,” said Manager Joe Maddon, referencing a double-play ball snared by Castro that ended the Reds threat.
This was a complete team effort from top to bottom and sends the Cubs into an off day brimming with confidence before a weekend series at Wrigley versus the new look San Diego Padres.
Friday’s game pits newly acquired Padre: James Shields vs. Jason Hammel with first pitch at 1:20 PM.