Posted on 26 May 2015 by Bob
After a long holiday weekend versus some hot competition the Cubs got an A for effort but unfortunately that didn’t translate to wins, as the club dropped 3 out of 4 with each loss coming by a single run. The lone win was a 9-6 victory brought about by Anthony Rizzo’s ninth inning three-run homer on Saturday night.
It’s tough to criticize the team when the games, for the most part, could have gone either way and the Cubs still lead the majors in winning one run games with twelve on the year to date. It just feels like missed opportunities especially with Tsuyoshi Wada getting the quick hook again on Monday after throwing only 83 pitches. The Cubs would go on to lose that game 2-1 with Justin Grimm taking over for Wada and giving up what would become the game winning run on a homer to Wilson Ramos.
It was an entertaining weekend to be sure, with several of the games being decided on late inning at-bats. The Diamondbacks Paul Goldscmidt played the hero on Friday and Sunday, with Rizzo getting his turn Saturday, and the Nats’ Ramos delivering on Monday afternoon. The Cubs weren’t hurt too bad in the standings as St. Louis suffered a rare series loss to the in-state rival Royals, keeping the gap at a manageable 4.5 games.
Things don’t get any easier for the foreseeable future as the Cubs play two more against the NL East leading Nationals and then host the AL Central’s best in the Kansas City Royals over the weekend. This is a critical stretch for a team that has exceeded expectations and put itself in a position to compete for a playoff spot. They can either take a big step forward or several steps back depending on how this homestand plays out.
Tonight is Kyle Hendrick’s turn vs. the Nats’ Jordan Zimmerman with an earlier start time of 6:05PM CST.
Go Cubs Go!
Posted on 23 May 2015 by Bob
The Cubs had their chances at Chase Field Friday night but failed to capitalize on a surging Diamondbacks squad and ended up taking an exhausting 13 inning loss as they begin their three game series in Arizona. Jon Lester pitched seven innings of five hit, two run ball which was enough to take the game to extras tied at two a piece. Once there, Bryant and Castro both singled in runs to give the Cubs a 4-2 lead that should have been enough, but with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the tenth inning, Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt hit a two run home run to tie it up and keep the game alive.
Both teams loaded the bases in the twelfth and thirteenth innings respectively but couldn’t scratch one across until the Diamondbacks finally ended it on a pair of hits in the bottom of the thirteenth to win their fifth straight game. It was an exciting contest that kept Central Time Zone viewers awake well into the morning hours but not quite the result we had hoped for.
The top of the lineup was fantastic for the Cubs as spots one through six accounted for nine of their eleven hits. Lets hope there is no hangover tonight as Jake Arrieta takes the mound vs. the D-Backs, Rubby De La Rosa. First pitch is 9:10 PM CST, so we are in for another late one!
Go Cubs Go!
Posted on 22 May 2015 by Bob
Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks had the game of his life last night pitching nine strong innings for a five-hit, seven-strikeout, no walk, complete game gem. Given the Cubs pitching troubles and Maddon’s penchant for the quick hook on high pitch counts, this was something to behold. Hendricks had everything working and even when he did allow a base runner, he was quick to get the next out, most of them off double play balls as he threw 108 pitches; 71 of them for strikes. He picked up hist first win of the season and a huge boost of confidence.
“I’m going to remember this one, definitely, for a long time,” said Hendricks, “It was just one of those days that finally clicked. I’m not going to say I needed it but I kind of did need it. I haven’t been throwing very well. Thank God it finally clicked today.”
The Cubs have needed more out of their starters and they appear to be getting it as the unofficial start to summer looms this weekend and with it, rising temperatures. Wada showed flashes of brilliance on Wednesday and Jon Lester, with his 1.67 ERA in May, goes for his fifth straight win tonight in Arizona. If this keeps up, that 3.5 game deficit in the division could be whittled away sooner rather than later.
The Cubs offense got in on the action as well, with Kris Bryant and Addison Russell both hitting dingers to provide the run support as the Cubs cruised 3 – 0 in winning their third straight series. A team that started the year as an over-hyped wild card contender should now have the attention of the entire National League. This team appears to be the real deal after two months of surprisingly solid play. They are tied for the fourth best record in the NL and aren’t showing any signs of slowing down. They owe much of that to their young stars; Anthony Rizzo, Bryant, and Russell.
“I think we have a lot to offer for this team,” Russell said. “We’re talented guys, I believe.”
A lot of people on the North Side and the League believe so, too.
Posted on 21 May 2015 by Bob
Tsuyoshi Wada made his claim to a rotation spot in his first start back striking out nine Padres in only 4 2/3 innings before getting a quick hook from Manager Joe Maddon.
“He was outstanding,” Maddon said. “He had great stuff. He had nine punchouts in 4 2-3, and I’m more about the Cubs winning as opposed to any particular pitcher winning.”
Though he only threw 69 pitches, Maddon kept him on a tight leash given it was his first start back and he had done enough with those pitches to build some confidence moving forward. Nine K’s through almost five innings is pretty good stuff, indeed and bodes well for Wada joining the rotation as Wood’s replacement.
In past games going to the bullpen that early would have been downright scary, but five Cubs relievers combined for 2 hits over the final 4 1/3 innings to make a 3-2 lead hold up and inspired confidence in the pitching staff as a whole. Wada also got an unexpected workout after taking a walk in the fifth inning and then coming around to score on Dexter Fowler’s RBI triple. Kris Bryant did his part as well getting a hit in the first and a sac fly RBI in the fifth that provided the winning margin.
While the offense did just enough to win, this game was all about the pitching and it was nice to see it as a strong suit after taking some serious lumps the last few weeks. Justin Grimm was the linchpin as he came on to work out a jam in the fifth. He pitched 1 1/3 innings while striking out three to earn the win as the Cubs scored in the top half of the inning to take the lead. His presence has been a huge boost to the once shaky unit and a stabilizing force in the middle innings.
The Cubs still sit four games behind the Cards with a 22 – 17 record. Kyle Hendricks takes the mound tonight to complete the three game series. Game time is 8:10PM CST.
Posted on 20 May 2015 by Bob
Jason Hammel did his best to outduel Padres pitcher James Shields, pitching seven innings while allowing only three hits and striking out eight but he was undone by three costly errors, all of which led to runs and ultimately cost the Cubs the game. Up 2-0 after solo home runs from Chris Coghlan and Dexter Fowler, Hammel appeared to be cruising entering the fifth inning until Kris Bryant overthrew Anthony Rizzo on Justin Upton’s hit to third base. Upton came around to score on the next at-bat.
Then in the seventh, Castro failed to field a fairly easy ball hit right at him allowing Matt Kemp to reach safely. This ended up extending the inning that would allow the tying run to come across. The biggest and most costly error was saved for last, with Addison Russell dropping a pop-up just beyond the infield which enabled Derek Norris to double in two runs later in the inning. Despite another Coghlan homer in the ninth, the Cubs were sunk 4-3 with James Shields striking out eleven.
You really hope these kind of games don’t come back to haunt the Cubs later in the season. It’s one thing to have a team beat you but it’s another to beat yourself. This is precisely what the Cubs did Tuesday night and it’s a shame, especially for someone pitching as well as Jason Hammel. The errors by Bryant and Russell while unfortunate, can be reasoned away. Bryant is still a rookie despite what his stellar start would tell you and is bound to make a mistake from time to time. Russell is in the same boat while also still learning the ropes of a new position at second base. No doubt these were costly errors but they should disappear with time and experience.
Unfortunately, time and experience have not been kind to Castro in this department. The five year vet just can’t seem to make the routine play from time to time and it’s something that has to be taken into consideration when considering his future with the club, especially with Russell waiting on the other side of second base to claim his spot. Castro is still young but he’s been in the league long enough now to not be making these types of mistakes with such regularity. He has shown marked improvement but still these issues persist. How it all shakes out is anyone’s guess but Castro needs to play near perfect the rest of the season for the Cubs to even consider him their long-term shortstop, let alone a long-term player on their team.
Next Up: Tsuyoshi Wada makes his Cubs debut this season coming up from Triple-A Iowa after recovering from a groin injury. He will face the Padres Tyson Ross. Game time is 9:10PM CST.
Posted on 18 May 2015 by Bob
The Cubs are off today after playing for the last seventeen straight days, and they have earned it. After struggling a bit on their road trip to St. Louis and Milwaukee, the Cubs got hot as they returned home in sweeping a four game series with the Mets and then taking two of three from the Pirates this past weekend. Their six game win streak helped to chip away at the Cardinals’ division lead which is now just four games.
They did it with pitching, hitting, and defense making this the most complete Cubs team we have seen in years. Sure, there is room to improve (See: Bullpen), but everyone gets a break after a homestand as entertaining as this one. Anthony Rizzo continues to put this team on his back collecting nine hits, six walks, and five RBI’s the last seven days making him on OBP machine with .563. He and Kris Bryant back to back are as formidable as any heart of the order you will see in baseball these days. With Travis Wood set to join the bullpen and Tsuyoshi Wada grabbing a starter’s spot, the Cubs are still tinkering with issues at the back end of their rotation and relief corp. This move should help address both as Wada has had pretty good numbers during his rehab and Wood should provide some long relief if another starter continues to struggle.
We are rolling through May now and the Cubs have put themselves in a great position at least for a wild card spot. Another month of solid play and we should see them as buyers at the deadline for the first time in a long time. Until then they just need to stay hungry and keep riding their big bats as far as they can take them.
Next Up: Jason Hammel takes on Jame Shields as the Cubs open a three game series in San Diego on Tuesday night. First Pitch is 9:10PM CST, a late start for mid-Westerners with the team on the west coast all week.
Go Cubs Go!
Posted on 14 May 2015 by Bob
Coming in today, one would have been fine ending this series three games to one given how well the Cubs had played in the first three games. After getting down 3 – 0, no one would have blamed you for writing this one off but these Cubs just wouldn’t quit today. They battled back after falling behind 5-1 to tie the game with a fifth inning barrage that featured big hits from Rizzo and Bryant. Dexter Fowler also had a solo shot in fourth. These Cubs saw a Mets club desperate for a win and stepped on them to complete a four game sweep of the NL East leaders and raise their record to four games over .500.
After last night’s walk-off walk to win the game, anything today was just icing on the cake and this cake tastes pretty good. The hits weren’t plentiful but the Cubs made them count scoring six runs off of only six hits with two walks and a few HBP’s. Travis Wood and Jorge Soler continued their struggles with Wood getting tagged for five runs and Soler still not able to find his rhythm but the top of the order and the Cubs bullpen picked them up with the latter allowing only three hits over the last four and 2/3 innings.
We may look back on this series as an important mile-marker in the long grind that is the MLB season. These Cubs just gained some valuable experience not only competing against one of the best pitching staffs in baseball but in never giving up and continuing to find a way. Anytime you can sweep a three game series you are doing something right but to take four straight from a talented Mets club is special. This is a huge confidence builder and will hopefully carry over to the weekend.
The rest that Cubs starters provided the bullpen this series cannot be overlooked either. After a pretty rough road stretch where the bullpen was asked to pitch three to four innings at times, the Cubs came home and did a complete 180 for most of this series. A rested bullpen is a happy bullpen and a sign that your starters are pitching well, something you could say the Cubs did this week. The only negative is that the Cardinals still refuse to come back down to earth; keeping their five game cushion in the division for now.
The Cubs get the chance to chip away at that tomorrow as Kyle Hendricks takes on Bucs starter, Jeff Locke. Game time is 1:20PM on what should a warm afternoon at Wrigley.
Go Cubs Go!
Posted on 13 May 2015 by Bob
Coming into this series the Mets Pitching staff was being lauded as perhaps the best in the league while the Cubs were being touted as, well, “Cub-like” but through two games Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta have combined to out-duel first deGrom, and now up and comer, Noah Syndergaard. While Lester’s start was OK, Arrieta’s was exceptional, pitching eight innings of three hit ball while allowing only one run in the eighth inning with the game well in hand. This is the Arrieta we have been waiting for and on nights like last night, it’s clear he’s as good as anyone in the league after striking out ten.
A byproduct of outstanding starting pitching is the rest afforded to the bullpen and the Cubs finally got to experience that last evening with only James Russell being called upon to pitch. He worked out of a jam to get through the ninth and wrap up at least a split this series with the Mets. It’s been pretty impressive to watch Cubs pitchers flip the script this week as this team will only go as far as they take them.
That being said, the Cubs offense had a pretty good night as well against a pitcher many have pegged to eventually be in the same league as the Matt Harveys of the world. It took a while but the Cubs broke through in the sixth inning on a Castro double and a Coghlan home run. Addison Russell also added an RBI and Kris Bryant homered into the left field bleachers for the second night in a row. It seems to be everyone getting in on the action and as the temperature rises, that is a great sign. We knew the Bryant home runs would come and he seems to be making up for lost time. He also had a game high three hits and is really starting to figure it out.
Bryant and the Cubs get the chance to make it three in a row tonight as Jason Hammel takes on Matt Harvey in what should be the Cubs’ toughest test of this home stand. A chance to watch the Cubs youngsters match up with the Mets’ Ace is must-watch T.V.
Game time is 7:05PM CST.
Go Cubs Go!
Posted on 12 May 2015 by Bob
It seems the Cubs have heard the grumblings lately; the whispers about their pitching, and their defense. It also seems they decided to do something about it. The Cubs got six relatively strong innings from Jon Lester, while Justin Grimm, Zac Rosscup, and Hector Rondon combined to post three shutout innings in relief as the Cubs held on to beat the Mets Monday night at Wrigley Field. The bullpen trio allowed only one hit over the final three frames and made Jon Lester’s lead stand up. It was a sight for sore eyes and one that Cubs fans and players needed badly.
Not to be outdone, the Cubs defense also came through big time behind Castro’s game-saving snag of Dilson Herrera’s line drive that had ‘hit’ written all over it. It kept the game tying run at first and emboldened the Cubs to finish off the win. Anthony Rizzo also contributed a nice catch for a double play the inning before. Last night the Cubs finally got the right bounces to go their way and made the most of their opportunities.
The offense of course, made sure of that with Kris Bryant hitting his second home run of the year, and first at Wrigley Field, into the welcoming arms of the Bleacher Bums in left who were making their inaugural appearance of the 2015 season. Rizzo took the very next pitch the opposite way into the still-under-construction right field bleachers and the Cubs were in business. Addison Russell singled in another run which ended up being the difference.
Some positivity and signs of life from the bullpen were excellent to see last night helping the Cubs off to a good start against the pitching-deep Mets. Let’s hope for a repeat performance tonight as Jake Arrieta gets the start against the highly-touted Mets prospect Noah Syndergaard making his MLB debut.
Game time is 7:05PM CST.
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.