Posted on 09 June 2015 by Bob
The Chicago Cubs had a pretty good weekend after taking three out of four games from a tough Nationals team and earning their 30th win of the season. Kris Bryant led the way with a single, double, and triple leaving him just a home run shy of the cycle while Kyle Hendricks pitched five decent innings allowing six hits with three runs, which given the Cubs offensive output was good enough for the win.
Jason Motte was given a chance to close the game on Sunday and picked up his first save since 2012, back when he was a Cardinal. The Nationals Jordan Zimmerman came into this game on a tear, having won his last four starts but the Cubs pounced on him in the fourth and fifth innings to open up a 4-3 lead and chase him from the game. Anthony Rizzo also upped his hitting streak to twelve games.
With on off day on Monday, the Cubs got some rest but also some help for the present and future as they selected University of Cincinnati infielder/outfielder Ian Happ with the #9 pick in baseball’s amateur draft sticking with the strategy of acquiring hard-hitting position players despite the logjam of talent that floods their infield at the moment. It is a sound strategy that has begun to produce visible results and should continue to do so as prospects matriculate through the Cubs system. This is an exciting time for Cubs fan as their is a real sense that they can compete for a playoff spot this season, but should be an even better club next year.
Staying in the present, the Cubs also acquired Rafael Soriano in hopes of shoring up their shaky bullpen. Soriano has been out of baseball so far this season and the Cubs only signed him to a minor league deal, but the hope is that when reunited with his former manager, Joe Maddon, he can return to the form that made him the Nationals closer just one year ago.
The Cubs dip into interleague play tonight as they travel to Comerica Park in Detroit to face the Tigers for a two game series. Jon Lester will pitch against Anibal Sanchez in the opener with first pitching coming at 6:08PM CST.
Go Cubs Go!
Posted on 06 June 2015 by Bob
Jason Hammel is having a hell of a year. That continued Saturday as he allowed one run on five hits in eight plus innings of work to put the clamps on the NL East leading Nationals in a 4-2 victory. Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler, and Jonathan Herrera all chipped in two hits a piece to set the Cubs up to take the series on Sunday.
Hammel’s only two real mistakes where the solo-shots allowed to Wilson Ramos in the second inning and Bryce Harper to start the ninth. Other than that, Hammel did his thing and kept the Nats in check a day after they lit up the scoreboard in a 7-5 Cubs defeat. It was good to see the Cubs bounce back and now they have a chance to take three of four from a pretty good team.
Addison Russell got his first major league start at shortstop as Starlin Castro was given the day off. He looked good helping turn a double play and making a nice grab in the ninth to record an out.
Kyle Hendricks closes out the series on Sunday vs. Jordan Zimmerman. Game time is 3:05PM CST.
Go Cubs Go!
Posted on 05 June 2015 by Bob
Jake Arrieta got some early run support as the Cubs jumped on Gio Gonzalez in the first inning for two runs and the defense made that hold up late as Chicago took the series opener from the Nats, 2-1 in Washington D.C. It was the Cubs’ 15th one run win out of the 25 such games they have played, good for tops in the Majors in both categories.
After an almost two hour rain delay, the Cubs offense wasted no time getting started as the first four Cubs batters reached safely with Junior Lake taking a walk to plate the first run. After that, Starlin Castro grounded into a double play that enabled Kris Bryant to score from third. That was more than enough to get Arrieta going as he went six strong innings while giving up only six hits and a single run. The Cubs then used five relievers to close out the game but not without a bit of drama in the bottom of the ninth and Chicago clinging to a one run lead.
The Nationals put two men on with two outs in the bottom of the frame when Catcher David Ross picked off the Nationals’ Clint Robinson who had taken too large a lead from first base on the pitch, a high ball from Hector Rondon. Anthony Rizzo deftly applied the tag and the Cubs were winners on a play you don’t see too often, especially with the would-be tying run already on second base. Skipper Joe Maddon was pleasantly surprised.
“Rock ‘n’ roll,” he said. “I had no clue. I just have to give Ross a lot of credit there, and Anthony to put the play on. If he had thrown the ball in the right-field corner, I would have been fine. I would have absolutely been fine with the whole play. They saw something and went with it. It was all them, spectacular.”
Letting the players ‘play’ and take risks is something Maddon has stressed throughout his tenure as he feels this fosters confidence and inhibits fear of making mistakes. Clearly Rizzo felt comfortably taking action on something he had noticed and discretely relayed that to Ross. His manager had his back regardless of the outcome; the rest is history.
The Cubs look to win their first series outright since taking two of three from the Padres back in mid-May. Tsuyoshi Wada goes for his first win since late last season as he faces the Nationals Tanner Roark. First pitch is 6:05PM CST.
Go Cubs Go!
Posted on 04 June 2015 by Bob
The Cubs dropped a series to the lowly Marlins Wednesday night, falling 7 – 3 in an ugly game that featured some even uglier theatrics. Jon Lester had what probably amounts to his worst start as a Cub going five innings and allowing nine hits while getting tagged for six earned runs. This is a regression we didn’t see coming and it cost the Cubs big time as they dropped another series to a team that is ten games under .500. This team is currently all over the place in playing to the level of their competition. When the AL central leading Royals are in town, they’re playing tough; in Miami against a team that had been struggling mightily, they stink up the joint.
No doubt these Cubs are still youngsters finding their way but you can’t tell me that a team which swept the Mets just a few weeks ago should have any business dropping a series to these Marlins. Heck, even the things they did right were eclipsed by their youthful immaturity. Junior Lake hit a two-run home run in the top of the sixth inning finally getting them on the board, albeit still down 6 – 2. He took it upon himself to take his time walking out of the box and then flipped his bat. Rounding third he put his index finger to his lips and glanced at the Marlins bench, motioning for them to be quiet. It was a foolish gesture in it’s own right but even dumber due to the fact that the Cubs were still down by four runs.
The Marlins weren’t happy with it either as both benches cleared for a whole lot of talk but no ejections. Cubs Manager Joe Maddon was also clearly disappointed, offering up his sentiments clearly and concisely:
“I’d like to use this moment for our minor league guys, don’t do that. That’s very much not cool. So if you’re watching the game back in Chicago tonight, don’t do that if you hit a home run. … We don’t do that here, and that will be the last time you see it.”
Maddon said he spoke with Lake, who was apologetic, to reiterate that behavior such as that will not be tolerated, especially in a Major League game. That’s not the Cub Way, no matter if you are down four or up by four. This incident came at a bad time for the Cubs who appear to be scuffling, dropping into 3rd place in the NL Central and lacking the consistency that has kept the Cardinals on an even keel so far this season. The Cubs cannot let this snowball as Jorge Soler has already been placed on the 15 day DL with an ankle sprain and the upcoming schedule is pretty unforgiving with a series against the Nationals in DC, followed up by a two game stint in Detroit.
The Cubs hope to right the ship as Jake Arrieta takes the mound vs. the Nats Gio Gonzalez for a 6:05PM CST start time in the District.
Go Cubs Go!
Posted on 03 June 2015 by Bob
Marlins Starter Brad Hand scattered six hits and two runs while CF Marcell Ozuna hit a two-out, three-run double to put the ‘Fish’ in front to stay as Miami defeated the visiting Cubs 5-2 at Marlins Park. Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks took the loss giving up seven hits and four earned runs.
The Cubs had their chances carrying a 2-1 lead into the fifth inning as Hendricks loaded the bases only to record the next two outs and give himself a chance to escape the inning. Ozuna had other plans, as his double to right field drove in all three base runners and put the Cubs in a two-run hole from which they would not recover.
“You’re trying to get out of it anyway you can,” Hendricks said after the game. “I was able to get the first two guys then got ambushed by Ozuna … He’s aggressive with runners in scoring position. I left it up and it found the gap.”
They had one last gasp at it as the ninth inning saw the Cubs put two men on with one out when Chris Coghlan singled to right and had seemingly loaded the bases but Starlin Castro was held at third by Cubs Third Base Coach Gary Jones and Addison Russell missed the sign taking an aggressive bound around second base. He was tagged out on his subsequent scramble back to the bag tallying the second out. Miguel Montero struck out to end the game.
While a costly mental error, Russell was taking the aggressive approach that Maddon has instilled in this team so you can’t fault his drive, just the execution. He will learn from this mistake but not let it deter him in the future. The Cubs simply didn’t make enough plays tonight or the right ones. They’ll look to take the series tonight as the Cubs pit Jon Lester vs. the Marlins Dan Haren in the series final game. Game time is 6:10PM CST.
Go Cubs Go!
Posted on 02 June 2015 by Bob
Posted on 02 June 2015 by Bob
Jason Hammel continued his incredible run this year powering the Cubs to victory with 11 strikeouts and only one earned run on Monday night vs. the Marlins in Miami. This stellar performance brought his season ERA to 2.82 as he’s recorded 69 strikeouts to just seven walks in the ten games he has pitched this season, a truly remarkable achievement when you stop to think about.
“When I’m missing, my misses are better,” Hammel said. “That’s about it. When I’ve made mistakes this year, it hasn’t hurt me.”
Hammel has been the Cubs most consistent and best pitcher date, outshining even the Cubs top two starters in Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta. His return to the Cubs, after last season’s deadline trade, has bolstered this Cubs rotation and enabled them to gain back half of what they gave up last year in acquiring Addison Russell, a player who should be a mainstay on the roster for years to come.
On offense the Cubs got production from their core group of young players as Rizzo, Soler, Russell, Bryant, and Starlin Castro all drove in runs as the Cubs cruised 5 – 1. Castro’s hit was by far the most memorable as he crushed the game’s only home run over 420 feet and took his time rounding the bags. It was good to see this offense have a little spark after a tough performance on Sunday.
The Cubs look to string together three straight wins tonight as Kyle Hendricks gets the start against the Marlins’ Brad Hand, who has the worst record for a starter in the majors with 2o or more decisions. First pitch is 6:10pm CST as the Cubs hope to stay hot in Miami.
Posted on 01 June 2015 by Bob
The Chicago Cubs had a wet and wild weekend that ran the gamut on temperature and timely hitting as they split their series with the visiting Kansas City Royals at Wrigley Field. Friday’s game saw temperatures hover around 80 degrees while also dousing the crowd with spells of rain as clouds rolled in and out over Lake Michigan. The game featured much of the same as the Royals sprayed the Bleacher Bums with three solo home shots over the first four innings and then the Cubs clawed their way back with a few dingers of their own, as Addison Russell tied the game up 4 – 4 in the bottom of the seventh on a solo-shot off the vaunted Royals bullpen that seemed to set the stage for another close game down the stretch.
It was not meant to be as the Cubs came undone in the eighth behind a terrible outing from Pedro Strop and an ugly error by Dexter Fowler that allowed the Royals to go up 7 – 4 and effectively end the contest. The final score was 8 – 4 as the Cubs looked forward to Saturday and a chance at redemption.
Mother Nature had other plans as temperatures dropped into the 40’s and torrential rains forced Saturday’s game to be postponed until September 28, potentially the last home game of the regular season for Chicago, and one that could carry playoff implications if these two teams keep pace.
Sunday offered more of the same as temps stayed low but the rain yielded enough to allow the game to be played, and what a game it was; an 11 inning walk-off win as David Ross hit an RBI single just out of reach from Royals Shortstop Alcides Escobar and the Cubs were able to come away with the ‘W’, despite squandering chances in both the 9th inning and earlier in the 11th to scratch a run across. The Cubs haven’t been consistently pretty as of late, but they extended their one-run game win record and posted a .500 record for the month of May to keep them afloat at 26 – 22 overall. To do so against a wildly talented Royals squad that played in the World Series last year and is among the top teams in the American League should give the Cubs a bit of confidence, even if they aren’t quite on the Royals level, yet.
Next Up: Jason Hammel takes the bump vs. Jose Urena and the Marlins in Miami tonight. First pitch is 6:10pm CST.
Posted on 27 May 2015 by Bob
Kris Bryant had a monster home run that hit the new video board in left and Addison Russell went 3 for 4, including the game winning hit in the bottom of the ninth inning, as the Cubs battled back to top the Nats 3 – 2 on a gorgeous Tuesday night at Wrigley field. The win was the Cubs 13th one-run win, putting them atop the majors in that category.
While much has been made of Bryce Harper and the season he is having, it was the Cubs young stars who propelled them to victory despite a home run from Harper. Dexter Fowler got things going in the first with a solo shot to right but Harper made it 1-1 in the seventh on a ball he thought was a pop-up out, only to see it carry into the left-field basket. Denard Span homered in the top of the eighth to put the Nats up 2-1 but Kris Bryant answered big time in the bottom of the eighth, crushing the ball 463 feet to left center field and off the newly constructed scoreboard to knot the game up at two a piece.
Then in the bottom of the ninth, Jonathan Herrera reached second base on a throwing error and Addison Russell was able to loft a ball to deep center that dropped just beyond Denard Span’s outstretched glove, allowing him to double in the winning run. Watching these two young Cubs hit is just flat out fun. You never know when the ball will pop out of the park and they seem to be relishing coming through in big moments. It’s pretty incredible to see the poise these two have; Bryant working counts like a veteran hitter and Russell, all of 21 years old, making plays at second that defy his age and experience.
Tonight, the Cubs go for the series win as each team’s prized, off-season acquisitions take the mound. It’s Max Scherzer for the Nats against Jon Lester for the Cubs in a highly anticipated pitcher’s duel. Throw in another night of Kris Bryant and Bryce Harper launching bombs and there is no better place to be tonight than the Friendly Confines.
Game time is 7:05 PM CST.
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!