Archive | Chicago Cubs

Looking at the Cubs Potential Trades & Rumors: Part 2

Posted on 17 July 2015 by Bob

Part 2 of this series takes us to the team I consider the most likely trade partner, the Oakland Athletics. These clubs have a history, most notably last summer’s blockbuster trade that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the A’s in return for Addison Russell. We all know how that panned out. The A’s lost a heart-breaking Wild-Card game to Royals who rode that momentum all the way to the World Series. The A’s then shipped Samardzija to the White Sox, Hammel returned to the Cubs in free agency, and the Cubs now retain one of the best young players in the game in Addison Russell. Don’t tell me Billy Beane won’t want to make up for that now that the two club’s positions have been somewhat reversed. It is now the A’s who have what the Cubs need as they should be sellers after under-performing in the first half to the tune of a 41-50 record.

Scott-Kazmir-2

The Cubs need pitching and a veteran outfield bat. The A’s have both in Scott Kazmir and Ben Zobrist. Kazmir is a veteran pitcher who currently holds a 2.56 ERA and after a year away from baseball in 2012, has rebounded nicely. He should command a decent contract in free agency but would be a nice arm for the Cubs to add that could bolster the rotation. Package him with utility man Ben Zobrist, a Joe Maddon favorite from his days in Tampa, and would it be too crazy for the Cubs to entertain dangling Javy Baez or Billy Mckinney and a few other prospects to make this happen. A perfect marriage is somewhere with these two teams as the A’s would love to replenish their farm system after last season’s trades hurt them in the long run.

Verdict: Pull the trigger! (So long as Kyle Schwarber is NOT included in any deal.)

 

The last trade partner is also the most intriguing in terms of upside as any deal here would carry great risk but also great reward. It’s no secret that the Cincinnati Reds are going to be sellers at the deadline and after the All-Star game is over and the hoopla in the Queen City dies down, I expect that talk to intensify with the likes of Johnny Cueto, Aroldis Chapman, and Jay Bruce all being dangled as trade bait. Neither pitcher will be cheap to acquire and that means that the price paid will most likely be for a rental; always a gamble as Oakland can attest to firsthand after last year.

Apr 7, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto (47) pitches during the second inning against the Washington Nationals at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Do the Cubs want to risk Schwarber or Baez in a Cueto deal? It would be a “wild card” move in hopes of making the Wild Card game, but would that be worth it if Cueto walks at season’s end? It’s never easy making these kind of decisions, but my gut says there would have to be more than just Cueto in any deal for prospects to afford the Cubs some insurance. This is intriguing and there will be many teams who jump into the Cueto market, but the Cubs do have pieces, it’s just a question of whether or not a move can be made that doesn’t trade on the Cubs future in favor of the now.

Verdict: Up in the air.

 

As you can see, there are a lot of potential trades and an equal, if not greater, amount of speculation out there. Ultimately, I think the Cubs will make a few moves but nothing that rocks the boat too much. Just a few pieces to stabilize the pitching staff and provide some depth, while picking up a veteran bat from somewhere. My instincts tell me that none of the Cubs top level players or prospects will be made available in any trade with the exception of Javy Baez. I think Theo Epstein wants to see what he has in this club for a full year before making the tough decisions on Starlin Castro, Kyle Schwarber, etc.  Hopefully, a few teams get desperate to offload some players and the Cubs can stay healthy. The next two weeks will tell us a lot. Enjoy the ride!

 

 

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Looking at the Cubs Potential Trades & Rumors: Part 1

Posted on 16 July 2015 by Bob

Given the All-Star break this week and the rare back-to-back days following the game that provide no actual contests for us to discuss, let’s turn our attention towards the second half and look at some of the potential trades the Cubs could make and the always entertaining rumors that accompany such speculation.

Cole hamels

For starters, you can’t have an article like this and not begin with Cole Hamels. The Cubs need pitching, preferably a starter, and Hamels, the ace of a once-proud, now-crumbling Phillies organization, should be available despite his outlandish contract given that the Phillies own the MLB’s worst overall record by an almost solid TEN games. But this is the Phillies we are talking about, so who knows how long they will hold on to one of their last few valuable assets. More likely than not, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. will demand a king’s ransom of young talent and is already rumored to be backing off from trading his ace. I just don’t see the Cubs gutting their farm system or giving up any of their plethora of talented middle-infielders to make something like this work, especially with the chance to sign the David Prices of the world in the off-season without giving up any talent in return.

Verdict: Not likely.

 

papelbon

Sticking with the Phillies, there is yet another player whose services the Cubs would not mind acquiring in closer Jonathan Papelbon, a former teammate of Jon Lester on Boston’s 2007 World Series Champion team, and current All-Star sporting a 1.60 ERA in 32 appearances with 14 saves. Having a lock-down, animated, and confident closer is something the Cubs could use rather than the platoon approach they currently employ, but his fiery antics and his $13 million contract with a vesting option for an additional $13 million next year might be too steep a price to pay for a 34 year old who is effectively forcing his way out the door of his current team; something the feel-good, magic-wielding Cubs might want to keep away from their tight-knit clubhouse.  So long as the deal doesn’t gut the farm and the contract option can be adjusted this still remains a possibility and the rumors have grown increasingly louder in recent weeks.

Verdict: Maybe, but don’t count on it.

 

Now for the more realistic trade partners, or rather the teams that match up well with the Cubs in terms of offering and needs. It doesn’t hurt that these clubs have been trade partners with the Cubs in recent years as well.

First up is the San Diego Padres; Partners in the trade that sent Anthony Rizzo to the Cubs and Andrew Cashner to the Padres, a trade that you could say the Cubs clearly won given Anthony Rizzo evolving into one of the best first basemen and all-around players in the MLB, not to mention Andrew Cashner’s injury history. Still, a couple of Padres’ pitchers should be of interest to the Cubs and I’m sure San Diego wouldn’t turn down some young, inexpensive talent in return given their bloated payroll from last off-season’s all-in spending spree.

james shield padres

One target is James Shields, the same man who the Cubs balked on last year when the bidding got too rich for the Cub’s blood at the time. It was a smart decision then and remains so now, with bigger, more dependable free agents on the horizon at season’s end. There would have to be some type of deal worked out in terms of money for the Cubs to consider this but the Padres don’t have a ton of flexibility in that department. Still, Shields would certainly stabilize the back end of the rotation, slotting in at the 3-4 spot behind Arrieta, Lester, and maybe Hammel, right before Hendricks  thus allowing Tsuyoshi Wada to return as an inning-eating, long-man in relief.

Tyson Ross is another Padres pitcher who the Cubs should take a look at as the 28 year old with a 3.00ERA since becoming a full-time starter last year could plug in to the back end of the rotation and provide some depth.  He would be considerably cheaper than Shields but not as big of a splash.  I think he’s more likely than Shields just in terms of cost but I think the Cubs will stay true to their intention to pursue the highly-touted free agent crop this coming off-season.

The common theme here is don’t expect the Cubs to break the bank or sell the farm this year as they are currently playing with house money. No one expected them to be where they are since 2016 is the oft-talked about “Year” for this team to take the next step and they can retain a large portion of their talent and money by signing some under the radar and cheaper inning-eaters and waiting til the off-season to make the big acquisition.

Verdict: Getting warmer but still don’t think the Cubs will overspend.

 

Next Up: Part 2…

 

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Cubs Have Quiet Night at All-Star Game; Shift Focus to Upcoming Schedule

Posted on 15 July 2015 by Bob

Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant enjoyed their time in Cincinnati for the All-Star game judging from their twitter feeds. They are both loaded with tweets about how much fun they had, horsing around with other players, or getting to meet their idols. Kris Bryant shared a special moment with his father who got to pitch to him in the Home Run Derby. The game itself was rather quiet for the Cubs with Rizzo going 0 for 2 at DH and Bryant drawing a walk in his only plate appearance. The National League would end up losing the game, 6 – 3 as the American League simply did more with their opportunities. So that potential World Series Game 7 will be held in some American League Ball park this fall and with that the Cubs will turn their attention to the second half.

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 10: Kris Bryant #17 of the Chicago Cubs and Anthony Rizzo #44 pose for a photo with their All Star jersey's before the game against the Chicago White Sox on July 10, 2015 at  Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

The Cubs have a huge opportunity to open the second half of the season which Anthony Rizzo hinted at just before the break:

“We have a pretty good record,” Rizzo said. “The grind of our schedule is over, for the most part. We’ve just battled every series. [I’m] not saying the second half is going to be any easier, but it should be in our favor.”

Yes, the Cubs should be the favorites in a number of series after the break in facing the Braves, Reds, Phillies, Rockies, and Brewers to start. Every one of those teams has a losing record, and Milwaukee and Philadelphia are the two worst teams in all of Major League Baseball at the moment. But should be doesn’t mean the Cubs just have to show up to win as the first half has already proved. The Cubs struggled against the Brewers earlier this year so nothing is guaranteed. They will need to give it their all as the focus on what is now a very attainable goal: a playoff spot.

For a young team, that will be a big challenge, but hopefully with more games under their belts, these guys will become a more experienced and polished unit.

 

Next Up:

The Cubs take on the Braves in ATL on Friday July 17th. First Pitch is 6:35 PM CST.  It will be Kyle Hendricks on the mound vs. Julio Teheran for the Braves.

Let’s Go Cubs!

 

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Jake Arrieta Propels Cubs to Victory over Sox; Cubs Enter the Break on a High Note

Posted on 14 July 2015 by Bob

Jake Arrieta threw a complete game on Sunday allowing one run on just two hits and put an end to any debate about who the ace of the Chicago Cubs is as the team took down the White Sox 3-1, and avoided being swept by the South-siders. Arrieta also had his first career home run in support of his own efforts on the mound to gain his tenth victory on the year, matching his season high before the start of the second half. He is, quite simply, one of the best pitchers in baseball right now, and it’s a damn shame he won’t be pitching in tonight’s All-Star contest as the man is clearly operating at the top of his game right now.

Arrieta dominant

“His stuff is among the elite level of major league pitchers,” Manager Joe Maddon said after Sunday’s game. “There’s no question.”

He struck out the side in the first and did the same to end the game in the ninth as he totaled nine K’s on the afternoon. Backed by some early run support, a rare commodity around these parts as of late, Arrieta cruised before aiding his own cause in the bottom of the fifth as he homered 380 feet for his first career home run, a feat he wished he would have been able to savor as the ball just made it into the left field basket.

“I would have liked to have hit the first one knowing it was a homer instead of having to sprint to first,” Arrieta said. “But yeah, I mean, that was cool.”

That’s Arrieta at the moment; cool, calm, and commanding. He is doing everything to get his team the W, an effort you’d like to see replicated by some of his teammates (i.e. Jon Lester and Starlin Castro). He is a big reason the Cubs enter the break at 47 – 40 and despite being 8 games back of division leader, St. Louis, the Cubs hold a one game lead for the second and final Wild Card spot meaning there will be meaningful, second-half baseball played on the North Side of Chicago for the first time in over half a decade.

Cubs win go cubs go

Despite the Cubs offensive struggles this team has found a way to grind out wins, and they have their pitching to thank for that as the starting pitching staff had allowed two or less runs in 11 straight games heading into last Saturday’s contest. That is pretty remarkable stuff and a big reason this team hasn’t dipped closer to .500, which was a possibility given how quiet their bats had become.

This is a team that is feeling good if not great about themselves heading into the All-Star break but they believe their best baseball is yet to come.

“Seven-plus [over .500] going into the break — I’ll take that,” Maddon said. “Because I do believe there is a lot to look forward to on the other side.”

 

Next Up: The NL All-Stars take on their AL counterparts in tonight’s All-Star Game at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, OH. Game time is 6:30PM CT. Anthony Rizzo will start at DH for the National League with Kris Bryant coming off the bench.

Let’s Go Cubs!

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Cubs Fall to St. Louis on Peralta’s Late Home Run; Split with Cards

Posted on 09 July 2015 by Bob

The Cubs were Oh-So-Close to accomplishing something they haven’t yet this season; a series win vs. the Cards. With two outs and two strikes on Jhonny Peralta, Pedro Strop was one strike away from completing such a feat, but one bad pitch later left the ball in the left field basket and the Cubs one-run advantage turned into a one-run deficit. Rosenthal came on for the Cards in the bottom of the ninth and with the exception of Addison Russell’s two-out double, was able to put down the three other batters he faced and ended the game 6 – 5 for the ‘bad guys’.

Peralta HR

While on it’s face this result is extremely disappointing, if you had told the Cubs on Monday they would manage to split this series and come pretty damn close to taking three of four, I am positive they would have taken it given their struggles against the red birds to date. Their bats finally showed up as well totaling 17 runs over the last three games which hopefully spells the end of their ‘two runs or less’ slump.  Miguel Montero came through big-time with his sixth inning two out double which drove in 3 runs and put the Cubs on top until the very end while Rizzo and Soler, recently returned from his rehab in Triple A, each added two hits as well.

There’s no use in stewing about what might have been as the Cubs just have to keep moving forward as this team continues to coalesce. Sure they could have used the extra win but the split is progress and there is still a lot of season left. This weekend series with the cross-town White Sox sets up another huge opportunity to gain some ground in the division as the Cardinals and Pirates open up a four game series that should see the two teams ahead of the Cubs in both the Central and Wild Card races beat up on each other a bit. If the Cubs can take care of business against the White Sox, they could ride some nice momentum into the second half.

Kyle Hendricks gets it started vs. Carlos Rodon for the Sox with a 3:05PM CST start time tomorrow.

Let’s Go Cubs!

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Cubs Sweep Double Header Vs. Cards; Look to Win Series

Posted on 08 July 2015 by Bob

The Cubs finally broke through against their division rival on Tuesday as they bested the Cards not once, but twice in a rare double-header sweep at Wrigley Field. After taking the day game 7 – 4, the Cubs took the Cardinals best shot, hung in there, and delivered a punch of their own taking the night cap 5 – 3.

The Cubs got on the board first in the fifth inning as recent call-up, catcher Taylor Teargarden singled in a run. The Cards answered right back in the sixth as Jason Heyward grounded into a fielder’s choice scoring Matt Carpenter. Mark Reynolds then pushed the Cards in front with an infield single that plated Heyward. The Cubs, not to be outdone, exploded in the seventh as Addison Russell’s controversial game-tying single was ruled fair, getting Cardinals pitcher Seth Maness ejected for arguing the call. His replacement, reliever Kevin Siegrist then threw away a grounder that would extend the inning as the Cubs pushed two more runs across. This was more than enough to get the job done as each team would add one more run for the final score of 5 – 3.

Addison Russel game tying single

After how badly the Cubs have fared against the birds thus far, yesterday was pretty sweet and an important step in this team’s progress. Beating the best team in baseball is something that these young players needed to experience and Cubs fans needed to see to believe. While their overall record vs. St. Louis is still poor, sweeping a double header will prove vital to not only reigning in the division but proving you can fight and grind your way to wins no matter the opponent.

Taking the fourth and final game of this series could generate some serious buzz as the Cubs head into the crosstown classic vs. the White Sox and end the first half on a high note as All-Star week commences. The also currently hold a 3.5 game lead for the second wild card spot that has fans dreaming of the possibilities.

Dallas-Beeler

First they have to go out and get their first series victory over the Cardinals this year. Jason Hammel takes the mound vs. Michael Wacha with a 7:05PM CST first pitch.

Let’s Go Cubs!

 

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Cubs Split with Cardinals Through 2 Games; Night Game of Twin Bill Coming Up

Posted on 07 July 2015 by Bob

Last night Jon Lester gathered his first MLB hit, took a no-hitter into the seventh, yet still took the loss as the Cards blew open a pitcher’s duel in the ninth after an hour-plus rain delay to the take the opener 6 – 0. This game felt like many of the Cubs-Cards contest so far where the Cubs hang in there but ultimately end up succumbing to the scrappy Cardinals and their penchant for pulling out the win.

Any night Jon Lester pitches that well into the seventh inning should bode well for the Cubs chances of winning but not against these pesky birds. Yadier Molina opened the scoring in the seventh on a sacrifice fly that plated Jhonny Peralta, who had broke up Lester’s no-no with an infield single earlier in the inning. Kolten Wong then singled in Jason Heyward to push the margin to 2 – 0, from there it rained and poured on the Cubs in more ways than one.

Edwin Jackson was atrocious in his one inning of work after the rain delay giving up four earned runs on four hits while also issuing a walk. It’s almost as if the man has lost all confidence in his stuff. Disappointing is about all one can muster when describing his performance to date.  Let’s hope he can get things straightened out and soon.

John Lackey pitched seven innings of six-hit ball for the win for St. Louis.  The fact that the Cubs had just as many hits (6) as the Cardinals, but zero runs to the Cards’ six tells you how much more efficient St. Louis was and just how much this Cubs offense can go struggle from time to time.

The Cubs flipped the script in the day game of today’s double-header as Jake Arrieta pitched 6 and 2/3 innings before getting chased with two out and two men on in the seventh. Both men would come around to score to make the game 3-2 but the Cubs blew it open in the eighth inning as they batted around sending all nine men to the plate. Dexter Fowler doubled to drive in a run and Anthony Rizzo hit a a two run home run. Chris Denorfia then  singled to drive in the final run and the Cubs would survive a Mark Reynolds two-run home run in the ninth to win the game 7 – 4 and knot this series up at one a piece.

It was nice to see some pop in the later innings and we can only hope there is a carryover for the evening game of this twin bill. Dallas Beeler takes the mound for the Cubs vs. Tim Cooney for the Cards. Game is currently in progress 0 – 0 in the top of the fourth inning.

Let’s Go Cubs!

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Cubs Feeling Good after Winning 5 of 6; Head into Showdown with Cards

Posted on 06 July 2015 by Bob

This 4th of July was one to remember for Cubs fans. Of course they enjoyed the fireworks show post-game; they had every reason to be jubilant after Kris Bryant launched his own proverbial fireworks during the game. Bryant hit a two-run homer off the left field score board in the bottom of the first, and then added a grand salami, his first at Wrigley Field, in the bottom of the second en route to a 7 – 2 Cubs victory that had the crowd buzzing on a gorgeous night at the Friendly Confines. You couldn’t ask for a better 4th of July, and the Cubs have to be pretty pleased with themselves as they have won five of their last six games.

A stark turnaround from their five-game losing streak, the Cubs have been getting it done with pitching as the offense has put up two runs or fewer in 10 of their last 12 games. With the offense treading water for the most part, the pitching staff has been remarkable.  Arrieta, Hendricks, Hammel; these guys have been working late into games and scattering few hits while posting zeroes on the scoreboard.  It’s not often that teams with such little run support find success but these Cubs are currently riding that model to stay on pace in the wild card chase and have another excellent opportunity to make a dent in the division with the Cards in town for a four game set.

Tonight it’s Jon Lester vs. John Lackey in a 7:05PM start.Cubs - cards

Let’s Go Cubs!

 

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Cubs Sweep Mets behind Arrieta, Herrera; Hold Mets to One Run in Series

Posted on 02 July 2015 by Bob

The Cubs bats finally woke up today, although against the hapless Mets, it didn’t really matter all that much. Jonathan Herrera, filling in for Kris Bryant who had the day off at third, led the charge after putting down a sacrifice bunt to the pitcher that scored the game’s first run. He added a two-run homer in the sixth that all but put the game out of reach.  The Cubs went on to win 6 – 1.

Chicago Cubs' Jonathan Herrera hits a two-run homer during the sixth inning of the baseball game against the New York Mets at Citi Field, Thursday, July 2, 2015 in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The Mets finally scored a run in the series after going 22 innings without a score. Curtis Granderson’s third-inning double was all the Mets could muster, as their offense continues to deflate. If you thought the Cubs were struggling coming into this series, take a look at the other dugout where starting pitcher Jacob deGrom punched a cooler with his pitching hand after giving up Herrera’s two-run blast.

“I told the team inside, no disrespect to anybody in this room, we have to lighten it up around here,” Mets manager Terry Collins said.

Miguel Montero added another two-run shot in the ninth to effectively end the game and the day for Jake Arrieta who was outstanding. Arrieta pitched eight innings while giving up five hits and just one run while striking out seven. He would have come on in the ninth but with the game blown open, there was no need for Joe Maddon to push his starter any further.

“We can pitch with anybody, we can swing the bats, our defense can play lights out,” Arrieta said.

Arrieta vs. mets in NY

This is exactly what the team needed coming off their worst stretch of the season. A three game sweep effectively negates their sweep at the hands of St. Louis over the weekend and allows the team to return home on the upswing with some positive takeaways before a ten game home stand. It wasn’t always pretty and the Cubs are no offensive juggernaut, but this team’s ability to battle is commendable. Even though the home runs came late in the game, with the Mets showing no signs of life, it’s good to see some pop from a lineup that has had so little of it lately.

They’ll need any bit of confidence they can get as the Cardinals are set to arrive at Wrigley early next week for what should be another tough four game test but first it’s the Miami Marlins who are visiting over the July 4th Holiday weekend. Friday at 1:10PM it’s Jason Hammel vs. Tom Koehler. Let’s Go Cubs!

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Cubs Get Back on Track as Hendricks Goes Six Strong

Posted on 01 July 2015 by Bob

The Cubs snapped their recent five game losing streak with a 1-0 win Tuesday night vs. the Mets at Citi Field thanks in large part to Kyle Hendricks’ six strong innings of three-hit ball, a lights-out bullpen, and some Maddon “Magic”. Hendricks bounced back from his three game slump to keep the Mets at bay all evening; never allowing a runner past second base and striking out six.

KH vs. NY Mets

“Today was much better as far as mentally,” Hendricks said, “just focusing, making every single pitch.”

The Cubs bullpen backed him tremendously with Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, and Jason Motte each pitching an inning of no-hit, no-walk ball for the Cubs to claim their first win in a week.  Unfortunately, the Cubs continue to struggle to produce runs as they have scored just seven runs total in their last six games, while going 4 for 37 with RISP until Tuesday night. Luckily, they were still able to out-duel the Mets who have struggled even worse than the Cubs have to hit and score; producing the winning run on a Matt Sczcur sixth-inning, two-out double to deep left center that enabled Kris Bryant to cross the plate.

“A 1-0 win is always pretty spectacular, but we still have to do a better job offensively,”  Cubs skipper Joe Maddon said. “I know they’re saying the same thing on the other side.”

Spectacular is one way to put it; magical is another. After a tough weekend in St. Louis, Maddon decided that the Cubs needed a positive distraction to loosen them up a bit and forget about their losing streak. He brought in a magician to perform for the team before the game, a tactic that harkens back to his days in Tampa where he was known for such unconventional, psychological exercises. The intent was to take the pressure off his team and for a night, it worked.

“Just trying to lighten things up a little bit,” Maddon said. “We’re always trying to create some magic around here, so why not bring a magician in?”

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 05:  Manager Joe Maddon #70 of the Chicago Cubs looks on before a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on June 5, 2015 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Correlating the win with the pregame stunt is a fool’s errand as such things are hardly quantifiable, but in speaking with players, the guys who go out and make it happen, they found Maddon’s trick to be humorous as well as helpful. Whose to say that ploys such as these, however silly and small, don’t make a difference for guys looking to bounce back from adversity?

“I just felt more comfortable and, I’m sure the guys felt the same, because he kind of tones it down a little bit, lets you relax,” Matt Szczur said about Maddon. “It was a fun time.”

Fun times are what Cubs fans are looking for and they got a taste of it last week. Maybe this week the Cubs will work a little magic of their own.

Next Up:

Jon Lester takes on Bartolo Colon at 6:10PM CST tonight.

Let’s Go Cubs!

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