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.
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 29 April 2015 by Bob
The Chicago Cubs lead the National League in stolen bases for the month of April. Yes, you read that correctly. The Cubs have 25 stolen bases so far this season enough to put them at #1 in the NL after last night’s five steal outburst with four of those swipes coming on a pair of double steals in the fourth inning. It was the first time the Cubs had stolen four bags in an inning since almost eighteen years ago against the now defunct Montreal Expos. How is that for some history?
These Cubs have a head full of steam at the moment, winning four straight behind exceptional two-out & two-strike hitting. These Cubs are nothing if not resilient. No matter the count, the inning, or the score these Cubs fight until the last out. Their aggressive approach chased Pirates starter Jeff Locke last night just shy of four innings as they racked up plenty of hits after falling behind two strikes or even two outs. Those hits are a boon for the offense and demoralizing to the opposition. “I love two-out runs, man,” Manager Joe Maddon said. “They really hurt the other side badly. When you get ’em, there’s nothing more glorious than that. A big part of that is we are grinding out every moment of every at-bat.”
The new look Cubs are playing fast, smart, and fun baseball providing Cubs fans with the best April in a decade despite the consistently low temperatures. Hopefully as the mercury rises, the Cubs power will be unleashed and you can add home runs to this Cubs team’s resume. It would be a fitting cherry on top for a team doing all the little things so well right now.
The Cubs look to keep the streak alive sending Kyle Hendricks to the mound to face the Buc’s Gerrit Cole and his 2.19 ERA.
First pitch is 7:05PM CST.
Posted on 28 April 2015 by Bob
The Chicago Cubs rode Jason Hammel into the eighth inning Monday night as he spun a four-hit, seven-strikeout performance for the Cubs third straight victory. Stretching Hammel deep into the game was just what the doctor ordered for the Cubs bullpen as they got some much needed rest. They only needed Pedro Strop for one inning as he came on to retire the side 1-2-3 and cap a masterful performance.
Bryant and Rizzo each delivered two hits and two RBI’s to propel the Cubs to a 4-0 victory as the team returns for a six game homestand at Wrigley. This one-two punch is becoming as formidable as any in the league and a primary reason behind the team’s winning record to start the first month of the season. “We preached it in spring training — we’ve got to survive April,” Rizzo said. “We can’t put ourselves in a hole like we’ve done in years past and we’re doing a good job of coming to the park every day, playing with a lot of energy, having fun and really playing with a purpose.”
This team is on a roll and doing it against their division rivals which is always a plus. The Cubs look to keep it up tonight as Travis Wood takes the mound vs. Jeff Locke.
Tune in at 7:05PM CST.
Go Cubs Go!