Abbreviated Hammel Strong in Victory

Cubs 8-2

Full Box Score

Once again Jason Hammel was brilliant in six innings of work for the Cubs as they held on to beat the Marlins 3-2.  Hammel thought he could have went longer, which is usually the case as he only threw 80 pitches before being lifted for Miguel Montero in the bottom of the 6th (Montero failed).  The strike zone was getting worn out by Hammel who finished the night throwing 52 strikes, and just 28 balls.  Joe Maddon felt it necessary to pull Hammel in favor of Montero to try and capitalize on a scoring chance against Jose Fernandez, it didn’t work out.

Pedro Strop was ineffective but his stuff was pretty darn good to this uneducated baseball watcher.  Strop gave up two runs, only one of them was earned as he was charged with an error on a botched double play ball.  It looked like there was a lack of communication between Zobrist and Russell on the play, shortly after that a ball ricocheted off of Strop and into right field for single to score the second run, just odd.  Hector Rondon and Aroldis Chapman shut the door in the eighth and the ninth to secure the victory.  Dexter Fowler was in the middle of it all as usual at the plate, he went 3-for-4 with a triple, an RBI, and two runs scored.  Willson Contreras also had a stellar night against one of the best in Fernandez, he went 2-for-3 with a walk, and an RBI.  The Cubs will go for the sweep tomorrow behind John Lackey, and the Cardinals lost so the NL Central lead swells to nine games.

Cubs 8-2 box

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Dexter Fowler Signs With Cubs, Coghlan Traded; Weeeeeeee!

Well, it’s been an interesting last hour.

Dexter Fowler is a member of the Chicago Cubs, again.  Earlier this week it was widely reported that the Cubs’ 2015 CF was signing a 3 year $33M deal with the Baltimore Orioles.  Apparently that is not the case as Fowler has just signed a 1 year deal to return to the Cubs!  Per Mark Gonzales Fowler will get $8M in 2016, and then there is a mutual option for $9M with a $5M buyout.

This news is coming on the heels of a trade that the Cubs announced earlier this morning.  The Cubs have traded Chris Coghlan to Oakland for pitch Aaron Brooks, not the point guard for the Bulls.  The outfield situation seems to be unfolding for the Cubs now and not later in spring.  The acquisition (re?) of Fowler means that Heyward goes to RF which pushes Soler into LF, and that could be to share time with Schwarber out there when he is not catching.  Crazy stuff going down right now, and I think the Cubs just got better, again.

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Six is Good. The Cubs, and the NLDS Dingerpalooza (VIDEO)

Soler Dinger

Just watch the video, that’s it, I’m spent.  The Cubs are up 2-1 over the Cardinals in the best of five NLDS, and can close it out tomorrow at Wrigley.

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Lester Plays Stopper as Cubs Hang On

Cubs 5-6

Full Box Score

It’s only May 6th, feeling okay?  This series has been a roller coaster of emotions, and tonight we can all breathe a little easier as the Cubs just barely hung on to beat the Cardinals 6-5.  Both teams scored in alternating innings until the eighth when they both pushed across a run.  Jon Lester didn’t do himself any favors as he made an error which led to an unearned run, which was not the only unearned run of the night.  The Cardinals got two more after a two out error by Addison Russell, but Lester battled all night.  The newest ace of the Cubs was able to work through seven strong innings before watching the bullpen shut the door, I wouldn’t say they slammed it, they shut it quietly.  Nice to be out from under that losing streak, and the Cubs can now go for the split tomorrow afternoon.

At the Plate:

  • Chris Coghlan was plugged into the two hole tonight, he did his job by getting on base, he didn’t have any hits but he walked twice.
  • Anthony Rizzo is hunting down the MVP, he was 2-for-4 with his fifth dinger of the year, three RBI’s, and a run scored.
  • Kris Bryant continues to produce, he was 2-for-4 with a double, an RBI, and two runs scored.
  • Jorge Soler seems to be coming out of his slump, he was 2-for-4 with an RBI in the win.
  • Dexter Fowler, Starlin Castro, David Ross, and Addison Russell all chipped in with a hit.

On the Mound:

  • Jon Lester was gritty tonight, he worked seven innings, giving up four runs, one earned, on seven hits while walking two, and striking out six.
  • Pedro Strop had another shaky outing, he worked one inning, giving up one run on one hit while walking one.
  • Hector Rondon walked the tightrope as well, he worked a scoreless ninth for his sixth save of the year.  He surrendered one hit while walking one, and getting one huge strikeout.

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Brewers @ Cubs – Series Preview (May 1 – May 3, 2015)

Series Preview HOME Brewers

This series worries me, only because the Brewers have been bad all year, and they are bound to start playing some better baseball.  It’s a new test for the Cubs as good teams are immune, usually, from playing down to their competition.  Based on how these teams have played so far you would think that the Cubs would have an easy go of it, that’s why they play the games of course.  The Cubs are coming into this series winners in six of their last ten, and just two games behind the Cardinals for first place in the Central.  Conversely the Brewers have won just three times in their last ten, and are already ten games back of first in the Central.

Broadcast Information:

  • Friday, May 1, 2015 – 1:20 PM CST – CSN Chicago / MLB Network
  • Saturday, May 2, 2015 – 1:20 PM CST – CSN Chicago
  • Sunday, May 3, 2015 – 1:20 PM CST – WGN TV

Pitching Matchups:

Who is Hot:

  • Brewers:  Apparently Adam Lind is making the most of his regular playing time in Milwaukee.  The slugging first baseman is hitting .444 (12-for-27) in his last seven games with two doubles, three dingers, and six RBI’s.
  • Cubs:  It really doesn’t seem like Dexter Fowler has struggled at all this year because of his ability to get on base, but now he is red hot.  Fowler is hitting .450 (9-for-20) over his last five games with one double, two RBI’s, and a walk.

Who is Not:

  • Brewers:  The Brewers have been bitten by the injury bug so they are having to rely on players they normally wouldn’t, one of those guys is Logan Schafer.  Schafer is really struggling as he is hitting .200 (4-for-20) over his last seven games with one walk, and six strikeouts.
  • Cubs:  It seems as though teams have found Jorge Soler‘s swing and miss, it’s the weather.  Of course I’m not blaming the weather on his struggles, but he is cold, literally.  Over his last six games, Soler is hitting .091 (2-for-22) with twelve strikeouts.

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Two Out Magic Propels Cubs to Another Win

Cubs Final 4-28

Full Box Score

The Cubs have all of a sudden found some clutch hitting, and that is leading to some exciting baseball, and wins on the Northside.  One night after scoring four times with two outs, the Cubs pushed six across after two outs for good measure.  Going back to Sunday the Cubs have had thirteen two out RBI’s, THIRTEEN.  So it really is not a surprise that the Cubs have won four straight games, clutch is good, clutch is productive.  Travis Wood didn’t need much help in this one as he picked up his second win of the season, he was stellar over seven innings.  The Cubs will go for the sweep tomorrow night against Pittsburgh’s ace, Gerrit Cole.

At the Plate:

  • Dexter Fowler is scorching hot right now, he went 3-for-4 with two RBI’s, and a stolen base.
  • Kris Bryant came up with another big hit tonight, he was 1-for-4 with a walk, a stolen base, and an RBI.
  • Starlin Castro, have a night, he was 3-for-5 with an RBI, a stolen base, and two runs scored.
  • Junior Lake made a splash (heh) in his return, he was 2-for-5 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored.
  • Welington Castillo, Chris Coghlan, and Addison Russell all had one hit in the win.  Russell added an RBI, a walk, and a run scored.

On the Mound:

  • Travis Wood got the start, and picked up his second win of the year.  Wood worked seven innings, giving up two runs on five hits while walking none, and striking out nine.
  • Zac Rosscup and Jason Motte each worked a scoreless inning to secure the win.

Fun fact, the Cubs had five stolen bases on the night, they now have twenty-five on the year, that leads all of baseball.

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Cubs Win Third Straight Behind Dominant Hammel

Cubs Final 4-27

Full Box Score

Well, that was fast, under two and a half hours roughly.  Jason Hammel was outstanding tonight as he completely shut down the Pirates from the first pitch as the Cubs took the series opener, 4-0.  Hammel went eight shutout innings, and was never really in trouble as he only allowed four base runners, all hits, no walks.  The Cubs got their runs from likely sources, Anthony Rizzo drove in two runs as did Kris Bryant.  All four runs were driven in with two outs, you can’t really measure how important those hits are.  With the shutout win the Cubs have now won three straight, and have improved to 11-7 on the year, mighty impressive.

At the Plate:

  • Dexter Fowler got things going from the lead-off spot again, he was 2-for-3 with a walk, a stolen base, and a run scored.
  • Jorge Soler broke out of his recent slump, he was 2-for-4 with a double, and a run scored.
  • Anthony Rizzo continues to be a machine, he was 2-for-3 with a walk, a double, two RBI’s, and a run scored.
  • Kris Bryant is racking up the RBI’s, he was 2-for-4 with two RBI’s in this one, and he has knocked in nine so far this year.
  • Miguel Montero, Starlin Castro, and Addison Russell all had one hit in the win.

On the Mound:

  • Hammel Time!  Jason Hammel was stellar, he worked eight shutout innings, giving up four hits, he didn’t walk anybody, and struck out seven.
  • Pedro Strop shut the door in an uneventful ninth, he worked a scoreless inning while striking out one.

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Padres Take Series as Lester Remains Winless

Cubs Final 4-19

Full Box Score

Things started out well enough today as the Cubs jumped on the listless Padres with two runs in the bottom of the first.  I say listless because the Padres were sleepwalking in the first, they made two errors and looked generally disinterested.  From that point on it was all Padres, as they scored five unanswered runs en route to a 5-2 win.  Jon Lester was just okay again today, he worked into the sixth inning but made far too many mistakes up in the zone, he needs a road start or two to settle in.  The Cubs threatened a few times as they left the bases-loaded twice, and were just 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

At the Plate:

  • Dexter Fowler has been swinging it well as of late, he went 2-for-5 with a run scored.
  • Jorge Soler remains productive while hitting second in the order, he was 1-for-5 with an RBI, his ninth of the season.
  • Kris Bryant had another solid game, he was 1-for-3 with his first double of the season, he was also hit by a pitch.

On the Mound:

  • Jon Lester got the start in this one, and also the loss, he worked 5.1 innings, giving up three runs on six hits while walking two, and striking out four.
  • Brian Schlitter couldn’t get out of Lester’s trouble, he worked two-thirds of an inning, giving up one hit while striking out one.
  • Jason Motte couldn’t keep things close, he tossed one inning, giving up two runs on two hits.
  • Edwin Jackson had a solid outing out of the pen today, he worked two scoreless innings, he surrendered one hit.

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It’s Early, But Cubs Making Strides at the Plate

Rizzo 5-24

A popular narrative the last couple of years has the been the Cubs ability, or inability to take walks, or make contact.  It was absolutely true, the Cubs were a team that would belt a dinger, but no one would be on base.  When someone was on base, the Cubs just couldn’t make contact, it wasn’t hard to see why they were 26th in the Majors in runs scored last year.  For the past few years the organization preached a “Cubs Way” that would see the team grind out at bats, make more contact, and be a general pain in the you know what for opposing pitchers.  While it’s early, we are starting to see glimpses of what an offense built around the “Cubs Way” will look like.

The Cubs organization was definitely targeting guys this off-season that could help push the club in this new direction.  What impresses me are the guys that were here last year have been so much better in their approach this year.  Arismendy Alcantara is only hitting .091 on the season, but he has an OBP of .259, he’s walked five times already this year.  We haven’t seen OBP numbers like this in what seems like forever, Chris Coghlan (.385), Jorge Soler (.382), Anthony Rizzo (.429), even Starlin Castro has contributed in this way (.364).  These are the kind of numbers that turn solo home runs into two run shots to tie the game in the eighth, kind of like Soler on Monday Night.  The importance of getting on base really can’t be understated, it really doesn’t matter how, just do it.

Let’s look at a comparison between 2014 and 2015, I know it’s a super small sample size, but the improvement in the numbers is striking.

Walk rates

Let’s extrapolate that out for a full 2015 season, the Cubs are on pace to walk 607 times, and strikeout 1,316 times.  That would mean that the Cubs would have 165 more guys on base via the walk over the course of the season compared to last year.  In regards to the strikeouts, the Cubs are on pace to strikeout 161 fewer times, that means those K’s turn into walks, or balls in play that the other team has to account for.  You couple this kind of turnaround at the plate with a lineup that has some additional power in it (Kris Bryant), and the Cubs aren’t going to be 26th in the Majors in scoring for very long, and that should mean more victories on the Northside.

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Wood Dazzles in Win Over Reds

Cubs Final 4-15

Full Box Score

Travis Wood was dominant all night long as the lefty shut down the Reds, and led the Cubs to a 5-0 victory to take the series.  It didn’t take long for the Cubs to grab a lead as Anthony Rizzo blasted his first home run of the season in the first, a majestic two-run shot to right.  The Cubs flashed the leather all night behind Wood, Starlin Castro in particular, he made two outstanding plays to help preserve the shut out, and the lead.  The only bad news in this one was an injury to Neil Ramirez, the right-hander left after just three pitches in the ninth inning.  Ramirez will go for an MRI tomorrow, the initial diagnosis is right shoulder discomfort, that doesn’t sound great.  First place!

At the Plate:

  • Dexter Fowler is proving to be a solid lead-off hitter for the Cubs, he was 2-for-4 with a walk, a double, and two runs scored.
  • Anthony Rizzo finally got on the board with a dinger, he was 1-for-4 with said homer, a walk, two RBI’s, and a run scored.
  • Jorge Soler continued his production, he was 1-for-3 with a walk, and an RBI.
  • Starlin Castro had an outstanding game, he was 2-for-3 with a walk, a double, and a run scored.

Rizzo goes way back!

On the Mound:

  • All Travis Wood tonight, stellar.  He worked seven scoreless innings, giving up just three hits while walking two and striking out seven.
  • Phil Coke worked a solid scoreless inning in relief.
  • Neil Ramirez got hurt in the ninth, so Brian Schlitter had to close it out, he worked a scoreless inning, giving up one hit while striking out one.

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