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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Cubs Pound Reds With Patience; Move to 7-1 on the Season

Bryant Dinger 2016

It really is becoming quite ridiculous, the Cubs refuse to give any at bats away and that has been the catalyst for one of the best starts in team History.  On this night the Cubs walked a total of ten times, process that for a second, ten base runners without swinging the bat.  Usually the Cubs reserve the panic inning until the mid innings but tonight they had it on full display in the first.  Reds’ starter Alfredo Simon couldn’t make it out of the first as the Cubs manufactured their way to five runs after John Lackey struggled in the top half of the innings.

Speaking of Lackey, he was sharp after the rough first as he worked 6.2 innings, giving up two runs on six hits while walking three and striking out seven.  The performance pushed Lackey to 2-0 on the season despite a 5.68 ERA.  When the Cubs weren’t talking walks they were spraying the ball all over the field as they registered eight hits, none longer than a Kris Bryant home run, his first of the season.

Cubs 4-13 hitting

Cubs 4-13 pitching

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Afternoon Delight: No Reason to Fear Astronomical Expectations

Soler Meme

I’ve been on this Earth for 33 years, and for the better part of my time here I have been a Cubs fan, so disappointment comes with the territory.  With that disappointment comes hope that is usually misguided, and a catch phrase of “wait till next year” drives that misguided optimism year after year.  The National narrative doesn’t help things with a constant “don’t worry, the Cubs will screw it up because they’re the Cubs” refrain.  That repetitive opinion starts to creep into our subconscious; maybe all those experts are right, nothing good ever happens.  It was even evident last year during what I can say was honestly the most enjoyable baseball season of my life, there was doubt.  A daily rollercoaster of emotions based on whether or not the Cubs won.  What did the Giants do?  Look out for the Nationals, they’re getting hot.  The Diamondbacks are making a run; did you see the schedule down the stretch?  Its typical pennant race behavior which I totally get, but something about last year changed my views on hope, it made me realize something important and fun… it’s real.

I got into a number of discussions last year on the inter-webs about this very thing and it was startling how many people, good baseball people, hoped that other teams would take care of the Cubs’ business for them.  In the past I would be right there with them, but the leadership group of this organization, the players, and their overall attitude towards winning, and competing made it very clear to me that I no longer had to worry about that.  This Cubs team was going to leave everything on the field and for the most part the opponent couldn’t keep up.  It was never more obvious than during that four game series against the Giants at home.  We all thought that Hector Rondon and a rare bout of wildness was going to derail the game, and the season, it was over.  Then it wasn’t, Rondon wiggled off the hook, and the Cubs pounded the Giants right out of the wild card lead into an October without playoff baseball.

A postseason of Cardinals’ devil magic followed.  2016 was full of horrible losses to the Cardinals, it was impossible to ignore those losses heading into the NLDS.  The reason for most losses was the dreaded Cardinals’ devil magic because it was more fun to talk about that then talk about how the Cardinals made their own breaks or came up with a clutch hit or two.  Things went wrong in Game One for the Cubs as worries of the unbreakable Cardinals, and the “too young to be here” Cubs were coming to fruition.  Then Javier Baez massacred a mistake from John Lackey en route to Dingerpalooza 2015 taking place at Wrigley…. Hello NLCS!

I would say that a large number of people converted over to less fatalistic thinking as the season came to a close against the Mets.  The Cubs were getting beat by the Mets because the Mets were a good team, and the Cubs couldn’t get out of their own way.  I was pretty excited to see a lot of fans recognize what was going on; it wasn’t the Cubs blowing an opportunity as only the Cubs could do.  It was the Cubs just losing a game and losing a series in the infancy of their window of opportunity to win a World Series.

So now the Cubs are on the brink of starting the 2016 season with the highest expectations possible.  The organization identified needs heading into the off-season and sent a powerful message to this fan base and the rest of baseball that they are not going anywhere by bringing in Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist, and John Lackey.  The players have clearly bought into what Joe Maddon, Theo Epstein, and Jed Hoyer are selling.  I suppose it’s okay that some fans are still overcome with worry when they see the Cubs as World Series favorites.  I’m just glad that the players taking the field are embracing it, and ready to win a World Series, not because of any curse or because of the losing History, but because they expect to.

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Cubs GameDay! May 7. 2015 (Lineup, Broadcast Info, Weather)

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First pitch:  12:45 PM CST
Television:  CSN Chicago
Radio:  WBBM Newsradio 780
Weather:  83 degrees, isolated t-storms

Cubs Lineup:

1.  Coghlan – LF
2.  Bryant – 3B
3.  Rizzo – 1B
4.  Montero – C
5.  Soler – RF
6.  Castro – SS
7.  Szczur – CF
8.  Arrieta – SP
9.  Russell – 2B

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Cubs @ Cardinals – Series Preview (May 4 – May 7, 2015)

Series Preview ROAD Cardinals

Despite losing Adam Wainwright for the season, the Cardinals are off to their best start in basically forever.  They are 18-6 on the season, and sit at the top of the NL Central with a 4.5 game lead on the second place Cubs.  The Cardinals have won six straight games, and are 11-2 at home, which means they are bound to lose some games!  The Cubs come into this series limping on the offensive side of things, not a whole lot is going right at the plate.  Despite recent struggles, the Cubs are off to a pretty solid start of their own, and this series is probably the first “big” one of the year as the Cubs would love to split, and hold steady in second place.

Broadcast Information:

  • Monday, May 4, 2015 – 7:10 PM CST – CSN Chicago / ESPN
  • Tuesday, May 5, 2015 – 7:15 PM CST – WGN TV / MLB Network
  • Wednesday, May 6, 2015 – 7:15 PM CST – CSN Chicago
  • Thursday, May 7, 2015 – 12:45 PM CST – CSN Chicago

Pitching Matchups:

Who is Hot:

  • Cardinals:  Of course Matt Carpenter is taking it to another level this year, he’s been fantastic.  Over his last seven games he’s hitting .360 (9-for-25) with four doubles, a triple, a dinger, five RBI’s, and five walks.  Go away.
  • Cubs:  After a slow start to the year, Miguel Montero is turning it on.  Miggy is hitting .467 (7-for-15) over his last four starts with an RBI, and a walk.  Would like to see some extra base hits, but he’s squaring it up.

Who is Not:

  • Cardinals:  Well, it’s only a matter of time before Yadier Molina starts coming up with big hits, it’s usually against the Cubs.  Hopefully that doesn’t happen, the aging backstop is struggling, he’s hitting .111 (3-for-27) in his last seven with only two strikeouts, the BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is getting him.
  • Cubs:  It was probably a matter of time before Kris Bryant cooled down, he wasn’t going to hit .400 this year contrary to many reports from fans.  Bryant is hitting .190 (4-for-21) over his last six with four walks, and ten strikeouts.

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Cardinals @ Cubs – Series Preview (April 5 – April 8, 2015)

Series Preview HOME Cardinals

The 2015 season is finally here, and the Cubs get a golden opportunity on National television to serve notice that they are a team to be reckoned with in the NL Central.  Sure, I think winning the NL Central in 2015 is a reach, but that doesn’t mean the Cubs can’t make some noise, and turn some heads.  A revamped roster, and a confidence that hasn’t been seen here in the better part of a decade should help the Cubs compete, something they actually did last year when facing the Cardinals.  Despite another down year in 2014 the Cubs finished the season 9-10 against the Cardinals, all things considered that is not that bad seeing as the Red Birds won 90 games and the Central a year ago.  Speaking of things that are new this year…. the video board.

Yes, Wrigley Field is undergoing a massive face lift, and the video board will be on full display Sunday night, it’s extra-mongus, just like the 2015 expectations.  The other thing about the Wrigley construction is that it’s not done yet, and I’m sure ESPN will cover it extensively tonight.  There was a rumored plan to place Ernie Banks memorial tarps over the construction in the bleachers, I wasn’t thrilled about it, but it came out great, looks like it belongs.

Wrigley opening night

Game One (April 5, 2015 – 7:05 PM CST – ESPN2)
Adam Wainwright  vs.  Jon Lester

Wainwright:
2014 – (20 – 9, 2.42 ERA)
Career vs. Cubs [36 G/ 27 GS] – (11 – 7, 4.09 ERA)

Lester:
2014 – (16 – 11, 2.46 ERA)
Career vs. Cardinals [1 G / 1 GS] – (0 – 0, 2.45 ERA)

Game Two (April 7, 2015 – 7:05 PM CST – WGNTV)
Lance Lynn  vs.  Jake Arrieta

Lynn:
2014 – (15 – 10, 2.74 ERA)
Career vs. Cubs – [11 G / 10 GS] – (6 – 3, 3.18 ERA)

Arrieta:
2014 – (10 – 5, 2.53 ERA)
Career vs. Cardinals – [5 G/ 5 GS] – (2 – 0, 0.92 ERA)

Game Three (April 8, 2015 – 1:20 PM CST – ABC 7)
John Lackey  vs.  Jason Hammel

Lackey:
2014 – (14 – 10, 3.82 ERA)
Career vs. Cubs – [3 G / 3 GS] – (1 – 1, 2.70 ERA)

Hammel:
2014 – (10 – 11, 3.47 ERA)
Career vs. Cardinals – [4 G / 4 GS] – (1 – 2, 6.10 ERA)

Prediction:
Cubs win two out of three games, and Jorge Soler does bad things to Cardinals pitching.

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