Lead-off Man Rizzo’s three hits key 7-1 Cubs Win

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The Chicago Cubs have been searching all season for a lead-off man, and may have found one in Anthony Rizzo.

Rizzo, one of the Cubs power hitters, has been hitting great in his last few games leading off.  He’s hit three homers including one in the Cub’s 7-1 win vs. the Pirates.  Rizzo lead off the game with a double and scored on Willson Contreras’s double. Contreras had a three hit day with two doubles and three runs batted in.

More importantly, the Cubs won the series taking two out of three games vs. Pittsburgh. This was a step in the right direction. Chicago now has a 14-19 record on the road.  The Cubs come back to Wrigley Field for a short three game home stand before heading out on the road again.  With this win, the Cubs climbed back to .500 at 34-34.

It’s been a slow climb and no one knows the answer to the Cub’s slow start to the season. Today, they battled and pitched well enough to win.  John Lackey threw 6 innings, giving up 2 hits and one run en route to his 5th win of the year. Lackey now stands at 5-7 and one hopes he has found a groove. He went 6 innings and the bull pen nailed down the win.  This team has been in a funk since the season started. Cleveland started slow too but they seem to have found some momentum and now lead the American League Central Division.

Winning a series on the road is a positive development. The Cubs last went on the road and lost 6 straight on the left coast. That prompted a team meeting before the last game of the road trip, which the Cubs lost as well. But coming home, the Cubs won five in a row.  It has been a strange streaky season for Chicago. If one looks at the season, it is still early. There are 94 games to play in a 162 game schedule.  The weather has not really warmed up in Chicago. One has to hope that as the summer progresses, the Cubs bats will warm up too. There are signs. Rizzo has been hot. He currently has a 12 game hitting streak. The big problem so far is the lack of driving in runners in scoring position. The Cubs can get men on, the problem is getting them to score. That has to change if the Cubs have thoughts of winning their Division.

It’s a game at a time and Cub fans have been confused.  Hopefully we will have a sense of how this team will fare soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walker to the DL, Harvey Right Behind Him, and No Noah Until Late August

By Paul DiSclafani

Is there no end to the madness with the Mets injuries?

First the Mets placed 2B-Neil Walker on the 10-Day DL with a partially torn left hamstring. No surprise there if you saw Walker pull up lame running down to first last night against the Cubs.  Also, no chance he is back after 10 days.

When Matt Harvey left the game after throwing just 58 pitches, one of them landing over the Shea Bridge courtesy of Kyle Schwarber, you knew something was wrong, it was just a matter of what. Arm fatigue?  Soreness?  Hang-Nail?

Following the game, Harvey lamented that “My arm was just not working at all. I think the last time I threw an 87 mph fast ball was in high school.”

Sure enough, turns out after an MRI and a CAT SCAN, he has a stress injury to the scapula bone in his right shoulder. He is going to miss several weeks. Hope the Mets don’t have one of those Obama Exchange plans because these tests must be costing them a fortune.

The Mets said that both Harvey and Walker received a PRP injection. Walker can begin rehab immediately after receiving the injection, but Harvey cannot begin until he is pain free.  Neither is expected back for several weeks.

At a press conference today, general manager Sandy Alderson also said that Noah Syndergaard will not even throw a baseball for at least the next four weeks, meaning it will take a number of weeks after that to begin building up any arm strength. Mets are not expecting to see Syndergaard back with the Big Club until late August.

And oh yeah, The Nationals are coming into town tonight for a four game weekend series.

Season on the Brink? These Cubs are in Trouble

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Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo are tied with 14 home runs to lead the Cubs.  That’s about the only positive number to come out of the Cubs these days. They lost six straight on the west coast. They won five straight to calm the waters. Now, at home, they’ve lost four straight and are below .500 once again.

Bryant said things are the lowest since he’s been a Cub, which is just two years. One at-bat signaled the problems facing this team.

Javy Baez was at the plate, late in the game vs. Colorado. A base hit would have driven in a run. The count went to 2-2. Baez was tightly wound at the plate, and one knew if he pitcher threw a slider down and out of his reach, Baez would like go fishing for it. That he did. Baez took an off-balance swing and completely missed the pitch for a strike out. Baez has swung and missed on that pitch over and over in the season. I know he is aware that pitchers have a book on him. And this pitch is in that book. Baez has to learn to lay off that pitch, it is a ball.  Hitting takes discipline. The Cubs aren’t showing that at the plate. In recent losses they had 5 hits, and 3 hits. The game where they had three hits they had at least 8 walks and three hit batsmen. They had men in base. They didn’t do anything with it.

The Cubs are not playing fundamentally sound baseball. One gets the feeling that if they had a good game, they’d take the next one off. Something is missing with this team. The hunger is missing, and the spark. The hunger to go up with men on base and find a way to move them over. The spark or lack of it –shows up in the field—runners get caught in run-downs. I didn’t see that last year.

The Cubs are playing like they are hung-over from all the hoopla of winning the title. It’s echoing in their ears and they can’t get past it. Maybe they won’t go deep in the playoffs, but at least you can play ball as highly paid professionals, which these guys are.

The other day, the Cubs had 8 players on the field between the ages of 22 to 27. That is very young. Together, they accomplished a great task as a very young but talented team.  This team is still learning. Now they have new challenges. They won it all last year. But can they play with the same fire that the team showed in the second half and in the playoffs?

I’d like to see them play with more pride and put out a better product on the field.

 

 

 

 

Cubs May Be Turning on the Jets

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The Chicago Cubs are a streaky team.

Coming off a six game losing streak, the Cubs returned to Wrigley where it promptly won five consecutive games to bounce to the top of the Division over Milwaukee by one percentage point.  The Cubs are now 30-27, three games over .500.

In the 10-2 win over Miami, Anthony Rizzo had three hits, including his 13th home run of the season. Jason Heyward had three hits, and John Jay hit a two-run double.  Slowly, the Cubs’ bats are coming alive.

Not to forget, Jake Arrieta had a nice outing. At one time he retired 16 batters in a row. He got the win.  The Cubs scored four run in one inning and six in another, to break open the game. In that frame, the Cubs had six hits. Players were spraying the ball to all sections of the field. Now, that was good to see.

I’d been calling for a team meeting and the Cubs did have a players only meeting before the last San Diego game.  It has seemed like this meeting produced positive results. The players had an opportunity to “clear the air” and some players spoke up.  What ever happened, it was a good thing.  Because once they got back to Wrigley Field, the Cubs have been winning.

The Cubs need a few more games where they score 10 runs and get 11 hits. Guys have simply not hit the ball on a regular basis. And, it would be good to get them in the mix. Kyle Schwarber either hits a home run or makes an out. He is batting well below .200 and that has to change.

Jason Heyward has been hitting the ball and that is a good sign. He is displaying some of the prowress that made the Cubs invest a big contract in him. He is a very good fielder with a great arm. If he can hit .270, that would be a big development for the Cubs.

Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo are tied with 13 homers to lead the club. Now, the Cubs need to get men-on-base, for them to do damage.  That happened last night and it was good to see. Manager Joe Maddon spoke of the need and expectation that the hitters would start to hit.

Perhaps last night was a harbinger of things to come.

 

Two Weeks That Will Shape The Mets 2017 Season

By Paul DiSclafani

Mets fans aren’t blind to what is happening. In the supposed words of Yogi Berra, “it gets late early out here”.  We are only 55 games into the 162-game season, just about one-third of the way there, and at a season high of seven games under .500 (24-31), when is it no longer too early to worry?  Even our beloved Mr. Met is having a breakdown.

Obviously the Spring Training plan of riding our starting pitching is shot to hell. The Jose Reyes resurgence has been a bust.  Injuries to Lucas Duda and the sudden defensive liability of Asdrubal Cabrera have hastened the talk of promoting AAA rookies SS-Amed Rosario and 1B-Dominic Smith.

Three players that nobody was counting on in March have become their only reliable players – Michael Conforto, Jay Bruce and Zach Wheeler.

And the injuries to the top players have been devastating. The best offensive player on the roster, Yoenis Cespedes, has been out since April 28th with what was initially diagnosed as a “quad strain”.  His 10-day stint on the DL has lasted 40 days.  Two days later, the best starting pitcher on the roster, Noah Syndergaard, left his start against Washington and won’t be back until August – and that’s being optimistic, something the Mets fans have learned to never be.

9 days later, the best closer, Jeruys Familia, blew a save against the San Francisco Giants and he ended up on the DL and will be out for the season – and that’s optimistic.

In a period of two weeks, just six weeks into the season, the Mets lost players that would be ranked in the top 10 of their respective positions – offensive player, starting pitcher and closer. How do you recover from that?  Who has the kind of depth to replace your top offensive player, your Ace starter and your closer, who saved over 100 games over the last two seasons?

How is this team not 17 games under .500? And the way the games have been going, why does it seems they should be 10 games over .500?  The Mets bullpen has had 33 save opportunities in the first 55 games, but just 12 saves.  Do we really need to rehash how overworked the bullpen has been because we can’t get the starting pitching to even come out of the dugout in the seventh inning?

It is still a little premature to write off the last 67% of the season, but there is a limit to our patience. I’d like to suggest that we wait until June 25th to officially give up on this season.  You can wait another 20 or so games, can’t you?

Starting on Thursday (June 8), the Mets begin a stretch of playing 18 games in 17 consecutive days, including a West Coast road trip. Beginning on June 12, they will play 11 straight games against some of the top teams – the World Champion Cubs (3 games), our own Division Leading Washington Nationals (36-20) for four games and then travel to play the 35-24 LA Dodgers four times.

Is it realistic that by the time June 12 rolls along, the Mets are within striking distance of .500? Until then, they have two games against the Rangers and four against the Braves.  4-2 only gets them to 28-33 (five games below), so is 5-1 unreasonable to get them to 29-32 heading into that brutal 11-game stretch?

Do we shoot for breaking even against the best teams in the National League at 5-6 or 6-5? 6-5 gets us to 35-37 with 90 games left.  I’ll do the math for you, that means a run of 11 wins in 17 games.  Does this team have that in them?

During that time, the Mets are expected to get some pitching help as Stephen Matz and Seth Lugo return to make their season debuts. Cespedes may be back.  Now that they have passed the ridiculous Rule 2 time-frame for rookies that establishes their first year of free-agent eligibility, maybe we see Rosario and/or Smith sooner rather than later.

Everyone likes to play amateur General Manager, so here’s my two cents:

  • Give Lugo / Matz two starts and once we are comfortable, send Matt Harvey down to the minors to work out his issues. We can’t have the inconsistency or drama here at the major league level if we think we can contend. Wheeler, deGrom, Gsellman, Lugo, Matz are the starters.
  • If you’re against sending Harvey down, send Gsellman to the bullpen to be our insurance policy for Matz/Lugo
  • Release Reyes, promote Rosario and let Flores play 3B full time. That gives us a veteran switch-hitting bat off the bench, Cabrera that can spell Walker and/or Flores. Flores can also spell Duda at First.
  • Cespedes to left, Conforto to center, Bruce stays in right. Granderson to the bench
  • One more injury to Duda and you bring up Smith
  • Stop overworking Edgin, Salas, Smoker, Reed in the bullpen. Have Gilmartin and Seawald be your long relievers. Send Robles and Harvey down. We already know that Plawecki can pitch in a blowout.
  • Stop making pitch counts the reason to take pitchers out of a game and use your head. Let pitchers start the next inning, but be ready if they falter.

I’m rooting for them, are you? If not, do I really have to start paying attention to what is going on in the JETS training Camp?

Cubs beat Cards 3-2, Halt Slide at 6

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Maybe there is joy in Wrigleyville after all.

The Chicago Cubs came back from the west coast with a losing streak of six games, and gosh darn it, the Cubs won its game vs. St. Louis on a Jason Heyward sacrifice fly which scored Anthony Rizzo in the eighth inning with the winning run, 3-2.

As Harry Caray would say, “Cubs win!” The Cubs are now 26-27 and are 2.5 games behind as the calender turns to early June. This is not exactly what most Cubs fans had in mind when the season started. It turns out, the Cubs are lucky because the teams in the Division are not that good. They can be passed, but the Cubs need to play better baseball, and pretty quickly, or this season might get away from them.

The team is not hitting well with men on base. John Lackey went seven strong innings today.  The Cubs have two more games with St. Louis, their arch-rival The players might be feeling the mounting pressure and with that, they might be trying harder, which does the opposite. Baseball is a game that asks one to be subtle, yet on point. The batter has to be aware of the nuances of the the pitcher on the mound. Pitching boils down to almost a fine art of placing pitches on the corners, or where the opposing batter has a weakness.  Lackey did a good job of that today, going deep into the game for a quality start.

“It boils down to execution.” That is an oft used expression in sports.  In baseball, that is certainly the case.  Last season, the Cubs executed with alacrity and skill. In the World Series, the team played at an extremely high level.

So far, a lot of guys aren’t getting it done. Manager Joe Maddon spoke of waiting for his hitters to hit the ball with precision and that would follow through in the lineup. We’ve seen that only in spurts. Someone mentioned that he wouldn’t be surprised if the Cubs went on a long winning streak.

They need to build good habits. And win some games. And win more games. Then one can talk about winning streaks.

Can the Cubs get hot and turn their season around?  It’s possible. But it won’t be easy.

West Coast Woes: Cubs Lose 4th in Row

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The Chicago Cubs were swept by the LA Dodgers over the weekend.  The Cubs were shut-out in two games. They faced Dodger ace Clayton Kershaw and hit him well, getting 11 hits, Kershaw’s career high vs. an opponent, but they couldn’t win the game. The Cubs hit three home runs, but the Dodgers hit four and won 9-4.

They had a game over .500 record and hoped that playing the Padres in San Diego would turn around their fortunes. That hasn’t happened.  Rookie Hunter Renfroe hit a Grand-slam home run off of Kyle Hendricks in the fourth inning to spark the Padres to a 5-2 win.

The Cubs have lost four games in a row with some tepid hitting. In the Padres game, the team managed only three hits.  But it had ten walks and two batters hit by pitch for an extra 12 runners on base but they couldn’t move them around.  The Cubs hit pretty well in their last home stand at Wrigley Field, but are having trouble bringing runners home.

This is a team that routinely drove in runs last season with breathless rallies. So far, that hasn’t happened this season and Cub fans have some reason to be concerned.  The Cubs are last in the league driving in players in scoring position. When is that going to change?

Are guys pressing?  The other day Kris Bryant said after a Dodgers game, that sometimes you hit homers to score runs and can’t get base hits. The Cubs need to get hits in bunches. Manager Joe Maddon thinks the players will breakthrough.  He just doesn’t know when.

Cub fans are feeling anxious. The season is a quarter over and this team has not really found it’s engine yet. The weather has been hot and cold. Maybe, fans hope, when it heats up, the Cubs’ bats will too.

In the meantime, the Cubs just need to get a W.