A lot of words can be used to describe the Cubs to this point of the season, boring is not one of them.
The Cubs won another close game Friday night, one the bullpen nearly gave back. The Cubs broke out the bats and hit for power as a team for the first time this season. The power built the lead, but it was the hustle by two rookies in the ninth inning that provided the difference in the game.
The Cubs haven’t done anything particularly great yet, according to Joe Maddon, but they are going to “because we have those athletes and players.”
Maddon talked to the beat writers prior to Friday’s game about where he thinks his team stands in the division.
“After seeing everybody, I feel more confident and believe we can compete with everyone very well. We have not played to our capabilities yet, and we’re still in a decent spot, decent shape. Overall, quite frankly, before the season began, you’d ask for hit record on this date, a lot of people would have bought into it. I’ll take it.”
As happy as Maddon was after Friday night’s win, it was Kris Bryant running out of the box and hustling down the line that he raved about. It was the play of the game according to Maddon. The Cubs’ skipper asked for the fan base to “get under the hood” and understand what actually happened on that play.
And Kris Bryant just gets it.
Bryant said he wants the reputation “of playing hard and respecting the game and respecting 90” like Maddon has stressed. When asked about not hitting a home run yet, Bryant responded, “I could go the rest of the year without hitting a home run and as long as I’m running hard, driving in runs and helping the team win. That’s all I can control. I want to be a complete player. I don’t want to be just a home run hitter. I want to be a guy who steals bases, runs hard and hits singles here and there and plays good defense. That’s what I’m striving to be early on in my career, and I’ll continue to do that.”
When asked about the team’s strikeouts, Joe Maddon responded, “ Fifteen punchouts. Four homers. Rock and roll.”
Major League Baseball has talked with Joe Maddon about the comments he made following Wednesday’s game in St. Louis. Maddon was ejected in the sixth inning for arguing balls and strikes. But he was really sticking up for his young players that he didn’t feel were receiving the same strike zone as the veterans.
Maddon spoke with Joe Torre. The league has not decided yet if he will be fined for the comments he made about D.J. Reyburn.
The sixth inning and the middle relievers were not the problem Friday night, the backend of the pen made the game much closer than it should have been. Zac Rosscup, Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon allowed a combined four runs on four hits and four walks in the eighth and ninth innings. The only strikeouts from the trio were huge, one ended the threat in the eighth and the other ended the ballgame.
Joe Maddon admitted after the game they have to get the bullpen in order and once that happens, the Cubs will take off. Maddon said they have to get the relievers to “breathe normally.” Maddon pointed out the goal is to win 90-plus games and that cannot be done without “a bullpen being very dominant.”
Pedro Strop said his fastball doesn’t have the life right now that he needs to be successful. Strop pointed out that he’s working on it and stopped short, according to multiple reports, of saying he is being overused. Strop is tied for the lead in the NL in appearances. Strop has pitched in 16 of the Cubs 28 games.
Maddon said his biggest problem with the way Hector Rondon pitched was that he didn’t throw any of his other pitches. Rondon kept throwing fastballs and he should have mixed in other pitches. Miguel Montero reviewed tape with Rondon after Friday’s game. Maddon said Rondon would not have another one-pitch outing like Friday again.
According to a report from Chris Cotillo, RHP Anthony Varvaro cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Iowa.
The Cubs claimed Varvaro last Sunday off waivers from the Red Sox, and added him to the 25-man roster prior to Tuesday’s game in St. Louis. Varvaro warmed up in the pen Tuesday night but did not get in the game. Varvaro was designated for assignment the next day when RHP Justin Grimm was activated from the 15-day DL.
The Des Moines Register asked Iowa manager Marty Pevey about the comment Joe Maddon made supporting Pevey a day after he was ejected from the game for backing Javier Baez.
Pevey told Tommy Birch, “I feel completely supported by the front office. We’re all in it together. We’re all here to win a championship and get to the World Series and that’s what it’s all about to win a World Championship.”
News, Notes and Rumors
• According to a report from the Des Moines Register, INF Christian Villanueva is dealing with a quad issue. Villanueva has not been placed on the DL, but that would explain why he left last Monday’s game early. Villanueva was starting to figure things out at the plate prior to the injury. In 16 games with Iowa, Villanueva is batting .255/.321/.451 with two doubles, one triple and two home runs for a .772 OPS.
• RHP Hector Rondon had a rough ninth inning on Friday night. He not only walked two batters, gave up three runs on three hits, and served up a three-run homer to Ryan Braun, but he threw 32 pitches, 17 for strikes. Rondon likely pitched his way in to a day off Saturday.
• Anthony Rizzo has reached base safely in 16 of his last 17 games, hit safely in eight of his last nine games and has 11 multi-hit games this season. According to a report from the Sun-Times, Rizzo has quietly set the thermostat for a simmering lineup.
• RHP Brian Schlitter is finding his way with the I-Cubs according to a report from the Des Moines Register. Schlitter said he just got away from the way he pitched because he wants to succeed so badly with the Cubs.
• According to a report from Comcast SportsNet, Miguel Montero likes the edge the Cubs have brought into the clubhouse.
• The Cardinals dominated the Cubs series, but according to Sports Illustrated, the rivalry may be primed for a revival.
And last, but not least, the Cubs will not get a break during the upcoming four-game series with the Mets. The Cubs already had RHP Bartolo Colon, RHP Jacob deGrom and RHP Matt Harvey on the schedule. The Metropolitans announced Friday night that RHP Noah Syndergaard will make his Major League debut on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.
This Day In Cubstory
2013 – Yankees purchased Alberto Gonzalez from the Cubs
2003 – Cubs sent Alan Benes to the Rangers as part of a conditional deal
2003 – Cubs signed free agent Derrin Ebert
2000 – Cubs signed free agent Tim Worrell
1993 – Mark Grace hit for the cycle in a 5-4 loss to the Padres. Grace is the 14th and last player in Cubs history to hit for the cycle.
1986 – Daniel Schlereth, born
1969 – Desi Wilson, born
1967 – Ron Santo had five hits in five at bats in a 10-2 win over the Giants at Wrigley Field.
1963 – Ernie Banks made 22 putouts at first base in a 3-1 victory over the Pirates. Dick Ellsworth limited the Pirates to two hits at Wrigley Field. Banks became the first NL first baseman to register 22 putouts in a game.
1952 – Sam Mejias, born
1925 – Cubs acquired Tommy Griffith from the Brooklyn Robins for a PTBNL. Cubs sent Bob Barrett to Brooklyn on May 22, 1925 to complete the trade.
1908 – Billy Jurges, born
1888 – Tommy Clarke, born
1868 – Josh Reilly, born
1866 – Gus Krock, born