The Struggle

Good Morning Cubs fans! I feel like I’m getting redundant when I say today is the moment we’ve all been waiting for, since I said this a week ago when the NLDS began and days before that for the Wild Card game, but we really have been waiting for this; the NLCS begins tonight! Jon Lester will take on Matt Harvey and the Mets at Citi Field. In the regular season the Cubs are 7-0 against the Mets which bodes well for our boys, however, the Mets have really hit their stride late in the season. Their bats are alive again and they have an excellent pitching staff so they are not a team I take lightly, in fact I think I would’ve rather seen the Dodgers in this series.

It has been difficult, life as a Cubs fan from New Jersey, currently living in Connecticut. Many of my closest friends are Mets fans, and the fact is they are almost as earnest in their desperation to win as Cubs fans are. The Mets, like the Cubs, have a storied history of losing and being the lesser of two teams in a major city. But let’s not forget that the struggle of the Mets and their fans pales in comparison to the Cubs. The Mets did not exist until 1962 after the Dodgers and Giants moved to California. After playing two years at the Polo Grounds in Queens the Mets moved to the brand new Shea stadium.  Their first World Series was won in 1969 only  7 years after the team began their career, a few years later in 1973 the Mets captured the NL East pennant despite a not so hot regular season record and went on to lose in the World Series with Yogi Berra as manager. After 73’ there was undoubtedly a drought….for all of 13 years. The oft remembered moment World Series baseball history when Red Sox Bill Buckner let a ground ball roll between his legs giving the Mets the win and forcing a game 7 which the Mets won 8-5. Many would blame the Red Sox curse of the Bambino for Buckner’s folly, but let us not forget that Buckner was once a Cub and the plague tends to follow players. After 86’  the Mets went through another drought, acting as the red headed step child to big brother Yankees throughout most of the 90s  but the new millennium brought them a subway series which the Yanks won 4 games to 1. Non the less, the Mets are not some team befouled by a centuries long curse, generations upon generations of fans have not gone to the ballpark only to be disappointed time and time again, there are people alive who have seen the last time the Met’s played in the World Series…heck there are living people who have seen them WIN a World Series. Somewhere in the world perhaps there is a 107 year old Cubs fan, hanging on for one last hurrah but in all seriousness when Mets fans tell me they understand the struggle, they have no idea what they’re talking about.

As I mentioned, growing up so close to NYC I have a LOT of Met fan friends. And despite the fact that I would’ve rather seen the Dodgers in this playoff, part of me was pulling for the Mets, out of respect to friends and because I think this is going to be one hell of a series. And should things not pan out, I’ll be ok losing to the Mets….a hell of a lot more ok than if the Cubs had lost to the devil birds last week. I do have a case of beer…and all my hopes and dreams riding on this series so really what I mean to say is Go Cubs Go.

Let us not forget that this week, this Wednesday, in fact is the day young Marty Mc Fly arrived in 2015, the day Cubs fans have made our own because upon Marty’s arrival he sees a billboard announcing that the Chicago Cubs have in fact won the World Series. I’ll be at Wrigley on Wednesday; I cannot imagine the antics that will ensue. For now let’s hope the Cubs can take at least one road game. Sorry Mets fans but I’ll always bleed Cubby Blue.

Weekend Wrap

Good Morning Cubs fans! What a weekend we’ve had. The unfortunate loss on Friday night worried me, knowing that without winning at least one early game at Busch the Cubs would have a very difficult time making the next round. Well low and behold what Jon Lester couldn’t do, Kyle Hendricks could!

Lester really pitched an incredible game on Friday night, he just had a little bit of trouble in that first inning and that ruined the outing for him and unfortunately Lackey pitched almost as well as Lester and prevented the Cubs from scoring any runs, of course the very high strike zone didn’t help either. They didn’t play badly but the Cubs certainly played more aggressive ball on Saturday night. They immediately came out swinging Saturday night.  Jorge Soler’s huge 2 run homer on Saturday proved once again that Joe Maddon is a genius, swapping out left handed batter Schwarber for righty Soler proved to be a masterful move. That bunting practice Maddon put the team through the other day also seemed to have paid off, the second inning of Saturday night was impactful not just due to the homerun; apparently small ball really does win ball games.  When you see a pitcher get up to bat you tend to worry but Hendricks’s bunt on Saturday combines with the Cardinals error scored a run and left two runners on base for Addison Russell to follow up with a second sac bunt and bring another runner in to score. The second inning was huge and followed up by a safety run in the third. Hendricks pitched a solid outing until giving up two home runs in the 5th but the bullpen did an excellent job shutting down the Cardinals offense and keeping the game in Cubs hands.

Tonight will be great; Jake Arrieta pitching at home against Wacha, who does not have excellent numbers against the Cubs this season. Tomorrow is the question mark, who will Joe Maddon start for the second home game and potential clincher of the NLDS? Short rest for Lester who could potentially get a W at home and then everyone gets 3 days rest before the next series? Or put in Jason Hammel hope that he brings his very best stuff to the game and that the bullpen finish the job and leave Lester to be able to pitch the potential game in St Louis Thursday. Things are about the get very interesting on the North side, and throughout all of Cubby Nation.

On a second note of much talked about baseball moments from the weekend; Chase Utley made a very dirty play. While I doubt he was intentionally trying to break Tejada’s leg in his “slide” at second base on Saturday night he was very clearly aiming to hit Tejada and not the base. I’m all for playing hardball and breaking up double plays, but I think ultimately you need to at least be aiming for the base because that is in fact where you are supposed to be going on your run from first to second. There have been a number of bad slides (in varying degrees of awfulness) this season but this was on the national stage and seriously injured another player. If Utley had really been sliding he would have 1 Started it sooner and 2 come within a reasonable area of the base. You can hit the fielder, that is part of the game, but the intention was only to hit the infielder Utley was not trying to land safely at second and break up a double he only intended to ruin the play at first. It shows a great lack of respect for the game and fellow players when someone does something like that, it’s just dirty play and I hope his suspension is not overturned.

More importantly, Jake Arrieta tonight at home 6pm Eastern. Go Cubs Go! Who knew they played baseball this late in October right?!

Bring on the Cardinals…and any potential brawls at Busch

Bring on the Cardinals! The Midwestern rivals face each other for the first time in the post season.  In the regular season the Cardinals lead the Cubs 11-8, but the last two times the Cubs faced St. Louis in the regular season (both in September) the Cubs took both series 2-1. It’s a rivalry, a big one and the Cardinals never put up an easy game against the Cubs, but this is not an insurmountable feat for the boys in blue to overcome.

The last game the Cardinals one was September 30th, after clinching the division they subsequently lost the rest of their regular season games. The Cubs on the other hand are streaking, and streaking pretty hard. After wrapping the regular season with an 8 game win streak the Cubs shut out the Pirates in their first Wild Card appearance. Jake Arrieta’s prowess ensured that the bullpen will be very well rested for tonight’s matchup because Jake went the distance on Wednesday and pitched the full game. He’ll be back on the mound for the first home game in this series on Monday. For tonight we rest our hopes on Jon Lester, he’ll face his former Red Sox teammate John Lackey. If Lester can successfully manage base runners tonight things should go well, we know he has the stuff and has a World Series ring to prove it. His main weakness has been allowing stolen bases and while the Cardinals are not the fastest base runners in the league they will exploit any weakness they can find. Lester enters the game 11-12 on the season with a 3.34 ERA. The struggle will be real tonight but Joe Maddon and momentum will be able to ensure a Cubby victory.

I’m excited to see the official lineup once it is released tonight. Maddon threw some interesting twists into Wednesday’s lineup in order to lock in a more than solid batting order. It will be interesting to see how he mixes it up tonight. The most intense part of tonight, will be that you will likely be able to feel the heat coming off the players. The great rivalry of the Midwest goes unnoticed by many of us here on the east coast. Partially due to the fact that the Cubs are usually pretty low in the NL central rankings whereas in comparison the Red Sox are usually barely trailing the Yankees (of course ignoring 2015) The heat has been at simmer for several years, generally with a fight, or at least fighting words once a season but nothing big enough for any national mention. With the arrival of Joe Maddon and the 97 regular season wins of the Cubs this year the rivalry has gone full boil. The Cardinals have a penchant for dinging opposing team pitchers to protect their own hitters. This created a bit of a flare up in the Cubs last series with the Cardinals during which both teams managers were ejected. Maddon has since noted in a press conference that the Cubs will not be the ones to start anything “but we will stop stuff.” He has gone as far as calling the Cardinals “vigilantes.” I’m all for a manager who is looking to protect his team, and I think the added heat is giving both teams something to prove. They will play tough tonight; maybe this has been part of Maddon’s genius strategy all along, rekindle a dying fire to get your team ready for any and all action. This all makes you wonder about post season bench clearing brawl statistics, if any one team has set off two in a row. Maybe the Cubs make even more history this weekend by being the first to do so. Though the last thing any of us in Cubs Nation want is to see game suspensions so here’s hoping if they brawl they do so ever so politely.

Until tomorrow! Go Cubs Go!

Cubs vs Pirates

The Wild Card is upon us and the moment we’ve all ben waiting for has finally arrived. Unfortunately that moment will not occur at Wrigley Field. No matter, Jake will take the mound on Wednesday night and the Cubs will go into the game with an 8 game win streak, the best starting pitcher of the second half in the MLB who is also up for the Cy Young , 97 wins, Anthony Rizzo who could potentially be the NL MVP with 30 home runs and 30 HBP, and Kris Bryant the likely NL rookie of the year.

As frustrating as a single game playoff is, the Cubs can handle it. Joe Maddon has spent the entire year, since day one, talking about the post season. Jon Lester has pointed out that the young Cubs have nothing to lose. These guys are all in. Arrieta is a workhorse, from everything I’ve read he does nothing but study and work out. Castro has made all the necessary adjustments to get his hitting back on track and has led the NL in batting in September with .426. Rizzo, at 26 years old the elder statesman of the infield, has 100 RBIs to go with his 30 HR and 30 HBP and has been consistently great at first base. Kyle Schwarber has fit in everywhere he has played. The bullpen is on point and the starting rotation has filled out quite nicely with the addition of Dan Harren. All told as long as they don’t get into their own heads the Cubs will beat the Pirates handily on Wednesday. Of course once that’s over we’ll face the Cardinals. The good news about facing St. Louis is that since they clinched the division they’ve lost three straight games and suffered a few key injuries. The NLDS between the Cubs and Cardinals will be a tremendous series, heck it could be better than the World Series considering that the NL central is so stacked.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited about a Wednesday but right now the anticipation is killing me! I’ll see you Wednesday sportsfans. Don’t anger any billy goats or black cats and don’t walk under any ladders until then. Cheers and Go Cubs Go!