Jake the Ace

It’s been a hell of a week Cubs fans, most importantly on the list Jake’s second no hitter in as many years. But really it’s been a solid week all around in addition to that incredible feat of pitching.

The boys in blue began the week in St. Louis at Busch Stadium; this was Jason Heyward and John Lackey’s first time at Busch since leaving the Cardinals for the Cubs this winter. Lackey, in his first career start against the Cardinals struck out 11 batters and went for 7 innings to shut down the Cardinals offense. The Cubs offense, setting the tone with lead off man, Dexter Fowler’s double in the first and solo home run in the 6th, scored 5 runs which the Cardinals left unanswered. Jason Heyward’s first day back wasn’t as memorable as Lackey’s, though he did help get three outs in the game. What was likely more memorable was the taunting he received from his former fans. More proof that as Billy Murray says Cardinals fans are in fact “Satan’s messengers on earth.” Aside from booing and taunting, which is to be expected to a degree, there were numerous reports in the twitterverse of the N word being thrown around quite a bit, while there have been no credible confirmations there were plenty of folks accusing Cardinals fans of referring to J-Hey as such…fascinating since there were also reports of Cubs fan’s being turned away at the gates because “the man” found their Joe Maddon “try not to suck” t-shirts uncouth….right…stay classy St Louis.

While we are on the subject of disgraceful fans let’s sidebar from baseball for a moment to talk about Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, and how ridiculously terrible all of their fans are. Eagles, Phillies, and most integral to this talking point…Flyers fans. On Monday night in game three of the playoff between the Flyers and Capitals, the Flyers organization was making a valiant attempt to honor a founder Ed Snider, who had recently passed away from bladder cancer. In addition to Philadelphia fans usual boorish behavior they couldn’t even make it through a moment of silence for one of their own without shouting expletives at the Capitals and their fans. In addition the Flyers organization gave out bracelets in honor of Mr. Snider, most of those ended up being thrown onto the ice by cranky Flyer fans, one hitting Capital’s defenseman Dimitri Orlov in the face while he was getting medical attention on the bench. Social media was all over  it, but we need not be reminded by Twitter of how the  people who repeatedly throw batteries at opposing team’s players and who once boo’ d Santa Clause.

Back to baseball….the Hulk, tweeted from his post surgery hospital room on Wednesday a thank you to the fans, luck and encouragement to his teammates. By all accounts his surgery went well and he is in full recovery mode, while it is highly unlikely that Cubs fans will see Schwarber back in action in 2016, even late in the season, he remains an integral part of the team off the field as a fervent fan for his teammates and as an example of hard work and genuine love of the game. We wish him well.

The most important moment this week, Jake Arrieta’s no hitter. A support group hit social media, started by the Dodgers and joined by the Reds on Thursday night after the Cubs trounced the Reds 16-0. Jake’s mystical beard powers and pilates training brought him his second career no hitter. As both a way of joking and congratulating the Cubs Ace, the Dodgers tweeted “Hey @Reds, the Arrieta no-hitter support group meets on Mondays”  The Dodgers were no-hit by Jake last August. Arrieta joins a pretty small group of pitchers, the likes of Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax, and Cy Young (lest we forget Jake is the reigning Cy Young award winner) with more than 1 no-hitter in their career. In fact Jake became only the 30th pitcher to do it, and he’s only the 4th who is still an active pitcher, which means…well I won’t say it out loud or even dare to write it, but you all know what that means. Not to take any attention away from Jake ever, but the offense also scored 16 runs that night, Bryant in the 1st with a two run HR, Zobrist with a solo HR in the 2nd, Ross scores on a ground ball hit by Fowler in the 2nd, Ross scores again in the 4th after a throwing error and  a single by Arrieta (he can hit you but you can’t hit him), Top of the 6th Ross with a solo HR (he went 3 for 4, scored 3 times, 2 hits and a walk, and caught his first career no-hitter, not a bad day for Grandpa Rossy), Rizzo then followed with a 3 run homer in the 6th, Bryant with a GRAND SLAM in the 7th, Heyward scores on a Szczur single in the 9th and Rizzo scores again by a Zobrist double in the 9th. I mean…I can’t even imagine how high the boys must have been feeling after that. As I said….it’s been a hell of a week.

One final thought, I think I found my soulmate. There was a Cub fan who rushed the field, and even made it into the celebratory group hug the Cubs were having to celebrate their win and Jake’s no-hitter on Thursday. Sir, if you are reading this from a holding cell in Cincinnati or if you’ve been released on bail, give me a call sometime, our mutual love of the Cubs may hold us together despite any future time you plan to spend behind bars.

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Chasing the 69 Cubs

I was at the Cubs home opener earlier this week. It was beautiful, Wrigley was packed, the crowd was excited and the Cubs improved their record to 6-1. As I write, Jason Hammel picked off Billy Hamilton at first base, Dexter Fowler has just gotten on base for the 18th time this season, and if they win tonight they will be the only Chicago Cubs team to begin a season 8-1 since the 1969 team who began their season 11-1…let’s just hope the 2016 Cubs don’t run into any black cats.

The Cubs  pitching staff has walked only 13 batters over the course of 9 games, meanwhile at the plate their discipline has earned them a base on balls 48 times. They have the best on base percentage in Major League Baseball with .381 and young Mr. Fowler who I mentioned earlier has, out of those players who have started regularly, the 2nd highest OBP (behind the Mets Daniel Murphy) of .559. This is a team to be excited about. These guys enjoy the game, they enjoy the fans, they enjoy each other and they seem to want this as badly as the fans who have been waiting a century want it. The 2016 Chicago Cubs are here to play ball. They go hard, so hard in fact that Kyle Schwarber will end up out for the season after colliding with Dexter Fowler in their victory over Arizona a week ago. While the loss of Kyle was difficult to accept, there is no doubt in my mind that Schwarber will work like a dog to be back as quickly as possible. There is also no doubt in my mind that the Cubs are more than a one trick pony, with the heralded hulk out of commission the rest of the Cubs will need to bring their bats, and thus far…well the statistics speak for themselves.

I was fortunate enough to witness Addison Russel’s first homerun of the season on Monday night. Addison smashed a three run homer in the bottom of the 8th after what began as a very stressful game. I sat waiting for the other shoe to drop as hitter after hitter went down with caught fly balls that would have been home runs with a slight change in the wind, and when that wind is blowing in from the lake, it’s not just the home runs that suffer but those of us in the stands who are bundled up to watch the “boys of summer.” Finally in the 7th Grandpa Rossy saved the day with a line drive single that turned everything around. A friend who lives in Wrigleyville texted me shortly thereafter, as she could hear the excitement from her porch, she asked what had happened and I was thrilled to tell her that number 3 broke up the no hitter with his single. The Cubs rallied late and won the Wrigley home opener 5-3. My palpitations stopped after the score was evened and my heart rate came down slightly after I was back in my hotel, thanks for asking. If loving this team doesn’t kill me nothing will. Then again a good friend also pointed out that it was entirely possible and probable that my soul mate and I were both at Wrigley Monday night, so perhaps even if the team tries to kill me a nice, tall, Midwestern Cub fan will give me CPR and we’ll live happily ever after. Let’s Go!

Shameless plug: buy my baseball tickets…or be my soulmate, your choice.