Cubs

Anthony Rizzo does it again, blasts Cubs to win over Mets

Anthony Rizzo does it again, blasts Cubs to win over Mets

Believe in the power of 24 hours.

Joe Maddon has used that phrase quite often in his year-and-a-half in Chicago, but maybe the best example of it came Wednesday afternoon at Wrigley Field.

After Anthony Rizzo struck out four times in four trips to the plate Tuesday night, the All-Star first baseman came back in the series finale against the Mets to hammer two long home runs in a 6-2 Cubs victory in front of 41,210 fans.

"That's why you can't take yesterday into today," Maddon said. "The power of 24 hours, man. It really matters."

When Rizzo is blasting balls almost onto Sheffield Ave., nobody cares what the Cubs are hitting as a team with runners in scoring position.

Rizzo is heralded by his teammates and coaches as the glue that holds the lineup together, the catalyst for the entire team.

The potential MVP frontrunner has only five hits in six games since the All-Star Break, but all have gone for extra bases and he's driven in eight runs in that span. 

After play Wednesday, Rizzo sat with a .999 OPS and was on pace for 41 homers and 122 RBI.

[SHOP: Buy a 'Try Not to Suck' shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

The Cubs also received some two-out help from young infielders Addison Russell (who singled in two in the first inning) and Javy Baez (an RBI single in the fifth) as they touched up Bartolo Colon for six runs on eight hits in just 4 1/3 innings.

"Addy's been doing that pretty much all year," Rizzo said. "It's really nice. He's had a lot of opportunities and he's really cashing in."

Kyle Hendricks was brilliant for the Cubs once again, spotting 6.1 shutout innings while allowing seven hits and a walk. He struck out six of the first 10 batters he faced.

After the game, he made sure to give props to his defense several times.

"That's kinda what I need to have success becaue I pitch to contact," Hendricks said. "Today, I pitched to contact a little bit too much at times; a couple of hard-hit balls. But yeah, the defense was unbelievable and the offense [too]."

Hendricks hasn't given up an earned run now in his last 22 1/3 innings, dating back to his June 29 start in Cincinnati. 

Since June 19, Hendricks leads Major League Baseball with an 0.72 ERA, allowing only three earned runs in 37.1 innings in that span.

He also has the second-lowest home ERA in baseball, a 1.36 mark that trails only Clayton Kershaw (1.31).

"Just being comfortable, I think," Hendricks said, trying to explain his success at Wrigley. "Sometimes you just get in a groove somewhere and at home, that's how it's been for me this year. 

"I'm just trying to get comfortable on the road in my starts. But I think I've come out at home aggressive, putting a zero up in the first and then our offense has really taken over from there. I think we've scored first in a lot of the games I've pitched at home, which helps."

[RELATED - Cubs acquire LHP Mike Montgomery]

Despite failing to complete the comeback Tuesday night, the Cubs finished up a tough homestand with a 4-2 record against the team that ousted them in the NLCS last season and the team with the best record in the American League (Texas Rangers).

"It was a tough one yesterday," Hendricks said. "We felt like we should've had that one, too. It's just taking it game-by-game. We're trying to win every one, really."

Rizzo echoed that sentiment.

"That's what we want to do - keep winning series," he said. "One series at a time, one game at a time."

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

0217-addison-russell.jpg
USA TODAY

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

MESA, Ariz. — “That’s last year, don’t want to talk about that.”

In other words, Addison Russell is so over 2017.

The Cubs shortstop went through a lot last year. He dealt with injuries that affected his foot and shoulder. He had a well-documented off-the-field issue involving an accusation of domestic abuse, which sparked an investigation by Major League Baseball. And then came the trade speculation.

The hot stove season rarely leaves any player completely out of online trade discussion. But after Theo Epstein admitted there was a possibility the Cubs could trade away one or more young position players to bolster the starting rotation, well, Russell’s name came up.

And he saw it.

“There was a lot of trade talk,” Russell said Saturday. “My initial thoughts were, I hope it doesn’t happen, but wherever I go, I’m going to try to bring what I bring to the table here. It’s a good thing that it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m happy being in a Cubs uniform, I want to be in a Cubs uniform, for sure. But there was some talk out there. If I got traded, then I got traded, but that’s not the case.”

No, it’s not, as the Cubs solved those pitching questions with free-agent spending, bringing in Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood to replace the departed Jake Arrieta and John Lackey. It means Russell, along with oft-discussed names like Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Javy Baez, are all still Cubs.

While the outside world might have expected one of those guys to be moved in some sort of blockbuster trade for Chris Archer or some other All-Star arm, the Cubs’ young core remains intact, another reason why they’re as much a favorite to win the World Series as any team out there.

“I’m really not surprised. The core is still here. Who would want to break that up? It’s a beautiful thing,” Russell said. “Javy and I in the middle. Schwarber, sometimes playing catcher but mainly outfield. And then (Kris Bryant) over there in the hot corner, and of course (Anthony) Rizzo at first. You’ve got a Gold Glover in right field (Jason Heyward). It’s really hard to break that up.

“When you do break that down on paper, we’ve got a lineup that could stack up with the best.”

This winter has been about moving on for Russell, who said he’s spent months working to strengthen his foot and shoulder after they limited him to 110 games last season, the fewest he played in his first three big league campaigns.

And so for Russell, the formula for returning to his 2016 levels of offensive aptitude isn’t a difficult one: stay on the field.

“Especially with the injuries, I definitely wanted to showcase some more of my talent last year than I displayed,” Russell said. “So going into this year, it’s mainly just keeping a good mental — just staying level headed. And also staying healthy and producing and being out there on the field.

“Next step for me, really just staying out there on the field. I really want to see what I can do as far as helping the team if I can stay healthy for a full season. I think if I just stay out there on the field, I’m going to produce.”

While the decrease in being on the field meant lower numbers from a “counting” standpoint — the drop from 21 homers in 2016 to 12 last year, the drop from 95 RBIs to 43 can in part be attributed to the lower number of games — certain rate stats looked different, too. His on-base percentage dropped from .321 in 2016 to .304 last year.

Russell also struggled during the postseason, picking up just six hits in 36 plate appearances in series against the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers. He struck out 13 times in 10 postseason games.

Of course, he wasn’t alone. That World Series hangover was team-wide throughout the first half of the season. And even though the Cubs scored 824 runs during the regular season, the second most in the National League and the fourth most in baseball, plenty of guys had their offensive struggles: Schwarber, Heyward and Ben Zobrist, to name a few.

“You can’t take anything for granted. So whenever you win a World Series or you do something good, you just have to live in the moment,” Russell said. “It was a tough season last year because we were coming off winning the World Series and the World Series hangover and all that. This year, we had a couple months off, a couple extra weeks off, and I think a lot of guys took advantage of that. I know I did. And now that we’re here in spring training, we’re going to get back at it.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

mikemontgomerycubs.png
USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

Jon Lester has arrived at Cubs camp, and he’s pleased with the new-look rotation full of potential aces. Kelly Crull and Vinnie Duber discuss the 5-man unit, and where Mike Montgomery fits into the Cubs’ plans.

Plus, Kelly and Vinnie talk Jason Heyward and Kyle Schwarber, along with the continuing free agent stalemate surrounding Jake Arrieta.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here: