Cubs

Bring on the NLCS: Cubs slug their way past Cardinals

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Bring on the NLCS: Cubs slug their way past Cardinals

Anthony Rizzo guaranteed the National League Division Series wouldn't be going back to St. Louis for a Game 5.

He was right.

The Cubs powered their way to another victory over the Cardinals, hitting three more home runs en route to a NLDS-clinching 6-4 win in front of 42,411 fans at Wrigley Field in Game 4 Tuesday.

After Jason Hammel knocked in the Cubs' first run off John Lackey this postseason with a two-out basehit in the second inning, Javier Baez followed with a three-run opposite-field homer that nearly brought the house down at Wrigley Field.

[RELATED - Cubs finish Cardinals with Javier Baez starring in Addison Russell's absence]

The Cardinals tied things up in the top of the sixth, but Rizzo deposited a Kevin Siegrist pitch into the right-field bleachers for the second straight day to give the Cubs the lead again and they did not look back.

"It's unbelievable how resilient this team is. They're just young and dumb, I guess," said reliever Trevor Cahill, who picked up the win in relief Tuesday.

Kyle Schwarber added insurance with his third homer of the postseason, clearing the video board in right field to lead off the seventh inning.

"I was just looking for a good pitch to hit and I got it and you run around the bases and the place is going nuts," Schwarber said. "That's when it hits you, that this is what it's all about. This is what you live to play baseball for is playing in front of your home crowd in the playoffs.

"Then coming into the dugout, our team is awesome. I can say it over and over again: The personalities that we have in the clubhouse are unbelievable and it makes it so much fun to come to the ballpark every day."

Hammel allowed the first two batters of the game to score on a Stephen Piscotty homer and lasted just three innings.

The Cubs bullpen stepped up big again, keeping the Cardinals at bay for six innings.

[MORE - Twitter reacts to Cubs' NLDS win over Cardinals]

The Cubs clinched their first postseason series at Wrigley Field ever and will advance to the NLCS for the first time since 2003. They await the winner of the Mets and Dodgers.

"We just beat a really good team," Rizzo said. "They know how to win. They've dealt with so many injuries and they still were the best team in baseball. How they did that, no one has any idea. I think some of their guys don't even know how they did it, but that's a credit to their organization and how good they are.

"But we're going to celebrate this. We deserve to celebrate this. It's been a long time coming for the city, and hopefully it's just a sign of things to come."

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

Spring training baseball games are up around the bend, but before the boys of summer get into organized action, two of the team’s new coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey sit down with Kelly Crull.

Plus, Vinnie Duber joins Kelly to discuss these baseball conversations including the memorable first words of Kyle Schwarber to Chili Davis, “I don’t suck!"

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Changes aren't exactly popular, but Cubs and Sox — except maybe Willson Contreras — will adapt to baseball's new pace-of-play rules

Changes aren't exactly popular, but Cubs and Sox — except maybe Willson Contreras — will adapt to baseball's new pace-of-play rules

MESA, Ariz. — We know Willson Contreras doesn’t like baseball’s new pace-of-play rules.

He isn’t the only one.

“I think it’s a terrible idea. I think it’s all terrible,” Jon Lester said last week at spring training, before the specifics of the new rules were even announced. “The beautiful thing about our sport is there’s no time.”

Big surprise coming from the Cubs’ resident old-schooler.

The new rules limit teams to six mound visits per every nine-inning game, with exceptions for pitching changes, between batters, injuries and after the announcement of a pinch hitter. Teams get an extra mound visit for every extra inning in extra-inning games. Also, commercial breaks between innings have been cut by 20 seconds.

That’s it. But it’s caused a bit of an uproar.

Contreras made headlines Tuesday when he told reporters that he’ll willingly break those rules if he needs to in order to put his team in a better position to win.

“I’ve been reading a lot about this rule, and I don’t really care. If I have to pay the price for my team, I will,” Contreras said. “There’s six mound visits, but what if you have a tight game? … You have to go out there. They cannot say anything about that. It’s my team, and we just care about winning. And if they’re going to fine me about the No. 7 mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”

Talking about pace-of-play rule changes last week, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said his team would adapt to any new rules. In Chicago baseball’s other Arizona camp, a similar tune of adaptation was being sung.

“Obviously as players we’ve got to make adjustments to whatever rules they want to implement,” White Sox pitcher James Shields said. “This is a game of adjustments, we’re going to have to make adjustments as we go. We’re going to have to figure out logistics of the thing, and I would imagine in spring training we’re going to be talking about it more and more as we go so we don’t mess it up.”

There was general consensus that mound visits are a valuable thing. So what happens if a pitcher and catcher need to communicate but are forced to do it from 60 feet, six inches away?

“Sign language,” White Sox catching prospect Zack Collins joked. “I guess you have to just get on the same page in the dugout and hope that nothing goes wrong if you’re out of visits.”

In the end, here’s the question that needs answering: Are baseball games really too long?

On one hand, as Lester argued, you know what you’re signing up for when you watch a baseball game, be it in the stands at a ballpark or on TV. No one should be shocked when a game rolls on for more than three hours.

But shock and fans' levels of commitment or just pure apathy are two different things. And sometimes it’s a tough ask for fans to dedicate four hours of their day 162 times a year. So there’s a very good reason baseball is trying to make the game go faster, to keep people from leaving the stands or flipping the TV to another channel.

Unsurprisingly, Lester would rather keep things the way they are.

“To be honest with you, the fans know what they’re getting themselves into when they go to a game,” Lester said. “It’s going to be a three-hour game. You may have a game that’s two hours, two hours and 15 minutes. Great, awesome. You may have a game that’s four hours. That’s the beautiful part of it.

“I get the mound visit thing. But what people that aren’t in the game don’t understand is that there’s so much technology in the game, there’s so many cameras on the field, that every stadium now has a camera on the catcher’s crotch. So they know signs before you even get there. Now we’ve got Apple Watches, now we’ve got people being accused of sitting in a tunnel (stealing signs). So there’s reasons behind the mound visit. He’s not just coming out there asking what time I’m going to dinner or, ‘Hey, how you feeling?’ There’s reasons behind everything, and I think if you take those away, it takes away the beauty of the baseball game.

“Every game has a flow, and I feel like that’s what makes it special. If you want to go to a timed event, go to a timed event. I’m sorry I’m old-school about it, but baseball’s been played the same way for a long time. And now we’re trying to add time to it. We’re missing something somewhere.”

Whether limiting the number of mound visits creates a significant dent in this problem remains to be seen. But excuse the players if they’re skeptical.

“We’ve got instant replay, we’ve got all kinds of different stuff going on. I don’t think (limiting) the mound visits are going to be the key factor to speeding this game up,” Shields said. “Some pitchers take too long, and some hitters take too long. It’s combination of a bunch of stuff.

“I know they’re trying to speed the game up a little bit. I think overall, the game’s going as fast as it possibly could. You’ve got commercials and things like that. TV has a lot to do with it. There’s a bunch of different combinations of things. But as a player, we’ve got to make an adjustment.”