With championship on the line, Aroldis Chapman has no plans to hold anything back now

With championship on the line, Aroldis Chapman has no plans to hold anything back now

CLEVELAND - To a man, the Cubs essentially channeled the announcers in "The Waterboy" after Game 6 of the World Series Tuesday night: 

"Last game of the year. Can't hold anything back now."

Jake Arrieta just threw 102 pitches, but he's ready to roll out of the bullpen if called upon. Same for Jon Lester, who got the Game 5 victory. 

And you better believe Aroldis Chapman is ready, even though he just threw 62 pitches in the last two games.

"One hundred percent," Chapman said through an interpreter in the visiting dugout at Progressive Field Tuesday night. "I'm ready for whatever they ask me."

After throwing a season high in pitches (42) to get the final eight outs of tense, pressure-packed Game 5, Joe Maddon again brought Chapman in in the seventh inning Tuesday night, even though the Cubs were up 7-2 at the time.

"I thought the game could have been lost right there if we did not take care of it properly," Maddon explained. "The meaty part of their batting order. If you don't get through that, there is no tomorrow."

Chapman entered with runners on first and second and two outs and induced Francisco Lindor - who entered play hitting .421 in the World Series - to ground out to first baseman Anthony Rizzo, with Chapman covering and winning the race to the bag.

Chapman rolled his ankle on the play, but he assured Maddon and the Cubs coaching staff he was fine to go back out there. 

The 105-mph closer got all three outs in the eighth inning before walking the leadoff batter in the ninth.

With a 9-2 cushion, Maddon figured he had gotten enough out of Chapman, utilizing Pedro Strop and Travis Wood for the final three outs.

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Maddon admitted he was watching Chapman on a pitch count and had spoken to the big left-hander before the game about possibly coming in in the seventh again.

Chapman - who ended up throwing 20 pitches Tuesday night - prefers to work clean innings, coming in with nobody on base and ideally in save situations in the ninth inning with the adrenaline pumping.

But Maddon has helped change that mindset, utilizing Chapman at the most crucial part the game. And in the World Series, the adrenaline is always pumping.

With Game 7 looming, Chapman maintained he has no ill effects from all the pitches he's thrown the last two games, especially in high-leverage situations. He also claims his ankle is not an issue after the play at first base.

He can't recall a time he's thrown that many pitches in back-to-back games (though there was a day off in between). 

"I feel strong, I feel healthy," Chapman said, who reiterated he put everything he's had on the line the last two games.

Chapman said he doesn't know anything of a pitch limit for Game 7 and he doesn't want one. He knows he has three months to rest after Wednesday night in Cleveland.

Chapman also said he's not worrying about his health entering free agency, as his contract is up as of next Tuesday morning.

"I'm just focused on day-to-day, game-to-game," he said. "All that will take care of itself later on.

"I'm trying to win, win, win. I'll worry about that later."

Scouting the Cubs' competition: Does Jake Arrieta transform Phillies' playoff hopes?


Scouting the Cubs' competition: Does Jake Arrieta transform Phillies' playoff hopes?

The expectations couldn't be any higher for the 2018 Chicago Cubs. 

It's 2016 all over again. The goal isn't just a trip to the playoffs or another NL pennant. It's World Series or bust for this group of North Siders.

With that, let's take a look at all of the teams that could stand in the way of the Cubs getting back to the Fall Classic:

Philadelphia Phillies

2017 record: 66-96, last place in NL East

Offseason additions: Jake Arrieta, Carlos Santana, Tommy Hunter, Pat Neshek, Drew Hutchison, Will Middlebrooks

Offseason departures: Daniel Nava, Clay Buchholz, Hyun-Soo Kim, Freddy Galvis

X-factor: Odubel Herrera

Rhys Hoskins won't continue to hit homers at such a historic rate, but everything points to another very strong season for the young outfielder/first baseman.

Instead, it's Herrera who enters the season with the most questions surrounding his impact. He's penciled in as the Phillies' No. 3 hitter in his age-26 season and saw regression in 2017 in strike zone organization.

Herrera's walk rate was cut nearly in half and saw an increase in strikeouts. As a result, his on-base percentage dropped 36 points despite a batting average just 5 points lower than 2016. He did flash more power (59 extra base hits compared to 42 in '16), but he will need to correct the recent trends of patience at the plate if the Phillies are actually going to take a step forward this year.

Projected lineup

1. Cesar Hernandez - 2B
2. Carlos Santana - 1B
3. Odubel Herrera - CF
4. Rhys Hoskins - LF
5. Nick Williams - RF
6. Maikel Franco - 3B
7. Jorge Alfaro - C
8. J.P. Crawford - SS

Projected rotation

1. Aaron Nola
2. Jake Arrieta
3. Vince Velasquez
4. Nick Pivetta
5. Ben Lively


The Phillies are probably at least a year away from being legit contenders, but adding Arrieta was a huge step in that direction. This team needed more starting pitching and they got it with the second-best starter on the free agent market.

The Santana signing was curious given Philly already had Hoskins at first base, so they have to pray the kid won't miss a step adjusting to a full-time role in left field. Santana is a very good player and still only 31, so it's not a bad move at all.

The rest of the Phillies lineup features a bunch of young players beginning their post-prospect life, packed with a bunch of questions. Franco and Crawford were projected to be stars and Alfaro and Williams very well could be important pieces in the core. But 2018 will feature growing pains with a lineup featuring five players under the age of 26. 

Hernandez is one of the more underrated players in the game — a solid leadoff hitter who has turned into a very patient player. With a full season of at-bats, he and Santana could combine for over 200 walks.

The starting staff is still lacking depth, but if Velasquez can actually stay healthy for once, that would go a long way toward legitimizing this staff.

The bullpen is solid with Hector Neris set for the closer's role and veteran additions Hunter and Neshek helping bridge the gap.

Even if the Phillies don't make the postseason in 2018, their time is coming and they would be a scary team to face this summer when they're hot.

Prediction: 4th in NL East, no playoffs

Which Cubs and White Sox players are included in MLB The Show 18's player rankings?


Which Cubs and White Sox players are included in MLB The Show 18's player rankings?

MLB The Show 18 apparently is not high on too many Cubs and White Sox players entering the 2018 season.

Thursday, Playstation released the Top 10 players in MLB The Show 18 position-by-position. Of the 10 positional groups (including starting and relief pitchers), only five Chicago players are included in the Top 10 at their respecitve positions (three Cubs, two White Sox). 

Kris Bryant is highest ranked Cub and the third-best third baseman in the game with an 86 rating. Anthony Rizzo is ranked as the third-best first baseman with an overall rating of 85, while Willson Contreras is ranked as the fourth-best catcher with a rating of 83.

For the White Sox, Jose Abreu is ranked the eighth-best first baseman with an 82 rating, while Avisail Garcia (79 rating) is ranked the ninth-best right fielder. 

The Chicago player rankings are quite odd in comparison to other players ranked in the Top 10 at their various positions. For example, Jose Reyes (79 rating) is ranked as the 10th best shortstop in the game. Reyes is a .286 career hitter, but he is coming off of a season in which he hit .246 in 501 at-bats.

While Addison Russell had a down year in 2017 (.239/.304/.418), it seems safe to say that he is a better player than Reyes at this point. And even if Russell is not worthy of a Top 10 ranking, there is a case to be made for other shorstops (i.e. Zack Cozart, Brandon Crawford, Jean Segura) to be ranked above Reyes.

Similarly, Kris Bryant's 86 rating is quite low considering that he was rated 94 in MLB The Show 17. While his home run and RBI totals both decreased slightly from 2016, Bryant still put together an all-around great 2017 season. He led MLB third basemen in walks (95) and runs (111) while also producing a slash line of .295/.409/.537.

Ultimately, the ratings and overall rankings must be put into perspective. Mike Trout's rating (93) is the highest in the game, yet even he experienced a drop from his 99 rating in MLB The Show 17. 

The ratings for Bryant, Rizzo and Abreu seem low, but Nolan Arenado (90) leads all third basemen, while Joey Votto (87) is best among first basemen. Basically, the various Cubs and White Sox players are not rated too far behind the best.

Here are the complete position-by-position rankings for MLB The Show 2018: