Cubs

Cubs defense rebounds nicely with aid of Anthony Rizzo's circus catch

Cubs defense rebounds nicely with aid of Anthony Rizzo's circus catch

The old tip drill on a play veteran catcher David Ross had never seen before helped the Cubs’ defense rebound on Sunday night from a sluggish performance in Game 4.

One night after a normally elite defensive unit gave the game away, the Cubs returned to their historically dominant selves and it all began with Anthony Rizzo’s circus catch off the glove of Ross near the dugout.

The rest of the defense seemingly fed off Rizzo’s fantastic catch and turned in several more sterling efforts in a 3-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians in Game 5 of the World Series that extended the Cubs’ season for at least one more day. The Cubs will likely need many more defensive gems if they’re to rebound from a 3-2 series deficit when the Series continues with Game 6 at Cleveland at 7:08 p.m. CST on Tuesday.

“(Rizzo) was the hero for us,” Ross said. “I was like, ‘Hey, I was just making you look good.’

“That was a really cool moment. I’m just trying to get outs. Every pitch and every out is so big, so anything that’s even close, you wanna give it the effort and not leave anything for chance and Rizz picked me up right there.”

Each out in October seems to carry with it a significant payload -- when shifted the right way, it can mean everything to a team. Conversely, a mistake can quickly send things in the wrong direction.

The Cubs discovered that in World Series Game 4 when a pair of second-inning errors by third baseman Kris Bryant led to a run that put Cleveland ahead 2-1 and they never gave it back.

On the verge of elimination in front of a loud, nerve-wracked crowd, the Cubs had little room for mistakes on Sunday night. For a brief second, it appeared they were headed for a big gaffe.

Cleveland’s No. 5 hitter Carlos Santana hit a foul pop up behind the plate on which Ross appeared to have a bead at the dugout railing. But thanks to an icy, whipping wind that prevailed all evening, the ball drifted and Ross had to lunge over a camera on the railing only to have the ball pop up into the air off the top of his glove.

Fortunately for him, Rizzo efficiently covered 112 feet, according to MLB.com, and arrived in time to tip the ball back into the air with his bare left hand before he hauled it in with his glove.

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“The ball was moving so much up there, it was swirling,” Rizzo said. “I just told him I couldn’t call it, that’s how focused I was on that ball. And he’s going for it until I called him off.”

Said Ross: “I didn't know he was there. I was trying to catch it. I knew the wind was doing some crazy things tonight. … I'm surprised he didn't jump up on the rail and do a little balancing act.”

Rizzo saved the theatrics for Jason Heyward, Addison Russell and Bryant.

Two batters after the catch, Bryant stopped Cleveland from a potential rally starter with a fantastic diving stop and throw (Rizzo made one of several nice scoops) on Brandon Guyer’s hot shot.

An inning later, Heyward raced over and leapt up on the brick wall to make a grab of Trevor Bauer’s foul ball only for the wind to blow it back. Despite the gust, Heyward hauled it in for the second out.

The wind continued to affect the ball all evening. Ben Zobrist also made a long run and grab in foul territory for the second out of the eighth inning with a runner in scoring position.

“(The wind) was kind of funky,” Heyward said of his grab. “But off the bat, that ball was going into the stands and heading that direction and then when I got to the wall and was waiting on it to come down, it had like a serious cut back towards the field.”

The Cubs also made a series of nice plays in between the Heyward and Zobrist grabs.

Ross jumped on a nice bunt by Jason Kipnis to start the fourth inning and fired to first in time to thwart his attempt for a hit. With a man on second base in the fifth inning, Russell quickly scooped up Jose Ramirez’s grounder and under-armed his throw to first just in time to nab the speedy runner (Rizzo made a nice scoop on that play, too). And Javier Baez helped quell a potential sixth-inning rally with his patented swipe tag as he helped Ross catch Francisco Lindor stealing second base to end the inning.

Those efforts proved critical for a unit that had 31 more Defensive Runs Saved than the next best team in baseball, according to fangraphs.com.

“One of the best in the game,” center fielder Dexter Fowler said. “We’ve got a few Gold Glove nominee and Gold Glovers out there.

“Guys are going to make mistakes. That’s what happens. It’s a long season. You want to make every play, but all that’s never going to happen. To have them in there making the key outs today is awesome.”

 

 

 

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.”