Cubs

Cubs want another shot at Andrew Miller after shutout loss

Cubs want another shot at Andrew Miller after shutout loss

CLEVELAND - The Cubs didn't look like a team that just got shut out and struck out 15 times in Game 1 of the World Series in the visiting clubhouse at Progressive Field.

Maybe it's because they have endured offensive slumps before this postseason - 21 straight scoreless innings against the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series - and bounced back just fine to score 23 runs in three games to clinch the NL pennant.

Or maybe it's because they nearly got to Andrew Miller, who has taken over title of Best Pitcher on the Planet.

"I hope we [get to see him tomorrow]," Cubs shortstop Addison Russell said. "We got beat by a pretty good ballclub today. On paper, they beat us. It leaves a sour taste in our mouth, but tomorrow's a new day."

That's the Cubs' attitude normally and that spirit has only strenghtened with Kyle Schwarber back in the lineup.

The Cubs obviously didn't score against Miller - who ran his career posteason scoreless streak to 22 innings - but they did force him to throw 46 pitches in two innings and had the best overall outing against the dominant left-hander of any team in 2016:

The first two batters Miller faced - Kyle Schwarber and Javy Baez - worked a walk and then laced an 0-2 single to left field to load the bases. 

Miller then worked out of the bases loaded jam with a shallow pop-out and back-to-back strikeouts, but the next inning, the Cubs made him work again with a Kris Bryant walk and Ben Zobrist single.

Miller avoided that jam by striking out Schwarber to end the inning.

"We put some really good at-bats against these guys today," Schwarber said. "We just didn't come up with the knock when we needed to, but that's baseball."

It was the most pitches Miller has thrown in an outing since September 2011 and the Cubs tallied five different full counts against him in the two innings. 

"Guys getting to see him in the first game I think is always to a hitter's advantage," Anthony Rizzo said. "He's as advertised. He bears in when needed to and gets outs and that's the name of the game."

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With a taxing outing and another game right away Wednesday night, the Cubs feel confident they can get to Miller if he does come back and work again in Game 2.

"That's huge. I'm sure he's going to be a little tired," Bryant said. "He was doing his job, going max effort. 

"Any time you can get their best guy out of the bullpen to throw a lot of pitches and have good at-bats off of him, it gives us a bunch of confidence."

Even if Miller feels fine physically, the Cubs hitters have all seen him now and they can learn from watching his stuff and how he approached hitters in Game 1.

The Cubs had a rough showing against Corey Kluber - only four hits and nine strikeouts in six innings - but he's a Cy Young contender and there are major question marks surrounding the Indians' Game 2 and 3 starters (Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin).

In general, the Cubs came away feeling confident despite putting a goose egg in the runs column.

"I'm a believer," manager Joe Maddon said. "I know we're going to be fine. ... [Kluber], he's in a different league. So if we can continue to work these same kind of at-bats, I feel good moving forward.

"And that's not to denigrate anybody we're going to face. I just thought we actually did better than that all looked tonight. So I'm eager to get back out there and play again tomorrow."

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

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

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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: