Cubs

Kyle Hendricks explains why Cubs won’t panic now

Kyle Hendricks explains why Cubs won’t panic now

Kyle Hendricks started Game 7 of the World Series 11 days after beating Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers to give the Cubs their first National League pennant since the year World War II ended. What happened last October and November remains part of this group’s DNA, the same way Cubs teams used to feel that anxiety and weight of history.

So these Cubs won’t be panicking or playing tight after a lost weekend at Wrigley Field where the Milwaukee Brewers outscored them by a 20-3 aggregate during a three-game sweep, assuring the NL Central would remain a three-team race.

“We’ve been in so many different ballgames, so many different situations,” Hendricks said matter-of-factly in the interview room after Sunday’s 3-1 loss. “We know what we need to do. That’s definitely a given. But as far as attitude, team demeanor, no, it’s just grinding pitch to pitch, trying to do what we can.”

The Cubs earned championship rings last year with pitching, defense and clutch hitting. While the offense went missing against the Brewers – essentially giving Hendricks no margin for error – even a rotation missing Jake Arrieta should still give the Cubs a chance to win every night.

Both the Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals are now two games out of first place, and the Cubs will play those two teams 11 more times this month, including eight in a row on the road between Sept. 21-28.

“We’re somewhat aware of where the teams are at,” Hendricks said, “but it’s not what we’re focused on. We’re focused on the field, what needs to be done, pitch to pitch. That’s really where our focus is and where it’s stayed. So two games, five games, whatever it is, it is. We have to win ballgames down the stretch. Period.”

[RELATED: Cubs see division lead beginning to disappear: 'Are you in or are you out?']

Hendricks – who has put together six quality starts in a row and a 2.58 ERA in his 10 starts since coming off the disabled list – basically regretted one pitch. Milwaukee slugger Travis Shaw drove an elevated two-seam fastball that crashed off the video-board ribbon in the right-field corner for a go-ahead, two-run homer in the sixth inning.

There is no other way for the Cubs to spin it, of course, but last year gives them the benefit of the doubt. If they can survive and advance, the Cubs will have a playoff rotation that should match up with anyone else in the NL, and a resilient team strengthened through adversity.

“This is just more of it to test us and see what we’re made of,” Hendricks said. “We’ve come out on the good side of it in the past, so it’s a good track record to move forward with. But it doesn’t guarantee anything.”

If you can't wait for baseball to be back, take a look at the Cubs' spring training schedule

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USA TODAY

If you can't wait for baseball to be back, take a look at the Cubs' spring training schedule

Set your alarm, there are only three more months till baseball is back.

The Cubs announced their spring training schedule Monday, getting folks all amped up for the 34 exhibition games in February and March.

Spring game action gets started Feb. 23 out in Arizona, with the Cubs taking on the Milwaukee Brewers to kick off Cactus League play. The Cubs' first home spring game at Sloan Park in Mesa comes the next day, Feb. 24.

In addition to a 32-game Cactus League slate, the Cubs will take on the Cleveland Indians in a pair of exhibition games in Las Vegas. That 2016 World Series rematch comes March 17 and 18.

And of course, there will be three meetings with the White Sox, as both Chicago teams play their spring schedule out in Arizona. Those "Cactus Crosstown" games will be played Feb. 27 and March 10 in Mesa and March 16 in Glendale.

Here's the full schedule:

What if Jake Arrieta stays in the NL Central and repeatedly haunts the Cubs?

What if Jake Arrieta stays in the NL Central and repeatedly haunts the Cubs?

Jake Arrieta in a Brewers uniform?

That's not a sight Cubs fans would like to see, but the North Siders' I-94 rivals are apparently keen on trying to add Arrieta, the free-agent pitcher who's been one of the National League's top arms for the past several seasons.

The Cubs have their own decision to make on whether or not they're going to pursue re-signing Arrieta, a guy who over the past three seasons has posted a 2.71 ERA and struck out 589 batters, winning 54 games in 94 starts for a team that won the 2016 World Series and has advanced to three consecutive NL Championship Series.

The downside to losing Arrieta is obvious, as the Cubs would lose a huge part of their formidable starting rotation, but there would be an added downside if Arrieta were to remain in the NL Central and repeatedly haunt his former team.

Given Arrieta's track record, adding him would make sense for any team in the majors, but the Brewers in particular could use a front-of-the-line starting pitcher to boost their chances of besting the Cubs for the Central crown. The Brew Crew staged a surprising threat to do just that in 2017, perhaps proving that their rebuilding effort has yielded fruit ahead of schedule.

But there are questions in that rotation, with Jimmy Nelson expected to miss time next season after having shoulder surgery. Chase Anderson was great last season, and Zach Davies was solid, too. Brewers starters posted an ERA of 4.10 on the season, good for fifth in the NL. The four teams ahead of them, including the Cubs, all made the playoffs. Adding an arm as good as Arrieta's could make the difference in jumping past the Cubs in the Central and getting the Crew to the postseason for the first time since 2011.

And it'd be a plus for the Brewers to make it so Arrieta couldn't shut down their hitters anymore. In 15 career starts against the Crew, Arrieta is 8-4 with a 2.74 ERA. However, they'd surely love to have him call Miller Park home. He's never lost there in five starts, boasting a 2.03 ERA with 30 strikeouts.

There's an argument to be made that Arrieta would be able to seek revenge on the Cubs no matter what team he ends up pitching for, be it an NL team facing off against the Cubs in the playoffs or an American League squad meeting the Cubs in the World Series. After all, as Scott Boras put it, signing Arrieta is a ticket to "Playoffville."

But should Arrieta make the short drive to Wisconsin and set up shop in America's Dairyland, turning the Brewers into a legitimate playoff contender and challenger to the Cubs' grip on the NL Central crown? Well, consider the Cubs-Brewers rivalry cranked up to 11.