Cubs

Sitting on the brink of elimination, Cubs dealt another dose of misery

Sitting on the brink of elimination, Cubs dealt another dose of misery

As Jason Kipnis touched home plate and was greeted by his Indians teammates in the first base dugout, Wrigley Field fell so silent, sounds of the Cleveland celebration could be heard on the opposite end of the stadium.

Wrigley Field was that quiet after Kipnis - a native of Northbrook - drilled a backbreaking three-run homer into the teeth of the wind blowing straight in from right field.

That was the icing on the cake for the Cubs as they were handed a gut-wrenching loss for the second straight night, a 7-2 defeat at the hands of the Indians in front of packed house of fans forced to endure another dose of misery.

The festive mood of the Halloween weekend in Wrigleyville has transformed into a anxious mess of frustration and bewilderment.

"We gotta do our best to not even worry about that stuff," Kris Bryant said. "It’s fun for us to see that, the pictures of everybody outside and so many people. We can’t get too caught up in that.

"Hopefully we win out and these first, whatever, four games will be forgotten."

The Wrigley crowd actually had a lot to cheer about early on as Dexter Fowler led off the bottom of the first inning with a double and came around to score two batters later on Anthony Rizzo's RBI single.

John Lackey, the battle-tested veteran who was signed for these "Big Boy Games," immediately gave up the lead, however, as Carlos Santana led off the second inning with a solo homer. 

Jason Heyward pointed to that moment as the change in momentum in the ballgame and he was right. It was all Cleveland from there.

The Indians added another run on Bryant's second error of the second inning when he threw away Corey Kluber's swinging bunt.

"We gave up the homer; that ball was properly struck," Joe Maddon said. "The other run we kind of gave to them. The ball never left the infield and they got another run."

The Indians added solo tallies in the third and fifth innings before Kipnis' knockout blow in the seventh made Vince Vaughn's rendition of the Seventh Inning Stretch a muted affair.

"We've been here before," Heyward said. "Tonight, if you go back and look at the video of that game, we took a lot of good swings. It's not an excuse. It just is what it is. If the ball doesn't go, it doesn't go."

Dexter Fowler homered in the eighth inning, proving Andrew Miller is not a cyborg and is merely a man who is really, really ridiculously good at pitching.

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

It was the first run Miller has given up in his postseason career in 24.1 innings. 

It was also the Cubs' first World Series homer since Game 1 in 1945.

The Cubs now have their backs against the wall, but send Jon Lester to the mound Sunday night in an effort to push the series back to Cleveland, where Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks will be ready to pitch and Kyle Schwarber will be reinserted into the lineup as the designated hitter.

"We just need that one moment," Maddon said. "We have to have a one-game winning streak tomorrow and if we do that, I really would be feeling pretty good about going back to Cleveland."

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

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USA TODAY

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: