Cubs

Anthony Rizzo insists 'We got urgency' after Cubs fall to .500: 'It’s not all peachy right now'

Anthony Rizzo insists 'We got urgency' after Cubs fall to .500: 'It’s not all peachy right now'

SAN DIEGO – There’s a fine line between staying calm and not overreacting and assuming this will happen again for the Cubs just because they’ve done it before. 

This appeared to be the perfect setting for a team coming off a three-game sweep at Dodger Stadium where they had been completely dominated and looked nothing like the defending World Series champs.   

The Padres have an Opening Day payroll around $68 million (with more than $30 million going to guys no longer on the team), three Rule 5 picks on their active roster, two players who’ve been DFA’d by the Cubs within the last 10 months (Clayton Richard and Matt Szczur) and the No. 3 overall pick in the June draft. San Diego’s best starting pitcher – Trevor Cahill – is on the disabled list with a strained right shoulder and didn’t make any of the three playoff rosters last year as a Cubs reliever. 

After flying cross-country from Washington the night before, the Padres had to wake up for a 1:40 p.m. first pitch on Memorial Day. And yet there was All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo standing in Petco Park’s visiting clubhouse trying to make sense of a 5-2 loss that dropped the Cubs back down to .500 after 50 games.  

“It’s not all peachy right now,” Rizzo said. “We got urgency. We’re grinding. We got a lot of guys that grind and will continue to – no matter what. We’ll keep playing hard…that’s really all you can do.”

This became a microcosm of the season so far, Kyle Hendricks racking up five strikeouts through three innings, retiring the first 10 batters he faced and working with a 2-0 lead that should have meant cruise control for a National League Cy Young Award finalist and the major-league ERA leader last season.

[MORE: How Kris Bryant became the face of the never-panic Cubs]

The perfect game vanished when Hendricks gave up back-to-back singles and hit cleanup hitter Ryan Schimpf (.167 average) with a pitch. Hunter Renfroe then launched an 87-mph Hendricks fastball into the left-field seats for a grand slam in front of a sellout crowd (41,414) that didn’t come to see the Padres (20-33). 

“I don’t think anybody expected us to be .500, but it doesn’t matter,” Hendricks said. “We’re at where we’re at. The only way we can go from here is focusing pitch to pitch. We got to get back to the basics, just playing the game of baseball. 

“All the attention – all that – we just got to forget about it. Focus on the game and simplifying as much as we can.” 

While the postgame focus became the 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and the 11 men left on base, Hendricks knows the Cubs won’t feel any sense of momentum when the rotation has a 4.58 ERA and 19 quality starts through 50 games.    

“It’s got to start with us on the mound,” said Hendricks (4-3, 3.75 ERA), who gave up five runs in five innings but has been the most reliable Cubs starter next to Jon Lester. “We’re the ones with the ball in our hands, so we’re the ones that have to stop it. Regardless of how the offense is going, if we throw up zeroes, we got a good chance of winning.” 

Rizzo couldn’t believe it – “Did we walk 10 times?” – when a reporter mentioned another part of the box score. “That’s a formula that usually shoots out more than two runs.”  

But the “Anchorman” theme trip has already been stranger than fiction, going through a 19-inning scoreless streak and then getting 11 hits off Clayton Kershaw in another loss to the Dodgers. The Cubs have obviously been there and done that and come back from much worse. But will that be enough? 

“You just keep playing, that’s all you can do,” Rizzo said. “We just all need to take a deep breath, exhale a little bit and relax. It is what it is. It’s the grind of the season.”

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 49th homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 49th homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa's 49th homer of the season came with a runner on 1st and one out, when Oriel Hershiser served up a high fastball that Sammy belted 415 feet into the last few rows in left-center field. 

Sosa would later start the game-winning rally in the bottom of the ninth, scoring the game-tying run on a Henry Rodriguez single through the right side of the infield. Jose Hernandez would step in the next at-bat and walk it off with a base hit that scored Mark Grace, as Sammy and the Cubs bested the Giants 6-5. 

Fun Fact: A 33-year-old Barry Bonds would hit home run No. 25, finishing the season with 37 homers. He would finish the next season with 34 dingers but would string five consecutive seasons with at least 45 home runs, of course hitting a record 73 home runs in 2001. 

Yu Darvish suffering another setback puts his 2018 season in jeopardy

Yu Darvish suffering another setback puts his 2018 season in jeopardy

Yu have to be kidding me (Sorry, couldn't resist). 

The Cubs were expecting Sunday's rehab start to be the beginning to an end of what has been an extremely disappointing 2018 season for their $126 million man Yu Darvish. Darvish was scheduled to start Sunday for the Cubs single-A affiliate in South Bend, IN, but after just one inning Darvish was checked on by the trainers and eventually pulled before the 2nd inning started. 

According to Steve Greenberg, Darvish asked for an MRI on Monday which likely closes the door on him returning to the Cubs in 2018.

The frustrating thing about Darvish's rehab is that in his two rehab starts, the 32-year-old pitcher has had excellent stuff, touching 95 mph in Sunday afternoon's game before being pulled. 

At this point in the season, it seems unlikely Darvish will be able to return to the Cubs rotation for the regular season. And it would be incredibly risky to roll with Darvish in the playoffs, who even when healthy hasn't shown he's deserving of a postseason roster spot. The Cubs do have options at starter in the minors like Duane Underwood or James Norwood, and despite his shortcomings, Tyler Chatwood is an option out of necessity now.  

Drew Smyly, who looked like a possibility as a late-season addition, is still not quite ready to come back and be an effective rotation piece at the moment. And with Mike Montgomery heading to the disabled list earlier this week, the Cubs were hopeful Darvish would be healthy by the time rosters expand in September. 

Luckily, Jon Lester, Cole Hamels, and Kyle Hendricks have all looked stellar recently and hopefully can continue their success on the mound as the Cubs continue to fight past injuries to maintain their grasp on the NL Central. 

But Theo Epstein said himself last week that if Darvish didn't perform well during his rehab stint, that was essentially his 2018 season. Don't expect to see Darvish returning to the mound until 2019, Cubs fans.