Arrieta buzz quickly fades around Cubs heading into September


Arrieta buzz quickly fades around Cubs heading into September

Outside of October, Jake Arrieta probably couldn’t have found a bigger and better stage than “Sunday Night Baseball” at Dodger Stadium to show the country he’s one of the game’s best pitchers. Period.

“If you don’t know about me by now, you better ask somebody,” Arrieta said Monday at Wrigley Field, replaying his no-hitter from the night before while wearing his Cubs hat backwards and a “We Are Good” tank top.

More than two dozen reporters squeezed into the dungeon, with a row of at least six TV cameras lined up in the middle of the interview room for a weeknight game against the Cincinnati Reds.

So much for the big bounce after Arrieta’s no-hitter and Joe Maddon’s pajama-themed overnight flight from Los Angeles. The buzz started to wear off during this ugly 13-6 loss to a last-place team.

“It didn’t start that good,” Maddon said. “The middle part of the book was actually a pretty good read and then eventually it became a nasty ending.”

[MORE CUBS: Cubs allowed Jake Arrieta to be himself after trade from Orioles]

Reinforcements are coming on Tuesday with outfielder Austin Jackson (acquired from the Seattle Mariners) and the first wave of September call-ups: power-hitting infielder Javier Baez; designated runner Quintin Berry; lefty Tsuyoshi Wada; and right-hander Trevor Cahill. (The Berry and Cahill moves will force the Cubs to make changes to their 40-man roster.)

To get to a wild-card game, the Cubs will need more out of Kyle Hendricks, Dan Haren and Jason Hammel, the pitchers lined up for this three-game series against the Reds (54-76). If not, the cumulative effect will damage the bullpen and put even more pressure on a young lineup that needs some cover.

Hendricks lasted five innings and gave up three runs and has now gone 1-for-9 in quality starts since the All-Star break. Haren has a 6.31 ERA in five starts since the Cubs acquired him from the Miami Marlins at the July 31 trade deadline. Hammel hasn’t finished the seventh inning since the Fourth of July and put up a 4.88 ERA in August.

“I wouldn’t say letdown,” Hendricks said. “It’s just hard. They got in about 5, 6 in the morning. You don’t want to make excuses. But to turn around like that and come play this night game, it’s tough to do.

“Not that that was the reason for it out there tonight. But it was going to be a tough one for us.”

[MORE CUBS: Cubs honor Jake Arrieta at Wrigley Field for no-hitter]

Especially when dominant reliever Justin Grimm gives up two out-of-character two-run homers to Eugenio Suarez and Adam Duvall in the sixth inning. And Starlin Castro gets booed after committing three errors at second base. And Travis Wood and James Russell were charged with six unearned runs in the ninth inning.

“It was a really bad night for me and the team,” Castro said. “Just come back tomorrow and keep our head up and try to make every play.”

The Cubs have 13 games against the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates in September. The best team in baseball leads the Cubs by 10 1/2 games in the division. The Cubs trail the Pirates by 5 1/2 games for home-field advantage in the wild-card game.

At 18 games over .500, the Cubs could go 16-16 the rest of the way and still finish with 90 wins. No matter what, this team should be relevant until at least Game 162.

“September provides its own energy,” Maddon said. “I really believe that, man. The weather’s going to start cooling off. You look in the paper, you see where you sit in the standings. You’re playing pretty good baseball. You have a shot to go to the dance. All that kind of good stuff.

“You really come to the ballpark (and) any kind of bumps, bruises, fatigue is lessened. I’ve always felt that way. I think our young guys are going to find that out for the first time.”

Joe Maddon wants Cubs fans to cheer for Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez

Joe Maddon wants Cubs fans to cheer for Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez

Why can't a trade be looked at as a win-win? 

There doesn't always have to be a clear winner and loser.

Prior to Jose Quintana taking the ball for Saturday's game against the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field, Joe Maddon was asked about the players (Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease) the Cubs gave up to acquire Quintana as well as the deal with the Yankees for Aroldis Chapman in July 2016.

Gleyber Torres is absolutely killing it in New York, hitting .323 with a 1.014 OPS, 9 homers and 24 RBI in only 29 games. Six of those homers have come in the last week alone. 

With the White Sox, both Jimenez and Cease have found success in Double-A and Advanced Class-A, respectively.

Jimenez is hitting .331 with a .992 OPS, 9 homers and 35 RBI in 35 games. Cease is 6-2 with a 2.83 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 57 strikeouts in 47.2 innings.

As the Cubs work to get their offense settled into a consistent groove, some Cubs fans have been looking at what might've been with guys like Torres and Jimenez.

"You can't have it both ways, man," Maddon said. "I'm happy for Gleyber. When he left, we talked about it. And we talked about the kids that went to the White Sox. It's good stuff. 

"I'm really disappointed if anybody's disappointed in the fact we won the World Series in 2016 and the fact that the guy we're talking about that we had to give up Gleyber for was so instrumental in that happening. That's bad process if you're gonna get stuck on something like that. Be happy for Gleyber. Be happy for him."

Maddon has been a fan of Torres' since he saw him in spring training in 2015, Maddon's first year in the Cubs organization.

"This kid's 21, with high, high baseball intellect," Maddon said. "He's very similar to Javy on the field. I've had some great conversations with him in the past. 

"The first time I saw him in spring training, I thought this guy's for real. It was like one at-bat, line drive to RF, I said who is this guy? And then you have a conversation with him. He's solid."

Maddon's point is a great one — would Cubs fans prefer to still have Torres and NOT have the 2016 World Series championship? Because that title doesn't happen without Chapman, regardless of how you feel about him as a person or what the Cubs had to give up to acquire him.

"Don't play that game," Maddon said. "Be happy for [Torres]. I'm gonna be happy when Eloy and Dylan make it up here. All these dudes, I want them to get here and be really good. And the guys that we get, I want them to be really good. 

"I don't understand why somebody's gotta lose all the time. This is an absolute classic example of what was good for both teams."

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 12th + 13th homers in 1998


Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 12th + 13th homers 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.

An off-day did nothing to slow down the 1998 National League MVP as Sosa collected his second straight 2-homer game May 27 of that season.

He went deep in the eighth and ninth innings of a Cubs' 10-5 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field, driving in 3 runs. 

The first homer - off Darrin Winston - was an absolute blast, traveling an estimated 460 feet. The second shot was tame in comparison with only 400 feet as a recorded distance.

In a matter of two games, Sosa raised his season OPS from .930 to .988 and his slugging percentage from .521 to .577 thanks to a pair of 2-homer contests.

Fun fact: Doug Glanville - former Cubs outfielder and current NBC Sports Chicago analyst - was the Phillies leadoff hitter that day in 1998, collecting three hits and scoring a pair of runs.