Cardiac Cubs come through again with another extra-innings win


Cardiac Cubs come through again with another extra-innings win

The Cubs are starting to feel right at home playing in close games.

The Cubs pulled out another nail-biter Friday night in Cincinnati, coming from behind to take down the Reds 7-3 in 11 innings in front of 39,891 fans at Great American Ballpark.

A couple of unlikely heroes emerged in the 11th inning, as utility infielder Jonathan Herrera lined a base hit to right field to plate Anthony Rizzo before David Ross added a two-run double and Travis Wood drove in another run with a broken-bat groundout.

"That's what we need," Rizzo said. "That's what every good team has - every given day, all 25 guys can contribute."

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The Cubs are establishing an identity as a group that keeps fighting late in games, never counting themselves out of a contest.

Friday was another example and led to good spirits in the locker room after a three-hour, 48-minute game.

"I've always really thought highly of a team that can win in extra innings on the road," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "That really indicates you are totally focused and into the game in its entirety.

"That's always been my measuring stick of a good team and we showed that tonight."

Hector Rondon shut down the Reds in the bottom of the 11th to cap off an impressive performance for the Cubs relievers - hurling five scoreless innings with six strikeouts, pitching around six baserunners (three hits, three walks).

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Jon Lester didn't factor in the decision, but he did pick up his first quality start as a Cub, albeit with the absolute minimum requirements. The lefty ace gave up three runs on five hits and a walk in six innings while striking out 10. But he couldn't keep Reds speedster Billy Hamilton off base, who singled and scored a run in the first and third innings, stealing three bases in the process.

"A good team win tonight, battling back," Lester said. "Seems like you continually give these guys chances to score runs and they're going to do it. That's a positive sign for us as pitchers that we can make mistakes, but at the same time, these guys will come back and pick us up like they did tonight."

Rizzo keyed the offensive charge early for the Cubs with a two-run homer in the fourth inning and added a double, a walk and a stolen base before singling with one out in the 11th. Chris Coghlan also hit a home run, a solo shot to the opposite field in the seventh to tie the game at 3.

Kris Bryant went 2-for-4 with a walk, a run and a stolen base as the back end of a double-steal with Rizzo in the ninth.

The Cubs are now 3-0 in extra innings games in 2015.

Adbert Alzolay makes some memories on an otherwise forgettable night for the Cubs

Adbert Alzolay makes some memories on an otherwise forgettable night for the Cubs

The Cubs lost an entirely forgettable game on Tuesday night, dropping the second of their four games against the NL East-leading Braves by a score of 3-2. They left four men on base, only managed four hits, ran into two outs, and made one error in a game that was over well in time for a Clark Street nightcap, or three. 

What was memorable about Tuesday night was the performance of Adbert Alzolay, the Cubs’ top pitching prospect who was making his first major league start. The final line: 4.2 innings pitched, one hit, one run, four walks and four strikeouts. It’s certainly not the prettiest line you’ll see in tomorrow’s box scores, but the 24 year old passed the eye test with flying colors. 

“Everything was good - he was outstanding,” Joe Maddon said after the game. “I just think he hit a well there at the end. We just have to get him more used to that. Listen, he’s been injured in the past, he’s coming back - you’ve got to be real sensitive to the number of pitches and workload you put on him, because you can see how good he’s going to be.”

Things got off to an inauspicious start for Alzolay, whose first pitch of the game was crushed 413 feet into the left field bleachers for a leadoff homer, courtesy of Braves’ outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. It would prove to be the only hit and run that Alzolay allowed on the night. 

“It’s just one pitch,” he said. “You have to keep working - the game continues. I was just starting the game, so if you lose your mind in that situation than you’re not going to last a lot of innings.

“Even after the home run, he came right back and said, ‘I’m fine’,” Maddon added. “Then he went up and got three really good hitters out. I liked the mound demeanor, we’ve just got to get him a little further along in regards to being stretched out.”

After coming out flat with his secondary pitches during his 4-inning relief appearance on June 20th, Alzolay flashed better command and execution of both his curveball and changeup. Half of his strikeouts came on the curveball - one to get left fielder Austin Riley in the 2nd and one to get Acuña in the 3rd. After throwing 13 changeups in his debut, Alzolay double that number on Tuesday (27). 

“I’m feeling really confident throwing the pitch in any count,” Alzolay said of his changeup. “Tonight I threw it a couple times when I was behind in the count and I got a good result after that, so I’ll just keep on throwing it.

“For us to get confident at something, you have to practice, you have to execute it, and you have to use it in the game,” said catcher Willson Contreras, who plated both of the Cubs’ two runs with a double in the 4th. “For him to be able to throw the changeup for a strike, and strikeout people, it’s really good - especially at his age.”

Maddon couldn’t answer when Alzolay would make his next start. With Kyle Hendricks eyeing a return around the All-Star break, there would seemingly be a few more opportunities ahead of the rookie. Given what he showed on Tuesday night, it’d be hard to argue against it.

"He can be really good in the big leagues," Contreras said. "He still needs to make adjustments like all of us, but with the confidence he has, the ability he has, and the way he prepares before the games, it's going to take him a long way."

Cubs Talk Podcast: Ryne Sandberg: Part 1


Cubs Talk Podcast: Ryne Sandberg: Part 1

Luke Stuckmeyer sits down with Cubs legend Ryne Sandberg for a wide-ranging conversation centered around the infamous "Sandberg Game."

Ryne gives insight into his feelings upon being traded to the Cubs (2:00), and discusses the reason he ended up with the No. 23 (5:00). Plus, how the 1984 season changed everything and raised his personal expectations sky-high (9:00) and the "Daily Double" dynamic between him and Bob Dernier (16:00).

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast