Cubs

Cubs defense rebounds nicely with aid of Anthony Rizzo's circus catch

Cubs defense rebounds nicely with aid of Anthony Rizzo's circus catch

The old tip drill on a play veteran catcher David Ross had never seen before helped the Cubs’ defense rebound on Sunday night from a sluggish performance in Game 4.

One night after a normally elite defensive unit gave the game away, the Cubs returned to their historically dominant selves and it all began with Anthony Rizzo’s circus catch off the glove of Ross near the dugout.

The rest of the defense seemingly fed off Rizzo’s fantastic catch and turned in several more sterling efforts in a 3-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians in Game 5 of the World Series that extended the Cubs’ season for at least one more day. The Cubs will likely need many more defensive gems if they’re to rebound from a 3-2 series deficit when the Series continues with Game 6 at Cleveland at 7:08 p.m. CST on Tuesday.

“(Rizzo) was the hero for us,” Ross said. “I was like, ‘Hey, I was just making you look good.’

“That was a really cool moment. I’m just trying to get outs. Every pitch and every out is so big, so anything that’s even close, you wanna give it the effort and not leave anything for chance and Rizz picked me up right there.”

Each out in October seems to carry with it a significant payload -- when shifted the right way, it can mean everything to a team. Conversely, a mistake can quickly send things in the wrong direction.

The Cubs discovered that in World Series Game 4 when a pair of second-inning errors by third baseman Kris Bryant led to a run that put Cleveland ahead 2-1 and they never gave it back.

On the verge of elimination in front of a loud, nerve-wracked crowd, the Cubs had little room for mistakes on Sunday night. For a brief second, it appeared they were headed for a big gaffe.

Cleveland’s No. 5 hitter Carlos Santana hit a foul pop up behind the plate on which Ross appeared to have a bead at the dugout railing. But thanks to an icy, whipping wind that prevailed all evening, the ball drifted and Ross had to lunge over a camera on the railing only to have the ball pop up into the air off the top of his glove.

Fortunately for him, Rizzo efficiently covered 112 feet, according to MLB.com, and arrived in time to tip the ball back into the air with his bare left hand before he hauled it in with his glove.

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“The ball was moving so much up there, it was swirling,” Rizzo said. “I just told him I couldn’t call it, that’s how focused I was on that ball. And he’s going for it until I called him off.”

Said Ross: “I didn't know he was there. I was trying to catch it. I knew the wind was doing some crazy things tonight. … I'm surprised he didn't jump up on the rail and do a little balancing act.”

Rizzo saved the theatrics for Jason Heyward, Addison Russell and Bryant.

Two batters after the catch, Bryant stopped Cleveland from a potential rally starter with a fantastic diving stop and throw (Rizzo made one of several nice scoops) on Brandon Guyer’s hot shot.

An inning later, Heyward raced over and leapt up on the brick wall to make a grab of Trevor Bauer’s foul ball only for the wind to blow it back. Despite the gust, Heyward hauled it in for the second out.

The wind continued to affect the ball all evening. Ben Zobrist also made a long run and grab in foul territory for the second out of the eighth inning with a runner in scoring position.

“(The wind) was kind of funky,” Heyward said of his grab. “But off the bat, that ball was going into the stands and heading that direction and then when I got to the wall and was waiting on it to come down, it had like a serious cut back towards the field.”

The Cubs also made a series of nice plays in between the Heyward and Zobrist grabs.

Ross jumped on a nice bunt by Jason Kipnis to start the fourth inning and fired to first in time to thwart his attempt for a hit. With a man on second base in the fifth inning, Russell quickly scooped up Jose Ramirez’s grounder and under-armed his throw to first just in time to nab the speedy runner (Rizzo made a nice scoop on that play, too). And Javier Baez helped quell a potential sixth-inning rally with his patented swipe tag as he helped Ross catch Francisco Lindor stealing second base to end the inning.

Those efforts proved critical for a unit that had 31 more Defensive Runs Saved than the next best team in baseball, according to fangraphs.com.

“One of the best in the game,” center fielder Dexter Fowler said. “We’ve got a few Gold Glove nominee and Gold Glovers out there.

“Guys are going to make mistakes. That’s what happens. It’s a long season. You want to make every play, but all that’s never going to happen. To have them in there making the key outs today is awesome.”

 

 

 

Yu Darvish and Cubs pull off dramatic comeback win over Dodgers

Yu Darvish and Cubs pull off dramatic comeback win over Dodgers

There were some added stakes to Saturday night’s Cubs-Dodgers matchup. Darvish made his first start at Dodger Stadium since his infamous Game 7 loss in the 2017 World Series, looking for a great effort in front of a fan base that had their up-and-downs in terms of their relationship with him. He (maybe) took a small jab at the Dodgers before the game had even started, telling the Los Angeles Times that he wasn't worried about being booed because “the Dodgers don't have many fans here in the first three innings, so maybe it will be on the quieter side.”

Well Dodgers faithful certainly got the message and made sure to let Darvish hear it.

However, Darvish got the last laugh on Saturday night. He pitched a stellar seven innings. Over those seven innings, Darvish gave up 1 ER on 2 hits and also notched 10 strikeouts.

Darvish has been hitting his stride as of late, maintaining a 2.96 ERA over his last four starts.

All of that being said, it would be remiss of me not to mention the contributions of Darvish’s teammates. His great outing helped keep the Cubs in the game, but the gutsy performances of Anthony Rizzo and Pedro Strop are what won the contest.

Dodgers All-Star relief pitcher Kenley Jansen had a 10-game scoreless streak coming into Saturday night, but one swing of Rizzo’s bat was all that was needed to restore balance to the everlasting battle of pitcher versus hitter. After Jansen hit Kris Bryant with a pitch to put him on base, Rizzo activated “clutch mode”, mashing a 400-foot bomb out to right field.

Though small, Saturday night’s homer gives Rizzo a three-game hitting streak, perhaps forecasting that things are trending  upwards for the first baseman as the Cubs look to close out the series against the Dodgers with a win on Sunday night. And not to be left out of the fun, Pedro Strop came in to face the Justin Turner, MVP hopeful Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy and Matt Beaty to nail down the save.

Never afraid of high-pressure moments, Stop came through big time.

Strop got a ground out from Turner, struck out Bellinger and Beaty in his 15-pitch save effort. This was a much-needed win for the Cubs, who have well-documented struggles on the road. As they look to split the four-game set with the Dodgers on Sunday night, the Cubs can be pleased with their fight this week.

Saturday’s win over the Dodgers was the Cubs first win of the season after trailing through six innings, as they were 0-23 in such situations prior to the victory. Amid a season that has been fraught with injury and general roster construction concerns, it was wonderful to see the Cubs pull out a tough win lead by the much-maligned Darvish and the never-quit attitude of his teammates.

Cubs put Kyle Hendricks on 10-Day IL

Cubs put Kyle Hendricks on 10-Day IL

On Saturday, the Cubs announced that they are placing starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks on the 10-day I.L.with right shoulder inflammation. 

Following Hendricks' injury, the Cubs recalled right-handed pitcher Rowan Wick from Triple-A. Wick will be available on Saturday night and beyond, as the Cubs continue their four-game series against the Dodgers. 

This obviously a significant blow for the Cubs, as Hendricks is the team leader in innings pitched (88.1).

Prior to his loss on Friday night, Hendricks had won three straight outings, giving up less than 3 ER in each game. 

The Cubs have plenty of options to replace Hendricks for the time being. With an off day until Monday, they could keep their rotation intact. Tyler Chatwood and Mike Montgomery are options, and the Cubs could push Hendricks next start back to by going with a spot starter. 

Stellar pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay is another intriuging option, and he is coming off of a great outing with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs. On Fridaym he racked up 9 strikeouts, giving up 8 hits and 2 ER. 

The 24-year old Alzolay is ranked as the Cubs' fourth-overall prospect and the Hendricks injury could open the door for Alzolay to get called up.

The more likely scenario is that Cubs manager Joe Maddon chooses to use Chatwood. 

Chatwood is the only pitcher outside of the everyday rotation to have made a start this year and is the most obvious stopgap solution until we get further updates on Hendricks' status.