Cubs

Cubs keep wearing down opposing pitching in fifth straight win

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Cubs keep wearing down opposing pitching in fifth straight win

The Cubs' homegrown, American League-style lineup flexed its muscles once again.

The Cubs (63-48) ate away at the Milwaukee Brewers (48-66) pitching staff Tuesday, taking down their division rivals, 6-3, in front of 37,109 fans at Wrigley Field for the series opener. It was Chicago's fifth straight win and 11th in the last 12 games.

The Cubs lead Major League Baseball in pitches per plate appearance and continued their assault on opposing starting pitchers, chasing Brewers starter Taylor Jungmann after just 2.2 innings and forcing the rookie to throw 81 pitches.

It was the eighth straight game in which the opposing pitcher has failed to get through six innings against this Cubs lineup.

"I love the tenacity of the at-bat," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "That's what I've been talking about. It continues to get better.

"I was really pleased with our whole approach to the game after a day off. ... I like those little moments that are occurring right now where guys are showing up and they're ready to play."

[MORE: Moving to second base, Cubs won't force the issue with Castro]

The Cubs worked seven walks on the evening as they saw 186 pitches in their eight innings on offense.

"It's just a matter of us grinding at-bats and grinding through the season," Anthony Rizzo said. "Hitting is very contagious, so it's kinda just passing that back to the next guy.

"The beauty of our lineup is we have a pretty lengthy lineup there where any given guy can do it."

This game had all the makings of a blowout early, as the Cubs scored three times in the second inning, once in the fourth and two more times in the fifth, aided by three Brewers errors and seven free passes (six walks, one HBP).

But that was it for the Cubs offense while the Brewers chipped away with a solo run in the fourth and then an Adam Lind two-run homer in the sixth off Cubs starter Dan Haren.

Haren was pulled two batters later, but still got the win - his first as a Cub and 150th of his career - as the Cubs bullpen shut the door the rest of the way.

"I put pretty much all personal things aside," Haren said. "I got a few weeks left here and I really do wanna do the best I can for the team. I've been so impressed in the first 10 days or so with the overall vibe in the clubhouse."

Haren also said he's been shocked by how much the Cubs offense has grown since pitched against them - and beat them - June 3 in Miami.

In that game, Haren threw only 88 pitches in 5.2 innings against a Cubs lineup that had no Jorge Soler (disabled list) or Kyle Schwarber (still in the minors).

"I see a complete difference," Haren said. "Facing them this year, they were a really aggressive team."

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans]

Starlin Castro finally got into a game for the Cubs after being benched for the last three contests, appearing at second base for the first time in his big-league career and popping out to first in his only at-bat in the eighth inning. He also made a highlight-reel catch in foul territory down the right field line in the ninth inning.

"I thought [that play] was great," Maddon said. "His attitude has been fabulous. To make that among the bullpen with the crap on the ground and guys flying all over the place and there's no room left and it's at night, it's different.

"That was a spectacular play right there."

Castro's play helped seal the victory for the Cubs, who moved to 15 games over .500, something of a benchmark for any team, let alone a young team featuring four rookies in the everyday lineup.

The Cubs allowed themselves to enjoy the nice checkpoint, but also warned that it's too early to scoreboard-watch.

"Keep it rolling," Maddon said. "The next goal is 20. Really proud of our guys and the way they're going about our business."

"It means a lot," Rizzo said, "but we gotta keep winning. All these wins build up, build our confidence, build the character of this team, helps all of us out."

Forget 2015, the Brewers are more like 2016 Cubs

Forget 2015, the Brewers are more like 2016 Cubs

With the Milwaukee Brewers about to kick off the NLCS, many Cubs fans and pundits have taken to comparing them to the 2015 Cubs.

At first glance, it's easy to see why — they're in the playoffs for the first time as something of an underdog and "surprise" team — but that's not the recent Cubs squad we should be comparing the 2018 Brewers to.

This Milwaukee team is a lot more like the 2016 Cubs.

Here's why:

1. They're not a surprise.

Nobody expected the 2015 Cubs to win 97 games and wind up in the NLCS. They were expected to compete very soon, but everything went right in a red-hot August, they rode Jake Arrieta's right arm to the NLDS and then toppled the Cardinals to get to the LCS, where they ran into the brick wall that was Matt Harvey and and the Mets pitching staff.

The 2018 Brewers are not — and should not be — a surprise. Anybody who was caught off guard by this team being so good hasn't been paying much attention. The Brewers were leading the NL Central in 2017 for much of the year before a late-season fade that coincided with the Cubs' late-season surge.

This Milwaukee squad was always supposed to be one of the top teams in the NL in 2018 and they really hit their groove in September to chase down the Cubs. Still, it took a Game 163 to force a changing of the guard atop the division.

2. They greatly improved expectations with a big free-agent OF signing over the winter.

The Cubs had Jason Heyward in between 2015 and '16. The Brewers had Lorenzo Cain.

Cain has provided quite a bit more offense in the first season of his 5-year, $80 million contract but both Cain and Heyward provided leadership in the clubhouse and elite defense in the outfield in the first years with their new teams.

3. The Brewers have the NL MVP.

This one's an easy comparison to make, though Cubs fans will hate it.

Christian Yelich is this season's NL MVP. Sorry, Javy Baez fans. "El Mago" had a great season, but it's impossible to give the award to anybody but Yelich.

Yelich winning the league's most coveted accolade would be another perfect tie-in to the 2016 Cubs, who had Kris Bryant take home NL MVP.

4. They have a dominant LHP out of the bullpen.

Josh Hader has been doing his best Aroldis Chapman impression in 2018 as an absolutely dominant southpaw out of the bullpen. Unlike Chapman, Hader's spent all season with the Brewers, but like Chapman in '16, Hader will be leaned on heavily for multiple innings throughout the rest of the playoffs.

5. They picked up some valuable in-season assets.

The 2016 Cubs dealt for Chapman, but they also traded for reliever Joe Smith and called up Willson Contreras in the middle of the year, who provided a spark for the offense.

The 2018 Brewers have acquired plenty of valuable assets along the way this season from Mike Moustakas to Jonathan Schoop to Erik Kratz (more on him later) to Gio Gonzalez. But one of their most important additions (especially in October) was the promotion of top prospect Corbin Burnes, a flame-throwing right-hander who posted a 2.61 ERA in 30 regular-season games and allowed only 1 hit in 4 shutout innings in the DS.

6. They're on a mission with a chip on their shoulder.

The 2015 Cubs had a little bit of a chip on their shoulder as they attempted to take down the divisional powerhouse that was the St. Louis Cardinals. But again, they were a surprise contender - even within that clubhouse (especially early in 2015). But after falling short in the NLCS, the Cubs retooled over the winter and came back with one goal in mind - to win the World Series.

It was a goal they accomplished. We'll see if the Brewers will be able to do the same, but they certainly came to play in 2018 with a chip on their shoulder and the ultimate goal of winning the final MLB game of the year.

The Brewers didn't lead the division from Day 1 and weren't able to coast into October, but they still wound up with homefield advantage throughout the NL playoffs.

7. They have journeyman catcher who is winning over fans' hearts.

This is a fun one.

The 2016 Cubs had David "Grandpa" Rossy who still elicts deafening cheers whenever he's shown on the giant video board at Wrigley Field. The 2018 Brewers have Kratz, who has become a fan favorite recently and was mic'd up for the final out of the NLDS.

Ross was 39 when he helped lead the Cubs to the 2016 World Series and Chicago was his eighth stop (seventh different team) along his MLB journey. Kratz is 38 and on his ninth stop (seventh different team) along his MLB journey.

In fact, Ross and Kratz are so intertwined, they've already been compared to each other by MLB.com.

But the major difference is Kratz has zero postseason playing experience until a week ago. Will he be able to ride off into the sunset with a championship ring on his finger the way Ross did?

We'll have an answer to that over the next few weeks in the final chapter of the Brewers' 2018 season, though Cubs fans surely wouldn't be too happy to see their division rivals celebrating with a World Series parade just 90 minutes north of Wrigley Field.

Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde interviewed for Rangers' manager opening

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USA TODAY

Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde interviewed for Rangers' manager opening

The Cubs just lost one coach with hitting coach Chili Davis getting fired. Another opening on Joe Maddon's coaching staff could also open up.

According to report from MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan, bench coach Brandon Hyde interviewed with the Rangers on Thursday.

Rangers farm director Jayce Tingler was the first candidate the club interviewed, but Hyde and Astros bench coach Joe Espada were also interviewed.

The 45-year-old Hyde has been with the Cubs since 2014. He was a bench coach in 2014 under Rick Renteria before moving to first base coach from 2015-17. This past season he moved back to his original role as bench coach.

He played four seasons in the minors for the White Sox.

The Rangers job opened up when Jeff Banister was fired on Sept. 21. Banister won AL Manager of the Year in 2015 and guided the Rangers to back-to-back playoff appearances in 2015 and 2016, but couldn't get out of the ALDS either year. A 78-84 season in 2017 was followed by an even worse 2018, which led to his firing late this season.