Cubs put on a home run clinic to sweep Diamondbacks


Cubs put on a home run clinic to sweep Diamondbacks

Kris Bryant hit a 495-foot homer, but it wasn't even the biggest blast of the day for the Cubs.

Miguel Montero hit a grand slam and Jonathan Herrera hit a pinch-hit homer in the sixth as the Cubs (78-57) finished off a sweep of the Diamondbacks (65-72) with a 6-4 victory in front of 41,183 fans at Wrigley Field Saturday.

Montero - whom the Cubs acquired from Arizona over the winter - had a single and a walk against his former team apart from the game-winning grand slam that followed a Bryant walk in the sixth.

"Every win is important," Montero said. "At this point, you can't really think of other things. You just have to think about winning and the rest will take care of itself."

Bryant got things started with his record-setting shot in the fifth inning, crushing an 0-2 pitch from Arizona starter Rubby De La Rosa off the top of the video board in left field.

[WATCH: Kris Bryant puts the rest of baseball to shame with absurd homer]

Kyle Hendricks started for the Cubs and allowed only one run in five innings, but the game was still tied when he exited so Justin Grimm earned the win.

The Diamondbacks mounted a little rally in the bottom of the ninth as former Cub Welington Castillo homered and then Arizona shortstop Nick Ahmed hit a two-run blast three batters later.

The Cubs are 17-4 at home over their last 21 games and have hit homers in 15 straight contests at Wrigley Field.

Bryant and the Cubs also lead the majors with 48 homers over their last 24 games, dating back to Aug. 12.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the stretch run, Cubs fans!]

The Cubs head to St. Louis Monday for an important three-game series against the Cardinals, riding the momentum from this sweep.

"It's big. You want to go in with momentum," Hendricks said. "We've been playing well lately, so just winning ballgames is huge. Keeps the morale up around and just going in there with some momentum is good for us."

Cubs executive Jason McLeod reportedly linked to Giants' GM opening


Cubs executive Jason McLeod reportedly linked to Giants' GM opening

Is this the offseason that Cubs executive Jason McLeod finally becomes an MLB general manager?

According to Bruce Levine, the Giants are reportedly interested in McLeod, the Cubs senior vice president of scouting and player development, for their vacant general manager position.

McLeod joined the Cubs' front office in 2011 alongside Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. Before the Cubs, he spent six years in the Red Sox front office and two in the Padres' (with Hoyer, who was San Diego's general manager from 2010-2011). 

Of course, the Giants' reported interest in McLeod doesn't necessarily mean that he will interview for the job. However, it's worth noting that McLeod interviewed for the Twins' general manager job in 2016; he also withdrew his name from consideration for the Padres' general manager job in 2014. 

In addition to the Giants, McLeod's name has been linked to the Mets' general manager vacancy. This is more speculation, but the point is that it seems to be only a matter of time before McLeod is hired as general manager elsewhere.

For what it's worth, though, McLeod is under contract through 2021 and has previously said that he is grateful to be with the Cubs. 

“I’m exceptionally grateful,” McLeod said. “All of us are. Look at where we are at this moment in time with this team," McLeod said in 2016. "I can’t imagine a better environment, a better culture to work at in baseball.

"We’ve been together a long time. We’re friends. We’re good. We embrace the fact that we are good. And we challenge ourselves to be even better.”

Cubs have new hitting coach in Anthony Iapoce

Cubs have new hitting coach in Anthony Iapoce

The Cubs are heading into a new season with a different hitting coach for the second straight winter, but the most recent choice is a familiar face.

Anthony Iapoce is set to join Joe Maddon's coaching staff this week after serving in the same capacity with the Texas Rangers for the last three seasons. The Cubs confirmed the move Monday afternoon shortly after the news broke out of the Rangers camp.

The Cubs fired Chili Davis last week after just one season as the team's hitting coach.

Entering the final week of the season, the Rangers fired manager Jeff Banister, leaving Iapoce and the rest of the Texas coaching staff in limbo.

As such, Iapoce is rejoining the Cubs, where he served as a special assistant to the General Manager from 2013-15 focusing on player development, particularly in the hitting department throughout the minor leagues.

Iapoce has familiarity with a bunch of the current star offensive players on the Cubs, from Willson Contreras to Kris Bryant. 

Both Bryant and Contreras endured tough 2018 seasons at the plate, which was a huge reason for the Cubs' underperforming lineup. Bryant's issue was more related to a left shoulder injured suffered in mid-May while Contreras' offensive woes remain a major question mark after the young catcher looked to be emerging as a legitimate superstar entering the campaign.

Getting Contreras back to the hitter that put up 21 homers and 74 RBI in only 117 games in 2017 will be one of the main goals for Iapoce, so the history between the two could be a key.

With the Rangers, Iapoce oversaw an offense that ranked 7th, 9th and 14th in MLB in runs scored over the last three seasons. The decline in offensive production is obviously not a great sign, but the Rangers as a team have fallen off greatly since notching the top seed in the AL playoffs in 2016 with 95 wins only to lose 95 games in 2018, resulting in the change at manager.

Iapoce has worked with an offense backed by Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Shin-Soo Choo, Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo the last few seasons.

Under Iapoce's tutelage, former top prospect Jurickson Profar shed any notion of a "bust" label and emerged as a budding star at age 25, collecting 61 extra-base hits with a .793 OPS in 2018.

When the Cubs let Davis go last week, they provided no update on assistant hitting coach Andy Haines, who just finished his first season in that role and is expected to remain with the team for 2019. The same offseason Iapoce left for the Rangers, Haines took over as the Cubs' minor league hitting instructor.