Cubs

Cubs understand there's still a growing process with Javy Baez despite playoff breakout

Cubs understand there's still a growing process with Javy Baez despite playoff breakout

Javy Baez swung and missed, unable to catch up to a 94 mph Cody Allen fastball above the hands, sending Cubs fans to the streets of Wrigleyville with a bad taste in their mouths.

Baez struck out with runners on second and third despite Allen throwing only one pitch in the strike zone throughout the at-bat.

It was Baez's fifth strikeout in 13 World Series at-bats as he expanded the strike zone, admitting after the game he was over-anxious.

He wasn't the only one.

The Cubs were swinging at pitches out of the strike zone all night, dropping a heartbreaker 1-0 to the Cleveland Indians in the first World Series game Wrigley Field has seen since 1945.

Joe Maddon sent a message to his team after the Game 3 loss, urging his guys to re-organize the strike zone and get back to their approach.

Baez acknowledged he was trying to do too much up at the plate instead of keeping the same approach that led him to a .342 average and .892 OPS in the first 10 games of the postseason.

"First of all, I love the fact that he's honest about it," Maddon said. "I really dig that. That's how you get better - the accountability component. 

"He just needs repetition. He's been good. Look what he did in San Francisco. Look what he did against the Dodgers. He's been really good in the postseason. He won an award."

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For the co-NLCS MVP and the guy who drove in seven runs in the NLDS and NLCS, the 23-year-old Baez has started to show his age in the World Series.

Maddon bumped Baez down to eighth in the order for Game 4 Saturday against Corey Kluber and believes Baez will right the ship.

"What that requires more than anything is just talking to him," Maddon said. "Having him getting back to the approach that made him so successful for the last two series in the latter part of the season. That's it.

"There's no more work to do. There's no more information, data, all the stuff that everybody wants you to really inundate yourself with. 

"It's just a mindset. It's controlling your emotions. It's controlling your mind. It's having the right plan in place. It's being self-aware."

Maddon kept coming back to the fact Baez admitted his struggles in talking with the media late Friday night.

"Listen, I love this guy," Maddon said. "We all do. He's spectacular. He's going to keep getting better, but I love the accountability component from him."

Cubs map out next steps for closer Craig Kimbrel

Cubs map out next steps for closer Craig Kimbrel

Craig Kimbrel is one step closer to joining the Cubs bullpen.

According to Patrick Mooney of The Athletic, Kimbrel will join Triple-A Iowa and make his first appearance on Tuesday, against the Sacramento River Cats.

While the Cubs officially signed him on June 7, Kimbrel has yet to pitch in actual games. The 31-year-old has been in a condensed spring training program at the Cubs' Arizona complex, throwing live batting practice on both Thursday and Saturday.

The Cubs haven't revealed an official timeline for Kimbrel to join the 25-man roster, as they are basing things off of how he feels. The expectation is he will pitch in about five games with Iowa before joining the Cubs. However, both Theo Epstein and Kimbrel acknowledged how the goal isn't to rush the closer back into MLB action.

"We're not gonna rush it," Epstein said. "It's gonna be tempting to get him here as soon as possible, but we're trying to plan this thing the right way so that he could be in a position to succeed not just immediately but in October. That's gonna be our guiding principle as we go."

"We sat down and put a gameplan together — something to work off of," Kimbrel said. "But at the end of the day, it's based off how I recover, how I get ready. This isn't about getting back on the field as fast as I can. This is about being the best that I can be in October and down the stretch and doing what I came here to do for this team."

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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.