Cubs

Garza: No quit, Cubs will fight to the end

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Garza: No quit, Cubs will fight to the end

Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Posted: 5:54 p.m. Updated: 7:01 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

There is only one way Matt Garza keeps score. He doesnt care about his personal record. He views it as a zero-sum game.

This is why Cubs general manager Jim Hendry spent weeks on the phone trying to pry Garza from the Tampa Bay Rays.

You could see it as the San Diego Padres froze at 94 mph fastballs, and flailed at 89 mph sliders darting toward the dirt. With the winds whipping around Wrigley Field, they looked helpless.

Garza deserved his first win in a Cubs uniform. He delivered six shutout innings on Wednesday afternoon, but this one wasnt decided until the 11th, when Reed Johnson smashed a 1-1 slider from Padres reliever Luke Gregerson.

The line drive landed in the left-field bleachers for a 2-1 walk-off victory in Game 1 of a doubleheader.

As long as at the end of the day we get that big W (on) our side, Garza said. Im here to get to October. Any way we can do it Im all for it. If I dont win a game all year, but we win my games, it doesnt bother me one bit.

The Cubs are expecting bigger and better things from Garza, a proven playoff performer who is under their control through 2013. But this was another step in the right direction.

It was 42 degrees at first pitch and Garza struck out five of the first seven batters he faced, and nine overall. He gave up six singles, three of which didnt leave the infield.

Garza who came into the game with a 6.27 ERA vowed that things were going to change. Not that the Cubs were overly concerned.

Hes pounded the strike zone, manager Mike Quade said. His idea of attacking hitters in this league and in this division is evolving, how he mixes his soft game with his fastball. (Hes) not off to a great start, but I think his history says that hes going to get better.

There was Garza standing alone on the mound. He took his hat off, rubbed his head and looked toward the sky. He took a long, deep breath.

The bases were loaded in the sixth because Garza had suddenly lost control and walked three batters. Just when it looked like things might unravel, he forced Brad Hawpe into a 4-6-3 inning-ending double play and started to pump his fist.

But ultimately this game was out of Garzas hands. These are the margins the Cubs are working with: Garza himself scored their first run and they had been shut out in his previous two starts.

In the long run, just pitch good, Quade said, and you believe the support will come.

Carlos Marmol blew the save the only way he knows how: walk, stolen base, bunt, sacrifice fly. When the closer fails, he says the other team got lucky.

The Padres didnt need a hard-hit ball to tie it in the ninth. It gave new life to a team that had gone 18 consecutive innings without scoring a run against the Cubs.

But with the pitching staff already stretched thin, Jeff Samardzija stepped up to throw two scoreless innings. He walked three and gave up two hits but managed to escape a bases-loaded jam in the 11th to earn the win.

Thats fine with Garza, who has brought an edge and a sense of intensity to this team.

Theres a lot of fight in us, Garza said. We dont quit after nine. We play hard until they ring that final bell and get that final out. Q told us in spring: We need to be resilient. Its definitely showing that we are.

Were fighters. Were not going to roll over. Were going to be scrappy until the end.

Box Score

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Jason Kipnis comes home looking to write one final chapter of his career

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USA Today

Jason Kipnis comes home looking to write one final chapter of his career

Jason Kipnis, who’s potentially the Cubs’ new second baseman but indisputably the pride of Northbrook, said there’s one major reason why his possible reunion with Wrigley Field is so exciting.

“Now I don’t have to hate the 'Go Cubs Go' song,” he quipped.

Kipnis was a late addition to the Cubs’ roster, and still not even a guaranteed one at that. After almost a decade spent being one of the Cleveland Indians’ cornerstones, Kipnis arrived in Mesa on a minor league contract, looking to win a job. Ironically, being with his hometown team is unfamiliar territory for the two-time All-Star. 

“[Leaving Cleveland] was hard at first,” he said. “You get used to the same place for 9-10 years, and I think it’s a little hard right now coming in and being the new guy and being lost and not knowing where to go. But it’ll be fun. It’s exciting. It’s kind of out of the comfort zone again, which is kind of what you want right now – to be uncomfortable. I don’t know, I’ve missed this feeling a little bit, so it’ll be good.”

It was a slow offseason for the second baseman, but the second baseman said that he was weighing offers from several teams. Opportunity and organizational direction dictated most of his decision-making, but Kipnis admitted that the forces around him were all, rather unsubtly, pulling him in one direction.

“They were telling me to take a deal, take a cut, whatever. Just get here,” he joked. “... It made sense, it really did. I think I didn't fully understand it until it was announced and my phone started blowing up and I realized just how many people this impacted around my life. Friends and family still live in Chicago, so it’s going to be exciting.”

The theme of renewed motivation has hung around Sloan Park like an early-morning Arizona chill, and Kipnis said part of the reason he feels the Cubs brought him in is to set a fire under some guys. He talked with Anthony Rizzo during the offseason, who talked about how the Cubs had struggled at times to put an appropriate emphasis on each of the 162 games in a regular season. That’s not a new problem in baseball, and it struck a chord with Kipnis, who himself was on plenty of talented Cleveland teams that never got over the hump. 

“They got a good core here. I’m well aware of that, they’re well aware of that, too,” he said. “I texted him and called him and asked him what happened last year, because I look at rosters, I look at St. Louis’, I look at all that, and I’m like, ‘I still would take your guys roster.’” 

As for his direct competition, Kipnis said he hasn’t had a chance to really get to know Nico Hoerner yet, but doesn’t feel like the battle for second base has to be a contentious one by any means. At 32, Kipnis has been around long enough to understand the dynamics an aging veteran vs. a top prospect, and doesn't feel like it’s a situation where only one of them will end up benefiting. 

“I know he came up and had a pretty good success, so I think [it’s] going to be a competition, but at the same time, I’m not going to try to put him down,” he said. “I’d like to work with him, kind of teach him what I know too and hopefully both of us become better from it.” 

According to Javy Baez, the Cubs need to improve their pregame focus

According to Javy Baez, the Cubs need to improve their pregame focus

While the Cubs’ decline has been talked about over and over again, it’s always been framed in relatively vague terms. Perhaps in the interest of protecting a former manager who is still well-liked within the clubhouse, specifics were always avoided. It was just a change that was needed.

That is, until Javy Baez spoke on Sunday morning. In no unclear terms, Baez took a stab at explaining why such a talented team has fallen short of expectations in back-to-back seasons. 

“It wasn’t something bad, but we had a lot of options – not mandatory,” Baez said from his locker at Sloan Park. “Everybody kind of sat back, including me, because I wasn’t really going out there and preparing for the game. I was getting ready during the game, which is not good. But this year, I think before the games we’ve all got to be out there, everybody out there, as a team. Stretch as a team, be together as a team so we can play together.”

Related: What to love, and hate, about the Cubs heading into 2020

The star shortstop's comments certainly track. Maddon is widely considered one of the better managers in baseball, but discipline and structure have never been key pillars of his leadership style. He intrinsically trusts players to get their own work done – something that's clearly an appreciated aspect of his personality... until it isn't. World Series hangovers don’t exist four years after the fact but given Maddon’s immediate success in Chicago, it’s easy to understand how players let off the gas pedal. 

“I mean I would just get to the field and instead of going outside and hit BP, I would do everything inside, which is not the same,” he said. “Once I’d go out to the game, I’d feel like l wasn’t ready. I felt like I was getting loose during the first 4 innings, and I should be ready and excited to get out before the first pitch.” 

“You can lose the game in the first inning. Sometimes when you’re not ready, and the other team scores by something simple, I feel like it was because of that. It was because we weren’t ready, we weren’t ready to throw the first pitch because nobody was loose.” 

Baez also promised that this year would be far more organized and rigid. They will stretch as a team, warm up outside as a team and hopefully rediscover that early-game focus that may have slipped away during the extended victory lap. That may mean less giant hacks, too. 

“Sometimes we’re up by a lot or down by a lot and we wanted to hit homers,” he said. “That’s really not going to work for the team. It’s about getting on base and giving the at-bat to the next guy, and sometimes we forget about that because of the situation of the game. I think that’s the way you get back to the game – going pitch by pitch and at-bat by at-bat.” 

Baez was less specific when it came to his contractual discussions with the team, only saying that negotiations were “up and down.” He’d like to play his whole career here and would be grateful if an extension was reached before Opening Day – he’s just not counting on it. The focus right now is on recapturing some of that 2016 drive and the rest, according to him, will take care of itself.

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