In his latest comeback, Ryan Kalish comes through in Cubs' comeback win

In his latest comeback, Ryan Kalish comes through in Cubs' comeback win

The story of Ryan Kalish’s baseball career is one of bad breaks and several unfortunately necessary comebacks.

But maybe Saturday’s two-run, pinch-hit single can be the start of a new, better chapter.

Fitting that it was one of the biggest hits in a comeback win.

In just his fourth game back in the big leagues after taking 2015 off to get healthy, Kalish stepped to the plate with the Cubs down a run, the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth inning. He delivered a bloop single that fell out of the reach of a diving Danny Espinosa at shortstop, driving in two runs and giving the Cubs a lead.

Not a bad way to cap his latest comeback.

“This is what it’s all about. This is what I’ve been working for during that whole year off,” Kalish said Saturday. “This team is so much fun to play for, when you get a moment like that, just to contribute, it was so much fun out there. The energy when that happened, I can’t even describe what I felt.”

Of course, this isn’t Kalish’s first comeback.

Theo Epstein’s front office drafted Kalish into the Boston Red Sox organization way back in 2006, and in 2007 a pitch broke a bone in Kalish’s wrist and forced him to miss the rest of the minor league season.

He cracked the big leagues in 2010 as one of Boston’s most highly touted prospects, appearing in 53 games. Injured multiple times in 2011, he played in just 24 minor league games. He played in just 36 big league games in 2012 after offseason surgery, and he missed the entire 2013 season recovering from another surgery.

In 2014, he played 57 games for Epstein and the Cubs in his first stint on the North Side. But he left to sign elsewhere, health issues preventing him from signing a minor league deal with the Toronto Blue Jays. So he didn’t play much at all in 2015, appearing in no major or minor league games, taking time off to get healthy. He tried out in the spring and signed a minor league deal with the Cubs in March, getting the call back to the bigs earlier this week.

“I didn’t really expect it, so that’s what makes it special for me. I feel like I’m playing with house money,” Kalish said. “I didn’t expect to even get a shot, and now I’m here. It’s great.

“Actually it was pretty relaxed. I’ve been called up before, and I’ve made comebacks before. And you get all hyped up, and you get a little too nervous, too many nerves. So it was nice to just kind of feel relaxed and know that all the work was good. Obviously the level is better, but everything’s the same, the dimensions are the same, it’s the same game. I feel like the more you keep that in perspective the better.”

Kalish got on base twice and scored a run in his first start Thursday. But Saturday’s moment was obviously a bigger deal, given the circumstances.

“I was so happy for him. He’s one of my favorite teammates of all time,” third baseman Kris Bryant said Sunday. “I got the chance to play with him in Triple-A a lot. He just brings it every day, even if he’s not feeling good. I know he’s had a lot of injuries. For him to be up here making his journey back here — I think he had to have a tryout in spring training just to make a team. For him to be up here, I’m so happy for him and I hope he’s here for a long time.”

“The guys know, they know about him. They know what he's done, why he’s here. And they know he’s going to go up there and give you a pro at-bat, which he did,” manager Joe Maddon said. “So of course the guys are pulling for him. You just can’t help but pull for the guy. With good health, this guy’s a good baseball player, he knows what he’s doing out there.”

Kalish’s contribution was a big deal in the perspective of his career and what he’s been through, but it was yet another example of the Cubs getting a contribution from an unexpected source.

This team has made a habit of that, with guys like Tommy La Stella and David Ross playing just as big of roles as the usual suspects like Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist and Dexter Fowler.

As Maddon said Saturday, you don’t have a 23-6 record without a strong bench. On this team with World Series expectations, it’s crucial to get contributions from everywhere, even guys just up from the minor leagues. Chalk it up to talent, sure, but also to the atmosphere Maddon and the players have created.

“It’s contagious in here. There’s confidence brewing in all aspects,” Kalish said. “The more everyone gets out there, the better. When you see guys like Tommy and people making names for themselves, it’s really good to watch.”

Saturday, everyone got to watch him.

“Everyone in this clubhouse is pulling for me, you can feel it,” Kalish said. “What I was told by Joe and everyone was, ‘When your name’s called, let’s win.’ What happened today, that was a part of it.”

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.