Cubs

Joe Maddon speaks for Cubs fans when it comes to Daniel Murphy

Joe Maddon speaks for Cubs fans when it comes to Daniel Murphy

Daniel Murphy's name will always elicit groans from Cubs fans.

It doesn't matter that the Cubs won it all in 2016. Murphy's dominance over the North Siders in the 2015 National League Championship Series will serve as a black mark in the franchise's history. 

Forget the fact that the Cubs hit just .164 with a .522 OPS against the New York Mets in the four games.

It was Murphy's performance — four homers, nine hits, 1.850 OPS — that sticks in the crawl of the fanbase, to the point where he still gets booed when he visits Wrigley Field.

Murphy will once again meet the Cubs in October, hitting in the middle of a relentless Washington Nationals lineup.

Joe Maddon spoke for every Cubs fan when he was asked about Murphy Wednesday.

"I still wish he was a Met," Maddon chuckled. "There's no question, I do. He was so good a couple years ago. He's still very good. He's outstanding. He has really reinvented himself during the middle of his career. He's one of the more dangerous hitters playing baseball right now."

Murphy — who signed a three-year, $37.5 million deal with Washington after the Mets lost to the Kansas City Royals in the 2015 World Series — didn't homer last fall, but he did hit .438 and drive in six runs in the Nationals' five-game NLDS loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Jon Lester will be tasked with slowing down Murphy and the Nationals lineup Saturday in Game 2 and the Cubs veteran southpaw said he believes the team has done better against Murphy lately.

While he's technically right, it's only because Murphy's 2015 NLCS numbers were so out-of-this-world.

In 2017, Murphy hit .360 with a 1.229 OPS in seven games against Cubs pitching, hitting three homers, driving in four runs and scoring nine. 

Lester and Co. had better luck in 2016, when Murphy hit *only* .286 with a .726 OPS and did not homer in seven games against the Cubs.

"What makes him even more dangerous now is the guys around him," Lester said. "You think, 'Hey, I don't wanna pitch to [Bryce] Harper and this guy' and then all of a sudden, you got first and second or second and third with him up.

"And he's such a good contact hitter that it makes it hard to strike him out and it makes it harder to get those weak ground balls. 

"...That'll be fun to face that lineup. It's a good lineup. He flat-out beat us in '15. Hopefully that's not the case this go-around."

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 31st homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 31st homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa's 18th homer of June and 31st of the season came off the Tigers in the Cubs' brief 2-game Interleague series in Detroit. 

Sosa connected in the first inning off Tigers starter Seth Greisinger, going back-to-back with Mickey Morandini. 

The Cubs wound up getting out to a 5-0 start in the game but still lost 7-6 on a Gabe Alvarez single in the bottom of the 11th.

The aforementioned Morandini homer was only the 3rd of the season for the Cubs second baseman. He finished with 8 homers on the year and 224 total bases on 172 hits in what was a very good offensive season. Yet it paled in comparison to Sosa, who had nearly 200 more total bases (416) and a slugging percentage nearly 200 points above Morandini's (.647 to .471), a testament to how truly incredible Sosa's season was.

Fun fact: Tony Clark was the Tigers' cleanup hitter that day. Clark is now the head of the MLB Players Union.

Fun fact No. 2: Paul Bako was the Detroit catcher in the game. He later became the Cubs backup catcher in 2003 and 2004, when he posted a .611 OPS in 119 games over the two years.

Maddon gets funky with bullpen, calls catcher Chris Gimenez to mound

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USA TODAY

Maddon gets funky with bullpen, calls catcher Chris Gimenez to mound

The Cubs continued their recent struggles, suffering their third straight loss to the Cincinnati Reds. 

But the game was not without its fair share of drama. The matchup was a back-and-forth affair, up until the Reds blew the game wide-open in the bottom of the third inning. This included a grand slam by Reds pitcher Anthony DeSclafani, the first home run of his career.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon turned to the bullpen following Cincinnati's third inning explosion, and things did not get much better from there.

With the Cubs down six runs in the bottom of the eight inning, Maddon brought in catcher Chris Gimenez to pitch. 

This was not new territory for Gimenez, who despite being a catcher, now has 10 MLB pitching appearances to his name. 

Down six runs, Gimenez didn't have a lot to lose. But Reds first basemen Joey Votto hammered a fastball in the zone for his eighth homer of the year.

Gimenez had a career ERA of 8.00 before Saturday's appearance, and he certainly didn't do much to help lower that figure.

According to ESPN's Jesse Rogers: "Including one today, Cubs relievers have allowed 41.1 percent of inherited runners to score in June, sixth most in the NL." 

A tired bullpen is certainly cause for concern for the Cubs, who are locked into a battle in the NL Central with the Brewers and Cardinals. Maddon was surely hoping to keep his bullpen arms fresh with the move, seeing as the game was already out of reach. 

So yes, the game did end in a 11-2 win for the Reds. But with a grand-slam by a pitcher—on his first career HR no less—and four-seam fastballs from a catcher, Cubs baseball always keep things interesting.