Cubs

Jorge Soler adds another dimension to Cubs lineup looking ahead to October

Jorge Soler adds another dimension to Cubs lineup looking ahead to October

Jorge Soler isn’t a finished product or the most polished hitter, but he’s someone the other team has to account for, a fast-twitch athlete with the power to change a game with one swing.

That’s exactly what Soler did for the Cubs during Wednesday night’s 6-1 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field, crushing Jimmy Nelson’s 93-mph fastball and driving it into the back of the left-center field bleachers, nearly hitting the bottom of the video board with a three-run homer.

That became the exclamation point to a five-run, first-inning blitz that allowed Jon Lester to go into cruise-control mode and gave the bullpen a breather the day after a doubleheader. Soler might not ever be able to do this for 150 games and 600 at-bats a year – the injury-prone label sticks – but he can be a dangerous hitter in a short playoff series.

Just look at what Soler did to the St. Louis Cardinals last October, setting a new major-league record by getting on base in his first nine career postseason plate appearances and hitting two homers in four games.

“Presence,” said Lester (13-4, 2.86 ERA), who pitched into the seventh inning and limited the Brewers to one run and three hits. “He’s a big feller.

“(It) adds to that pitcher having to work to get to the bottom of that order, (because) guys aren’t allowed to take breaks. That’s the biggest thing. Tonight (against the Brewers), you get to the bottom of the order, you’re like: ‘OK, I got this guy, I got this guy, then I got the pitcher.’ And you feel like you can navigate. I don’t feel like you can do that with our lineup.

“It’s very, very deep. And I think that plays well into October, and hopefully to where we can use different matchups as far as the DH.”

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Yes, the didn’t-come-here-for-a-haircut Cubs are already thinking about the World Series, moving to 33 games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2008 season and keeping a 12.5-game lead over the Cardinals in the division.

Soler embraced that playoff pressure last year, admitting he played with sharper focus, and the Cubs might need another big bat with Kyle Schwarber unable to hammer pitches onto video boards and Jason Heyward enduring one of the worst offensive seasons in baseball this year.

“When George is swinging it well, he’s a huge part of this team,” said David Ross, who also homered off Nelson in the third inning. “He’s a presence with the power he has – and how well he hits lefties – and now he’s hitting righties. He’s just not missing the ball. You can tell he’s locked in.

“It makes our lineup that much deeper. When he was out, from the catcher’s standpoint, you see that the lineup’s shortening. Once you get past a certain guy, then it’s a little easier to navigate the lineup.”

After missing almost two months with a strained hamstring, Soler has gone 11-for-29 with a double, four homers and 10 RBI in 10 games since coming off the disabled list, adding another dimension to the best team in baseball.

“That’s why the ball is being struck as well as it is – he’s really staying in the zone,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s been very patient. That’s something (our hitting coaches) promote with all of our hitters. But with him, it’s really obvious. When he’s in the zone, when he’s not permitting the pitcher to expand, he’s really good.”  

Kyle Hendricks takes in a Blackhawks game with... Bastian Schweinsteiger?

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NBC Sports Chicago

Kyle Hendricks takes in a Blackhawks game with... Bastian Schweinsteiger?

A Cubs pitcher taking in a Blackhawks game in a suite is nothing special, but doing so with a World Cup winner is... different.

Kyle Hendricks was spotted by the cameras of Thursday's Blackhawks-Coyotes broadcast on NBC Sports Chicago. The guy he was standing next to was none other than Chicago Fire midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, a World Cup with Germany and Champions League winner with Bayern Munich.

Hendricks is known for being reserved on the mound and in his interviews with the media. Meanwhile, Schweinsteiger was filmed yelling "Bear Down" in the hallway of Toyota Park after a Fire practice earlier in the day.

There's no telling what inspired Schweinsteiger to do this, but he has definitely embraced Chicago sports teams since joining the Fire in March of 2017.

Makes you wonder what Hendricks and Schweinsteiger were talking about. Best places to get brats in Chicago?

Ben Zobrist provides a hilarious glimpse into how he's spending a free October

Ben Zobrist provides a hilarious glimpse into how he's spending a free October

Ben Zobrist won't win the Comeback Player of the Year award this winter, but maybe he can take home a Grammy for Best New Artist?

The Cubs veteran infielder/outfielder posted a hilarious video on his Instagram Wednesday night showcasing how he's been spending October after the Cubs were unceremoniously ousted from the playoffs after on the third day of the month.

It's a fantastic music video of Zobrist lip-syncing to Mumford & Sons' "I Will Wait" while he nearly knocks the TV off the wall of his home by swinging the bat indoors pretending to hit off Clayton Kershaw and frolicking around a field that looks shockingly similar to Hershel's farm from the second season of "The Walking Dead":

View this post on Instagram

It always takes me a few weeks to process the season and begin the offseason. Here are my thoughts.....along with a unique way of making light of the postseason that should have been......... (special thanks to @dimtillard for help with Video) Maybe you feel the way I do. It was a very quick and abrupt ending to a good season for us. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But let’s not forget all the good that happened. This game and this team gives us something to pass the time, to express our love and passion, to feel the joy of the wins and the pains of the losses, and it calls us to unity when we so easily can be divided about so many other things. Each game is a microcosm of life. The game itself is not Life, but it helps us deal with life in a way. I’m thankful for even the painful losses at the end. The game can be a great teacher. I felt privileged to play with this team and play for our fans all year. We were stretched and we grew in new ways as individuals and as a group and that is always a good thing. We strive to win championships, but more often the process is the goal. We will be stronger because of all that we went through this year. What will I do now? I will travel and watch my wife crush her book tour. I will be in and out of Chi-town. I just got back home to Franklin, TN. I will find joy in raising and watching my kids grow and continue becoming their own person. I will rest and begin preparing for next season. I will work hard in mind, body, and spirit. I will help other players with @patriotforward and @showandgo. I will focus on personal growth and charitable endeavors and become a better man, teammate, friend, and player. To Baseball and Fans: For the next 5 months until I play next year.... I will wait for you....

A post shared by Ben Zobrist (@benzobrist18) on

Zobrist also posted a lengthy caption on his perspective on the Cubs' disappointing end to the season:

It always takes me a few weeks to process the season and begin the offseason. Here are my thoughts.....along with a unique way of making light of the postseason that should have been......... (special thanks to @dimtillard for help with Video) 
Maybe you feel the way I do. It was a very quick and abrupt ending to a good season for us. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But let’s not forget all the good that happened. This game and this team gives us something to pass the time, to express our love and passion, to feel the joy of the wins and the pains of the losses, and it calls us to unity when we so easily can be divided about so many other things. Each game is a microcosm of life. The game itself is not
Life, but it helps us deal with life in a way. I’m thankful for even the painful losses at the end. The game can be a great teacher. 
I felt privileged to play with this team and play for our fans all year. We were stretched and we grew in new ways as individuals and as a group and that is always a good thing. We strive to win championships, but more often the process is the goal. We will be stronger because of all that we went through this year. 
What will I do now? I will travel and watch my wife crush her book tour. I will be in and out of Chi-town. I just got back home to Franklin, TN. I will find joy in raising and watching my kids grow and continue becoming their own person. I will rest and begin preparing for next season. I will work hard in mind, body, and spirit. I will help other players with @patriotforward and @showandgo. I will focus on personal growth and charitable endeavors and become a better man, teammate, friend, and player. 
To Baseball and Fans: For the next 5 months until I play next year....
I will wait for you....

Come for the Zobrist lip sync, but stay for the 37-year-old using a bat as a guitar while wearing a sleeveless shirt and rocking an old-timey top hat.

A year ago, Zobrist completely reshaped his offseason workout plan after three straight years of playing deep into October. It appears he's added another new trick to his winter workout — hopping over fences even though there is a clear opening just a foot away.

Hey, whatever works...