Late Cubs fireworks turn one-time no-hitter to wild comeback win

Late Cubs fireworks turn one-time no-hitter to wild comeback win

Joe Maddon took off his now-iconic black-framed glasses, looked at them to make sure they weren't rose-colored and flashed a smile to the standing-room-only media crowd on hand in the newly-refurbished press room.

The manager had just been boasting about his team for 15 straight minutes, talking up every aspect of the organization — from baserunning to the state-of-the-art clubhouse — before a reporter asked him if there was anything that wasn't rosy with this club right now (besides the obvious Kyle Schwarber injury).

Of course Maddon had an amusing response, but hours later, his team almost made the reporter look clairvoyant, needing a late comeback to beat the Cincinnati Reds 5-3 in front of 40,882 fans in the Wrigley Field opener.

On a night when both Maddon and Theo Epstein talked up the depth and quality of the lineup, the Cubs didn't pick up their first hit until two outs in the seventh inning when David Ross stroked a two-strike pitch into left-center.

Three batters later — after two walks and a pair of pitching changes — a fan set off fireworks on Addison St. beyond the center-field scoreboard, prompting free-agent prize Jason Heyward to ignite some offensive firepower of his own with a two-out, two-run single.

"I did see some fireworks when I was on third base," Ross said. "Me and [Cubs third base coach Gary Jones] were trying to figure out what the heck was going on out there."

Addison Russell gave the Cubs the lead for good with a three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth on the first pitch he saw from Reds reliever Jumbo Diaz.

"We had good at-bats the whole game," Maddon said. "I'll give their pitcher a lot of credit - he had an outstanding game. We hit some balls well. Our geometry was bad; early on in the game, itwas at everybody."

For the second straight year, Jon Lester got the ball in the first home game of the season and left with the Cubs losing.

Lester pitched well enough to earn the minimum qualifications for a quality start (six innings, three earned runs), striking out five while allowing five hits and a walk on 102 pitches. He surrendered a two-strike homer to light-hitting Billy Hamilton in the third inning and a two-out RBI single to Reds pitcher Brandon Finnegan.

"I think I was just a little over-amped in the first, overthrowing a little bit," Lester said. "The ball flattened out on me. Settled in a little bit. I felt like I made a good pitch to Billy Hamilton there and he hit it out. It is what it is.

"It was a little bit of a grind. Didn't have a lot to go off of. A lot of 1-0 counts, which is just never good. These guys are swinging the bats really well right now. When you're constantly behind, it just makes you work even harder.

"The biggest thing is I kept us in close enough to come back and win. That was huge."

The Cubs tallied just three hits on the evening, but found a way to grind out the victory to improve to 6-1 on the season.

Are the Cubs still in on Bryce Harper sweepstakes?

Are the Cubs still in on Bryce Harper sweepstakes?

On Thursday’s edition of the  “At The Yard Podcast”, Philadelphia Insider Jim Salisbury stated that he still feels the Yankees, Cubs and Dodgers are the three teams that are all still in the Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado sweepstakes.

He called all three franchises “very interested bystanders in one or both of these guys.”

Salisbury also mentioned that the St. Louis Cardinals could get in on the Manny Machado free agency if the figures for his alleged contract offer from the White Sox was correct, as reported this week.

This comes just days after Cubs skipper Joe Maddon said “not going to happen” in regards to the North Siders going after Harper. And at the Cubs Convention, Tom Ricketts said “we didn't have the flexibility this year to go sign a huge free agent and I'm not sure we would have anyway, to be honest.”

All signs—coming from the Cubs at least—point to them not being in on Harper with all of their current financial commitments, yet reports continue to pour out stating that the Cubs are still monitoring his situation closely. On time will tell, but it certainly seems foolish to count Chicago out at this point.

According to Salisbury, the Cubs have made it very clear to Harper’s representatives that after he receives all of his final offers from teams, he should make sure to “check back with us [the Cubs].”

Report: Theo Epstein faced pressure from Bryzzo to fire Chili Davis

Report: Theo Epstein faced pressure from Bryzzo to fire Chili Davis

It's been 99 days since the Cubs fired Chili Davis, but we're still hearing new reports on the reasoning behind the decision. 

The latest comes from SNY's John Harper, who explained why the New York Mets were so quick to hire Davis after he was fired from the Red Sox and Cubs in successive winters. 

The reasoning? According to Harper, Cubs president Theo Epstein was pressured to fire Davis by two of the team's most notable hitters — Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant:

Secondly, Cubs president Theo Epstein didn't really want to fire Davis, according to multiple sources, yet felt he had no choice but to give in to the wishes of at least a few of his star hitters, most notably Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.

"He caved," was the way one person close to the situation put it. "He's not happy about it. He thinks it's BS that the players complained about Chili, but he wasn't going to stick with his hitting coach just to make a point."

That is one strong quote on the matter by the "person close to the situation." 

While Davis himself admitted he didn't connect with a lot of the "millennial" players, it's tough to blame his departure solely on that drama.

The simple fact of the matter is Davis was brought in to limit the roller coaster nature of the Cubs lineup (by improving situational hitting, using the whole field, cutting down on strikeouts, etc.) yet the team still wound up leading baseball with 40 games of scoring 1 or fewer runs. It was the quiet offense that led to the Cubs' demise down the stretch in 2018 more than anything else.

Davis deserves credit for helping Javy Baez realize his potential and become an MVP candidate and the hitting coach also helped unlock a bit more offense out of Jason Heyward while overseeing a strong bounceback season from Ben Zobrist.

Rizzo got off to a very slow start to 2018, but he rebounded from May on and wound up having a season that looks very similar to the rest of his career. At this point, Rizzo is his own hitting coach in a lot of ways and he continues to fine-tune his approach at the plate regardless of who is in the position on the Cubs staff.

The Bryant inclusion here is interesting in that the main reason the former MVP had a down season was the shoulder injury that limited him to only 102 games and diminished his power. However, Bryant has always had a "launch angle" type approach instilled in him at a young age from his dad, and Davis wasn't exactly "anti-launch angle," but he prioritized contact over power at times.

In Davis' stead, the Cubs opted for Anthony Iapoce as the new hitting coach. He has a rapport with guys like Bryant, Baez and Willson Contreras dating back years to their time in the minor leagues, so it's a familiar face who already knows how to communicate effectively with the current roster.

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