Cubs

Mistakes doom Jake Arrieta, Cubs as winning streak comes to a close

Mistakes doom Jake Arrieta, Cubs as winning streak comes to a close

The Cubs can't come out on the right side of every one-run ballgame.

After five straight wins, the Cubs looked imperfect in a 3-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants in front of 41,250 people at Wrigley Field Saturday.

The Jake Arrieta-Madison Bumgarner matchup proved to be a solid pitcher's duel, but Arrieta and the Cubs gifted the Giants all three runs.

Tommy La Stella - inserted into the lineup when Jorge Soler was a late scratch - committed a throwing error in the first inning to hand the Giants their first run.

In the third, two Arrieta wild pitches put Joe Panik on third base for Eduardo Nunez's seeing-eye single into shallow right field.

In the fourth, Brandon Crawford singled, stole second, jetted to third when the Cubs left the bag vacant on a shift and then scored on another Arrieta wild pitch.

"You knew coming in it's going to be a close game," Arrieta said. "Probably a one-run ballgame. We just got outplayed today. They made a few more plays than we did.

"[The mistakes] happen from time to time. Obviously you'd like to see it happen as infrequent as possible. It's not very common with our group of guys. You don't expect to see those things often."

The Cubs had a ninth inning rally killed when Anthony Rizzo - inserted into the game in the eighth inning - got caught too far off second base on Dexter Fowler's bunt and was thrown out trying to get back to the bag.

"Intense game. It was a great game," Joe Maddon said. "You can nitpick it all you want; I loved that game. That's very similar to a playoff situation.

"Things don't always go right or according to plan. I think the one thing you'd like to get back is Crawford going to third base unencumbered. But otherwise, things are going to happen. You're going to have a wild pitch or a passed ball. Rizzo is trying to be aggressive there - you'd rather he had not, but he did. 

"But I love the intensity and the passion of the game. Why not? If we play with that kind of heart every night, I will take it."

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Despite the miscues, Arrieta had an overall solid outing - three runs (two earned) on four hits and a pair of walks against seven strikeouts in six innings. But he picked up his sixth loss of the season in the process, his first defeat in September since Sept. 7, 2013.

Arrieta's season ERA sits at 2.84 and he's in the running for the National League Cy Young Award, but he's still coming under scrutiny for falling short of the ridiculous stretch he went on in the second half of last season.

"I hear it, but that doesn't affect my play," he said. "The mindset is the same, the objective is the same - to execute a gameplan, to keep our team in the game and ultimately win the game. 

"For me, the outing was average. It's still good enough to keep us in the game. Just came up a little short. That's all."

Maddon tried to explain Arrieta's so-called "struggles" before Saturday's outing.

"I'm not concerned. He's pitching pretty well," Maddon said. "It's hard to nail down on everything all the time perfectly. Last year, we saw near-perfection. We really did. It was just crazy how good he was.

"... For a variety of reasons, this game is very difficult. Things get off just a little bit and sometimes you don't even realize. I want to believe and I do believe that eventually he'll get back into it. I know they're working on different things right now.

"I just think that's the nature of the game. They're not robots. They're not computer-chipped where they can be programmed to do something specifically. But I'll take everything else he's done. It's still another spectacular year. It's easy to nitpick him based on what he had done last year."

The Cubs scratched together two runs off Bumgarner in six innings - the first coming on a heads-up play from Javy Baez to score on Arrieta's infield dribbler and the second on Baez's sacrifice fly.

But Bumgarner struck out 10 in his six innings and improved to 2-0 with a 1.32 ERA against the Cubs this season. In his career, he is 8-2 with a 2.25 ERA in 12 starts against the Cubs.

The only saving grace for the Cubs lineup Saturday was they forced Bumgarner out of the game in six innings after 103 pitches.

"He was very good," Maddon said. "I think he took advantage of our youth a little bit. You gotta start guessing for a while. But we got his pitch number up. We got him out of there in time.

"Maybe the approach needs to get a little bit better against him in the future. The passion and everything else was there and I'll take that every day of the week. 

"As young players are developing into better major-league players, as long as they're showing up and they're right there, I'll take it."

Willson Contreras, expert at going viral, tells hilarious profanity-laced story from 2019

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USA TODAY

Willson Contreras, expert at going viral, tells hilarious profanity-laced story from 2019

Willson Contreras and viral moments at Cubs Convention go hand-in-hand.

At the team’s annual fan festival in 2018, Contreras stole the show with a story from the 2017 season. During a mound visit against the Cardinals, the Cubs catcher gave profanity-laced advice to Jon Lester, the Cubs starter who rarely throws pickoffs due to a serious case of the yips.

"I went out there and I said, 'Hey motherf--ker, throw the f--king ball to first,'” Contreras recalled in January 2018.

Contreras stole the show again Saturday, telling a story about a moment against the Cardinals — this time from the 2019 season.

“So last year, we were facing the Cardinals and I started talking to [Marcell] Ozuna,” Contreras said. “He told me ‘Just call a fastball right down the middle.’ [And I said] ‘Yeah okay, I will.’ Then I called the fastball and he took it.

“I told him ‘What the f— are you talking about? Just hit the ball, just hit it.’

“He asked me ‘Just call it again.’ And I did it. He took it. Swing the [bat]. I called a third pitch and it was a strikeout. And then next time it was like just ‘Shut up,” or something."

Warning: graphic language

How Contreras will top this at 2021 Cubs Convention is uncertain, but considering he now has two viral moments on his resume, we can be sure the next one will be just as amazing.

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Cubs announce plans for extended protective netting at Wrigley Field for 2020

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USA TODAY

Cubs announce plans for extended protective netting at Wrigley Field for 2020

Baseball fans will be more protected than ever at Wrigley Field this season.

Saturday, Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney announced the club is extending protective netting at Wrigley Field to the elbows of the ballpark. Essentially, it will stretch a bit past where the old on-field bullpens were and stop before the walls in the left and right field corners.

Kenney added the extensions will be ready by Opening Day.

Last month, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced all 30 ballparks will extend their netting for the 2020 season. Manfred didn’t specify which teams would do what, but he said netting at each stadium would extend “substantially beyond the end of the dugout.”

With pitchers throwing harder than ever and batter exit velocities are through the roof, fans have little time to react in the stands when a ball is launched their way. It’s nearly impossible to avoid getting hit, even for those paying attention.

The Cubs have experienced this firsthand. In a game against the Astros last season, an Albert Almora Jr. foul ball struck a 2-year-old at Minute Maid Park. That young girl has a permanent brain injury, her family’s attorney announced earlier this month, an injury that affects her body similar to how a stroke would.

Almora was visibly shaken after the incident and said Friday at Cubs Convention it weighed heavily on him for the first couple of days.

“After that I had no other choice but to move forward,” Almora said. “But I always have that in the back of my mind. Every update that does come up, I am on there and I am seeing all of this."

Almora said he’s tried reaching out to the family but is respecting their privacy. As a father of two himself, he said there’s no reason to even think of his sons getting hurt while attending a game.

“Obviously prayers go out to the family. It’s unfortunate, and like I said before, that should never happen on a baseball field."

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