Cubs

Power outage: So far, Mets pitching too much for Cubs hitters in NLCS

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Power outage: So far, Mets pitching too much for Cubs hitters in NLCS

NEW YORK – The “Rocky” theme song could be heard all the way on the other side of Citi Field’s visiting clubhouse, probably blasting out of the manager’s office, not far from where backup catcher David Ross would hold court with a group of reporters.   

If the Cubs are going to turn this National League Championship Series into a classic underdog/comeback story, they will have to start hitting bombs again and get great pitching from the trouble spots in their rotation. 

But if you were looking for someone to punch a wall or flip over a garbage can, you came to the wrong place. Players lounged around watching the New England Patriots finish off the Indianapolis Colts on “Sunday Night Football.” Anthony Rizzo stood in front of his locker after a 4-1 loss to the New York Mets and shrugged his shoulders.

“What else can we do?” Rizzo said. “It’s not like we’re dogging it or anything. We’re giving it our all.”

[MORE: Jake Arrieta hits the wall as Mets put Cubs in 0-2 NLCS hole]

Smothered by young guns Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard and lights-out closer Jeurys Familia, the Cubs are down 0-2 in this best-of-seven matchup between power pitchers and power hitters.

So far, the Cubs have gone 10-for-63 (.159) with 20 strikeouts and only three extra-base hits, scoring three runs through 18 innings and losing even with Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta on the mound. 

“It’s just baseball,” said Kyle Schwarber, who went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts the night after homering off Harvey. “That’s how it goes. Those guys were on. You tip your cap. You move on.”   

As the face-of-the-franchise first baseman, Rizzo sets the tone inside the clubhouse while celebrity manager Joe Maddon shapes the public message while meeting with the media before and after every game. 

“Listen, it’s never going to be easy this time of the year,” Maddon said. “They are good. We know that. We’re also very good. We just have to string together some more at-bats. The home run is a big part of our offense. They kind of negated that a bit here. But you’ve just got to turn the page. Move it along.

“We’re all about one-game winning streaks, very seriously. I really preach daily the one-day-at-a-time approach. I know it’s Psycho Babble 101. But it actually works, so all I’m concerned about is the next game.”

As much as these Cubs love hitting at Wrigley Field and feeding off the energy from the home crowd, the matchups don’t look any better, even if it’s about 15 degrees warmer on the North Side.

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Kyle Hendricks will start Game 3 on Tuesday opposite Jacob deGrom, last season’s Rookie of the Year who already beat Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, eliminating the Los Angeles Dodgers in the divisional round.    

The Cubs haven’t officially announced their Game 4 starter — which says something — but Maddon had been leaning toward Jason Hammel and/or possibly making Wednesday a bullpen night.

“We’ve had success throughout this whole year because we stayed ourselves,” Schwarber said. “We stayed the course. Why go away from what we’ve been doing just because we lost two games?

“They still got to win two more. Why not keep (doing) what we’ve been doing the (whole) time, have the same approach and just keep battling?”

Citi Field’s sound system played the “Game of Thrones” theme song while Syndergaard warmed up, and the 6-foot-6 rookie with long blond hair and a “Thor” nickname limited the Cubs to one run and three hits across 5.2 innings.

After seeing Harvey on Saturday night, catcher Miguel Montero had joked about the next opponent: “Syndergaard? I know he’s a soft-throwing right-hander, right? He only throws 99 (mph).

“They’re young, but they got a lot of talent.”

Now here comes deGrom, a big-game pitcher who still shouldn’t intimidate this group. The Cubs got into the playoffs as the second wild-card team, but those 97 wins showed they wouldn’t be a fluke team or an easy out.

“There is a long way to go,” Rizzo said. “Our ultimate goal is to win eight more games. Theirs is to win six more games. You can’t let two games beat us up, especially with the way we’re capable of playing.”

Cubs expected to hire Mike Napoli — David Ross' former teammate — as quality assurance coach

Cubs expected to hire Mike Napoli — David Ross' former teammate — as quality assurance coach

David Ross will not only be managing former teammates with the Cubs in 2020, but he'll be coaching alongside one, too.

The Cubs are expected to add former MLB catcher Mike Napoli to Ross' coaching staff, per multiple reports. Napoli will assume the title of quality assurance coach, vacated by Chris Denorfia, who held the position for one season.

Napoli played in parts of 12 big-league seasons from 2006-17 with the Angels, Rangers, Red Sox and Indians. He won the 2013 World Series with Boston — alongside Ross and Cubs starter Jon Lester — and was also a key figure with the 2016 Indians, whom the Cubs defeated in the World Series. He finished his career with a .246/.346/.475 slash line with 267 home runs. 

According to MLB Network's Jon Heyman, the Cubs pursued Napoli last winter, though the 38-year-old wanted to take a short break from baseball before jumping into coaching. He'll join a Cubs coaching staff that is almost finalized, with the exception of one vacant base coach spot. Here's what the group looks like right now:

Manager — David Ross
Bench coach — Andy Green
Pitching coach — Tommy Hottovy
Associate pitching coach, catching and strategy coach — Mike Borzello
Hitting coach — Anthony Iapoce
Assistant hitting coach — Terrmel Sledge
Bullpen coach — Chris Young
Base coach — Will Venable
Base coach — open
Quality assurance coach — Mike Napoli

Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said Tuesday the organization hopes to have the coaching staff finalized by the end of the week. With Napoli on board, the Cubs are one step closer to making that goal a reality.

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Fans apologize to Yu Darvish following Astros cheating allegations

Fans apologize to Yu Darvish following Astros cheating allegations

When the Dodgers acquired Yu Darvish at the 2017 trade deadline, he was expected to be one of the final pieces to their championship puzzle.

After a solid nine-start regular season with Los Angeles, Darvish was stellar early in the postseason. In two starts (one in the NLDS, one in the NLCS), he allowed two runs across 11.1 innings, racking up 14 strikeouts compared to a single walk.

Things went downhill for Darvish in the World Series, where he surrendered nine runs in 3.1 innings across two starts. This includes Game 7, when he threw 47 pitches in 1.2 innings, allowing five runs in a 5-1 series-clinching win for the Astros.

Darvish became a scapegoat for the Dodgers' World Series loss and faced heavy backlash from fans. Consequentially, he had concerns about re-signing with the Dodgers when he became a free agent that offseason, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, due to fears of how the city's anger towards him would affect his family.

Two years later, fans are now apologizing for directing their anger at Darvish for his World Series performance. Why?

Tuesday, The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich reported the Astros stole opposing teams' signs electronically during the 2017 season. This conflicts with the notion of Darvish tipping his pitches in the World Series, which an anonymous Astros player told Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci was the case.

The notion of Darvish tipping his pitches is now in question altogether:

As has often been the case this offseason, Darvish had a brilliant reaction to the whole situation on Twitter:

Darvish joined the Cubs in 2018 on a six-year deal. After an injury-riddled debut season with the Cubs, he took off post-All-Star break in 2019 and is expected to be the team's Opening Day starter in 2020. Although what happened in 2017 can't be changed, it's nice to see he's moved forward.

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