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.

[NBC SHOP: Buy Cubs playoff gear]

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.”

The best quips from the best leadoff hitter of all time, Anthony Rizzo

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USA TODAY

The best quips from the best leadoff hitter of all time, Anthony Rizzo

Anthony Rizzo was not only in tip top shape as he reported for the Cubs first full squad workout, but his one-liner game was on point day one, as well. 

Here are some of his best quips from the day.

"It was great. Really probably the best off season I've had, right?"
 
Yes, Anthony... your wedding day is always the BEST day ever and the first offseason with your wife should be the BEST one ever. Quick learner.

"I'm usually not excited to come back, because I hate leaving home. But it was, I can say my wife now, was like 'man, you're really excited to go back this year.' So, it's good to be back."
 
 Emily should be proud, Rizzo seems to really have this married thing/lingo down! And his child-like energy and enthusiasm was palpable. Cubs fans, your first baseman is chomping at the bit.

"That extra month, it's been awhile. The first time a lot of guys have had that extra month. Unfortunately, I know what it's like to have that extra month."
 
Spare Cubs fans the reminder, Anthony. 

"A lot of guys in here are used to going to the NLCS. So, to get knocked out it's like "Whoa, what is this? Barbecuing in October?"

First of all, only those who live in Florida can talk about barbecuing in October, but we get the point. Cubs want to save the brats for November.

"Yea, and also Bryce Harper is coming to the Cubs, right?"

Rizzo thinks that's as likely to happen as the team going 80-82 and finishing last in the NL Central this year.

“So this is what happened. I offered him half of my 12 (million) that I’m making this year. But he turned it down. Put that report out," Rizzo said to Paul Sullivan of the Tribune. 
 
Harper or Machado?

“Both, three million each. I split it in half."
 
https://twitter.com/PWSullivan/status/1097523429681426432
 
Thanks to Sully for catching this quip--Rizzo's plan for the Cubs to sign Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. Generous, don't you think?

"I've been here for like two hours, so...from what I've heard I've heard it's been amazing, the energy. But, I don't know, what is the date? The 18th? It's February 18th, so every clubhouse is this energetic right now." 

Dates and days of the week are hard during Groundhog's Day, I mean Spring Training. But, props to Rizzo for being honest and the vibe after two hours was pretty great.

"It's the first day, I picked out my outfit last night. I was off to school today." 
 
First day feels...

"Hi Tony! Hi Jon, love you."
 
Mid-response, Rizz wasn't going to leave his guy Lester hanging. The love is real.

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: The Cubs are out of funds

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: The Cubs are out of funds

David Haugh, Hub Arkush and Gabe Ramirez join Kap on the panel.

0:00 - Tom Ricketts meets the media as the Cubs' full squad reports to Mesa. The panel discusses his comments on his father's emails and not having any money to spend this offseason.

6:00 - Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki join Kap from Sloan Park in Mesa. They discuss Tom Ricketts' press conference, how the Cubs players are handling the off-the-field distractions and how Joe Maddon is handling this spring.

13:00 - Tom Ricketts says their no collusion among baseball owners. Meanwhile, the players' union fires off an angry statement. What will happen after another slow winter for free agents?

19:00 - Chuck Garfien and Vinnie Duber join Kap from Glendale with the latest on the White Sox. They discuss the latest on Manny Machado and Yoan Moncada being the Sox' opening day 3rd baseman.

25:00 - The panel discusses Manny Machado's neverending free agency. Is the price starting to get too high for the White Sox? And if potential free agents in 2020 start signing extensions, should the White Sox overpaid now to land a superstar?

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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