Cubs

Summing up the Cubs' impressive, potentially season-altering homestand

Summing up the Cubs' impressive, potentially season-altering homestand

For the third straight year, the Cubs' season could hinge on an important series with the San Francisco Giants.

In August of 2015, the Cubs swept the Giants in a four-game set at Wrigley Field and they built off that momentum to win 97 games and make it all the way to the National League Championship Series.

Last fall, the Cubs rallied to beat the Giants in an epic comeback in Game 4 of the NLDS, essentially winning the World Series in that game, by Joe Maddon's opinion.

The 2017 Cubs have spent all year hovering around .500 before winning three of four against the Giants this week at Wrigley, looking more and more like the defending champs.

Thursday's 5-1 win over the Giants was the icing on top of an impressive 7-2 homestand that also featured a sweep of the Cincinnati Reds and a split in a rain-shortened series with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Here's the summation of the potentially season-altering homestand:

—The Cubs are now 14-11 at home and 25-21 overall, having caught up to the Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central. 

—This is the best homestand since the Cubs went 8-2 in a 10-game set from Aug. 9-18 last summer.

—The Cubs are four games above .500 for the third time this year, representing a season-high.

—How will this homestand affect the team moving forward?

"Well, you're gonna find out," Maddon said. "That's the kind of homestand we look forward to having because that's what we did last year and that's what got us there.

But we've also been a good road team. We're gonna get on the plane, have the Anchorman road trip; there'll be a lot of laughing and giggling, which is always good going to play a very good team in Los Angeles."

—On the nine-game homestand, the Cubs found their offensive groove, scoring 59 runs — good for 6.56 runs per game.

—They also smashed 20 home runs, which is nearly a third of their season total (62). On the homestand, 45.7 percent of the Cubs' runs came via the longball.

"Yeah, we're starting to hit 'em," Maddon said. "I also believe the weather [is a factor], it's a little bit warmer, somewhat more favorable wind conditions have helped a little bit, too.

"We have that kind of power on our team. We needed to get into our groove a little bit. Looks like it's starting to show up right now. You're starting to see it from a wider range of the players. It's definitely a part of our game. But it is contagious, I agree with that."

—Kris Bryant, Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist delivered the offense with a solo homer each off former Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija. Bryant and Anthony Rizzo added insurance by both scoring on a wild pitch (and subsequent error) in the bottom of the eighth inning.

—Heyward's blast was his fifth of the season. He didn't notch his fifth homer of 2016 until July 29.

—The Cubs are now 9-0 when hitting at least three homers in a game. They were 20-2 in 2016 when crushing at least a trio of longballs.

—The Cubs weren't just offense this homestand, also showing off the leather, like Javy Baez's ridiculous play in the eighth inning of the series finale against the Giants:

—Eddie Butler turned in another solid start, allowing just a run in five innings. Mike Montgomery faced one above the minimum in four innings of relief, inducing six outs on ground balls.

It was Montgomery's first regular-season save. You might remember his only other career save...

—Cubs are 9-5-1 in 15 series this season.

—The homestand was also fraught with controversy and drama, beginning with Reds manager Bryan Price's "hail to the Cubs" moment followed by the Brewers laying into the Cubs' handling of last Saturday's rainout and finishing with the Giants complaining they were unable to challenge Bryant's first-inning homer Thursday because the phones didn't work.

—With the Cubs embarking on an 'Anchorman'-themed road trip to the West Coast, Maddon was asked how Ron Burgandy would sum up the homestand:

"Stay classy, Chicago."

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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