Cubs

As World Series shifts back to Cleveland, Joe Maddon feels pressure is off Cubs

As World Series shifts back to Cleveland, Joe Maddon feels pressure is off Cubs

CLEVELAND — If the Cubs are going to win their first World Series since 1908, they’ll have to do it on the road. And maybe that’s a good thing.

The Cubs felt the nervous energy in Wrigley Field over the weekend, so perhaps getting away from it for Game 6 (and potentially Game 7) of the World Series will benefit a lineup that’s struggled to score runs against the Cleveland Indians. Catcher David Ross felt like the Cubs would be able to play loose in Cleveland and without the weight of over 40,000 fans on their shoulders.

The nervous energy will be transferred to the stands at Progressive Field on Tuesday for a franchise that hasn’t won a World Series since 1948. It’ll be lessened to an extent, though, given the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier this year brought a title to this championship-starved city — fans at the Cavs’ season opener/ring ceremony game a week ago felt there was a major release of pressure when LeBron James & Co. stormed back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.

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But Cubs manager Joe Maddon sees a benefit to his team trying to win its first World Series since 1908 away from Chicago.

“There's so much going on at home, even just getting to the ballpark,” Maddon said. “I know just family situations here, just taking care of everybody and just the inundated feeling that you get here, possibly it could loosen them up a little bit. Going from the hotel (on the road), the bus ride to the ballpark is a lot easier, quicker.”

This is one of those nebulous, unquantifiable things that has an impact, to an extent, on a closely contested World Series that’ll be played in unseasonably warm, 60-to-70-degree temperatures. What will have a far more of an impact, though: Getting Kyle Schwarber back in the lineup as a designated hitter.

“I kind of like the way all this is trending,” Maddon said. ‘I think our kids are going to react well on the road, like you said. I totally agree with that. Beyond that, Schwarber and the weather has given us somewhat of a break.”

Anthony Rizzo is ready to be the leading man 

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USA TODAY

Anthony Rizzo is ready to be the leading man 

When discussing his unconventional lineup choices, Joe Maddon had this to say, "It's almost a backwards way of doing this right now that I'm finding fascinating.....So I'm just gonna let it play for just a little bit and see where it takes us."

And it is hard to blame Maddon for letting his experiment ride out longer.

Via our Chris Kamka, Rizzo has hit in the leadoff spot seven times this season. In those seven plate appearances he has a single, double, triple (July 21), home run, walk, hit by pitch and a groundout. Rizzo’s numbers as a leadoff hitter are staggering:

And it appears the Cubs agree.

After their 7-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday, Ben Zobrist joked that Rizzo is the “self proclaimed greatest leadoff hitter...”. And while on paper, having Zobrist bat fourth in the order and Rizzo lead off seems contradictory, the move has definitely energized the offense. Immediately following all the lineup shuffling, the Cubs reeled off four straight wins before the Cardinals 18-run, 18-hit explosion, but even in that game Rizzo did draw a base by HBP.

And sure enough, in Saturday’s game, there was Rizzo, dominating to the tune of three walks and a triple. There is no telling if Maddon will continue to keep him in the leadoff spot. The move was originally made to help Rizzo get his groove back, which if Saturday’s win was any indication, he has.

But with Jason Heyward having a great offensive season, Jesse Chavez looking good in his Cubs debut (two clean innings with one strikeout) and Baez continuing his MVP-like play, Cubs fans should be as optimistic as one certain fan at Wrigley Field.

Cubs infielder Ryan Court had a special night in Iowa

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USA TODAY

Cubs infielder Ryan Court had a special night in Iowa

The farm system doesn't have the big names it once did, as the majority of the top prospects have graduated to the Major League roster, but that doesn't mean the minor league clubs aren't having fun. 

Take 29-year-old Ryan Court, a minor league infielder who has bounced around from Arizona and Boston's systems and found a home this year with the Cubs triple-A affiliate in Des Moines, IA. Court has had a solid season in Iowa, slashing .272/.347/.410 in 74 games, but might have had his finest game as I-Cub Friday night against the New Orleans Baby Cakes. 

Court came up in the 8th inning last night needing just a triple to hit for the cycle, but his club was on the verge of taking the lead in the after scoring three runs prior to his at-bat.

With Bote on 1st, the game tied at 8 runs apiece, Court placed a ball in front of the right fielder who overplayed the ball and allowed Bote to score from first and Court to scamper to third to complete the cycle. 

The I-Cubs would tack on another run to polish off a 5-run 8th inning and take home the win in a 10-8 victory over the Baby Cakes, and according to Des Moines Register's Tommy Birch, it was the first time in two decades an Iowa player has hit for the cycle. 

It's unlikely Ryan Court will make his way to the big leagues with the Cubs already carrying plenty of infielders, but for one night he played the hero and got his team the win, finishing the night 4-5 with 2 RBI, 4 runs scored and one massive smile on his face.