Cubs

Win it for Schwarbs? 'This is what we're supposed to do'

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AP

Win it for Schwarbs? 'This is what we're supposed to do'

Kyle Schwarber saw the media contingent around him growing larger and put a quick stop to the questions.

He knew he messed up when he dropped Daniel Murphy's fly ball in the sixth inning and promptly kicked it for back-to-back errors that cost the Cubs a run.

And he wanted to own it. No excuses.

"I should've caught that ball and I didn't and that led to a run," Schwarber said, looking reporters in the eye and staring directly into cameras. "I'm gonna take full responsbility on that, before anyone else asks me: It's my fault. The ball shoulda been caught and I didn't catch it."

But that's not how the story ended for Schwarber and the Cubs.

They clawed back the next inning, when Albert Almora Jr. pinch-hit for Schwarber and drove in Ben Zobrist to tie the game.

Then Anthony Rizzo played the hero and gave a "Gladiator"-esque performance afterwards.

"For us to be able to come back like that, that just speaks to the volumes of this team," Schwarber said. "We're not gonna ever give up. Everyone has each other's backs, and that's the most important part — they picked me up today. 

"When we were going through the line, I was giving everybody hugs because they picked me up right there and it was big."

Schwarber admitted he said "a lot of bad words" after Ryan Zimmerman doubled home Murphy in that sixth inning. But he said his teammates were relentless in their support, from Jason Heyward and Jon Jay in the outfield during the Cubs pitching change right after the dropped ball to the guys in the dugout refusing to let one of the most popular players in the clubhouse drop his head.

Not that he wanted to.

No, Schwarber isn't built like that. 

In the seventh inning, following Zobrist's one-out double to break up Max Scherzer's no-hitter, Schwarber was standing on deck and watched Nationals manager Dusty Baker come out to the mound.

Baker ultimately wound up yanking Scherzer to bring in Sammy Solis, a southpaw.

That meant the end of Schwarber's night, since he rarely gets to hit against lefties, especially that late in a game.

Almora was the call, which didn't disappoint Schwarber, but it did make him feel something as he hoped for a shot at redemption.

"I was just more pissed off because I just dropped the ball," Schwarber said. "I saw Scherzer trying to stay in there and I was like, 'Come on, stay in there.' I knew as soon as that lefty was coming in, Albert was gonna be pinch-hitting.

"I wasn't frustrated by that at all. I was more frustrated by what just happened. I saw Scherzer trying to talk into it, but it didn't work out. But hey, it worked out for us, that's for dang sure."

Schwarber's right, because Almora had his back.

"When I was pinch-hit for him, that was in the front of my head," Almora said. "I was thinking I wanna help him and Quintana, who did an unbeilevable job. I was just happy I did my job."

Almora said he didn't get a chance to speak to Schwarber before he pinch-hit for him in that crucial spot.

But you better believe the two talked after.

"I don't think he let me take two steps down the stairs before he grabbed me and gave me a huge hug and thanked me," Almora said. 

"I said, 'No way, this is OUR game. We're family. This is what we're supposed to do.'"

It might have been just another dinger in homer-happy All-Star Game, but Willson Contreras will remember it forever

It might have been just another dinger in homer-happy All-Star Game, but Willson Contreras will remember it forever

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Willson Contreras’ third-inning home run might not have ended up standing out too much in an All-Star Game featuring a jaw-dropping and record-shattering 10 dingers.

But, obviously, it will always stand out to the guy who hit it.

“I enjoyed every single second that I spent out there.”

Remarkably, Contreras repeated his feat from two seasons ago, when he hit his first big league homer on the first big league pitch he ever saw. Ditto on Tuesday night at Nationals Park, when he launched the first pitch he saw as an All Star out over the wall in left field.

“When I hit the ball and thought it was gone, I went back to 2016, playing in Chicago. It was the same thing, first pitch for a homer,” Contreras, all smiles, said following the American League’s 8-6 victory. “I’m really blessed with these kinds of situations. Those moments, they’re going to be history and they’re going to be in my mind and my heart.”

Contreras’ long ball was the highlight of the evening for fans watching back home in Chicago. Javy Baez got a hit in his first All-Star at-bat but was outdone by his teammate. White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu was hitless in his two trips to the plate.

And while it will be a highlight on this night for Cubs fans, it will be a highlight forever for Contreras, who enjoyed the heck out of his first All-Star experience.

“‘I did it, I did it,’” he said when asked what was going through his head. “I knew it was something special. And I wasn’t trying to do too much because these guys are nasty, throwing 98 in the first inning. I just tried to get the hit out.”

The nasty guy he went deep against was Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Blake Snell, whose 2.27 ERA on the season made him a very worthy inclusion on the AL roster. But Contreras was more impressed with the guy who started the game for the National League, raving about Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer after the game.

“He was great, man. Great stuff, he gets so into the game,” Contreras said. “I would like to have him one day on my team or play with him for a few years. That guy is amazing.”

That’s not the current Nationals star Cubs fans are dreaming about, Willy, but point taken.

But it wasn’t Snell or Scherzer or even Baez or Jon Lester, also in the NL dugout, who Contreras was thinking about the most during his home run trot. Instead, Contreras was thinking about his grandfather, Ernesto, who passed away a few years ago.

“My grandpa, he died in 2015,” Contreras said. “I grew up with him.

“He didn’t play ball. But I feel like every time I go out there and step into the box, he’s at my back. It just feels amazing when you hit a homer or do something special, look at the sky and you know that he’s there smiling somewhere.”

It all made for a pretty incredible night for Contreras, who has officially and loudly taken his place among baseball’s best on the game’s biggest stage.

The only thing that was missing? The ball.

Yeah, Contreras didn’t get the ball, not that he really expected to. But if you’ve got it, he wants it.

“I don’t think they’re giving it back,” he said with a grin.

We’ll see. Social media’s a powerful tool. So reach out.

Manny Machado as a Dodger creates a formidable foe out west for the Cubs

Manny Machado as a Dodger creates a formidable foe out west for the Cubs

Well, it's finally happening, or at least it's going to happen. The Athletics' Ken Rosenthal reported during the MLB All-Star game that the Baltimore Orioles had agreed to officially move their franchise player Manny Machado. Neither team has confirmed anything at this time, but the deal has reportedly been as close to a done deal for the last day or so, and it would seem Machado is destined for finish his 2018 campaign in Hollywood. 

Of course, with this addition, the reigning National League champions look primed for another deep postseason run. Though, the club is clinging to a half-game lead in the NL West, with Machado in tow the Dodgers are right with the Cubs and Brewers as the elite squads in the National League. It could be argued the Dodgers didn't necessarily 'need' Machado, with an offense that was already in the top 10 in runs scored, but Machado might be the perfect addition for the Dodgers. 

After losing their young star shortstop Corey Seager for the season with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery, the Dodgers were in need of a more permanent solution at shortstop. And despite Machado's defensive metrics showing a steep decline in his glove at shortstop, the Dodgers will welcome his robust slash line of .315/.387/.575 while ignoring any shortcomings on defense. 

But what this means for the Cubs, who are only two games off the 2016 World Series club pace, is the path to another championship will likely require another run-in with the Dodgers. The club's biggest threat has been at this point the Brewers, but it's not hard to envision the Dodgers distancing themselves as the clear favorites in the National League with Machado in the heart of the order.

The good news for the Chicago is at least Machado didn't end up in Milwaukee, but that also could mean the Brewers make a more concerted effort to acquire pitching before the July 30th deadline. The Cubs will also see the return of Yu Darvish, who despite only managing to win one game this season in a Cubs uniform, will be a massive upgrade over the scuffling Tyler Chatwood. If the Cubs pitching can start producing like many expected them to before the start of 2018, and guys like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant start to hit alongside All-Stars Javier Baez and Willson Contreras, it's not hard to imagine the Cubs separating themselves from the pack in the 2nd half of season. 

The Dodgers are no strangers to blockbuster deadline deals, acquiring Yu Darvish in a similar three-month rental situation, but the Cubs getting a bat like Rizzo right and an arm like Darvish healthy would be better than any deal Theo Epstein could make to improve this team. And if it's not enough, the Cubs have a solid track record of grabbing former Dodger rentals in the off-season. The push for the playoffs starts Thursday for the north-siders.