Bryce Harper

Cardinals fan attempts to troll Cubs following walk-off loss, Derek Holland claps back

Cardinals fan attempts to troll Cubs following walk-off loss, Derek Holland claps back

Let's get one thing straight: Derek Holland has been owning the Cubs' miserable loss to the Phillies on Twitter for the last 15 hours or so. Holland entered with the bases loaded and one out, allowing a walk-off grand slam to Bryce Harper that might still be flying, at this point.

So, before reading on in this story, realize that Holland is taking responsibility for Thursday night's loss. That certainly is admirable, but the reality is he doesn't deserve all of the blame -- Kyle Ryan, Rowan Wick and Pedro Strop each didn't have their A games on Thursday, either.

With that being said, let's move on to what Holland is owning next: Twitter users attempting to cast negativity his way. The best example comes from a Cardinals fan who made a light-hearted comment in response to one of Holland's tweets.

Holland shut down that slander real quick:

Obviously, Thursday's loss (No. 38 on the road for the Cubs this season) was frustrating for the team and the fan base. There's been too many similar instances this year, and without a chunk of them, the Cubs would have more than a share of first place in the NL Central right now.

As Holland said, though, the Cubs are still in first place. Granted, they're tied with the Cardinals , who have two games in hand. Things could be better on the North Side, but let's not act like the world is ending.

Or, feel free to do so, if that's your thing. The baseball season is long, and the beauty of it is that a team has a chance to bounce back immediately after a tough game. The Cubs have a chance to do just that Friday against the Pirates.

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Bryce Harper finishes off epic Cubs collapse with walk-off grand slam

Bryce Harper finishes off epic Cubs collapse with walk-off grand slam

Of their 38 road losses this season, none may hurt more for the Cubs than Thursday’s in Philadelphia.

Where does one even begin? Yu Darvish continued his torrid stretch post-All-Star break, Anthony Rizzo hit his first home run since July 27 and Kyle Schwarber hit his 100th career home run. And yet, what will stand out most is the Cubs bullpen collapsing in epic fashion in the ninth inning.

The Cubs entered Thursday’s final frame with a seemingly comfortable 5-1 lead. Rowan Wick – who was riding a streak of 22-straight scoreless appearances (between the majors and minors) – retired Jean Segura for a quick first out. At this point, the Cubs held a 99.6 percent win probability, according to ESPN.

Then, all hell broke loose.

Following Segura’s flyout, the Cubs allowed five-straight Phillies batters to reach base. While Philadelphia deserves credit, the inning was less of a rally and more of a meltdown by the Cubs.

David Bote booted a groundball on a short hop for an error, opening the door. Wick then allowed two groundball singles, one of which deflected off the glove of a diving Ian Happ. Embattled reliever Pedro Strop entered, only to allow an RBI single and then hit slugger Rhys Hoskins (on a 1-2 pitch, nonetheless) to load the bases.

Bryce Harper delivered the final blow, absolutely crushing a walk-off grand slam one batter later to give the Phillies a 7-5 lead. At its apex, Harper’s slam reached 158 feet in the air, making it an absolute no-doubter to complete the Phillies’ sweep of the Cubs.

Wowza.

Truly, the ninth inning was a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances for the Cubs. Bote is a solid defender at second and third base, but he’s not a natural shortstop. With Javier Báez getting scratched pregame due to an illness and Addison Russell being in Triple-A, the Cubs’ hands were tied.

Bote was their best bet at shortstop, and his error occurred at a terrible time. If he made a miscue earlier in the game, it would’ve been magnified much less. Instead, it started a decisive rally for the opposition. And while Wick’s final line doesn’t look great (three hits, three runs/two earned runs in one inning), the Phillies weren't teeing off on him.

Ultimately, the injuries that have hit the Cubs bullpen over the last few weeks were felt more than anything else. Depending on availability, Cubs manager Joe Maddon likely would've pieced together the game’s final two innings with some combination of Brandon Kintzler, Steve Cishek, Kyle Ryan, Wick and Craig Kimbrel.

With Kintzler, Cishek and Kimbrel each on the 10-day injured list, Maddon had no choice but to trust Ryan and Wick to get the job done. Ryan wasn’t great, allowing a double, walk and a run while only recording a single out. Thursday’s outing was the second-straight in which he allowed an earned run, something he hadn’t done in three months.

Many might wonder why Maddon didn’t leave Darvish in the game, as the 33-year-old threw seven stellar innings, allowing no runs on four hits and no walks, striking out 10 batters. The answer, though, is simple:

So, Maddon was left with Tyler Chatwood, Derek Holland, David Phelps, Duane Underwood Jr., James Norwood and Strop in his bullpen. Chatwood hasn’t pitched since Aug. 8, and considering Strop’s struggles, perhaps the former would’ve been a better option.

Then again, the bullpen decisions wouldn’t have been analyzed at a micro level if everything went in the Cubs’ favor. Ryan and Wick have been pitching well; Thursday just wasn’t their night.

The Cubs can take solace in the fact that the Cardinals lost to the Reds on Thursday. The two are officially tied for first place in the NL Central, but St. Louis has two games in hand. Essentially, the Cubs missed a chance to pull two games ahead of the Cardinals in the win column.

With that being said, it’s obvious where Thursday’s loss stands amongst the rest this season.

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Humbled Carl Edwards Jr. returns to Cubs 'in a really good place'

Humbled Carl Edwards Jr. returns to Cubs 'in a really good place'

Carl Edwards Jr. said he felt jittery and excited like it was his debut all over again as he was notified Sunday night that the Cubs were calling him back up to the big leagues.

But he'll return to the Chicago bullpen without any sort of jittery movement in his delivery, though he didn't want to get into all that. 

Edwards was sent down to the minor leagues before the Cubs even played a home game, as he struggled with consistency after developing a hitch/pause in his delivery over the winter. He walked 5 batters and gave up 6 earned runs across 4 appearances before the Cubs opted to let him get back on track physically and mentally in a lower pressure environment.

Edwards made his return Monday evening, replacing Dillon Maples on the roster and in the bullpen, though Maples still inhabited Edwards' former locker inside the Cubs clubhouse at Wrigley prior to Monday's game. (Edwards was back at his usual locker by the end of Monday's contest.)

"He's ready to be back here," Maddon said. "I guess he was doing really well. Just talked to him briefly, seems like he's in a really good place and we need to get Dillon pitching more regularly."

Maddon and the Cubs are enticed by Maples' video-game stuff, as he can approach 100 mph on his fastball with a wipeout slider that has made some very good veteran hitters like Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Jones look silly over the last week. 

But Maples also was one of the few guys in the Cubs bullpen with minor-league options remaining and it was clear Edwards had righted the ship in Iowa.

In all, Edwards gave up only 2 runs on 3 hits in 8.1 innings in the minors, but more importantly, he walked just 2 batters vs. 7 strikeouts. 

He's been even better lately, as he pitched last Thursday and then again Saturday and threw 2.1 perfect innings, tossing 18 of his 25 pitches for strikes. 

"[The demotion] was very humbling," Edwards said. "It got me back to where I'm comfortable pitching with a lot of confidence. I took it as I hit the bottom, so all I can do is go up."

Over his four weeks in the minor leagues, Edwards said he was focused on being aggressive with every pitch and improving his mental strength, ensuring his head was "back where I should be." He credited his dad and his faith as huge factors, but also gave props to John Baker and the Cubs' mental skills department.

The big thing with Edwards will be if he can carry all that work over to a high-pressure environment at the major-league level. He passed the first test Monday night, as Maddon threw him right into the fray against the Marlins. Edwards fell behind the first hitter 3-0 (though one of the pitches was very cleary a strike), but battled back to get the out and wound up throwing a perfect inning of work.

This is the same guy that nearly got the final out of the World Series three years ago and has put up some of the best numbers among NL relievers over the last few seasons. Maddon pointed to how he called on Edwards to pitch to Bryce Harper in crucial spots in the 2017 NLDS and has said for years that the young right-hander has all the makings of a future closer.

But he also struggled at the end of last year, to the point where he was inactive for the Cubs' lone playoff game with a forearm issue. So 2019 was already a pivotal season for his career and it got off to about the shakiest start imaginable. 

If Edwards' head is right — and by all accounts, it is — he would be another weapon for a bullpen that has been the best in baseball since the first week of the season.

"You have to listen to the people that are there on how he had been doing there and the conversation that's occurred," Maddon said. "They saw how he reacted in different moments. As he walked in the door, I just felt a different presence. I just thought he's ready to go, he seems very focused and I'm really curious to watch this whole thing. 

"... Just getting him back right now, he appears to be Carl. I'm eager to see it play."

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