Miami Marlins

Theo Epstein called his shot as Cubs stop 'torturous' run

Theo Epstein called his shot as Cubs stop 'torturous' run

Theo Epstein pulled a Babe Ruth.

Just, you know, 86 years after The Great Bambino and the Cubs president didn't have a bat in his hands.

A few dozen feet from where Ruth called his shot in the 1932 World Series, Epstein called his own shot at Wrigley Field about his then-underperforming team.

Speaking with the media ahead of that game, Epstein acknowledged how difficult it's been to watch this Cubs lineup underperform for such a long stretch.

"It's frustrating," he said. "Baseball is designed to torture you. And then it makes it that much better when things happen to go your way. But a series like that [in St. Louis] can be torturous.

"... You just show up the next day, move on and we're going to be sweeping somebody sometime soon."

That all came to fruition in the 48 hours since Epstein made those comments as his team went out and did exactly what it is supposed to do against a 13-23 Marlins team that doesn't have a prayer of contending in 2018.

The Cubs battered the Marlins into submission during the three-game set at Wrigley Field, scoring 31 runs in the series while hitting .364 with a 1.097 OPS as a team. The Cubs even hit .382 (13-for-34) with runners in scoring position, an area of the game that has haunted them in the past.

It'd be easy to look at the tanking Marlins and just chalk it up to that, but remember, the Cubs offense did very little against this very same pitching staff in Miami the first series of the season.

Plus, Monday night's starter — Jarlin Garcia — entered the game leading all of Major League Baseball in ERA before the Cubs tattooed everything he threw near home plate.

The Cubs scored 31 runs in the three-game sweep, reaching double digits on both Monday and Wednesday. They managed to plate only 4 runs in Tuesday night's game, but 4 runs is still more than they could manage for 9 straight games from April 25 through May 5.

Yeah, it's the Marlins and yeah, it's just one series. But suddenly, the Cubs' season numbers don't look so bad.

Anthony Rizzo collected two more hits, putting his batting average over .200 for the first time since his second at-bat on March 30, the second game of the season against these Marlins in Miami.

Addison Russell finally homered. Kris Bryant has suddenly come on in the power department. Willson Contreras is hitting liners all over the field. Javy Baez still leads MLB in RBI. Ian Happ has silenced the doubters and stopped the questions — for now — about whether he needs a trip to the minor leagues.

Hell, we're even seeing Kyle Schwarber's name bounced around for the leadoff spot again and nobody's laughing. (For the record, Schwarber has been the only Cub who has put up consistent quality at-bats from the beginning of the season until now.)

"Just in terms of guys feeling a lot better about themselves," Bryant said. "Willson having a great game, Anthony finally getting a double. That was so fun joking around — he didn't have a double the whole first month!"

This is what we were supposed to see from this offense all along, especially on days where the wind is howling out toward the bleachers at 17 mph.

Albert Almora Jr. — who was one of four Cubs players to collect three hits Wednesday — apparently called his shot, too, telling Rizzo before Wednesday's game this team was ready for another offensive explosion.

He also has been telling the media for weeks how confident this team is and that a positive regression is coming.

"I was about to say something when [media] walked in, like 'Are you guys worried still?'" Almora joked. "But nah, you know, we're playing great and we're having a lot of fun. We're really jelling together now. Can't complain."

Things don't get much tougher for the Cubs after Starlin Castro and the Marlins leave town, either.

The White Sox — still searching for their 10th win on the campaign — come to town this weekend before the Cubs host the Braves in a make-up game next Monday, then leave for a seven-game road trip in Atlanta and Cincinnati.

The Braves woke up Wednesday morning ranked 10th in baseball in ERA, but the White Sox were 29th and the Reds 28th. In fact, apart from the four games against the Braves, the Cubs don't face a Top 10 pitching staff until June 5 when Jake Arrieta and the Philadelphia Phillies come to town.

Admittedly, June will be a tough month with three games each against the Phillies, Brewers and Cardinals plus seven against the Dodgers.

But for now, enjoy the peaks and valleys of the season when things are actually going the Cubs' way.

"Really good feeling heading into an off-day and Anthony's event [Wednesday night]," Bryant said, " and then starting up a nice series this weekend."

Podcast: The main takeaways from the Cubs’ sweep and why the good vibes could last for a while

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USA TODAY

Podcast: The main takeaways from the Cubs’ sweep and why the good vibes could last for a while

The Cubs swept the Marlins at Wrigley Field scoring double-digits in two of the three wins. 

David Kaplan, Jeff Nelson, and Tony Andracki break down the much needed home cooking and look ahead to the Crosstown showdown with the White Sox.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here:

Victor Caratini has turned into a very valuable role player with Cubs

Victor Caratini has turned into a very valuable role player with Cubs

Every championship-caliber team needs a handful of role players who step up in big moments.

Victor Caratini sure looks to be one of those guys for the 2018 Cubs.

It was a mild shock when the Cubs opted for the rookie Caratini to be the team's backup catcher coming out of spring training over the veteran Chris Gimenez, who also had familiarity with new free agent signing Yu Darvish.

The 24-year-old Caratini has taken the opportunity and run with it and helped lift the Cubs over the Miami Marlins Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.

It was the second straight start for Caratini, who filled in for Anthony Rizzo Monday night at first base and then gave Willson Contreras a break behind the plate Tuesday.

After singling in his first at-bat Tuesday night, Caratini then stood his ground when Marlins outfielder Derek Dietrich gave him a shove on a play at home.

It resulted in a benches clearing incident, but no punches were thrown and Caratini kept his cool.

The Marlins never scored after that, while Caratini drove home the tying run in the sixth inning and then the go-ahead run in the eighth inning on a pair of groundouts.

"It was nice," Rizzo said. "He comes in every day, he works hard, he wants to learn, he asks a lot of questions and he's ready to play. He's gotten a lot more playing time and it's nice. 

"It's not hard to cheer for him."

On top of all that, Caratini also caught all nine innings of what morphed into a "bullpen day" for the Cubs as they used seven different pitchers. The end result was 7 shutout innings for the relievers with Caratini calling the pitches.

"He did a wonderful job," Maddon said.

The Cubs manager was singing Caratini's praises before Tuesday's game, talking about how he isn't afraid to play the young switch-hitter all over the diamond and not just as backup catcher. Maddon wouldn't even rule out a stop at third base or even a trip to the outfield.

Caratini has played some third base in the minors (58 games) but has never played outfield and has most of his time at first base (94 games) and catcher (326 games).

Maddon also raved about his quality of at-bats even when he's not getting results.

After Tuesday's game, Caratini is hitting .288 with a .339 on-base percentage and doubled his RBI total with the big night.

"Victor's sharp, man," Maddon said. "When he's not playing, he's studying. He's in [catching coach Mike] Borzello's back pocket all the time. He showed that in spring training; we saw that last year. 

"I mean, the kid is a big-league ballplayer, man. That's no joke. When he does something good out there, please don't be surprised. He's really good. And he's gonna keep getting better. With the appropriate number of at-bats, he's gonna be really interesting."