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Cubs Weekly Review | Willson Contreras breaks out the lumber

Mike Banghart



May 13, 2018; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras (40) is greeted by his teammates after scoring against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

It is a lot more fun at the top of the teeter-totter than the bottom. The bats were anemic for a solid two weeks, but the slumping lineup received its iron pills in the form of Marlins and White Sox pitching the past seven days. The bats exploded for double digit runs in half of the games played this week. The lone blemish was a Sunday loss in which the team was held to just three hits. The loss was frustrating, but the blow was cushioned by five straight wins to start the week.

The welcomed return of run differential baseball has all sorts of benefits beyond just the net gain of four wins. The heavily taxed bullpen had to toss another 21.1 innings in six games. It looks like more of the same, but Steve Cishek only appeared in two games this week. Justin Wilson and Justin Hancock each had more innings than Brandon Morrow, Carl Edwards Jr. or Cishek. That is the result of the a relatively drama free week of baseball.

Kris Bryant has alleviated all fears from the career flashing before our collective eyes fastball to the face in Colorado. Bryant slugged another three home runs this week, and posted a gaudy .350/.536/.900 in that time. Anthony Rizzo also finally acted the part of run producer. Rizzo swatted two homers, and put up only a slightly less video game slash line of .389/.522/.833. An encouraging sign from Bryzzo is that each walked more frequently than they struck out. The fact that neither of this dynamic duo was the hitter of the week is another indicator of the quality of the week.

Monday – Cubs 14 Marlins 2

Kyle Hendricks was in control against the largely underpowered Marlins lineup. He scattered six hits across eight innings while walking none. Hendricks only struck out three, but the Marlins were never in this ballgame despite two tallies against the Professor in the middle innings. Cory Mazzoni drew the difficult task of pitching in the last inning of a blowout so that he can be sent down for a fresh arm for the next day. The start from Hendricks was particularly important, with Jen-ho Tseng scheduled to start for the sick Yu Darvish on Tuesday.

The Cubs beat up on Marlins pitcher Jarlin García early. Bryant hit a two-run home run in the first inning. Javier Báez blasted a three-run home run in the third inning to put this game out of reach for the Marlins. Ian Happ’s two-run home run in the fourth inning was the final blow against García.

The Cubs pounded another seven runs against Tyler Cloyd. Happ hit the only home run (his second of the day) in the Cubs’ second touchdown. The second blast of the night was his fifth of the season. The Cubs held the Marlins to just a safety and the five-game losing streak was over.

Game in a GIF:

Tuesday – Cubs 4 Marlins 3

The Cubs added a slew of players ahead of this game. Tseng was called up to take Darvish’s turn. Rob Zastryzny took Mazzoni’s spot to give the ‘pen a needed fresh arm, and Mark Zagunis was recalled because Jason Heyward went to the 7-day concussion DL. The game evolved quickly into a bullpen game for the Cubs. Tseng retired the first two batters, but a Starlin Castro single and Justin Bour home run gave the Marlins an early 2-0 lead. Back-to-back doubles from Brian Anderson and Derek Dietrich extended the lead to 3-0 before the Cubs even had a chance to bat.

Victor Caratini and Happ reached base in the second inning against Jose Urena, and Maddon elected to pull Tseng after just two innings of work, and he was rewarded for his decision. David Bote delivered a two-out double to cut the Marlins lead to 3-2.

The Cubs were able to manufacture a pair of runs to win this game. Bryant was hit by a pitch to start the sixth inning, and Rizzo singled to put runners on the corner. A Caratini ground out tied the game. Bryant then drew a walk to start the eighth inning against Kyle Barraclough. A wild pitch moved him to second, and he reached third on a Rizzo ground out. Caratini was able to put the ball in play and Bryant scored as Castro hesitated to throw home.

The Cubs bullpen turned in a yeoman effort to keep the Marlins at three runs. Zastryzny pitched two innings after Tseng left the game. Cishek, Wilson, Strop, Edwards and Morrow each pitched a scoreless frame to close out the Cubs’ second win of the week. The relievers combined to strike out seven while only walking two in seven innings of work.

Game in a GIF:

Wednesday- Cubs 13 Marlins 4

The Cubs offense went back to work on Wednesday. The wind was howling out and Wei-Yin Chen pitching allowed another multiple touchdown day from the lineup. The Cubs put up eight runs against Chen in the bottom of the third inning alone. Addison Russell doubled to start the inning and hit a home run to close the book on Chen. Rizzo provided another bomb, and Willson Contreras hit a triple.

Jose Quintana had a nine run lead before he surrendered his first run. Anderson hit a lead-off triple and scored on a ground out from Bour. Quintana pitched six innings to qualify for an easy big league win. The Marlins hit home runs off of Hancock and Mike Montgomery to give themselves a sliver of dignity back, but the Cubs cruised to an easy three game sweep.

Game in a GIF:

Thursday – Off Day

Why did the Cubs have to have today off?

Day in a GIF:

Friday – Cubs 11 White Sox 2

The Cubs struck early again. This time it was a five-spot against Carson Fulmer on Friday. Ben Zobrist doubled to start the game. Bryant was hit by a pitch yet again, and Rizzo singled to plate Zobrist. But it seemed like the big inning might escape the Cubs yet again when Báez struck out. Kyle Schwarber walked to load the bases, and with a “Sammy Hop” Contreras hit a grand slam to break the game wide open.

Tyler Chatwood flirted with an “Edwin Jackson no-hitter” into the fourth inning. José Abreu drew the third walk of the afternoon and he moved to second with a Yolmer Sanchez single. Daniel Palka ripped a double to make it 5-1. Hector Santiago was working in his second full inning of work when Bryant smacked a solo shot in the bottom of the fourth.

Chatwood’s wildness gave the White Sox some life. Adam Engel and Nick Delmonico walked and moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. Abreu hit a single into left field that scored Engel. Delmonico attempted to score but was easily thrown out at the plate by the strong arm of Schwarber.

The Cubs broke the game open in the seventh inning. Contreras had hit a solo homer in the previous inning against Chris Beck, but it was Aaron Bummer that poured the gasoline on the fire. An error allowed Happ to reach at the start of the inning. Singles from Zobrist and Bryant moved the score to 7-1. A Rizzo walk loaded the bases and brought into the game the ghost of rebuilds past, Chris Volstad. A Báez lineout made it 8-1 before Contreras doubled to plate another pair of runs.

Game in a GIF:

Saturday – Cubs 8 White Sox 4

Jon Lester was back to being Jon Lester. Command problems lead to elevated pitch counts that meant Lester could not finish the sixth inning. Lester’s only run was given up in that sixth inning. Engel doubled to lead off the inning. A couple of productive outs moved him home to make it a then 5-1 game.

James Shields was roughed up early. Báez tripled to lead off the game, Bryant walked, and Rizzo cleared the bases with a home run. Schwarber and Russell walked, but were in danger of being stranded with Bote to stepping to the plate. A single made it a 4-0 game heading into the second.

The Cubs later added a tally created by Báez when A ground ball single allowed the Cubs’ infielder to reach. A bit of magic allowed Báez to escape being tagged on a throw to second base that easily beat him. Contreras then singled to make it a 5-0 game. The Cubs blew the game open in the seventh inning. Contreras hit a two-run home run against Beck, and Zagunis later drew a bases loaded walk against Bummer to end the Cubs scoring.

The White Sox made it closer on a Matt Davidson three-run home run off of Edwards in the eighth inning. Morrow had to enter the game after Montgomery allowed the first two batters to reach in the ninth inning. The Cubs closer recorded two outs before walking Tim Anderson, but an Abreu ground out stretched the winning streak to five.

Game in a GIF:

Sunday – White Sox 5 Cubs 3

Well all good things must end, but it was a particularly frustrating afternoon Sunday. Lucas Giolito was extremely wild to start the game. The Cubs had runners in scoring position with one out after two walks, a wild pitch, and a stolen base. Contreras hit a ground ball to first that resulted in a Zobrist being thrown out at the plate. After the catcher moved into scoring position by stealing second, Rizzo and Contreras scored on a Báez single.

The formula changed as Davidson hit a second inning homer off of Hendricks. The game was tied in the third inning with a two out rally. Engel singled and an error by Contreras allowed him to reach third. Sanchez singled to drive in Engel.

Giolito was still wild, but the Cubs couldn’t take advantage until the fourth inning. Schwarber and Russell drew walks, and a Happ double gave the Cubs a 3-2 edge. A Hendricks ground ball resulted in Russell being thrown out at the plate, and Zobrist grounded into an inning-ending double play.

The White Sox tied and untied the game in the sixth inning. Abreu singled and scored on Backyard Baseball character Nick Delmonico’s triple. Delmonico then scored on Davidson’s sacrifice fly. Brian Duensing surrendered another tally, but it mattered little as the Cubs couldn’t manage to get a runner past first the rest of the game.

Game in a GIF:


Top Pitcher of the Week: Kyle Hendricks (14 IP, 3.21 ERA, 9 K, 0 BB, 12 H)

Top Hitter of the Week: Willson Contreras (24 PA, 3 HR, .478/.500/1.174)

A teacher by day and blogger by night. He does both jobs poorly. He has a deep love for Mark Bellhorn, whether jokingly or otherwise is still undetermined. His work has appeared at Cubs Den, Baseball Prospectus Wrigleyville, World Series Dreaming, and Cubs Insider. Michael is just happy to be here and hopes to help the team.

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Chicago Cubs

Another Mailbag Podcast! Plus looking ahead to Cubs-Brewers



Jun 13, 2018; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Jhoulys Chacin (45) throws a pitch in the first inning against the Chicago Cubs at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Since the Cubs were off again yesterday, Sean Sears and I fielded a few more questions from the listeners on today’s podcast. But first, we looked ahead to today’s pitching matchup between the Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers. Who has the advantage? After that, we looked at how the Cubs might be able to rest in September.

In the second segment, we took questions regarding bat flips and Kris Bryant‘s return from the DL. Last, we looked at yesterday’s games in the NL Central, discussed the suddenly dangerous Cardinals, and learned a little about architecture.

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Chicago Cubs

Holy David Bote, Batman! What a game!



Aug 12, 2018; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs third baseman David Bote (13) rounds the bases after hitting game winning grand slam against the Washington Nationals at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Cubs beat the Washington Nationals on Sunday night, winning 4-3 with a dramatic, walk-off grand slam from superstar third baseman David Bote (audio courtesy of WSCR and Randall Sanders on Twitter). Max Scherzer and Cole Hamels were the big story of this game, going pitch-for-pitch against each other and treating fans to an outstanding duel. Sean Sears and I discussed Hamels in the first segment.

In our second segment, we looked at Bote and his historic slam. With Kris Bryant still without a timetable for his return, could Bote be pushing his way into the everyday lineup? What could that mean for the struggling Addison Russell right now, and then again when Bryant does return? In the final segment, we looked at the NL Central and talked about the suddenly red-hot Cardinals.

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Chicago Cubs

Mailbag episode! Featuring Kelly Wallace as a guest host



Jul 31, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Cubs shortstop Addison Russell (27) hits an RBI double against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the ninth inning at PNC Park. The Pirates won 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

With the Cubs off on Thursday, Kelly Wallace of Expanded Roster sat in for Sean Sears on this Friday podcast to help me with the mailbag. First, we looked ahead at today’s game with the Washington Nationals and discussed a roster move. Does Jorge De La Rosa have anything left to offer?

In the second segment, we went head-first into questions about Jim Hickey, pitching development, and more. In the final segment, we looked around the NL Central — including a satisfying Brewers loss — before answering a question about Addison Russell‘s power. We finished with a question about hot dog condiments, and Kelly shared an awful pizza opinion.

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