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Throughout the years, Chicago Cubs fans have filled their scorecards with some of baseball’s most reliable players. Who will join the ranks of these elite players from today’s generation of Cubs?
The other day I was watching the Chicago Cubs take on the Miami Marlins and was anxiously waiting for the Cubs to make a move. The Marlins had been playing the Cubs close the whole series.

“Where are our guys?” I asked aloud to no one in particular. I was just venting my frustration as batter after batter could not get it done for the Cubs. My son who was joining me for the game thought the question was aimed at him.

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“What do you mean ‘our guys’?” he asked about my loud comment.

I explained to him that when I was growing up with the Cubs, there were certain players we expected to make something happen every time they came up to bat. Give me two outs in the bottom of the ninth with Ryne ‘Ryno’ Sandberg up to bat, and we “expected” a hit or something positive to happen.

Of course, it didn’t work out that way all the time and the years and faded memories have made their heroics seem more God-like than they certainly were at the time, but those were, “our guys.” When they came up to bat, you weren’t sitting around white-knuckling hoping something would happen; you knew they were going to strike.

On the pitching side of the house, ‘our guys’ were the Cubs Aces like Greg Maddux or Kerry Wood. You could almost go through the schedule and put a “Win” next to all of their future games. Again, I’m sure the memory is making them look much better than they actually were but again, there was an expectation with certain Cubs players.

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For me, one of the main go-to guys was always second baseman, Ryne Sandberg. Sandberg was exciting to watch on defense; during his tenure, he brought home nine consecutive Golden Glove awards between 1983 and 1991, but it was his batting that I remember most back in 1990 that made him one of ‘our guys.’

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In 1990, it was my privilege to watch Ryno score 40 home runs and rack up 188 hits and 100 RBI’s. Sandberg held a .306 batting average, .913 OPS and a .559 SLG rating.

I can remember them calling his name out at Wrigley Field and everyone cheering as he walked toward home plate to bat. Then we just waited for his hit. Would it be a home run, double, base hit? It didn’t matter, Ryno was going to get on base.

Today, the closest people I have found to make me feel that way again are first baseman Anthony Rizzo and utility man Ben Zobrist. I pretty much expect them to be on base one way or another every time they come to bat.
I don’t know if younger audiences feel the same assurances I felt about Sandberg and Maddux, but if they do, then they are experiencing what it felt like to root for “our guys” way back then.

On the pitching side of the house, our new Greg Maddux is pitcher Jon Lester without a doubt. I almost want to go mark the calendar full of “W’s” already when Lester is scheduled to pitch. Lester as recently demonstrated during the Milwaukee Brewers match-up, is an Ace with every pitch at his command.

Lester’s throwing hand comes from the back of his head and poses so much deception; it made the Brewers center fielder Lorenzo Cain almost look drunk as he fell on his rear spinning like a ballerina while swinging for the fences at a missed pitch. Lester is one of “our guys” that will surely follow Maddux and Sandberg into Cooperstown in the near future.

Anthony Rizzo hit a two-run home run against the Marlins to give the Cubs the lead and eventually the win. A few days earlier, in the route of the St. Louis Cardinals, Zobrist brought two hits, one RBI and scored two runs. If you close your eyes and listen to the crowd, you might think you are back watching Ryno again because everyone is feeling that same electricity when Rizzo and Zobrist are at bat.

NEXT: The Cubs could do themselves a favor with a great week
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Hopefully, for both Cubs, their career-long reliability will someday score some points on their Cooperstown election card and get them into the Hall of Fame; because that’s where “Our guys” belong.

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BOSTON — Dustin Pedroia underwent tests Monday after he was scratched from his rehab game with Double-A Portland on Saturday because of knee soreness.

“Nothing major with the knee,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Tuesday at Fenway Park. “’He actually had some tests yesterday. And everybody feels comfortable; well, better than Sunday.”

Boston returned him from his rehab assignment without activating him Monday. His next rehab assignment can’t start for at least another four days.
Pedroia will work out with the team at Fenway the next few days.

“And see how he reacts to it,” Cora said. “And hopefully we can go back and send him to a rehab assignment whenever we can. Talking to him, he’s in good spirits. He’s comfortable with what they saw yesterday. And everything they did. That’s always good. I think honestly he’s a lot smarter than in the past. Whenever he doesn’t feel right, he’ll communicate it. I bet back in the day, a few years ago, he’d be like, Forget about it. I’m going to push through this.’ So he was smart about it.”

The Red Sox say his soreness isn’t major but it is significant Pedroia was unable to play for a third time in four days Saturday without feeling soreness.

“That’s why he came here,” Cora said. “But after all the tests, everything, it’s nothing like last year when it happened in Houston. You ask him and he’s like, ‘I don’t feel that way. I just wanted to make sure.’”

Boston placed Pedroia on the injured list April 18 because of left knee inflammation. He has appeared in just nine games for the Red Sox since the start of the 2018 season after undergoing a left knee cartilage restoration procedure Oct. 25, 2017.

He also had scar tissue removed during an arthroscopic surgery in late July 2018.

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The Baltimore Orioles reached the quarter mark of the season playing better than last year’s veteran-laden club.

With a victory over the Los Angeles Angels on May 12, the Orioles improved to 14-26, compared to 12-28 at the same point last season.

The differences, however, go well beyond wins and losses.

“Honestly, it feels like we should be more than two games better than we were last year,” first baseman Chris Davis said. “It’s a different feeling in this clubhouse. You can feel it when you walk in. It’s a different atmosphere. We’re having fun, we’re enjoying ourselves, we’re taking our job seriously but at the same we’re going to enjoy each and everyday and I think that’s big for this group of guys.”

The Orioles were expected to compete for a playoff spot in 2018, but instead lost a franchise-record 115 games. As the season began to unravel, the team parted ways with several key veterans, such as shortstop Manny Machado, closer Zack Britton and starting pitcher Kevin Gausman.
Shortly afterward, ownership decided to embark on a full-scale rebuild to put the pieces in place for long-term success.

Dan Duquette, the team’s executive vice president, was replaced by Mike Elias, who helped turn the Houston Astros from a 100-loss team to World Series champions.

The Orioles decided not to renew the contract of manager Buck Showalter and hired Brandon Hyde from the Cubs to take his place.

The team hired Sig Mejdal to head the analytics department, an area where the Orioles have traditionally lagged behind other teams.

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Hyde might have the biggest challenge within the organization, trying to balance the development of players with winning games. The Orioles are fielding a much younger squad than last season and remain a work in progress.

However, Hyde has been pleased with his team’s effort and the overall atmosphere surrounding the club.

“I like the way our team plays. I like the way our team prepares,” Hyde said. “My whole goal coming in, I wanted to have a team … I wanted our guys to play with energy. I wanted them to be prepared. I wanted us to catch the ball defensively. I wanted to compete and battle and grind at-bats. I think for the most part we’ve done that up until this point this year.”

While the team is playing hard, there have been some challenges.

The Orioles are tied with the Miami Marlins for the worst home record (6-15) in MLB. Baltimore’s pitchers have allowed a staggering 84 homers, the most in the majors and well ahead of second-place Seattle (71). The Orioles also have a minus-75 run differential through 40 games, compared to minus-71 last year.

Those are just some of the areas Hyde hopes to clean up in the coming weeks.

“We’ve had some hiccups. That’s baseball,” he said. “But I feel like there’s multiple games that we’ve had chances to win that we haven’t and I hope that as we improve and our guys get better, guys start having more confidence and we can win those games that we lost the first 40, that we kind of had in our grasp.”

Despite some of those struggles, young players, such as John Means, Stevie Wilkerson, Rio Ruiz and Dwight Smith Jr., are taking advantage of the opportunity they’ve gotten with the rebuilding club.

Several minor league players, such as catcher Chance Sisco, infielder Ryan Mountcastle and outfielder DJ Stewart, are pushing for an opportunity in Baltimore.

Hyde hopes these players continue to shine this season and beyond.

“There have been a lot of close games that have gotten away from us,” Hyde said. “I’m hoping these next 40 that we continue to improve and those games we can adjust and make better decisions from a standpoint of being able to stay in those type of games instead of losing those games.

“Happy with our effort for sure these first 40 games. I think our effort has been phenomenal. Now it’s continuing to improve and continuing to learn at the big league level. Now it’s about how to stay in games late.”

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We are already 1/4 of the way through the season, so it’s time to take a quick look at how the Atlanta Braves stack up in the NL East.
The Atlanta Braves have not had the start to the 2019 season they hoped for, but not many teams in the NL East have.

 
Many thought the NL East had the chance to be one of the best divisions in all of baseball this year after all of the big time acquisitions made during the offseason.

That’s yet to be the case as the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves are the only teams in the division with a winning record and positive run differential.

And honestly, the Atlanta Braves barely make that list as they’re just one game over .500 and have a run differential of +1.

Let’s take a look at the strength and weaknesses of each team, and what we can expect the rest of the way.

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Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies are the only team in the NL East that has been consistently good all season.

And it’s not like they’ve played a soft schedule. They’ve played seven against the Marlins, two against the Tigers, and three against the Royals.

Strengths: The Phillies are doing just enough on offense and pitching as they’re eighth in runs scored and eighth in ERA.

They’re doing a great job of getting on base as they’re seventh with an OBP of .335.
Unlike the Atlanta Braves, the Phillies have done a good job of limiting walks as they’ve issued the ninth fewest walks with 130.

Thier starters have done a good job of going deep into games as they’re seventh in the league in innings pitched.

One thing the Phillies have been great at — and the Braves have not — is hitting with runners in scoring position. They’re fourth in the league with a .278 average with RISP, and they’ve scored the second most runs when hitting with RISP.

Weaknesses: I was very surprised to see that the Phillies are just 23rd in the league in home runs this season with 45. With the big boppers in that lineup, there is no reason they shouldn’t be in the top 10 — especially in that home ballpark.

They’re just 15th in the league in hitting at .247, but like I mentioned in the strengths, they’re getting timely hits. And they’re 16th in the league with an OPS of .748.
With a run differential of +42 you would expect their offensive numbers to be much better.

And despite how good their pitching staff has been, teams haven’t had trouble getting hits off them. They’re 23rd in the league in BAA.

They’re also not striking out a lot of batters with a K/9 of 8.49, which is 23rd best in the league. That’s not ideal for a team who has had their struggles on defense.

Cheap Arizona Diamondbacks Jerseys China

When we last saw the Pittsburgh Pirates, they were reeling. The Diamondbacks went into Pittsburgh April 22nd to face a 12-7 team that was playing well, and left behind the smoldering embers of a team that was 12-11 after a four game sweep that improved the DBacks to 15-11

The DBacks were utterly dominant in that series, outscoring the Pirates 30-7. The Pirates followed that up by losing 3 more in a row to the Dodgers, further dropping their record to 12-14. Since then however they are 8-3, and will come to Chase Field riding high, having taken the last 3 games of a four game set with the Cardinals. That must be especially gratifying for them, as they were embarrassed in the series opener, losing by the whopping score of 17-4. A couple of 2-1 victories followed, and then a 10-6 come from behind victory on Sunday completed righting their ship.

This has been somewhat of a theme for the Pirates all year. When they lose, they often get blown out. They have losses by margins of 13-13-10-9 & 8 on their schedule so far. But they have won a lot of close games too. It’s all added up to a -35 run differential, but a 20-17 record. That’s good enough for a .004 percentage point lead over the 22-19 Diamondbacks for the 2nd wild card spot in the National League. They’re also 3.5 Games back of the Cubs in the Central Division.

Josh Bell continues to lead the way for the Pirates offense. He’s having a terrific season, and is currently batting .319/.389/.659, 1.048 OPS, with 10 HR and 34 RBI (7th in MLB)

Melky Cabrera continues to do what Melky does, which is hit for good batting average, (.324), medium power (6 doubles, 3 homers) and not a lot of walks. Gregory Polanco, who had Labrum surgery last September, and returned during the DBacks series, is hitting well lately. He’s batting .333 for May with a couple of homers.

Left Hand closer Felipe Vazquez is a guy you hope the DBacks don’t have to see. After posting 37 saves and a 2.70 ERA last year, he is a perfect 12 for 12 in save opportunities this year. He currently sports a 0.48 ERA in 17 IP, striking out 30 batters. He features a fastball that averages 98 MPH, a hard Slider, and a Curve and Change he uses against righties to keep them honest. Just all around Nasty

The Diamondbacks for their part are now the team that is reeling. 2-6 in their last 8 games, the offense has almost completely dried up. They haven’t been able to buy a hit with runners in scoring position, (7 for 61, .115 since May 6th) and have been absolutely abysmal with the bases loaded. (0-13, with 1 Sac fly since April 27th). To make matters worse, the back end of the bullpen has been coughing up runs left and right of late.

However as the above Pirates narrative illustrates quite clearly, these things can change on a dime. The pitching matchups below should favor the Diamondbacks, and despite their difficulties with situational hitting, they did have 14 hits on Sunday, and managed to score 4 runs on Saturday. So there are signs they could be ready to heat up again at the plate, if they can just start coming up with a couple of hits in key moments.

PITCHING MATCHUPS:

This will be Kingham’s second start of the year, with his previous outings being all in relief. He went four innings last time out, throwing 78 pitches. The Pirates will look to continue stretching him out, but I’d imagine his pitch limit will be around 90. He mixes 4 Seam, 2 seam and cut fastballs, and uses a Change and Curve. He doesn’t throw especially hard, low 90’s, and is a fly ball pitcher, (just 37% GB rate). This plays into the Diamondbacks strength, as they’ve hit FB pitchers much better than GB pitchers.

Robbie Ray struck out 11 in 5 2⁄3 IP last time out and got the win against the Rays to improve to 2-1. In his last 4 starts he’s thrown 22 1⁄3 IP, walking just 8 and striking out 29 on the way to a 2.01 ERA in this stretch. Robbie is rolling right now and will hope to continue that success. Notably, the Pirates did not see him in the earlier four game series. This matchup should favor the Diamondbacks
Joe Musgrove brought a 1.54 ERA into the month of May, but has gotten crushed in each of his last two starts against Oakland and St. Louis. In 5 2⁄3 IP he’s given up 12 hits, walked 7, and surrendered 15 runs, 13 earned as a result. He gave up 3 runs in 6 IP against the DBacks April 22nd, getting a non decision, but his bullpen got beat up in a game the Snakes won 12-4. Mostly a Fastball, Sinker, Slider guy who throws in the low 90’s, Musgrove needs to induce a lot of ground balls to be effective. That’s been lacking for him lately, but one should note the difference in his ERA and FIP. He might have been getting a little unlucky.

Luke Weaver has been perhaps the DBacks hottest pitcher. Since giving up 4 runs to the Dodgers in his first start, he has allowed 3 run twice, and 0, 1, or 2 runs. five times. He has the lowest ERA and FIP among the DBacks starters, and has gone 7 innings in his two most recent outings. He’s showing up in the top 20 in MLB now in ERA, ERA+, FIP, fWAR. When he faced the Pirates he got the win, going 6 1⁄3 , giving up 1 run, on 6 hits, 1 walk and 7 K’s. This matchup also favors the Diamondbacks.
Chris Archer is overrated. He hasn’t posted an ERA under 4, or an ERA+ over 103 since 2015. He has excellent K/BB ratio, but he has been very homer prone. This is often the profile of a pitcher that consistently has higher ERA than FIP. Think Javier Vasquez. On days Archer avoids giving up the long ball, he is tough to beat, but he just gives up to many big flies, as his HR/FB rate has consistently been in the mid teens. In the past, his Groundball rates was actually above average, but when he did give up the fly ball, it just often was on a hanging sinker that didn’t sink. It’s notable that his ground ball rate has cratered so far this year so far. He hasn’t pitched since April 26th due to right thumb inflammation, and this is his first start back. So perhaps the rest and time off will do him well. Despite what I said above, this could be the toughest matchup for the Diamondbacks this series, IF a healed and well rested Archer is sharp enough to throw strikes.

Fortunately, ace Zack Greinke is going in this one. Since opening Day, Greinke has been nothing short of masterful. In 8 starts since then he’s posted a 2.19 ERA in 53 1⁄3 IP, striking out 54 while walking just 6 ! He’s even managed to tame the long ball problem, giving up just 4 HR in those 8 games, and none at all in his last five starts.

I look for the DBacks to take all three games and right THEIR ship and send the Pirates on their way wondering what they did to deserve having to face the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2019