It was quite the season for the #Cubs

Facts and figures from the Cubs’ 2015 season:

*Anthony Rizzo became the 43rd 30-100 player in Cubs history, driving in his 100th and 101st runs with a two-run single in the first. Rizzo, who has 30 home runs, is the first Cubs player with a 30/100 season since Alfonso Soriano did in 2012. Rizzo also is just the fourth left-handed hitter to accomplish the feat in franchise history.

*Kris Bryant finished with 26 home runs, 31 doubles, 99 RBI, 86 runs scored and 74 walks. In Major League history, only one other player has reached those numbers in his rookie season and that was Ted Williams in 1939. Manager Joe Maddon wasn’t too upset that Bryant didn’t reach 100 RBIs. Maddon said: “It gives him something to shoot for next year.”

*The Cubs finished with 97 wins, the most since a 97-64 record in 2008. Maddon set a franchise record for most wins in the first year with the Cubs. Jim Frey held the old mark of 96 in 1984.

*Hector Rondon totaled a career-high 30 saves and a 1.67 ERA. He’s the second pitcher in Cubs history to save 30 games and post a 1.67 ERA or lower, joining Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter, who saved 31 games and had a 1.34 ERA in 1977.

*The Cubs pitchers totaled 1,431 strikeouts, setting a National League single-season record. The old mark was 1,404, set by the 2003 Cubs. The Cubs batters also led the Majors in K’s with 1,518, but led the NL in walks (567).

*The Cubs finished 48-33 on the road this season. It’s the first time they’ve won more than 45 games on the road since a franchise-record 49 wins in 1945.

#Cubs Maddon: No blitzes today in finale

Cubs manager Joe Maddon will be scoreboard watching Sunday. Chicago began the day one game behind Pittsburgh in the National League Wild Card standings. If the Pirates win, they secure home field advantage for Wednesday’s Wild Card Game.

Maddon knows all about having Game 162 determine whether or not a team makes the postseason. On Sept. 28, 2011, the last game of the regular season, his Rays faced the Yankees with a postseason berth on the line, and fell behind, 7-0, after five innings. He was worried that he would need the bullpen in a possible one-game playoff against the Red Sox, but could monitor Boston’s score that day.

“That game was concurrent with ours, so you could look at that,” he said of the Red Sox game game against the Orioles, which they lost.

The Rays rallied to win, 8-7, in 12 innings, thanks to Evan Longoria’s walk off home run. Having all of Sunday’s games start at the same time will help, he said.

“It matters to be able to look at the scoreboard and try to figure out what you want to do,” Maddon said.

The Cubs didn’t have any surprises planned for Sunday’s season finale against the Brewers.

“We’re not going to do anything differently,” he said. “There’s not anything new to put in there — there’s no new packages, we’re not bringing a new offense, we’re not going to blitz any more, no 3-4 [formation]. Just go play. Please don’t do anything differently, just go play.”

— Carrie Muskat

#Cubs Haren starts vs Brewers

Dan Haren takes the mound on Sunday at Miller Park as the Cubs wrap up the regular season against the Brewers. There’s a lot on the line. The Pirates have a one-game lead in the NL Wild Card standings. If the Pirates beat the Reds on Sunday, they’ll secure home field advantage for Wednesday’s Wild Card Game. If the Pirates lose and the Cubs win, the Cubs would host the Wild Card Game at Wrigley Field because they won the season series, 11-8.

Here’s Sunday’s lineup:

Jackson CF

Coghlan RF

Bryant 3B

Rizzo 1B

Castro 2B

Denorfia LF

Montero C

Russell SS

Haren P

This may be Dan Haren’s last big league start. He has said this will likely be his final season. He’s one of seven active players with 2,000 strikeouts. He’s gone 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA at Miller Park. This will be his 32nd start of the season, and No. 380 of his big league career.

#Cubs still have chance to host WC game

The Cubs beat the Brewers, 1-0, on Saturday night to put pressure on the Pirates, who are trying to secure home field advantage in the NL Wild Card Game. Pittsburgh lost Saturday night to the Reds, and now has a one-game lead in the Wild Card standings. The Pirates must win Sunday to play Wednesday’s WC game at PNC Park. If the Pirates lose and the Cubs win, the two teams will have identical records, and the game will be at Wrigley Field because Chicago won the in-season series, 11-8.

Sunday’s game will start at 2:10 p.m. CT at Miller Park.

“That’s why you keep playing,”  Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “You stay focused on the day and you take care of your own business and if you do that, you get to tomorrow with an opportunity to do something really cool. We’ve been playing it straight up, we’ve been using a lot of different guys. Everybody’s fresh. We’ve been playing it straight up. Tomorrow we’ll do it again.”

Dan Haren gets the start on Sunday at Miller Park against the Brewers’ Jorge Lopez.

— Carrie Muskat

It’s Game 161, and #Cubs are working on bunting

Prior to the Cubs’ 161st game on Saturday, players and pitchers were working on their bunting at Miller Park. Manager Joe Maddon wanted to make the most out of their batting practice time in preparation for Wednesday’s National League Wild Card Game.

“The thing I love is these are Major League players going to the playoffs, and they’re out there paying attention and they’re very enthusiastic about it,” Maddon said. “That’s pretty solid.”

One never knows if a little thing like a well-executed bunt can be the difference in a postseason game.

“We’ve worked on it all year,” Maddon said. “But if you do it like that [prior to the playoffs], what does it tell the players? That it’s really important.”

This final week of regular season games has been a little like instructional league, Maddon said.

“You alter your lineups, you try to keep guys fresh,” he said. “In instructional league, you give guys the opportunity to play based on things you talked about or taught that morning. It feels like an instructional league moment, and that was my favorite time of year.”

The Cubs will face the Pirates on Wednesday, although the site is still to be determined.

— Carrie Muskat

#Cubs Hendricks starts vs Brewers

The Cubs need to win to keep pace with the Pirates in the battle for home field advantage in the Wild Card game. Pittsburgh has a two-game lead with two games to play, and if the Cubs lose, the Pirates are in. Kyle Hendricks gets the start Saturday. Here’s the lineup:

Fowler CF

Schwarber RF

Bryant 3B

Rizzo 1B

Castro 2B

Coghlan LF

Russell SS

Ross C

Hendricks P

If the Cubs and Pirates finish in a tie, the Cubs would host the Wild Card game on Wednesday at Wrigley Field; the tiebreaker is head to head season series (Chicago won, 11-8).

This will be Hendricks last regular season start. The right-hander is coming off a solid outing against the Royals in which he threw six shutout innings.

The Cubs pitchers have set a National League record for most strikeouts in a single season with 1,414. The old mark was 1,404, set in by the 2003 Cubs.

#Cubs vs Pirates site still TBD

The Cubs beat the Brewers, 6-1, on Friday, and know that they will face the Pirates in Wednesday’s Wild Card Game, but the site has yet to be determined. Pittsburgh defeated Cincinnati in 12 innings Friday night, and holds a two-game lead in the Wild Card standings with two games remaining.

If the two teams finish with identical records, the Cubs hold the tiebreaker because they won the season series, 11-8, and would host the playoff game at Wrigley Field.

#Cubs Arrieta goes for 22nd win

Jake Arrieta goes for his 22nd win Friday night when the Cubs open their final regular season series at Miller Park against the Brewers. Arrieta has thrown 19 consecutive quality starts, and he’s 15-1 with a 0.89 ERA in that stretch. He has a 0.80 ERA since the All-Star break, which would be the lowest in Major League history. Manager Joe Maddon said not to expect Arrieta throwing 100 plus pitches in his final regular season start. The right-hander will be on the mound Wednesday when the Cubs play the Pirates in the NL Wild Card game. The site for that game is still to be determined. A Pirates’ win on Friday and Cubs’ loss would clinch home field advantage for the Bucs.

Here’s the lineup:

Fowler CF

Schwarber RF

Bryant LF

Rizzo 1B

Castro 2B

Montero C

Russell SS

Arrieta P

La Stella 3B

#Cubs going over WC roster options

The Cubs will have discussions Sunday and Monday about finalizing the postseason roster for next Wednesday’s National League Wild Card game and are trying hard not to over-think the process.

“Your decisions are fairly defined,” Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said Thursday. “There’s only so many things you can do with the roster. Because it’s one game, you can spend a lot of time thinking through it. There’s a tendency to over think it and think about every permutation. When you get too far in the weeds, you try to remember that.”

Hoyer said he recalled adding Curtis Leskanic to the Red Sox roster in 2004 even though the reliever had not been used in high leverage situations. Yet, there was Leskanic on the mound in an extra inning game with the score tied, and the Red Sox faced elimination if they lost.

“That’s the nature of these rosters — you always have to assume anyone you put on the roster will be put in a huge spot,” Hoyer said. “It feels the game always finds that person.”

The Cubs have had preliminary discussions regarding the roster, but the final configuration does not have to be submitted until the day of the game.

“We’re just doing one thing at a time, man,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Thursday. “That’s how I’m looking at it.”

Jake Arrieta will start the Wild Card game, and the Cubs will likely have one more starting pitcher on the roster. Then, it will come down to how many position players compared to how many relievers. The Cubs also know their opponents well, having played their playoff-bound Central Division foes 19 times each.

“You take every series real seriously in the postseason and you try not to leave any stone unturned,” Hoyer said. “When it’s one game, it consolidates all of that decision making into nine innings.”

— Carrie Muskat

#Cubs Hammel starts in series finale vs Reds

Jason Hammel gets the start Thursday as the Cubs close their series against the Reds in Cincinnati. Here’s the lineup:

Fowler CF
Jackson RF
Castro 2B
Rizzo 1B
Denorfia LF
Baez 3B
Schwarber C
Hammel P
Russell SS

*This will be Schwarber’s first start at catcher since Aug. 31, and it’s fitting that he does it in Cincinnati. He grew up in MIddletown, Ohio, and was a Johnny Bench fan.

*The Cubs finished September with 19 wins, and have won 19 or more games in consecutive months for the first time since 1977 (21 wins in May, 19 in June). The 19-9 September record this year was the best in the Majors.

*The Cubs have won 93 games, a 20-win improvement from last year. That’s the best in all of baseball this year, and best by a Cubs team since a 21-win increase from ’02 to ’03.

*Looking ahead to the Cubs’ final regular season series against the Brewers in Milwaukee:

Friday: Jake Arrieta (21-6, 1.92) vs. Ariel Pena (2-0, 3.91)
Saturday: Kyle Hendricks (7-7, 4.09) vs. Tyler Wagner (0-1, 11.74)
Sunday: Dan Haren (10-9, 3.67) vs. Jorge Lopez (1-0, 5.40)


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