At first glance, the Chicago Cubs’ record appears to tell a story of disappointment, given the club enters Wednesday night’s matchup with Pittsburgh with a 2-5 mark – better than only Cincinnati in the National League Central.
However, there has been more to this team than its poor record. The starting pitching has been, for the most part, solid day in and day out. Cubs relievers have been handling an array of situations well, and in the past few days the offense – which was stagnant early on – has come roaring to life, thanks to the exploits of Emilio Bonifacio and Starlin Castro.
In 33 at-bats this season, Bonifacio has racked up a staggering 17 hits, good enough for a .515 average – tops in all of Major League Baseball. He collected his fifth multiple-hit game of the season against Pittsburgh on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, an impressive mark for a player who wasn’t guaranteed a big league roster spot coming out of Spring Training.
After being released by the Kansas City Royals in mid-February, Bonifacio signed a minor league deal with the Cubs, and his speed and ability to work a count have been major factors in the offense’s success of late. Last year, he swiped 28 bases – and he’s already notched five this season, and has not yet been caught by opposing catchers.
Castro’s bat came to life on Tuesday night, as the 24-year-old shortstop collected three hits – two of which left the yard – and drove in a trio of runs in a 7-6 Cubs’ loss. Appearing in all seven games on the young season, Castro enters play Wednesday hitting .310 with the aforementioned two home runs and six RBIs. First-year Cubs’ skipper Ricky Renteria offered his take on the young shortstop after the game to MLB.com Cubs beat writer Carrie Muskat.
“He’s just starting to get into a rhythm,” Renteria said. “He’s got some guys getting on base ahead of him. He’s seeing a lot of good at-bats from his teammates. He’s making a real good conscientious effort of bearing down and doing his thing.
As Muskat pointed out in her game recap Tuesday night, Castro started the year 0-for-9, but has since put together a five game hitting streak – a promising sign for the Cubs, who are looking for a major rebound year from their shortstop, who hit a career-low .245 last season in Chicago, driving in just 44 runs and notching only 163 hits – down from his career-high of 207 back in 2012.
Castro said after the game Tuesday that he doesn’t care where he hits in the lineup (he hit sixth in that game), and his goal is to drive in runs. Period.
This should be music to Cubs’ fans ears. With Bonifacio setting the table at the top of the lineup for Renteria, and the likes of Castro waiting deeper in the order, this offense could prove to be more balanced top-to-bottom than most, despite the lack of major run-producing names on the lineup card.
A 200-hit season from Castro and 30-plus stolen bases with a high OBP from Bonifacio will be key parts of this club’s offensive success come the end of the season. With an admittedly small sample size under their belts, both seem to be on the right track.