With the expectations this team has this season, it’s hard to really ever “get excited” about much. Each time the club has won a couple of games, an extended losing streak seems to follow. But this week saw a different Chicago Cubs team. All aspects were clean, everyone executed, and the Cubs had a great home stand before heading back out on a 10-game road trip.
This Week: 5-1 Season: 25-35, Last in the NL Central
The Good: There was a lot this week, but let’s go with the two walk-off wins for the Cubs. Nate Schierholtz delivered the first on Tuesday night with an RBI double to beat the Mets 2-1. Anthony Rizzo added one on Friday with a walk-off two-run blast to beat the Marlins 5-3.
The Bad: The bullpen for the Cubs has been spectacular of late, but they did have a few hiccups this week. While Rizzo ended the game in extras with a home run, Hector Rondon blew a 3-run lead to allow Rizzo the opportunity. The Cubs late relief then was unable to hold two separate leads on Sunday, ending the Cubs win streak at five.
The Ugly: John Baker took a foul tip off the throat on Wednesday, forcing him to sit out on Thursday. Other than “inflamed” vocal cords, Baker was back on Friday. It is a good thing a catcher uses signs, and hopefully he wasn’t big on singing in the shower.
This six-game home stand, sandwiched in-between two road trips was pivotal for the Cubs to gain some traction. The starting pitching was again solid, although pitch counts kept Travis Wood and Jake Arrieta from going deep into their games. Edwin Jackson and Jason Hammel were strong as well, although Hammel was the victim of the Rondon blown save. And finally, Jeff Samardzija returned to form after his worst outing of the season a start before, as he pitched seven solid innings allowing only two earned runs.
But for once the Cubs were able to turn to clutch hitting, and oh how clutch it was. We’ve already mentioned the walk-offs, but in the 2-1 win over the Mets, reserve Chris Coghlan hit a game-tying solo home run in the eighth to give the Cubs the chance to win that game. And Rizzo, who scored on Schierholtz’s RBI, put together a great at-bat after struggling all night, fighting to get a single to start the inning of left-handed reliever Scott Rice. These are the type of hits the Cubs hadn’t been getting all season.
For a nice five-game stretch, the Cubs seemed to have all the answers.
The Cubs seemed poised to carry that into Sunday, scoring to take a lead late in the game on the Marlins. But the bullpen finally looked mortal, as they were unable to close the door on the Marlins, dropping the finale 4-3.
Cubs Players of the Week
Anthony Rizzo - I gave this to him last week, but I didn’t see any scenario where I didn’t do it again this week. Rizzo batted .400 on the week, with two home runs, and knocked in five. Rizzo did however strikeout seven times while drawing three walk, but the way he was swinging it this week, I think we all agree we can overlook that stat.
Jeff Samardzija - After a terrible outing against the Brewers in which he saw his ERA jump almost an entire run, Samardzija returned to form against the Marlins going seven strong, allowing only two runs on five hits, while striking out eight. I think I would classify the bad start as an exception, not the norm. He seems to be right back to his consistent form.
The Cubs gave a renewed hope that maybe they can make the season “tolerable” to watch. The Mets and Marlins aren’t top-tier teams. But the Mets were hot coming in, and like it or not, the Marlins a first-place team. Based on where people see the Cubs, there is no such thing as a sure win. They’re the team that other teams should beat. I hope both the Mets and Marlins though that before coming to Chicago.
Now to take this show back out on the road.