The Chicago Cubs continue to show improvement as a team, but could not get the job done against Pittsburgh to clinch their third consecutive series win in a row. However, they have played some of the best baseball over the last month in the National League, but still have a long way to go to make up for the dreadful start. So let’s see what the Cubs left us to digest this week.
This Week: 3-3 Season: 31-42 5th in the NL Central
The Good: Jake Arrieta was lights out against the Marlins in the Cubs 6-1 victory on Wednesday. He struck out 11 and allowed one run to lower his ERA to 1.98. Arrieta is progressing nicely, and may shortly be moving up in the rotation with the trade deadline looming.
The Bad: Brian Schlitter gave up a three-run home run to Garrett Jones in the Cubs’ 6-5 loss. The bullpen has been solid all season, but the little snag kept them from a sweep.
The Ugly: Travis Wood only allowed three runs in 4 2/3 innings, but his control was erratic and he watched his pitch count near 100 before he could finish the fifth. It was not the Wood the Cubs had seen in the last few starts, and put the bullpen in a tough spot in the series.
The Cubs have had good success against the Marlins this season, pushing their record to 4-2 against them. In the series opener, they needed extras to put them away. A pitcher helped get it done, but not in the normal sense.
Manager Rick Renteria turned to Wood to pinch-hit, and he delivered with an RBI double to score Junior Lake in the 13th for the win. Wood has shown the ability to swing the bat, and hustles on every hit, never assuming the out. Renteria, with the troubles the Cubs have had pinch-hitting,(currently worst in the league) should second guess using Wood again, possibly ahead of some other options. It may hurt some feelings, but this is baseball. “Rub some dirt on it”, feeling included.
The second game of the series once again saw starter Jeff Samardzija fall on tough luck. after a Luis Valbuena RBI double in the seventh gave the Cubs the lead and put Samardzija in line for the win, the bullpen was unable to finish the game off.
Brian Schlitter, who has been great out of the bullpen this year, made a mistake to Garret Jones who made him pay with a three-run blast. This was a game that was tough to see the Cubs lose, but you just have to shake it off. Bullpen has been, in all honesty, phenomenal this season. Chalk it up and move on.
The series finale saw Jake Arrieta dominate Marlins hitters, striking out 11 in his seven innings of work. Arrieta is short on minimum innings to qualify, but his current 1.98 ERA would be good for second in the league. As I’ve alluded to before, Arrieta could end up the default “ace” of this staff with the possible moves on the horizon. These kind of numbers don’t make that seem so bad.
The Cubs then came home to face the Pirates for the 85th time this year. Okay, I kid, but it seems like the first half has been Bucco heavy.
Edwin Jackson pitched five decent innings, but left after cramping and put the game in the hands of the bullpen. They came through, as the Cubs big inning was enough for the 6-3 victory.
Saturday’s game against the Pirates saw a rain-delay, then saw Travis Wood give the over/under betting pool on an official game to the under as he failed to finish five with an elevated pitch count. Aside a few bad starts, and this wasn’t a terrible one allowing three runs, Wood has been as consistent as he was last year. The numbers are skewed from two bad starts, (8 ER and 9 ER) which have driven up the ERA.
The offense went silent on Sunday, as the Cubs managed only two hits off starter Brandon Cumpton. He threw only 87 pitches in his seven innings, which shows the Cubs patience was lacking, something that has been improving as of late. Nate Schierholtz kept the Cubs from getting shut out with a fielder’s choice RBI in the ninth, but Mark Melancon shut the door after that for his second consecutive save.
Cubs Players of the Week
Chris Coghlan - The production the Cubs outfield has been pretty much non-existent. So, while not the most eye-popping week, Coghlan was effective at the plate, and in the field as well. He scored five runs for the Cubs, and that was on only 12 at-bats. Five hits, five runs scored. That’s a good fill-in for the injured Emilio Bonifacio, who still hasn’t resumed baseball activities.
Pedro Strop and Carlos Villanueva - These two pitched tremendously out of the pen this week. Strop seemed to strikeout about everyone he faced, forcing six whiffs of the nine men he faced. And Villanueva gave a great performance in the extra-inning win against Miami, also picking up the win. He fell on some hard times the first week of the season, but has recovered nicely to be the “jack of all trades” out of the bullpen the Cubs need.
By far the last few weeks has made the Cubs more enjoyable to watch. The reported contract offer to Samardzija, and that he turned it down, likely means his time in Chicago is running out. But the bats are coming around. There are young, live arms in this bullpen. So there’s plenty to be excited about for these Cubs, no matter what the record shows.
This Weeks Upcoming Games: Three game series vs Cincinnati Reds, four game series vs Washington Nationals.