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The Chicago Cubs were able to put together a solid three game stretch this week, giving them their first win streak of the season and their first series win since last season. An ever improving bullpen was at the heart of it, and the successful return of Jake Arrieta to the starting rotation.
Team Recap: 3-2 for the week, 11-18 on the season
Things were looking good when…The Cubs took the opening two games from the rival St. Louis Cardinals, and tied up game three in the seventh at 3-3. Hector Rondon took the mound in the ninth coming off two consecutive saves the previous two games.
The Cubs started off the week with a rain filled series in Cincinnati against the Reds that saw the first game of the series postponed till a later date. Game two of the series saw similar weather, and unfortunately for Cubs starter Jeff Samarzdija it was more of the same for him. While not as his best, Samardzija again pitched well enough to win but came up winless again as the Cubs dropped the contest 3-2.
The Cubs would answer in the final game of the series, taking advantage of a struggling Reds bullpen, scoring four runs (only two earned) off of former Cub Sean Marshall to close out a 9-4 win and earn a split in the rain-shortened series.
It looked to be an uphill battle for the weekend series as the Cubs would face the Cardinals and one of the hottest pitchers in the league in Adam Wainwright, who came in with a 25 inning scoreless streak. The Cubs took care of that streak in the first inning, and went on to rough up Wainwright for six runs and 10 hits.
The Cardinals did keep in interesting with a two-run home run by Johnny Peralta in the eight, but Hector Rodon closed out the ninth for the save.
Saturday saw the return of Jake Arrieta to the mound for the Cubs, and he didn’t disappoint. He did have to work out of a few jams, but was overall solid, pitching 5 1/2 innings of shutout baseball while striking out seven.
Junior Lake seemed to overcome his recent struggles, recording a three-hit game, including a home run to help lift the Cubs to a three-game win streak. Anthony Rizzo added a solo shot in the eight, his sixth of the season to help seal the deal.
Jason Hammel had by far his worst start in a Cubs uniform on Sunday, but still posted a quality start. Hammel didn’t factor in the decision as the Cubs rallied to tie it in the seventh on a wild pitch. Unfortunately as previously noted the Cubs and Rondon were unable to hold and the Cubs lost 5-4.
Players of the week
The Chicago Cubs bullpen – 7 holds, 2 saves, 4 ER
It was hard to pinpoint one pitcher that had a more outstanding week than another, so I chose the Cubs bullpen as a whole. There had been some struggles, as well as some identity issues to start this season. But less Sunday night’s loss, the Cubs relievers were almost perfect. Justin Grimm gave up the home run in the 5-4 victory, but the rest of the week they were lights out. Neil Ramirez has looked impressive early on, and Pedro Strop and Brian Schlitter have rebounded well from a few tough outings. With a struggling offense, this group will need to help keep the Cubs in it while hoping for the clutch hits and late breaks to go their way.
Welington Castillo – .438 (7/16), 4 2B, 2 RBI
This is somewhat of an overall honor this week for Castillo. His numbers weren’t eye-popping. and Castro and Rizzo had better numbers. But Castillo continues to improve after a slow start, returning to where he was last season before sitting out after surgery late in the season. It’s also for his managing of the staff. The starting pitching has been routinely solid, and the bullpen is catching up. Much of that is attributed to Castillo and how he handles these pitchers.