The Chicago Cubs spent a dreary, rain filled week in Pennsylvania, taking on the Pirates and then the Phillies. Travis Wood seemed to recapture last season’s magic, earning two victories this week. On the other hand, Edwin Jackson saw the return of some of his struggles, including the one bad inning, in taking the loss twice.
This Week: 3-4 Season: 29-39, Last in the NL Central
The Good: Wood looked like the pitcher the Cubs sent to the All-Star game last season, claiming two wins, including a lights out performance Sunday afternoon against the Phillies. Wood entered the sixth inning before finally allowing a hit.
The Bad: After battling back to get withing a run on Friday, Jackson went out in the fifth and allowed the Phils to pull away in the 7-4 win. Jackson has been plagued by one “bad” inning in many of his starts. After a nice stretch of consistency,that bug bit him again.
The Ugly: Emilio Bonifacio failing to get out of the batters box after suffering what’s being called an oblique strain. Bonifacio had been struggling as of late, but losing his versatility is a crushing blow to a Cubs team that doesn’t have much speed to begin with.
For the most part, the Pirates series can be summed up by one player’s name: Andrew McCutchen.
Last year’s MVP looked like every bit of that player, and Jackson got to feel that wrath early. McCutchen tagged Jackson for a home run, and later added an RBI double while driving in three to help lead the Pirates to a 6-2 series opening win.
Charlie Morton kept Cubs hitters off-balance, as Starlin Castro and his 3-for-4 with a home run were about all the Cubs could point to as positive.
In the second game, the Pirates debuted one of their highly touted talents, Gregory Polanco. PNC Park was filled with anxious fans to see him play, but most of them got a better look at Anthony Rizzo.
Rizzo homered, doubled twice, and knocked in three runs to spoil Polanco’s debut. Wood had to grind out 6 2/3 innings, but he did enough to get the win. In other news of the day, the Cubs released RHP Jose Veras after designating him for assignment. He has since signed with one of his former teams, the Houston Astros.
Game three ended up being part two of the McCutchen story, as this time the Pirates got to the recently hot Jason Hammel. McCutchen’s home run in the first ended a streak of 52 innings without allowing one for Hammel. Luis Valbuena continued swinging a hot bat for the Cubs, and with the recent benching of Mike Olt, this may leave Olt on the pine for a little longer. But in the end it was the Pirates with the 4-2 victory.
The final game of the series was the final part of the McCutchen trilogy, as he had two doubles and two RBI to lead the Pirates to a 4-0 win over the Cubs and Jeff Samardzija. The Cubs lost Bonifacio in the first when he went to the ground after a hit, which later was diagnosed as an oblique strain. Samarzdija allowed four runs over six innings, but once again he got little, in this case, no support once again.
The Cubs trip to Philadelphia yielded much better results, mostly because McCutchen wasn’t there.
Jake Arrieta pitched one of his most complete games of the season, shutting out the Phils over seven innings, as the Cubs needed only Starlin Castro’s two-run home run for the 2-1 victory. The game wasn’t without its drama.
After Roberto Hernandez hit Castro in the sixth, he was immediately ejected. No warnings had been issued previously. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg came out to argue, and was ejected as well. Castro says he didn’t feel it was intentional.
"“I don’t think he did it on purpose,” Castro said. “He’s a good friend of mine."
Neil Ramirez filled in for his second save of the season as the Cubs were being cautious with closer Hector Rondon experiencing some discomfort in his throwing arm.
The Cubs dropped game two as one bad inning did in Cubs starter Edwin Jackson. Ater the Cubs closed the gap to one, Jackson gave up three runs to allow the Phillies to get away from the Cubs en route to a 7-4 victory.
The Cubs won the rubber match on the arm of Travis Wood who absolutely dominated the Phillies hitters. Wood pitched into the sixth before allowing a hit, and allowed only three hits total over eight innings. Neil Ramirez closed out his second game of the series for his third save of the season.
Cubs Players of the Week
Luis Valbuena – He had always had the ability to take pitches and coax a walk, but now he’s driving the ball to all fields and not missing much. With the struggles of Mike Olt, Valbuena becomes that much more valuable. With a .440 average over the last week, a one home run and five RBIs, Valbuena earned the award this week.
Travis Wood and Jake Arrieta – It’s seemed fitting to split the award with these two this week. Arrieta is slowly becoming more consistent, and that’s good news, because he may be the number one guy next year depending on how the trade season works out. But if he can continue to improve his control, the Cubs may have a hidden gem in him. Travis Wood was lights out in his second start of the week, and put in a work like performance in his first. But 2-0 for the week, and an eight inning, shutout performance is all you can ask for.
As we get closer to the trade deadline, these player of the week choices may simply be indicators of who will be the first to go. Names are already being tossed around, and we could start seeing changes soon. The Cubs have a few “untouchables”, but not many. Be careful if you buy a jersey, may want to leave the name blank.