Chicago Cubs weekly recap: August 18-24

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The weekend series saw the first-place Baltimore Orioles come in to visit Wrigley. First up was their former Opening Day Starter Jake Arrieta. Whether he was any more amped up to face his old team can be debated, but what he did do was continue the fine pitching that has established him as the Cubs ace. Arrieta held his former squad to four hits over seven innings, and Baez hit his sixth homer in 18 games to help push the Cubs to a 4-1 series opening lead.

Hector Rondon picked up his third save in three chances, and continues to grow into a solid closer from the Rule 5 draft pick he once was.

Saturday saw more rain in Chicago, but this time the grounds crew was up to the task. Unfortunately for the Cubs, the three-hour and nine minute rain delay kept Hendricks from returning to the mound. Reliever Justin Grimm took the mound after the delay and pitched 3 1/3 innings of hitless ball, taking a lot of pressure of manager Rick Renteria to manage the bullen in a game that saw both starters leave after the delay.

A four-run third inning was key for the Cubs, which included a bases-loaded triple from Chris Coghlan. His numbers against starter Bud Norris weren’t good in his career, but Renteria stuck with him and it paid off. Coghlan is hitting .304 in his last 51 games, including 22 RBIs.

The Orioles had to face another former farmhand in the rookie Wada on Sunday. The Orioles have to be thinking about what could have been after this weekend. Wada took a no-hitter into the seventh before allowing a solo home run to Steve Pearce. He went 6 1/3 innings, and the home run was all he would allow while striking out eight. Another rookie, Arismendy Alcantara, hit his fourth home run of the season, a solo shot in the fourth to give the Cubs a lead they would never relinquish. Rondon would close it out for his fourth save of the week, and give the Cubs their first sweep since they did it at Boston from June 30 to July 2.

Cubs Players of the Week

Logan Watkins – His numbers were far from eye-popping, but for a call-up to fill in for Castro he did everything the Cubs could have asked. Watkins made some great defensive plays to go along with a .300 clip (3-for-10) and three RBIs in his short time up. With the nucleus the Cubs have in Chicago and coming up, Watkins may never be much more than a utility man. But that is as vital a player as you can possibly have.

Hector Rondon & Tsuyoshi Wada – Both of these guys were stellar this week. Rondon, as mentioned a former Rule 5 pick, continues to grow in the closers role. After being thrust into the spot after the Jose Veras failures, he has steadily improved as the year has progressed. The Cubs may want to look at others in the role, but Rondon cannot be ignored. Wada is a rookie by MLB standards, but a veteran in baseball standards. And the way he has pitched has shown that. He went 2-0 on the week, allowing only one run in 11+ innings, and also took a no-hitter into the seventh.

This team looks invigorated by the youth being injected into it on what seems like a daily basis. It’s hard to truly get excited about what a last place team is doing, but if this week in any indicator, the Cubs may be finally turning the corner. September call-ups are near, and more young faces will join this team down the stretch. To the outsider, the Cubs aren’t worth watching down the stretch, being a last place team. But Cubs fans know that this may be the most exciting time of this season.

Baez Tracker – When Baez was called up, I decided to track the Cubs progress as a team once he started playing everyday, which was immediately. Clearly one player isn’t the reason for a team’s success or failure, and there are many other moving pieces that are a part of this, but the Cubs are now 11-9 since he joined the Cubs. Hmm..works for me.