Chicago Cubs weekly recap: 2014 Final edition


The 2014 Chicago Cubs season is in the books. It’s difficult to gauge the success, as expectations weren’t set very high. This was a season that didn’t expect to hold much, but ended up revealing a lot. We’ll eventually take a look back at what this season held, let’s first look at what the final week of the season gave us.

This Week: 4-2     Season: 73-89, 17 GB, Last in the Central

The Good: When the Cubs traded away Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, many fans–including myself–wondered who would be left to lead the staff. Jake Arrieta earned that distinction, and will enter next season with it firmly in his possession. Arrieta threw seven superb innings, allowing only one unearned run while striking out 10. Did I mention it was against the eventual division champion Cardinals? Against all challengers, Arrieta established his place in the Cubs rotation.

The Bad: Travis Wood‘s sophomore season with the Cubs didn’t fare as well as the first. He showed flashes of the pitcher he was last year at times, but battled with high pitch counts from too many walks. Wood can’t be counted out, as his veteran leadership will be integral next year. But there’s work to be done.

The Ugly: We’re going without the ugly in the final week. The Cubs won the last two series of the year, and against division rivals. One who won the division, and another that spent a majority of the year in the lead of it.

The Cubs’ players never spoke about it to the media, but as the St. Louis Cardinals came to Chicago in a dead heat for the division title, you know they wanted to play spoiler. And they almost did. After dropping the first game of the series to the Cards 8-0, the Cubs put it together for the final two games at Wrigley Field. 

‘Go Cubs Go’ was sang more often than it wasn’t at Wrigley. That’s a good summer in Chicago. 

While Kyle Hendricks didn’t have one of his more impressive outings, Welington Castillo went ahead and put his stamp on the 4-3 Cubs win. Castillo homered in the second inning, then drove in the game-winning run in the 10th. It’s been an up and down season for “Welly”, but the potential is there. His improvement on defense was noticeable, and while his numbers were down offensively, he had several big hits down the stretch for the Cubs.

Arrieta left nothing to chance in the final game of the series. He recorded his first career triple, helping himself to a 2-0 lead in the first. From there he did what he’s done all year. Once again he excited the crowd, starting the game with four innings of no-hit baseball. He’d finish with another solid start, and earn his 1oth win of the season. Hector Rondon would come in and get the save, his first of three in the final four games as the Cubs won the series with a 3-1 victory. The club finished with a 41-40 record at home, their best since 2009. ‘Go Cubs Go’ was sang more often than it wasn’t at Wrigley. That’s a good summer in Chicago.

The Cubs traveled up I-94 to face the Milwaukee Brewers for the final set of the year. The Brewers, who had held first for 150 days, went into a second half tailspin, and we’re fighting to finish with a winning record. In the opening game, Cubs’ rookie Javier Baez put together a three-hit performance, helping to lead the Cubs to the 6-4 win. Baez was not alone, as the top four hitters in the lineup accounted for seven hits, and all six runs.

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Game two of the series saw Tsuyoshi Wada go toe-to-toe with Wily Peralta of the Brewers. Wada surrendered only two runs, but Peralta was dealing against the Cubs lineup. He struck out a career-high 13, allowing only one run in the 2-1 Brewers victory. The win guaranteed a winning season, although it was likely little comfort to the Milwaukee players or coaches.

On the final day of the 2014 season, the Cubs got one last look at a few of the things that had been pleasing to the eye all season. Anthony Rizzo hit his 32nd home run, and drove in his 78th run of the year in an excellent comeback season. The Cubs also got another save from Rondon, as the former rule 5 pick saved his 29th in 33 opportunities in the 5-2 triumph. The victory prevented the Cubs from a 90 loss season, the first time since 2010 that didn’t happen.

This wasn’t a season to necessarily look back to and say, ‘That’s when it all changed’. But I think it’s fair to say the Cubs as a franchise are turning the corner. The young talent we’ve heard so much about has made it’s way to Chicago. They still need experience, as the rigors of a 162 game schedule can’t be simulated. These youngsters that got a taste this year will be in for a wake-up call next season.

This team has so many fewer questions entering the off-season than last year, but still nothing is set in stone. Theo Epstein and Co. still have plenty to do. Phase 2, year 2. Development. It’s been the plan all along, and it appears to be working. The Cubs won’t be the laughing stock next year, nor were they this season. Will they win the Central? Not likely. But it’s not impossible to believe they can push to make the last few weeks of September interesting.

Go Cubs!