Chicago Cubs 2016 preview: May is full of contenders
After a grueling April filled with divisional foes, the Chicago Cubs will have a May full of playoff-caliber teams in their crosshairs. Early in the season, the importance of winning and doing it often should be the driving force for the Cubs.
Once the calendar flips to May the Cubs will immediately be faced with yet another divisional opponent. The Pittsburgh Pirates will welcome them to PNC Park looking to avenge a dismal performance in the NL Wildcard game.
Both teams look poised to compete down to the wire so it could serve as an early preview of an October showdown.
The Cubs will then return home to play in the first of 16 home games in the month of May. Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant will be face to face with the reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals. A series that doesn’t need extra intrigue but will provide plenty.
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Nationals new skipper Dusty Baker will make a return to Wrigley Field, his first since managing the Reds; while the Nationals will get their first look at the slugger who got away. Jason Heyward reportedly turned down $200 million from the Nationals to sign with the Northsiders.
The 10-game home stand will finish up with a return trip from the Pirates.
Along the way, the Cubs will return to the west coast during the next road trip for three games in San Francisco. The Cubs were able to keep the Giants back down the stretch late last season in route to clinching a playoff spot for the first time since 2008.
John Lackey and Heyward will headline the second trip to St. Louis in the early stages of the year. Cardinal fans have made it quite clear how they really feel about the signing and the internet hasn’t been kind with the reception.
The former Redbirds, along with their new teammates, will undoubtedly be looking to make a statement to the fans that turned on them so quickly.
The Cubs finish the month of May hosting the Philadelphia Phillies for three games and hosting the first two of a four-game set against the Dodgers.
When its time for the calendar to shift to June, the Cubs should have a better understanding of how their team will function moving forward. A month that includes 16 home games, a 10-game home stand, 12 games against the NL Central and 11 games against playoff teams from a year ago.
That doesn’t include the three against the Giants and Nationals, who were in the hunt but simply didn’t play well enough at the end to make it. May presents many challenges for the Chicago Cubs. A team that is seemingly full of kids that will be depended on to make large contributions to this team.
The veteran members will be tasked with producing on the field while cultivating the talent and confidence of the youngsters. Contention is the goal, but first place in the division will be the prize.