Be honest. When the Chicago Cubs scored that first run in the ninth inning, you thought they were coming back, didn’t you? The Cubs fell short, but once again they fought to the last out–and left Cincinnati with first place.
If the Chicago Cubs are going to win four out of five, I’m not one to complain. But I would like to see them do it in a more practical manner. The Cubs entered the ninth inning of Sunday’s finale down four, but rallied to put two more on the board and at least give themselves a chance, losing 7-5. Any loss hurts. But to leave Cincinnati after winning two out of three from the Reds and taking sole possession of first place? The Cubs are happy with that, especially after winning the opener after being down three in the ninth.
After 18 games, there are still plenty of questions to be answered. But some of them are different than we expected to be asked of us at this point. Two of them that were on the radar coming into the season after Spring Training were Wade Davis and Jason Heyward. Davis was coming back from an injury, and Heyward needed to retool his swing completely. But neither of them was instilling any confidence with their spring performances.
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Heyward has come out and been one of the Cubs most consistent hitters in the lineup, batting .297 in 17 games. He hit home runs in back-to-back games against the Reds and has 12 RBIs on the season. The swing adjustment seems to be paying early dividends, and as he builds confidence should only get better.
The Davis of old
Davis has notched four saves in four chances, striking out nine in his 8 1/3 innings. In his five innings during the spring he allowed eight runs on nine hits while striking out six. It’s somewhat a surprise that he has four saves considering the Cubs have needed to come back from a deficit late in games so often.
And what about Hector Rondon? He was batted around in the WBC and in the spring, but along with Carl Edwards and Davis has been one of the most consistent arms out of the Cubs’ bullpen (1.23 ERA, 7 1/3 IP, 0.82 WHIP). These were some of the players the Cubs were concerned about. But it’s been the ones you didn’t think you needed to worry about that have been the surprise.
What’s wrong with Baez?
Much of the talk has been about the struggles of Javier Baez. He seems to have returned to his old ways swinging at sliders and breaking balls out of the zone. He’s struck out 17 times now while walking just four. But while the Cubs leadoff man Kyle Schwarber has taken 13 walks, he’s also struck out 25 times–both are most on the team. The strikeout is a team-wide epidemic early in the season.
And what about Addison Russell? Sure, he hit a game-winning home run the other day against the Brewers. But he’s batting just .257 this season but does lead the team in RBIs with 13. And the kicker? World Series MVP Ben Zobrist. He’s batting just .212–and that included his two hits today. It’s been a strange case of the players we thought we would be worried about, and the ones that we actually are.
But this is a perfect opportunity to look at the Cubs and how even with all these struggles–they’re alone in first place. It’s not by much, and it on the surprise Reds. But this is still a victory with a team waiting to break out. The chances of them coming together as one at the same time–like they did out of the gate last season–is highly unlikely. But as one or two start to find their groove, others will eventually follow.