Yesterday, I made it clear that some Chicago Cubs fans were going too far on social media. But why that is true, frustration is to be expected. Swept by the Dodgers and Padres, coming home offers a chance for redemption.
With a day off and a bit of a lineup shakeup, the Chicago Cubs began their homestand against the rival St. Louis Cardinals. It started with the joy of Dexter Fowler‘s return and him receiving his World Series ring. He then promptly led off the game with a solo home run. The Cubs did come back to take the opener 3-2, and the start at redemption in the eyes of the fans has begun.
Joe Maddon changed things up in the lineup, moving Ian Happ to the leadoff spot and dropping Kyle Schwarber to the seven spot. It’s possible that the Ben Zobrist leadoff experiment is over. So the search will continue. And as far as Schwarber? It’s getting harder and harder to defend him. I think a trip to the minors would do him some good–and would only have to be a temporary trip. He’s still a young player who hasn’t played a full season. We expect so much after what he’s done, but he is mortal.
What West Coast trip?
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This homestand offers the Cubs a good chance to make the fans forget about that terrible road trip. The Cardinals give them an opportunity to gain in the division. The Colorado Rockies will allow them a chance to prove themselves against an excellent road team (19-9). And the Miami Marlins? That’s a team much like the Padres that they simply have to beat. But the possibility is there that the Cubs could start June in much better shape than this season has gone.
Jason Heyward is proving–we hope–that last year’s numbers were a fluke. A .259 average isn’t amazing, but he’s doing the little things to be effective at the plate. The biggest difference from last year is Heyward’s jumping on the first pitch more often and getting the ball airborne, as we saw today. Anthony Rizzo‘s heads-up baserunning directly attributed to the win as he went from second to third on Zobrist’s groundout. With the offense still not completely out of hibernation, these are the little things that will help win games.
Starters will be the key
One of the critical pieces for the Cubs will be the performance of the starting rotation during the homestand. Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks were damn near automatic last year at Wrigley Field. Lester is keeping to that so far (3-0, 1.80 ERA), while Hendricks has looked better at home as of late (2-1, 3.49 ERA). John Lackey gave a strong performance in the opener (7 IP, 2 R, 4 H, 6 K). Jake Arrieta has become the wild card–that’s just strange to say–and Eddie Butler could be on his last chance.
Kris Bryant continues to look like an MVP and the rest of the lineup, in my opinion, will eventually catch up. Rizzo is starting to make some ground up, but players like Willson Contreras and Addison Russell MUST start producing. Again, like Schwarber, they’re young players. But the Cubs will need to make some decisions on these guys and their playing time moving forward. I keep hoping they’ll pull out of their slumps, but I’m still waiting. June? I’m good. July? I’ll start to be concerned.
This 10 game homestand isn’t going to make or break this season. But it will help set the Cubs up in the right direction if they can win seven or eight of these games. As we creep towards the trade deadline, the Cubs need to know where they stand. They need to figure out what–if anything–they might need. The pieces are already there, and this is the chance to prove it.