Chicago Cubs: Glimpses of a good team are still there

Jun 16, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Cubs second baseman Tommy LaStella (2) singles against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the ninth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 16, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Cubs second baseman Tommy LaStella (2) singles against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the ninth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The Chicago Cubs will occasionally thrill us with a win streak, only to let us down with a massive losing streak to follow. That’s what’s lead to this .500 team. But once in awhile, we can see THAT team in them. The defending champs. Could Friday night’s comeback be the win helps turn the corner?

I love talking Chicago Cubs baseball with people. And it’s so funny that last year, people were excited for us as fans. Even my buddy that’s a Reds fan gave me that much. But now, not so much. Most people hate the Cubs. That’s not a scientific observation, but that’s how it feels. And while they continue to play mediocre baseball most days, you can’t help but see that team from last year occasionally poke it’s head out. But will it be to stay this time?

The comeback win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night was vintage 2016. Not blowing the 3-1 lead–that was the 2017 team, without a doubt. But the rally they pieced together in the ninth scoring six runs? This is what they did last year. The Cubs never felt out of a game with that offense–an offense that has most of the same players this season.

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It seems that every time the Cubs have won, it’s been a multi-homer game for them. And there’s nothing wrong with that, per se. But take Ian Happ and Kyle Schwarber for example. Happ hit a big grand slam for the Cubs the other day–and struck out four times. Schwarber is hovering around the .170’s, although he’s improved a bit in June with a .216. But he’s hit 12 home runs, and that’s tied for second on the team. Last night though, that wasn’t the case for the Cubs.

The Cubs of old (Like, 2016)

The Cubs reeled off five straight hits (with an intentional walk to Kris Bryant in the middle) to turn it from a 4-3 deficit to a 7-3 lead. And of those first five hits, four were to the opposite field. For that brief moment in time, the Cubs went up with the mentality of keeping the line moving, not trying to clear the bases with one swing.

I want to be excited about what I watched last night. I mean, I am. Every time the Cubs win a couple I think, “This is it, they’ve turned the corner,” only to lose four out of the next five. I do believe that this offense is starting to come around. If the mentality of these hitters can move from home runs to opposite field singles, you’ll see the change immediately.

The questions are going to fall on the pitching staff. It’s not just that they haven’t been as good as last year (24 quality starts compared to 46 last year), it’s that injuries are starting to slow them down. Kyle Hendricks could miss several weeks with tendonitis in his hand. Jake Arrieta has had a cut on his thumb that may or may not be affecting his pitches and velocity. And John Lackey is only slowing down, and there’s not much the Cubs can do about that. Eddie Butler is already filling in for Brett Anderson, and hasn’t impressed but hasn’t failed either.

Riding out the storm

And remember, the bullpen that seems to take the most heat from fans on social media was our best asset at one point. Which is why every time I see “cut him, trade him, etc.”, I thank God that most of those fans aren’t GM’s. You often have to ride out the storm with guys that have gotten the job done for you before. Wade Davis and Carl Edwards were untouchable for a while. Edwards gave up three against the Mets last time out, while Davis has allowed four runs in his last six outings. Should we trade them too?

In 2015, the Cubs were 35-28, seven games back in the division. At the end of June? 40-35, 10 1/2 back. Final record? 97-65, good for third in the division. I think it’s fair to say that why that team was good, this year’s is better. We know what they are capable of. The NL Central isn’t going to be as good as it was in ’15. And goodness, if the Cubs were 10 games back? I don’t even want to know what some of you would be saying.

Next: Cubs should give La Stella an extended look

So take a breath, and have a little faith. No, it’s not the 2015 or 2016 team, but back then we didn’t know what to expect either. Did it ever occur to anyone that in 2017 that could happen again, or are you convinced that the Cubs are doomed? In that case, our bandwagon looks like it might be full and you should get off at the next stop.