Chicago Cubs: Stellar starting pitching has been key to winning streak

ATLANTA, GA - JULY 17: Jon Lester
ATLANTA, GA - JULY 17: Jon Lester /

The Chicago Cubs current winning streak is due in large part to the strides their starting rotation has made post-All Star break.

After entering the All Star break with a 43-45 record, the Chicago Cubs have completely flipped the script. The team is on a six-game winning streak, outscoring opponents 44-17 during this span.

At first glance, the team’s 44 runs over the past six games stand out significantly, and deservedly so. The Cubs have scored eight or more runs in four of their six games after the break. As impressive as this is, the team’s pitching overall and (starting pitching specifically) has been just as impressive.

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Although the Cubs have allowed 17 runs in six games, eight of those were allowed in the team’s 9-8 win during their first game post-break. Since then, they have allowed three, zero, three, one and two runs, respectively, over the span of five games.

Obviously, winning a baseball game requires scoring more runs than one’s opponent; at the same time, winning also requires allowing fewer runs than one’s opponent. The Cubs have been spectacular at this since the All Star break, with the starting pitching deserving tremendous credit.

Rotation has been dominant post-All Star break

Over the past six games, Cubs starting pitchers have given up no more than four runs in an appearance. Mike Montgomery has started two games, allowing four earned runs in 4 1/3 IP in one start and one earned run in six innings pitched in another.

Outside of Montgomery, the Cubs other four starting pitchers have allowed one earned run or less in their starts. Jake Arrieta gave up two runs (one earned) in 6 2/3 IP last Saturday; newcomer José Quintana threw seven shutout innings last Sunday, while Jon Lester gave up one run in 7 innings on Monday.

Amid rumors of possibly moving to the bullpen, 38-year-old John Lackey gave up just one run Tuesday in five innings pitched. Lackey’s ERA before the break was 5.20, for what it’s worth.

Hendricks return solidifies rotation

With right-hander Kyle Hendricks nearing a return from the disabled list, Montgomery seems more likely to move to the bullpen than Lackey. While Montgomery has performed valiantly as of late, Hendricks’ return is an all-around win for the Cubs.

Montgomery’s 5.13 ERA in eight starts falls far from his 2.50 ERA in 19 appearances as a reliever. Yes, Montgomery has filled a hole in the team’s rotation during Hendricks’ absence; with Hendricks returning, the Cubs rotation and bullpen should be getting stronger, theoretically.

In 11 starts this season, Hendricks is 4-3 with a 4.09 ERA, second lowest to Jon Lester among the team’s starting pitchers. Essentially, Hendricks is an improvement over Montgomery in the rotation; at the same time, Montgomery improves a bullpen that already is fourth in the MLB with a 3.30 ERA.

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Averaging 7.3 runs/game since the All Star break should not go unnoticed, just as the Cubs 2.67 ERA during that span should not as well. All in all, the team has performed better as a whole, but the starting rotation has led the charge. If the trend continues, wins should keep coming for the Cubs.