Chicago Cubs firing on all cylinders coming out of the All-Star Break

(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /
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This weekend, the Chicago Cubs looked like the juggernaut we all expected, throttling the Pittsburgh Pirates over the course of the three-game series.

All year, we’ve been waiting for a signature showing from the Chicago Cubs, one that would make a statement to the rest of the National League. While the Pittsburgh Pirates are hardly what I’d call the toast of the league, the Cubs handled their business – coming away with a series sweep to open the second half.

Chicago (50-43) came out of the All-Star Break just 2 1/2 games ahead of the Bucs in the tightly-contested NL Central. But they’ll begin a new week with a 5 1/2 game cushion over Pittsburgh – and a 2 1/2 game advantage over second-place Milwaukee.

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How’d they do it? Well, this weekend saw a little bit of everything from the Cubs.

Quintana rebounds to turn in a quality start

Left-hander Jose Quintana took the ball on Sunday, looking to make it three quality outings in a row from Chicago starters.

After getting banged up in the third inning for a trio of runs, the southpaw settled in, keeping Pittsburgh off the board for the rest of the afternoon before handing things off to the pen.

The veteran went six, allowing six hits and striking out four – an effort good enough to net his seventh win of 2019. It also marked Quintana’s 10th quality start of the season – tied with Cole Hamels for the most on the club.

Heading into the season, the veteran-heavy starting rotation looked like a major strength for Joe Maddon‘s club. And, if these three games were any indication, it may very well be one down the stretch for Chicago.

Bombs away as the bats come to life

Trailing 3-2 heading into the bottom of the fifth, the Cubs hung a three-spot on Pirates starter Trevor Williams. They did so again the next frame, blowing the game wide open for the second time in as many days – a promising sign, to be sure.

Jason Heyward (shocker), Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora all homered. Robel Garcia doubled twice. Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Victor Caratini all also added a pair of hits each and, from top to bottom, it was another powerful top-to-bottom offensive performance from the Cubs’ lineup.

The team went 3-for-6 with runners in scoring position – finishing the weekend 11-for-23 (.478) in such situations. Sure, it was a three-game sample size, but there’s a lot to love about what this lineup is doing to open the second half.

Can the Cubs keep the home cooking going?

Chicago has six more games to go in its current nine-game homestand – welcoming in the Cincinnati Reds on Monday for a three-game set, followed by the young and exciting San Diego Padres next weekend.

Next. Closing the books on a mixed bag first half. dark

With this weekend’s three-game sweep, the Cubs are 32-16 at Wrigley Field (compared to a dismal 18-27 on the road). Continuing their winning ways at home – especially taking on a division foe in the Reds – could go a long way in giving the club some breathing room in the Central.

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