The Cubs have found a way to maintain their division lead as Major League Baseball enters the final month of a shortened season.
It hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows recently, but at least the Chicago Cubs are still ahead of the pack. Granted, they’ve taken two of three from the Pittsburgh Pirates who sit at the bottom of the division standings.
Either way, a win is a positive no matter who is on the opposite end of the scoreboard. With only 24 games remaining, fans will be focused on the upcoming homestand leading to a trip to Milwaukee.
Following Thursday’s afternoon contest with Pittsburgh, the 2016 World Series champions will host the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds. It will be Chicago’s second five-game series with the second-place Redbirds, who missed around 15 games due to COVID-19 exposures.
More from Chicago Cubs News
- Cubs should keep close eye on non-tender candidate Cody Bellinger
- Cubs starting pitching has been thriving on the North Side
- Make no mistake: the Cubs are very much about power hitters
- Cubs: It’s time to start thinking about potential September call-ups
- Cubs: P.J. Higgins deserves to be in the lineup on a daily basis
Currently, the Cubs are ahead of the Cardinals by four games and the Brewers by five. The importance of the upcoming two weeks is critical, given what is on the line. For the Cubs, it’s their first trip to the postseason since 2018.
For a while, fans were used to the Chicago Cubs being notable contenders having reached the playoffs four years in a row.
Not only are they going to need their bullpen to step up but one of their star infielders as well. Yes, I’m talking about the one and only Javier Baez. While his flashy defense has remained, his offensive production has not.
Baez, 27, had homered in Wednesday’s 8-2 win over the Pirates. A 443-ft moonshot that bumped his home run total up to six and his RBI contribution to 18. In 135 at-bats, Javier has struggled to remain consistent, hitting .200/.241/.627 entering the final month.
At the beginning of the year, fans were expecting Javier to be the team’s offensive powerhouse. To our surprise, the man leading the charge has been leadoff hitter, Ian Happ. Happ currently leads the team with a .308 batting average, 10 home runs, and 22 RBI.
Rather impressive for someone who was fighting for a roster spot a year ago. This lineup will thrive more if Baez is capable of turning up the heat with several weeks to go. Last year, the Cubs had six players with 20 plus home runs.
Although he wasn’t leading the team in that category, he saw the ball well enough to string together a .281/.316/.531/.847 line through 531 at-bats. If this were a full season, then nobody would be worried. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.
Being one of the faces of this organization, skipper David Ross is going to expect bigger and better things from Baez — as he should. If there is a time for him to become hot, the upcoming stretch of 12 games is perfect.
Is El Mago up for the challenge? Let’s certainly hope so.