The Chicago Cubs’ Jason Heyward’s weekend heroics is what this team has needed all year.
It was a wild weekend in Milwaukee. We watched Jon Lester turn back the clock on Friday night, but the team couldn’t give him any run support in a 1-0 loss. On Sunday, we watched one of the most improbable no-hitters recorded by Alec Mills in a 12-0 drubbing. On top of that, we watched Jason Heyward hit the first home run off of Josh Hader all season down 2-0 in the bottom of the ninth Saturday, propelling the Cubs to a signature win.
It has felt like a dull season to this point, and we need this team to get hot down the stretch in hopes of clinching the division. However, there hasn’t been any reason for us to think they will get things going until Heyward’s bomb. This gave this team and fans life and provided a comeback win we haven’t seen all year. This is the spark this team needed to wake up and finish off this division with twelve games to go.
Heading into this series, the Cubs sat at 26-19, clinging on to a three-game lead in the division. Tensions seemed high, as this team ranks 25th in team batting average at .227 and ninth in team ERA at 4.03. Nothing to write home about as we’ve watched this team go 13-16 since their impeccable 13-3 start. It’s also worth noting the Cubs have just six players with a higher batting average than the league average of .246, and none of those names are Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo or Kris Bryant.
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This team’s been lacking a spark all season, and I finally believe it came Saturday night in Milwaukee. Baez and Rizzo broke through for a few base hits to set the stage for Heyward to deliver the first 2020 home run off Hader. The Cubs were on the verge of back-to-back shutouts and letting a Brewers team continue to creep in on the division lead. Heyward gave the Cubs a moment to remember, and some blood flows into a seemingly humdrum season to this point.
The spotlight shined on Heyward, and it really should be this season. He is batting .293 with an OPS of .947. To put that into perspective, his average leads the team, and OPS is higher than Nicholas Castellanos (.829), the player everyone around the Cubs was desperately hoping to sign. Heyward has put this team on his back and given the Cubs life.
After his Saturday night heroics, Mills tossed the second no-hitter in Miller Park’s history, and the offense broke out by scoring 12 runs. This is the first time all season I’ve been pumped up about this team. Watching before the ninth inning on Saturday, there didn’t appear to be any life, and I envisioned another ‘buckle your seatbelt’ stretch like we’ve had the previous two seasons.
With twelve games to go, the Cubs have all the right vibes. In addition to Heyward and Mills, Craig Kimbrel has shown out. Since August 14th, Kimbrel has tossed 10 1/3 innings, with two saves, a 1.74 ERA and 19.16 K/9. Pretty remarkable numbers for someone that many have already written off. The bullpen (knock on wood) seems to be coming together, and Kimbrel is the leader of this improvement.
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The Cubs finish the season with a demanding schedule. Other than the Pirates, this team faces the Twins, Indians and White Sox to close out. Keep in mind those three teams are separated by 41/2 games in the AL Central, so all will be playing for a lot down this stretch here. It’s time for the Cubs to lock in and Heyward has given this team the signature win and mojo they’ve been searching for to do so.