Ivy’s Roundup — The First Half Ends

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It’s been a trying month of June (where the Chicago Cubs actually were above .500 if you could believe that) and we’ve had to put out a series of almost unnecessary blogs out there to keep the faithful from burning this MFer down.  Yes, the Cubs are sub-optimal in one-run games and against .500+ teams, but they have still won over 50 games and that’s pretty good.  Yes, the Cubs have some glaring weaknesses but again, they have still won over 50 games and have proven for huge stretches before June that they are good.  So let’s chill out before tomorrow’s communal dead animal feast and patriotic mass destruction and see how the Cubs did against the New York Mets…

Chicago Cubs @ New York Mets

First, the scores…

Thu 6//30 – Cubs 3, Mets 4
Fri 7/1 – Cubs 2, Mets 10
Sat 7/2 – Cubs 3, Mets 4
Sun 7/3 – Cubs 3, Mets 14

What is up with all the losing?  The Cubs used to have like a 13 game lead in the division and now it’s down to 9 games.  This is ridiculous!  Blow it up!  #FireTheo!  But now that we’ve calmed down a bit, I’d like to say that except for the rain-delayed game on Friday, the Cubs had plenty of chances to win each game, they just didn’t execute.  And that is the nature of baseball, as frustrating as it is.  It also is difficult to execute when your ace, Jake Arrieta, doesn’t pitch well, when Jason Hammel might be pitching his way to the bullpen (or maybe he just had a bad night, which is also possible), and when the bullpen is in a state of flux.  What I did like is that the Cubs never actually quit in any of the games (although Joe Maddon did shorten the bullpen for mopup duty on Friday), and even though I’m sure Cubs fans will freak out over the bad one-run game record, I saw enough positives from the bullpen on Friday and Saturday that I think their record in close contests will even out in the long run.  We certainly will see.

I did very much like that guys like Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo were continuing to hit as the other young ones continue to adjust to elite big league pitching.  It bears repeating that this team is EXTREMELY young, and because of their pedigree, talent, and work ethic, they are expected to get better.  So if this is the worst we’ve seen of the Cubs, we as a fan base are extremely lucky.  I realize that many fans have already lit their jerseys on fire and wrote off this season, but I can’t help but be an optimist given how smart our front office is, the reputation of the manager, and what we KNOW the players are capable of.  This game-tying hit, for example, was from a player who is the elder statesman of the core group:

And lest you think the Cubs are out of reinforcement or prospects or whatever, even with Tommy La Stella and Jorge Soler still hurting, they were able to call up another young phenomenon:

Jeimer Candelario may not be the best defensive third baseman, but his bat plays well as a switch-hitter, which made me think of Pablo Sandoval, but maybe with a little less power and a whole lot more plate discipline.  He also got his first career MLB hit off Noah Syndergaard.  How nice that he made his debut against the Mets in the area he grew up in!  Unfortunately, he and the Cubs didn’t do so hot, although it was nice to see them not get no-hit or shut out by Syndergaard.  Jon Lester, like Jake Arrieta and the hitters the night before, had issues with the strike zone, but despite bad umpiring, it doesn’t mean you keep pumping the zone with meatballs.  And to save the bullpen, Miguel Montero got to pitch!  It’s just one of those series, and I guess you can blame this on me…

Our only bit of troll is that the Washington Nationals have been beating on the Reds so the Mets barely made up any ground this weekend. Ha!  And while it’s been annoying, as Tim pointed out…

…the Cubs could still use the bandwagoner money, so come back, please.

Welp, despite the series sweep, the Cubs end the first 81 games with a record of 51-30, with at least an 8-game lead over the Cardinals (depending on what happens in their rain-delayed game, but they’re playing the Brewers so we’ll just assume they win) before the next stretch…

 

Next:

So now the Cubs travel home for a quick series and a makeup game against a couple of the worst teams in the majors.  But since this is professional baseball and baseball has a tendency to be weird, nobody is going to take these games for granted, although of course we expect and hope that the Cubs trounce their opponents and tack on some wins before their final pre-All-Star Game road trip.  You may recall that the Cubs swept the Reds in Cincinnati prior to traveling to New York, so let’s hope that domination continues.  To help give the starters a bit of a breather, the Cubs will have Adam Warren, freshly stretched out in Iowa, in a spot start for what we hope is a throwaway game against the Reds.  Dexter Fowler may be back at some point this coming week as well, but letting him rest past the All-Star Break probably isn’t the worst idea either, despite the club’s current struggles.

Cincinnati Reds @ Chicago Cubs

Monday, July 4
1:20 PM Central
Cody Reed vs. Kyle Hendricks
TV = WGN, Radio = WSCR AM 670 The Score

Tuesday, July 5
1:20 PM Central
Brandon Finnegan vs. John Lackey
TV = CSN, Radio = WSCR AM 670 The Score

Wednesday, July 6
1:20 PM Central
Anthony DeSclafani vs. Adam Warren
TV = CSN, Radio = WSCR AM 670 The Score

After this series, the Cubs normally would have had an off day, but because one of their games against Atlanta got rained out, they have to play on Thursday, too.  Think about that, the Cubs had like 50 injuries and a short bullpen in a span where they get no days off, and you wonder why it’s been so bad…but at least there are some bad teams to play now.  You may recall that the Braves have been a bit pesky against their NL East brethren, having recently swept the Mets and playing the Marlins tough…so what does that mean?  Does everyone suck at baseball now?  We shall see…

Atlanta Braves @ Chicago Cubs

Thursday, July 7
7:05 PM Central
Lucas Harrell vs. Jason Hammel
TV = ABC 7, Radio = WSCR AM 670 The Score

Will the best team in the National League get their groove back?  Stay tuned!

 

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About Rice Cube

Rice Cube is the executive vice president of snark at World Series Dreaming. He loves all things Cubs, with notable exceptions (specifically, the part of Cubs fandom that pisses him off). Follow on Twitter at cubicsnarkonia

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