Let’s just get to the scores first as the Chicago Cubs looked pretty good coming out of the All-Star Break. Maybe they just needed a breather after all? And this, again, is without two of their key bats in Dexter Fowler and Jorge Soler, who are with the Iowa Cubs now, getting their groove back.
Texas Rangers @ Chicago Cubs
New York Mets @ Chicago Cubs
I suppose we should begin by saying that the Cubs are now 57-37, which is pretty good. That’s 20 games over .500, with at least a seven game lead over the second place team in the division regardless of what happens going into the Thursday off day. Going 4-2 in a home stand is darned good, and being against teams over .500 who are legitimately good is a bonus. That’s a .667 winning percentage, and if the Cubs can win two of every three in the remaining 68 games, that’s another 45 or so wins, so they’re still on pace for about 100 wins despite the season being over just before the All-Star Break. Funny how those things work, eh?
Let’s take a bullet list view of the positives we’ve seen in these games post-break…
- The rotation looks fantastic. Even in the one game where the Cubs got smacked around a bit, John Lackey was holding his own and saved the bullpen. Of particular note is how well Kyle Hendricks has looked in his two outings so far, how Jason Hammel has performed in a solid start after he figured out that potato chips are good, and how Jake Arrieta seems to have gotten his groove back. Also, check out Jon Lester:
- The Cubs bats have been active, particularly Addison Russell, who has delivered plenty of big hits during this home stand.
- The defense has been superb, and there are too many highlights to list, but check this out from Jason Heyward…
- And then you have Anthony Rizzo, who’s continued to be red-hot…
- Of course you’ll have all the negativity, like “OMG why can’t Heyward hit” or “They couldn’t even get more than a run off Noah Syndergaard” or “Can’t even get a run with bases loaded no outs” blah de blah de blah. And then I’d just counter with “Baseball is hard and weird,” point to the run differential (Cubs have scored 482 while allowing only 331, for a +151), plus the fact that this team isn’t so much “bad” (which is laughable) but unlucky, as they are six games below their expected win total. Strange but true!
Now that we’ve gotten that over with, the Cubs get a day off before they head to Mil-ee-wok-kay, which is Algonquin for “The Good Land.”
Chicago Cubs @ Milwaukee Brewers
The Cubs ride the bus up to Milwaukee to face the Brewers, who are in an active rebuild, but as we all know, MLB teams are still professional athletes and baseball is hard and weird, so while it looks like the Cubs should win every game on paper, that’s not guaranteed to happen. What is guaranteed is that, just like we’ve seen against Syndergaard and Yu Darvish, the Cubs will continue with their process at the plate, continue to play superb defense, and are very likely to have good pitching in their series at Wrigley Field North. They just have to keep winning more than they lose, and October is almost assured. While folks might be disappointed that the Cubs aren’t likely to trade Kyle Schwarber for some relievers, there’s a plan in place by some very smart people, and I think they’ve earned our trust for now.
The Cubs are also likely to bring back a welcome face…
— Tommy Birch (@TommyBirch) July 21, 2016
So anyway, matchups…
Friday, July 22
7:10 PM Central
Jason Hammel vs. Jimmy Nelson
TV = CSN-C+, Radio = WSCR AM 670 The Score
Saturday, July 23
6:10 PM Central
John Lackey vs. Zach Davies
TV = WGN, Radio = WSCR AM 670 The Score
Sunday, July 24
1:10 PM Central
Jon Lester vs. Junior Guerra
TV = ABC 7, Radio = WSCR AM 670 The Score
Finally, for all of you paranoid Cubs fans still wanting bullpen help, say no more as they done did a trade (see Bleacher Nation for details):
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 20, 2016