Justin Dukes covers the Chicago Cubs and their developments for WARR.com
While the presumption that the world champion Chicago Cubs would have been seven games over .500 at a much earlier point in this season, their current feat of reaching their season high of a week’s worth of play above average is still a welcome sight for a Cubs team who undeniably has had its ups and downs all year.
Displaying some signs of that champion level resiliency that had manager Joe Maddon reassuringly telling the doubters of the team that all would be well in time. Whether those words being prophetic or just a case of blind optimism, they indeed look to be true.
After an admirable six-game winning streak capped off by a win over the Atlanta Braves, the Cubs had a minor hiccup against the rival St. Louis Cardinals before righting the ship with two nail biting wins to close out the series. Being able to break in newly acquired pitcher Jose Quintana, Maddon described his play this past Sunday as “Not as sharp, but very good” (via ESPN).
While it was expected Quintana would be taking some time to adjust to the new environment, it was also expected that some of the familiar faces of the ball club would be holding up their ends of the bargain.
Catcher/outfielder Kyle Schwarber’s On-base plus slugging numbers have been outstanding and was on full display against the final game in the Cardinal’s series. Wilson Contreras also did his part in the closeout effort, including a late home run that sealed the victory for the team.
With talks of the Cubs starting rotation in need of some kind of an adjustment this season, Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander has been linked to the Cubs in numerous trade talks. While not having his best season in particular, the 34-year-old pitcher came close to walking away with the American League Cy Young award last season.
Dropping the first game of the “Crosstown Classic” against the rebuilding White Sox despite a very solid performance from pitcher Jake Arrieta, the Cubs again like the previous series would bounce back to win the next two games of the series, and in convincing fashion this time to somewhat silence the chatter of a need for a team shakeup.
While giving up just two hits overall in Wednesday’s victory over the Sox, Arrieta left the mound with a similar look of confidence that was seen in his Cy Young season, a look that is hopefully here to stay. “We expect to remain in first place” Arrieta told the Chicago Tribune.
Soon to be moving on to the now NL Central second placed Milwaukee Brewers, the Cubs have a great opportunity to create even more distance between their rival.
With the Cubs surging, the Brewers appear to be doing just the opposite. Calling up top prospect Lewis Brinson from the minors and dealing outfielder Ryan Cordell to the Sox in exchange for relief pitcher Anthony Swarzak still has not been enough to cover the 2-8 blemish on the Brewers season since the conclusion of their series with the Philadelphia Phillies last Sunday. A firm home stand against the Cubs, while unlikely is just what this team could use.
Justin Dukes is a Chicago-based sports writer, follow him on Twitter @1kingzdream.