Tough Sledding in Schedule, Cubs First in Central

rizzo pic

By Richard Kagan

The Cubs just took three games out of five vs. their rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals, and put some breathing room between them. The Cubs find themselves in first place in the NL Central (58-40) and lead the Milwaukee Brewers by three and a half games.

The Cubs now face the Arizona Diamondbacks for a four game set at Wrigley to conclude this current homestand.  Luke Farrell takes the mound for the Cubs. Farrell (3-3) has seen mostly relief work as he finds his comfort level.

What we learned in the just ended series vs. St. Louis. One, Jesse Chavez can pitch. He appeared in two games since being picked up in a minor deal with Texas an threw impressively. Chavez worked three blank innings of late inning relief to bolster a tired and depleted BP. Brandon Morrow landed in the 10 day DL a few days ago. The injury doesn’t appear to be serious but management thought he needed the rest.  That set up a closer by committee with Steve Chisek carrying some of the load. Pedro Strop also made a late inning appearence and saved a game.

Anthony Rizzo has really responded since being put in the lead off spot. He has batted well over .500 in recent games and upped his BA to .262, inching toward Rizzo’s zone.  He was mired in one of his slumps but he found his stroke and has gotten on base a lot. In the game where the Cubs won 7-2 vs. St. Louis,  Rizzo was hit by a pitch, got a base hit, and walked in the same game. That’s getting on base, what lead-off hitters are supposed to do.

The Cubs batting order has produced nice runs in getting singles, moving the runners along, and scoring runs. That was the case in the bottom of the 8th inning when Chicago scored three runs to pad its 4-2 lead. Against the Cards, one needs all the runs you can get.

Jose Quintana pitched seven quality innings, throwing 121 pitches, the most in his career to pick up his 9th win of the season. Jon Maddon, manager of the Cubs said, he needed Q to give the Cubs some innings and he certainly did. It was a very good outing and that bodes well on the pitching side of things.

The big question is how will the pitching hold up as Chicago is playing in a stretch that will see them play 53 games in 56 days. The Cubs will only have four days off in that time.  Rumors are that the Cubs are seeking BP help in the form of Zach Britton, a lefty reliever from the Orioles. Britton is coming off a Achilles tendon injury. He has only thrown recently in a few games. The Cubs are aware of Britton’s status. It is hoped that they don’t give up the farm for him if they make a deal. It is likely the Cubs will make a deal. The question is who will be trade bait?

In baseball , it is one game at a time. The All-Star break is over. Now, the games take on added importance.  Anthony Rizzo has talked about the season being a marathon race. Right now, the Cubs are one of the leaders.

 

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