The banged up Chicago Cubs salvaged the series finale with St. Louis on Sunday after splitting a four-game set with Arizona to cap off a 3-4 week.
The 61-44 Cubs, who still hold a 1.5-game division lead over Milwaukee, have more to be concerned about than proud of currently.
Just when it looked like Chicago was beginning to coast, it hit a bit of a rut. The culprits? Injuries and shaky starting pitching.
It shouldn’t be too long until the Cubs are close to completely healthy. However, the injuries had to catch up sooner or later and they finally have.
The Cubs’ disabled list boasts some pretty significant names. Kris Bryant is back on the DL with left shoulder inflammation and some fear that the star third baseman won’t be the same this season. The injury is being compared to Bryce Harper’s from 2016. Harper experienced a noticeable dip in production because his shoulder was nagging him all season.
Brandon Morrow, who was eligible to come off the DL last Saturday, remains sidelined with right bicep inflammation. Yu Darvish has made decent progress but the major off-season acquisition has now been on the DL for over two months. Obviously, Chicago won’t risk rushing Darvish back. However, considering how its rotation has performed lately, the Cubs would love to have the righty back as soon as possible.
With or without Darvish, the Cubs starting rotation needs help. The whole Tyler Chatwood thing officially did not work out. Chatwood has been moved to the bullpen with a 4.98 ERA and the most walks in MLB to his name.
All of Chicago’s starters have been shaky besides Jon Lester. Just when it looked like Jose Quintana was getting in a groove he went out and let up six earned runs in the opening inning against St. Louis.
It’s evident that Darvish returning won’t solve all of the Cubs’ rotation woes. So, they went out and got help. Recently acquired veteran Cole Hamels will make his Cubs debut on Wednesday.
Hamels, who sports a 4.72 ERA, has been iffy this season to say the least. But, the move didn’t cost the Cubs much so it’s worth a shot. The four-time All-Star has plenty of postseason experience and Chicago is hoping that the move to a contending team will rejuvenate the once dominant starter.
Who knows, maybe Hamels will experience the “Justin Verlander effect”. Verlander was far from effective on Detroit in the first half of 2017. Since Verlander was moved to the eventual world champion Houston Astros he has been nothing short of dominant.
On the bright side for the Cubs, last week undoubtedly could have gone worse. A 3-4 week is nothing to be excited about. However, Chicago’s starting rotation had an ERA of 7.15 and the Cubs failed to score more than two runs in five games. With that in mind, Chicago should be content with earning three victories.
There is no reason to press the panic button yet and the Cubs had some pretty exciting moments last week as well. The highlight of the week came on Thursday when David Bote and Anthony Rizzo hit back-to-back home runs in the bottom of the ninth to give the Cubs a 7-6 victory over the Diamondbacks.
David Bote ties it up and Anthony Rizzo WALKS. IT. OFF! pic.twitter.com/0ZF29lXCbu
— Cubs Talk (@NBCSCubs) July 26, 2018
Rizzo was one of Chicago’s hottest hitters last week and finally seems to have his power back. Rizzo collected eight hits in seven games last week and has homered in three of his last four games.
In addition, Javier Baez and Ben Zobrist provided a significant amount of offense for the Cubs. Baez knocked in five runs and homered twice during the Cardinals series alone. Overall, Baez hit .364 last week. Zobrist went 8-17 at the dish in limited time last week and put together a monster performance during Sunday’s 5-2 win. “Zobs” went 4-5 with a home run and a double on Sunday Night Baseball.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 30, 2018
Taking a look at the bullpen, the Jesse Chavez acquisition has worked out swimmingly for Maddon and the Cubs so far. The 34-year old has thrown eight innings as a Cub and has yet to surrender a run. Chavez has struck out nine and only walked one batter during that span.
Chicago is set to take on the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park for a quick two-game series beginning on Tuesday night. The Pirates, who looked all but finished in mid-May, have suddenly got hot and are contending for the NL Central again.
The Pirates are still seven games back in the division but they shouldn’t be taken lightly. Since July 11, Pittsburgh has won 13 of 16 games.
The Cubs will wrap up the week by hosting San Diego four a four-game set beginning on Thursday. Chicago recently swept the Padres at Petco Park.
- Born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, Eddie Herz is a senior journalism major at Colorado State University. He has been a beat reporter for CSU's newspaper, the Rocky Mountain Collegian, since he was a freshman. Eddie has also contributed to the BTPowerhouse.com, a sister website of SBnation. Eddie will be the CSU Football beat reporter for the Rocky Mountain Collegian this coming Fall.
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