Four Takeaways from Cubs-Pirates Series


by - Staff Writer -
Happ and Schwarber are important offensively for the Cubs (Charles LeClaire - USAT)
Happ and Schwarber are important offensively for the Cubs (Charles LeClaire - USAT)

It certainly wasn't the easiest of road trips, and by all accounts wasn't the prettiest, but the Cubs did manage to go 5-5 over the 10-game trip. They concluded their time on the road by taking two of three from Pittsburgh and now head home for a lengthy homestand with a 22-15 record and 3.5 game cushion in the NL Central.

For the most part, the Road trip went as I expected it to go, but I didn't see them struggling as much as they did against Detroit and Pittsburgh. They still managed to get five wins and were very close to winning seven on this trip. Here are the takeaways from the Pittsburgh series.

The Cubs offense is heating up

It was only for two games, but it was nice to see the offense hitting the ball again. Whether it was relying on the long ball, using the extra-base hit, or stringing hits together, the Cubs offense looked good the first two games of the series.

Javier Baez hit a three-run shot, Willson Contreras picked up his first three-hit game of the season, and several other players contributed in their own right across the lineup. Yes, this team is a long way from playing at the level we expect them to play, but it was nice to see the lineup string some positive games together.

Cubs need rotation reinforcements

As if the announcement of losing Tyler Chatwood wasn't bad enough, the Cubs now will be without Jose Quintana, also leaving yet another hole in their rotation. What was once a strength in depth on this team is starting to run thin as the Cubs need to figure things out in a hurry.

To make matters worse, Alec Mills has undoubtedly struggled in his last four outings, and had Chatwood and Quintana not gotten hurt, I think he was on his way to the pen. Darvish is the ace, and Hendricks has been up and down, but consistent. The same can be said about Jon Lester, but Mills has not looked sharp lately. Adbert Alzolay makes the most sense to insert into the rotation, but if Mills puts together another rough start, the Cubs may need to make a move.

Jeremy Jeffress is the man

I don't know how many times the Cubs need to play around with things in the pen, but Jeffress shouldn't be touched. The man has been incredible and is undoubtedly the closer on this team. No matter the situation he is put in, Jeffress tends to come out on top as he leads the team in saves and is posting a sub 1.20 ERA.

Jeffress also has three wins on the season, meaning when he comes in, he either holds the game where it is, and the offense takes care of the rest, or he seals the deal in extras. Of all the free-agent signings the team has made this winter, he has been the biggest steal and has played his way to a multi-year deal next year. Hopefully, that deal is with the Cubs because Chicago needs his arm in the pen.

Ian Happ dodged a bullet

For the longest time, the Cubs have tried different leadoff roles without much success. Anthony Rizzo, Jason Heyward, Kris Bryant, and others all show spurts of success in the leadoff position, but that success quickly went away and struggles followed.

You can say the same thing about Happ in 2018 as he showed immediate success in the leadoff role before the struggles followed. Whatever happened since then has been the key for the Cubs as Happ is the leadoff hitter they have been missing. Not only does he have the power to put you on top 1-0, but his eye at the plate continues to get better as he continues to get on base.

Once on base, Happ may not be a base-stealing threat but does possess the speed to make things happen on the bases. Yesterday, Happ and the Cubs, for that matter, witnessed a scary moment as Happ fouled a ball into the dirt, which bounced up and got him in the face. After being on the ground for a while and trying to walk it off, Happ left the game with blurred vision, and it was revealed he had a contusion above his eye.

Talk about dodging a bullet. Anytime your hit in the face or the head area, you're immediately concerned with concussions and what comes with it. When you're hit in the eye, that is another story as you don't know the lingering effects. Yes, Happ did escape without severe damage, but we have seen hitters go into funks after being hit in the face. Hopefully, that is not the case for Happ, and he can be right back out there today.

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