Four Takeaways from Cubs-Twins series
|Monday, September 21, 2020, 12:21 PM- -|
The Cubs capped off their final homestand of the regular season going 3-2, but it wasn't without some uninspired play over the weekend. Riding a five-game winning streak into Saturday, the Cubs dropped the Twins' final two games, scoring just one run over those two games. Add in Friday's game, and the Cubs scored two runs against the Twins' pitching.
While the Cubs enter the final week of the season with a comfortable lead in the division, things could get a lot tighter if their offense doesn't step up now. We are at the point where you would like to be playing your best ball, and your best hitters need to be in the lineup regardless of stature. I'm talking about you, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber.
Here are some takeaways from this weekend's series with Minnesota.
Jason Adam's time: For the most part, the Cubs bullpen has struggled only to be putting things together at the right time finally. Guys like Rowan Wick, Jeremey Jeffress, and Ryan Tepera have been arms David Ross has been able to count on all season with Craig Kimbrel working his way back into the equation. Could Jason Adam be another one of those arms down the stretch?
After news broke Friday that Wick would be missing time with an oblique injury, we immediately begin to wonder when he will return as those injuries are tricky. Wick is second on the team in saves and has been someone Ross has counted on all season. His loss will be a big blow to the pen and will force other pitchers to step up.
Adam could be one of those arms as he has been one of the best relievers since returning from South Bend. Adam has always had the potential to be a lockdown reliever and is starting to show why. His fastball sits in the 95-97 range and backs that up with a wicked curve at 81. His pitch selection is like Wick, and given what we have seen from him lately, he should step up just fine.
Offense goes quiet at the wrong time: All season long, we have documented the Cubs offense struggles at home. There is no explanation as to why they struggle so much at Wrigley, so it has become second nature to us. After battling with inconsistency for months, it appeared the Cubs offense was starting to click once again after playing their best ball in some time.
That was until the Twins came to town, holding the Cubs to just two runs across three games. Chicago managed to win one of those games, but it once again pointed out the team's struggles at home. This is the time of year when you want to be clicking and not struggling. It may have been just one series, but now is not the time to struggle when you have teams trying to catch you.
The thing that worries me most about their struggles in the postseason. Should they win their division, they are guaranteed that first round at home. With how much they struggle to hit at home, should they get a team like the Reds or Cardinals that have strong pitching, it could mean a short exit for this team. Hopefully, the Pittsburgh series wakes them up.
Kyle Schwarber learned a lesson: Kyle Schwarber was not only the best hitter on the Cubs down the stretch last season, but one of the best in baseball. That is not the case this season as he is hitting .190, which is lowest among the team's regulars. What makes it that much more frustrating is the pitches he is letting go by early in the count, which has him hitting from behind.
It appears his offensive struggles are starting to lead to mental errors in the field as Ross benched him in the third following a less than 100% effort run down a fly ball. Schwarber said it is a lesson he learned and will move on from it, but will Ross. We are in crunch time for the Cubs to make the postseason, and I don't think Ross will want anything but 100% effort. We will see if Schwarber's playing time is affected by this.
Suddenly the division is getting closer: Heading into the weekend, the Cubs held a 5.5 game lead in the division and were in prime position to clinch by mid-week. Although they remain in first, their lead has shrunk to 3.5 games as things are getting interesting in September.
While the Cubs were struggling to hit the ball against the Twins, the Cardinals, Brewers, and Reds took care of their opponents with the Cards and Brewers earning sweeps over the weekend. Chicago will get a little help this week with the Reds playing Milwaukee to open the week and St. Louis getting Milwaukee to close the week.
That is why the Cubs series with the Pirates to open the week is crucial. The Cubs need to take 3 of four from Pittsburgh as the Cardinals get Kansas City to open the week. Let's say the Cubs go 2-2 and the Cardinals sweep. You're looking at a 2.5 game lead with one weekend to go. I still like the Cubs chances at the division, but I would like them to clinch sooner rather than later.