Don’t look now: The Cubs are in 1st Place
Charles LeClaire, USA TODAY Sports
CHICAGO -- Don’t look now, but it appears the Chicago Cubs may finally be getting hot. After about a month and a half of sub-par baseball, the Cubs finally find themselves where they feel they should be: sitting atop the National League Central Division. The Cubs currently stand tied with the surprising Milwaukee Brewers, who have led the division for a large portion of the year. The Cubs were able to find their first extended stretch of winning baseball in this most recent homestand at the Friendly Confines.
The Cubs had a great opportunity in this recent homestand to make a move in the division and were able to make good of that opportunity. Known for being a power at home last season, winning a record 57 games at Wrigley Field, the Cubs had not been able to repeat that home success early in the season. Going into the homestand, the Cubs were a very pedestrian 7-9 at home. They were able to match their previous home win total (7) in only nine games. A 5-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants gave the Cubs a final record of 7-2 on the homestand. A three-game series sweep over the Cincinnati Reds, a two-game split with the Brewers (one game being rained out), and taking three of four from the Giants had moved the Cubs to tie a season high of 4 games above .500. Not only have the Cubs been winning games, but the quality play has also looked far better in all facets of the game.
Starting pitching for the Cubs had been an issue in the early stages of the season but has looked impressive recently. Jake Arrieta had a very efficient start against the Brewers allowing no runs in six innings of work and picking up his team-leading fifth win of the year. Eddie Butler had a strong outing in the last game of the homestand, allowing just a single run through five innings and collecting a win. Kyle Hendricks has looked solid lately, notching two wins on the homestand. Hendricks has pitched like the Cy Young contender he was last year this May, which has significantly boosted the entire rotation. Hendricks has posted a 2-1 record with an impressive 2.19 ERA in May. Most notably, however, has been the workhorse ace Jon Lester. Lester has been dominant at home, winning twice on the homestand and delivering the first complete game by Cub starter this season. Lester improved to an insane 12-0 record with a 1.55 ERA in his last 16 Wrigley Field starts.
The Cubs were also able to put some runs on the board to assist their pitchers as the offense scored 59 runs on the homestand, more than enough for the pitching to secure the treasure trove of wins. With a lot of runs and solid pitching, the Cubs rolled to put up a +20 run differential in the nine games at Wrigley. The Cubs also displayed a ton of power, a lot of it coming from slugger Anthony Rizzo. Watching Rizzo start to heat up is a great sign for Cubs fans and the entire organization. Rizzo is among the best run producers in the National League but had been off to a slow start in 2017. Rizzo seems to have busted out of a slump this week, hitting .400 with four home runs in the middle of the Cubs lineup. With their leading RBI man starting to heat up, the Cubs lineup should start to rake in the runs.
With some momentum built from the past ten days, the Cubs now travel to face the Los Angeles Dodgers, last year’s National League Championship Series opponent. Sunday's pitching matchup will be between two of the best lefties in the game, Jon Lester and Clayton Kershaw. This game will be another important test and lead into more important May baseball games. The Cubs headed into California with their Anchorman attire, trying to continue enjoying winning baseball.
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