The seemingly surefire way for these Cubs to get out of a rut? A date with the Cincinnati Reds.
After dropping six of seven to the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins, the Cubs went to the Queen City and swept the Reds. Now, after getting swept in an ugly four-game set with the New York Mets, the Cubs returned to Wrigley Field on the Fourth of July and turned in another blowout win against their Ohio-based Central Division rivals, beating up on the Reds, 10-4.
The Cubs surely didn’t care who the skid-stopping victory came against, but the schedule was in their favor with the Reds — now 30-54, one of the worst teams in baseball — in town.
“It’s huge because we have a lot going for us and we have a lot to miss out on if we don’t minimize those stretches,” outfielder Jason Heyward said after the game. “It’s part of the game, it’s going to happen, you go play good teams that are playing well on the road and go through stretches when you have injuries and things. Everybody that makes it to that spot at the end of the year, they overcome that. That’s what we’ve got to do.”
Monday’s game didn’t prove the Cubs could suddenly beat the Mets after a weekend of beatdowns. It didn’t immediately erase concerns that popped up in those series defeats to the Cardinals and Marlins. But for one day things did seem to get back to normal for a team that had a white-hot start to the season.
[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]
The Cubs tagged the Reds for three runs in each of the first two innings. Heyward delivered a two-run double in the first inning. Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras each homered in the second inning, Bryant’s blast a two-run shot that served as his National League leading 24th of the season. Two runs scored on a bases-loaded error in the fourth, and Addison Russell hit his own two-run homer in the sixth.
This was the offense that was pouring it on earlier in the season, before a rocky June. It was the offense that’s scorched the Reds all season. The Cubs have outscored the Reds, 97-36, and gone 10-1 in 11 head-to-head matchups.
Kyle Hendricks, with ample support from that offense, was again terrific. Hendricks’ ERA is down to 2.61, and his performance Monday stood out as aces like Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester come off rough outings in New York. Hendricks lasted just 5 1/3 innings Monday, but he allowed just a single unearned run.
“We had a few rough ones, but every team’s going to go through that. It’s a long, long season, and everything’s fine,” Hendricks said. “We’ve had a lot of guys banged up. Expecting a lot of new guys to come in and pick up some big jobs. It’s been a tough stretch, but we’ve still got to take it one game at a time.”
Detractors will say, “Hey, it was only the Reds. Big deal.” And as mentioned, the Cubs’ problems don’t get thrown out the window with one win against a last-place team. But aside from temporary worry following an outfield collision between Bryant and Albert Almora Jr. — Maddon said Bryant should be fine come Tuesday — there wasn’t much of anything that went wrong in this one.
Or, as Maddon put it:
“Hey, it’s better than not beating the Reds.”
The good news is that the woeful weekend in Queens is now firmly in the rearview mirror, with Monday’s win returning the Cubs to a sense of normalcy. Despite the preseason expectations, the Cubs weren’t going to go 162-0. But the Cubs are hoping that June was just an aberration.
“It’s always good to keep (losing streaks) at a minimum,” Maddon said. “You’re going to have those moments. To think you’re not going to is really skewed kind of thinking. It’s going to happen, and it did. So you move on, you play today’s game, you have a nice dinner, you come back and do it again tomorrow.”