The second half is only one game old, but the Cubs already look more refreshed after a four-day All-Star Break.
Following a stretch where they lost 15 of 21 games, the Cubs got the season's second half started on the right foot by beating the Texas Rangers 6-0 in front of 41,482 fans at Wrigley Field Friday.
The Cubs came into play Friday ranking last in Major League Baseball in WAR as a pitching staff (both the bullpen and starting rotation were separately ranked 30th) in July, but Kyle Hendricks and four Cubs relievers shut down the team with the American League's best record entering Friday's action.
Hendricks was masterful, allowing only three hits and two walks in six shutout innings while striking out three.
Hendricks lowered his ERA to 2.41 in the process, the third-lowest mark in baseball behind Clayton Kershaw (1.79 ERA) and Madison Bumgarner (1.94).
"That's pretty good company," Hendricks admitted while also saying he was surprised how good he felt coming off a long break in between starts.
The Cubs skipped Hendricks in the rotation when Adam Warren got a start, but Hendricks did appear in relief on July 7, throwing two shutout innings against the Atlanta Braves.
"Kyle is one of the best pitchers in the National League right now and nobody's talking about him," Joe Maddon said.
The Cubs looked like the team that got out to a 25-6 start, taking advantage of their opposition's mistakes and coming up with some timely hitting.
"I couldn't have envisioned a better start regarding the way we played," Maddon said. "I was pretty impressed with it."
The Cubs scored three of their runs with two outs on an RBI single from Javy Baez in the second and then a two-run single in the sixth from pinch-hitter Matt Szczur.
Addison Russell also drove in two with a single up the middle earlier in the sixth inning and Willson Contreras scored on a Prince Fielder throwing error as the Cubs put up a five-spot in the sixth.
That was all the Cubs pitching staff needed as Carl Edwards Jr., Travis Wood, Pedro Strop and Justin Grimm combined for three shutout innings.