Cubs

Summing up the Cubs' impressive, potentially season-altering homestand

Summing up the Cubs' impressive, potentially season-altering homestand

For the third straight year, the Cubs' season could hinge on an important series with the San Francisco Giants.

In August of 2015, the Cubs swept the Giants in a four-game set at Wrigley Field and they built off that momentum to win 97 games and make it all the way to the National League Championship Series.

Last fall, the Cubs rallied to beat the Giants in an epic comeback in Game 4 of the NLDS, essentially winning the World Series in that game, by Joe Maddon's opinion.

The 2017 Cubs have spent all year hovering around .500 before winning three of four against the Giants this week at Wrigley, looking more and more like the defending champs.

Thursday's 5-1 win over the Giants was the icing on top of an impressive 7-2 homestand that also featured a sweep of the Cincinnati Reds and a split in a rain-shortened series with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Here's the summation of the potentially season-altering homestand:

—The Cubs are now 14-11 at home and 25-21 overall, having caught up to the Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central. 

—This is the best homestand since the Cubs went 8-2 in a 10-game set from Aug. 9-18 last summer.

—The Cubs are four games above .500 for the third time this year, representing a season-high.

—How will this homestand affect the team moving forward?

"Well, you're gonna find out," Maddon said. "That's the kind of homestand we look forward to having because that's what we did last year and that's what got us there.

But we've also been a good road team. We're gonna get on the plane, have the Anchorman road trip; there'll be a lot of laughing and giggling, which is always good going to play a very good team in Los Angeles."

—On the nine-game homestand, the Cubs found their offensive groove, scoring 59 runs — good for 6.56 runs per game.

—They also smashed 20 home runs, which is nearly a third of their season total (62). On the homestand, 45.7 percent of the Cubs' runs came via the longball.

"Yeah, we're starting to hit 'em," Maddon said. "I also believe the weather [is a factor], it's a little bit warmer, somewhat more favorable wind conditions have helped a little bit, too.

"We have that kind of power on our team. We needed to get into our groove a little bit. Looks like it's starting to show up right now. You're starting to see it from a wider range of the players. It's definitely a part of our game. But it is contagious, I agree with that."

—Kris Bryant, Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist delivered the offense with a solo homer each off former Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija. Bryant and Anthony Rizzo added insurance by both scoring on a wild pitch (and subsequent error) in the bottom of the eighth inning.

—Heyward's blast was his fifth of the season. He didn't notch his fifth homer of 2016 until July 29.

—The Cubs are now 9-0 when hitting at least three homers in a game. They were 20-2 in 2016 when crushing at least a trio of longballs.

—The Cubs weren't just offense this homestand, also showing off the leather, like Javy Baez's ridiculous play in the eighth inning of the series finale against the Giants:

—Eddie Butler turned in another solid start, allowing just a run in five innings. Mike Montgomery faced one above the minimum in four innings of relief, inducing six outs on ground balls.

It was Montgomery's first regular-season save. You might remember his only other career save...

—Cubs are 9-5-1 in 15 series this season.

—The homestand was also fraught with controversy and drama, beginning with Reds manager Bryan Price's "hail to the Cubs" moment followed by the Brewers laying into the Cubs' handling of last Saturday's rainout and finishing with the Giants complaining they were unable to challenge Bryant's first-inning homer Thursday because the phones didn't work.

—With the Cubs embarking on an 'Anchorman'-themed road trip to the West Coast, Maddon was asked how Ron Burgandy would sum up the homestand:

"Stay classy, Chicago."

Cubs Talk Podcast: An ode to Joe Maddon and looking to the next era

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USA Today

Cubs Talk Podcast: An ode to Joe Maddon and looking to the next era

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Tony Andracki, Kelly Crull, Scott Changnon and Jeff Nelson give us their memories of Joe Maddon's time with the Cubs and discuss David Ross and Joe Espada's candidacy to be the next manager.

01:30 Kelly's memories of Joe from the perspective of a reporter

06:00 Going back to Hazleton with Joe

07:45 Joe's legacy as manager of the Cubs

16:00 How Joe impacted Javy Baez' career

18:00 David Ross and Joe Espada may be the leaders to replace Joe Maddon.

Listen here or via the embedded player below:

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Cubs reportedly ‘exceptionally impressed’ by Joe Espada in managerial search

Cubs reportedly ‘exceptionally impressed’ by Joe Espada in managerial search

As the Cubs peruse over their list of managerial candidates, one name reportedly made a strong impression following his interview with the team.

According to NBC Sports Chicago’s David Kaplan, Astros bench coach Joe Espada left the Cubs front office “exceptionally impressed” following his interview on Monday.

Espada, 44, has spent the last two seasons as Astros bench coach following three seasons as Yankees third base coach. He is one of MLB’s more sought after managerial candidates this winter and one of three known external candidates for the Cubs’ opening, along with Joe Girardi and Gabe Kapler.

Former Cubs catcher and current front office assistant David Ross has been the presumed front runner for the Cubs' opening. But based on Kaplan’s report, Espada clearly has given Epstein and Co. something to think about, which makes sense, considering Espada is coming from an innovative Astros organization.

Epstein said at his end-of-season press conference that there’s no timeline for the Cubs’ managerial search. However, MLB prefers teams to not make big announcements during the World Series, which kicks off on Oct. 22. Thus, the Cubs may not make an announcement for little while longer, though this is purely speculation.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.