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."

Amid rough patch, Cubs shake up their bullpen

Amid rough patch, Cubs shake up their bullpen

The Cubs bullpen has been under the microscope recently as they've hit another rough patch.

With Pedro Strop on the injured list, Cubs relievers have combined for a 5.04 ERA and 1.72 WHIP over the last week, allowing 32 hits and 11 walks against only 15 strikeouts in 25 innings.

The Cubs are shaking things up, sending veteran left-hander Xavier Cedeno to the injured list with left wrist inflammation and promoting right-hander Rowan Wick from Triple-A Iowa.

The Cubs acquired Wick, 26, from the Padres back in November for minor leaguer Jason Vosler. Wick has pitched well in Triple-A Iowa this season — in 13 outings, he has a 2.84 ERA and 1.11 WHIP while striking out 25 batters in 19 innings. 

Of his 13 appearances, 7 have been of a multi-inning variety and he hasn't allowed a run in his last 3 games (6.2 innings).

Wick made 10 appearances for the Padres in San Diego last year, sporting a 6.48 ERA in 8.1 innings.

Cedeno, 32, signed with the Cubs just before spring training started, but has been hampered by the same wrist issue all spring. He was first activated off the injured list less than two weeks ago and did not give up a run in 5 appearances, though he surrendered 4 hits and 3 walks in just 2 total innings of work.

With Wick in tow, the Cubs bullpen now looks like this:

Steve Cishek
Brad Brach
Brandon Kintzler
Kyle Ryan
Mike Montgomery
Tyler Chatwood
Carl Edwards Jr.
Rowan Wick

Strop is working his way back from a hamstring injury and threw a 25-pitch bullpen Monday, so his return may not be far off. 

Brandon Morrow resumed his throwing program Monday, as well, but is still weeks away from returning even in a best-case scenario.

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2019 MLB Power Rankings: The AL West is weird, man

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USA Today

2019 MLB Power Rankings: The AL West is weird, man

Sometimes, making these rankings can get repetitive. The Astros were the best team last week and they're the best team this week and they'll be the best team next week. When there's not a lot of variety, it can be more fun to focus in on who was the loser of the week. This week's definitive loser? The Mets. Congrats to you, the Mets. It's low hanging fruit, but sometimes you want to conserve energy. How'd everyone else do? To the rankings! 

CLICK HERE TO SEE THIS WEEK'S MLB POWER RANKINGS