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."

Joe Maddon wants Cubs fans to cheer for Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez

Joe Maddon wants Cubs fans to cheer for Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez

Why can't a trade be looked at as a win-win? 

There doesn't always have to be a clear winner and loser.

Prior to Jose Quintana taking the ball for Saturday's game against the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field, Joe Maddon was asked about the players (Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease) the Cubs gave up to acquire Quintana as well as the deal with the Yankees for Aroldis Chapman in July 2016.

Gleyber Torres is absolutely killing it in New York, hitting .323 with a 1.014 OPS, 9 homers and 24 RBI in only 29 games. Six of those homers have come in the last week alone. 

With the White Sox, both Jimenez and Cease have found success in Double-A and Advanced Class-A, respectively.

Jimenez is hitting .331 with a .992 OPS, 9 homers and 35 RBI in 35 games. Cease is 6-2 with a 2.83 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 57 strikeouts in 47.2 innings.

As the Cubs work to get their offense settled into a consistent groove, some Cubs fans have been looking at what might've been with guys like Torres and Jimenez.

"You can't have it both ways, man," Maddon said. "I'm happy for Gleyber. When he left, we talked about it. And we talked about the kids that went to the White Sox. It's good stuff. 

"I'm really disappointed if anybody's disappointed in the fact we won the World Series in 2016 and the fact that the guy we're talking about that we had to give up Gleyber for was so instrumental in that happening. That's bad process if you're gonna get stuck on something like that. Be happy for Gleyber. Be happy for him."

Maddon has been a fan of Torres' since he saw him in spring training in 2015, Maddon's first year in the Cubs organization.

"This kid's 21, with high, high baseball intellect," Maddon said. "He's very similar to Javy on the field. I've had some great conversations with him in the past. 

"The first time I saw him in spring training, I thought this guy's for real. It was like one at-bat, line drive to RF, I said who is this guy? And then you have a conversation with him. He's solid."

Maddon's point is a great one — would Cubs fans prefer to still have Torres and NOT have the 2016 World Series championship? Because that title doesn't happen without Chapman, regardless of how you feel about him as a person or what the Cubs had to give up to acquire him.

"Don't play that game," Maddon said. "Be happy for [Torres]. I'm gonna be happy when Eloy and Dylan make it up here. All these dudes, I want them to get here and be really good. And the guys that we get, I want them to be really good. 

"I don't understand why somebody's gotta lose all the time. This is an absolute classic example of what was good for both teams."

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 12th + 13th homers in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 12th + 13th homers in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

An off-day did nothing to slow down the 1998 National League MVP as Sosa collected his second straight 2-homer game May 27 of that season.

He went deep in the eighth and ninth innings of a Cubs' 10-5 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field, driving in 3 runs. 

The first homer - off Darrin Winston - was an absolute blast, traveling an estimated 460 feet. The second shot was tame in comparison with only 400 feet as a recorded distance.

In a matter of two games, Sosa raised his season OPS from .930 to .988 and his slugging percentage from .521 to .577 thanks to a pair of 2-homer contests.

Fun fact: Doug Glanville - former Cubs outfielder and current NBC Sports Chicago analyst - was the Phillies leadoff hitter that day in 1998, collecting three hits and scoring a pair of runs.