Cubs

Cubs-Dodgers Game 2 prediction: Baby steps for Cubs offense

Cubs-Dodgers Game 2 prediction: Baby steps for Cubs offense

Everything seemed awfully rosy in the first few innings for the Cubs Saturday night.

They were having good at-bats off Clayton Kershaw - including a two-run homer from Albert Almora Jr. - and Jose Quintana was dealing.

But everything changed quickly and all the Cubs' postseason issues reared their ugly head: too many walks, bullpen unreliability, punchless offense.

The Cubs didn't have a baserunner the last 2/3 of the game and had absolutely no answer for the Dodgers bullpen.

But the offense will break out at some point. Theo Epstein was sure of that and there's no reason not to think the same. 

The Cubs had baseball's best offense in the second half of the season, averaging 5.7 runs per game while posting a .273/.352/.459 slash line with an .811 OPS. 

The Cubs hitters are simply too good to keep having results this poor. They scored nine runs in Game 5 of the NLDS, but most of those without a hit thanks to a slew of Washington errors. 

In the other five games of the postseason, the Cubs have just 10 runs, averaging two runs a game.

Bullpen issues aside, that is not a good recipe for success.

The Cubs offense struggled through the first few games of the postseason last fall before eventually breaking out at Dodger Stadium in L.A. They clearly are hoping that is in the cards once again Sunday evening.

Here's the lineup they'll roll with as they face Rich Hill:

1. Jon Jay - LF
2. Kris Bryant - 3B
3. Anthony Rizzo - 1B
4. Willson Contreras - C
5. Albert Almora Jr. - CF
6. Addison Russell - SS
7. Jason Heyward - RF
8. Javy Baez - 2B
9. Jon Lester - P

The Cubs need more from every offensive player, but they especially need to see their big boppers step up. Bryant, Rizzo and Contreras have been awfully quiet the last few games.

Prediction

Cubs 4, Dodgers 2

This isn't the breakout game for the Cubs offense, but they had so many good at-bats early in Saturday's game, I bet they get back to that point and cash in a bit more in Game 2.

Baby steps. Then the offense really finds its groove again later this week at Wrigley Field.

Javy Baez should be the frontrunner for NL MVP heading into the All-Star Break

Javy Baez should be the frontrunner for NL MVP heading into the All-Star Break

If the season ended today, Javy Baez may be your National League MVP.

Of course, the season isn't ending today, only the first half of the 2018 campaign is.

He flashed his skills again over the weekend — scoring the game-winning run Friday, posting a 5-RBI game Saturday and then drove in the Cubs' first run in their 7-4 victory Sunday to close out a sweep of the Padres.

Entering the All-Star Break, Baez should be the frontrunner for Most Valuable Player.

For starters, he's the best player on the best team in the league.

Thanks to a recent hot surge by the Cubs and an ugly weekend for the Brewers (who have lost 6 straight), Baez and Co. will go into the break with the best record in the NL. 

Baez, meanwhile, leads the Cubs in WAR and nearly every offensive category — OPS, slugging percentage, homers, RBI, runs scored, doubles, triples, total bases, stolen bases and hits.

And that's not even saying anything about his glovework at any position on the infield or dynamic baserunning.

He's on pace to become the first Cubs player to drive in 125 runs since Sammy Sosa in 2001.

Baez also is on track for a 30-30 season — something only Sosa accomplished in a Cubs uniform in 1993 and 1995. 

El Mago will enjoy his week in the Home Run Derby and as the NL's starting second baseman in the All-Star Game, but those shouldn't be the end of his accolades this year if he can find a way to keep this pace up in the second half.

What other NL candidate would be a better choice for the MVP right now?

Baez is tied for the league lead in RBI. Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar is just behind Baez with 70 RBI, but he also has 70 fewer at-bats than the Cubs star due to a platoon to begin the year. 

Eugenio Suarez and Scooter Gennett are also having great years, but the Reds are nowhere close to a playoff spot. 

Nolan Arenado, Freddie Freeman and Paul Goldschmidt are also having very good seasons on teams that are currently in the playoff hunt, but how do you deny the best player on the league's best team?

After all, where would the Cubs be without Baez this season? 

Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo have battled through injuries and bouts of ineffectiveness, the pitching staff has had all kinds of consistency/health woes and Willson Contreras has yet to find his power stroke at the plate.

At the very least, "El Mago" has been the most important player on the North Side of Chicago during the first 3.5 months of 2018.

Nico Hoerner makes great catch in first game with South Bend

Nico Hoerner makes great catch in first game with South Bend

Cubs first-round pick Nico Hoerner made his debut with the Class-A South Bend Cubs, and he did not disappoint.

The 23-year old shortstop showed off impressive hops during an acrobatic grab in the topf of the second inning in his first game with the South Bend Cubs. Hoerner will surely be an exciting defensive prospect with ability like this.

As far as offense goes, through four at-bats at South Bend, Hoerner is batting .500, and this comes after he hit .318 with a home run and two RBI through seven games with the Eugene Emeralds, the Cubs Class A short-season affiliate.

Here is to hoping we continue to see big-time plays from Hoerner.