The month of August can be a grind for MLB teams with the All-Star break behind them but October still a ways off. It’s hot, guys are tired, and five months of almost daily baseball can leave a team fatigued mentally as well. It’s usually when the playoff picture begins to come into view, as contenders rise to occasion and the pretenders fall back to the pack. I think it’s safe to call these Cubs contenders after the incredible month they’ve had, with still one week left in August.
The Cubs are 17 – 4 this month so far and after playing an incredible seventeen straight games in Chicago (14 at home, 3 on the south side), finished the “extended” homestand at 14 – 3. Is that home cooking? Some might argue such, given the winds have been blowing out at Wrigley resulting in a high number of balls leaving the yard, but that argument doesn’t hold much water when you consider that each team has to play in the same conditions. This Cubs team is, simply put, very good.
After starting the most recent part of the homestand by getting absolutely mauled by Tigers for two straight games, the Cubs regained their rhythm against Atlanta resulting in a four game sweep and put the cherry on top today as the Cubs won in walk-off fashion behind Kris Bryant’s home run in the bottom of the ninth inning, 2 – 1. Jon Lester and the Indian’s Corey Kluber battled all afternoon in a low-scoring affair, each giving up only one run a piece while scattering six and four hits respectively. These two were at the top of their game today, and Kluber even flirted with a no-hitter into the sixth inning. The difference being that the Cubs were able to chase Kluber a bit sooner than the Tribe could get to Lester as Jon lasted 8 2/3 innings before allowing the game-tying run to Carlos Santana on a single with two outs in the ninth. That set the stage for the red-hot Bryant to play the hero and cap the Cubs homestand with a bang. Anthony Rizzo provided the game’s first run on a RBI-triple in the seventh, which plated Chris Coghlan who had doubled to left.
It would have been disappointing had the Cubs lost today after coming within one out of a shutout, but Kris Bryant stepped into the batters box with two outs and made everyone forget the drama of the previous half inning by blasting his 20th home run of the season. The Cubs now sit 21 games over .500 in their relentless pursuit of the Pirates and Cardinals in both the Wild Card and division races; races that still remain open despite the torrid pace each of those clubs is on in their own right.
The Cubs now head out on the road for the first time in a while but should have little worry as they currently boast the National League’s best road record at 33 – 25. They will still be tested however as they venture west to face, first the Giants and then the Dodgers in a pivotal road trip that could see them open up an even greater lead in the Wild Card chase as they currently have a 6.5 game cushion over San Francisco for the second spot.
It will be Arrieta vs. Matt Cain tomorrow night by the Bay with first pitch coming in at 9:15PM CST.
Let’s Go Cubs!