There are weeks to forget, there are weeks to remember and there are weeks to feel good about. For the Cubs, last week, was a week to feel good about. As a summary, here is what the Cubs did last week:
- Won 2 out of 3 against the Boston Red Sox at home. The Red Sox are sitting at 47-39 in arguably the best division in baseball which includes the Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, and Toronto Blue Jays.
- Won 2 out of 3 against Milwaukee in Milwaukee.
- Swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles. But that is not the full story. The Cubs lost 3-5, 3-4, 2-4, and 9-11. All very close games against the second best team in MLB.
Yes, I understand, a sweep means losses and there shouldn’t be anything positive to takeaway. But this Cubs team is supposed to be a team in major transition, just simply flailing in the wind. Not pushing a 56-29 team like the Dodgers to the brink four days in a roll. I am sure the Dodgers were looking past the Cubs, but they had to play every day, every inning for those wins.
Three weeks ago, in the Cubs Scorecard, we talked about the inconsistency of the Cubs. Playing badly against bad teams, playing well against good teams, and sometimes playing even worse against good teams. But this week, we see consistency against three great, not good, but great teams. Here is what I really liked about last week.
- Blowing Up Hader
Josh Hader is probably the best closer in recent memory. Typically, I would join in rejoicing such a generational player but he is in the same division as the Cubs. Which makes him enemy number 1. Josh Hader has absolutely destroyed the Cubs over the years. He still needs another five years to get to Aaron Rodgers against the Bears status, but he has been brutal. Except for last week.
Hader came into the Cubs series with a 1.05 ERA and left with a 1.88 ERA and his WHIP also jumped 20 points. On July 4, Seiya Suzuki hit an in the park home run against Hader to tie the game and provide Hader with a blown save. On July 6, Hader walks Patrick Wisdom and Wisdom promptly steals second base. PJ Higgins then doubles to score Wisdom. Blown save number 2 in 2 days, and Milwaukee goes on to lose this one.
Happy 4th Josh.
- Stroman was Dealman
Stroman has not lived up to his contract he signed with the Cubs this offseason, but coming off the IL, Stroman had a great game against a great team. Pitching against the Dodgers, and Clayton Kershaw, Stroman went 4 innings, gave up 2 hits, no runs, struck out three. He didn’t go deep, but after 60 pitches, he left in pretty great shape. If he can keep that performance up for 7 innings, things start to get interesting.
- All the Pitching.
In general, the pitching was superb last week. From July 1st to July 9 the Cubs gave up 5 runs twice, and 4 runs or less the rest of the time. And we are talking against teams like Boston, Milwaukee, and the Dodgers. After a tough go in late June and early July, Swarmer pitched 6 innings last week with one earned run. Keegan Thompson, Adrian Sampson, and Justin Steele all had quality starts. Effros and the rest of the relief squad was fairly spot on. Robertson, uncharacteristically, blew a couple of saves, but also had three saves.
Rowan Wick was maybe the lone low spot as he has had a very tough last 30-45 days. I am not sure how many chances David Ross has in his lineup card for Wick.
- Offensively Solid
The Cubs didn’t light up the scoreboard this week, but they sure did hit. Some highlights of the week include:
- David Bote was back and raised his batting average 100 points to .280. He had a homerun and a double on Sunday.
- Ian Happ continued to rake with 7 hits last week and four of them were doubles. The homeruns are not there, but the hits and the on-base helped him score 4 runs.
- Nelson Velazquez hit his first MLB home run on July 4th and hit his second 6 days later.
- Seiya Suzuki was back in the lineup and hit two home runs in the span and had 3 multi-hit games.
- Christopher Morel had a 4-game hitting streak that included a home run (that gives him 9).
- The Cubs knocked out Dodgers’ Julio Urias in 2 innings with a PJ Higgins grand slam sending his ERA up 50 points to .301
- We Got All-Stars
After a 2-year hiatus, the Cubs are back in the All-Star Game. In 2019, the Cubs had Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and Willson Contreras in the game. This year, Contreras is back and Ian Happ will get in the game for the first time. Contreras continues to be a bit of an enigma defensively, but he is clearly the best athlete at the catcher position. Contreras has a .867 OPS with 35 RBI’s which makes him one of the best hitting catchers out there. Happ has been more consistent than ever offensively at a .276 batting average with 40 RBI’s. The consistency seems to have been traded for power as Happ’s extra base hits and homers are down.
But two guys in the game is huge for a team that wasn’t expected to compete. And that includes David Robertson getting snubbed.
There is something emerging on the Northside. Consistently battling against good and great teams is a fantastic step forward. The young nucleus is forming and there are more names behind them. There is still a need for a veteran star or two (pitcher/first base/second base). It will probably take Ross the rest of the year to completely put the pieces together in the right configuration, position, and lineup, but something exciting is happening and it questions the inevitable Contreras or Robertson trade.