The Cubs won the World Series last season, but they were a major disappointment in the first half of the season at two games under .500. They had lost two in a row and three of four games before the break, but in their first series after it they headed to Baltimore and swept the Orioles in a three-game set. Chicago blew up for 27 runs in the three games. Are the defending champions back? I would say they are on the right track, but have a long way to go.
The Cubs are in 2nd place in the NL Central, are4.5 games back of the Milwaukee Brewers, and 5.5 games out of the final NL wild-card spot. They face the Brew Crew 10 times in the 2nd half including six times at home. Chicago’s 3rd to last series of the season is facing Milwaukee in the Windy City.
Brilliant debut, but still some staff issues
The Cubs made a big trade recently, bringing over Jose Quintana from the cross-town White Sox and he had a dazzling debut in the last game of the series against the Orioles with 12 strikeouts holding Baltimore scoreless in seven innings and only giving up three hits. While the pitching has been the strength of the club this season ranking 9th in the Majors in team ERA the staff still has issues. Jon Lester won 19 games last season and he has been lit up giving up 16 runs in five innings in his last two starts and John Lackey has an ERA of 5.20. Quintana will help and Jake Arrieta (9-7 4.17 ERA) has been decent, but if the veterans of Jon Lester and John Lackey don’t get it together the offense will have to step up.
Lineup must improve in the 2nd half
The Cubs lineup got the job done in the sweep over the Orioles in their last series, but they still only rank 16th in the Majors in runs scored. Kris Bryant went deep in the finale against the Orioles and while his numbers are not great (.277, 19 HR, 40 RBI) he is hitting .357 in July. Anthony Rizzo leads the Cubbies in HR and RBI and he has gone yard in two straight games. The runs in the last three games is a good sign for a Chicago squad that has holes in the lineup and does not have one everyday player that is batting over .278.
Time to make a move
Now is the time for the Cubs to make a move and really get back on track. Their next 10 games come against teams that do not currently have a winning record. Also, the Brewers first 10 games of the 2nd half are on the road before heading home for a key three-game set hosting the Cubs.
The Cubs have some holes in the lineup and Lester and Lackey need to find their groove, but, yeah, the Cubs are back and they will catch the Brewers and it will not be long before they do so.
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