Cubs appearing to hit their stride after first month of season
After much soul-searching over the first four weeks of the season, the Chicago Cubs appear to have found their groove.
Heading into the second game of their early season, four-game showdown with Central Division rival Milwaukee, the Cubs had won five of seven, including a masterful 1-0 win over the Brewers in which Kyle Hendricks hurled the opening series.
But even more than the results, it’s been the attitude the Cubs have shown over that stretch that could make the difference. The 2016 World Series champions have shown themselves to be so confident, even in their biggest loss of 4-1 to Cleveland, that teammates pronounced themselves totally on their game.
“I think we’re going now,” starting pitcher Jon Lester told the Chicago Sun-Times after retiring 21 of 27 hitters he faced against the Indians. “I haven’t looked at the weather for Chicago, but hopefully everything’s good for this weekend, a big series this weekend against a team that’s playing well.”
Hitting the sweet spot hasn't come easy for the Cubs, with five weather-related postponements over their first 22 games and a 12-10 start. But in winning three out of five on a recent road trip against Cleveland and Colorado, both playoff-worthy teams, the Cubs seem convinced things are looking up.
"I like where we’re at, and I don’t think we’ve played great yet,” Lester added. “Hopefully, we get Kris (Bryant) back in the next couple of days. That’ll help boost (us).”
In addition to Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist have also missed stretches nursing ailments, adding to the Cubs’ uneven start.
“I feel like we’re just kind of at that point where we need to put, like, three games together,” Lester said. “I feel like we’re just kind of trying to get over the hump of that third game right now. And I feel like once we do, it’s kind of rolling from there. We’ve been playing well.”
That particularly holds true of Javy Baez and Kyle Schwarber, both hitting near .300 and tied with a team-leading seven homers, including Schwarber's game-winning blast in the opening series win against the Brewers.
Potentially aiding the cause regarding jumpstarting their fortunes, the Cubs play 12 of their next 15 games at Wrigley Field -- provided the weather allows.