DETROIT – After surviving a nine-game road trip, finishing strong against the Nationals and Tigers, it doesn’t get any easier for the Cubs coming home against a Cincinnati Reds team that has won four straight and eight of 12.
It might, however, get louder. It might even look newer and more eventful with the long-delayed opening of the right-field bleachers at Wrigley Field scheduled for the opener of the four-game series.
But will any of it translate to an extra bump in home performance the Cubs want to start seeing.
“Every time we come home with something new added to the yard, whether it’s a scoreboard in left, a scoreboard in right, bleachers in left or right, it’s an exciting time for us,” said Jake Arrieta (6-4), who pitched six innings in Wednesday’s victory. “It’s fun to see the transformation of Wrigley starting to come together.”
A month ago, when the Cubs returned to the left- and center-field bleachers opening for the first time this season, they reeled off a four-game sweep of the pitching-rich Mets and wound up with a 6-1 homestand.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “There was definitely a difference when the other side was open when we got back. It’s enveloping, it really is. You can feel it.”
Another boost wouldn’t hurt.
Thursday’s scheduled Cubs starter, Tsuyoshi Wada, had his worst start his last time out. Jon Lester, who goes Sunday, looked nothing like a big-money ace in losses in Miami and Detroit his last two starts (9 1/3 innings, 11 earned runs combined).
And as good as the Cubs looked in their 12-3 victory over some dude named Shane Greene on Wednesday in Detroit, they’re just 19-19 since the last time Travis Wood won a game in the rotation, April 28.
“You hope to take it to another level,” said catcher Miguel Montero, who had three hits, including a three-run homer in the seventh. “We’re going to play this series against our own division, so we’ve got to come out ready to play better.
“I think we’re playing good baseball. I think we’re going to be just fine.”
In beating the Tigers with a season-high scoring output, the Cubs finished a 5-4, three-city road trip, winning four of six against Washington and Detroit.
Six Cubs had multi-hit games, including DH Mike Baxter, who doubled, singled and walked twice. Chris Coghlan hit a three-run homer in the fourth.
And Arrieta took a four-hit shutout into the sixth before Yoenis Cespedes’ one out, three-run homer. He won both starts during the trip.
“I think it was a successful road trip overall. We accomplished a lot,” Arrieta said. “It’s a game-by-game situation for us. Regardless of struggle or end on a high note, with a victory, we’re able to put it behind us and come out ready to play the next day focused on the task at hand.
“That’s why we’re able to win against good teams.”
Improving a 15-11 home record is the next big step Maddon wants to see. The last time the Cubs were at home, they lost three of five to the Nationals and Royals.
“We have to make Wrigley Field our home field advantage,” he said. “If we’re going to do anything, we have to win plenty of games in that ballpark. We’ve got the support. We’ve got this tremendous vibe on a daily basis. We’ve got to make hay when we get back there.”