Cubs trying to take it to another level as first half officially comes to a close

The Cubs rank second in the National League with an 18-12 record.

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AP Photo/Paul Sancy

It’s officially the halfway point of the 2020 season, and the Cubs are well-positioned heading into the second half. The team sits atop the National League Central with an 18-12 record.

Manager David Ross has had a tall task in his first year at the helm, not only running a dugout for the first time but having to deal with the issues arising with a global pandemic.

Despite the challenges, Ross has his club headed in the right direction.

“I think they’ve done a good job,” Ross said. “This is unprecedented. This is historic, what we’re doing, and our guys are doing a great job.”

So what have we learned about the Cubs through 30 games?

How well the Cubs have handled this year’s health and safety protocols can’t be understated. Some of their success can be traced to the team’s ability to keep players safe on the field.

Despite two outbreaks in MLB and players around the game testing positive in the first four weeks of the season, the Cubs remain the only team in baseball without a positive COVID-19 test for a player.

While president Theo Epstein attributes some of that to good fortune, the team’s commitment to following health and safety guidelines has been apparent.

“Everybody seems to be on board with what’s going on and doing what’s best for the group and understanding that these are unique circumstances,” Ross said. “I’m extremely proud of this group.”

The Cubs have established themselves as one of the better teams in the league after jumping out to a 13-3 start, their best 16-game start since 1907.

Yu Darvish and the rotation helped carry the team. Darvish has looked like one of the best starting pitchers in the game, going 5-1 with a 1.70 ERA in six starts.

The Cubs have managed to stay afloat despite an offensive funk. They have a slash line of .214/.323/.376 in August, as several key contributors have yet to get themselves going.

During the recent slump, several players have admitted that they care “too much,” and trying so hard to perform has been detrimental to their success at the plate.

“I think this year, we all want to do good, even though it’s a 60-game sprint,” catcher Willson Contreras said. “That’s why this season is way too difficult, because we care so much that a lot of times you try to do too much.”

“I think we all do that to some extent,” Ross said. “When you care about the group, the organization that you’ve come up with, your teammates, your coaching staff, you want to have success. You want to do well. That’s just part of it.

“So sometimes we talk a little bit about trying harder. It’s a real thing, especially in this environment. When it’s so short, you feel you’re halfway, and you know you haven’t found your rhythm. It’s real.”

A major priority for the Cubs in the second half will be getting their offense back on track, and getting third baseman Kris Bryant back from the 10-day injured list (left ring finger, wrist) will go a long way toward making that happen.

Jose Quintana looked sharp in his return from the IL, and his presence adds depth to the Cubs’ rotation and bullpen moving forward.

With Monday’s trade deadline approaching, the Cubs could still make a complementary addition to this year’s roster as they position themselves for the postseason.

The Cubs will be on the road for 17 of their remaining 30 games. The schedule does provide some opportunities, as they have matchups with the Reds, Brewers and Pirates, who are all below .500.

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