If the Cubs keep beating the best teams in the National League, does that mean they are one of the best teams in the National League?
That question will take more time to answer, but the Cubs have swept the Mets and Dodgers at Wrigley, and with Wednesday’s 6-1 win, they now have swept the Padres there, too. Even without Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras in the lineup for the series finale, the Cubs are continuing their success against the top-tier NL teams.
Manager David Ross was careful to say over the weekend that he wasn’t going to treat the June schedule as a measuring stick for his team in comparison to teams like the Padres, but rather a chance to assess strengths and weaknesses.
“I think we’re pretty damn good, yeah, I do,” Ross said. “All that matters is our belief in here and I think these guys believe that.”
Ross and his players are chalking up much of this year’s early success to old-fashioned clubhouse chemistry. The new guys feel it when they’re welcomed by long-standing veterans, and the players who have been there for a while can tell the difference when one of them goes down and one of those new guys steps in.
“We have the whole talent to compete to win another World Series for this city,” Adbert Alzolay said. “That’s the mindset right now. We’re just going to keep going about it. The energy and chemistry around this team just feels awesome.”
Continuing his string of successful starts, Alzolay went five innings Wednesday, surrendering one run while striking out seven.
Alzolay has gone at least five innings in every start but one this year, and he has allowed three or fewer runs in each of his starts since his first appearance on April 6.
“He’s built on good start after good start,” Ross said. “I think he’s been very consistent. Did a nice job of mixing his pitches. I thought the slider was excellent to both sides of the plate today. The fastball played well, some really nice changeups. His mix was really good. His times, his pace of the game, it’s really easy to sit there and watch him pitch.”
The Cubs and Padres traded runs in the fourth inning, San Diego scoring on a Ha-Seong Kim single, and the Cubs when Eric Hosmer bobbled Rafael Ortega’s ground ball and Anthony Rizzo scored from third.
Headed into Wednesday’s game, the only stingier bullpen than the Cubs (2.69 ERA) was the Padres (2.36), but the Cubs plated five of their six runs against the San Diego relievers.
Leading off the fifth inning after Padres starter Dinelson Lamet left the game, pinch-hitter Nick Martini and Joc Pederson walked, and Rizzo drove in both runners with a two-out double to the wall. In the seventh, Sergio Alcantara led off with a triple to the right-field corner and scored on an infield error, and Javy Baez hit a two-run home run to left.
By record and run differential, the Dodgers, Padres, and Giants are the three best teams in the NL. So far, the Cubs have swept two of those three. Next up, they head to San Francisco to test their mettle against the Giants.
Rizzo, who led the offense Wednesday, going 3-for-4 with a double and two RBI, isn’t letting his team rest on its May and early June laurels.
“I don’t think we’ve really proven much. It’s June 2,” Rizzo said. “We’ve proven to each other how much fun we’re having and how good we are. But we’ve got four more months left. Stories are written about how good and bad people were last year after 60 games. But it’s 162 and you’re definitely not going to get too high and say we’re proving everyone wrong. We’ve got a long season left.”