Cubs providing plenty of opportunity for growth in second half

Even during this difficult stretch, there have been moments of growth — value to be found in the last six weeks of the season.

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The Cubs’ Rafael Ortega celebrates his walk-off homer on Monday.

The Cubs’ Rafael Ortega celebrates his walk-off homer on Monday.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The second half hasn’t been kind to the Cubs. An 11-game losing streak that ended last week and a franchise-record 13-game home losing streak that ended Monday more or less sum up how things have gone for them since the trade deadline.

Rafael Ortega’s walk-off homer in a 6-4 win over the Rockies on Monday was much needed — not just as a victory but as reason to celebrate for the first time in a while.

Even in this difficult stretch, there have been moments of growth — value to be found the final six weeks of the season.

“The comeback felt really nice,” manager David Ross said before Tuesday night’s game was postponed by weather. “Ortega late [against the] closer. Just the whole thing, and the crowd was into it. It was just nice to see them experience that.

“It felt like, for the first time, I was watching this group have a special moment. And it was fun. Fun for everybody. The coaches were all excited. And we hadn’t heard ‘Go Cubs Go’ in a while.”

The second half hasn’t just been about learning with a young group of inexperienced players. It also has been about discovering who players are and how they perform with bigger opportunities than they’ve ever had. Ortega, third baseman Patrick Wisdom and newcomer Frank Schwindel are all getting extended looks for the first time.

Ortega (1.3 fWAR) and Wisdom (1.9 fWAR) have shown they can play well at the major-league level. While you wouldn’t call them building blocks of the Cubs’ next playoff team, they could play roles for a future contender.

“That’s rewarding for me. It’s very powerful,” Ross said. “These guys have real extended moments that you’re looking at. Let’s just take Patrick Wisdom for example — a guy in Rookie of the Year talks. He’s in the mix and leading all rookies with homers in the National League. [Rafael’s] window is pretty extended now, and he’s having a lot of success. All that, for me, is super rewarding and fun to watch. I’d like to see that. Same with [catcher Robinson] Chirinos behind the plate and the long career he’s had. Being in Triple-A most of the year and having a bunch of guys go down, come up and show that there’s still a lot left in the tank.”

Most fans are just finding out who many of these players are. Ross is excited to find out who they are both on and off the field.

“I think you have these stigmas that we put on older guys that come from Triple-A,” he said. “It’s like, ‘It’s not gonna last. . . . It’s not gonna last. . . . It’s not gonna last.’ And just seeing some guys prove that wrong is fun for me.”

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