Are Cubs getting ready to roll after win over Giants? It isn’t too soon to ask
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It wasn’t until July gave way to August in 2015 that the Cubs began to get hot — ridiculously hot.
One day, they were 52-47. A torrential outpouring of great baseball later, they were 97-65 and headed for the postseason. That’s a 45-18 streak, for those of you scoring at home.
The series that year when manager Joe Maddon first sensed that something big-time was brewing was at Wrigley Field against the Giants at the start of an early-August homestand. The Cubs delivered a four-game sweep.
“I remember walking into the dugout for that series, because that was a turning point for me,” Maddon said. “I was jacked going to the dugout.”
We aren’t there yet, folks. Not even close. Yet when will the 2018 Cubs — assuming they have fuel in their tank for another push to the postseason — get rolling? That was a topic of much discussion on a day that concluded with a 6-2 series-opening victory over a Giants team that is much lower-profile than the defending World Series champs of ’15 were.
The 2016 Cubs seized control of their destiny from the very beginning. Last year’s Cubs didn’t pull their heads out of their you-know-wheres until after the All-Star break.
“We just have to start clicking as a group on all cylinders,” said Ben Zobrist, who yanked a two-run single to left off Giants starter Derek Holland for a 3-1 lead in the seventh inning. “And once you see a few guys do that, it can be a snowball effect.”
The Cubs are going on two months’ worth of false starts during which they’ve failed to assert themselves in the standings despite some numbers that look great on paper, at least. Consider: Not only do the Cubs have the highest team on-base percentage (.340) and one of the top slugging percentages (.425) in the National League, but they also have the lowest ERA (3.34).
Anyone would read those numbers and expect to see a better record than 26-21.
“It’s really weird,” president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. “I don’t know the exact numbers on the tip of my tongue, but I think we’re leading the league in slugging with nobody on [base] and I think we’re dead last with runners in scoring position. It’s strange. It could be a fluke. I think we’ll ultimately hit with runners in scoring position. Those things tend to even out.”
The Cubs’ four hits in nine at-bats with runners in scoring position plated all six of their runs Friday. Kris Bryant’s tack-on two-out, two-run single in a four-run seventh inning was especially encouraging to see.
“The first part of the season is about finding out who you are,” Epstein said. “What are the strengths of the club? What are the weaknesses of the club? What’s the character of the club? What position is the club going to be in as we get through the season? What’s our short-term outlook? What’s our long-term outlook? What’s the chemistry in the clubhouse? All those things, it’s a process to get there and figure it out.”
The Cubs improved — and this is a bit of an odd trend — to 11-2 over the Giants in the teams’ last 13 meetings at Wrigley. They also ended a four-game home losing streak, the last two games of which were miserable offensive performances against the Indians. Friday’s relative breakthrough had to happen or else any talk of heating up would just plain have to wait.
It probably should wait a while, regardless. But Cubs fans aren’t good at waiting anymore.
“Once we turn the page, everything’s expected, like, right now, all the time” Maddon said. “We’re back into the instant-coffee, chocolate milk, 15-cent hamburgers. That’s what the world is all about.”