Glove connection: Still waiting for bats, Cubs closer to best in field

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Shortstop Addison Russell gets rid of the ball after a diving stop in the eighth inning Friday night to start an inning-ending double play. Photo: John Antonoff for the Sun-Times.

LOS ANGELES — The last three games at Dodger Stadium didn’t look too pretty for the Cubs. Not enough pitching. Even less hitting for much of the weekend.

But one area of concern these first two months has begun to come around.

Perhaps not surprisingly, a sharp uptick in team fielding in the last week coincided with Gold Glover Jason Heyward’s return to right field from the disabled list. But the trend had been building up slowly a week or so before that.

“We’re making all the routine plays now; the errors are cut down,” said right-hander Kyle Hendricks, who has benefitted with a 2-1 record and 2.19 ERA in May, heading into his start Monday in San Diego.

“And also they’re making more of those spectacular plays that we’re used to seeing from last year.

“It’s just been a product of what everybody’s going through, of just getting their legs underneath them, feeling the flow of the season and getting really focused on this year and the task we have at hand.”

If there was any kind of emotional team hangover from the months of celebration, the short offseason and the early-season weather-and-schedule fatigue, the telltale sign might have been in the field.

Largely the same group that was historically good last year was pedestrian at best for much of the early going based on several metrics.

In fact, the only teams to allow more than the Cubs’ 27 unearned runs are all non-contenders with losing records: Oakland (30), Atlanta (28) and San Diego (28).

In the last seven games, however, the Cubs haven’t allowed an unearned run and have looked much crisper. The sunshine during this Los Angeles-San Diego trip has only helped the cause.

“The weather here is perfect,” infielder Javy Baez said. “We haven’t been really hot, but we’re starting to put it together.”

Said manager Joe Maddon: “I love it. We’ve gotten better on defense. Our biggest inconsistency has been on offense.

“If we catch the ball, play hard, I’m good. Our guys are going to hit.

‘‘But I want to make sure we’re doing all this other stuff right because that’s what’s going to control us getting into the playoffs and beyond.”

Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

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