Just a week ago, we were riding the high of the David Bote grand slam, from which the Cubs would go on to split with Milwaukee and then take the first two games from Pittsburgh in silly historic fashion. Their lead in the NL Central was a season-high 4.5 games, and each of their key injured players – Kris Bryant, Brandon Morrow, and Yu Darvish – was taking positive steps toward a return in September.
Two days later, the Cubs have lost two games in a row in silly historic fashion, the lead in the Central is back down to 3.5 games, Brandon Morrow still feels pain when throwing, and Yu Darvish left his rehab start with the trainer and is going for another MRI.
Baseball turns so quickly.
It happens for the good and the bad, though, and it’s worth remembering that things can look beautiful and perfect and serene within another few days. Or not. It’s the roller coaster we choose to ride.
Going forward for the Cubs, a whole lot is going to depend on whether the starting pitching’s recent turn is sustainable, whether Mike Montgomery can come back quickly from his shoulder inflammation, and whether the bullpen can keep doing so much.
But it seems like the biggest thing going forward is whether the bats will start clicking again. So many guys are in such deep slumps that although a four-game stretch with just four solo homers to account for all the runs is literally historic, it also feels about right for how the batters look. It’s not as if it feels like the Cubs have been ripping the ball and getting unlucky or even stranding a ton of baserunners. For the most part, they simply haven’t been striking the ball well and haven’t been getting on base.
Over the past four weeks, the Cubs are hitting just .238/.301/.377 with an 80 wRC+. That is the 7th worst OBP and 5th worst wRC+. And we’re not talking a few games – that’s four weeks worth of data.
Maybe things haven’t actually turned all that quickly.
Still, the fact that the Cubs haven’t lost a series over that stretch and have actually increased their divisional lead by a game is a borderline miracle.
If that’s going to continue, though, the bats are really going to need to pick it up.