This is the weekend that I had circled on the Cubs schedule. Every time I was asked what I thought the Cubs were, I would say that I wasn't sure because, although the Cubs are having an outstanding month of May, they still hadn't played against the Cardinals who are 1st in the NL Central. This was the weekend to measure how the Cubs match up against the pre-season favorite and current NL Central leader.
The Cubs showed me that they can compete and beat anyone in the NL Central. I think everyone would agree that this weekend in St.Louis felt like a playoff series, when you combine the stadium getting closer to 100% capacity and a classic rivalry. It was nice to finish off the series win and the Cubs are now only two games back of the Cardinals with a series against the Pirates coming up.
I think we can all watch the Javier Baez two-run homer from Sunday night again, so here it is.
How about the Cubs bullpen, the highest of highlights? In three games against the Cardinals, the bullpen totaled 5.1 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 8 K. Jordan Bastian tweeted that the Cubs bullpen in the last eight games has 25.2 IP, 11 H, 0 ER, 9 BB, 34 K. That is dominating stuff, and they have been the Cubs' biggest strength this season. Most importantly, how about Ryan Tepera getting out of a bases loaded, no out jam against the Cardinals top three hitter? WHAT A MOMENT.
Joc Pederson introduced himself to the Cubs/Cardinals rivalry by homering on the first pitch of Game 1 on Friday night. He also added on a sacrifice fly, going 1-for-3 with a walk and 2 RBI's. Pederson is continuing to progress since coming off of the Injured List.
Kyle Hendricks is another player who is beginning to look like himself again. Since his horrendous start against the Braves on Sunday Night Baseball, he has 2.36 ERA in four starts. He has righted the ship in a massive way, averaging over six innings per start in those last four and only allowing three walks total to 21 strike outs. On Friday night, he went 6.2 IP, 3 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4K. He would have been able to finish seven innings if it weren't for an uncharacteristic error from Anthony Rizzo.
Friday night was a highlight as a whole, the Cubs hitters only struck out four times while walking six times. After the game was tied 2-2 in the 6th inning, the Cubs ended the game on a 10-1 scoring run, eight of those came in the 8th inning. It was a great way to start an important weekend.
Adbert Alzolay turned in the best performance of his young career on Saturday night, going 7 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K. He was absolutely outstanding all night long, showing tons of confidence on the mound, and Manager David Ross showed supreme confidence in him letting him go seven innings for the first time in his career.
Saturday's game also marked three consecutive starts for Adbert where he didn't walk a batter. He is improving every time he gets on the mound. The next thing he needs to work on is keeping the ball in the park, as he has allowed a home run in six of his eight starts, three of the six times he's given up multiple home runs.
Overall this was the best pitched series that the Cubs have had, totaling 18.2 IP, 16 H, 3 ER this weekend. It was nice to see Zach Davies continue to make improvements as well. He went five innings without allowing a run. Since the start of May, he has made five starts, going 26.1 innings and allowing five runs.
One thing that will be in my head all day Monday is Willson Contreras and his wrist. He and closer Craig Kimbrel had a mix up on pitches, resulting in Contreras taking a fastball off the left wrist. Somehow he was able to stay in the game, but the Cubs will have to keep a close eye on him during Monday's off day.
I won't harp on this much at all since the Cubs won the series, but since the Javy Baez RBI single in the first inning on Saturday, the Cubs went a full 17 innings without scoring. There it is, I said it and it's done.
On To Pittsburgh
The Cubs ride this series win through the off day Monday and into Pittsburgh for a three-game series. The Cubs will start Jake Arrieta, Trevor Williams and Kyle Hendricks on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, respectively. This will be the fourth series against the Pirates in 2021, and the Cubs are 5-4 so far.
The Pirates, as expected, are not good. In their last 10 games, they are 3-7, including a current three-game losing streak. The Pirates have not yet announced a starting pitcher for Tuesday, but will pitch Will Crowe and Tyler Anderson on Wednesday and Thursday. With the Cardinals coming to Chicago to face the White Sox on Monday, there will be a great chance for the Cubs to close that two-game deficit in the NL Central.