Sure, the Cubs won yet another series on the road. They even managed a sweep this time! The question remains, though: Will they ever be able to translate their success away from home to games at Wrigley Field?
Okay, maybe I’m getting carried away with some recency bias, but narratives sure can turn on a dime. After spending most of this season excelling at Wrigley and struggling mightily to win outside of Chicago, the Cubs now have two straight encouraging road series wins while what might’ve been their worst series loss of the year just passed us by as the Cubs were swept at home by the red-hot Nationals.
Why focus on the negative, though? This was a spectacular series, especially given the combination of playoff implications and quality of the opponent. It’s not every day that teams can roll into New York and take all three in a series facing Marcus Stroman, Noah Syndergaard, and Jacob deGrom consecutively. The Cubs, though, were able to do just that.
The series opener saw a number of standout performances, but none were bigger than starting pitcher Yu Darvish. In what was certainly one of his best starts as a Cub, and the very first in which he was able to pitch eight innings, Darvish was masterful.
The righty struck out seven in eight innings, surrendering just one walk. That walk broke Darvish’s impressive streak of not having walked a batter for 142 consecutive batters, but he’ll certainly take the results anyway. He was backed up by a nice night from Javier Báez, who went 3-for-6 with a home run and four runs driven in on the night.
Before the Cubs did everything they could to transform the narrative of the game into “pitching meltdown,” the defining feature of Wednesday’s game was the offense. The 1st inning might as well be considered a single moment, because the Cubs scored six runs before many fans had saw down courtesy of some lousy Mets defense, Báez, Kyle Schwarber, Addison Russell, and Ian Happ.
While the Mets were able to pull the game within three runs, the Cubs managed to hold on and secure a much-needed road series win behind closer Craig Kimbrel.
Lester pitched six shutout innings against a solid enough Mets lineup and grinded out the win. All of his backup came from Caratini, who smacked a pair of critical home runs. His second was arguably one of the biggest of the Cubs’ season, giving the team a 4-1 lead that they’d hold onto.
- While he inexplicably sat out the series finale in favor of a Tony Kemp start in left field, Schwarber had a nice series. In those first two games, he smacked a home run, drove in three, and reached base four times in nine plate appearances. It was a nice follow-up to a strong series finale against Washington, and a Schwarber hot streak would be a big boost to a club in search of offense.
- After his strong start in this series, Darvish has a 3.74 ERA over his last over his last 15 starts (91.1 IP). That’s good enough on its own, but the most impressive part? He has a staggering 10:1 K/BB ratio. Uh, that’ll do.
- As sad as it is to say, it’s becoming increasingly hard to count on Steve Cishek as a dependable member of this bullpen. He allowed a pair of baserunners in just 0.2 innings pitched on Thursday before being bailed out by Rowan Wick and has allowed 22 baserunners over his last 12.2 innings pitched.
- Despite a promising start, it’s past time for the Jason Heyward leadoff experiment to end. J-Hey went hitless in this series and is batting under .200 over his last 15 games.
By virtue of recent circumstances, the Cubs can no longer afford to focus solely on the race in the National League Central. This series represented a key matchup between the Cubs and one of their competitors for a Wild Card spot and, all in all, they have to walk away pretty thrilled with their performance, having dealt perhaps a fatal blow to one of the teams chasing them.
They were able to gain ground in the division race, too. The red hot Cardinals finally lost a game, allowing the Cubs to cut what was a three game deficit in half.
The Cubs return home to begin a series against the Brewers, a team chasing them in both the division and Wild Card races. A strong showing could knock the Crew out of contention for one or both. Coming off a sweep of these Brewers just a couple of weeks ago, the Cubs will be hoping for the kind of performance that could effectively end the playoff chase of one of their rivals.