Well, here we are at the All-Star Break, when the first more-than-half of the season is done and we won't see Cubs baseball until Friday. This does give the Cubs some breathing room to figure out what's wrong with some of their starters and to decide how to jumble the roster around, if necessary. Let's take a look at the last mini-homestand against the Atlanta Braves...
Chicago Cubs vs. Atlanta Braves, Wrigley Field
Friday, July 11 - Braves 4, Cubs 5
W: Rondon (2-3) L: Walden (0-1)
Jake Arrieta took the mound Friday as one of the baseball's hottest pitchers, heading into Friday’s game he led the majors with a 1.78 ERA since May. On Friday, Arrieta gave up four hits, three earned runs, three walks and fanned six over 7 2/3 innings. In his last five starts (35 1/3 innings) Arrieta has a 1.78 ERA with 41 strikeouts, 17 hits, seven earned runs and eight walks. The Cubs won four of those five games, including Friday, in which Arismendy Alcantara hit leadoff following a four-hit outing on Thursday. The Braves took a 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth as Braves’ pitcher Alex Wood led off with a bunt single for his first Major League hit. He was sacrificed to second and scored on a two-out double by Freddie Freeman (1-for-3 with two RBIs). Then, in the bottom half of the sixth, the first two batters, Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, reached base. Wood hit the next batter, Welington Castillo, after getting ahead, 0-2, to load the bases. Wood then struck out Junior Lake for the first out, but Chris Coghlan's grounder up the middle sneaked through for a run-scoring single to tie the game at 3. Shae Simmons replaced Wood but it wasn’t a much better outcome. Simmons issued a walk to Luis Valbuena on four straight pitches to push across what was then the go-ahead run. Atlanta would rally to spoil Arrieta’s effort which is always unfortunate when a starting pitcher doesn’t get the win, but the Cubs did and that’s what matters. Justin Ruggiano was the hero for the evening and bailed out Hector Rondon, who blew his third save this season.
Saturday, July 12 - Braves 11, Cubs 6
W: Minor (3-5) L: Jackson (5-10) SV: Carpenter (3)
For Edwin Jackson it was a first half that he would rather forget about, this outing included. His whole career has been ups and downs, there’s really no in between. Dabynsky explored why he might be having trouble and you can read about that here in case you missed it. Edwin Jackson gave up nine earned runs on seven hits, including three homers in just 3 2/3 innings and the Braves pounded the Cubs 11-6. The game was still up for grabs after three innings, with the game tied at three. Then came the fourth, in which Jackson fell apart. The Braves sent 10 men to the plate, hit two homers and put up six runs, which brought Jackson’s ERA up to 5.64. The Cubs fought back with three runs in the fifth, when Arismendy Alcantara, Justin Ruggiano and Anthony Rizzo loaded the bases on singles. Alcantara scored on a passed ball and Chris Coghlan drove in two with a two-out double to left. Those three have definitely been bright spots for the Cubs. They combined to go 7-for-12 with four runs, four doubles and four RBIs. Chris Coghlan is hitting .429 with eight doubles, two homers and 10 RBIs in 12 July games, while Alcantara is 7-for-18 with three RBIs and five runs scored through his first four Major League games. Meanwhile, Jackson needs to figure out what went wrong in the first half and try to turn it around for the second half of the season, because he's likely not going anywhere for a while. Jackson has a record of 13-27 with a 5.23 ERA since joining the Cubs last season.
Sunday, July 13 - Braves 10, Cubs 7
W: Teheran (9-6) L: Wood (7-8) SV: Kimbrel (29)
For the second straight day, the Cubs had the chance to come back and win the game but it was too little too late. The Cubs’ offense was once again led by hot hitters, Arismendy Alcantara and Chris Coghlan, who each hit two-run homers, but the Braves had already done the damage. The Braves’ Chris Johnson went 3-for-4 with his third homer in two games, and Tommy La Stella added three RBIs on his 3-for-5 day. Young Cubs standout Arismendy Alcantara hit his first Majors homer, a two-run shot. Travis Wood, who at this time last year was headed to the All-Star Game, gave up seven earned runs on seven hits, three walks over six innings and left after 104 pitches (66 strikes) It was the second straight game a Cubs starter struggled, after Edwin Jackson lasted just 3 2/3 innings and surrendered nine earned runs in Saturday's 11-6 loss. Alcantara continued his hot streak and push for a permanent spot on the big league roster, going 2-for-5 with a double and a homer. In his first five big league games, he's hitting .391 and has a .400 on-base percentage.
2014 All-Star Game, Target Field, Minneapolis MN
The All-Stars (by my count, over 10% of Major League Baseball, but who's counting) are headed to Minnesota Monday evening for the Home Run Derby and for Tuesday night's actual All-Star Game. The Home Run Derby has some new rules which should make it more interesting and speed up the rounds.
The American League will be represented by Yoenis Cespedes (defending champion), Josh Donaldson (former Cub in the Rich Harden trade), Adam Jones, Brian Dozier, and captained by Jose Bautista. They will be opposed by the National League squad of Justin Morneau, Todd Frazier, Giancarlo Stanton, Yasiel Puig and captained by Troy Tulowitzki. Let's see if the Rockies' representatives' power actually traveled with them away from Colorado!
Here are the starting lineups for Tuesday night's game, the last for Derek Jeter in case you didn't read the ten billion articles about that...
— #ASG (@MLB) July 14, 2014
I like Rice's version though:
As for after the break, the Cubs are back in action against the Diamondbacks in Arizona starting Friday, let's take a look at that:
Chicago Cubs vs. Arizona Diamondbacks, Chase Field
The four days off will allow the Cubs to reset their rotation, so hopefully Edwin and Travis figure out what they're doing wrong by then:
This is how the Diamondbacks plan to set up their rotation coming out of the break:
— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) July 14, 2014
So here we go!
Friday, July 18
8:40 PM Central
Edwin Jackson vs. Trevor Cahill (thought he was in the minors, but guess not)
TV = CSN
Thanks for reading and as always, Go Cubs!