After sweeping Cardinals, Cubs setting the stage for fascinating summer
“I wish I could just push a button and beat [the Cardinals].”
That’s what Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer joked prior to the three-game series against his team’s division rival at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs may not have a Staples “easy” button to instantly beat the Cardinals but they still earned the desired result, finishing off the sweep Sunday night with a 2-0 victory.
The weekend sank the Cardinals to 4th place in the NL Central, 6 games behind the Cubs and Brewers (who are tied for 1st).
There’s still more than six weeks to go until the trade deadline but this weekend may serve as a death knell to the Cardinals’ hopes in the division.
Meanwhile, the Cubs flashed their staying power as Zach Davies turned in another gem Sunday night while his teammates boasted strong defense behind him and the offense took advantage of a key Cardinals error.
All weekend long, the Cubs bullpen was lights out with 10.1 shutout innings.
The Cubs have a difficult schedule this month but they continue to prove they are a contender — not a pretender.
Facing the Padres, Giants and Cardinals to open June, the Cubs have come away with a 9-4 record and now turn their attention to the next tough task at hand — a four-game series with the Mets in New York.
They’re 27-12 since the start of May, the best record in the NL over that time.
“These guys are playing at a high level,” David Ross said. “They have a ton of confidence. I think the talent’s showing up on a nightly basis. We find a way to win every single night. A ton of character, a lot of talent, a lot of hardware in that room that knows how to win.
“It’s a good feeling to have a nice homestand and sweep a division opponent. … It was really nice to be home. The fans really brought us a lot of energy. The atmosphere was amazing. So thankful fans are back in the ballpark.”
Prior to the 2021 season, Hoyer called it a year of transition. In the clubhouse, the Cubs remained confident they could still be a contender even after losing Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini in an offseason trade.
They’ve gone out and transformed that belief into a reality.
With each passing day, the Cubs strengthen their case to Hoyer that this front office should be buyers at the July 30 deadline.
“When it comes to the trade deadline, I kinda look at it a little bit from 30,000 feet,” Hoyer said. “We’ve been really aggressive here to win ever since we’ve been in a winning mode. That’s sort of undeniable.
“There’s very rare exceptions to this — if you’re in a pennant race, then you try to get better and you try to buy. We’ve always done that. I don’t know why this year would be any different. I feel like there’s still a lot of time between now and then. Our needs could change over that time.”
Yes, six weeks is a long time in Major League Baseball and the narrative surrounding the Cubs can take a turn. But this is a team that has not only survived a slew of injuries but has thrived with replacement players like Patrick Wisdom and Sergio Alcántara stepping up.
And the peripheral numbers back up the team’s performance in the win column. Only the Giants, Dodgers and Padres have a better run differential than the Cubs (+43) in the NL.
“When I think about the position we’re in, obviously I want to be on the buy side,” Hoyer said. “That’s the place you want to be. That means you’re winning. That means this place is lively all summer. I look at our track record, we’ve always done that.”
Wrigley Field was certainly lively over the weekend as 100% capacity returned to “The Friendly Confines.”
Nearly 110,000 fans (109,432 to be exact) came out to see the Cubs dispatch the Cardinals on a gorgeous weekend that seemed to serve as a harbinger for what the summer could bring at the corner of Clark and Addison.
“It doesn’t get any better than that,” Eric Sogard said. “Honestly, it feels like a playoff atmosphere. … It’s really special to have that energy and you see how much it helped us out there. I think that was a big part of helping us get that sweep.”