After sweeping Pirates, Marcus Stroman and the Cubs hope to kickstart ‘crazy push’
Marcus Stroman and the Cubs always felt like they were due for some breaks to go their way.
A series sweep against the division-leading Pirates might have set them on their course.
“I think we feel like we have a little momentum going right now,” Stroman said after throwing another quality start in the Cubs’ 7-2 win over the Pirates. “Things finally kind of turned in our favor. I think everybody in this clubhouse kind of knows that type of run like this is truly capable.”
The Cubs had preached the string of bad luck or breaks not going their way — they’re the only team in the division with a positive run differential this season but are 6 games under .500. They’ve permitted the fewest runs in the division and tied for second fewest in the National League, but they sit in fourth place in the NL Central.
A sweep against Pittsburgh, though, has them sitting just 3.5 games back of the Pirates — and with the ability to trim that deficit even more. The Cubs host Baltimore for a 3-game set and have Kyle Hendricks and Jameson Taillon — both coming off their best starts of the season lined up for the bookends of the season. Sandwiched between those two is likely to be Justin Steele, who will be coming off the injured list and has been just as dependable as Stroman this season.
If they can play a good series against Baltimore, then they had to Pittsburgh to face those pesky Pirates for 3 more and another shot to firmly position themselves in the thick of the NL Central race.
“It’s a good ball club over there,” manager David Ross said. “We don’t take anything for granted but I thought just the brand of baseball as a whole we played this series was really good and I think that speaks a lot to the offense and the pitching continuing to do what it’s been doing.”
The Cubs scored 28 runs and hit .368 with a .947 OPS in the 3-game set. In the finale, they saw the return of one of their better hitters in Cody Bellinger, who immediately delivered with a hustle double. Ian Happ fell a home run short of the cycle, Christopher Morel had a 3-hit game in the DH role and the bullpen — which has struggled this season — shut the door on the Pirates.
Lead taken! ✅ pic.twitter.com/ttDu2gaVGj— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) June 16, 2023
It’s the type of performance that can ignite a run. The last time the Cubs swept a series was in April in Oakland. They went on to split a series with the Dodgers and take two of three from San Diego before being swept by Miami and losing three of four to the Nationals that was part of a difficult May where they went 10-18.
The Cubs will need to make sure they can keep that momentum going. If they do, things can change — and even more meaningful games will continue to be played.
“If you come out here with the proper routine and truly put in the work that you need to do, hopefully, things start to go in your favor,” Stroman said. “With this group of guys that we have, I truly think we can have a crazy push here at the end and be right there in playoff baseball in October.
“So, I’m very hopeful for that.”