The Rundown: Cubs Sweep Braves, Addison Russell Could Miss More Time After Leaving Game with Groin Tightness

Remember the lamenting over the Cubs’ sub-par offense this season? Sure seems like a distant memory now, doesn’t it?

The Cubs completed a four-game sweep of the Braves yesterday with a 9-3 win. They scored nine, nine, five and seven runs in the series. And even in the previous two games, which the Cubs dropped to the Tigers, they scored eight runs in each.

Once again the Cubs used the longball to overpower their opponent yesterday. Dexter Fowler set the tone with a leadoff blast. Kyle Schwarber, Miguel Montero and Kris Bryant (with two) also got in on the action.

The Cubs hit a total of 12 home runs in the series. I’m really liking what I’m seeing from the Cubs hitters’ approach. All of the home runs on Sunday went to the opposite field, with the exception being Bryant’s second — which went to straight-away center.

The offense really will be tested this week, as the Cubs will head out west after tonight’s game to face the Dodgers and Giants.

With Sunday’s win, the Cubs are 20 games over .500. Heading into the season, I had a good feeling the team would be much improved. But I never seriously imagined them being 20 games above .500 this late in the season. It’s incredible.

Hammel time

With the Cubs bullpen being used heavily in the past few games, it was important for Sunday’s starter Jason Hammel to have a long outing. Hammel hasn’t fared well of late, so this was a big start for him.

Luckily he was up to the task. Hammel lasted into the 7th inning giving up only two runs on six hits. He struck out eight and walked one.

Hopefully he can keep it going. The Cubs are going to need him to regain the effectiveness he displayed in the first half of the season.

Russell could miss some time

Addison Russell left Sunday’s game in the 6th inning, but the Cubs had an 8-2 lead at the time so I didn’t think much of it. I figured Joe Maddon was simply giving his young shortstop a breather.

However, after the game, it was revealed that Russell was removed due to groin tightness, and he might miss some time coming up.

This would be a shame, as Russell is really starting to figure things out at the plate. Since the All-Star break, he has seen a significant increase in extra-base power and has cut down on his strikeouts. He homered in two of the four games against the Braves.

So if Russell has to miss more than a couple games, where do the Cubs turn? Do they give Starlin Castro a shot? Or do they call up Javier Baez from Triple-A?

It will be interesting to see what the Cubs do. They have said they’d likely keep Baez at Iowa until September since he has missed so much time this year. But with an opportunity to play every day, I wonder if would call him up to the Bigs.

Hopefully the issue will be moot and Russell only misses a game or two.

Scoreboard watching

After losing two in a row, the Cardinals won Sunday and still hold a 6.5-game lead over the Cubs for the division lead.

The Pirates beat the Giants again, increasing the Cubs’ lead on the second wild card spot to six games. The Cubs still trail Pittsburgh by three games for the top wild card spot.

The Cubs just can’t make up any ground on the other top teams in the National League Central. It’s a good thing there are two wild card spots these days, or else this would be a very frustrating season for the Cubs.

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