Fun fact: Only the Los Angeles Dodgers and their absurd 27-7 record in the second half are better than the Cubs, who have now gone 24-12 since the All-Star break. Pretty neat, right? If the Cubs get back to the NLCS for a third consecutive season and end up losing to Los Angeles, we could probably call that a successful season, given everything that has happened to this point.
•The Cubs’ hitters have been kind to John Lackey of late. The team has won every single one of Lackey’s last seven starts, taking their record to 15-9 this season in games he start. Compare that to their 52-48 record in all other games, and this stat is worth a serious “what the eff?”
But before you start lining Lackey up for that Game 1 start against Max Scherzer, remember that he has been mostly pretty bad this year. He has a 4.90 ERA and has allowed a league-high 31 home runs, including a monster three-run shot in the 5th inning against the Cincinnati Reds that turned a 3-3 tie into a 6-3 Reds lead – at least for a moment.
The Cubs scored 10 unanswered runs after Lackey left the game and they eventually put the Reds away, 13-9. During the Cubs’ seven-game win streak in Lackey’s starts, the team is averaging an outstanding 7.3 runs per game. If the Cubs scored seven runs in each of Jake Arrieta’s starts, they’d be 25-4 in his games.
•Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton is what we like to call a “Cub Killer.” In 224 career plate appearances against his division rivals, Hamilton has a .291/.359/.437 slash line with four triples and three homers. Compare that with his career line of .248/.298/.333 with 23 triples and 16 home runs in 2,088 plate appearances. You should forgive the average Cubs fan that thinks Hamilton is way better than he actually is.
•I can’t stress how important the next few weeks are for the Cubs. They enter play on Wednesday with a 2.5 game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers and 4.5 over the St. Louis Cardinals. Between now and September 11, the Cubs finish out with the Reds before playing three in Philadelphia, then back at home for three against Pittsburgh and four against Atlanta, then four on the road against the Pirates before a three-game home series against the Brewers.
During that same stretch, Milwaukee finishes a series with the Giants before playing three in Los Angeles against the Dodgers, two at home against St. Louis and four against Washington, then three on the road in Cincinnati before heading to Chicago. The Cardinals have a relatively easy schedule, but they have to take their awful road record (28-34) on a 10-game trip to Milwaukee, San Francisco, and San Diego.
Suffice it to say, the Cubs should be able to build at least a five-game lead in the division between now and when the Brewers come to town in the second week of September. If they can’t grow their lead, the door will be left open for Milwaukee, which has seven games against the Cubs in September.