The past month saw a little less action due to the All-Star break, but July is now in the books for the Cubs. They had a very streaky four weeks, ending up basically where they sat after June and narrowly avoiding a second straight losing month.
At 12-11, the Cubs had their third winning month of the year by the smallest possible margin. They went 2-4 going into the break before coming out flying with a 7-2 mark to open the second half. The road continued to be a big issue as they then went 3-5 against the Giants, Brewers, and Cardinals to finish July.
The pitching was mostly good, save for a couple poorly timed bullpen collapses, but the offense continued to struggle. Even though their team OPS of .759 was slightly up from the .741 of June, it was hardly something to brag about. So the Cubs shook up the roster to try and generate offense as the trade deadline approached, promoting Ian Happ and adding Tony Kemp and Nick Castellanos via trade while demoting Addison Russell and putting Daniel Descalso on the injured list.
A +8 run differential indicated Chicago’s record is about where it should be for the month and their overall run differential of +72 is best in the NL Central by a pretty comfortable margin. The Cubs maintained their lead over Milwaukee, but the Cardinals caught fire and are now tied for first.
Who Was Hot?
Anthony Rizzo was excellent, despite hitting just a pair of home runs. The big first baseman had a .966 OPS in July and drove in 15 runs. Kris Bryant also lit it up to the tune of a .928 OPS and five longballs. Jason Heyward carried his hot June over to July with a .309 batting average.
Yu Darvish was excellent, posting a 2.93 ERA and a whopping 36 strikeouts in 30.2 innings. Jon Lester was also on a roll with a 2.77 ERA in 26 strong innings. Kyle Hendricks returned from injury to strike out a batter an inning and post a 2.25 ERA in 32 frames.
Who Was Cold?
David Bote had a very bad month with a brutal .592 OPS in 42 at-bats. Albert Almora Jr. wasn’t much better, generating a .612 OPS despite hitting four homers. Kyle Schwarber had six round-trippers and 14 RBI in July, but hit just .184 in 76 at-bats.
José Quintana was the Cubs’ worst starter of the month with a 5.56 ERA in 22.2 innings. Even so, he went 3-0 thanks to the offense scoring 36 runs in his four starts. The back end of the bullpen had a rough one, as closer Craig Kimbrel surrendered eight runs in 10.2 innings and Pedro Strop allowed seven runs in nine frames before landing on the injured list with a neck strain.
Chicago swept a three-game series from the Pirates at Wrigley to start the second half, outscoring Pittsburgh 22-10 as the bats temporarily roared to life. It also served a measure of revenge after a testy series at PNC Park and kicked off a 7-2 hot streak in the middle of the month.
Game of the Month
Despite an overall bad month, Schwarber had a day in a 11-4 win against the Brewers on July 28. He hit a monster grand slam his first time up, then went oppo for a three-run jack in his second at-bat. He walked, reached on an infield hit, and scored on a Victor Caratini homer. That’s two homers, seven runs batted in, and three runs scored.
Four months down, two to go!