Chicago Cubs Month in Review for May: Outlook Shifts After 19 Wins
What a difference a month makes, Cubs fans. When I wrote my April review it felt like doom lurked around the corner, with a last-place standing fueling talk of an imminent rebuild. Just four weeks later, the bullpen is breaking records and team revenues are surpassing expectations.
Things could easily flip again and, honestly, no one is sure what the Ricketts’ marching orders to Jed Hoyer on a possible team makeover are or if win totals affect them. Anyway, those are future problems, let’s review a very fun month of May on the North Side.
The Cubs finished May with a 19-8 record and an impressive +46 run differential. They were able to catapult themselves from five games out of first on May 1 to a half-game NL Central division lead on June 1.
We have talked about mega months in which a team wins or loses 20 in a month. Despite coming up one short of that total, I think being 11 over .500 qualifies this as a mega month. Amazingly, Chicago lost by more than one run just once the entire month.
The bullpen was outstanding in May, including a stretch of 38 innings without allowing an earned run that played a big part in a MLB-leading 2.52 ERA. The offense took off with the sixth-best OPS in May (.763), massively improving April’s .697 mark.
Who Was Hot?
Kris Bryant remained as hot as he was in April with five home runs and a .961 OPS and Joc Pederson rebounded nicely from a rough start to .314 in May. Nico Hoerner hit a scorching .356 before suffering a hamstring injury that sent him to the IL.
Zach Davies posted a 1.72 ERA in 31.1 May innings after a lousy April. Tommy Nance has been perfect in 6.2 frames since his debut in the middle of the month. Andrew Chafin and Ryan Tepera allowed two runs in a combined 28.1 innings pitched.
Who Was Cold?
Jason Heyward struggled to a .149 average before going down with an injury. Trevor Williams posted a 6.52 ERA in 19.1 May innings. Jake Arrieta had a 4.58 mark and walked more batters than he struck out as he battled control issues.
The Cubs’ turnaround arguably began with a three-game sweep of the Dodgers at Wrigley early in the month, when a rainout forced a doubleheader on May 4 against aces Clayton Kershaw and Trevor Bauer. They shelled Kershaw in game one and Kyle Hendricks went the distance.
The second game was an extra-innings affair and LA took a 3-1 lead in the 8th inning. Luckily, Javier Báez blasted a game-tying two-run homer with two out and David Bote hit a walk-off single the following frame. The final contest of the series went past regulation as well.
The Cubs rallied to tie in the 10th and then won it on an Anthony Rizzo shift beating single in the 11th. Joc Pederson thought his 10th inning sacrifice fly was gone and celebrated accordingly before the wind knocked it down.
Game of the Month
The Cubs and Cardinals played the rubber match of their three-game set in St. Louis on May 23 as Davies and the ageless Adam Wainwright pitched well and neither team scored through nine. Javy played hero again with a two-run homer to center against Cards closer Alex Reyes in the 10th. The game was truly won when Ryan Tepera escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the 7th. The 2-1 win was closed out by a dominant Craig Kimbrel and got the Cubs within two games of first.
Two months down, four to go.