Well that certainly was a fun way to end a homestand that at times wasn't so fun. After the opening series with the Dodgers filled with banners and jewelry, the Cubs really struggled to get much done over the weekend and were swept in pretty ugly fashion by Pittsburgh. The hope was with Milwaukee making the short trip down 94 next, the Cubs would really get going again considering they had just taken 2 of 3 from them at Miller Park with a lot of runs coming the last two games of that series.
Unfortunately, it was a lot of the same on Monday. John Lackey gave up a couple first inning runs, per usual, on a Ryan Braun homer. He then gave up solo shots the next two innings, but the Cubs were able to get some runs too including a two run double by Albert Almora who's really been hot when he's in the lineup. Both Lackey and Anderson settled in after that and the score remained 4-3 until the 8th when a double from Braun, followed by an error by Contreras allowing Braun to score minutes later, proved to be the dagger in a 6-3 win for Milwaukee.
Didn't get much from the starting pitching Tuesday either. Brett Anderson allowed 6 earned and didn't even make it out of the 4th, but two run homers from Kyle Schwarber in the 3rd, and Miguel Montero in the 4th, kept the Cubs in the game. In the 6th the Cubs exploded for 4 more runs to grab an 8-7 lead and after Kris Bryant added an insurance run on a double in the 8th, Wade Davis was able to record his 3rd save of the year and give the Cubs a much needed win. Most encouraging for me was that the bullpen only allowed 1 run and 3 base runners over the final 5 1/3 innings.
The theme of the starting pitching continued in Wednesday's rubber game, with Kyle Hendricks giving up 3 early runs. Trailing 4-1 after 5, the Cubs were able to claw back against the Milwaukee bullpen and in the bottom of the 9th, a Bryant game tying RBI single set up Addison Russell for a two out walk off bomb to left center and stole a series win for the Cubs.
What a difference an inning makes. If the Cubs had lost Wednesday, they'd have headed into a 9 game road trip having lost 5 of 6 with a 7-8 record and not much momentum to build off of. Instead, they'll head to Cincinnati coming off a walk off win and while it's looked pretty bad recently, they still have taken 2 of 3 from everyone they've played besides the sweep by Pittsburgh. The back end of the rotation has been shakey, but the bullpen has been better which is an encouraging sign. The runs are starting to come too and hopefully that trend will continue into the weekend playing in a hitters park. The good news for the Cubs at 8-7 is that the Cardinals and Pirates have struggled too and the team ahead of them is the Reds, who barring something totally crazy shouldn't be much of a threat come September. I mentioned earlier that Almora has been really hot, so hopefully Joe will find ways to get him in the lineup more often if his hot streak continues.
Looking ahead to the weekend, the Cubs will look to win another series at Great American Ballpark where they haven't lost one since 2014. Jon Lester will flip spots with Jake Arrieta to pitch Friday on regular rest and avoid pitching in Boston, and John Lackey will go Sunday. Lackey has been concerning and will really need to keep the ball down, but he'll face Bronson Arroyo who's had his own struggles and hopefully the bats will give Lackey some run support. As for the rest of the Reds starters, Tim Adleman will go Friday and Cody Reed will pitch Saturday. Cincinnati has played pretty well to this point, but anything less than a series win for the Cubs would be pretty disappointing. Who knows, maybe they'll even be back on top of the Central come Sunday night.