By Nate Johnson
After hitting a rough stretch of 5 losses in 8 games including losing series to Arizona and Washington to close out May, a walk-off 11th inning victory against the Kansas City Royals may turn out to be just what the team needed to get the Cubs back on track heading into the summer months.
With three of those losses coming by one run, the offense appeared to be losing the spark that had given them a strong 13-7 record in games decided by one run early in the season. While Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo continued to carry the bats for the team, the rest of the lineup was struggling to pull their weight. The bats appeared to come alive on the first of June, however, with five different players, including Bryant and Rizzo, providing RBI in a 5-1 win over the Marlins.
Back-to-back wins against Kansas City and Miami put the Cubs back at 5 games over the .500 mark, still a bit of a surprise for the fans who had sat through the struggles of recent years as the front office’s overhaul slogged to fruition. That record keeps the Cubs in 2nd place in the National League Central and still holding a wild card spot as the calendar turns.
The starting pitching continues to do their part, except for a hiccup from normally solid Jake Arrieta in the series opener against the Royals that saw KC’s lineup jump on the starter for four home runs. Kyle Hendricks followed up his complete game shutout of the Padres with 7 innings of one-run ball against the Nationals in a 3-2 win that saw Bryant nearly fly the new left-field video board with a highlight homer. The team also received strong performances from Tsuyoshi Wada in Sunday’s comeback win against the Royals and Jason Hammel in Monday’s defeat of the Marlins.
That win over the Marlins kicked off a nine-game road trip, in which they will face Washington again for four games and visit Detroit for a two-game series. With 17 games over the course of the month against teams currently over .500 and facing four teams who sit in first place at the moment, it won’t be an easy month, but we should have a very good idea of where this year’s edition stands by the time the calendar turns again.