By Nate Johnson
The last time the Chicago Cubs faced the San Francisco Giants, the Giants came into Wrigley Field with the lead for the second National League wild card playoff spot and left after a three-game sweep by the Cubs with a three-and-a-half game deficit. As the Cubs now travel to San Francisco, they hope that the tables are not turned.
After a 2-1 make-up win over the Cleveland Indians on Monday, the Cubs now hold a six-and-a-half game lead for the second wild card spot over the Giants, and this series could make a huge statement in the playoff possibilities. Monday’s win, sealed by a walk-off home run by Kris Bryant with two outs in the ninth inning, was the fifth in a row for the team.
The Cubs now sit 21 games over .500, the first time they have been that high since the end of the 2008 season. A 17-4 record for the month, August’s best record in the National League, had a lot to do with reaching that point. Before the win against the Indians, Chicago took four straight from the Atlanta Braves, marking the first time since 1945 that the team has swept four four-game series.
Monday’s pitching gem between Cubs number one starter Jon Lester and Cleveland ace Corey Kluber, 2014’s American League Cy Young Award winner, saw the Cubs held under five runs for the first time in a week. Kluber was perfect into the sixth inning, but ended up giving up an RBI triple to first baseman Anthony Rizzo in the seventh. After Cleveland tied the game in the ninth against Lester, Bryant decided the affair with his 20th home run of the season, adding to his Rookie of the Year resume.
For all of the positives to come out of the Atlanta series, the Cubs were left after Sunday’s finale with a new challenge: injuries. Right fielder Jorge Soler could be out for up to a month with an oblique injury, and right-handed reliever Jason Motte joins bullpen mates Neil Ramirez and Rafael Soriano on the disabled list with shoulder tightness. In addition, rookie shortstop Addison Russell left Sunday’s game with groin tightness and will go into the Giants series as day-to-day.
Following the three games in San Francisco, the Cubs will head south to face another potential playoff team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, before coming home to close out the month of August against the Cincinnati Reds.