Bats continue to carry Cubs; Sox still fading

By Cat Garcia 
Contributor 

As invincible as the Chicago Cubs may have seemed over the tremendous last two months of the season, it’s impossible for them not to suffer a few misfortunes along the road. This is baseball, and there’s a lot of it to be played. It can’t all be perfect.

The Cubs are currently taking their lumps, and it all began when they were swept by the Cardinals last week to end a homestand at Wrigley Field. The team then hit the road for the first of a three-series road trip beginning in Miami, where they simply fell onto some tough luck losses. Miami took three-of-four games in the series over the weekend.

The Cubs now find themselves in Cincinnati, and Monday night’s game brought back comforting memories of the 2016 Cubs everyone is so used to. However, it wouldn’t have been such a thrilling win without the contributions of Kris Bryant.

Bryant became the first major league player in history to hit three home runs (410-, 444- and 403-feet respectively) with two doubles in a single game. Bryant went 5-5, driving in six RBIs and scoring four runs on the evening. This was Bryant’s first five-hit game of his career.

“I haven’t really felt 100 percent in terms of my at-bats,” Bryant told MLB.com. “Just kind of grinding them out. But, I don’t know what happened (Monday night). It was just, I figured the last couple weeks haven’t been what I wanted, so I figured, you know what, I’m due.”

“I tried to get in on him the first at-bat [a double in the first inning], and then the second at-bat I tried to throw a fastball down and away, and it ended up middle about belt high. He hit it out,” said Reds starter Dan Straily. “The next one I tried to throw a slider down and away and tossed it middle high again. He did what good hitters do with those pitches. They do damage with them.”

The Cubs are still trying on new bullpen arms for size during the time leading up to the All-Star Break and trade deadline, and it’s been a revolving door of new faces. After seeing the likes of C.J Edwards, Gerardo Concepcion, and Spencer Patton last week at Wrigley, the Cubs added Joel Peralta to the roster while optioning Concepcion back to Triple-A Iowa.

Peralta, who had issues with giving up home runs during his time with the Mariners, gave up one home run during his first outing in Cincinnati on Monday evening. Peralta is currently seeing a HR/FB rate of over 20 percent. While the Cubs look to assess the bullpen trade market and their own internal options, look for a few more familiar faces to pop up.

The Cubs, coming off a 15th-inning win spearheaded by a Javy Baez grand slam Tuesday night, will finish up their series against the Reds on Wednesday and head to New York for a four game set against the Mets to close out the road trip. They’ll then return home to Wrigley Field on the Fourth of July for a short four game series against the Cincinnati Reds that includes a makeup game before they get back on the road to take on the Pirates before the All-Star Break.

• On the South side, the White Sox are currently seeing the opposite effect that the Cubs are, and are coming off a stretch in which they took three of four games from the Boston Red Sox and their red hot offense, as well as two of three games from the Toronto Blue Jays. That’s no small task for a team that’s been facing the struggles that the White Sox have been.

The White Sox are currently hovering around .500, and with a slate of games that includes series against the Twins and Braves before the All-Star Break, they should be able to head into the break with at least a .500 record and time to assess what their next move will be.

The Sox will continue to host the Twins at U.S. Cellular Field, with James Shields taking the mound on Wednesday while facing Twins starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco. Shields impressed by making it through four scoreless innings at Fenway Park during his last outing on Thursday, and looks to redeem himself further with another successful outing. Shields exited his last start against the Red Sox after five innings of work, surrendering just three earned runs with three strikeouts and four walks.

The White Sox offense has shown signs of life recently, with Tim Anderson still impressing despite still not having taken a walk, but it’s Melky Cabrera who has stolen the show. Cabrera has raised his offensive line from .284/.332/.432 up to .297/.348/.467 since the White Sox began their series in Boston on June 20th.

After closing out the series against the Twins, the White Sox will then head to Houston for a quick three game set against the Astros before taking on the Yankees at home.

Cat is a Staff Writer for BP Wrigleyville and BP Southside, Baseball Prospectus’ blogs covering Chicago baseball, and a Contributor for Hardballtimes.com. Follow her on Twitter: @TheBaseballGirl.

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