The Cardinals are dominating the Cubs in their current five-game series. Outside of one start, the Cubs look one-dimensional.
Coming into the year, not only were the Reds regularly picked to finish above the St. Louis Cardinals, the formidable Chicago Cubs were as well.
On paper, the Northsiders of Chicago have a ton of talent. Outside of their big four in Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javy Baez, and Willson Contreras, they have guys at almost every position that can take over a game.
On the pitching mound, a rotation anchored by Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks, and John Lester seemed to be good enough to carry them.
To start the shortened 2020 season, that’s exactly what happened. After the Cubs’ first 20 games of 2020, they sat at 13-7. It was at this 20th game that the Cardinals were returning to play after their COVID-induced hiatus, and the Cubs handled business in the first of two five-game series this season between the two teams.
Sure, the Cardinals won two games of the five, but the Cubs finished off the other three relatively easily. On Monday, the Cardinals have a chance to take four out of five from the Cubs, bringing them to within a half-game of first place in the NL Central.
Right now, the Cubs and the Cards are the only two teams in the division above .500. The likelihood of the 18-21 Brewers catching the 17-15 Cardinals goes down each day. Not that it isn’t possible with 10 games against the Brewers still on the schedule.
But the really telling thing about this series has been how one dimensional the Cubs have looked. On Friday, at the start of the series, Yu Darvish embarrassed the Cardinals, striking out 11 over seven innings with just one hit allowed. Beyond that, the Cubs’ pitching staff has looked hollow. Colin Rea and rookie Adbert Alzolay couldn’t get it done against the Cardinals on Saturday, and 36-year-old Jon Lester was knocked out of Sunday’s game after giving up five runs in 3.1 innings.
At the plate for the Cubs, Ian Happ’s breakout and Jason Heyward’s best year in blue have been the only things to write home about. Happ has two homers in the series, but the biggest Cub bats have been silent all year.
Kris Bryant has a .576 OPS, Baez has a .588 OPS, Contreras has a .751 OPS, and Anthony Rizzo is batting just .223.
If you have watched any of the past three wins by the Cardinals, they’ve really been boring wins. A few small rallies, lockdown Cardinal pitching, and ho-hum, Cardinals win. That’s exactly how the Cardinals want it though.
If there is one thing fans know, it’s that the Cardinals are kind of a boring team. That doesn’t seem super fair to say, but comparing them to the San Antonio Spurs is spot on. Heck, even Kris Bryant of the Cubs agrees.
As boring as the wins might have been, the Cards look more exciting than the Cubs by a mile. Outside of Yu Darvish, the Cubs don’t have good pitching. Hendricks is still hanging in there, but he’s not performing as well as usual. Lester is a shell of his former self just like Craig Kimbrel in their bullpen. Outside of Happ and Heyward, there is nobody doing anything in their lineup.
The Cubs got their one World Series and will probably make the playoffs this year, but things are far from steady in Wrigleyville. They have big issues with guys that are supposed to be foundational pieces their team is built on.
After 20 games, the sample is too small to judge any player on. After 40 games of struggle, especially in a 60 game season, the Cubs are beginning to hit the panic button for their lineup and their starting rotation.
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Even if the Cardinals do just take three of the five games, they have closed the ground in the NL Central to just 2.5 games at worst and 0.5 games at best. Monday’s game is the last time the Cardinals will play the Cubs in the regular season this year, so enjoy it while you can.