Anthony Rizzo, the Chicago Cubs first baseman, rode the final vote of the fans to become an All-Star in 2014. In his first and so far only at-bat in the Midsummer Classic, the 24-year-old Rizzo went 0-1 with a strikeout.
Since play has resumed, however, he’s reminded fans what got him to the All-Star game in the first place. He cranked out a pair of big flies on Friday against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field and he went deep for the third time in the series on Sunday afternoon. The only problem is despite Rizzo’s efforts with his bat, his team fell short in all three games, with the D-Backs prevailing over the Northsiders 2-1 on Sunday.
After Rizzo’s solo blast, the Diamondbacks wasted no time to put up a two spot on the scoreboard, and tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the 7th. Chicago would get one of those runs back in the top of the 8th, but in the end it was insufficient to avoid getting swept right out of the gate since the All-Star break. This is a Cubs team hanging on the ropes and trying to avoid being the worst team in the National League record-wise. The Cubbies have a 40-57 record, while the Colorado Rockies sit at 40-58. It’s been an extremely ugly July for this franchise, going just 2-11 since dealing Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Oakland Athletics July 4.
Chicago heads back home to close out July with 10 games at Wrigley Field. They’ll entertain the San Diego Padres July 22-24. The rival St. Louis Cardinals come into town for a three game weekend series before the Cubs square off against the Rockies in four games July 28-31.
The Padres sit in third place in the NL West, although they’ll have quite the ground to make up if they want to sniff the postseason in 2014, as they sit 11 games back of first, though winning two games in a row on Saturday and Sunday against the New York Mets is not a bad start by any means. St. Louis is St. Louis, the defending NL Champions and they’re not about to relinquish their Senior Circuit crown without giving it everything they’ve got. The Redbirds have overtaken the Milwaukee Brewers for first place in the NL Central and after making two deep playoff runs in his first two seasons, Mike Matheny is hoping the third time is the charm for him. Perhaps the Cubs should be most optimistic about facing the Rockies, as Colorado has a 5 game losing streak as of Sunday and through that same date is a mere 16-33 on the road. Even though the Cubs have the most losses on the road in all of baseball in 2014, they have cracked the 20 win plateau away from their home ballpark, something neither the Padres, Rockies nor Miami Marlins can lay claim to.
Right now the biggest issue for the Cubs appears to be starting pitching. With Samardzija and Hammel gone, it appears to closest thing this team has to an ace in the hole is Jake Arrieta, who was the losing pitcher on Sunday against the D-Backs, but is probably the best they have at this moment. ERA+ and WHIP have looked really well for him and a couple of times he has flirted with a no-hitter. Edwin Jackson continues to be a disappointment with a 70 ERA+ and 1.563 WHIP. Most, if not all Cubs fans would probably be dismayed to know there’s still two years left on his 4-year, $52 million contract. Perhaps the most disappointing of them all is Travis Wood, the team’s lone All Star representative a year ago has spun into numbers not too far behind Jackson.
Make no mistake the Cubs are on the rise with one of the best farm systems in baseball at least in terms of position players. Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Addison Russell all rank very high among the best prospects in the game. The pitching woes, though, absolutely need to be addressed if this team is to go anywhere, even if players with the likes of Bryant, Baez and Russell all produce at the Major League level.