Well, a 6-1 Chicago Cubs homestand sure helped to take the sting out of a 2-5 road trip! The six-game win streak before Sunday's loss to the Pirates showed just how exciting this team can be. And as Joe Maddon would say, even with the last loss, the Cubs still Meatloafed the series. Of course, it'd be fine if the records for each of the last two weeks were more like 4-3, but hopefully the team will play better on the road this week. Below are five thoughts as the Cubs get set to face the San Diego Padres tonight.
1. This Jon Lester guy is pretty good, right? Seriously, though. He's allowed five earned runs in his last four starts, all wins, with three of them being won by only one run. Having a true ace at the top of this rotation only makes me want to see the Cubs go after Cole Hamels even more. (Later this week I'll highlight my favorite current Cubs prospects and then discuss what I'd be willing to give up for Hamels.)
2. Most of the offense is clicking right now, but Anthony Rizzo is standing out as an early MVP candidate. His .470 OBP is amazing, and it actually went up (from .469) on Sunday despite an 0-for-2 day, thanks to two walks. Kris Bryant continues to impress, and I believe it's only a matter of time before Jorge Soler gets consistent production at the plate.
3. I like Travis Wood in the bullpen. I don't know if he'll be available to pinch hit and pinch run as often as he was as a starter, but I guess you never really know with Maddon. He could enter each game with a different mindset about how he'll use Wood that day, reserving him as a reliever on some days, and keeping him in the dugout as an offensive reserve on others. Either way, I like giving Wada a shot at the rotation, and I assume this gets us one step closer to seeing Edwin Jackson leave town. (Also, can we be done with Schlitter for good yet, or what?)
4. The roster should have more flexibility now that Welington Castillo has been traded. Although it took months longer than any of us thought it would, Castillo is finally gone, and the Cubs roster now features the more typical total of two catchers. It'll be good to see Junior Lake on the bench instead of a third catcher.
5. Please don't let James Shields become a "Cubs Killer." When the Cubs made a late push to sign Shields this offseason and failed to do so, it automatically became an easy "story" for everyone to talk about whenever the team faces him. Shields is 5-0, and I'm already tired of hearing about how the Cubs let him "get away" when the team was never expected to sign a second big name after Lester anyway. Let's get Shields his first loss tonight and move toward Meatloafing another set.