CHICAGO — Help might be coming just in time for the Chicago Cubs.
The team used six relievers in their first game back from the All-Star break, and considering their busy second-half schedule, the addition of righty Jesse Chavez from the Texas Rangers on Thursday might not be the last move the team makes.
“I don’t think it’s going to be the end of it,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said with a laugh after the Cubs’ 9-6 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday. “They [the front-office personnel] enjoy it too much.”
It’s true. The Cubs brass has been as active as any in the month of July. First, the Cubs were sellers, during their rebuilding years; then they became buyers, once the team began to contend. In 2016, it was Aroldis Chapman who came on board, helping the Cubs to a World Series. Last year, they acquired Jose Quintana, during the All-Star break. And now, it’s Chavez.
Chavez can spot start or come out of the bullpen as he joins his ninth different team, but the Cubs probably aren’t done, because their starting staff — save All-Star Jon Lester — continues to falter.
It was another rough night on Thursday for Kyle Hendricks, who allowed nine hits and three runs in 4⅔ innings.
“A little bit of a battle tonight,” Hendricks said.
That might have been an understatement, as once again he put his team behind in the first inning, where his ERA stands at 8.55 for the season. He was pulled in the fifth, leading to that parade of relievers.
But here’s the thing about this year’s Cubs: After winning it all in 2016, backed by a historically good starting staff, they’re now becoming known for their offense. They lead the league in just about every category, including come-from-behind wins, with Thursday’s triumph the team’s 31st such victory of the season.
“They are definitely fun and enjoyable for the fans, but I think we would enjoy a few games where we start up and finish up,” said center fielder Ian Happ, who homered on Thursday.
But for that to happen, the Cubs’ rotation has to be better. Hendricks’ ERA for the season is a tick under 4.00, while teammate Quintana’s (3.96) is slightly better. Tyler Chatwood (5.04) checks in at over 5.00, and Yu Darvish (4.95) is still hurt. Maddon is hopeful for better days from all of them, but can the Cubs win a championship with their offense leading the way?
It’s not the norm, especially coming out of the National League.
“It happens once in a while, but it’s so hard to get to that last game of the year and win it without that level of pitching,” Maddon stated.
Enter the July 31 trade deadline.
Considering Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer’s fondness for moves during this month, the acquisition of Chavez could be the smallest deal they make. No one knows if they’ll go big-game hunting again, so for now, that offense will have to carry the load. Maybe they can win it all using an American League-style attack.
No one is happier with that notion than the Cubs’ staff. Just ask Hendricks. He thinks this offense is better than the one that won the World Series.
“Consistently, up and down the order, I think so,” Hendricks declared. “They are doing everything out there. It’s not just home runs. … They picked up pretty much where we left off [before the break].”