Cubs have another quick start after the All-Star break under Maddon

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JULY 14: Albert Almora Jr. #5 of the Chicago Cubs is congratulated by Kyle Schwarber #12 following his solo home run during the sixth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field on July 14, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)

CHICAGO – There have been good times and bad times so far in 2019 for the north siders. A lot of times, they’ve happened close to each other.

The Cubs followed a miserable start with a great end of April and May before sliding in June, then skidding a bit into the All-Star break. They entered the four-day stretch for the Midsummer Classic in first place in the NL Central, but no one felt particularly good about how they stumbled towards the finish.

While heading towards the break, many of the Cubs expressed the hope for a quick start to the second half, citing their previous strong play after the All-Star Game. As many have pointed out, the Cubs have won ever series after the All-Star Break in the Maddon era, and have also won or split the second series as well.

The Cubs kept up half that trend in 2019 as they swept away the Pirates in an impressive series that saw both solid pitching and hitting from the club. Three-straight wins eased the nerves of fans unimpressed with the team’s play in late June and early July while pushing their NL Central lead up to 2.5 games over Milwaukee.

It’s particularly nice to do so for the group against a division rival in Pittsburgh, who took 3 of 4 from the Cubs before the All-Star Break.

“Especially since we just came from there place and they kinda gave it to us. So it’s nice to, obviously, a sweep right off the bat is really good,” said third baseman Kris Bryant. “I don’t know what the other teams are doing but I think if we just continue to keep playing baseball like that, we won’t have to worry about scoreboard watching or anything.

“Just go out there and win.”

It will help in an NL Central that remains bunched up, as the Reds come to town in last place in the division yet are within 6 1/2 games of first place. Even after getting swept, the Pirates are 5 1/2 games back with the Cardinals stalking both the Cubs and Brewers at three games in back of first.

So a sweep is great, and another one would keep up the trend of the Maddon Cubs to play well in the first two series after the All-Star Game. Yet Jason Heyward, who had six hits and a homer in the series against the Pirates, preaches some perspective when it comes to one of many series remaining in the last two-and-a-half months.

“We’ve just got to play baseball. We’re gonna get everyone’s best every game. That’s what we expect to have happen,” said Heyward. “We can’t take that for granted and know, win or lose, we’ve got to come back the next day and play good baseball. We’ve got to pick each other up, we’ve got to stay focused because people are looking for weaknesses in us.

“Any team that’s ahead, people are looking for a break, and we can’t give them one.”

Luckily the Cubs have been here before, sharing the success of past years with this one early in the second half of the season.



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