CHICAGO — This is the way that people might have expected the team to play a few years ago when they were in the height of their run that included a World Series title.
There was hope the 2021 Cubs’ team, which features a number of players that won a championship five years ago. But there was some doubt the team could rekindle that after changes to the roster and a lack of production on offense late in the past three seasons.
As the calendar turns to June, David Ross’ team is living up to the high end of the expectations that were set for them ahead of this season, and perhaps making a case to remain a group into the fall.
A 6-1 win on Wednesday completed a three-game Cubs’ sweep of the Padres, considered by many to be one of the favorites to win the World Series this season. It also marks the continuation of a great stretch for the club over the last few weeks as they’ve won their last six-straight series with a 15-4 record in that span.
In the month of May, the Cubs finished 19-8, which also included a sweep of the reigning champion Dodgers, which has put them a game-and-a-half ahead of the Cardinals for first in the NL Central division.
“I think we’re pretty damn good, yeah. All that matters is our believe in here. These guys believe that and I think they know that,” said Ross when asked about the team proving to others on the outside they still have the potential to be one of the best in the league. “The guys in that room believe in themselves, believe in each other and you see it on a daily basis.
“We’ve got some really good players with a lot of hardware that floats around that room so I don’t think those guys have forgotten that.”
For starting pitcher Adbert Alzolay, who got the win on Wednesday, confidence comes with the cohesion which they team has been able to develop over the course of the first two months of the season.
“Right now we’re the best team in this division, to be honest,” said Alzolay. “I feel the chemistry around this team, around the hitters, around the bullpen, the starting rotation, two weeks ago everything just started coming in together. So I feel that as a team, we’re on the same page.
“That’s what you need to play the way we’re playing right now.”
They’ll have to keep doing so not only to keep their postseason hopes alive but also to prevent a breakup of the team at the trade deadline at the end of July. Remember, the Cubs have a number of players on the final year of their contracts, leaving team president Jed Hoyer with a lot to contemplate over the next two months.
Anthony Rizzo said he’s not thinking so much about that as the team hits the road for their first west coast road trip in 2019 over the next week. They’ll face the Giants for four games and then the Padres for a three-game series in San Diego.
While he’s not worried about the deadline yet, he’s not exactly getting carried away with the start either.
“I don’t think we’ve proven much. It’s June 2nd. We’ve proven to each other how much fun we’re having, how good we are, but we’ve got four more months left,” said Rizzo. “Stories are written about how good and bad people were this time last year after 60 games. But it’s 162, definitely not going to get too high and say ‘Oh, we’re proving people wrong’ because we’ve got a long season left and it’s day-by-day and tomorrow will be another big game for us.”
But at least at the moment, they’re winning all the ones they need to, just as they’ve done before in the not too distant past.