Words by Eugene McIntosh
Pictures by Chris LaGrone
CHICAGO- The Cubs came into today's finale against their old division rival St Louis Cardinals four games under .500 & 7.5 games behind the division leading Milwaukee Brewers. With a 7-2 win over St. Louis and a Brewers loss to the Atlanta Braves, the Cubs gain a game, finish the 10 game homestand 6-4 and find themselves knocking at the window of opportunity.
The trade deadline is a week away and the Cubs are looking to pile up enough wins (with a favorable schedule) to force President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer's hand. The smallest buy shows Cubs faithful there is a product here the front office believes in building upon and that they're serious about the futures of their hottest two assets in Cody Bellinger and Marcus Stroman. A sell for the third consecutive season blows the opportunity for a late season run and the only way Hoyer & Co. can persuade the fan base to believe in his vision is to go all out in the winter.
Cubs starter Jameson Taillion knows exactly what Stroman & Bellinger mean to the success of this team now and for the future. "It's no secret Stroman's been, I think one of the best three to four pitchers in baseball this year and Beliinger's been kinda like the heart and soul of our team. Playing great defense and it seems like he's always got the big hits. I would love to keep playing with those guys but I just don't know what they have in store or what plans they have."
A guy looking to find some consistency after the Cubs were 2-11 in his first 13 starts, Taillon brought a 3.82 July ERA into today's start and a 1.98 ERA over his last two. He did a great job of working ahead of the Cardinals hitters early and often while battling and not giving in on hitters through long counts. Taillon went 109 pitches through 5.2 frames scattering seven hits and allowing one run with six punch outs. He's now 4-3 with a 4.35 ERA in his last nine starts since June 2. Cardinals starter Jordan Montgomery has been their best pitcher this season. In his eight starts in June and July, he had a 1.48 ERA & eleven quality starts overall. The Cubs got to him early. Montgomery booted an Ian Happ ground ball that would've ended the first inning which led to a 403 foot Cody Bellinger home run to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead. A Bellinger sac fly opened up the flood gates in the bottom of the third and the bats came alive. All-Star shortstop Dansby Swanson followed Bellinger with an RBI single, catcher Yan Gomes with a two RBI double and first baseman Trey Mancini's RBI double put the Cubs ahead 7-0 and that was all she wrote.
Bellinger is looking like the 2019 MVP he was in L.A. and continues his incredible NL Player of the Month pace as he leads MLB in hits, average and O.B.P. in July. He obviously hears his name in the trade deadline talks but says the only thing he can control is his mindset and his production on the field.
"I hear it all and everyday is a new day for me. I stay within myself getting the body and mind right. I'm going to focus on the game and control what I can. I love the game and I'm having a lot of fun."
*Congrats to Cubs radio play-by-play announcer Pat Hughes on his Hall Of Fame induction