Confidence is one thing this Cubs team isn't lacking with a 14-10 start to the season
After his last outing against the LA Dodgers at Wrigley Field, Hayden Wesneski admitted to reporters that his inconsistency has him looking over his shoulder. "I really wish I wouldn't have admitted that. Right after I said it, I wished I could've taken it back but it was the honest truth," he said. Manager David Ross said the way the staff has performed so far this season gives them the opportunity to be more patient especially with Wesneski basically learning on the fly.
The command and location of his slider to righties & lefties is a must for him to be at his best. He went five innings scattering four hits only allowing one run as he recorded his second win of the year in the Cubs 5-2 victory over the Padres. "I didn't feel like he had his best stuff, locating kinda pitching behind but found a way to navigate it and you can tell visibly he was working hard to get guys out," Ross said. "I thought battling like that, knowing that talented lineup, continuing to make pitches and focusing like that, I think that's definitely a maturity factor that we've seen in him continue to grow for sure."
Manny Machado got the party started for the Padres in the top of 2 as he sat on a Wesneski slider on the inner half of the plate for a solo HR. The Cubs answered right back in the bottom of the frame as former Padre Eric Hosmer took a Seth Lugo high heater 414 feet into the center field bleachers. Nelson Velazquez took advantage of a nine mph wind blowing out to left field as his 404 foot bomb put the Cubs on top 2-1. Padres center fielder Trent Grisham lost a Tucker Barnhart fly ball in the sun and Nick Madrigal scored to give the Cubs a 3-1 lead.
Nico Hoerner's RBI single in the bot of 5 (Hoerner has reached base safely in 22 consecutive games) and Dansby Swanson's first HR as a Cub was the icing on the cake. Timely hitting and guys contributing up and down the lineup keeping the train moving has been the early key to success for this Cubs offense.
The Padres were blanked in game 1 and it took them 13 innings before they finally got on the board. They were only able top muster seven runs in three games set. A good way to stifle their explosive offense is to limit the damage of the billion dollar quartet of Juan Soto, Fernando Tatis Jr., (who just returned from an 80 game suspension due to a banned substance) Manny Machado and the newly signed Xander Bogaerts. The Cubs staff held them to a combined 10-46 in the series. (.217 avg)
Padres starter Seth Lugo suffered his second loss of the season. He went 5 innings giving up 7 hits while allowing 4 runs on 98 pitches. The last time Lugo faced the Cubs five years ago, he was in a New York Mets uniform and Ian Happ was the only current Cubs player on the roster.
The Cubs finished the seven game homestand 3-4 and are now 14-10. They've won five of the last six series and play 16 of their next 22 games away from The Friendly Confines. Five of those series (Rangers/Mariners/Dodgers twice/Padres) were against teams that are playoff bound and the Cubs fared well. There are gonna be ups and downs in an extremely long 162 game/184 day season and it's still too early to make a decision on how good or bad a team really is. (The White Sox are a different story)
When you look at the Pittsburgh Pirates who are ten games above .500 and in first place in the NL Central, I'm sure no one would've predicted that during spring training. This is a team that lost 100 games last season and finished 31 games behind the first place 93 win St. Louis Cardinals. On the flip side, the Cardinals are 8 games behind the Pirates and in last place in the division after 26 games. The Pirates have been led by outstanding starting pitching and their young players are playing with great confidence which is huge. I still think we're about a month or so away from really being able to fully evaluate teams.
*Kyle Hendricks made a rehab start yesterday at AAA Iowa going 1.2 IP allowing 6 runs and 6 hits with 1 walk and 4 strikeouts on 54 pitches. "Everything's going great, I feel great and I'm definitely getting closer to returning," Hendricks told The Bigs before the start. Cubs President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer talked about evaluating him after the start and if everything went well boosting his pitch count from 50-55 up to 70-75 pitches then hopefully he'd be ready to go.