BOSTON -- The Cubs began the second half of their season Tuesday night at Fenway Park with a 2-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox.
They're probably both halfway home and halfway to nowhere. The Cubs' record of 35-46 was identical to the first-half record of last year. Then came the eventual sell-off, and the record settled in at 66-96 at the end.
That may well again happen this season if the Cubs deal pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to contending teams.
Until that happens, we'll probably see a lot of games like Tuesday's: The Cubs get decent starting pitching, score little and grind out a close victory or defeat.
That was the script in Tuesday's 3-hour, 35 minute tooth-puller involving starting pitchers Edwin Jackson of the Cubs and Clay Buchholz of the Red Sox.
"Oh, yeah, both Jackson and Buchholz were grinding it out against each other," said manager Rick Renteria. "Yeah, it came down to the last half of the ballgame for us to get the runs we needed. But I thought everybody was grinding tonight, to be honest with you."
The Cubs broke a 1-1 tie in the top of the ninth as Anthony Rizzo led off with a single, went to third on Starlin Castro's double and scored on Luis Valbuena's sacrifice fly.
That dovetails nicely into our pregame chat with Renteria, who was asked to reflect on the first half of this year, which also is first at the helm of the Cubs.
"I think guys have been grinding," he said. "I think they've been playing so much better over the last five, six, seven weeks, whatever it's been. They just continue to go out there and play. They're plugging away."
And does Renteria know what he has by now?
"At this point, I have a pretty good feeling about them," he said. "They're a team that does pick each other up. They're a team that does take losses and victories the way they should. A loss is something that they wear.
"I think that they're continually becoming accountable in many different ways, either with each other or hopefully with the press, making sure they answer questions and are available to you, but also available to each other where they have the ability to be talked to by us and-or their own teammates in regards to sometimes how things are going well or not going well."
For Jackson, it was his first quality start since May 17. He got a no-decision, working 6 innings of 6-hit, 1-run ball. Pedro Strop got the win by pitching a scoreless eighth, and Hector Rondon earned his second save in two nights against the Red Sox and his 11th of the season.
"Tonight was one of those pitchers duels," Jackson said. "It was a prime example of a great, well-played team game. We had defensive plays all around, from outfielders to the infielders."
The Cubs can go for the sweep in the series finale Wednesday night, but they've won their first series at Fenway Park since a four-game sweep of the Boston Braves in 1915.