Pitching propels Cubs to hot streak after slow start to season
It's not difficult to pinpoint the reasons for the Cubs' recent resurgence: It's pitching, both the starting and the relief varieties.
After beginning the season 2-7 on a three-city road trip, the Cubs have gone 12-5, vaulting themselves to 14-12 as they get set to play the Seattle Mariners in a two-game set at T-Mobile Park.
Overall, Cubs pitchers have posted a 2.45 ERA over their last 17 games since the April 8 home opener.
Over the team's last 15 games, the starting pitchers have an ERA of 2.45 while walking 26 and striking out 95.
The biggest uptick has been in quality starts (at least 6 innings pitched and no more than 3 earned runs). The Cubs had just 3 on the opening road trip. Since April 11, they have 8 quality starts, and the team has gone 8-0 in those games.
A bullpen that was much maligned and questioned early has regrouped as well, even with closer Brandon Morrow on the injured list indefinitely as he continues a slow recovery from last November's elbow cleanup.
Allen Webster earned his first career save in Sunday's 6-5 victory in 15 innings at Arizona.
The Cubs bullpen has a 2.00 ERA (14 earned runs in 63 innings) in 18 games since April 7. In the three games at Arizona, Cubs relievers allowed 3 earned runs in 15⅓ innings of work.
All worth the price
Manager Joe Maddon, infielder-outfielder Ben Zobrist and pitcher Jon Lester will go down as three of the best signings in Cubs history.
Over the weekend, Maddon picked up his 400th victory as manager of the Cubs, and he reached the mark in his 674th regular-season game. Only Frank Chance (594 games) and Cap Anson (606) reached 400 wins in fewer contests than Maddon. STATS Inc. reports that Maddon is the fastest manager to reach 400 wins with a team since Joe Torre with the Yankees from 1996-99.
Lester, who starts Wednesday's series finale at Seattle, is 62-32 with a 3.31 ERA in his four-plus seasons with the Cubs. He is in the fifth season of his six-year contract.
Zobrist, who turns 38 May 26, is in the final season of his four-year deal. The 2016 World Series MVP showed his selfless side Sunday when he suggested to Maddon that he sit in favor of David Bote, who hit 2 homers Saturday night. Maddon has been making up his lineups a series at a time instead of a game at a time to let players know when they'll be playing ahead of time.
Zobrist came off the bench Sunday to go 2-for-2 with a walk and a 2-run double in the 15th inning.
Give Maddon credit for being flexible, and give Zobrist credit for being, well, Zobrist.
For a good cause
Speaking of Zobrist, he is the featured guest Thursday at the sold-out Club 400 event in Lake in the Hills.
Club 400 founder Stewart McVicker said 100 percent of the proceeds go to the family of McHenry County Sheriff's Deputy Jacob Keltner, who was killed in the line of duty March 7.
In addition to Zobrist, Cubs Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins will be at Club 400 and signing his new book, "The 1969 Cubs: Long Remembered -- Never Forgotten." Former Cubs Gary Matthews, Bob Dernier, Ray Burris and Randy Hundley will be there for pictures, autographs and question and answers.
For more information on future Club 400 events or if you'd like to donate money, auction items or something else to benefit the Keltner family, contact McVicar at (815) 385-5463 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.