Big picture could come into focus for Chicago Cubs over next 10 days

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • San Diego Padres' Francisco Mejia, right, watches his solo home run during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs in Chicago, Sunday, July 21, 2019.

    San Diego Padres' Francisco Mejia, right, watches his solo home run during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs in Chicago, Sunday, July 21, 2019. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 7/22/2019 6:20 AM

Small picture, the Chicago Cubs ended their post-all-star-break homestand with a snoozer, a 5-1 loss Sunday to the San Diego Padres.

Big picture, that's where the focus should be.

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After a lackluster first half, the Cubs came out after the break and made hay at home, going 7-2 and increasing their lead, albeit a small one, in the National League Central.

Zooming out, here are some things to watch for in the coming days:

Road record:

The Cubs are 54-45 overall but only 18-27 on the road. They'll get a severe test beginning Monday night as they begin a three-game series against the resurgent San Francisco Giants before heading to Milwaukee and St. Louis, with off-days in Chicago between stops.

The disparity between home success and road failure has been puzzling.

"If you look at it, our road hitting numbers aren't bad at all," said manager Joe Maddon. "And our road pitching numbers aren't good. That's really strange for me. I would not have guessed that. Apparently we just need to be a little bit tighter with the pitching side of things and just keep what we're doing offensively. I didn't realize it was that much of a disparity involved.

"I know San Francisco has been on a nice run. It sounds like we need to pitch better on the road."

At Wrigley Field, Cubs pitchers have a 3.36 ERA compared with 4.97 away from the Friendly Confines.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Kyle Hendricks (7-8) pitched well Sunday, working 7 innings and giving up 4 hits and 2 runs. The Cubs led 1-0 in the fifth when Hendricks gave up a run after walking the No. 8 hitter. Francisco Mejia broke the 1-1 tied in the seventh with a homer.

"We came out of the break, we got a good rest and we're playing really good baseball right now on this homestand," Hendricks said. "We're just trying to keep that momentum going on the road."

July 31 trading deadline:

Multiple reports out of Detroit indicate that the Cubs are interested in Tigers outfielder/third baseman Nicholas Castellanos.

It just so happens Castellanos hit a walk-off homer Sunday to lift the Tigers over Toronto.

Castellanos has a line of .284/.342/.480 with 11 homers and 36 RBI. A right-handed batter, he has a .377 average against left-handed pitchers and a .261 mark against righties. He is an impending free agent.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Cubs are looking for a veteran bat. The Tigers are well out of contention in the American League Central, and if no other Detroit players are involved, the Cubs likely could get Castellanos without paying a heavy price.

"Our focus really isn't there," Hendricks said. "The front office will go out and do whatever we need to go out and win. We know that. We trust them.

"We love our group. We know we're fine as is, but if something comes, then we'll embrace him. He'll fit right in to the environment, and we'll look forward to it. For now our focus is just on us and going to San Francisco and getting Game 1.

What to do about Edwards?

Carl Edwards Jr. pitched Sunday for the first time since coming off the injured list, and it didn't go well.

Coming on in relief of Kyle Ryan with two outs and runners on first and second in the ninth, Edwards walked a batter, hit another to force in a run and gave up a 2-run single to Fernando Tatis.

The Cubs likely are in the market for a left-handed reliever. Failing that, their hope is that Edwards would return to form and be able to get left-handed hitters out.

It was only one outing, but there's long been concern about Edwards' effectiveness and confidence.

"Just off," Maddon said. "He's got to get out of the guiding-the-pitch mode. He let a couple pitches go, 93-94 (mph), but for the most part he went out there and just kind of guided it. He just has to relax and play and pitch.

"I wanted him in there to get one out. It's a good setup for him to get re-indoctrinated, get one out and walk off the mound and feel good about himself. But it didn't happen."

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