With 5 straight road wins, have the Cubs turned a corner?
When the pitching matchups came out for this week's series between the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets at Citi Field, the fan reaction on Twitter was predictable.
Many tweeters chimed in that the Cubs would lose all three games, given the pitchers the Mets were throwing, the previous weekend's sweep at the hands of the Washington Nationals and the Cubs' 25-39 road record entering the series.
But baseball is a funny game, and a funny thing happened in Queens: The Cubs beat Mets starting pitchers Marcus Stroman and Noah Syndergaard in the first two games, outscoring the Mets 15-9, and then beat Jacob deGrom in Thursday's closer.
With five straight victories away from Wrigley Field, has the road worm finally turned for the Cubs? Too early to tell. Too small of a sample size.
Besides, the disparity between the Cubs' road record and their home mark of 44-22 is probably random. Everybody with the Cubs, from team president Theo Epstein to manager Joe Maddon to the players, has been asked about the disparity, and no one can come up with an answer for it.
But if the Cubs can hold their own on the road for the rest of the season, they should be in good shape to win the National League Central.
Here is why: Every team in the NL Central has a losing record on the road, including the first-place St. Louis Cardinals, who are 33-35 away from Busch Stadium.
There are opportunities for the Cubs on the road ahead. After a five-game homestand coming up against the Milwaukee Brewers and the Seattle Mariners, the remaining road schedule looks like this:
• Four games at Milwaukee next Thursday through Sunday. The Cubs are 2-4 at Miller Park, but a recent resurgence by Cubs bats could portend well for them at hitter-friendly Miller Park.
• Four games at San Diego after the Brewers series. This will be the Cubs' only trip to San Diego this year. The Cubs took two of three from the Padres at Wrigley Field in July. The Padres are 31-37 at Petco Park.
• Three at Pittsburgh followed by three at St. Louis to finish the regular season. It's possible the Cubs could clinch a postseason spot -- or be eliminated -- at either Pittsburgh or St. Louis from Sept. 24-29.
The Cubs lost three of four at Pittsburgh to begin July but began turning things around on the road at PNC Park on the last road trip. The Pirates could be mentally checked out by the last week of September, so the Cubs could swoop in and sweep.
Busch Stadium in St. Louis has been another story. The Cardinals have beaten the Cubs five of six in St. Louis, and the final three games of the season could determine who wins the division, who gets a wild card or even who goes home for the winter.