Chicago Cubs Walk Off: Playoff Contention Firmly on the Table Following Strong Week

First baseman, Michael Busch had a stellar week with five RBI's.
First baseman, Michael Busch had a stellar week with five RBI's. / Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

To qualify for the playoffs, an MLB team must do two important things:

1. Beat the teams you are supposed to beat.
2. At least some of the time, beat the teams nobody thought you could beat.

Last week, the Chicago Cubs were able to check both boxes. At home, the Cubs swept the Colorado Rockies three game series and took two of three from the Los Angeles Dodgers. According to, the Cubs are ninth in the power rankings after the second week of games.

Interestingly, the entire NL Central is above .500 with the Pirates on top and the Cubs in third. Clearly, we have quite a bit of season left to play.

On the Mound

By almost any measure, the Cubs pitching staff had a great week given the inhospitality of the Chicago weather that didn't breach 50 degrees and rained pretty consistently. The staff gave up two runs in the first two Colorado games before pitching a bullpen game (filling in for Justin Steele) to give up seven earned runs in the 9-8 win.

Against the Dodgers, the first game was a 9-7 win and then the pitchers gave up 5 runs in the next two games. Not bad for a lineup that includes 1B Freddie Freeman, 2B Mookie Betts, and DH Shohei Ohtani.

Game balls were handed out a-plenty among starters and relievers. The star of the show was SP Shota Imanaga who pitched 10 scoreless innings. He was shut down after four innings due to a multiple-hour rain delay in his second start against the Dodgers.

SP Jordan Wicks gave up two runs in 4.2 innings which is a solid outing for him. Wicks' next goal will be to go a little deeper into the game as he was over 100 pitches before the fifth inning.

RP Luke Little pitched three innings last week and gave up 0 runs. His ERA now stands at 0.00 (along with Shota) and his WHIP is 0.75.

RP Adbert Alzolay was asked to save the game twice and came up with both of them.

RP Ben Brown redeemed himself from last week by pitching four innings against the Rockies and only giving up one run.

Mark Leiter, Jr. pitched three innings over the week, giving up no runs, and joining Imanaga and Little as the pitchers with a 0.00 ERA. His WHIP stands at 1.06.

In the dog house right now seems to be RP Jose Cuas and RP Yency Almonte. Cuas gave up three runs in his three innings and Almonte gave up three runs in his two innings pitched. Both pitchers are giving up hits and walks. Almonte's WHIP stands at a staggering 2.25 and Cuas' is still a respectable 1.29.

Kyle Hendricks had another tough week giving up five runs in four innings against the Dodgers. His 11.74 ERA and 2.74 WHIP tell the story of how his season is starting.

As a tribute to the entire pitching staff, the Cubs gave up two home runs all week. Only one of those was to the Dodgers (of course it was Ohtani). The Dodgers are first in the league in runs scored and RBIs. Great series for the pitching squad.

In the Batter's Box

The Cubs scored 44 runs in their six games last week, so the bats remain hot. The barrage came from their core players of LF Ian Happ, RF Seiya Suzuki, CF Cody Bellinger, DH/3B Christopher Morel, and SS Dansby Swanson. 1B Michael Bush also caught fire last week.

Happ did a little of everything with six hits, eight runs scored, three RBI's and five walks. Suzuki had 10 RBI last week and two home runs. Bellinger had five RBI and two home runs. Swanson and Morel scored five runs and had a home run. Busch had seven hits and five RBI last week. 3B Nick Madrigal made the most of his playing time by getting four hits in 12 at-bats and four RBI.

Happ, Morel, Busch, and Swanson are all batting above .300 and Suzuki is at .286. Suzuki, Morel, and Busch all have OPS's over .800 and Happ and Swanson are over. 900.

Nico Hoerner is really the only one starting the year in a slump. His .133 and .466 OPS are just plain uncharacteristic. His five walks last week have helped post an OBP of .333 but Hoerner can't be happy where things stand right now. It is highly unlikely these numbers will continue for Hoerner who was an All-Star snub last year.

The bottom line is that the Chicago Cubs are in the top 10 for all major offensive statistics. The Cubs are:
- 7th in batting average.
- 10th in home runs.
- 6th in RBI.
- 5th in runs.
- 1st in OBP.
- 6th in Slugging.
- 5th in OPS.

Looking Forward

The Cubs are clicking in all phases of the game. The team, with the exception of Morel, shored up the defense and had few errors, but also came through with stellar plays from Hoerner, Swanson, and Busch.

The hitting is otherworldly. Their starting pitching, with the exception of Hendricks, is on top of their game. The relief pitching feels deep and manager Craig Counsell seems to be playing with several combinations to keep the bullpen fresh.

The schedule doesn't get any easier with a road trip out West to visit Arizona, Seattle, and San Diego

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