SAN DIEGO — There haven’t been many easy games for the Cubs during this West Coast swing, but as the seven-game trip nears its close, there are some things that stand out. Here are two key observations:
Wisdom wants to stay awhile
Teams might not have known who Patrick Wisdom was before his torrid stretch, but they definitely know who the Cubs third baseman is now. Wisdom has set the league on fire since being called up from Triple-A Iowa on May 25.
He has been just what the Cubs needed with much of their every-day lineup on the injured list or dealing with bumps and bruises, providing some additional thump with seven homers in 14 games.
“I think it’s just slowing down,” Wisdom said. “Those homers, they come when I’m not trying to do too much. . . . I think when the homers come, it’s just being relaxed and looking for the pitch I can drive and looking for something in the zone.”
Wisdom, 29, was named National League Player of the Week on Monday after hitting .435 last week with six home runs, nine RBI and a 1.719 OPS.
The Cubs will have some decisions to make when Matt Duffy, Nico Hoerner and David Bote come off the injured list. But if Wisdom continues to swing the bat like he has in June, he won’t be coming out of the lineup anytime soon.
“[He has] definitely given us more than I think we expected,” manager David Ross said. “That would be a true statement. He has come in and filled in really nicely and almost carried us here for a little while and kept that lineup turning over there toward the middle.”
Starters must help out the bullpen
The rotation has been the Cubs’ biggest area of concern, and it hasn’t exactly gotten into a groove with only one starter going more than five innings on the trip.
The rotation began to show signs of life after a slow start in April with a combined 2.65 ERA in May. But with some key injuries in the lineup, the Cubs are going to need more from their starters while the offense tries to get healthy.
The Cubs have been able to overcome the rotation’s early struggles because their bullpen has been one of baseball’s best. Cubs relievers rank second in the NL with a 2.74 ERA. Ross has been forced to lean on his bullpen a little more often than he’d like, but he won’t be able to ask his relievers to continue to cover 12-14 outs a game all season.
”It’s been one of those things that when we’ve gotten the lead and we’ve held it down early, we’ve been able to turn to the bullpen,” Ross said. ”When we fall behind earlier or get some traffic and aren’t able to get out of that, it taxes the bullpen at some point. That’s where we’re at right now.”
One bright spot has been right-hander Kyle Hendricks’ return to form. Hendricks came into the season as the Cubs’ No. 1 starter and has started to pitch like it.
He has quality starts in six of his last seven outings and has won his last five starts. Hendricks knows he’ll have to continue to step up if the Cubs hope to keep their eyes on the NL Central title.
“That’s always my focus,” Hendricks said. “Always want to go deep into the ballgame and keep my pitch count down. And I’ve been doing a pretty good job of it.”