Cubs look to build on 'good month' down stretch

September 1st, 2022

TORONTO -- For some teams, a .500 month is a disappointment.

But for the 2022 Cubs, a 15-15 August marks their best month of the season. Despite playing 20 games in 19 days, visiting seven cities in three weeks, and 15 consecutive contests against winning teams, the Cubs capped off their best four weeks of baseball with Wednesday’s 7-5 win over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.

“It's a good month,” manager David Ross said. “Try to build on that going into September.”

Wednesday’s win was a microcosm of August for Chicago, with some aggressive baserunning, individual standouts with the bat, and a heavy dose of the bullpen. With six career starts to his name, reliever Luke Farrell was tasked with opening Wednesday’s bullpen day as the most experienced option. He delivered two-plus frames and then Ross handed the ball off to six more relievers to piece together Chicago’s 15th win of the month.

The Cubs’ bullpen was the most-used unit in baseball this month, pitching 120 innings in 30 August games. The relief frames weren’t always pretty, and there were blips on Wednesday, but the ‘pen continually answered the call for heavy innings this month, and a few success stories emerged.

"We just asked a lot of these guys," Ross said. "I'm sure they're toast. I'm glad they found a little bit of extra adrenaline here, we needed this win.”

Relievers Brendon Little and Jeremiah Estrada made their MLB debuts in Tuesday’s loss, pitching their case for long-term roles in a growing bullpen core. Entering Wednesday, Brandon Hughes, Manuel Rodríguez and all posted ERAs below 3.65 in August, and each of them delivered a scoreless outing in the win over Toronto.

The trials expanded beyond the bullpen this month, too, with earning a regular run, adjusting to third base and capitalizing on a second chance. Sitting on an elevated pitch in the fifth inning, Reyes added his fourth homer as a Cub with a deep drive to right-center. As he departed the batter’s box, the big righty watched the tattooed fastball soar to the opposite field, flexing his bicep and slapping it as he rounded the bases.

The homer pushed Chicago’s lead back up to 4 at the time and proved the difference in the victory. It’s been a turbulent season for Reyes this year, hitting .135 in the first month of 2022 and finding himself on waivers earlier this month. But, like the Cubs, Reyes found his best baseball in August, flashing his powerful potential with performances like Wednesday’s.

"Not everyone has a second chance," Reyes said. "I have to take advantage of this second opportunity."

Reyes’ homer was the power Chicago needed to stave off Toronto’s third straight comeback, and the type of display they’ll need to build on a successful month. Chicago’s August, which began with Trade Deadline moves and three straight losses, could have easily been sabotaged by a tough stretch of games over the last three weeks. But, thanks to wins like Wednesday’s, it turned into their best month since May 2021, when they went 19-8.

"This is a team that's always fighting," Reyes said. "Never gives up."