Streaking Cubs win again: 'We have a really good team'

August 4th, 2023

CHICAGO -- The first pitch that Jameson Taillon threw on Thursday night rocketed off the bat of Reds rookie Elly De La Cruz and found its way into Wrigley Field’s bleachers. There was a collective gasp and groan from the home fans, but there was a different reaction in the Cubs’ dugout.

“In a weird way,” Cubs manager David Ross said, “they scored, and it felt like a relief. I don't know. Like, ‘Here we go.’”

That feeling stemmed from a series in which the Cubs continuously answered the Reds’ rallies and then piled on in historic fashion. After Cincinnati’s early strike in the finale, the North Siders stuck to that theme, finishing off a 5-3 victory that gave the Cubs an important four-game series win.

In the wake of a Trade Deadline that saw the Cubs’ front office reward the players’ recent performance -- reeling in the best bat on the market in Jeimer Candelario -- the team kept chipping away at the division deficit. As things stand, the red-hot Cubs knocked the Reds into second place and now sit 2 1/2 games back of the National League Central-leading Brewers.

“We took three of four from a really good team, so that in itself is huge,” Taillon said. “And I feel like we did it in a lot of different ways. I feel like we slugged a little bit. I feel like we walked a little bit. I feel like we made some great defensive plays.”

In the latest win, the Cubs followed a pair of history-making blowouts with a more typical blueprint. The lineup answered the Reds' hot start to produce a lead by the third, Taillon delivered a solid outing and the bullpen covered the final four frames, ending with closer Adbert Alzolay pumping his fist and howling from the mound back to the dugout.

Here is a breakdown of what the Cubs did this week:

  • The North Siders scored 46 runs in the series, which tied a modern-era record for a four-game series (also achieved against Cincinnati on July 27-29, 1961). It is the most runs in a four-game series for the franchise since plating 52 against the Pirates from Aug. 16-19, 1890, per team historian Ed Hartig.
  • Chicago’s lineup chased each member of the Reds’ rotation in 4 1/3 innings or fewer. Overall, the Cubs put up 26 runs on 26 hits (seven home runs) in 14 2/3 innings against Cincinnati’s starters, who combined for a 15.95 ERA.
  • In the four-game series, the Cubs’ offense turned in a .324/.388/.716 slash line with 13 home runs, 19 doubles and 16 walks. While averaging 11.5 runs per game, Cubs batters had a 22.9% strikeout rate and a 9.4% walk rate.

The turning point in Thursday’s win arrived in the third, when the Cubs sent nine hitters to the plate and pieced together a go-ahead, three-run push. Cody Bellinger delivered an RBI single to put Chicago ahead and then Christopher Morel and Candelario worked bases-loaded walks to keep adding on.

As it was all series, the Friendly Confines was growing more rowdy with every pitch.

“Amazing. Cubs fans love meaningful baseball at the end of the year,” Alzolay said. “I feel the way we’ve been playing lately is keeping the fans coming to the field and bringing that energy. That energy is huge for us.

“Any time we get in a big situation out there and we feel Wrigley Field just standing up, everyone gets a chill.”

The Cubs improved to 13-3 in their past 16 games, but this prolonged stretch of winning truly dates back to June 9. At that juncture, Chicago sat 10 games under .500 at 26-36. The team has gone 30-17 since that point, joining the 1968 Cubs as the only squads in franchise history to reach at least three games above .500 in a season they fell 10 games under (also via Hartig).

There is only one team in MLB that has a better record dating back to June 9. That would be the Braves, who arrive at Wrigley Field on Friday for a three-game set that will serve as a litmus test for a Cubs team aiming for postseason baseball.

For now, the Cubs have this Reds series to use as another example that the North Siders might just have a club capable of reaching that October stage.

“It's just another defining moment of, ‘We have a really good team,’” Ross said. “We've been playing good baseball as of late. That shows that. That is a good team over there in our division that we're chasing.”