Cubs still dangerous well below full strength

June 9th, 2021

SAN DIEGO -- The Cubs are in the midst of a tough road trip within a daunting month full of teams eyeing October. Manager David Ross acknowledged on Tuesday afternoon that, yes, it is one big litmus test for his ballclub.

And while that is true, Ross also reminded that the roster he is currently working with is not at full strength. In a chat with reporters prior to a 7-1 win over the Padres, Ross rattled off the list of regulars currently on the injured list and other players yet to hit their strides.

"If you're going to judge this team right now," Ross said, "our team, what would you say we're at? Seventy percent of our everyday players? Is this the best version of us right now? I would argue no."

Ross said he felt a pitcher like had better innings coming, and then the righty spun six shutout frames at Petco Park. The manager named as a core hitter with better days at the plate ahead, and then the first baseman knocked in four runs with a double and a homer.

While discussing the high expectations for the Cubs, Ross also noted that players like were not part of all the preseason predictions. Wisdom then launched his eighth homer of the season, and seventh in his past nine games.

Here is a look at that trio's showing in Tuesday's win:

1. Davies continues to trend up
Whenever the subject of last winter's blockbuster trade comes up, Davies has continually brushed off the topic. He was shipped off by the Padres, along with four prospects, as the lone Major League piece headed to the Cubs in exchange for ace Yu Darvish and catcher Victor Caratini.

"I don't hold grudges," Davies reiterated Tuesday night.

Davies let his pitching do the talking, limiting San Diego to one fourth-inning single by Fernando Tatis Jr. The Cubs starter struck out four and generated 10 whiffs, including nine via his signature changeup.

Dating back to May 1, Davies has pieced together a 2.16 ERA in eight outings, looking more and more like the pitcher from last season San Diego parted with. In the abbreviated 2020 campaign, Davies had a 2.73 ERA over a dozen appearances.

"I'm continuing to be aggressive with the way I attack hitters," Davies said. "I'm not trying to be too fine in locations and not trying to [focus on] one area. Being able to mix pitches, both sides of the plate."

2. Wisdom keeps 'carrying' lineup
Davies was teammates in Milwaukee with Christian Yelich three years ago, when the outfielder went on an offensive tear en route to an MVP Award. The pitcher said that is what comes to mind watching Wisdom's recent performance in the batter's box.

"Every single game he was a threat," Davies said of Yelich. "That's the way Wisdom is now. It's awesome to see."

In the sixth inning, Wisdom pulled a pitch from Miguel Diaz on a line to left field with an exit velocity of 110 mph, per Statcast. It gave Wisdom eight home runs on the season and seven in his last nine games.

"The homers have obviously been the game-changer for us," Ross said. "I've already used the words 'carrying us,' but it's just real. Some of the guys have said it best: just keep trying to get Wiz up there and watch what he can do."

Injuries in April opened the door for Matt Duffy to step up as an impact contact bat who altered the look of Chicago's lineup. When Duffy -- along with Nico Hoerner and David Bote -- all landed on the 10-day IL, it cleared a path for Wisdom's unexpected emergence.

"I'm really happy for him," Rizzo said. "This opportunity, as you get older, doesn't come [often]. It gets thinner and thinner as you get older. He's seizing it. It's really fun to watch and really fun to be a part of."

3. Rizzo finding his swing

Wisdom's eight home runs for the Cubs have come within a span of 40 plate appearances. When Rizzo stepped into the box in the seventh on Tuesday night, he was in a streak of 108 straight PAs without a blast.

That drought has increasingly been on Rizzo's mind.

"When you go a while without one," he said, "it starts to just be there."

The outage ended when Padres righty Nabil Crismatt sent a 1-0 changeup fading beyond the outside edge of the zone in the seventh inning. Rizzo hung with the pitch and drove it out to left field for a two-run blast. That shot followed a two-run double one inning earlier that ended Dinelson Lamet's start.

The two hits off right-handers helped Rizzo continue to correct what has been an odd early-season trend. The first baseman entered the game batting just .215/.321/.393 against righties, compared to .377/.443/.491 off lefties.

"He rakes righties, too, right? He's not hitting just lefties right now," Ross quipped. "I told him [Monday] night, it looked like he's starting to find a little bit of some rhythm and feel like he's in a good place."