When I wrote this piece on Starlin Castro last week, on how his historical performances indicate that he was poised for a surprise turnaround across the final two months of the season, I wrote with the thinking that he’d be playing at all.
Since Thursday, he hasn’t been.
And the Chicago Cubs haven’t lost.
With their nail-biting fourth straight win over the world champion San Francisco Giants, the Cubs have taken a welcome 3 1/2 game lead for the National League’s second wild card spot. If any Cubs fans weren’t believers before, this weekend probably went a long way to change that. The Cubs have won 10 of their last 11 games, and now sit a robust 14 games over .500. What was looking like a happy-go-lucky team who might continue to overachieve suddenly looks like a possible World Series contender “playing stupid.”
Yeah, I know, hold your horses.
But with 52 games to go, the Cubs have the fourth best record in baseball. Unfortunately for them, two of the teams above them reside in the NL Central, but when you talk about “World Series contender” who exactly does that entail? The two best teams? The three best? The six best? We may not think the Cubs are heading for that this year, but with where they sit in the standings, statistically they have to at least be considered don’t they?
It’s easier to say that in the midst of the team’s hottest stretch since 2008; no one was thinking this way when the Cubs, just a mere two weeks ago, were punched in the spleen by the Philadelphia Phillies and subsequently swept. That now feels like a different lifetime; they are 11-2 since that baffling display of mediocrity. In that time, they’ve moved from 2 1/2 down in the wild card to being 3 1/2 up; they’ve gained two games on the Pittsburgh Pirates, and three games on the St. Louis Cardinals. In the meantime, they’ve effectively buried teams like the San Diego Padres and Atlanta Braves –teams that were on the outer edge of wild card consideration before respective stumbles as the Cubs were streaking.
This has been an extremely lucrative run for the Cubs.
And 52 games is a long time. With the electric energy surrounding the series with the Giants, it’s easy to forget that there are that many games remaining. That leaves this young Cubs team plenty of time to trend in the other direction –we all know how much things can change in two weeks. But after their thumping of the Giants, things just got real for the 2015 Cubs.
Just how real, we don’t know yet. We only know one thing: #WeAreGood.