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The Wrigley Field Bleachers are just starting to fill up now.


CHICAGO- Despite all of the talks of trade rumors and the progress of their minor league players surrounding the team, the Cubs have found ways to win and score runs within the last week or so.

The North Siders have won 7 of-their-last 12 and are five games ahead of Milwaukee in the National League Central. The big reason for this recent turnaround is their offense.

The Cubs have been putting more runs on the board and have been working hard to get on base as opposed to just swinging for the fences. First baseman Anthony Rizzo and shortstop Starlin Castro have been able to swing the bats with moderate success during this stretch as well.

During the last 10 games, Rizzo and Castro have gone a combined 20-of-76 with 3 home runs and 9 runs batted in. Castro has improved his 2013 batting average to .308. This sudden offensive output has been a major benefit to the Cubs pitching staff which has worked hard but to no avail for most of the season.

When the Cubs took batting practice earlier today, I asked outfielder Alfonso Soriano what changes did his team make to improve the offense….. “I don’t know” Soriano said, “It just seems like all of the hitters finally have their confidence and feel comfortable at the plate.”

Because of the Cubs offensive surge, Matt Garza has won his last five starts including last night’s 6-4 victory. While Edwin Jackson has won his last three starts, Travis Wood continues to get quality starts and the pressure on the bullpen has been lessened to some degree.

Travis Wood {the Cubs lone all-star this year} looks to to get his 18th quality start on the year when the Cubs wrap up their four game series with St. Louis tonight. The Cubs also have a chance to take their second series of July. They currently lead this series two games to one.

The Cubs are looking for all of the momentum they can get heading into the all-star break. Especially with trade rumors running rampant around baseball and the Cubs organization in particular. Matt Garza, Alfonso Soriano, Kevin Gregg and even Jeff Samardzija’s name have been thrown around in trade talks.

Of course as the case with any team in any sport, trade talks can be distracting. I asked Alfonso Soriano if this is the case in the Cubs locker room and he said, “It can be because everyone is trying to focus on the game, but then in the back of your mind your focusing on that. But for now everyone is just focused on the game.”

They will need to focus on the game as they look to inch closer to the .500 mark. Currently the Cubs are 42-50 with a home record of 22-25. Travis Wood with a record of 6-6 to go with a 2.69 earned run average looks for another solid performance before he heads to New York for the all-star game.

He will go up against Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright who sports a record of 12-5 with a 2.30 ERA. While the Cubs have been successful against their arch-rivals this week, St. Louis still holds a 14 game lead in the standings over the boys in blue.

Perhaps the trade rumors surrounding this ball club are the real reason for the team’s success. It seems that these players have extra motivation. Whether or not that motivation is to prove to the Cubs that they want to stay, or to audition for another team remains to be seen.

Or, it could be that the promise of future prospects joining the roster within the next year or so may also play a part with the Cubs recent improvement. Earlier this week, the Cubs finally reached a deal with 2013 first round draft pick Kris Bryant.

On that same day, there was a lot buzz about Cubs minor league standouts Javier Baez, Jorge Soler and Albert Almora. These three young talents have been performing so well that they could be elevated to the major league roster as soon as September 2014.

For the moment that’s neither here or there, what matters now is defeating the arch-rival Cardinals and finish the first half of the season on a strong note. While the Cubs have been playing well, St. Louis should not be underestimated. They are one of the better teams in baseball as they excel at every aspect of the game.

They are 56-36 and atop the NL Central, but they only lead Pittsburgh by 1/2 a game. The Cardinals have their own motivation for tonight as they want to get the Pirates off their backs and hang onto their division lead.

Pittsburgh lost to the Mets today 4-2, so a win here tonight would give the Cardinals a full game lead. In closing, tonight’s game should be very competitive and entertaining. Here are tonight’s starting lineups:

St. Louis:

1. Matt Carpenter 2B

2. Carlos Beltran RF

3. Allen Craig LF

4. David Freese 3B

5. Yadier Molina C

6. Matt Adams 1B

7. Pete Kozma SS

8. Jon Jay CF

9. Adam Wainwright RHP



1. Luis Valbuena 3B

2. Starlin Castro SS

3. Anthony Rizzo 1B

4. Alfonso Soriano LF

5. Dioner Navarro C

6. Brian Bogusevic CF

7. Dave Sappelt RF

8. Darwin Barney 2B

9. Travis Wood LHP

While there may not have been any blockbuster trades as of yet, the Cubs did make two roster moves today. They designated pitcher Henry Rodriguez for assignment while adding outfielder Cole Gillespie.

Trades can happen at anytime at this point in the season, there could even be a trade during tonight’s game. For any and all Cubs updates, follow me on Twitter during tonight’s game @GabeSalgado82




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