Do you get this team? I don't.
They spend a week's worth of home games playing decidedly mediocre baseball against teams that are about as good as they are.
Then they travel to Cincinnati -- a city where their record coming into this series was 9-20 since 2010 -- and whip the playoff-contending Reds twice, by a combined score of 11-1. Not only that, they improved their road record to 33-36; only four National League teams, all playoff-bound (Cardinals, Pirates, Braves, Dodgers) have better records on the road than the Cubs do.
Does this make any sense to you?
Edwin Jackson's Tuesday evening makes even less sense; he threw one of his best games of 2013 (seven innings, one run), and hit a home run. Yes, a home run, from a pitcher who hadn't hit one in three years and who, coming into this game, was 3-for-46 at the plate with 15 strikeouts.
The home runs started coming early; Welington Castillo hit a two-run shot in the second inning and Donnie Murphy matched that in the third. Len and JD mentioned that the Cubs hadn't scored any runs in the last three games without a home run being involved, and for a time it looked like that would be the case again Tuesday night.
But the Cubs decided to vary up the offense a bit. Murphy had a non-homer RBI; Darwin Barney hit a sac fly; even Darnell McDonald drove in a run. Castillo homered again late in the game; it was the first multi-homer game of his career. In addition to his solid defense, Castillo's offense has been much better in the second half of what is his first full season as the Cubs' starting catcher. With all the hype (and contract extensions) surrounding Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, Castillo might be the most solid performer of the "core" that's supposed to help lead the Cubs back to postseason play. I've been very impressed with Castillo's game and from here, he can only get better.
Jackson's big day happened one day after his 30th birthday; his 2013 season can charitably be described as "disappointing." Since he's under contract for three more years, pitching like he did Tuesday night on a consistent basis would be something this team can use. He's probably got only two, maybe three, more starts under the Cubs' temporary six-man rotation, so it would be nice to see him finish up this year strong.
The Reds are probably heading to the playoffs regardless of what the Cubs do in this series, although... the Washington Nationals now stand just six games behind the Reds (five in the loss column). The Nats have 18 games remaining, the Reds 16. It's still a longshot, especially because the teams don't play each other again, but... stranger things have happened. As BCBer elgato mentioned to me Tuesday night, that would be "revenge for 2004."
Not really, but if the Cubs can win Wednesday afternoon -- actually, morning Chicago time, a reminder that today's game starts at 11:35 a.m. CT -- that would give the Nats an opening to move one game closer. The Cubs haven't swept a series in Cincinnati since 2001. Why not? The game preview for today will post at 10 a.m. CT.