GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan -- If only it were that easy to do just about anything.
Just hours after I wrote in the recap to Friday night's loss:
It's entirely possible the Cubs won't win another game this year.
... the Cubs came out and played one of their better efforts in recent weeks and defeated the Pirates 6-4, snapping their seven-game losing streak and thus making my complete and utter speculation moot.
Of course, it wasn't very likely that the Cubs, or any team, would lose 22 consecutive games; obviously, I was reacting to seven games of pretty bad play and admittedly, trying to stir things up a bit. On this Saturday evening, though, there were some very good performances from players who hopefully will be a big part of the next Cubs contending team.
Javier Baez homered for the second consecutive game after going 17 games without one. It seems to me that this could be a pattern for Baez's career -- somewhat long droughts (he went 8-for-68 in those 17 games with 31 strikeouts) followed by hot streaks where it seems no one can get him out. Perhaps he'll start one of those hot streaks now. One good thing is that not hitting for that time doesn't appear to affect his defense, which has been solid throughout.
Matt Szczur, who's likely never going to be a starting outfielder in the major leagues but who is making a push to be considered for a bench spot in 2015, hit his first big-league home run and got the ball back -- thanks to an umpire:
Someone tell the kid who has Szczur's HR ball to give it to the #Cubs. He'll get something nice in return. Promise— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) September 14, 2014
Szczur also doubled; it was the second multi-hit game he's had on this road trip. Szczur plays good defense and runs the bases well and might make a really good fifth outfielder going forward.
And Felix Doubront had his best start of the year -- not just for the Cubs, but including the 10 starts he made for the Red Sox before he was acquired by Theo & Co. in July. In fact, before Saturday, Doubront hadn't had a start where he had allowed no runs in more than a year, since June 18, 2013. He had just one strikeout, but registered nine of his 18 outs on ground balls and allowed the Pirates only four singles.
The brass will have to have more looks at Doubront before penciling him into the 2015 rotation, but he's definitely making a case.
Not so much for Dan Straily, who got hit hard in his inning of work, giving up a pair of doubles. He also walked two, and the second of the doubles, by Russell Martin, cleared the bases after Straily had loaded them, and turned what looked like a laugher into a "uh... maybe we need to be serious about this after all" type of game. Hector Rondon (24th save), who hadn't pitched in a week, showed it with a solo home run allowed to Travis Snider, but then he finished it off for the Cubs' first win in 10 days -- yes, 10, since there were two off days within the losing streak, the last win before Saturday was against the Brewers September 3.
Now, obviously I was engaging in pretty extreme hyperbole in the recap to Friday's game when I wrote about the possibility of losing every remaining game. With 14 games left now, even with many of them against contending teams, the Cubs aren't likely to do all that well. But with performances like they got Saturday night, they'll probably squeeze in a few more victories before 2014 is put in the history books.
They can actually win another road series -- haven't done that in more than a month -- with a victory Sunday afternoon in this trip's finale before heading back to Chicago (as I will be doing myself later this morning). Jacob Turner will go against Edinson Volquez. The game preview will post at 11 a.m. CT.