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Three up, three down: A weekly update on the 2022 Cubs, May 16 edition

There are a lot more “up” things to talk about this week!

Photo by Kelsey Grant/Getty Images

The Cubs had an excellent week in their travel through the NL West, taking back-to-back series from the Padres and Diamondbacks, winning four of six games. It’s the first time in 2022 that the Cubs won back-to-back series.

Thus the weekly “three up, three down” article could probably have more than three “up” performances, but I’m limiting things here to three of each.

Three up

Kyle Hendricks looks like The Professor again

Hendricks made two starts on the road trip and allowed one run in 14⅓ innings, giving up just eight hits and three walks (0.767 WHIP). He lowered his ERA from 5.68 to 4.03.

His next start will be at Wrigley Field, where he’s posted a 2.82 ERA and 1.119 WHIP in four starts so far this year.

Scott Effross continued his dominance

I had written in a recent recap that I had hoped Effross would get more high-leverage situations. He did so Sunday, throwing the eighth inning of the Cubs’ 3-2 win. (He did get removed after allowing a leadoff single in the ninth.) He hasn’t allowed an earned run over his last 12 appearances, covering 11⅓ innings. In those innings he’s struck out 12 and allowed just nine hits and a walk. In his brief career he’s faced 118 batters and walked just two.

Willson Contreras had himself a week

Even though he went hitless in the last two games of the Diamondbacks series, his eight-pitch walk leading off the ninth inning Saturday keyed the game-winning rally. Overall last week Willson hit .368/.539/.526 (7-for-19) with a home run, five runs scored and four walks.

Honorable mention in this category to Frank Schwindel, who is 5-for-15 over his last four games and had the game-winning hit Sunday afternoon, and Justin Steele, who set a career high with 10 strikeouts in six dominant innings Sunday.

Three down

Jonathan Villar is neither hitting nor fielding

Villar hit .150 (3-for-20) on the road trip with seven strikeouts and continues to look shaky in the field (currently at -0.4 defensive bWAR). When Nico Hoerner returns from the injured list, it would not surprise me to see Villar designated for assignment, or conveniently “injured” so the Cubs can stash him on the IL while deciding what to do with him.

Jason Heyward has stopped hitting

After a reasonably good start to his 2022 season, Heyward is hitting just 143/.189/.171 (5-for-35) with 10 strikeouts. He won’t be DFA — don’t start with that — but at this time it would appear Rafael Ortega is the Cubs’ best option in center field.

Ian Happ has had a rough month so far

Happ hit .318/.429/.460 (20-for-63) in April. But since the calendar turned, he’s batting just .162/.311/.189 (6-for-37) with 12 strikeouts. His eight walks in May have kept his OBP up at a reasonable level, but when Clint Frazier returns perhaps Happ can get an occasional day off.

One thing is for sure — in a 4-2 week like the Cubs had, it’s a lot harder to find “three down” guys. Let’s hope that continues during this week’s homestand.

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