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The Cubs have had kind of a weird season. The beginning of their year was so, so great that it masked the months of mediocrity that followed. They began 2016 with a 25-6 run, matching a franchise record so old that their World Series-less streak hadn’t even begun yet. They then had a stretch, covering the rest of May, all of June, and a chunk of July, that saw them go just 27-29, which slowly evaporated the enormous lead they had built on the Cardinals in the NL Central. Things never got too dire, though, as Chicago seems to have recovered: they entered the All-Star break riding a three-game winning streak, and that success has carried over into the second half, as they’re 17-6 in their last 23 games, and undefeated in August.
Even when the Cubs were hovering around .500 ball for a few months, they were still playing exceptionally and outscoring opponents. They haven’t played to that level in one-run games, though — Chicago is just 15-16 in those contests on the season — and that’s part of why they went out and acquired Aroldis Chapman before the trade deadline. You knew the pitching wasn’t going to hold up at its early season levels forever, and that came to a head in the first couple of weeks in July when Chicago was blown out on a few occasions. Even with their strong-post All-Star play, they couldn’t finish the month with a positive run differential.
That seems to be behind them at the moment. Jake Arrieta seems to be getting back on track after a stretch that saw his ERA more than double while his innings per start plummeted. Chapman is a question off the field, and his whole acquisition is a problem, but on the field, his presence means fewer relief innings for less qualified arms. Their lead over the Cardinals is back up to 11 1/2 games after it had dipped to just 6 1/2 with a whole lot of baseball left for both clubs. Now, if Chicago could just get Jason Heyward to hit, then they’d be about as close to worry-free as a baseball team can get.
- Ichiro became the 30th player in MLB history to record 3,000 hits, and he did it with a triple.
- Manny Machado homered three times on Sunday, all in the first three innings of the Orioles-White Sox game.
- Alex Rodriguez’s final game will be this Friday, on August 12. Yankees’ ownership approached him about calling it quits and moving into a mentorship role, which he’ll do next spring.
- A-Rod is retiring in the only way that makes sense, writes Grant Brisbee.
- Rodriguez’s career was outstanding, flawed, and undeniably human. If you want a shorter version along the same lines, Ted Berg wrote a few A-Rod tweets that sum things up accurately and succinctly.
- Of course, A-Rod isn’t the only Yankee to announce he’s retiring soon, as Mark Teixeira did the same on Friday. Here’s a look back at his goofiest moment with the Yankees.
- With A-Rod and Teixeira out of the picture shortly, we can start to see what prospect Gary Sanchez — and the Yankees’ new philosophy — can do.
- Speaking of rookies, here’s a kind-of defense of the Red Sox’ current platoon for the recently promoted Andrew Benintendi.
- This is how the free market betrays baseball players: by leaning heavily on minor leaguers, who assume the most risk in this legal monopoly.
- If that topic is a little too heavy for you early on a Monday, don’t worry: we’ll close with Mike Trout celebrating his birthday by robbing Leonys Martin of a grand slam.