Cubs seek­ing an­swers af­ter er­ratic start to sea­son

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

The Chicago Cubs’ curse­bust­ing World Se­ries win is a dis­tant mem­ory as the Ma­jor League Baseball cham­pi­ons limp into the All-Star break. The Cubs won their first ti­tle since 1908 — end­ing the long­est sports ti­tle drought in Amer­i­can His­tory-with their win over the Cleve­land In­di­ans in last year’s Fall Clas­sic.

But pre­dic­tions that their core of 20some­thing stars were just get­ting started have been sorely tested in the first half of the 2017 sea­son. The Cubs went into the 2016 All-Star break at 53-35 on their way to a 100-win sea­son that never saw them drop be­low .500. So far this year they’ve flailed around the .500 mark, and trail the sur­pris­ing Mil­wau­kee Brew­ers in the Na­tional League Cen­tral race by 5.5 games.

“This year’s just been kind of weird for all of us,” Na­tional League Most Valu­able Player Kris Bryant ac­knowl­edged. The Cubs are 43-45 as Ma­jor League Baseball takes it’s mid-sea­son break for Tues­day’s All-Star Game in Mi­ami. Af­ter Bryant lost out to the Dodgers’ Justin Turner in fi­nal vot­ing, the Cubs are the first World Se­ries win­ners not to send a re­turn­ing player to the All-Star Game.

Maybe Bryant could ben­e­fit from the time off. Last year the Cubs third base­man had 25 home runs, 65 RBI and a .962 on base plus slug­ging by the break. This sea­son he’s at 18, 38 and .928 — although Bryant in­sists he doesn’t feel fa­tigued and the an­kle he sprained in June is fine. Bryant showed a flash of bril­liance on Fri­day, go­ing 4-for-5 with two homers a triple and a sin­gle in the Cubs’ 6-1 win over Pitts­burgh. But the Pi­rates won the next two games of the week­end se­ries, pum­melling the Cubs 14-3 on Sun­day to con­clude the first half of the sea­son. Bryant says the Cubs re­main con­fi­dent they can turn things around in the sec­ond half of the sea­son-thanks in large part to their rally from 1-3 down in the World Se­ries.

“We can do it,” he said. “That’s what makes us so con­fi­dent.” And man­ager Joe Mad­don said he still sees “a chance for us to do some­thing re­ally spec­tac­u­lar” in the sec­ond half.

“I’m very pleased with where we’re at right now,” Mad­don said at the week­end. “We have gone through a lot of dif­fer­ent mo­ments al­ready this sea­son re­gard­ing in­juries, etc., and we’ve held our heads up pretty good.” The Cubs of­fense stands to ben­e­fit from the re­turns of Ben Zo­brist and Ja­son Hey­ward from the dis­abled list.

And the team is hop­ing slug­ger Kyle Sch­war­ber’s spell in the mi­nor leagues was enough to sort out his hit­ting slump. But they also need to perk up their pitch­ing. Ace Jon Lester en­dured the short­est out­ing of his ca­reer on Sun­day when he gave up four earned runs and six hits be­fore depart­ing in the first in­ning against the Pi­rates on Sun­day.—AFP

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