AP Photo/Scot Tucker
Third baseman Patrick Wisdom has been a bright spot for the Cubs and is making a case to be in the team’s lineup even when they get 100% healthy.
SAN DIEGO – There haven’t been many easy games for the Cubs during their current West Coast swing, but as their current road trip begins to come to a close, there are some things that stand out.
Here are two key observations from the Cubs’ seven-game road trip:
Patrick Wisdom wants to stay for awhile
Teams may not have known who Patrick Wisdom was before his torrid stretch, but they definitely know who the Cubs’ third baseman is now. Wisdom has set the league on fire since the Cubs called him up from Triple-A Iowa on May 25.
Wisdom has been just what the Cubs have needed with much of their everyday lineup either on the injured list or dealing with bumps and bruises, providing some additional thump to the team’s offense with seven homers in 14 games.
“I think it’s just slowing down,” Wisdom said. “Those homers, they come when I’m not trying to do too much. . . . I think when the homers come, it’s just being relaxed and looking for the pitch I can drive and looking for something in the zone.”
Wisdom, 29, was named National League Player of the Week on Monday after hitting .435 last week with six home runs, nine RBI and a ridiculous 1.719 OPS.
The Cubs will have some decisions to make when they get back to full strength as players like Matt Duffy, Nico Hoerner and David Bote come off the injured list. But if Wisdom continues to swing the bat like he has in June, he won’t be coming out of the lineup any time soon.
“[He’s] definitely given us more than I think we expected,” manager David Ross said. “That would be a true statement. He’s come in and filled in really nicely and almost carried us here for a little while and kept that lineup turning over there toward the middle.”
Starters have to help take pressure off Cubs’ bullpen
The starting rotation has been the Cubs’ biggest area of concern so far this season and they haven’t exactly gotten into a groove with just one starter going more than five innings on the road trip
The rotation began to show signs of life after a very slow start in April with a strong May as their combined 2.65 ERA showed. But with some key injuries in the lineup, the Cubs are going to need more from their starters while the offense tries to get healthy.
The Cubs have been able to sustain the rotation’s early struggles as their bullpen has been one of baseball’s best. Cubs relievers rank second in the National League with a 2.74 ERA this season. Ross has been forced to lean on his bullpen a little more often than he would like, but he won’t be able to ask his bullpen to continue to cover 12-14 outs a game all season.
‘‘It’s been one of those things that when we’ve gotten the lead and we’ve held it down early, we’ve been able to turn to the bullpen,’’ Ross said. ‘‘When we fall behind earlier or get some traffic and aren’t able to get out of that, it taxes the bullpen at some point. That’s where we’re at right now.”
One bright spot for both the Cubs and the rotation as they play their crucial stretch in June has been the return to form of Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks came into the season as the Cubs No. 1 starter and has started to pitch like it.
The Cubs’ right-hander has a quality starts in six of his last seven outings and has won his last five starts. He knows he’ll have to continue to step up if the Cubs hope to keep their eyes on the top of the NL Central.
“That’s always my focus,” Hendricks said. “Always want to go deep into the ballgame and keep my pitch count down. And I’ve been doing a pretty good job of it.”