Cubs prepare for playoff push

By Justin Kelley

As the regular season is winding down, the playoff-hopeful Chicago Cubs are looking for a spark in the final month of the season.

The Cubs are 3.5 games ahead of their division rival, the Milwaukee Brewers, and play a crucial three-game series at home starting Sept. 10. The Cubs play a strong schedule with four playoff contenders.

If history has anything to do with it from 2015 to 2017 the Cubs are 55-19 in September.

That spark could come from recent acquisitions like former Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy or a minor league call-up.

Murphy, who has been known as a Cub killer, was acquired from the Nationals on Aug 21. Since then, he has provided a jolt to the lineup by hitting .303 and driving in seven runs in 20 games for the Cubs.

Murphy has a career batting average of .300 with 86 RBIs in September. He has a knack for quality at-bats every time he steps to the plate, with 504 plate appearances in full count situations.

“He was so good a couple years ago,” manager Joe Maddon told NBC Chicago. “He’s still very good. He’s outstanding. He has really reinvented himself during the middle of his career. He’s one of the more dangerous hitters playing baseball right now.”

The Cubs other aquisitions have been strong as well, like former Texas Rangers’ relief pitcher Jesse Chavez and veteran pitcher Jorge De La Rosa, who has experience as starting pitcher, but has now transitioned into the relief role.

Chavez was acquired by trade on July 15 for a minor leaguer. He is having a career year by posting a 2.88 ERA and only walking 15 batters over 84.1 innings of work.

De La Rosa was signed by the Cubs on Aug. 10 after being released by the Diamondbacks Aug. 4. He fits well with the Cubs in conjunction with closer Brandon Morrow, who has been injured most of the second half. In the 14 innings he has pitched, De La Rosa has a 1.88 earned run average and 11 strikeouts.

On the call up side of things, the Cubs have several minor leaguers coming up on the 40 man roster. The most likely options for call ups are starting and relief pitchers.

Two possibilities for the Cubs are relief pitchers Dillon Maples and Anthony Bass. Both have already been on the major league roster this season.

While playing in triple A, Maples pitched 40 games with a 2.79 ERA and only allowing 12 runs. Maples didn’t have the same success in the majors and posted an ERA of 13.50 over a small sample size of four games.

Maddon was extremely pleased on what he saw from the young pitcher, comparing his slurve to the one Yankees all-star reliever Dellin Betances throws.

Anthony Bass, on the other hand, has had success at both the major and minor league level. While in the minors, Bass played in 27 games while compiling 25 strikeouts over 32 innings of work. While in the majors, Bass played in 16 games for the Cubs and had an ERA of 2.93 and allowing three walks.

Their next game is against the Milwaukee Brewers 7:05 p.m. Monday with the Cubs having Jon Lester face off against Wade Miley. The Cubs are leading the season series against Milwaukee, winning nine of the 16 games.