I got my first live glimpse of the famous Wrigley Field ivy this weekend, as my mom and I took a trip to the Windy City to watch the Phillies, continuing our mission to see the Phils at all 30 MLB stadiums (we’re at 13 right now). To say the least, I was impressed by the Cubs, who absolutely annihilated the Phillies. After watching their dominance in person, I’m feeling very confident in my pre-season prediction that “if the Cubs don’t win the World Series, the Red Sox will.”
We had the privilege of watching the old Red Sox battery of Jon Lester and “Grandpa” David Ross on Friday from the right field Wrigley bleachers. While Lester went about business as usual, allowing two runs in 6 and a third innings (only one earned, thanks to an ugly error by Dexter Fowler in center field) and never throwing the ball even once to first base, Ross achieved a major milestone. In the fifth, Ross blasted a three-run shot off the Nuveen sign in left field for his 100th career home run. The raucous Wrigley crowd, already highly inebriated in the early afternoon, demanded a curtain call from Ross, who graciously obliged. After a couple miserable rain delays, the Cubs won 6-2, in a game that didn’t even feel that close.
Heading into Saturday’s matchup between Jerad Eickhoff and Kyle Hendricks, one of the less-heralded members of the excellent Cubs’ starting rotation, we were optimistic. Our hopes faded almost immediately, with Fowler hitting a leadoff homer and Ben Zobrist, who easily tops the NL in on-base percentage at .452, knocking Fowler in with a double. From that point, it felt inevitable that Hendricks would shut down the beleaguered Phillies’ offense, and he made it to the ninth with a chance at a shutout. Only a comic miscommunication by Zobrist and Jason Heyward in shallow right field allowed Freddy Galvis to reach on a fortunate leadoff double. Then, with one out, Galvis smartly scored from third when Ryan Howard struck out on a ball in the dirt and the Cubs threw down to first to complete the out. The Cubs’ faithful heartily booed the play, and I heard a fan behind me call it “bush league.” Their team is so good that they’re pissed off when the opposition even scores a run.
After finishing off a sweep of the Phillies with a 7-2 win Sunday and shutting out the Dodgers on Monday, the Cubs are now 35-14, holding the best record in baseball. Their run differential is +133. Their team ERA is an absurd 2.60. John Lackey has the worst ERA in the starting rotation at 3.16.
Who’s the second-best team in baseball? None other than the Red Sox, who currently stand at 31-20. They definitely have some flaws, but there’s no denying they’re pretty damn good, especially offensively. With Xander Bogaerts leading the charge and first in the AL with a .354 batting average (plus an ongoing 23-game hitting streak) along with Jackie Bradley Jr., (fifth in batting average at .331 and fresh off a 29-game streak), the Sox lineup presents serious challenges to any team. They even have an outside chance to collectively hit .300, which would be one of the most incredible accomplishments by a team in the modern era.
Will they actually do it? Probably not. An American League pennant, however, is not out of the question. But if the Sox do manage to make it to the World Series, there’s a decent chance they’ll be facing the Cubs, a team that doesn’t look capable of losing games (much less four out of seven) unless they beat themselves or are possessed by that pesky curse.