BALTIMORE – It seems like they’ve done this for glimpses in the first half only to see it quickly regress.
But after averaging a run per inning during their weekend sweep of the Orioles, the Cubs say they sense something fresh and different about the lineup’s explosive three-game start to the second half – albeit, much of the damage coming against the worst rotation (6.02 ERA) in the majors.
“I think we are back,” catcher Willson Contreras said. “Back to where we were last year.”
Contreras should feel good. After his career-high four hits Sunday during an 8-0 victory, he was 8-for-14 in the series.
But the production came from every corner of the lineup.
The Cubs had 41 hits in the series, drew nine walks, hit 10 home runs, went 13-for-27 (.481) with men in scoring position and outscored the Orioles 27-11.
Eight different Cubs hit homers in the series.
“I just think the time off really helped us, four days to kind of clear our heads and get back to winning,” said Bryant, who went 3-for-4 with his 19th homer of the season Sunday.
“I know the four days off really helped me, just relaxing a little bit,” he said. “It was just a matter of time for us I think to have some games like that.”
The sweep pushed the Cubs’ record back over .500 by a game, and Sunday’s win combined with a Brewers loss to close the gap on first-place Milwaukee to 4½ games.
Maybe the surge was about the collective mental breather over the break. Maybe it had something to do with the opponent. Maybe an emotional lift from the Jose Quintana trade and his dominant performance Sunday.
But manager Joe Maddon said it was neither the hitting nor pitching that stood out.
“Energy,” he said. “The most impressive part has been the energy. I really believe that if we play with that kind of internal fire, that energy, we’re going to win a lot of games in the second half. That’s the difference for me. It’s just how we feel about ourselves.”
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