The Chicago Cubs raced out to a huge division lead last season, but this season has been a different story as inconsistent play and tough competition have conspired to slow the team down at the start of the year.
The Cubs, who won three of four games against the Philadelphia Phillies before losing their first two games against the New York Yankees this weekend, are still in first place despite the ups and downs that they’ve experienced early as defending World Series champions, and first baseman Anthony Rizzo is happy that the team has been challenged early.
“We’re in the grind of the season now,” he said. “For us it’s good to get these “big series” over with and to just go and grind. These series are good for us early.”
The big series have come fast and furious to start the year for the Cubs. After opening the season against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Cubs have also had high-profile series against the Boston Red Sox, where they lost two out of three at Fenway Park, and the Yankees, who have knocked off the Cubs on consecutive days at Wrigley Field.
In spite of the tough road that the team has had to travel this year, and despite having a losing record at Wrigley Field after being dominant at the Friendly Confines a season ago, Rizzo is still upbeat about where the team is going.
“They’ve been fun, the series this weekend and last weekend,” he said. “We’ve had a good tough schedule travel-wise, and we’ve shown up and played every day.”
Going into Sunday’s action, the Cubs were the only division-leading team with a losing record at home, as they currently sit at 7-8 in games played at Wrigley Field. Even with those struggles, they still sit just a half game behind the Cincinnati Reds in the division, and Rizzo knows that keeping pace in the Central is the key as the Cubs try to make the playoffs for a third consecutive season.
“We just have to keep battling,” he said. “We have a tough division, and the good thing is that for the first time in a while a team hasn’t run away with it. It’s going to be a long process for the rest of the season.”