The All-Star Game and festivities for Major League Baseball has arrived with the teams taking a break from their rigorous 162-game schedule to catch their breathes and recover from injuries.
The National League Central Chicago Cubs have led their division the entire first half of the season, but things are not looking so good for the struggling Cubs at the moment. It is now time for the Cubs to start thinking about finding players to fill needs they might have heading down the stretch. Pitching might be the biggest need even though the club is stacked with pitching talent.
The Cubs are currently leading the NL Central at the break by 7 games over the St. Louis Cardinals, but have won just 2 of their past 10 games overall.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are only 7 ½ games back after losing to Chicago on Sunday in the final game prior to the All-Star break. The race looks to go to the wire in the NL Central as it did last season with Chicago winning 100 games, St. Louis 98 and Pittsburgh 97.
In their weekend series just completed against Pittsburgh, Chicago lost with Jake Arrieta on the mound in their opener on Friday and was blown out 12-6 on Saturday with Jon Lester starting on the mound. Only a 6-5 win on Sunday saved the Cubs from being swept.
Pittsburgh was an incredible 15 games behind the Cubs as recently as June 19 and has cut that lead in half.
With Arrieta and Lester going through rough patches of late, the second half could be long for the Cubs and their fans. It might not matter what injured players return or what GM Theo Epstein adds before the trade deadline. If Lester and Arrieta are not up to par, the Cubs will have a difficult time winning the division.
Stats show that the two have not had a quality start since June 30 and that over the past two months of the season following a 25-6 start, the Cubs are a mediocre 27-29, losing five of their past six, eight of 10 and 15 of their last 21.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon has said no physical issues are bothering his pitchers. He says the team has hit a snag and needs to find their way out of it and the break from playing this week should help players.
With another 74 games left on the regular season schedule the Cubs have plenty of time to turn things around and be the team that opened the season winning 25 of its first 31 games.