Are the Cubs starting to make their move?

From ESPN - July 15, 2017

BALTIMORE -- Jake Arrieta might see it as a coincidence. Joe Maddon could make a case that it's by design. Whatever it is, the Chicago Cubs have dominated their opposition coming out of the All-Star break the past two years, and they are off to an even better start this time around, outscoring the Orioles 19-11 over their first two games of the second half.

Bottom line: Maddon is ready to push those post-All-Star break buttons once again.

"We do have to push it a little bit," he said before Saturday's 10-3 win. "The first half, I was concerned about doing that too early. And I know [people might say], 'That does not make any sense. Why would not you want to?' Because the guys were fatigued from the last two years, and I thought if you get the whip out too soon, you will be done by the middle of August.

"That's my experience, and I absolutely believe that to be true. What proof do I have? Nothing except I have done it before."

He might have a point, as the Cubs got a reset this past week. Slumping players got away from the game, while management worked to get them a new pitcher, Jose Quintana, who will debut Sunday. Saturday's win was about a suddenly dynamic offense and a confident starter who pitched into the seventh inning. Is Arrieta's mojo returning?

"I joke with my friends and kind of tell them how I am going to finish the second half," said the free-agent-to-be. "I do not know if I will verbalize that to you guys. I am very confident."

It's safe to assume Arrieta thinks he will put up some big numbers in the final months of 2017. If they are anything like those of his second half of 2015, then you can count the Cubs back in the pennant race -- and Arrieta can start counting his money as he prepares to test the market. In fact, the Cubs are back in the race now even though the first-place Milwaukee Brewers keep winning.

The good news is the wild card is in play, as the Colorado Rockies are in free fall and Arizona is not playing much better. The Cubs trail both the Brewers and the second wild-card spot by 5.5 games. A little rest might have helped their cause more than others.

"There's a lot to be said for the timing of the All-Star break based on the struggles we have had, the ups and downs," Arrieta said. "It seems to come at the right time. For us, it's played out the right way the past couple years. We hope the same thing happens this year."

Is it because Maddon has timed it this way? Do not dismiss the strategy. Not that he can predict results one way or another, but he understands the vibe of the Cubs more than most give him credit for.

"First day [after the break] was kind of businesslike," Maddon said. "Today was more fun. That's what I am waiting to see or hear.


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