Rested and refreshed, Cubs keep riding post-break winning wave

From ESPN - July 16, 2017

BALTIMORE -- Youll have to excuse Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras for being a little too excited. After a dominant sweep of the struggling Baltimore Orioles, capped by a gem of a performance by newcomer Jose Quintana, Contreras made quite the dramatic declaration.

I think we are back, he said after Sundays 8-0 win. We are back to where we were last year.

OK, maybe not quite yet. At 46-45, it would be a bit of a leap to say that the 2016 Cubs have returned. However, their play through three games after the All-Star break is a reminder of what they could be in the second half.

Its the time of the year when they have excelled each of the past two seasons, resulting in playoff runs. A healthy lineup, a new addition to the staff and the return of Kyle Hendricks in the coming days have the Cubs thinking about October again. After watching them score 27 runs in three games to dominate the Orioles, the playoffs feel like a possibility.

I think the time off really helped us, slugger Kris Bryant said of the break. The four days cleared our heads and got us back to winning. The four days helped me. It was just a matter of time before we had some games like that.

Bryant was one of eight Cubs to hit a home run over the weekend, but it was the balls that didnt leave the park that most impressed manager Joe Maddon. In his estimation, the Cubs used the entire field to beat the Orioles pitching staff into submission.

Quintana also impressed Maddon, and the newly acquired starter might prove to be the exact player the team needed at this time. Cubs fans can dream about a rotation of Jon Lester (who throws Monday in Atlanta), a healthy Hendricks, a revitalized Jake Arrieta and Quintana pitching them to another division title. Thats a best-case scenario, as none, save Quintana, has been consistent this season. That doesnt mean things cant change. In a perfect world, Quintana has an effect on the rest of the staff.


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