Improved talent hasn’t helped the Chicago Cubs end their problems at home. That, however, may be about to change.
With key players from an offseason spending spree starting to produce, the Cubs seem poised to break out at Wrigley Field as they open a three-game series with the struggling Washington Nationals on Friday.
Chicago (12-14) had the NL’s worst home record last season, going 36-45, and is 4-9 this year despite spending more than $300 million during the offseason to add and retain players.
Finally, though, the Cubs are seeing some positive results following their 7-13 start. They have won five of six and are coming off a 4-1 road trip thanks partly to the play of some of their key acquisitions this winter.
Alfonso Soriano, who signed an eight-year contract worth $136 million, went 8-for-15 with his first two home runs of the season in a three-game set with Pittsburgh. He went 3-for-5 with a homer to lift Chicago to a 7-1 win in the series finale Wednesday, and raised his average from .267 to .310 during the road trip.
Cliff Floyd, who signed a one-year deal for $3 million, is batting .429 (6-for-14) with a home run and six RBIs in his last four games and the Cubs have won each contest. Floyd raised his average from .245 to .286 in that span.
“We’re starting to see some positive things,” Chicago manager Lou Piniella said. “If we continue to swing the bats and take advantage of opportunities, you can see this thing starting to come together.”
Carlos Zambrano (2-2, 5.77 ERA) was a part of the Cubs’ offseason spending, getting a $12.4 million, one-year contract right before an arbitration hearing, and goes into his start Friday looking to continue his turnaround.
Chicago’s ace ended a three-start winless streak with his best performance of the season Saturday, allowing one run and seven hits in seven innings as Chicago beat St. Louis 8-1. The right-hander, whose ERA has dropped by two runs over his last two outings, is 3-2 with a 3.38 ERA in six starts and two relief appearances against the Nationals.
Washington, which has lost four of five, will counter with Jason Bergmann (0-2, 2.79 ERA). The right-hander has been effective despite going winless, giving up three runs or fewer in each of his last four starts.
Bergmann was a hard-luck loser in his last outing, giving up a home run and only one other hit in seven innings as the Nationals lost 1-0 to the New York Mets on Sunday. He has gotten little run support all season, with Washington giving him just seven runs to work with.
This will be Bergmann’s first appearance against the Cubs.
Washington has been shut out twice and has scored a total of eight runs in its last five games. The Nationals lost 7-3 to San Diego on Wednesday night in the finale of a three-game series.
Washington swapped outfielders with Oakland on Wednesday, sending Chris Snelling to the Athletics for Ryan Langerhans. Langerhans can play all three outfield positions, and should help a Nationals defense that has committed 25 errors.
Washington went 4-2 against the Cubs last season, winning the last four meetings.